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Translated by R.D. Boylan Edited by Nathen Haskell Dole - page 39 / 106





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“This is another of your extravagant humours,” said Albert:

“you always exaggerate a case, and in this matter you are un-

strength, how can the highest degree of resistance be a weak- ness?”

doubtedly wrong; for we were speaking of suicide, which you compare with great actions, when it is impossible to regard it as anything but a weakness. It is much easier to die than to bear a life of misery with fortitude.”

I was on the point of breaking off the conversation, for nothing puts me so completely out of patience as the utter- ance of a wretched commonplace when I am talking from my inmost heart. However, I composed myself, for I had often heard the same observation with sufficient vexation; and I answered him, therefore, with a little warmth, “You call this a weakness —beware of being led astray by appearances. When a nation, which has long groaned under the intolerable yoke of a tyrant, rises at last and throws off its chains, do you call that weakness? The man who, to rescue his house from the flames, finds his physical strength redoubled, so that he lifts burdens with ease, which, in the absence of excitement, he could scarcely move; he who, under the rage of an insult, attacks and puts to flight half a score of his enemies, are such persons to be called weak? My good friend, if resistance be

Albert looked steadfastly at me, and said, “Pray forgive me, but I do not see that the examples you have adduced bear any relation to the question.” “Very likely,” I answered; “for I have often been told that my style of illustration borders a little on the absurd. But let us see if we cannot place the matter in another point of view, by inquiring what can be a man’s state of mind who resolves to free himself from the burden of life,

  • a burden often so pleasant to bear, —for we cannot other-

wise reason fairly upon the subject.

“Human nature,” I continued, “has its limits. It is able to endure a certain degree of joy, sorrow, and pain, but becomes annihilated as soon as this measure is exceeded.The question, therefore, is, not whether a man is strong or weak, but whether he is able to endure the measure of his sufferings. The suffer- ing may be moral or physical; and in my opinion it is just as absurd to call a man a coward who destroys himself, as to call a man a coward who dies of a malignant fever.”

“Paradox, all paradox!” exclaimed Albert. “Not so paradoxi- cal as you imagine,” I replied. “You allow that we designate a


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