23 JANUARY 1909, Page 10


THE larger number of people insist upon a certain • amount of monotony, however great their energy or keen their intelligence. Nature brings us up to it. Her variety is but the superficial pattern upon her uniformity. "Rolled round in earth's diurnal course" from the first moment of our existence, it is but natural that we should love sameness. The idea of a home, which lies, we suppose, at the root of civilisation, is interwoven with monotony. It is a place of sweet recurrences, where the constant fulfilment of expectancy creates a spurious sense of certainty, a half- conscious delusion that we know the future, that wn are not living beside a precipice after all. Sameness and stability seem inseparable. This is what we moan when we talk of the necessity for routine and method. Very little that is worth doing can be done haphazard. We know this :instinctively, and are often absurdly unwilling to be put out of our habits, and absurdly grateful to some one who puts himself out of his habits for us. Monotony is an essential part of peace ; and most, even among those who enjoy the struggle, look backwards and forwards to peace with regret and hope.

But there are certain eccentric people who do not feel all this. They have an inborn hatred of the familiar. The trivial round does not absorb, or touch, or amuse them. It simply palls upon them, and they do not like to feel them- selves involved in it. A few of these are good and useful men and women, and more than a few are worthless good-for- nothings. By far the greater number are unhappy, and many are a source of unhappiness. Nature makes all rebels pay, and is seldom content with the punishment of the guilty alone.

Take the woman of the present day who hates monotony. She is to be found in every class, and all she desires is change. Her intolerance of sameness amounts almost to a disease. When it is chronic, it produces discontent ; when acute, caprice; every part of her nature is affected by it. It cannot be denied that she has a certain charm, her delight in all things new is so genuine and unaffected. She is ready even for disagreeable experiences, provided she has not had them before, and welcomes them with a zest which is often mistaken for courage. Unfortunately, however, nothing remains new. The exceptional is soon over, and then she is unhappy,—a wet-blanket tending to lower the spirits of all those who are finding happiness in the ordinary course of events. With • a strange power of suggestion she will belittle the thing she despises, and with the black art of discontent turn all gold to dust. The strange thing is that if only she has the good fortune to be born among the cultivated, many people are sorry for her, even among those who suffer by her. There is an odd notion abroad that it takes a certain fineness of perception, and proves a certain depth of feeling and power of imagina- tion, to be able to make yourself miserable without apparent cause. As a matter of fact, it more often indicates singular thickness of akin. Finely strung natures are as sensitive to joy as to pain. Habit cannot harden them. They respond instinctively to all sweet influences, and do not ask that their pleasures should be pointed by surprise. Of course a thoroughly stupid person is generally happy in an indifferent sort of way, just as a deaf person is undisturbed by discord ; but extraordinary sensitiveness to disagreeable sounds may accompany an entire indifference to music, and proves no fineness of taste, but simply a morbid condition of the nerves.

Considering what an amiable quality contentment is, it is strange that it is gone out of fashion among the educated. No one talks of it as a virtue, and no one ever affects it. Sometimes people seem almost inclined to apologise for being contented, as if they thought there was something rather " smug" about it. Indeed, people pretend to be discontented. But the poor are always old-fashioned, and wonderfully un- changing in their admirations. If a poor woman wishes a visitor to understand that one of her children is of a really beautiful disposition, and gives nothing but satisfaction to all who know him, she will say he is a wonderfully contented child; and if she calls her husband a contented man, she means that he has every domestic virtue. One has to remember that if a poor man or woman becomes discontented in the sense of hating monotony and kicking against the routine of life, he or she can only break. away from it by sheer wickedness. He can shirk work and get drunk and desert his wife ; she can let her home and her children go to rack and ruin. There is no other outlet for either of them. It is one of the most serious inequalities in the lot of the rich and the poor.

Sometimes, of course, the desire for change is merely a sudden impulse. At intervals accesses of caprice come upon the person who hates monotony. A man feels that he must break the spell of the usual if be dies for it; and if he is above getting drunk, he chooses, according to his nature, some more refined form of self-indulgence. A tendency to these moral seizures creates an atmosphere of apprehension, especially around women, many of whom deplore the moods in which they feel a wild wish to have everything different,—the sky, the earth, themselves, their friends, everything, from the climate to the day of the week. Every one is a little afraid of them, because they are not " always the same," and no one likes a woman of whom he or she is afraid. A continued hatred of monotony among the greater number of educated men means a fall in the social scale; and however firmly convinced one may be of the folly of social distinctions, the beet men do not as a rule go down.

Like all defects, this curious form of restlessness may be completely counteracted by the presence of certain virtues in a high state of development, and like so many defects, it can be to some extent covered by wealth. The rich man who goes to shoot big-game because he hates monotony is commonly accounted a good fellow. The professional man who "never sticks to anything" for the same reason is not so lightly excused. Now and then we see truly benevolent people, both men and women, who cannot endure monotony. As a rule they give themselves to a kind of impersonal philanthropy. They are always doing good to an ever-changing crowd whose items they hope never to see again. We trace this hatred of the familiar and love of change in the writings of certain modern missionaries. These godly lovers of adventure do immense good. The running of risks among new scenes and new people in a great cause, and in the certainty of Providential protection, has for some fine natures an irresistible fascination—we have seen those who seemed to us quite amazingly happy—and their books sometimes ring with delight. But for the most part the men and women who hate monotony have no genuine love of life. They come to the common feast without appetite, and must be tempted by a continual change of fare. They may be called brilliant and accounted sensitive, but in a very real sense of the word they are dull.