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Hereditary Genius
Is reputation a fair test of natural ability? It is the only one I can employ—
am I justified in using it? How much of a man's success is due to his
opportunities, how much to his natural power of intellect?
This is a very old question, on which a great many commonplaces have
been uttered that need not be repeated here. I will confine myself to a few
considerations, such as seem to me amply adequate to prove, what is
wanted for my argument
Let it clearly be borne in mind, what I mean by reputation and ability. By
reputation, I mean the opinion of contemporaries, revised by posterity—the
favourable result of a critical analysis of each man's character, by many
biographers. I do not mean high social or official position, nor such as is
implied by being the mere lion of a London season; but I speak of the
reputation of a leader of opinion, of an originator, of a man. to whom the
world deliberately acknowledges itself largely indebted.
By natural ability, I mean those qualities of intellect and disposition, which
urge and qualify a man to perform acts that lead to reputation. I do not
mean capacity without zeal, nor zeal without capacity, nor even a
combination of both of them, without an adequate power of doing a great
deal of very laborious work.  But I mean Previous page Top Next page