Above all his ideal was revolutionised, and the recent dreams of Plutarchian heroism, of grandeur, of palaces, princesses, and a glorious career full in the world's eye, were replaced by a new conception of blessedness of life, which never afterwards faded from his vision, and which has held a front place in the imagination of literary Europe ever since.
Also of this: it takes a more intense effort of the creative imagination to leave out what Tchehov leaves out of his short stories than to say what Meredith put into his long ones. In the Plutarchian method there was ever a snare, and I have come near treading in it. The difference between Matisse and Picasso is not to be stated in those sharp antitheses that every journalist loves.
The Plutarchian stoic, its author, went from Paris in a court coach, but his Roman tone deserted him, and he felt shamefaced as a schoolboy before the great world, such divinity doth hedge even a Lewis XV., and even in a soul of Genevan temper.
Here was a tempting theme for a young dramatist who had fed his own soul upon Plutarch, was enamored of 'greatness' in whatever form, and had already tried his hand upon a 'sublime criminal. What could be better for his purpose than a daring conspiracy, led by a Plutarchian hero who was at the same time a single-minded patriot?
The constant thought of Paris gave Rousseau an admirable occasion of painting two pictures in violent contrast, each as over-coloured as the other by his mixed conceptions of the Plutarchian antique and imaginary pastoral.
He resolves to save him for Flanders and for humanity by sacrificing himself. This is no more unnatural or inconceivable than the self-sacrifice of Regulus. But Posa wishes to save his friend like a god and not like a common level-headed Philistine. He has the soul of a Plutarchian hero, and where two ways present themselves, the most natural is for him the most heroic.
Alas! in a Scotland abject under a squint-eyed Argyle, with Loudoun and Warriston for his lieutenants, and a thousand rigid and suspicious black- coats giving the law singly in their pulpits and parishes, and thundering it collectively from their Assemblies, what room or opening was there for any such Plutarchian life? It was little better in England, from which anyhow he was debarred.