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73. CHAPTER LXXIII (continued)
For a long time I was disappointed. He was kept back by the nature of the subjects he chose--which were generally metaphysical. In vain I tried to get him away from these to matters which had a greater interest for the general public. When I begged him to try his hand at some pretty, graceful, little story which should be full of whatever people knew and liked best, he would immediately set to work upon a treatise to show the grounds on which all belief rested.
"You are stirring mud," said I, "or poking at a sleeping dog. You are trying to make people resume consciousness about things, which, with sensible men, have already passed into the unconscious stage. The men whom you would disturb are in front of you, and not, as you fancy, behind you; it is you who are the lagger, not they."
He could not see it. He said he was engaged on an essay upon the famous quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus of St Vincent de Lerins. This was the more provoking because he showed himself able to do better things if he had liked.
I was then at work upon my burlesque "The Impatient Griselda," and was sometimes at my wits' end for a piece of business or a situation; he gave me many suggestions, all of which were marked by excellent good sense. Nevertheless I could not prevail with him to put philosophy on one side, and was obliged to leave him to himself.
For a long time, as I have said, his choice of subjects continued to be such as I could not approve. He was continually studying scientific and metaphysical writers, in the hope of either finding or making for himself a philosopher's stone in the shape of a system which should go on all fours under all circumstances, instead of being liable to be upset at every touch and turn, as every system yet promulgated has turned out to be.
He kept to the pursuit of this will-o'-the-wisp so long that I gave up hope, and set him down as another fly that had been caught, as it were, by a piece of paper daubed over with some sticky stuff that had not even the merit of being sweet, but to my surprise he at last declared that he was satisfied, and had found what he wanted.
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