Read ON LOVING ONE’S ENEMIES of Prose Fancies (Second Series), free online book, by Richard Le Gallienne, on

Like all people who live apart from it, the Founder of the Christian religion was possessed of a profound knowledge of the world.  As, according to the proverb, the woodlander sees nothing of the wood for its trees, so those who live in the world know nothing of it.  They know its gaudy, glittering surface, its Crystal Palace fireworks, and the paste-diamonds with which it bedecks itself; they know its music-halls and its night clubs, its Piccadillys and its politics, its restaurants and its salons; but of the bad ­or good? ­heart of it all they know nothing.  In more meanings than one, it takes a saint to catch a sinner; and Christ certainly knew as well as saved the sinner.

But none of His precepts show a truer knowledge of life and its conditions than His commandment that we should love our enemies.  He realised ­can we doubt? ­that, without enemies, the Church He bade His followers build could not hope to be established.  He knew that the spiritual fire He strove to kindle would spread but little, unless the four winds of the world blew against it.  Well, indeed, may the Christian Church love its enemies, for it is they who have made it.

Indeed, for a man, or a cause, that wants to get on, there is nothing like a few hearty, zealous enemies.  Most of us would never be heard of if it were not for our enemies.  The unsuccessful man counts up his friends, but the successful man numbers his enemies.  A friend of mine was lamenting, the other day, that he could not find twelve people to disbelieve in him.  He had been seeking them for years, he sighed, and could not get beyond eleven.  But, even so, with only eleven he was a very successful man.  In these kind-hearted days enemies are becoming so rare that one has to go out of one’s way to make them.  The true interpretation, therefore, of the easiest of the commandments is ­make your enemies, and your enemies will make you.

So soon as the armed men begin to spring up in our fields, we may be sure that we have not sown in vain.

Properly understood, an enemy is but a negative embodiment of our personalities or ideas.  He is an involuntary witness to our vitality.  Much as he despises us, greatly as he may injure us, he is none the less a creature of our making.  It was we who put into him the breath of his malignity, and inspired the activity of his malice.  Therefore, with his very existence so tremendous a tribute, we can afford to smile at his self-conscious disclaimers of our significance.  Though he slay us, we made him ­to ‘make an enemy,’ is not that the phrase?

Indeed, the fact that he is our enemy is his one raison d’etre.  That alone should make us charitable to him.  Live and let live.  Without us our enemy has no occupation, for to hate us is his profession.  Think of his wives and families!

The friendship of the little for the great is an old-established profession; there is but one older ­namely, the hatred of the little for the great; and, though it is perhaps less officially recognised, it is without doubt the more lucrative.  It is one of the shortest roads to fame.  Why is the name of Pontius Pilate an uneasy ghost of history?  Think what fame it would have meant to be an enemy of Socrates or Shakespeare! Blackwood’s Magazine and The Quarterly Review only survive to-day because they once did their best to strangle the genius of Keats and Tennyson.  Two or three journals of our own time, by the same unfailing method, seek that circulation from posterity which is denied them in the present.

This is particularly true in literature, where the literary enemy is as organised a tradesman as the literary agent.  Like the literary agent, he naturally does his best to secure the biggest men.  No doubt the time will come when the literary cut-throat ­shall we call him? ­will publish dainty little books of testimonials from authors, full of effusive gratitude for the manner in which they have been slashed and bludgeoned into fame.  ‘Butcher to Mr. Grant Allen’ may then become a familiar legend over literary shop-fronts: ­

  ’Ah! did you stab at Shelley’s heart
    With silly sneer and cruel lie? 
  And Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Keats,
    To murder did you nobly try?

  You failed, ’tis true; but what of that? 
    The world remembers still your name ­
  ’Tis fame, for you, to be the cur
    That barks behind the heels of Fame.’

Any one who is fortunate enough to have enemies will know that all this is far from being fanciful.  If one’s enemies have any other raison d’etre beyond the fact of their being our enemies ­what is it?  They are neither beautiful nor clever, wise nor good, famous nor, indeed, passably distinguished.  Were they any of these, they would not have taken to so humble a means of getting their living.  Instead of being our enemies, they could then have afforded to employ enemies on their own account.

Who, indeed, are our enemies?  Broadly speaking, they are all those people who lack what we possess.

If you are rich, every poor man is necessarily your enemy.  If you are beautiful, the great democracy of the plain and ugly will mock you in the streets.  It will be the same with everything you possess.  The brainless will never forgive you for possessing brains, the weak will hate you for your strength, and the evil for your good heart.  If you can write, all the bad writers are at once your foes.  If you can paint, the bad painters will talk you down.  But more than any talent or charm you may possess, the pearl of price for which you will be most bitterly hated will be your success.  You can be the most wonderful person that ever existed, so long as you don’t succeed, and nobody will mind.  ’It is the sunshine,’ says some one, ‘that brings out the adder.’  So powerful, indeed, is success that it has been known to turn a friend into a foe.  Those, then, who wish to engage a few trusty enemies out of place need only advertise among the unsuccessful.

P.S. ­For one service we should be particularly thankful to our enemies ­they save us so much in stimulants.  Their unbelief so helps our belief, their negatives make us so positive.