is not a festival the sentimentalist loves. For him
it is a time of memories, redolent of old sorrows and
vanished joys; he clings to his associations, and changes
his home reluctantly. It is his habit to invest things
with an aroma of dedication, if I may say so, as ancient
churches are saturated with incense. Everything he has
ever owned possesses for the sentimentalist attachments
hardly known to the literal mind. And the larger, the
more universal the possession, the stronger the attachment.
So that his home, his town, his native country, take
hold of the sentimentalist’s heart with ropes
of perdurable toughness. In this respect you may say
that the sentimentalist belongs to the cat family. [Page
34] He is very imperfectly domesticated, but
his habit of locality is phenomenally developed. He
has none of that doggy loyalty which would lead him
to desert the ancestral fireside without a pang, if
ever friendship should demand the move. Thinking himself
all heart, he is sometimes a heartless creature, living
on atmosphere and losing the solider joys of loving.
Your true sentimentalist, too,
is a prince of procrastinators. He cannot bring himself
to a decision, and action affects him like the rheumatism.
Witness “Sentimental Tommy,” whose soul
abhorred the necessity of choosing, as a hen abhors
water. While other men are making fortunes, building
houses, marrying beauties, discovering the south pole,
establishing trusts, ruling savages, or overturning
empires, your sentimentalist is making up his precious
mind. Like the rustic, he waits for the river to run
by; and, while he stands emotionalizing and moralizing,
the stream of events has moved swiftly on, carrying
the [Page 35] flotsam of fortune beyond
his grasp. You may even hear him bemoaning his destiny,
when a little timeliness, a little presence of mind,
a little zest and courage would have saved the day.
To move, to break up one place of abode, to carry all
his household deities to a new altar (to flit, as the
Scotch idiom so picturesquely has it) is an abhorrence
to the sentimentalist. I confess I am very much of his
turn of mind in this matter. Unless one has been ill
or unhappy in a place, with what misgivings one leaves
it! The last stick of furniture has been carried out,
the last picture unhung, the last grip packed and ready,
even the cane and umbrella are strapped together. Then
as you take another look through the familiar rooms,
so changed by the desolation, have you not a horrible
foreboding qualm? If ever the fluctuating sentimentalist
in you is to get the upper hand, now is his time. And
it may need some stout common bravery of heart to keep
him in place. [Page 36]
the more sane and courageous attitude toward change
accepts it as a step in growth, in development. The
moral of “The Cambered Nautilus” will come
home to every one, and we may sweeten the uses of adversity
by a severe resignation. The new dwelling must often
be narrower and less commodious than the old. But what
are the requisites we look for in seeking an abiding-place?
Light, air, sun, good soil, neighbours, quiet. And still
there is one thing more too often neglected —
the personal atmosphere of the new room or the new dwelling.
Every room, if we would but try to perceive it, has
its own peculiar atmosphere. It affects us pleasantly
or unpleasantly, as the case may be. All its past history,
the lives and passions, comedies and woes, aspirations
and failures, of its former occupants have all left
upon it traces of their influence; and thereafter it
is impossible for a new occupant to dwell there without
sharing in the experience of the old one. An inheritance
of association passes on [Page 37] with
every house to its new tenant, and this we cannot escape.
It is useless to try to ignore it; it were wiser to
recognize the subtle quality of each room we go into,
to cultivate a sensitiveness in that direction, and
never to do violence to it if we can help ourselves.
This would be a novel consideration in home-making and
house-hunting. We should not look at the locks and the
paint alone, nor consider the costliness of construction;
we should close our eyes and feel the atmosphere of
the place; we should try to tell whether or not we are
likely to be happy there, whether or not we are in sympathy
with the former owner, whether we are to be aided or
annoyed by the endowment of association he has left
course, there are our own discarded impediments as well.
If we are to be so particular about the atmosphere into
which we move, we shall have to see to it that the associations
we leave behind us are not inimical [Page 38]
to the happiness of others, at least that they
are not evil.
spirit, too, has its moving-days and its times of house-cleaning,
as well as the body. For months and years we may be
dependents on some great spiritual teacher, Carlyle,
or Arnold, or Newman, or one of the ancients. We go
in and out, and carry on our daily subsistence, as tenants
of his philosophy, secure in his sheltering thought.
But some fine May morning along comes a gust of fancy
and persuades us to move. We find ourselves dissatisfied
with the old lodgings and set out to seek for new; or
perhaps in racing down some unexpected street we have
come upon a domicile that took our eye. Plato can detain
us no longer; we are going to become retainers of Aristotle.
So the spirit passes from one master to another, from
one abiding-place to the next on the long quest for
a perfect dwelling. None of them, perhaps, will be found
perfect, though none is to be despised. Serenity, [Page
39] cheer, encouragement, valour, are to be
found under many a roof where we least expect them.
These are the qualities to look for in the new lodging.