« ForrigeFortsett »
an old observer upon men and things found here and there in the world, as often remark, that of all mortals who long as there has been a world ; yet, partook in any of its forms of the dan. nevertheless, it is so much more rife in gerous habit of thinking, natural phi. these modern times, that it may be losophers were the most cheerful and considered as characteristic of them. contented. He used to add that they It may be described as a race of specus were a trifle more conceited than the lative men, in whom a habit of reflecrest; but then, if this sometimes moves tion grows up accompanied by no the spleen of others who persist in active pursuit, and applied to no pracdrawing a steady line of distinction tical purpose. How the philosopher, between a philosopher and a philoso- whose business it is, as Adam Smith pbical apparatus, it only increases the tells us, to explain every thing, will stock of their own felicity. He placed account for the vicious excess of a the naturalist at the head of his scale; speculative habit which marks our the poet he was accustomed to repre- age, when contrasted with the times sent as the most miserable, and the of classic antiquity, we do not know, most to be pitied of all intellectual Whether it is that our mode of educa. operatives.
tion leads the studious youth to a more But these out-of-door people, whom complete abstinence from physical and we have described as having so simple robust exercises, and thus consigns and uniform a notion of library life, him to a life of thought and a merely are still more in fault in another par intellectual existence; or whether the ticular. They mostly look at reading crowded state of all professions has and meditating as without doubt and rendered the entrance into a steady at all times the most quiet and peace path of profitable head-work more able employment a mortal could be and more difficult, and therefore engaged in. For themselves, they driven back many an aspirant after defer it till their chair-days, or till the professional honours into those always rheumatism shall keep them at home. open fields of cogitation, where no They have associated books and spec. crowds jostle, and where no precursor tacles together, and do not intend to can bar the way; or whether we must read much till they can have the as- look to a still graver cause, and trace sistance of those sagacious appendages, this effect to the change which has which appear so especially constructed taken place, through the advent of the for the reception of wisdom. They Christian religion, in the very material would be surprised to hear that a man of thought, in the very character of may sow his or wild oats" in this region, philosophy, which is now brought into which they are accustomed to regard contact with a religion of so much as a perfect specimen of still life-may higher claims and profounder characsow them as plentifully, and reap from ter-one that cannot even be deserted them as abundant a crop of turmoil, but in gravest mood, and with sense of and penitence, and regret, as in any perilous responsibility; whether it is other field imaginable where the same owing to any or all of these causes, sort of culture proceeds that culture is certainly an indisputable fact that where to sow is pleasant, but no man such a malady has appeared, or rather willingly tarries for the harvest. In spread amongst us. And though the order to show this, and to give, at the mortal on whom it has seized may be same time, a specimen of one class of quite useless to himself, he may afford the intellectual character, we shall matter of description very useful to briefly sketch out the early progress of others. Perhaps the sketch we are a friend of ours ; one of those who, about to give may not be altogether though they never have an adventure undeserving the attention of those who in their lives, or a reverse of fortune, are curious as well as zealous in the or could extract from their whole out. cause of education. If there are cerward and visible history materials for tain limits beyond which the exercise a single story, searce for an anecdote, of severe thought degenerates into the do yet contrive, by the incessant vain toil of an overwearied spirit, it is whirling and agitation of their own well those limits should be foreseen; thoughts, to make a very troubled and if, furthermore, it be true (as we passage out of a most unnoticeable suspect to be the case) that reflection, existence.
pursued apart from the social passions This race of men has doubtless been and the active energies of life, is in.
adequate to attain for us sure and steady -he must not be refused. Accordprinciples of conduct, this also is a ingly, so it was. His carriage took truth which it is still more important us to a house in Square, and after should be recognised.
an excellent dinner was concluded, We knew Howard, the subject of the and as we sat each in his arm-chair, following sketch-we knew him inti- drawn three-quarters round towards mately. He was indeed of a peculiarly the fire, Howard thus referred to old open and candid disposition, and at times, and revived the period of his once revealed to you whatever was youth. We do not mean that he passing in the innermost recesses of his poured forth his reminiscences in mind. Yet he was not social in the exactly the continuous style we here same degree that he was frank and present them: we were not ourselves confiding. When in your company quite such docile listeners as this he would let you see, without the least would imply; but with the exception distrust or reserve, the very working of our own part in the conversation, of his mind, in all its strength and which is here entirely suppressed, and weakness, and in all that inconsistency some few interruptions and digressions, of purpose and conclusion which inva- the following is a very fair report of riably attends upon men of over quick the retrospect our friend took of his feelings, and which, for their own cre- early career, dit's sake, they may learn to conceal, but seldom in reality to overmaster or “I cannot tell you," he said, “ how prevent-he would do this naturally strange an effect your presence has upon without egotism, and seemingly with. me. It seems to change the whole curout designing it; but, though he was rent of my ideas ; it carries me back so thus genial and open in your com. completely to past times, that not only pany, he was not apt to seek your can I talk of nothing else, but I seem society. He would forget you if to talk of these in a different language you suffered him. Our friendship and spirit than are now habitual to was therefore warm, but it was inter me. Bear with me if I am garrulous. mittent. We always met with ardour, Forgive it! forgive! Be assured that but long intervals would occur between you are bestowing an exquisite plea. the periods of our intimacy. We knew sure-a pleasure that I know not the Howard, we say, well, and could, on second person on earth who could the strength of our reminiscence, have given me.
How often have you have ventured on the following narra, encountered me when I was labouring tive; but being able, as we shall show, under some fever of the spirit !-how to use his own language, we of course often have you administered sage prefer to do so. We had lost sight counsel !--nay, was there not one of our friend for a long time. Going occasion on which you administered into the Court of Chancery one day, help when the season of counsel was not by chance, (would it were !) but passed, and dashing the fatal instruin the woeful character of suitor, a ment from my hand, saved me from voice caught our ear which seemed fa. the desperate and irrevocable act ? miliar. Yes, there was our friend, How can I refrain, meeting you thus under wig and gown, droning away suddenly, and after so long an interbefore the Vice-Chancellor, with all val, from conversing upon past times, the complacency in the world, as if and that devious track which my youth dulness and he had shaken hands, and pursued ? The wildest rake never were on the best possible terms. We spent his energies more wastefully waited till he chose to conclude, (two than I have mine; but if the rake, mortal hours !) and then, as the court when reformed, will sometimes conrose at the moment that he was good gratulate himself in that knowledge enough to sit down, we presented our. of the world which his wildness proselves to his disengaged optics. A cured for him, I think that I, with most friendly shake of the hand testi somewhat better reason, may console fied his recognition, and this was im- myself for wasted years and miserable mediately followed by a cordial, nay, hours, by recalling that knowledge of a most peremptory invitation to go the intellectual life which my own home and dine with him that day. intellectual wanderings have purHe should be quite alone it would chased. give him so great, so rare a pleasure " I think when
first knew me,
I was the poet-of imagination all a delicacy of feeling, and a cúrious recompact. It was not quite clear to finement of expression, which, though me whether I should rise to great pleasing infinitely to himself, and in celebrity in my lifetime ; but that I certain moods, and in less measure, should secure a name with posterity- to others also; yet oftentimes will even now I blush at the recollection sound very simple, strange, or extraI had no doubt whatever. There was vagant when uttered aloud, man to nothing in the world worth a thought man, in the broad light, and amidst but authorship, and no authorship to the stir of this busy and hard-working be compared with poetry. The youth world. He finds as one of the tribe given over to the fascination of verse, has told us he finds his muse to be and the delusion of fame, has been a o in crowds his shame, in solitude his subject of frequent description, whether boast.' From crowds he therefore compassionate or sarcastic, and the recoils, to solitude he flies. There portrait has generally borne a strong he nourishes, yet sometimes with fear resemblance to the original; for it has and trembling, that passion for fame been drawn for the most part by those which thrives but too well under the who might themselves, at one period shelter of secresy. He shrinks blushof their lives, have sat for the picture. ingly even from the gaze of the pass. Sometimes a bitter self-derision, that ing stranger whom he meets in his seeks to resent itself on early follies, solitary walk ;-he was dreaming that sometimes a lurking tenderness for very moment of the plaudits of an ad. past hopes and aspirations, will guide miring society, which were already the pencil; and a subject contradictory ringing in his ears.
Amidst the orin itself, is not unfairly treated in this dinary transactions of life, in all that contradictious humour.
men call business, he feels himself an poet, amidst all his high and generous utter stranger-nerveless, helplessemotions—and he is always generous with a painful repugnance to take to a folly-is in many respects ob. his share in any thing that bears the noxious to ridicule; and, what is appearance of struggle or collision, worse, his quick sensibility makes him which is quite inexplicable to persons feel that he is so. An extreme sen- of robust and vigorous understandings. sitiveness, incompatible with a free Lulled by the music of his verse, he and open intercourse with society, loses, he foregoes all active energetic and which shrinks from that rude but purpose. He can only think, and feel, wholesome rivalry which in the arena and write. What is he, and of what of life every where encounters us ;- use, if men will not listen and apthis, and an intense anxiety after a plaud ? It has come to this pass with species of renown the most precarious him, that the admiration of mankind and most disputable, present to us a so hard to win, so hazardous to character which, whatever points of seek-can alone justify his else idle interest it may reveal, is surely the and unnecessary existence. most uneasy and discomfortable that « Such a one was I. How vivid to ever mortal was called upon to sus- my memory at this moment are those tain. Conscious of his own supe- moody walks along green lanes which riority, but uncertain what rank so- I used daily to take, courting as much ciety will award him, the youthful of solitude as a residence in the neigh. aspirant for the honours of the laurel bourhood of London could afford. is at once the proudest and the With eyes directed to the ground, I most timid, the loftiest and most paced slowly along, or else stopping dependent of the race.
He tells us before the hedge or the green bank, no truth, which, whether received or to observe some insect or the leaves not, may be a truth nevertheless; he of a plant, my thoughts would become puts forth no lessons of practical wis- implicated in the poetic theme on dom, which, though neglected, may which I was engaged, and there I still be confessedly good and needful; would stand, forgetful of all else, till his fate hangs on the sensibility of his I had fitted together to my satisfacreaders. If we smile when he sighs, tion the words of some intractable or sigh with weariness when we ought
This done, I would start off to smile, he is lost for ever-he has with sudden alacrity; at such mo. trod on air-he sinks and vanishes. It ments I would snap my fingers at the is his aim and his nature to cultivate world as one who had found a trea.
Did a labouring man pass me tween two and three hundred volumes, in these rambles I could look him in I ordered home from the publisher.
the face with perfect freedom, or con- Going out into the garden, I dug with s: tinue my meditations undisturbed; my own hands a profound pit, and aperchance he could even be made there I laid the new uncut volumes,
use of, and brought into my verse; arranging them in even piles just as
but the annoyance it gave me to meet regularly as they would have stood on 13 any well-dressed persons, persons of a bookseller's counter. Then, with te the intelligent order of society, is what most vigorous handling of the spade,
I suspect I could never make intelli. I shovelled in the damp earth, and Ne gible to you, who have been always a pressed it hard upon them. Thus I 3 rational being. Conscious that I was buried my poetic offspring, and turn. a to them a subject of ridicule, yet feel- ed again towards the world to seek i ing for all this that I was the giant what new it had to offer me.
and they the dwarfs, I was agitated “ Nor did any one ever turn from a by a mixture of pride, and resentment, grave in sadder or more desolate con. and shamefacedness, as I hurried ra. dition than I from this mock burial. pidly past them. I would go out of The passion even for poetic author. my way, change my course, dodge be- ship, the wish to address one's-self to the hind trees, to avoid the mere transit world, or rather to that scattered au. of a harmless stranger, who assuredly dience of kindred minds that lie here was quite unconscious of the disture and there commingled with the world, bance he was creating. However, I admits of a representation which would used to say to myself, when my poem place it far on this side of the ridicu. shall be published all will be made lous. Who is there of reflective mind, clear ; my position in society will be who, finding himself agitated by many understood; and I shall move on, not thoughts and passions, does not grow only in peace, but enjoying the pro- desirous of giving them expression ? found respect of all men. That de- Yet it is not in the circle of friends portment which now provokes a smile, and relatives that he finds an audience, will be deemed quite appropriate in nor is it to them that his sentiments the author of
It will be scen have any peculiar reference: it is to that not for nothing have I walked man-to all whom it may concernapart, lost in thought.
that he wishes to speak, and amongst « The fulness of time came, and the multitude without must he find his my poem was published-well thou listeners. Moreover, it is through the knowest with what startling effect medium of books that such a one has upon the world. Not a single copy been himself informed and prompted sold! It was duly advertised, and edi. to thought, and therefore these pretors were favoured with its perusal sent themselves to him as the natural gratuitously. Not a single word was channel for the transmission of ideas written on it, good or bad ! One does which are the response, as it were, not quite suddenly give up the idea that books have called forth from him. that one is a poet and has a genius ; He runs to the press as his only fit but this experiment was so very satis- organ of communication; and although factory,that at the end of a few months the passion for fame or distinction can I had resigned for ever this very glo- never be far distant from him who rious and most lamentable delusion. touches pen, and ventures upon authorI took a solemn farewell to poetry. ship; yet he may, in the first instance, Looking over my remaining manu- reach forward to that fatal instru. scripts, I selected a few fragments, ment' with spontaneous eagerness, which still retained some merit in the merely as his appropriate mode of in. eyes of their author; these, which con. tercourse with the world. Every resisted of niere scraps of loose paper, flective man may be set down as at I placed within the leaves of a copy heart an author, whether he has yieldof the printed poem; the rest I con- ed or not to the seductive impulsesumed. The volume, thus addition- whether he has ever seen his name ally enriched for oblivion, I folded up stare at him from a title-page, or has in parchment, sealed, and deposited in only recognised his anonymous offan iron chest, where our family papers spring as it passed, unnoticed by any were kept. The whole of the im. other eye, along the full tide of peripression besides, amounting to be- odical literature. Some intention,
though it may be most vague and re- should I prefer them now to any other mote, to write, mingles itself with the the most homely elements of pleasurefforts of every man who from reading able existence ? has been taught to think. For my “ At this time I do not think we own part, I found that in resigning all were in the habit of frequently seeing aim of authorship, I had resigned half each other. Indeed, I suspect thatat the luxury of thought. I found, to this utter failure, this complete bankmy cost, how intimately the pleasure ruptcy in my literary adventure, I or purpose of literary enterprise had avoided very studiously all old accombined with my most solitary cogi- quaintances. You came upon me tations. I could still enjoy, I said to again about two years after, and you myself, those sentiments of which I found me immersed in the profundities wrote, without telling them to the of philosophy. From poetry to metaworld. Alas! when I reverted to physics seems a great stride. But in them again, I was returning to a coun- reality it is not so. We are led into try which had been laid waste in my metaphysical lucubrations by those absence. The fleeting thought, why problems of thought which are most should I arrest or retain it? I had no exciting of all, and most likely to atlonger to make it permanent in my tract the poetic temperament--the
Every mood of my mind, mysterious questions of free-will and every feeling, seemed now indeed smit fate, of immortality and the Divine with transciency, and to rush past into nature. These directly conduct us sudden oblivion--the record of my life unto what, without this connexion, was no longer to be kept the light would indeed be a scene of mere weariand shifting sand would not bear my ness and vexation. For myself, I footmark-henceforth I should be, at seemed to have left the shore, and each moment of my existence, as if all sight of shore, and in some little I had never been till then.
cock-boat to be rising and falling member that even that love of nature, amidst swelling waves, which hid all which seemed so distinct and indepen- prospect except their own changeful dent a source of pleasure, proved to have and yet monotonous forms. Instead of been greatly enhanced, to have been labouring within a definite circle of partly constituted, by the habit or the thoughts, where pot only some inteleffort of developing the varied senti- ligible ideas can be mastered, but ment in felicitous language. As I now where knowledge is felt to be a sort of took my solitary ramble along the wealth, a possession for which men reriver-side, those little points of ob- spect you, I had launched forth, reservation—as the shadow of the cloud gardless of every personal consideration or the motion of the bird_which once of whatever description, and thrown interested me keenly, were now value. my spirit loose and self-abandoned less. There was no description to be on a vast sea of subject, which I had written ; they were no longer to be no visual power to embrace or to registered in my memory ; nor was I overlook. Nor was this sort of philoconcerned to find for what I saw or sophy enough, it seemed, to perplex felt that apt expression, thatvery word, and confound ; but theories of society, the seeking after and the dwelling upon and Utopian projects for the reconwhich unconsciously re-acts upon our
struction of the world on an altogether feelings, prolonging and deepening better plan, were added to my labours. them. The fresh air was good, and If I turned to survey the affairs of nations the green bank was refreshing to the and of commonwealths, my thoughts eye, and the shade of the tree was were not of what men call politics: grateful, and the river by its motion I cared for no party struggles, whether and its brightness was a pleasant at home or abroad ; my spirit rose far thing to look upon; but as to that above those questions which concern vague and charming sentiment which our own times, or the government of used to hover over all, this was gone. our own country, or indeed any known And why should I make an effort to government whatever: I was occupied recall it? Its peculiarity and refine- with ideal forms of society-was en. ment were nothing now. I had no
quiring incessantly why the race of verse to make.
What were these man, a race gifted with reason, should shadowy ecstasies of thought to me not carry into effect some scheme for more than to any other man? Or why its own happiness far different from