THE DIGNITY OF SILENCE.

ALL babble is undignified, and the man who is truly wise is sparing of his words. His mind is not shallow, with its thoughts all lying upon the surface; it is rather like one of those calm, deep pools sometimes found in the course of a noisy stream. The little troubles of life sink into its placid depths, leaving scarcely a ripple behind. Its habitual calm is disturbed by nothing less than a flood or an earthquake.

The influence exerted upon society by the silent man is irresistible; his very silence is a proof of wisdom. But let him break through his reserve, and his doom is sealed; henceforth he has lost his dignified-exaltation, and become one of the mobile vulgus. There is deeply implanted in the human heart a feeling that to speak, to write, is a sign of weakness, of lack of self-reliance. It shows that one's own approbation is not sufficient unless that of others be superadded. And there is a dim belief that the speaker, as Socrates says, is moved by a certain divine inspiration and enthusiasm, or, to describe his condition in plain English, he is mad, and, although possessing a certain method in his madness, nevertheless he is destitute of true wisdom. His mind is not finely balanced, he is not sufficient unto himself, his ideas are purely theoretical.

But the silent man is supposed to live out his beautiful thoughts, to carry his poetry into his daily life, and make that, what others make their speeches and writings, ideally noble and beautiful. The outflow cannot exceed the supply; and if there is only so much of good in each man, if this runs away in the form of fine words, there is none left for home consumption, and vice versa. Indeed, the surest way to gain the respect and esteem of the world, and to keep it, is to say nothing, to express our wisdom, like the owl, by our looks. The owl, throughout all history, has been distinguished for its dignified silence. When the ancients conferred upon it the proud title of the "Bird of Wisdom," they knew well what were the outward characteristics of wisdom. "Familiarity breeds contempt," says the old proverb, and the man who makes himself common by overmuch speaking will find an unpleasant confirmation of its truth.

Therefore, if you wish to retain the good opinions of your companions, be reserved and quiet, be never moved to laughter by a pun or joke; for the man who perpetrates it is half ashamed of himself, half convinced that he is doing something unseemly, and if you retain your gravity, he sees that you are wholly convinced, and respects you accordingly. I remember a person whom I once regarded as a superior being. He was a type of that class which George Eliot irreverently styles the "Divine Cow." In my acquaintance with him he had always looked with so profound and serious an air upon my little attempts at conversation, that I had come to revere him exceedingly. But one memorable evening my idol fell from his lofty pedestal. I saw him descend to the telling of jokes, and to would-be imitation of a funny character. Alas! I went home that night with "Ilium fuit," "Ilium fuit," ringing in my ears, varied now and then with the more modern refrain of "Babylon is fallen." Years have passed since then, but the event still awakens painful echoes in my memory.

Ask any man what words in his life he most regrets, those which he uttered or those which he left unuttered, and you will receive only one reply. No, my gushing friend, the silent people are those who rule this world, and all the rest of us are but puppets in their hands.

But let one beware how he ventures to assume this character, if it is not inborn. It is not an easy part to assume, and all labor will be in vain unless there exist a priori some natural adaptation for it. One must learn to have perfect control of himself, his watchfulness must never relax; for one little word, one involuntary smile, may destroy a reputation which it has taken years to acquire. The world does not ask for truth, does not ask if a character be genuine; but it does ask that it be consistent with itself.

S. P. K.