YOU will regard it, I am afraid, as an inauspicious beginning of this address, that I should commence by adding one more to the—what is it ? hundreds or thousands?—of definitions of an optimist. But the particular definition I am about to perpetrate is the result of a few recent experiences of mine, after delivering addresses dealing with library affairs. An optimist is a person whose pessimism is of that profound order that he dare not seriously consider anything which is likely to weaken his optimism. He feels that he must meet any such thing by airily waving it away, and crying in a loud voice: Pessimist! Like Cassius “such men are dangerous,” but for precisely the opposite reason to Caesar's, not because they “think too much,” but because they refuse to think at all. It is the childish belief, to which most of us are prone at times, that if you decline to look at a thing, it isn't there. You who are young are necessarily natural optimists—if you're not, it's a case for a doctor—but your optimism, being probably more instinctive than defensive, should enable you to consider calmly and intelligently any reasoned statement of difficulties and dangers which may, or which do lie ahead of the libraries. And you will not assume that anyone who points these out, because he points them out, believes that the difficulties will not be surmounted, and that the dangers will certainly materialise. If forewarned is not always forearmed, the tiger in the path is surely less formidable if his presence is known, and even if there is discovered to be no tiger, there is no particular harm done by a little wary looking out.
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