THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK RUTHERFORD
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK RUTHERFORD
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
The present edition is a reprint of the first with corrections of
several mistakes which had been overlooked.
There is one observation which I may perhaps be permitted to make on
re-reading after some years this autobiography. Rutherford at any
rate in his earlier life was an example of the danger and the folly of
cultivating thoughts and reading books to which he was not equal and
which tend to make a man lonely.
It is all very well that remarkable persons should occupy themselves
with exalted subjects which are out of the ordinary road which
ordinary humanity treads; but we who are not remarkable make a very
great mistake if we have anything to do with them. If we wish to be
happy and have to live with average men and women as most of us have
to live we must learn to take an interest in the topics which concern
average men and women. We think too much of ourselves. We ought not
to sacrifice a single moment's pleasure in our attempt to do something
which is too big for us and as a rule men and women are always
attempting what is too big for them. To ninety-nine young men out of a
hundred or perhaps ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine
out of a hundred thousand the wholesome healthy doctrine is "Don't
bother yourselves with what is beyond you; try to lead a sweet clean
wholesome life keep yourselves in health above everything stick to
your work and when your day is done amuse and refresh yourselves."
It is not only a duty to ourselves but it is a duty to others to take
this course. Great men do the world much good but not without some
harm and we have no business to be troubling ourselves with their
dreams if we have duties which lie nearer home amongst persons to whom
these dreams are incomprehensible. Many a man goes into his study
shuts himself up with his poetry or his psychology comes out half
understanding what he has read is miserable because he cannot find
anybody with whom he can talk about it and misses altogether the far
more genuine joy which he could have obtained from a game with his
children or listening to what his wife had to tell him about her
"Lor miss you haven't looked at your new bonnet to-day" said a
servant girl to her young mistress.
"No why should I? I did not want to go out."
"Oh how can you? why I get mine out and look at it every night."
She was happy for a whole fortnight with a happiness cheap at a very
That same young mistress was very caustic upon the women who block the
pavement outside drapers' shops but surely she was unjust. They
always seem unconscious to be enjoying themselves intensely and most
innocently more so probably than an audience at a Wagner concert.
Many persons with refined minds are apt to depreciate happiness
especially if it is of "a low type." Broadly speaking it is the one
thing worth having and low or high if it does no mischief is better
than the most spiritual misery.
Metaphysics and theology including all speculations on the why and the
wherefore optimism pessimism freedom necessity causality and so
forth are not only for the most part loss of time but frequently
ruinous. It is no answer to say that these things force themselves
upon us and that to every question we are bound to give or try to give
an answer. It is true although strange that there are multitudes of
burning questions which we must do our best to ignore to forget their
existence; and it is not more strange after all than many other facts
in this wonderfully mysterious and defective existence of ours. One
fourth of life is intelligible the other three-fourths is
unintelligible darkness; and our earliest duty is to cultivate the
habit of not looking round the corner.
"Go thy way eat thy bread with joy and drink thy wine with a merry
heart; for God hath already accepted thy works. Let thy garments be
always white and let not thy head lack ointment. Live joyfully with
the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity which
He hath given thee under the sun all the days of thy vanity: for that
is thy portion in life."
This is the night when I must die
And great Orion walketh high
In silent glory overhead:
He'll set just after I am dead.
A week this night I'm in my grave:
Orion walketh o'er the wave:
Down in the dark damp earth I lie
While he doth march in majesty.
A few weeks hence and spring will come;
The earth will bright array put on
Of daisy and of primrose bright
And everything which loves the light.
And some one to my child will say
"You'll soon forget that you could play
Beethoven; let us hear a strain
From that slow movement once again."
And so she'll play that melody
While I among the worms do lie;
Dead to them all for ever dead;
The churchyard clay dense overhead.
I once did think there might be mine