Parthagica Directory 10
And yet if, on the other hand, one compares the subsequent fame of men of action with the fame of men of letters, the contrast is indeed bewildering. Who attaches the smallest idea to the personality of the Lord Lichfield whom Dr. Johnson envied? Who that adores the memory of Wordsworth knows anything about Lord Goderich, a contemporary prime minister? The world reads and re-reads the memoirs of dead poets, goes on pilgrimage to the tiny cottages where they lived in poverty, cherishes the smallest records and souvenirs of them. The names of statesmen and generals become dim except to professed historians, while the memories of great romancers and lyrists, and even of lesser writers still, go on being revived and redecorated. What would Keats have thought, as he lay dying in his high, hot, noisy room at Rome, if he had known that a century later every smallest detail of his life, his most careless letters, would be scanned by eager eyes, when few save historians would be able to name a single member of the cabinet in power at the time of his death?
When a thing is old, broken, and useless we throw it on the dustheap, but when it is sufficiently old, sufficiently broken, and sufficiently useless we give money for it, put it into a museum, and read papers over it which people come long distances to hear. Byand-by, when the whirligig of time has brought on another revenge, the museum itself becomes a dust-heap, and remains so till after long ages it is re-discovered, and valued as belonging to a neorubbish age--containing, perhaps, traces of a still older paleorubbish civilisation. So when people are old, indigent, and in all respects incapable, we hold them in greater and greater contempt as their poverty and impotence increase, till they reach the pitch when they are actually at the point to die, whereon they become sublime. Then we place every resource our hospitals can command at their disposal, and show no stint in our consideration for them.