I, perhaps, might venture to claim that it was a medicine for what is the most objectionable feature of our national character; and that is self-conceit,--an undue appreciation of ourselves, an exaggerated estimate of our achievements, of our inventions, of our contributions to popular comfort, and of our place, in fact, in the great procession of the ages.
We seem to imagine that whether knowledge will die with us or not, it certainly began with us. We have a pitying estimate, a tender pity, for the narrowness, ignorance, and darkness of the bygone ages.
We seem to ourselves not only to monopolize, but to have begun, the era of light.
In other words, we are all running over with a fourth-day-of-July spirit of self-content.
I am often reminded of the German whom the English
met at Frankfort
He always took off his hat with profound respect when he ventured to speak of himself.
It seems to me, the American
people might be painted in the chronic attitude of taking off its hat to itself; and therefore it can be no waste of time, with an audience in such a mood, to take their eyes for a moment from the present civilization, and guide them back to that earliest possible era that history describes for us, if it were only for the purpose of asking whether we boast on the right line.
I might despair of curing us of the habit of boasting, but I might direct it better!
Well, I have been somewhat criticised, year after year, for this endeavor to open up the claims of old times.
I have been charged with repeating useless fables with no foundation.
To-day I take the mere subject of glass.
This material, Pliny says, was discovered by accident.
Some sailors, landing on the eastern coast of Spain
, took their cooking utensils, and supported them on the sand by the stones that they found in the neighborhood; they kindled their fire, cooked