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come from hearing Mr Irving! What is that to sonable matins, we are not naturalists enough to you? Let him go home and digest what the good determine. But for a mere human gentlemanman said to him. You are at your chapel in your that has no orchestra business to call him from oratory. The growing infirmities of age manifest | his warm bed to such preposterous exercisesthemselves in nothing more strongly, than in an we take ten, or half after ten (eleven, of course, inveterate dislike of interruption. The thing during this Christmas solstice), to be the very which we are doing, we wish to be permitted to earliest hour at which he can begin to think of do. We have neither much knowledge nor de abandoning his pillow. To think of it, we say; vices; but there are fewer in the place to which for to do it in earnest requires another half-hour's we hasten. We are not willingly put out of our good consideration. Not but there are pretty way, even at a game of nine-pins. While youth sun-risings, as we are told, and such like gawds, was, we had vast reversions in time future; we abroad in the world, in summer-time especially, are reduced to a present pittance, and obliged some hours before what we have assigned: which to economise in that article. We bleed away a gentleman may see, as they say, only for getour moments now as hardly as our ducats. We ting up. But having been tempted once or cannot bear to have our thin wardrobe eaten | twice, in earlier life, to assist at those ceremonies, and fretted into by moths. We are willing to we confess our curiosity abated. We are no barter our good time with a friend, who gives longer ambitious of being the sun's courtiers, to us in exchange his own. Herein is the distinc- attend at his morning levees. We hold the good tion between the genuine guest and the visitant. hours of the dawn too sacred to waste them upon This latter takes your good time, and gives you such observances; which have in them, besides, his bad in exchange. The guest is domestic to something pagan and Persic. To say truth, we you as your good cat, or household bird ; the never anticipated our usual hour, or got up with visitant is your fly, that flaps in at your window, the sun (as 'tis called), to go a journey, or upon and out again, leaving nothing but a sense of a foolish whole day's pleasuring, but we suffered disturbance, and victuals spoiled. The inferior for it all the long hours after in listlessness and functions of life begin to move heavily. We headaches; Nature herself sufficiently declaring cannot concoct our food with interruptions. Our her sense of our presumption in aspiring to reguchief meal, to be nutritive, must be solitary. late our frail waking courses by the measures of With difficulty we can eat before a guest; and that celestial and sleepless traveller. We deny never understood what the relish of public feast | not that there is something sprightly and vigor. ing meant. Meats have no sapor, nor digestion ous, at the outset especially, in these break-offair play, in a crowd. The unexpected coming day excursions. It is flattering to get the start in of a visitant stops the machine. There is a of a lazy world ; to conquer death by proxy in punctual generation who time their calls to the his image. But the seeds of sleep and mortality precise commencement of vour dining hour—not are in us; and we pay usually, in strange qualms to eat-but to see you eat. Our knife and fork before night falls, the penalty of the unnatural drop instinctively and we feel that we have inversion. Therefore, while the busy part of swallowed our latest morsel. Others again show mankind are fast huddling on their clothes, or their genius, as we have said, in knocking the | are already up and about their occupations, moment you have just sat down to a book. They content to have swallowed their sleep by wholehave a peculiar compassionate sneer, with which sale; we choose to linger abed, and digest our they “hope that they do not interrupt your dreams. It is the very time to recombine the studies.” Though they flutter off the next wandering images, which might in a confused moment, to carry their impertinences to the mass presented; to snatch them from forgetful. nearest student that they can call their friend, ness; to shape and mould them. Some people the tone of the book is spoiled; we shut the have no good of their dreams. Like fast feeders, leaves, and with Dante's lovers, read no more they gulp them too grossly, to taste them curi. that day. It were well if the effect of intrusion ously. We love to chew the cud of a foregone were simply co-extensive with its presence, but vision: to collect the scattered rays of a brighter it mars all the good hours afterwards. These phantasm, or act over again, with firmer nerves, scratches in appearance leave an orifice that the sadder nocturnal tragedies; to drag into day. closes not hastily. “It is a prostitution of the light a struggling and half-vanishing nightmare ; bravery of friendship,” says worthy Bishop Tay. to handle and examine the terrors or the airy lor, “to spend it upon impertinent people, who solaces. We have too much respect for these are, it may be, loads to their families, but can spiritual communications to let them go so never ease my loads." This is the secret of their lightly. We are not so stupid, or so careless as gaddings, their visits, and morning calls: they that imperial forgetter of his dreams, that we too have homes, which are--no homes.
should need a seer to remind us of the form of
them. They seem to us to have as much signi. That we should rise with the Lark. -At what | ficance as our waking concerns : or rather to im. precise minute that little airy musician doffs his port us more nearly, as more nearly we approach night year, and prepares to tune up his unsea- by years to the shadowy world whither we are hastening. We have shaken hands with the passed, when you must have felt about for a smile world's business; we have done with it; we and handled a neighbour's cheek to be sure that have discharged ourself of it. Why should we he understood it? This accounts for the serious. get up? we have neither suit to solicit, nor affairs ness of the elder poetry. It has a sombre cast to manage. The drama has shut in upon us at (try Hesiod or Ossian), derived from the tradi. the fourth act. We have nothing here to ex- tion of those unlanterned nights. Jokes came in pect but in a short time a sick-bed, and a dis. with candles. We wonder how they saw to pick missal. We delight to anticipate death by such up a pin, if they had any. How did they sup? shadows as night affords. We are already half what a melange of chance carving they must have acquainted with ghosts. We were never much made of it !here one had got a leg of a goat, in the world. Disappointment early struck a when he wanted a horse's shoulder-there andark veil between us and its dazzling illusions. | other had dipped his scooped palm in a kid-skin Our spirits showed grey before our hairs. The of wild honey, when he meditated right mare's mighty changes of the world already appear as milk. There is neither good eating nor drinking but the vain stuff out of which dramas are com- | in fresco. Who, even in these civilised times, posed. We have asked no more of life than has never experienced this, when at some econowhat the mimic images in playhouses present us mic table he has commenced dining after dusk, with. Even those types have waxed fainter. and waited for the flavour till the lights came? Our clock appears to have struck. We are The senses absolutely give and take reciprocally. SUPERANNUATED. In this dearth of mundane Can you tell pork from veal in the dark? or dissatisfaction, we contract politic alliances with tinguish Sherries from pure Malaga ? Take away shadows. It is good to have friends at court. the candle from the smoking man; by the glim. The abstracted media of dreams seem no ill in. mering of the left ashes, he knows that he is still troduction to that spiritual presence, upon smoking, but he knows it only by an inference ; which, in no long time, we expect to be thrown. till the restored light, coming in aid of the olfac. We are trying to know a little of the usages of | tories, reveals to both senses the full aroma. that colony; to learn the language, and the faces Then how he redoubles his puffs ! how he bur. we shall meet with there, that we may be the nishes ! There is absolutely no such thing as less awkward at our first coming among them. reading but by a candle. We have tried the We willingly call a phantom our fellow, as affectation of a book at noon-day in gardens, and knowing we shall soon be of their dark com. | in sultry arbours; but it was labour thrown away. panionship. Therefore, we cherish dreams. Those gay motes in the beam come about you, We try to spell in them the alphabet of the hovering and teasing, like so many coquettes, invisible world; and think we know already, that will have you all to their self, and are jealous how it shall be with us. Those uncouth shapes, of your abstractions. By the midnight taper, which, while we clung to flesh and blood, the writer digests his meditations. By the same affrighted us, have become familiar. We feel light we must approach to their perusal, if we attenuated into their meagre essences, and have would catch the flame, the odour. It is a mockery, given time hand of half-way approach to incorpo. all that is reported of the influential Phæbus. real being. We once thought life to be some No true poem ever owed its birth to the sun's thing, but it has unaccountably fallen from us light. They are abstracted worksbefore its time. Therefore we choose to dally
“Things that were born, when none but the still night with visions. The sun has no purposes of ours
And his dumb candle saw his pinching throes." to light us to. Why should we get up?
Marty, daylight-daylight might furnish the That we should lie down with the Lamb. We
images, the crude material; but for the fine
shapings, the true turning and filing (as mine could never quite understand the philosophy of anthor hath it), they must be content to hold this arrangement, or the wisdom of our ancestors
their inspiration of the candle. The mild interin sending us for instruction to these woolly bed.
nal light, that reveals them, like fires on the fellows. A sheep, when it is dark, has nothing
domestic hearth, goes out in the sunshine. Night to do but to shut his silly eyes, and sleep if he can.
and silence call out the starry fancies. Milton's Man found out long sixes,-Hail, candlelight !
Morning Hymn in Paradise, we would hold a without disparagement to sun or moon, the kind
good wager was penned at midnight; and Taylor's liest luminary of the three-if we may not rather
rich description of a sunrise * smells decidedly style thee their radiant deputy, mild viceroy of
of the taper. Even ourself in these our humbler the moon! We love to read, talk, sit silent, eat,
lucubrations, tune our best measured cadences drink, sleep, by candlelight. They are every.
(Prose has her cadences) not unfrequently to the body's sun and moon. This is our peculiar and
charm of the drowsier watchman, "blessing the household planet. Wanting it, what savage un.
doors ;" or the wild sweep of winds at midnight. social nights must our ancestors have spent,
Even now a loftier speculation than we have yet wintering in caves and unillumined fastnesses ! |
attempted courts our endeavours. We would in. They must have lain about and grumbled at one another in the dark. What repartees could have
• “Holy Dying."
dite something about the solar system. Betty, tions are not active-for to be active is to call bring the candles.
something into act and form—but passive, as
men in sick dreams. For the supernatural, or That Great Wit is allied to Madness. So far something superadded to what we know of from this being true, the greatest wits will ever nature, they give you the plainly non-natural. be found to be the sanest writers. It is impos. And if this were all, and that these mental hallusible for the mind to conceive of a mad Shake- | cinations were discoverable only in the treatment speare. The greatness of wit, by which the of subjects out of nature, or transcending it, the poetic talent is here chiefly to be understood, judgment might with some plea be pardoned if manifests itself in the admirable balance of all it ran riot, and a little wantonised: but even in the faculties. Madness is the disproportionate the describing of real and everyday life, that straining or excess of any one of them. “Sostrong which is before their eyes, one of these lesser a wit.” says Cowley, sreaking of a poetical friend, wits shall more deviate from nature-show more
of that inconsequence, which has a natural “Did Nature to him frame,
alliance with frenzy,-than a great genius in his As all things but his judgment overcame;
"maddest fits," as Withers somewhere calls them. His judgment like the heavenly moon did show, Tempering that mighty sea below."
We appeal to any one that is acquainted with
the common run of Lane's novels,-as they ex. The ground of the fallacy is, that men, finding isted some twenty or thirty years back,—those in the raptures of the higher poetry a condition scanty intellectual viands of the whole female of exaltation, to which they have no parallel in reading public, till a happier genius arose, and their own experience, besides, the spurious re expelled for ever the innutritious phantoms,semblance of it in dreams and fevers, impute a whether he has not found his brain more“ be. state of dreaminess and fever to the poet. But tossed,” his memory more puzzled, his sense of the true poet dreams being awake. He is not when and where more confounded, among the possessed by his subject, but has dominion over
improbable events, the incoherent incidents, the it. In the groves of Eden he walks familiar as inconsistent characters, or no-characters, of some in his native paths. He ascends the empyrean third-rate love-intrigue-where the persons shall heaven, and is not intoxicated. He treads the be a Lord Glendamour and a Miss Rivers, and burning marl without dismay; he wings his flight the scene only alternate between Bath and Bond without self-loss through realms of chaos "and Street, -a more bewildering dreaminess induced old night." Or if, abandoning himself to that upon him, than he has felt wandering over all the severer chaos of a “human mind untuned,” he is fairy grounds of Spenser. In the productions content awhile to be mad with Lear, or to hate we refer to, nothing but names and places is inankind (a sort of madness) with Timon, neither familiar; the persons are neither of this world is that madness, nor this misanthropy, so un- nor of any other conceivable one; an endless checked, but that-never letting the reins of string of activities without purpose, of purposes reason wholly go, while most he seems to do so, destitute of motive :-We meet phantoms in our - he has his better genius still whispering at his known walks ; fantasques only christened. In ear, with the good servant Kent suggesting saner the poet we have names which announce fiction; counsels, or with the honest steward Flavius re and we have absolutely no place at all, for the commending kindlier resolutions. Where he things and persons of the “Fairy Queen” prate seems most to recede from humanity, he will be not of their “whereabout.” But in their inner found the truest to it. From beyond the scope nature, and the law of their speech and actions, of Nature if he summon possible existences, he we are at home and upon acquainted ground. subjugates them to the law of her consistency. The one turns life into a dream; the other to the He is beautifully loyal to that sovereign direct. wildest dreams gives the sobrieties of everyday ress, even when he appears most to betray and oocurrences. By what subtle art of tracing the desert her. His ideal tribes submit to policy; mental processes it is effected, we are not philo. his very monsters are tamed to his hand, even sophers enough to explain, but in that wonderful as that wild sea-brood, shepherded by Proteus, episode of the cave of Mammon, in which the He tames, and he clothes them with attributes money god appears first in the lowest form of a of flesh and blood, till they wonder at themselves, miser, is then a worker of metals, and becomes like Indian Islanders forced to submit to Euro the god of all the treasures of the world; and pean vesture. Caliban, the Witches, are as true has a daughter, Ambition, before whom all the to the laws of their own nature (ours with a differ- world kneels for favours—with the Hesperian ence), as Othello, Hamlet, and Macbeth. Here fruit, the waters of Tantalus, with Pilate washing in the great and the little wits are differenced ; his hands vainly, but not impertinently, in the that if the latter wander ever so little from nature same stream—that we should be at one moment or actual existence, they lose themselves, and in the cave of an old hoarder of treasures, at their readers. Their phantoms are lawless; their the next at the forge of the Cyclops, in a palace visions nightmares. They do not create, which and yet in hell, all at once, with the shifting implies shaping and consistency. Their imagina- mutations of the most rambling dream, and ow
judgment yet all the time awake, and neither and try it by his waking judgment. That which able nor willing to detect the fallacy,-is a proof appeared so shifting, and yet so coherent, while of that hidden sanity which still guides the poet | that faculty was passive, when it comes under in the wildest seeming-aberrations.
cool examination shall appear so reasonless and It is not enough to say that the whole episode so unlinked, that we are ashamed to have been is a copy of the mind's conceptions in sleep; it so deluded; and to have taken, though but in is in some sort—but what a copy! Let the most sleep, a monster for a god. But the transitions romantic of us, that has been entertained all in this episode are every whit as violent as in the night with the spectacle of some wila and most extravagant dream, and yet the waking magnificent vision, recombine it in the morning, I judgment ratifies them.
JOHN FOSTER. BORN 1770: DIED 1843.
(From “ Essays in a Series of Letters,” etc.)
are ; recollections of toils and fatigues, ill repaid ON DECISION OF CHARACTER. in past expeditions, rise and pass into anticipa
tion; and he lingers, uncertain, till an advanced LETTER I.
hour determines the question for him, by the MY DEAR FRIEND,-We have several times talked certainty that it is now too late to go. of this bold quality, and acknowledged its great Perhaps a man has conclusive reasons for wish. importance. Without it, a human being, with ing to remove to another place of residence. But powers at best but feeble and surrounded by in- | when he is going to take the first actual step to. numerable things tending to perplex, to divert, wards executing his purpose, he is met by a new and to frustrate their operations, is indeed a train of ideas, presenting the possible, and magni. pitiable atom, the sport of divers and casual im fying the unquestionable, disadvantages and unpulses. It is a poor and disgraceful thing not certainties of a new situation ; awakening the to be able to reply, with some degree of certainty, natural reluctance to quit a place to which habit to the simple questions, What will you be ? has accommodated his feelings, and which has What will you do?
grown warm to him (if I may so express it), by A little acquaintance with mankind will supply his having been in it so long; giving a new im. numberless illustrations of the importance of this pulse to his affection for the friends whom he qualification. You will often see a person anxi. must leave; and so detaining him still lingering, ously hesitating a long time between different, long after his judgment may have dictated to or opposite determinations, though impatient of him to be gone. the pain of such a state, and ashamed of the de- A man may think of some desirable alteration bility. A faint impulse of preference alternates in his plan of life; perhaps in the arrangements toward the one, and toward the other; and the of his family, or in the mode of his intercourse mind, while thus held in a trembling balance, is with society. Would it be a good thing! He vexed that it cannot get some new thought, or thinks it would be a good thing. It certainly feeling, or motive; that it has not more sense, would be a very good thing. He wishes it more resolution, more of anything that would were done. He will attempt it almost immedisave it from envying even the decisive instinct ately. The following day he doubts whether it of brutes. It wishes that any circumstance would be quite prudent. Many things are to be might happen, or any person might appear, that considered. May there not be in the change could deliver it from the miserable suspense. some evil of which he is not aware? Is this a
In many instances, when a determination is proper time? What will people say? And thus, adopted, it is frustrated by this temperament. though he does not formally renounce his purA man, for example, resolves on a journey to pose, he shrinks out of it, with an irksome wish morrow, which he is not under an absolute that he could be fully satisfied of the propriety necessity to undertake, but the inducements of renouncing it. Perhaps he wishes that the appear, this evening, so strong, that he does not thought had never occurred to him, since it has think it possible he can hesitate in the morning. diminished his self-complacency, without proIn the morning, however, these inducements moting his virtue. But next week his conviction have unaccountably lost much of their force. of the wisdom and advantage of such a reform Like the sun that is rizing at the same time, comes again with great force. Then, Is it so they appear dim through a mist; and the sky practicable as I was at first willing to imagine ? lowers, or he fancies that it does, and almost Why not? Other men have done much greater wishes to see darker clouds than there actually things; a resolute mind may brave and accom: plish' everything; difficulty is a stimulus and facility or confidence. Incapable of setting up a triumph to a strong spirit; "the joys of con- a firm purpose on the basis of things as they quest are the joys of man." What need I care are, he is often employed in vain speculations for people's opinion? It shall be done. He on some different supposable state of things, makes the first attempt. But some unexpected | which would have saved him from all this per. obstacle presents itself; he feels the awkward-plexity and irresolution. He thinks what a ness of attempting an unaccustomed manner of determined course he could have pursued, i acting; the questions or the ridicule of his friends his talents, his health, his age, had been different; disconcert him; his ardour abates and expires. | if he had been acquainted with some one person He again begins to question whether it be wise, sooner; if his friends were, in this or the other whether it be necessary, whether it be possible; point, different from what they are; or if fortune and at last surrenders his purpose to be perhaps had showered her favours on him. And he gives resumed when the same feelings return, and to himself as much licence to complain, as if all be in the same manner again relinquished. these advantages had been among the rights of
While animated by some magnanimous senti- his nativity, but refused, by a malignant or ments which he has heard or read, or while mus capricious fate, to his life. Thus he is occupied ing on some great example, a man may conceive -instead of marking with a vigilant eye, and the design, and partly sketch the plan of a seizing with a strong hand, all the possibilities generous enterprise; and his imagination revels of his actual situation. in the felicity, to others and to himself, that | A man without decision can never be said to would follow from its accomplishment. The belong to himself ; since, if he dared to assert splendid representation always centres in him that he did, the puny force of some cause, about self as the hero who is to realise it.
as powerful, you would have supposed, as a In a moment of remitted excitement, a faint spider, may make a seizure of the hapless boaster whisper from within may doubtfully ask, Is the very next moment, and contemptuously this more than a dream; or am I really destined exhibit the futility of the determinations by to achieve such an enterprise ? Destined ! and which he was to have proved the independence why are not this conviction of its excellence, of his understanding and his will. He belongs this conscious duty of performing the noblest to whatever can make capture of him; and one things that are possible, and this passionate thing after another vindicates its right to him, ardour, enough to constitute a destiny? He by arresting him while he is trying to go on; as feels indignant that there should be a failing twigs and chips, floating near the edge of a river, part of his nature to defraud the nobler, and cast are intercepted by every weed, and whirled in him below the ideal model and the actual ex- every little eddy. Having concluded on a amples which he is admiring; and this feeling design, he may pledge himself to accomplish it assists him to resolve that he will undertake this --if the hundred diversities of feeling which may enterprise, that he certainly will, though the come within the week will let him. His charAlps or the ocean lie between him and the object. acter precluding all foresight of his conduct, he Again his ardour slackens ; distrustful of himself, may sit and wonder what form and direction he wishes to know how the design would appear his views and actions are destined to take toto other minds; and when he speaks of it to his morrow; as a farmer has often to acknowledge associates, one of them wonders, another laughs, that next day's proceedings are at the disposal and another frowns. His pride, while with them, of its winds and clouds. attempts a manful defence; but his resolution. This man's notions and determinations always gradually crumbles down toward their level; he depend very much on other human beings; and becomes in a little while ashamed to entertain a what chance for consistency and stability, while visionary project, which therefore, like a rejected the persons with whom he may converse or friend, desists from intruding on him or fol- transact are so various ? This very evening, he lowing him, except at lingering distance; and may talk with a man whose sentiments will he subsides, at last, into what he labours to be- melt away the present form and outline of his lieve a man too rational for the schemes of ill-cal. purposes, however firm and defined be may have culating enthusiasm. And it were strange if the fancied them to be. A succession of persons effort to make out this favourable estimate of whose faculties were stronger than his own, himself did not succeed, while it is so much more might, in spite of his irresolute reaction, take pleasant to attribute one's defect of enterprise to him and dispose of him as they pleased. Such wisdom, which on maturer thought disapproves | infirmity of spirit practically confesses him made it, than to imbecility, which shrinks from it. for subjection, and he passes, like a slave, from
A person of undecisive character wonders how owner to owner. Sometimes, indeed, it happens all the embarrassments in the world happened that a person so constituted falls into the train, to meet exactly in his way, to place him just in and under the permanent ascendency, of some that one situation for which he is peculiarly one stronger mind, which thus becomes through unadapted, but in which he is also willing to life the oracle and guide, and gives the inferior think no other man could have acted with a steady will add plan. This, when the govern.