family, for example, to escape from certain difficulties, commits suicide, he commits a crime; there are those around him who look to him for support, by the law of nature, and he has no right to withdraw himself from those who have a claim upon his exertions; he is a person who decamps with other people’s goods as well as his own. Indeed, there can be no crime which is not founded upon the depriving others of something which belongs to them. A man is hanged for setting fire to his house in a crowded city, for he burns at the same time or damages those of other people; but if a man who has a house on a heath sets fire to it, he is not hanged, for he has not damaged or endangered any other individual’s property, and the principle of revenge, upon which all punishment is founded, has not been aroused. Similar to such a case is that of the man who, without any family ties, commits suicide; for example, were I to do the thing this evening, who would have a right to call me to account? I am alone in the world, have no family to support, and, so far from damaging any one, should even benefit my heir by my accelerated death. However, I am no advocate for suicide under any circumstances; there is something undignified in it, unheroic, un-Germanic. But if you must commit suicide - and there is no knowing to what people may be brought - always contrive to do it as decorously as possible; the decencies, whether of life or of death, should never be lost sight of. I remember a female Quaker who committed suicide by cutting her throat, but she did it decorously and decently: kneeling down over a pail, so that not one drop fell upon the floor; thus exhibiting in her last act that nice sense of neatness for which Quakers are distinguished. I have always had a respect for that woman’s memory.’

And here, filling his pipe from the canister, and lighting it at the taper, he recommenced smoking calmly and sedately.

‘But is not suicide forbidden in the Bible?’ the youth demanded.

‘Why, no; but what though it were! - the Bible is a respectable book, but I should hardly call it one whose philosophy is of the soundest. I have said that it is a respectable book; I mean respectable from its antiquity, and from containing, as Herder says, "the earliest records of the human race," though those records are far from being dispassionately written, on which account they are of less value than they otherwise might have been. There is too much passion in the Bible, too much violence; now, to come to all truth, especially historic truth, requires cool dispassionate investigation, for which the Jews do not appear to have ever been famous. We are ourselves not famous for it, for we are a passionate people; the Germans are not - they are not a passionate people - a people celebrated for their oaths; we are. The Germans have many excellent historic writers, we . . . ‘tis true we have Gibbon . . . You have been reading Gibbon - what do you think of him?’

‘I think him a very wonderful writer.’

‘He is a wonderful writer - one sui generis - uniting the perspicuity of the English - for we are perspicuous - with the cool dispassionate reasoning of the Germans. Gibbon sought after the truth, found it, and made it clear.’

‘Then you think Gibbon a truthful writer?’

‘Why, yes; who shall convict Gibbon of falsehood? Many people have endeavoured to convict Gibbon of falsehood; they have followed him in his researches, and have never found him once tripping. Oh, he is a wonderful writer! his power of condensation is admirable; the lore of the whole world is to be found in his pages. Sometimes in a single note he has given us the result of the study of years; or, to speak metaphorically, "he has ransacked a thousand Gulistans, and has condensed all his fragrant booty into a single drop of otto."’

‘But was not Gibbon an enemy to the Christian faith?’

‘Why, no; he was rather an enemy to priestcraft, so am I; and when I say the philosophy of the Bible is in many respects unsound, I always wish to make an exception in favour of that part of it which contains the life and sayings of Jesus of Bethlehem, to which I must always concede my unqualified admiration -

  By PanEris using Melati.

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