From dinners up to woolsacks and divine mitres, here in England, much may be gathered by talk; without talk, of the human sort nothing. Is Society become wholly a bag of wind, then, ballasted by guineas? Are our interests in it as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal?--In Army or Navy, when unhappily we have war on hand, there is, almost against our will, some kind of demand for certain of the silent talents. But in peace, that too passes into mere demand of the ostentations, of the pipeclays and the blank cartridges; and,--except that Naval men are occasionally, on long voyages, forced to hold their tongue, and converse with the dumb elements, and illimitable oceans, that moan and rave there without you and within you, which is a great advantage to the Naval man,--our poor United Services have to make conversational windbags and ostentational paper-lanterns of themselves, or do worse, even as the others.
My friends, must I assert, then, what surely all men know, though all men seem to have forgotten it, That in the learned professions as in the unlearned, and in human things throughout, in every place and in every time, the true function of intellect is not that of talking, but of understanding and discerning with a view to performing! An intellect may easily talk too much, and perform too little. Gradually, if it get into the noxious habit of talk, there will less and less performance come of it, talk being so delightfully handy in comparison with work; and at last there will no work, or thought of work, be got from it at all. Talk, except as the preparation for work, is worth almost nothing;--sometimes it is worth infinitely less than nothing; and becomes, little conscious of playing such a fatal part, the general summary of pretentious nothingnesses, and the chief of all the curses the Posterity of Adam are liable to in this sublunary world! Would you discover the Atropos of Human Virtue; the sure Destroyer, "by painless extinction," of Human Veracities, Performances, and Capabilities to perform or to be veracious,--it is this, you have it here.
Unwise talk is matchless in unwisdom. Unwise work, if it but persist, is everywhere struggling towards correction, and restoration to health; for it is still in contact with Nature, and all Nature incessantly contradicts it, and will heal it or annihilate it: not so with unwise talk, which addresses itself, regardless of veridical Nature, to the universal suffrages; and can if it be dexterous, find harbor there till all the suffrages are bankrupt and gone to Houndsditch, Nature not interfering with her protest till then. False speech, definable as the acme of unwise speech, is capable, as we already said, of becoming the falsest of all things. Falsest of all things:--and whither will the general deluge of that, in Parliament and Synagogue, in Book and Broadside, carry you and your affairs, my friend, when once they are embarked on it as now?
Parliament, _Parliamentum_, is by express appointment the Talking Apparatus; yet not in Parliament either is the essential function, by any means, talk. Not to speak your opinion well, but to have a good and just opinion worth speaking,--for every Parliament, as for every man, this latter is the point. Contrive to have a true opinion, you will get it told in some way, better or worse; and it will be a blessing to all creatures. Have a false opinion, and tell it with the tongue of Angels, what can that profit? The better you tell it, the worse it will be!
In Parliament and out of Parliament, and everywhere in this Universe, your one salvation is, That you can discern with just insight, and follow with noble valor, what the law of the case before you is, what the appointment of the Maker in regard to it has been. Get this out of one man, you are saved; fail to get this out of the most August Parliament wrapt in the sheepskins of a thousand years, you are lost,--your Parliament, and you, and all your sheepskins are lost. Beautiful talk is by no means the most pressing want in Parliament! We have had some reasonable modicum of talk in Parliament! What talk has done for us in Parliament, and is now doing, the dullest of us at length begins to see!
Much has been said of Parliament's breeding men to business; of
the training an Official Man gets in this school of argument and talk. He is here inured to patience, tolerance; sees what is what in the Nation and in the Nation's Government attains official knowledge, official courtesy and manners--in short, is polished at all points into official articulation, and here better than elsewhere qualifies himself to be a Governor of men. So it is said.--Doubtless, I think, he will see and suffer much in Parliament, and inure himself to several things;--he will, with what eyes he has, gradually _see_ Parliament itself, for one thing; what a high-soaring, helplessly floundering, ever-babbling yet inarticulate dark dumb Entity it is (certainly one of the strangest under the sun just now): which doubtless, if he have in view to get measures voted there one day, will be an important acquisition for him. But as to breeding himself for a Doer of Work, much more for a King, or Chief of Doers, here in this element of talk; as to that I confess the fatalest doubts, or rather, alas, I have no doubt! Alas, it is our fatalest misery just now, not easily alterable, and yet urgently requiring to be altered, That no British man can attain to be a Statesman, or Chief of _Workers_, till he has first proved himself a Chief of _Talkers_: which mode of trial for a Worker, is it not precisely, of all the trials you could set him upon, the falsest and unfairest?
Nay, I doubt much you are not likely ever to meet the fittest material for a Statesman, or Chief of Workers, in such an element as that. Your Potential Chief of Workers, will he come there at all, to try whether he can talk? Your poor tenpound franchisers and electoral world generally, in love with eloquent talk, are they the likeliest to discern what man it is that has worlds of silent work in him? No. Or is such a man, even if born in the due rank for it, the likeliest to present himself, and court their most sweet voices? Again, no.