A Book of Scoundrels (Illustrated)
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There are other manifestations of greatness than to relieve suffering or to wreck an empire. Julius Cæsar and John Howard are not the only heroes who have smiled upon the world. In the supreme adaptation of means to an end there is a constant nobility, for neither ambition nor virtue is the essential of a perfect action. How shall you contemplate with indifference the career of an artist whom genius or good guidance has compelled to exercise his peculiar skill, to indulge his finer aptitudes? A masterly theft rises in its claim to respect high above the reprobation of the moralist. The scoundrel, when once justice is quit of him, has a right to be appraised by his actions, not by their effect; and he dies secure in the knowledge that he is commonly more distinguished, if he be less loved, than his virtuous contemporaries.