« ForrigeFortsett »
moved from the truth—that there was an un- | nished by certain expressions of the Litany, by known x in the problem, which could be satis- pictures in the stained windows of the church, fied by no such meagre hypothesis-that, to and by the tumult of the organ. Nor were the meet the urgent demands of the case, there dreams thus introduced mere fantasies, irregular must be substituted for this Jewish sect an or- and inconsistent. Throughout they were selfganization of no less importance than the Chris- sustained and majestic. tian Church itself—that this organization, thus The natural effects of opium were concurrent suddenly brought to light, was one, moreover, with pre-existing tendencies of De Quincey's that, from the most imperative necessity, veiled mind. If, instead of having his restless intellect, itself from all eyes, uttering its sublime arti- he had been indolent-if, instead of loving the cles of faith, and even its very name, to itself mysterious, because it invited a Titanic energy only in secret recesses of silence: from the to reduce its anarchy to order, he had loved it as moment that all this was revealed to De Quincey, simply dark or obscure-if bis natural subtilty there was thenceforth no limit to his profound of reflection had been less, or if he had been eninterest. Two separate essays he wrote on dowed with inferior powers in the sublime this subject, * of which he seemed never to architecture of impassioned expression tire.
then might he as well have smoked a “ Klosterheim" is, from beginning to end, meerschaum, taken snuff or any other stimuonly the development through regular stages, of lant, as to have gone out of his way for the an intricately involved mystery of this subtle more refined pleasures of opium. nature. Oftentimes De Quincey deals with the The reader will indulge us in a single philohorrid tragedy of murder ; but the mere fact of sophical distinction, at this point, by which we a murder, however shocking, was not sufficient mean to classify the effects of opium under two to arrest him. With the celebrated Williams heads: first, the external, and, secondly, the inmurders, on the contrary, he was entirely taken ternal. Properly speaking, all the positive efup, since these proceeded in accordance with fects of opium must be internal; for all its designs not traceable to the cursory glance, but movements are inward in their direction, being which tasked the skill of a decipherer to in- refluent upon the focal centres of life. Thus, terpret and reduce to harmony. Here were one of the most noticeable phenomena connected murders that revolved musically, that modulated with opium-eating is the burden of life resting themselves to master-principals, and that at back upon the heart, which deliberately pulsates every stage of progress sought alliance with the the moments of existence, as if the most mohidden mysteries of universal human nature. mentous issues depended upon each separate I know of no writer but De Quincey who invests throb. But this very reflux of sensibility will mysteries of this tragic order with their appro- produce great effects at the surface, which are priate drapery, so that they shall, to our imagi- purely negative. This latter clas3 of effects nations, unfold the full measure of their capaci- Homer has indicated with considerable acties for striking awe into our hearts.
curacy, in the ninth Odyssey (82-105), where This sort of mystery is always connected he notices specifically an air of carelessness rewith dreams. They owe their very existence to garding external things—carelessness as to the darkness, which withdraws them from the mutual interchange of conversation by question material limitations of every-day life; they are and answer, and as to the ordinary pursuits shifted to an ideal proscenium ; their dramatis of life as disturbing an inward peace. The persone, however familiar nominally, and how- same characteristics are more fully developed in ever much derived from material suggestions, Tennyson's “ Lotos-Eaters" :are yet in all their motions obedient to an alien centre as opposite as is possible to the ordinary “ Branches they bore of that enchanted stem, centre about which the mere mechanism of life Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave revolves. We should therefore expect before- To each ; but whoso did receive of them, hand in De Quincey an overruling tendency And taste, to him the gushing of the wave, towards this remote architecture of dreams. Far, far away, did seem to mourn and rave The careful reader of his “Autobiographic
On alien shores; and if his fellows spake, Sketches” will remember, that, at the early age
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave; of seven, and before he knew of even the ex
Aud deaf asleep he seemed, yet all awake, istence of opium, the least material hint which
And music in his ears his beating heart did make." bordered on the shadowy was sufficient to lift him up into aërial structures, and to lead his By causing the life to flow inward upon a infant footsteps amongst the clouds. Such more ideal centre, opium deepens the conhints, after his little sister's death, were fur- sciousness, and compels it to give testimony to
processes and connections that in ordinary mo
ments escape unrecorded. It is as if new ma* Yet, marvellous as it may seem, he wrote the terials were found for a history of the individual second without being distinctly conscious of having life-materials which, like freshly-discovered rewritten a previous one. It was no uncommon thing cords, sound the deepest meanings of the prefor him to forget his own writings. In one case it is sent and measure the abysses of the past. Thus known that for a long time he persisted in disowning it is that the fugitive imagery of sense is interhis production.
preted as a scroll which hides infinite truths
under the most fleeting of symbols symbols / even on the most temporary summons, to diswhich are not sufficiently enduring to call them pense with his usual regularity of expression or words, or even syllables of words, since the with any logical nicety of method. The letter most trivial hint or whisper of them has hardly runs thus :reached us ere they have perished. Thus it is
“Thursday evening, Aug. 26, 1851. that even the still more intangible record of “MY DEAR SIR,-The accompanying billet memory, where are preserved only images and from my daughter, short at any rate under the echoes of that which undeniably has perished, pressure of instant engagements, has been cut is revivified and enlarged.
shorter by a sudden and very distressing headThere is, then, in the opium-eater, a most ache; I, therefore, who (from a peculiar nervousmarked, a polar antithesis between his every- ness connected with the act of writing) so day life and the central manifestations of his rarely attempt to discharge my own debts in the genius. In the latter there is beautiful order, as letter-writing department of life, find myself in a symphony of Beethoven's; but in the for- unaccountably, I might say mysteriously, engaged mer, looked upon from withont, all seems con- in the knight-errantry of undertaking for other fusion. There is the same antithesis in every people’s. Wretched bankrupt that I am, with meditative mind; but here opium has height- an absolute refusal on the part of the Commisened each part of the contrast. The more we sioner to grant me a certificate of the lowest class, admire the encentric harmonies of inwrapt suddenly, and by a necessity not to be evaded, power, the more do we find to draw forth laugh- | I am affecting the large bounties of supererogater in the eccentricities of outward habit. The tion. I appear to be vaporing in a spirit of vain, very same agencies which undisguised and un- glory; and yet it is under the mere coercion of veiled the deep, divine heaven, masked the earth 'salva necessitas' that I am surprised into this with desert sands; and De Quincey's outward unparalleled instance of activity. Do you walk? life was thus masked and rendered abnormal, That is, do you like walking for hours on end that the blue heaven in which he revelled might (which is ourarchaic expression for continuously)? be infinitely exalted.
If I knew that, I would arrange accordingly for Thus is it possible for the seemingly ludicrous meeting you. The case as to distance is this : to harmonize with transcendent sublimity. We the Dalkeith railway, from the Waverly station smile at De Quincey's giving in "copy" on the brings you to Esk Bank. That is its nearest generous margins of a splendid “Somnium approach-its perihelion, in relation to ourScipionis" ; but the precious words, that might, selves; and it is precisely two-and-threeperhaps, have found some more fit vehicle to quarter miles distant from Mavis Bush--the the composer's eye, could have found no deeper name of our cottage. Close to us, and the most place in our hearts. We look at the hatless noticeable object for guiding your inquiries, is sleeper among the mountains: his face seems Mr. Annandale's paper-mills. utterly blank and meaningless, and to all in- "Now, then, accordingly as you direct my tents and purposes he seems as good as dead; motions, I will-rain being supposed absentbut let us ascend with him in his dreams, and join you at your hotel in Edinburgh any time we shall soon forget that under God's heavens after 11 A.m., and walk out the whole distance there exists mortality or the commonplace uses (seven miles from the Scott monument), or else of mortality.
I will meet you at Esk Bank; or, if you prefer As we ascend from grotesque features to such coming out in a carriage, I will await your comas are more intellectual, that peculiarity of his ing here in that state of motionless repose which character which most strikes us is his inimi- best befits a philosopher. Excuse my levity, table courtesy. Mr. F., to whom I am in and believe that with sincere pleasure we shall debted for the most novel and interesting por receive your obliging visit.--Ever your faithful tions of this memorial-from his own personal servant, interviews with the man, among many other
"THOMAS DE QUINCEY." things, retains this chiefly in remembrancethat De Quincey was the perfectest gentleman In order to appreciate the physical powers of he had ever seen.
him who proposed a walk of the distance indiI take the liberty here of particularizing cated in the letter, we must remember he was somewhat in regard to one visit which this then just sixty-six years plus ten days old. He friend of De Quincey's paid him, particularly as was now living with his daughters, in the utit introduces us to the man towards the last of most simplicity. On his arrival, Mr. F. found his life (1851). Mr. F., curious as it may De Quincey awaiting him at the door of his seem, found but one person in Edinburgh who cottage-a short man, with small head, and could inform him definitely as to De Quincey's eyes that were absolutely indescribable as human whereabouts. In return to a note, giving De features, with a certain boyish awkwardness Quincey information of his arrival, &c., the lat- of manner, but with the most urban-like ter replies in a letter which is very characteris- courtesy and affability. From
till tic, and which may well be highly prized, so dark, the time is spent in conversation, conrarely was it that any friend was able to obtain tinued, various, and eloquent. What a presence from him such a memento; the style, perhaps, is there in this humble, unpretending cottage ! is as familiar as it was ever his habit to indulge And as the stream of Olympeian sweetness moves in; and it shows howimpossible it was for him, lon, now in laughing ripples, and again in a solemn majestic flood, what a past do we bring enchants him, and he dallies with it, as a child before ourselves ! what a present! For this is with a pet delicacy. Thus he is at the house of he that talked with Coleridge, that was the a friend; it storms, and a reasonable excuse is friend of Wilson, and what furnishes a furnished for his favourite experiment. The more sublime suggestion- this is he that knows consequence is, that, once started in this direc. by heart the mountain-fells and the mys- tion, the delay is continued for a year. Late terious recesses of hidden valleys for miles hours were particularly potent to "draw out" around; and we think, if he could convey us De Quincey; and, understanding this, Professor from the haunts of this passwade of his Wilson used to protract his dinners almost into old age to those which glorified the Grasmere the morning, a tribute which De Quincey doubtof his youth, what new chords he might touch less appreciated. of human love, for there it was that the sweet- So that it is better to be on the sly about ness of his wedded love had been buried and saying Good-bye” to this host of yours, embalmed in a thousand outward memorials of When, however, it was absolutely necessary to happy hours long gone by; and of human sad be gone, De Quincey forth with insisted on acness, for there it was that he had experienced companying his guest. What, then, was to be the reversal of every outward fortune, and the done ? Ominously the sky looked down upon alienations of friendships which he most highly them, momentarily threatening a storm. No valued. But the remembrances of Grasmere resource was there but to give the man his way, and of youth seem now to have been removed as and accept bis offer of companionship for a into some other life: the man of a past genera. short distance, painfully conscious though you tion walks alone, and amid other scenes. And are of the fact that every step taken forwards yonder is the study in which he spends hours must, during this same August, be retraced by that are most holy-hours consecrated to what the weary-looking old man at your side, who specific employments is known to none, since now lacks barely four years of life's average across its threshold no feet save his have passed allotment. Thus you move on : and the heavens for years. Now and then some grand intel- move on their hurricanes by nearer approaches, lectual effort proceeds forth from its sacred warnings of which propagate themselves all precincts; but that only happens when pecuni- around you in every sound of the wind and every ary necessities compel the exertion. How is it rustle of the forest-leaves. Meanwhile, there is that the time not thus occupied is spent ?-in no rest to the silvery vocal utterances of your what remembrances, in what hidden thoughts, companion : every Object by the way furnishes what passing dreams ?
a ready topic for conversation. Just now you As it grows dark, De Quincey's guest, having are passing an antiquated mansion, and your spent most precious moments which he feels guide stops to tell you that in this house may ought never to cease, signifies the necessity of have been committed most strange and horrible his taking his departure. To take leave of this murders, that, in spite of the tempestuous matstrange man, however, is not so easy a matter terings heard on every side, ought now and as one might rashly suppose. There is a genius here to be specially and solemnly memorialized of procrastination about him. Was be ever by human relation. A woman passes by, a known to make his appearance at any dinner in perfect stranger, but De Quincey steps entirely season, or indeed at any entertainmeut? Yes, out of the road to one side, takes off his hat, he did once, at the recital of a Greek tragedy on and in the most reverent attitude awaits ber the Edinburgh stage ; but that happened passage-and you, poor astonished mortal that through a trick played on him by an acquaint you are, lest you should yourself seem scandalance, who, to secure remote chance ously uncourteous, are compelled to do likewise. of his seeiag the performance, told him In this incident we see what infinite majesty that the doors opened at half-past six, where invested the very semblance of humanity in De as, in fact, they opened at seven. How Quincey's thoughts. preposterous to suppose, then, that he would Onward you proceed-one, two, three mileslet an opportunity pass for procrastinating and you can endure no longer the thought that other people, and putting all manner of your friend shall go on farther, increasing thus snares about their feet! It is dangerous with at every step the burden of his journey back. such a man to hint of late hours; for just that you have reached the Esk bank and the bridge lateness is to him the very jewel of the thing. which spans the streain ; the storm so long In mentioning the circumstance, you only sug- threatened begins now to let loose its rage gest to him the infinite pleasure connected with against all unsheltered mortals. Here De the circumstance. Perhaps he will deliberately Quincey consents to bid you goodbye --to you set to work to prove that candle-light is the one his last good-bye; and as here you leave him, absolutely indispensable condition to genial in- so is he for ever enshrined in your thoughts, tercourse which wonld doubtless suggest a together with the primal mysteries of night and great contrast, in that respect, between the of storm, of the most pathetic of human trageancient and modern economy—and where, then, dies and human tenderness, is there to be an end? All attempts to extricate But this paper, already sufficiently prolonged, yourself unravelling the net which is being should draw to a close. It is a source of great woven about you are hopelessly vain : you can- mortification to me that I cannot find some not keep pace with him. The thought of delay very disagreeable thing to say of De Quincey, merely as a matter of poetic justice; for as- ""Oh, I see! I thought you were Horace ; suredly he was in the habit of saying all the for he was talking to me just now, and I malicious things he could about his friends. If suppose has just left the room.' there was anything in a man's face or shape Speaking of his father, one day, suddenly, particularly uncouth, you might trust De and without introduction, he exclaimedQuincey for noticing thút. Even Wordsworth “There is one thing I deeply regret, that I did he conld not let off without a Parthian shot at not know my dear father better; for I am sure his awkward legs and round shoulders ; Dr. a better, kinder, or juster man could never have Parr he rated soundly on his mean proportions; existe 1." and one of the most unfortunate things which When death seemed approaching, the physiever happened to the Russian Emperor Alex- cian recommended that a telegram should be ander was to have been seen in London by De sent to the eldest daughter, * who resided in Quincey, who, even amid the festivities of na- Ireland, but he forbade any mention of this fact tional and international congratulation on the to the patient. De Quincey seemed to have a fall of Napoleon, could not forget that this im- prophetic feeling that she was on her way to perial ally was a very commonplace-looking him, saying, “Has M. got to that town yet, fellow, after all. But, in regard to physical that we stopped at when we went to Ireland ? superiority, De Quincey lived in a glass house How many hours will it be before she can be too fragile to admit of his throwing many stones here? Let me see-there are eight hours beat his neighbours. The very fact that he valued fore I can see her, and three added to that!” personal appearance at so low an estimate takes
His daughter came sooner than the family away the sting from his remarks on the defor. expected; but the time tallied very nearly with mities of other people: he could not have meant the computation he had made. On the mornany detraction, but simply wished to present a ing his daughter arrived, occurred the first inperfect picture to the eye, preserving the ugly timation his family had seen that the hand of features with the faultless, just as we all insist death was laid upon him. He had passed a on doing in regard to those we love. De quiet, but rather sleepless night, appearing Quincey and myself, therefore, are likely to "much the same, yet more than ordinarily part good friends. Surely, if there was anything loving." After greeting his child, he said, which vexed the tender heart of this man, it was, “And how does mamma's little girl like her leav. “the little love and the infinite hate” which went | ing her?" Oh, they were very glad for me to to make up the sum of life. If morbid in
come to grandpapa, and they sent you this kiss any direction, it was not in that of spite, but which they did on their own accord.”
He of love; and as an instance of almost unnatural seemed much pleased. It was evident that M. intensity of affection, witness his insane grief presented herself to him as the mother of chilover little Kate Wordsworth’s grave, a grief which dren, the constant theme of his wanderings. satisfied itself only by reasonless prostrations, for Once when his daughter quitted the room, he whole nights, over the dark nould which co- said, “They are all leaving me but my dear lit. vered her from his sight.
tle children.” “I heard him call, one day, disIt only remains for us to look in upon De tinctly, 'Florence, Florence, Florence !'-again, Quincey's last hours. We are enabled to take My dear, dear mother ! --and to the last he almost the position of those who were permitted called us • My love,' and it sounded like no really to watch at his bedside, through a slight other sound ever uttered. I never heard such unpublished sketch, from the band of his pathos as there was in it, and in every tone of daughter, in a letter to a friend. I tremble his voice. It gave me an idea of a love that almost to use materials that personally are 80 passeth all understanding.". sacred; but sympathy, and the tender interest During the next night he was thought dying, which is awakened in our hearts by such a “but he lingered on and on till half-past nine life, are also sacred, and in privilege stand the next morning. He told me something about nearest to grief.
to-morrow morning, and something about sunDuring the last few days of his life De Quincey shine; but the thought that he was talking wandered much, mixing up "real, and imagi- about what he would never see drove the exact nary, or apparently imaginary. things.” He idea out of my head, though I am sure it was complained, one night, that his feet were bot morning in another world he was talking of." and tired. His daughter arranged the blankets “There was an extraordinary appearance of around them, saying, “Is that better, papa?" youth about him, both for some time before when he answered, “Yes, my love, I think it is; and after death. He looked more like a boy of you know my dear girl, these are the feet that Christ washed.”
Everything seemed to connect itself in his mind with little children.
* De Quincey, at his death, had two sons and three “Of my brothers he often spoke, both those daughters. The eldest of the daughters became the that are dead and those that are alive, as if they wife of Robert Craig, of Ireland. It was this one, were his own brothers. One night he said, and the youngest, who were present during his last when I entered the room
honrs. The second daughter, Florence, was with her “ Is that you, Horace?
husband (a colonel of the British army) in India. “No, papa.'
The two sons were both absent: one in India, a captain in the army; the other, a physician, in Brazil,
Drink to lips that ours have pressed, Pledge the maidens we love best; Sing the songs that loved ones sang In the days when we were young.
fourteen, and very beautiful. We did not like to let in the morning light, and the candle was burning at nine o'clock, when the post brought the following letter, which my sister and myself glanced over by candle light, just as we were listening to his decreasing breath. At the moment it did not strike me with the astonishment, at such an extraordinary coincidence, that when we came to read it afterwards it did.
Raise the merry song on high
BY ADA TREYANION.
Half-way the running waters slept,
'Neath leaflets on the streamlet's face; The willow's boughs hung down and wept
Where woven green had left a space,
“ • Brighton, Dec. 7th, 1859. "MY DEAR DE QUINCEY,- Before I quit this world, I most ardently desire to see your handwriting. In early life, that is, more than sixty years ago, we were school-fellows together, and mutually attached; nay, I remember a boyish paper (“The Observer") in which we were engaged. Yours has been a brilliant literary career, mine far from brilliant, but I hope not unuseful as a theological student. It seems a pity we should not once more recog, nize one another before quitting the stage. I have often read your works, and never without remembering the promise of your talents at Winkfield. My life has been almost a domestic tragedy. I have four children in lunaticasylums. Thank God, it is now drawing to a close; but it would cheer the evening of my days to receive a line from you, for I am, with much sincerity, 6. Your old and attached friend,
« • E. H. G. “I do not remember the name of G., but the name of Edward constantly recurred in his wanderings.
“Half an hour after the reading of that letter we heard those last pathetic sighs, so terrible from their very softness, and saw the poor, worn-out garment laid aside.” Just before he died, he looked around the room, and said very tenderly to the nurse, the physician, and his daughters, who were present, “Thank you thank you all!" Sensible thus to the very last of kindness, he breathed out his life in sim. ple thanks, swayed even in death by the spirit of profound courtesy that had ruled his life.
and further on I found the bridge,
With wooden flooring brown and grey; And round the piles the grass and sedge
Swept in as on a bygone day.
While, oh my heart | as the wind fell,
And twilight spread o'er tower and tree, The one bright star remembered well,
Looked out across the purple lea.
The red sun sank down in the west,
The withered leaves went whisp'ring by ; The wild hope would not be repressed
We should meet 'neath the evening sky.
Poor heart ! the tranquil vesper hour
On thee no healing balm bestowed ; But now how oft, when dreams have power,
I wander down the lonely road,