A Reality and a Possibility
It is but a few short months since
editorial comment was made on the death of two celebrities, one
a ruler, the other a composer. Now the American people are bowed
in grief of unusual depth and sincerity. William McKinley, President
of the United States, was made a sacrifice to the mad theories of
fanatics. When, in February, the death of Queen Victoria was heralded
unaccompanied by the horrors of crime, and the qualities which earned
for her the love of her people and the respect of the world were
published abroad, there was universal admiration that there should
be united in one born in the purple so many commendable attributes.
There has been demonstrated in American
life a truth of far-reaching significance. A President, whose official
career received the severest criticism, was struck down by an assassin,
and in the days of anxious waiting and final grief, there came to
the public sense a fuller knowledge of a life with which all official
acts could be aligned. What some had thought to be double dealing
resolved itself into a kindliness of temper, which had in it no
trace of swerving from duty. What were considered weaknesses were
shown to be misunderstood elements of a character of unusual strength.
The basis on which the life was rested was shown in the utterances,
Let no man hurt him, and It is Gods way, His will be done.
No man, who so builded on the foundations of resignation to Divine
Will and Christian Charity as that, when stricken down, he could
spontaneously forgive his slayer, and express a quiet assurance
in the infallibility of God, could permit the mingling of the dross
of deceit with the finer metal of his composition.
It is a thing to be proud of that
American civilization produces such characters. And it is a fact
worth remembering that this example of its activity began his life
work just as the vast majority of us have begun and now are beginning.
Unlike the Queen, he was of humble birth and experienced all the
vicissitudes and struggles of the poor, unaided young aspirant for
success. The secret of his success is given in the following extract
from an editorial in the New York Christian Advocate:
It was now recognized that
this man of plain extraction was born with a capacity of
developingunder the influence of light, patriotic warmth,
and the stress of eventsinto Greatness. This attained, with
the aid of advisers whom his tact and knowledge of men, gained
by experience, enabled him to select, he was able to cope with
a multiform task which involved the prevention of divisions
at home, preventing European interference, delaying the breach
with Spain, making vast preparations of unforseen [sic] duration,
and preventing a too early recognition of a crude government
The italicized words are significant.
Born with a capacity for development is a pregnant statement.
One who reviews McKinleys life, from his entrance into the army
on through its widely varying activities and responsibilities to
his death, is struck with the steady development which characterized
him. He grew, and grew steadily broader and better.
What has this to do with the musician?
It has all to do with him. It is the factor which will m[a]ke him
a success in his chosen field as was President McKinley in his.
The capacity for development is the priceless boon of the successful
man, be he musician or President. And what is the capacity for development?
There are those to whom it seems to be a birth right [sic]. But
study McKinleys life and it will readily be discovered. Patient
persistence in a given course of study, concentration of mind and
energies in the work to be done, loyal adherence to principles and
a tireless capacity for labor. These were the elements of which
his capacity for development was comprised. He was wise as well
as President; he looked ahead and chose the avenues along which
his activities were to be pressed. He had the wisdom to put into
practice the advice of President Hayes, who was his friend, and
who said to him:
To achieve success and fame you must
pursue a special line. * * * You must confine
yourself to one particular thing. Become a specialist. Take up some
branch of legislation and make that your study. With a premonition
of his future public career, he prepared himself for it by several
elaborate courses of reading selected with reference to his needs.
What William McKinley did others
can do. The musician can make himself and his future by adherence
to principle and a judicious attention to the nature of his work
and the channels along which it progresses. The qualities that made
McKinley great were not isolated, showing themselves adapted to
the few alone. They are the outcome of that which any man may possess
if he will.
There is another aspect presented
by this tragedy. Musicians are called cranks[.] And too often their
manner and appearance give color to the accusation. The murderer
of our President was a real crank. He was a crank because he permitted
his mind to centre itself, unrestrained by the principles of real
philanthropy, upon sophistries which, while they profess to preach
the betterment of mankind, are at bottom concentrated selfishness.
True perspective was impossible and sound judgment not to be expected.
The musician who, by any means, narrows his perspective until it
takes in himself alone, has set bounds to his capacity for development,
limits the attainment of his ideals and sets his face in the pathway
of the crank.
It is a matter of rejoicing that
the black cloud of useless crime should be lined by the silver of
a life and character like that of the stricken one, and it adds
to the measure of our chastened joy that such a character may be
possessed by all who desire it and seek after it.