Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 6: No 2) >> The Philosophy of the Omnibus >> Page 21

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Reviews/Essays | 1998
Transcription the refining hands of education. We see, at once, the levelling disposition which
knows of no distinction, whatsoever, between any of the concerns of life; which,
not content with overthrowing the artificial aristocracies of government, and an
unequal system of laws, is solicitous to graduate all things, of whatever class or
character, by the same narrow standard; and which speaks of the sale of cattle and
the fine arts in the same breath passing rapidly without even a change of
raiment, not to speak of mood from the roughest exercises of trade to the
brilliant circles, the seductive fascinations, and elaborate delicacies of that sweet
company who wait upon and receive their inspiration from the muse.
The arts are not for the vulgar. To enjoy them, we must cease to be so.
The road is a royal one, indeed, but not a rapid one, by which we must attain their
mysteries. To comprehend them in a right spirit, we must beware of the levellism
of the Omnibus. They must be approached with a deference little short of
veneration. To appreciate, one must study them. He must go through a long
apprenticeship, and secure to himself the possession of a large body of fine
thoughts high principles and purposes; a noble aim, a gentle spirit, and a desire,
paramount to all of these, to trace, with the analysis of a kindred mind, the
soarings of that daring spirit, which has stolen, according to ancient fable, its fire
from the sun, while looking, with audacious gaze, undazzled and undaunted, upon
its destroying and ireful glances. Why does not the drama succeed in England and
America? The answer is obvious—the Omnibus principle guides and governs all
our institutions—(the institutions of one not less than of the other for with the
same religion and language, and a common origin, it is all fiddlestick to speak of
England and America as of distinct and differing nations-) and such a principle is
too levelling for all the fine arts, which in their very nature, signified plainly
enough in their designation, are delicate and aristocratic. The Omnibus may
promote the living together in communities, but it is not more a school for society
than it is for civilization. It tolerates soiled boots, foul language spirits careless
whom they annoy, and utterly indifferent to all things, unless they come coupled
with some miserable and miserly maxim, taught and treasured up carefully from
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