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An essay by Hamilton Wright Mabie

Ease Of Mood

Title:     Ease Of Mood
Author: Hamilton Wright Mabie [More Titles by Mabie]

Ease, it has been said, is the result of forgotten toil; and ease is essential to the man who works continuously and on a large scale. It is fortunate, rather than the reverse, when one's work is not easily done at the start; for early facility is often fatal to real proficiency. The man who does his work without effort at the beginning is tempted to evade the training and discipline which bring ease to the mind and the hand because both have learned the secret of the particular work and mastered the art of doing it with force and freedom. Facility is mere agility; ease comes from the perfect adjustment of the man to his tools, his materials, and his task. The facile man, as a rule, does his work with as little effort at twenty as at fifty; the man of trained skill does his work with increasing comfort and power. The first starts more readily; the second has the greater faculty of growth, and is more likely to become an artist in the end.

It is significant that the most original and capacious minds, like the most powerful bodies, often betray noticeable awkwardness at the start; they need prolonged exercise in order to secure freedom of movement; they must have time for growth. Minds of a certain superficial brilliancy, on the other hand, often mature early because they have so little depth and range. To be awkward in taking hold of one's work is not, therefore, a thing to be regretted; as a rule it is a piece of good fortune.

But awkwardness must finally give place to ease if one is to do many things or great things, and do them well. Balzac wrote many stories before he secured harmony and force of style; but if, as the result of his long apprenticeship, he had failed to secure these qualities, the creation of the "Comedie Humaine" would have been beyond his power. The work was so vast that no man could have accomplished it who had not learned to work rapidly and easily. For ease, when it is the result of toil, evidences the harmonious action of the whole nature; it indicates that mastery which comes to those only who see all the possibilities of the material in hand and readily put all their power into the shaping of it. A great work of art conveys an impression, not of effort, but of force and resource. One is convinced that Shakespeare could have written plays and Rembrandt painted portraits through an indefinite period of time without strain or exhaustion.

Strain and exhaustion are fatal to fine quality of work,--exhaustion, because it deprives work of vitality; and strain, because it robs work of repose, harmony, and charm. It is interesting to note how deeply an audience enjoys ease in a speaker; when he seems to be entirely at home and to have complete command of his resources, his hearers throw off all apprehension, all fear that their sympathies may be drawn upon, and give themselves up to the charm of beautiful or compelling speech. Let a speaker show embarrassment or anxiety, on the other hand, and his hearers instantly share his anxiety. There are speakers, moreover, who give no occasion for any concern about their ability to deal with a subject or an occasion, but whose exertion is so evident that the audience, which is always sensitive to the psychologic condition of a speaker, is wearied and sometimes exhausted. It is one of the characteristics of art that it conceals all trace of toil; and a man's work never takes on the highest qualities until all evidences of labour and exertion are effaced from it. Not many months ago the members of a court of very high standing expressed great pleasure in the prospect of hearing a certain lawyer of eminence on the following morning. These judges were elderly men, who had listened patiently through long years to arguments of all kinds, presented with all degrees of skill. They had doubtless traversed the whole field of jurisprudence many times, and could hardly anticipate any surprises of thought or novelties of argument. And yet these patient and long-suffering jurists were looking forward with delight to the opportunity of hearing another argument on an abstruse question of legal construction! The explanation of their interest was not far to seek. The jurist whose appearance before them was anticipated with so much pleasure is notable in his profession for ease of manner, which is in itself a very great charm. This ease invests his discussions of abstract or obscure questions with a grace and finish which are within the command of the artist only; and the artist is always fresh, delightful, and captivating. Mr. Gladstone's friends recall as one of his captivating qualities the ease with which he seemed to do his work. He was never in haste; he always conveyed the impression of having ample time for his varied and important tasks. If he had felt the spur of haste he would have lost his power of winning through that delightful old-fashioned courtesy which none could resist; if in his talks, his books, or his speeches there had been evidences of strain, he would not have kept to the end an influence which was due in no small measure to the impression of reserve power which he always conveyed.

Ease of mood is essential to long-sustained working-power. The anxious man loses force, and the laborious man time, which cannot be spared from the greater tasks. Wellington used to say that a successful commander must do nothing which he could get other men to do; he must delegate all lesser tasks and relieve himself of all care of details, in order that he might concentrate his full force on the matter in hand. It is said that the most daring and compelling men are invariably cool and quiet in manner. Such men lose nothing by friction or waste of energy; they work with the ease which is born of toil.

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Hamilton Wright Mabie's essay: Ease Of Mood