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IN surveying the annals of time and reviewing the char acters of those men who, by the peculiarity of their mental constitutions, have been distinguished from the dull herd of such as have no characters at all, (which is the case with by far the majority of mankind, as the sagacious Dr. Johnson has most pregnantly remarked,) we shall find no one, perhaps, who occupies a point of view so entirely unique as the old sage of Sinope, the cynic Diogenes. Of his personal history we can but regret that so very little has descended to us, since even that little is quite sufficient to present to our observation the most singular development of a mind as gigantic in its powers as eccentric in its operations; as instructive by its lessons as attractive by its novelty. According to the most accurately settled systems. of chronology, he was born in the year 428 B. C. Of his early life we have only the account that he began, even in boyhood, to think for himself and to despise the leadingstrings of popular prejudice. He recognized no intellect. ual authority but that of reason, which he was wise enough to perceive had been by nature given to man for his guide of life; and by its dictates alone, so far as discoverable, he determined to be governed, rather than by those arbitrary customs which he found established in society around
him. Nay, being of an extremely radical turn of mind, he went so far as to question the obligation of human laws, at least such as are merely instituted for some temporary convenience rather than deduced from the eternal nature and unalterable relations of things. Acting consistently with his notions of propriety in this respect, he proceeded to exercise a right which, as he considered, belonged to each individual member of the body politic, rather than to community in its aggregate capacity-i. e., that of coining money being detected in which, he suffered the penalty of banishment from his native country, to which, judging from our knowledge of his character, he could not have been very ardently attached, narrow patriotism and all other similar weaknesses forming no part of his exalted nature, elevated as it was by the study of pure philosophy and the contemplation of the infinite. His punishment we may therefore fairly suppose not to have been severely felt by its subject. It was probably, in its result, advantageous to him, since it proved the means of introducing him into another and a much higher order of society than that to which he had previously been accustomed. From such circumstances, which are of daily occurrence, we should do well to learn that how great soever a misfortune may seem to be, or in how disgraceful soever a situation, deciding by common opinion, we may be placed, yet perhaps after all, the cirumstances may prove a real blessing in the end, and the dishonor a glory by the judgment of more liberal spectators. Not that I would be understood as justifying entirely the conduct of the philosopher in this particular, which, with the most favorable construction possible, must still be regarded as of problematical propriety, but that from every incident I would deduce some general truth
of practical importance, which alone can make it worth recording.
Proceeding with our narrative: From Sinope Diogenes came to Athens, at that time the seat of refinement and the school of ancient wisdom. Even here, among the greatest minds that the age produced, or perhaps indeed any age has witnessed, he soon became distinguished above all others, by the same burning desire for knowledge and the same chainless spirit of inquiry that had before distinguished him among his countrymen.
In each of the various systems which divided the Athenian thinkers, he found much to admire and something to disapprove; but among them he particularly favored with his approbation the so-called Cynics, a brief sketch of whose views we must subjoin as indispensable in delineating the character of their most powerful proselyte and advocate.
The sect was founded by Antisthenes, a philosopher of the highest order. Descended from an Athenian father, he inherited all the quickness and acumen of that extraordinary people--probably the most extraordinary for an excessive share of these qualities that the world has ever seen-which he early cultivated in the highest degree, by the arduous study of abstract subjects in metaphysics. After having disciplined his own vigorous intellect by a long course of most laborious reflection, and brought to maturity his new philosophy, he began to teach it, in conjunction with rhetorical, lectures, with unrivalled success. He had so far triumphed over the ingenious superstitions of his time, as to recognize the existence of one only living and true God. In consideration of man's high station and destiny, he thought it wrong to waste life in the acquisition of wealth, which he justly considered contemptible, or to fill up valuable time with paltry cares about the personal
appearance, the dress, the trim of beard, and those other equal trifles that demand and receive from most men, so much more attention than their consequence deserves. He censured with a proper asperity the trivial pursuits which engrossed so improperly the thoughts of his fellow-citizens, and also that false shame which holds it indecent to obey the dictates of nature; on which account he was opprobri ously termed, by such as had not mind enough to appreciate his more enlightened views, a Cynic, i. e., a canine philos. opher. He indignantly dispensed with all those artificial accommodations which a false education renders necessary for the gratification of artificial desires, but which are truly more a curse than a blessing to men; and he also advised such as had no other prospect in life than certain misery, to cut short the vital thread, and thus with their own hand avert rather than endure unescapable and irre mediable evil. These were the principal distinguishing notions of the founder of the Cynic sect. He propounded them with transparent clearness and the most attractive eloquence, in his public lectures, and enforced them with that strongest and most persuasive commentary on any ethical system, an exemplary private life-in which particular we regret being compelled to state that all his disciples, as is usual with those of every reformer, were not so prudent as to imitate him.
After he had heard the god-like Socrates, that grand luminary of ancient philosophy, he dismissed his school, and becoming himself a pupil of that master mind, adopted into his own system the capital tenets of his revered instructor. When asked by one of those near-sighted utilitarians from whom no age has been free, whose narrow minds are always doubting the value of aught that conduces not directly to sensual pleasure, what philosophy had
taught him he made the remarkable reply, "To live at peace with myself;" a most pointed and appropriate rebuke to one who, while he "with reversed ambition strives to sink," is continually at war with his own aspiring na
Such as we have represented was Cynicism as taught by its author a truly noble system, and if we consider when and where originated, wonderful for the proportion of valuable truth that it contained, mingled with so little error that perhaps as a whole no better way, excepting ever the divine religion of that mysterious God-man who is "the way, the truth and the life" of his humble followers, has ever been pointed out for the direction of human conduct.
This philosophy, so pure and elevated, had irresistible charms for a mind like that of Diogenes. He went to the house of Antisthenes, and expressed his desire to be admitted as a disciple. But the haughty old cynic, disgusted involuntarily by the rudeness of his personal appearance, and prejudiced perhaps by false reports of his grossness, and by true stories of his keen satirical humor, suspecting it may be that his object was merely to learn enough of the system to ridicule its teacher, so far forgot his own liberal principles as in a rough manner to repel his advances; and when he still insisted, even struck him violently with his staff. With the insult Diogenes was too great to be made angry, but with admirable coolness addressed his injurer in a reply which ought to be forever remembered as one of the highest specimens of the moral sublime: "Strike me, Antisthenes, strike me if you choose to do so, but be assured that you will never thus succeed in dissuading me from the pursuit of what I am convinced may be learned from your acquaintance and conversation." So noble a return to so gross an injury, at once revealed the magnanimity of