The Mill on the Floss: Mediocrity

“You seem to think more of painting than of anything now, Philip?”

“Perhaps I do,” said Philip, rather sadly; “but I think of too many things,–sow all sorts of seeds, and get no great harvest from any one of them. I’m cursed with susceptibility in every direction, and effective faculty in none. I care for painting and music; I care for classic literature, and mediæval literature, and modern literature; I flutter all ways, and fly in none.”

“But surely that is a happiness to have so many tastes,–to enjoy so many beautiful things, when they are within your reach,” said Maggie, musingly. “It always seemed to me a sort of clever stupidity only to have one sort of talent,–almost like a carrier-pigeon.”

“It might be a happiness to have many tastes if I were like other men,” said Philip, bitterly. “I might get some power and distinction by mere mediocrity, as they do; at least I should get those middling satisfactions which make men contented to do without great ones. I might think society at St. Ogg’s agreeable then. But nothing could make life worth the purchase-money of pain to me, but some faculty that would lift me above the dead level of provincial existence. Yes, there is one thing,–a passion answers as well as a faculty.”

The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot