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THE POSTHUMOUS WORKS

OF

THOMAS DE QUINCEY.


EDITED FROM THE ORIGINAL MSS.,
WITH INTRODUCTIONS AND NOTES.

BY

ALEXANDER H. JAPP,

LLD., F.R.S.E.

VOLUME I.

LONDON:
WILLIAM HEINEMANN.
1891.
[All rights reserved.]

SUSPIRIA DE PROFUNDIS.

With Other Essays,

CRITICAL, HISTORICAL, BIOGRAPHICAL,
PHILOSOPHICAL, IMAGINATIVE
AND HUMOROUS,

BY

THOMAS DE QUINCEY.

p002
LONDON:
WILLIAM HEINEMANN.
1891.
[All rights reserved.]

To
Mrs. BAIRD SMITH and Miss DE QUINCEY,
who put into my hands the remains in manuscript
of their father, that I might select and
publish from them what was deemed
to be available for such a purpose,
this volume is dedicated,
with many and
grateful thanks for
their confidence
and aid, by
their devoted
friend,

Alexander H. Japp.


PREFACE.

It only needs to be said, by way of Preface, that the articles in the present volume have been selected more with a view to variety and contrast than will be the case with those to follow. And it is right that I should thank Mr. J. R. McIlraith for friendly help in the reading of the proofs.

A. H. J.

[Pg ix]


CONTENTS.

CHAPTERPAGE
GENERAL INTRODUCTIONxi
I.SUSPIRIA DE PROFUNDIS:
Introduction, with Complete List of the 'Suspiria'1
1.The Dark Interpreter7
2.The Solitude of Childhood13
3.Who is this Woman that beckoneth and warneth me from the Place where she is, and in whose eyes is Woeful Remembrance? I guess who she is16
4.The Princess who overlooked one Seed in a Pomegranate22
5.Notes for 'Suspiria'24
II.THE LOVELIEST SIGHT FOR WOMAN'S EYES29

III.WHY THE PAGANS COULD NOT INVEST THEIR GODS WITH ANY IOTA OF GRANDEUR33
IV.ON PAGAN SACRIFICES39
V.ON THE MYTHUS43

VI.DAVID'S NUMBERING OF THE PEOPLE—THE POLITICS OF THE SITUATION47
VII.THE JEWS AS A SEPARATE PEOPLE62
VIII.'WHAT IS TRUTH?' THE JESTING PILATE SAID—A FALSE GLOSS68
IX.WHAT SCALIGER SAYS ABOUT THE EPISTLE TO JUDE71

X.MURDER AS A FINE ART77
XI.ANECDOTES—JUVENAL85
XII.ANNA LOUISA89

XIII.SOME THOUGHTS ON BIOGRAPHY100
XIV.GREAT FORGERS: CHATTERTON AND WALPOLE, AND 'JUNIUS'125
XV.DANIEL O'CONNELL132

XVI.FRANCE PAST AND FRANCE PRESENT143
XVII.ROME'S RECRUITS AND ENGLAND'S RECRUITS147
XVIII.NATIONAL MANNERS AND FALSE JUDGMENT OF THEM163
XIX.INCREASED POSSIBILITIES OF SYMPATHY IN THE PRESENT AGE165

XX.THE PRINCIPLE OF EVIL168
XXI.ON MIRACLES173
XXII.'LET HIM COME DOWN FROM THE CROSS'177
XXIII.IS THE HUMAN RACE ON THE DOWN GRADE?180

XXIV.BREVIA: SHORT ESSAYS (IN CONNECTION WITH EACH OTHER):
1.Paganism and Christianity—the Ideas of Duty and Holiness185
2.Moral and Practical194
3.On Words and Style207
4.Theological and Religious226
5.Political, etc.269
6.Personal Confessions, etc.271
7.Pagan Literature279
8.Historical, etc.283
9.Literary292
XXV.OMITTED PASSAGES AND VARIATIONS:
1.The Rhapsodoi306
2.Mrs. Evans and the Gazette310
3.A Lawsuit Legacy313
4.The True Justifications of War315
5.Philosophy Defeated317
6.The Highwayman's Skeleton320
7.The Ransom for Waterloo323
8.Desiderium326

[Pg xi]


GENERAL INTRODUCTION.

These articles recovered from the MSS. of De Quincey will, the Editor believes, be found of substantive value. In some cases they throw fresh light on his opinions and ways of thinking; in other cases they deal with topics which are not touched at all in his collected works: and certainly, when read alongside the writings with which the public is already familiar, will give altogether a new idea of his range both of interests and activities. The 'Brevia,' especially, will probably be regarded as throwing more light on his character and individuality—exhibiting more of the inner life, in fact—than any number of letters or reminiscences from the pens of others would be found to do. It is as though the ordinary reader were asked to sit down at ease with the author, when he is in his most social and communicative mood, when he has donned his dressing-gown and slippers, and is inclined to unbosom himself, and that freely, on matters which usually, and in general society, he would have been[Pg xii] inclined to shun, or at all events to pass over lightly. Here we have him at one moment presenting the results of speculations the loftiest that can engage the mind of man; at another making note of whimsical or surprising points in the man or woman he has met with, or in the books he has read; at another, amusing himself with the most recent anecdote, or bon-mot, or reflecting on the latest accident or murder, or good-naturedly noting odd lapses in style in magazine or newspaper.

It must not be supposed that the author himself was inclined to lay such weight on these stray notes, as might be presumed from the form in which they are here presented. That might give the impression of a most methodic worker and thinker, who had before him a carefully-indexed commonplace book, into which he posted at the proper place his rough notes and suggestions. That was not De Quincey's way. If he was not one of the wealthy men who care not how they give, he was one who made the most careless record even of what was likely to be valuable—at all events to himself. His habit was to make notes just as they occurred to him, and on the sheet that he chanced to have at the moment before him. It might be the 'copy' for an article indeed, and in a little square patch at the corner—separated from the main text by an insulating line of ink drawn round the foreign matter—through this, not seldom, when finished he would lightly draw his pen; meaning probably to return to it when his MS. came back to him from the[Pg xiii] printer, which accounts, it may be, in some measure for his reluctance to get rid of, or to destroy, 'copy' already printed from. Sometimes we have found on a sheet a dozen or so of lines of a well-known article; and the rest filled up with notes, some written one way of the paper, some another, and now and then entangled in the most surprising fashion. In these cases, where the notes, of course, were meant for his own eye, he wrote in a small spidery handwriting with many contractions—a kind of shorthand of his own, and very different indeed from his ordinary clean, clear, neat penmanship. In many cases these notes demanded no little care and closeness in deciphering—the more that the MSS. had been tumbled about, and were often deeply stained by glasses other than inkstands having been placed upon them. 'Within that circle none dared walk but he,' said Tom Hood in his genially humorous way; and many of these thoughts were thus partially or wholly encircled. Pages of articles that had already been printed were intermixed with others that had not; and the first piece of work that I entered on was roughly to separate the printed from the unprinted—first having carefully copied out from the former any of the spidery-looking notes interjected there, to which I have already referred. The next process was to arrange the many separate pages and seeming fragments into heaps, by subjects; and finally to examine these carefully and, with a view to 'connections,' to place them together. In not a few cases where the theme was attractive and[Pg xiv] the prospect promising, utter failure to complete the article or sketch was the result, the opening or ending passages, or a page in the middle, having been unfortunately destroyed or lost.

So numerous were these notes, so varied their subjects, that one got quite a new idea of the extreme electrical quality of his mind, as he himself called it; and I shall have greatly failed in my endeavour in the case of these volumes, if I have not succeeded in imparting something of the same impression to the reader. Here we have proof that vast schemes, such as the great history of England, of which Mr. James Hogg, senr., humorously told us in his 'Recollections' ('Memoir,' ch. ed., pp. 330, 331), were not merely subjects of conversation and jest, but that he had actually proceeded to build up masses of notes and figures with a view to these; and various slips and pages remain to show that he had actually commenced to write the history of England. The short article, included in the present volume, on the 'Power of the House of Commons as Custodian of the Purse,' is marked for 'My History of England.' Other portions are marked as intended for 'My book on the Infinite,' and others still 'For my book on the Relations of Christianity to Man.' One can infer, indeed, that several of the articles well-known to us, notably 'Christianity as an Organ of Political Movement,' for one, were originally conceived as portions of a great work on 'Christianity in Relation to Human Development.'[Pg xv]

It is thus necessary to be very explicit in stating that, though these notes are as faithfully reproduced as has been possible to me, the classification and arrangement of them, under which they assume the aspect of something of one connected essay on the main subject, I alone am responsible for; though I do not believe, so definite and clear were his ideas on certain subjects and in certain relations, that he himself would have regarded them as losing anything by such arrangement, but rather gaining very much, if they were to be given at all to the public.

Several of the articles in this volume suggest that he also contemplated a great work on 'Paganism and Christianity,' in which he would have demonstrated that Paganism had exhausted all the germs of progress that lay within it; and that all beyond the points reached by Paganism is due to Christianity, and alone to Christianity, which, in opening up a clear view of the infinite through purely experimental mediums in man's heart, touched to new life, science, philosophy, art, invention and every kind of culture.

Respecting the recovered 'Suspiria,' all that it is needful to say will be found in an introduction special to that head, and it does not seem to me that I need to add here anything more. In every other respect the articles must speak for themselves.


DE QUINCEY'S POSTHUMOUS WORKS.


[Pg 1]

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I. SUSPIRIA DE PROFUNDIS.

Introduction, with Complete List of the 'Suspiria.'

The finale to the first part of the 'Suspiria,' as we find from a note of the author's own, was to include 'The Dark Interpreter,' 'The Spectre of the Brocken,' and 'Savannah-la-Mar.' The references to 'The Dark Interpreter' in the latter would thus become intelligible, as the reader is not there in any full sense informed who the 'Dark Interpreter' was; and the piece, recovered from his MSS. and now printed, may thus be regarded as having a special value for De Quincey students, and, indeed, for readers generally. In Blackwood's Magazine he did indeed interpolate a sentence or two, and these were reproduced in the American edition of the works (Fields's); but they are so slight and general compared with the complete 'Suspiria' now presented, that they do not in any way detract from its originality and value.

The master-idea of the 'Suspiria' is the power which lies in suffering, in agony unuttered and unutterable, to develop the intellect and the spirit of man; to open these to the ineffable conceptions of the infinite, and to[Pg 2] some discernment, otherwise impossible, of the beneficent might that lies in pain and sorrow. De Quincey seeks his symbols sometimes in natural phenomena, oftener in the creation of mighty abstractions; and the moral of all must be set forth in the burden of 'The Daughter of Lebanon,' that 'God may give by seeming to refuse.' Prose-poems, as they have been called, they are deeply philosophical, presenting under the guise of phantasy the profoundest laws of the working of the human spirit in its most terrible disciplines, and asserting for the darkest phenomena of human life some compensating elements as awakeners of hope and fear and awe. The sense of a great pariah world is ever present with him—a world of outcasts and of innocents bearing the burden of vicarious woes; and thus it is that his title is justified—Suspiria de Profundis: 'Sighs from the Depths.'

We find De Quincey writing in his prefatory notice to the enlarged edition of the 'Confessions' in November, 1856:

'All along I had relied upon a crowning grace, which I had reserved for the final page of this volume, in a succession of some twenty or twenty-five dreams and noon-day visions, which had arisen under the latter stage of opium influence. These have disappeared; some under circumstances which allow me a reasonable prospect of recovering them, some unaccountably, and some dishonourably. Five or six I believe were burned in a sudden conflagration which arose from the spark of a candle falling unobserved amongst a very large pile of papers in a bedroom, where I was alone and reading. Falling not on, but amongst and within the papers, the fire would soon have been ahead of conflict, and, by[Pg 3] communicating with the slight woodwork and draperies of a bed, it would have immediately enveloped the laths of the ceiling overhead, and thus the house, far from fire-engines, would have been burned down in half-an-hour. My attention was first drawn by a sudden light upon my book; and the whole difference between a total destruction of the premises and a trivial loss (from books charred) of five guineas was due to a large Spanish cloak. This, thrown over and then drawn down tightly, by the aid of one sole person, somewhat agitated, but retaining her presence of mind, effectually extinguished the fire. Amongst the papers burned partially, but not so burned as to be absolutely irretrievable, was "The Daughter of Lebanon," and this I have printed and have intentionally placed it at the end, as appropriately closing a record in which the case of poor "Ann the Outcast" formed not only the most memorable and the most suggestively pathetic incident, but also that which, more than any other, coloured—or (more truly, I should say) shaped, moulded and remoulded, composed and decomposed—the great body of opium dreams.'

After this loss of the greater portion of the 'Suspiria' copy, De Quincey seems to have become indifferent in some degree to their continuity and relation to each other. He drew the 'Affliction of Childhood' and 'Dream Echoes,' which stood early in the order of the 'Suspiria,' into the 'Autobiographic Sketches,' and also the 'Spectre of the Brocken,' which was meant to come somewhat later in the series as originally planned; and, as we have seen, he appended 'The Daughter of Lebanon' to the 'Opium Confessions,' without any reference, save in the preface, to its really having formed part of a separate collection of dreams.[Pg 4]

From a list found among his MSS. we are able to give the arrangement of the whole as it would have appeared had no accident occurred, and all the papers been at hand. Those followed by a cross are those which are now recovered, and those with a dagger what were reprinted either as 'Suspiria' or otherwise in Messrs. Black's editions.

SUSPIRIA DE PROFUNDIS.

[Pg 5]

Thus of the thirty-two 'Suspiria' intended by the author, we have only nine that received his final corrections, and even with those now recovered, we have only about one half of the whole, presuming that those which are lost or remained unwritten would have averaged about the same length as those we have. To those who have studied the 'Suspiria' as published, how suggestive[Pg 6] many of these titles will be! 'Count the Leaves in Vallombrosa'—what phantasies would that have conjured up! The lost, the apparently wasted of the leaves from the tree of human life, and the possibilities of use and redemption! De Quincey would there doubtless have given us under a form more or less fanciful or symbolical his reading of the problem:

'Why Nature out of fifty seeds
So often brings but one to bear.'

The case of the Cagots, the pariahs of the Pyrenees, as we know from references elsewhere, excited his curiosity, as did all of the pariah class, and much engaged his attention; and in the 'Cagot and Cressida' 'Suspiria' we should probably have had under symbols of mighty abstractions the vision of the pariah world, and the world of health and outward fortune which scorns and excludes the other, and partly, at all events, actively dooms it to a living death in England of to-day, as in India of the past, and in Jewry of old, where the leper was thrust outside the wall to wail 'Unclean! unclean!'

1.—The Dark Interpreter.

[Pg 7]

Top

'Oh, eternity with outstretched wings, that broodest over the secret truths in whose roots lie the mysteries of man—his whence, his whither—have I searched thee, and struck a right key on thy dreadful organ!'

Suffering is a mightier agency in the hands of nature, as a Demiurgus creating the intellect, than most people are aware of.

The truth I heard often in sleep from the lips of the Dark Interpreter. Who is he? He is a shadow, reader, but a shadow with whom you must suffer me to make you acquainted. You need not be afraid of him, for when I explain his nature and origin you will see that he is essentially inoffensive; or if sometimes he menaces with his countenance, that is but seldom: and then, as his features in those moods shift as rapidly as clouds in a gale of wind, you may always look for the terrific aspects to vanish as fast as they have gathered. As to his origin—what it is, I know exactly, but cannot without a little circuit of preparation make you understand. Perhaps you are aware of that power in the eye of many children by which in darkness they project a vast theatre of phantasmagorical figures moving forwards or backwards between their bed-curtains and the chamber walls. In some children this power is semi-voluntary—they can[Pg 8] control or perhaps suspend the shows; but in others it is altogether automatic. I myself, at the date of my last confessions, had seen in this way more processions—generally solemn, mournful, belonging to eternity, but also at times glad, triumphal pomps, that seemed to enter the gates of Time—than all the religions of paganism, fierce or gay, ever witnessed. Now, there is in the dark places of the human spirit—in grief, in fear, in vindictive wrath—a power of self-projection not unlike to this. Thirty years ago, it may be, a man called Symons committed several murders in a sudden epilepsy of planet-struck fury. According to my recollection, this case happened at Hoddesdon, which is in Middlesex. 'Revenge is sweet!' was his hellish motto on that occasion, and that motto itself records the abysses which a human will can open. Revenge is not sweet, unless by the mighty charm of a charity that seeketh not her own it has become benignant.[1] And what he had to revenge was woman's scorn. He had been a plain farm-servant; and, in fact, he was executed, as such men often are, on a proper point of professional respect to their calling, in a smock-frock, or blouse, to render so ugly a clash of syllables. His young mistress was every way and by much his superior, as well in prospects as in education. But the man, by nature arrogant, and little acquainted with the world, presumptuously raised his eyes to one of his young mistresses. Great was the scorn with which she repulsed his audacity, and her sisters participated in her disdain. Upon this affront he brooded night and day; and, after the term of his service was over, and he, in effect, forgotten by the family, one day he suddenly [Pg 9]descended amongst the women of the family like an Avatar of vengeance. Right and left he threw out his murderous knife without distinction of person, leaving the room and the passage floating in blood.

The final result of this carnage was not so terrific as it threatened to be. Some, I think, recovered; but, also, one, who did not recover, was unhappily a stranger to the whole cause of his fury. Now, this murderer always maintained, in conversation with the prison chaplain, that, as he rushed on in his hellish career, he perceived distinctly a dark figure on his right hand, keeping pace with himself. Upon that the superstitious, of course, supposed that some fiend had revealed himself, and associated his superfluous presence with the dark atrocity. Symons was not a philosopher, but my opinion is, that he was too much so to tolerate that hypothesis, since, if there was one man in all Europe that needed no tempter to evil on that evening, it was precisely Mr. Symons, as nobody knew better than Mr. Symons himself. I had not the benefit of his acquaintance, or I would have explained it to him. The fact is, in point of awe a fiend would be a poor, trivial bagatelle compared to the shadowy projections, umbras and penumbras, which the unsearchable depths of man's nature is capable, under adequate excitement, of throwing off, and even into stationary forms. I shall have occasion to notice this point again. There are creative agencies in every part of human nature, of which the thousandth part could never be revealed in one life.


You have heard, reader, in vision which describes our Ladies of Sorrow, particularly in the dark admonition of Madonna, to her wicked sister that hateth and tempteth,[Pg 10] what root of dark uses may lie in moral convulsions: not the uses hypocritically vaunted by theatrical devotion which affronts the majesty of God, that ever and in all things loves Truth—prefers sincerity that is erring to piety that cants. Rebellion which is the sin of witchcraft is more pardonable in His sight than speechifying resignation, listening with complacency to its own self-conquests. Show always as much neighbourhood as thou canst to grief that abases itself, which will cost thee but little effort if thine own grief hath been great. But God, who sees thy efforts in secret, will slowly strengthen those efforts, and make that to be a real deed, bearing tranquillity for thyself, which at first was but a feeble wish breathing homage to Him.

In after-life, from twenty to twenty-four, on looking back to those struggles of my childhood, I used to wonder exceedingly that a child could be exposed to struggles on such a scale. But two views unfolded upon me as my experience widened, which took away that wonder. The first was the vast scale upon which the sufferings of children are found everywhere expanded in the realities of life. The generation of infants which you see is but part of those who belong to it; were born in it; and make, the world over, not one half of it. The missing half, more than an equal number to those of any age that are now living, have perished by every kind of torments. Three thousand children per annum—that is, three hundred thousand per century; that is (omitting Sundays), about ten every day—pass to heaven through flames[2] in this very island of Great Britain. And of [Pg 11]those who survive to reach maturity what multitudes have fought with fierce pangs of hunger, cold, and nakedness! When I came to know all this, then reverting my eye to my struggle, I said oftentimes it was nothing! Secondly, in watching the infancy of my own children, I made another discovery—it is well known to mothers, to nurses, and also to philosophers—that the tears and lamentations of infants during the year or so when they have no other language of complaint run through a gamut that is as inexhaustible as the cremona of Paganini. An ear but moderately learned in that language cannot be deceived as to the rate and modulus of the suffering which it indicates. A fretful or peevish cry cannot by any efforts make itself impassioned. The cry of impatience, of hunger, of irritation, of reproach, of alarm, are all different—different as a chorus of Beethoven from a chorus of Mozart. But if ever you saw an infant suffering for an hour, as sometimes the healthiest does, under some attack of the stomach, which has the tiger-grasp of the Oriental cholera, then you will hear moans that address to their mothers an anguish of supplication for aid such as might storm the heart of Moloch. Once hearing it, you will not forget it. Now, it was a constant remark of mine, after any storm of that nature (occurring, suppose, once in two months), that always on the following day, when a long, long sleep had chased away the darkness and the memory of the darkness from the little creature's brain, a sensible expansion had taken place in the intellectual faculties of attention, observation, and animation. It renewed the case of our great modern poet, who, on listening to the raving of the midnight storm, and the crashing which it was making in[Pg 12] the mighty woods, reminded himself that all this hell of trouble

'Tells also of bright calms that shall succeed.'

Pain driven to agony, or grief driven to frenzy, is essential to the ventilation of profound natures. A sea which is deeper than any that Count Massigli[3] measured cannot be searched and torn up from its sleeping depths without a levanter or a monsoon. A nature which is profound in excess, but also introverted and abstracted in excess, so as to be in peril of wasting itself in interminable reverie, cannot be awakened sometimes without afflictions that go to the very foundations, heaving, stirring, yet finally harmonizing; and it is in such cases that the Dark Interpreter does his work, revealing the worlds of pain and agony and woe possible to man—possible even to the innocent spirit of a child.

[Pg 13]

2.—The Solitude of Childhood.

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As nothing which is impassioned escapes the eye of poetry, neither has this escaped it—that there is, or may be, through solitude, 'sublime attractions of the grave.' But even poetry has not perceived that these attractions may arise for a child. Not, indeed, a passion for the grave as the grave—from that a child revolts; but a passion for the grave as the portal through which it may recover some heavenly countenance, mother or sister, that has vanished. Through solitude this passion may be exalted into a frenzy like a nympholepsy. At first, when in childhood we find ourselves torn away from the lips that we could hang on for ever, we throw out our arms in vain struggles to snatch at them, and pull them back again. But when we have felt for a time how hopeless is that effort, and that they cannot come to us, we desist from that struggle, and next we whisper to our hearts, Might not we go to them?

Such in principle and origin was the famous Dulce Domum[4] of the English schoolboy. Such is the Heimweh[Pg 14] (home-sickness) of the German and Swiss soldier in foreign service. Such is the passion of the Calenture. Doubtless, reader, you have seen it described. The poor sailor is in tropical latitudes; deep, breathless calms have prevailed for weeks. Fever and delirium are upon him. Suddenly from his restless hammock he starts up; he will fret no longer in darkness; he ascends upon deck. How motionless are the deeps! How vast—how sweet are these shining zaarrahs of water! He gazes, and slowly under the blazing scenery of his brain the scenery of his eye unsettles. The waters are swallowed up; the seas have disappeared. Green fields appear, a silent dell, and a pastoral cottage. Two faces appear—are at the door—sweet female faces, and behold they beckon him. 'Come to us!' they seem to say. The picture rises to his wearied brain like a sanctus from the choir of a cathedral, and in the twinkling of an eye, stung to madness by the cravings of his heart, the man is overboard. He is gone—he is lost for this world; but if he missed the arms of the lovely women—wife and sister—whom he sought, assuredly he has settled into arms that are mightier and not less indulgent.

I, young as I was, had one feeling not learned from books, and that could not have been learned from books, the deepest of all that connect themselves with natural scenery. It is the feeling which in 'The Hart-leap Well' of Wordsworth, in his 'Danish Boy,' and other exquisite poems is brought out, viz., the breathless, mysterious, Pan-like silence that haunts the noon-day. If there were winds abroad, then I was roused myself into sympathetic tumults. But if this dead silence haunted the air, then the peace which was in nature echoed another peace which lay in graves, and I fell into a sick languishing for[Pg 15] things which a voice from heaven seemed to say 'cannot be granted.'

There is a German superstition, which eight or ten years after I read, of the Erl-king and his daughter. The daughter had power to tempt infants away into the invisible world; but it is, as the reader understands, by collusion with some infirmity of sick desire for such worlds in the infant itself.

'Who is that rides through the forest so fast?'

It is a knight who carries his infant upon his saddle-bow. The Erl-king's daughter rides by his side; and, in words audible only when she means them to be heard, she says:

'If thou wilt, dear baby, with me go away,
We will see a fine show, we will play a fine play.'

That sounds lovely to my ears. Oh yes, that collusion with dim sleeping infancy is lovely to me; but I was too advanced in intellect to have been tempted by such temptations. Still there was a perilous attraction for me in worlds that slept and rested; and if the Erl-king's daughter had revealed herself to my perceptions, there was one 'show' that she might have promised which would have wiled me away with her into the dimmest depths of the mightiest and remotest forests.[Pg 16]

3.—Who is this Woman that beckoneth and warneth me from the Place where she is, and in whose Eyes is Woeful Remembrance? I guess who she is.

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In my dreams were often prefigurements of my future, as I could not but read the signs. What man has not some time in dewy morn, or sequestered eve, or in the still night-watches, when deep sleep falleth on other men but visiteth not his weary eyelids—what man, I say, has not some time hushed his spirit and questioned with himself whether some things seen or obscurely felt, were not anticipated as by mystic foretaste in some far halcyon time, post-natal or ante-natal he knew not; only assuredly he knew that for him past and present and future merged in one awful moment of lightning revelation. Oh, spirit that dwelleth in man, how subtle are thy revelations; how deep, how delirious the raptures thou canst inspire; how poignant the stings with which thou canst pierce the heart; how sweet the honey with which thou assuagest the wound; how dark the despairs and accusings that lie behind thy curtains, and leap upon us like lightning from the cloud, with the sense as of some heavenly blazoning, and oftentimes carry us beyond ourselves!

It is a sweet morning in June, and the fragrance of the roses is wafted towards me as I move—for I am walking[Pg 17] in a lawny meadow, still wet with dew—and a wavering mist lies over the distance. Suddenly it seems to lift, and out of the dewy dimness emerges a cottage, embowered with roses and clustering clematis; and the hills, in which it is set like a gem, are tree-clad, and rise billowy behind it, and to the right and to the left are glistening expanses of water. Over the cottage there hangs a halo, as if clouds had but parted there. From the door of that cottage emerges a figure, the countenance full of the trepidation of some dread woe feared or remembered. With waving arm and tearful uplifted face the figure first beckons me onward, and then, when I have advanced some yards, frowning, warns me away. As I still continue to advance, despite the warning, darkness falls: figure, cottage, hills, trees, and halo fade and disappear; and all that remains to me is the look on the face of her that beckoned and warned me away. I read that glance as by the inspiration of a moment. We had been together; together we had entered some troubled gulf; struggled together, suffered together. Was it as lovers torn asunder by calamity? was it as combatants forced by bitter necessity into bitter feud, when we only, in all the world, yearned for peace together? Oh, what a searching glance was that which she cast on me! as if she, being now in the spiritual world, abstracted from flesh, remembered things that I could not remember. Oh, how I shuddered as the sweet sunny eyes in the sweet sunny morning of June—the month that was my 'angelical'; half spring, yet with summer dress, that to me was very 'angelical'—seemed reproachfully to challenge in me recollections of things passed thousands of years ago (old indeed, yet that were made new again for us, because now first it was that we met again). Oh,[Pg 18] heavens! it came over me as doth the raven over the infected house, as from a bed of violets sweeps the saintly odour of corruption. What a glimpse was thus revealed! glory in despair, as of that gorgeous vegetation that hid the sterilities of the grave in the tropics of that summer long ago; of that heavenly beauty which slept side by side within my sister's coffin in the month of June; of those saintly swells that rose from an infinite distance—I know not whether to or from my sister. Could this be a memorial of that nature? Are the nearer and more distant stages of life thus dimly connected, and the connection hidden, but suddenly revealed for a moment?

This lady for years appeared to me in dreams; in that, considering the electric character of my dreams, and that they were far less like a lake reflecting the heavens than like the pencil of some mighty artist—Da Vinci or Michael Angelo—that cannot copy in simplicity, but comments in freedom, while reflecting in fidelity, there was nothing to surprise. But a change in this appearance was remarkable. Oftentimes, after eight years had passed, she appeared in summer dawn at a window. It was a window that opened on a balcony. This feature only gave a distinction, a refinement, to the aspect of the cottage—else all was simplicity. Spirit of Peace, dove-like dawn that slept upon the cottage, ye were not broken by any participation in my grief and despair! For ever the vision of that cottage was renewed. Did I roam in the depths of sweet pastoral solitudes in the West, with the tinkling of sheep-bells in my ears, a rounded hillock, seen vaguely, would shape itself into a cottage; and at the door my monitory, regretful Hebe would appear. Did I wander by the seashore, one gently-swelling wave in the vast heaving plain of waters would suddenly trans[Pg 19]form itself into a cottage, and I, by some involuntary inward impulse, would in fancy advance toward it.

Ah, reader, you will think this which I am going to say too near, too holy, for recital. But not so. The deeper a woe touches me in heart, so much the more am I urged to recite it. The world disappears: I see only the grand reliques of a world—memorials of a love that has departed, has been—the record of a sorrow that is, and has its greyness converted into verdure—monuments of a wrath that has been reconciled, of a wrong that has been atoned for—convulsions of a storm that has gone by. What I am going to say is the most like a superstitious thing that I ever shall say. And I have reason to think that every man who is not a villain once in his life must be superstitious. It is a tribute which he pays to human frailty, which tribute if he will not pay, which frailty if he will not share, then also he shall not have any of its strength.

The face of this monitory Hebe haunted me for some years in a way that I must faintly attempt to explain. It is little to say that it was the sweetest face, with the most peculiar expression of sweetness, that I had ever seen: that was much, but that was earthly. There was something more terrific, believe me, than this; yet that was not the word: terror looks to the future; and this perhaps did, but not primarily. Chiefly it looked at some unknown past, and was for that reason awful; yes, awful—that was the word.

Thus, on any of those heavenly sunny mornings, that now are buried in an endless grave, did I, transported by no human means, enter that cottage, and descend to that breakfast-room, my earliest salute was to her, that ever, as the look of pictures do, with her eyes pursued[Pg 20] me round the room, and oftentimes with a subtle checking of grief, as if great sorrow had been or would be hers. And it was, too, in the sweet Maytime. Oh yes; she was but as if she had been—as if it were her original ... chosen to have been the aurora of a heavenly clime; and then suddenly she was as one of whom, for some thousand years, Paradise had received no report; then, again, as if she entered the gates of Paradise not less innocent; and, again, as if she could not enter; and some blame—but I knew not what blame—was mine; and now she looked as though broken with a woe that no man could read, as she sought to travel back to her early joy—yet no longer a joy that is sublime in innocency, but a joy from which sprung abysses of memories polluted into anguish, till her tears seemed to be suffused with drops of blood. All around was peace and the deep silence of untroubled solitude; only in the lovely lady was a sign of horror, that had slept, under deep ages of frost, in her heart, and now rose, as with the rushing of wings, to her face. Could it be supposed that one life—so pitiful a thing—was what moved her care? Oh no; it was, or it seemed, as if this poor wreck of a life happened to be that one which determined the fate of some thousand others. Nothing less; nothing so abject as one poor fifty years—nothing less than a century of centuries could have stirred the horror that rose to her lovely lips, as once more she waved me away from the cottage.

Oh, reader, five years after I saw that sweet face in reality—saw it in the flesh; saw that pomp of womanhood; saw that cottage; saw a thousand times that lovely domicile that heard the cooing of the solitary dove in the solitary morning; saw the grace of childhood and the shadows of graves that lay, like creatures asleep, in[Pg 21] the sunshine; saw, also, the horror, somehow realized as a shadowy reflection from myself, which warned me off from that cottage, and which still rings through the dreams of five-and-twenty years.


The general sentiment or sense of pre-existence, of which this Suspiria may be regarded as one significant and affecting illustration, had this record in the outset of the 'Reminiscences of Wordsworth':

'Oh, sense of mysterious pre-existence, by which, through years, in which as yet a stranger to those valleys of Westmoreland, I viewed myself as a phantom self—a second identity projected from my own consciousness, and already living amongst them—how was it, and by what prophetic instinct, that already I said to myself oftentimes, when chasing day-dreams along the pictures of these wild mountainous labyrinths, which as yet I had not traversed, "Here, in some distant year, I shall be shaken with love, and there with stormiest grief and regret"? Whence was it that sudden revelations came upon me, like the drawings up of a curtain, and closing again as rapidly, of scenes that made the future heaven of my life? And how was it that in thought I was, and yet in reality was not, a denizen, already, in 1803, 1804, 1805, of lakes and forest lawns, which I never saw till 1807? and that, by a prophetic instinct of heart, I rehearsed and lived over, as it were, in vision those chapters of my life which have carried with them the weightiest burden of joy and sorrow, and by the margin of those very lakes and hills with which I prefigured this connection? and, in short, that for me, by a transcendent privilege, during the novitiate of my life, most truly I might say:

'"In to-day already walked to-morrow."'

[Pg 22]

4.—THE PRINCESS WHO OVERLOOKED ONE SEED IN A POMEGRANATE.

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There is a story told in the 'Arabian Nights' of a princess who, by overlooking one seed of a pomegranate, precipitated the event which she had laboured to make impossible. She lies in wait for the event which she foresees. The pomegranate swells, opens, splits; the seeds, which she knows to be roots of evil, rapidly she swallows; but one—only one—before it could be arrested, rolls away into a river. It is lost! it is irrecoverable! She has triumphed, but she must perish. Already she feels the flames mounting up which are to consume her, and she calls for water hastily—not to deliver herself (for that is impossible), but, nobly forgetting her own misery, that she may prevent that destruction of her brother mortal which had been the original object for hazarding her own. Yet why go to Arabian fictions? Even in our daily life is exhibited, in proportions far more gigantic, that tendency to swell and amplify itself into mountains of darkness, which exists oftentimes in germs that are imperceptible. An error in human choice, an infirmity in the human will, though it were at first less than a mote, though it should swerve from the right line by an interval less than any thread

'That ever spider twisted from her womb,'

[Pg 23]sometimes begins to swell, to grow, to widen its distance rapidly, travels off into boundless spaces remote from the true centre, spaces incalculable and irretraceable, until hope seems extinguished and return impossible. Such was the course of my own opium career. Such is the history of human errors every day. Such was the original sin of the Greek theories on Deity, which could not have been healed but by putting off their own nature, and kindling into a new principle—absolutely undiscoverable, as I contend, for the Grecian intellect.

Oftentimes an echo goes as it were to sleep: the series of reverberations has died away. Suddenly a second series awakens: this subsides, then a third wakens up. So of actions done in youth. After great tumults all is quieted. You dream that they are over. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, on some fatal morning in middle-life the far-off consequences come back upon you. And you say to yourself, 'Oh, Heaven, if I had fifty lives this crime would reappear, as Pelion upon Ossa!' So was it with my affection. Left to natural peace, I might have conquered it: Verschmerzeon. To charm it down by the mere suffering of grief, to hush it by endurance, that was the natural policy—that was the natural process. But behold! A new form of sorrow arises, and the two multiply together. And the worm which was beginning to fall asleep is roused again to pestilential fierceness.[Pg 24]

5.—NOTES FOR 'SUSPIRIA.'

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Mystery unfathomable of Death! Mystery unapproachable of God! Destined it was, from the foundations of the world, that each mystery should make war upon the other: once that the lesser mystery should swallow up for a moment a limbus of the greater; and that woe is past: once that the greater mystery should swallow up for ever the whole vortex of the lesser; and that glory is yet to come. After which man, that is the son of God, shall lift up his eyes for ever, saying, 'Behold! these were two mysteries; and one is not; and there is but one mystery that survives for ever!'


If an eternity (Death supposed) is as vast as a star, yet the most miserable of earthly blocks not four feet square will eclipse, masque, hide it from centre to circumference. And so it really is. Incredible as it might seem apart from experience, the dreadful reality of death is utterly withdrawn from us because itself dwindles to an apparent mote, and the perishing non-reality thickens into a darkness as massy as a rock.


Great changes summon to great meditations. Daily we see the most joyous of events take a colouring of solemnity from the mere relation in which they stand to[Pg 25] an uncertain future: the birth of a child, heir to the greatest expectations, and welcomed clamorously by the sympathy of myriads, speaks to the more reflecting in an undertone of monitory sadness, were it only as a tribute to the frailty of human expectations: and a marriage-day, of all human events the most lawfully festal, yet needs something of effort to chase away the boding sadness which settles unavoidably upon any new career; the promise is vague, but new hopes have created new dangers, and responsibilities contracted perhaps with rapture are charged with menace.


For every one of us, male or female, there is a year of crisis—a year of solemn and conscious transition, a year in which the light-hearted sense of the irresponsible ceases to gild the heavenly dawn. A year there is, settled by no law or usage, for me perhaps the eighteenth, for you the seventeenth, for another the nineteenth, within the gates of which, underneath the gloomy archway of which, sits a phantom of yourself.


Turn a screw, tighten a linch-pin—which is not to disease, but perhaps to exalt, the mighty machinery of the brain—and the Infinities appear, before which the tranquillity of man unsettles, the gracious forms of life depart, and the ghostly enters. So profoundly is this true, that oftentimes I have said of my own tremendous experience in this region—destined too certainly, I fear, finally to swallow up intellect and the life of life in the heart, unless God of His mercy fetches me away by some sudden death—that death, considered as an entrance to this ghostly world, is but a postern-gate by comparison with the heaven-aspiring vestibule through which this world of the Infinite introduces the ghostly world.[Pg 26]


Time, if it does not diminish grief, alters its character. At first we stretch out our hands in very blindness of heart, as if trying to draw back again those whom we have lost. But, after a season, when the impotence of such efforts has become too sensibly felt, finding that they will not come back to us, a strange fascination arises which yearns after some mode of going to them. There is a gulf fixed which childhood rarely can pass. But we link our wishes with whatsoever would gently waft us over. We stretch out our hands, and say, 'Sister, lend us thy help, and plead for us with God, that we may pass over without much agony.'


The joy of an infant, or joy-generation, without significance to an unprofound and common mind—how strange to see the excess of pathos in that; yet men of any (or at least of much) sensibility see in this a transpicuous masque for another form, viz., the eternal ground of sorrow in all human hearts. This, by the way, in an essay on William Wordsworth, should be noticed as the charm of his poetry; and the note differential, in fact. At least, I know not of any former poet who has so systematically sought his sadness in the very luxury of joy. Thus, in the 'Two April Mornings,' 'what a mortal freshness of dewy radiance! what an attraction of early summer! what a vision of roses in June! Yet it is all transmuted to a purpose of sadness.'


Ah, reader, scorn not that which—whether you refuse it or not as the reality of realities—is assuredly the reality of dreams, linking us to a far vaster cycle, in which the love and the languishing, the ruin and the horror, of this world are but moments—but elements in[Pg 27] an eternal circle. The cycle stretches from an East that is forgotten to a West that is but conjectured. The mere fact of your own individual calamity is a life; the tragedy is a nature; the hope is but as a dim augury written on a flower.[5]


If the things that have fretted us had not some art for retiring into secret oblivion, what a hell would life become! Now, understand how in some nervous derangements this horror really takes place. Some things that had sunk into utter forgetfulness, others that had faded into visionary power, all rise as gray phantoms from the dust; the field of our earthly combats that should by rights have settled into peace, is all alive with hosts of resurrections—cavalries that sweep in gusty charges—columns that thunder from afar—arms gleaming through clouds of sulphur.


God takes care for the religion of little children wheresoever His Christianity exists. Wheresoever there is a national Church established, to which a child sees all his protectors resort; wheresoever he beholds amongst earthly creatures whom most he honours prostrate in devotion before these illimitable heavens, which fill to overflowing the total capacities of his young adoring heart; wheresoever at intervals he beholds the sleep of death, falling upon the men or women whom he has seen—a depth stretching as far below his power to fathom as those persons ascend beyond his powers to pursue—God speaks to their hearts by dreams and their tumultuous grandeurs. Even by solitude does God speak to little children, when made vocal by the services of Christianity, [Pg 28]as also he does by darkness wheresoever it is peopled with visions of His almighty power. For a pagan child, for a Greek child, solitude was nothing; for a Christian child it is made the power of God, and the hieroglyphic of His most distant truth. The solitude in life is deep for the millions who have none to love them, and deep for those who suffer by secret and incommunicable woe and have none to pity them. Thus, be you assured that though infancy talks least of that which slumbers deepest, it yet rests in its own transcendent solitude. But infancy, you say, talks surely most of that which is uppermost in its heart. Yes, doubtless of that which is uppermost, but not at all of that which slumbers below the foundations of its heart.

[And then follows a suggestion to put in a note:]


I except one case, the case of any child who is marked for death by organic disease, and knows it. In such cases the creature is changed—that which would have been unchildlike ceases to offend, for a new character is forming.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] See the story of the young soldier who told his officer, on having been struck by him, that 'he would make him repent it.' (Close of autobiographic sketch, 'Infant Literature.')

[2] Three thousand children are annually burnt to death in the nations of England and Scotland, chiefly through the carelessness of parents. I shudder to add another and darker cause, which is a deep disgrace to the present age.

[3] Count Massigli (an Austrian officer in the imperial service) about sixty years ago fathomed and attempted to fathom many parts of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. If I remember rightly, he found the bottom within less than an English mile.

[4] The story and the verses are, or used to be, well known. A schoolboy, forbidden to return home at the holidays, is suspected to have written the lyrical Latin verses upon the rapture of returning home, and to have breathed out his life in the anguish of thus reviving the images which for him were never to be realized.... The reader must not fancy any flaw in the Latin title. It is elliptic; revisere being understood, or some similar word.

[5] I allude to the signatures of nature.


[Pg 29]

II. THE LOVELIEST SIGHT FOR WOMAN'S EYES.

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The loveliest sight that a woman's eye opens upon in this world is her first-born child; and the holiest sight upon which the eyes of God settle in Almighty sanction and perfect blessing is the love which soon kindles between the mother and her infant: mute and speechless on the one side, with no language but tears and kisses and looks. Beautiful is the philosophy ... which arises out of that reflection or passion connected with the transition that has produced it. First comes the whole mighty drama of love, purified[6] ever more and more, how often from grosser feelings, yet of necessity through its very elements, oscillating between the finite and the infinite: the haughtiness of womanly pride, so dignified, yet not always free from the near contagion of error; the romance so ennobling, yet not always entirely reasonable; the tender dawn of opening sentiments, pointing to an idea in all this which it neither can reach nor could long sustain. Think of the great storm of [Pg 30]agitation, and fear and hope, through which, in her earliest days of womanhood, every woman must naturally pass, fulfilling a law of her Creator, yet a law which rests upon her mixed constitution; animal, though indefinitely ascending to what is non-animal—as a daughter of man, frail ... and imperfect, yet also as a daughter of God, standing erect, with eyes to the heavens. Next, when the great vernal passover of sexual tenderness and romance has fulfilled its purpose, we see, rising as a Phœnix from this great mystery of ennobled instincts, another mystery, much more profound, more affecting, more divine—not so much a rapture as a blissful repose of a Sabbath, which swallows up the more perishing story of the first; forcing the vast heart of female nature through stages of ascent, forcing it to pursue the transmigrations of the Psyche from the aurelic condition, so glowing in its colour, into the winged creature which mixes with the mystery of the dawn, and ascends to the altar of the infinite heavens, rising by a ladder of light from that sympathy which God surveys with approbation; and even more so as He beholds it self-purifying under His Christianity to that sympathy which needs no purification, but is the holiest of things on this earth, and that in which God most reveals Himself through the nature of humanity.

Well is it for the glorification of human nature that through these the vast majority of women must for ever pass; well also that, by placing its sublime germs near to female youth, God thus turns away by anticipation the divinest of disciplines from the rapacious absorption of the grave. Time is found—how often—for those who are early summoned into rendering back their[Pg 31] glorious privilege, who yet have tasted in its first-fruits the paradise of maternal love.

And pertaining also to this part of the subject, I will tell you a result of my own observations of no light importance to women.

It is this: Nineteen times out of twenty I have remarked that the true paradise of a female life in all ranks, not too elevated for constant intercourse with the children, is by no means the years of courtship, nor the earliest period of marriage, but that sequestered chamber of her experience, in which a mother is left alone through the day, with servants perhaps in a distant part of the house, and (God be thanked!) chiefly where there are no servants at all, she is attended by one sole companion, her little first-born angel, as yet clinging to her robe, imperfectly able to walk, still more imperfect in its prattling and innocent thoughts, clinging to her, haunting her wherever she goes as her shadow, catching from her eye the total inspiration of its little palpitating heart, and sending to hers a thrill of secret pleasure so often as its little fingers fasten on her own. Left alone from morning to night with this one companion, or even with three, still wearing the graces of infancy; buds of various stages upon the self-same tree, a woman, if she has the great blessing of approaching such a luxury of paradise, is moving—too often not aware that she is moving—through the divinest section of her life. As evening sets in, the husband, through all walks of life, from the highest professional down to that of common labour, returns home to vary her modes of conversation by such thoughts and interests as are more consonant with his more extensive capacities of intellect. But by that time her child (or her children) will be reposing on[Pg 32] the little couch, and in the morning, duly as the sun ascends in power, she sees before her a long, long day of perfect pleasure in this society which evening will bring to her, but which is interwoven with every fibre of her sensibilities. This condition of noiseless, quiet love is that, above all, which God blesses and smiles upon.

FOOTNOTES:

[6] How purified? And if it should be answered, through and under Christianity, the fool in his heart would scoff and say: 'What woman thinks of religion in her youthful courtship?' No; but it is not what she thinks of, but what thinks of her; not what she contemplates in consciousness, but what contemplates her, and reaches her by a necessity of social (? ideal) action. Romance is the product of Christianity, but so is sentiment.


[Pg 33]

III. WHY THE PAGANS COULD NOT INVEST THEIR GODS WITH ANY IOTA OF GRANDEUR.

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It is not for so idle a purpose as that of showing the Pagan backsliding—that is too evident—but for a far subtler purpose, and one which no man has touched, viz., the incapacity of creating grandeur for the Pagans, even with carte blanche in their favour, that I write this paper. Nothing is more incomprehensible than the following fact—nothing than this when mastered and understood is more thoroughly instructive—the fact that having a wide, a limitless field open before them, free to give and to take away at their own pleasure, the Pagans could not invest their Gods with any iota of grandeur. Diana, when you translate her into the Moon, then indeed partakes in all the natural grandeur of a planet associated with a dreamy light, with forests, forest lawns, etc., or the wild accidents of a huntress. But the Moon and the Huntress are surely not the creations of Pagans, nor indebted to them for anything but the murderous depluming which Pagan mythology has operated upon all that is in earth or in the waters that are under the earth. Now, why could not the ancients raise one little scintillating glory in behalf of their monstrous deities? So far are they from thus raising Jupiter, that he is sometimes made the ground of nature (not, observe, for any positive reason that they had[Pg 34] for any relation that Jupiter had to Creation, but simply for the negative reason that they had nobody else)—never does Jupiter seem more disgusting than when as just now in a translation of the 'Batrachia' I read that Jupiter had given to frogs an amphibious nature, making the awful, ancient, first-born secrets of Chaos to be his, and thus forcing into contrast and remembrance his odious personality.

Why, why, why could not the Romans, etc., make a grandeur for their Gods? Not being able to make them grand, they daubed them with finery. All that people imagine in the Jupiter Olympus of Phidias—they themselves confer. But an apostle is beyond their reach.

When, be it well observed, the cruel and dark religions are far more successful than those of Greece and Rome, for Osiris, etc., by the might of the devil, of darkness, are truly terrific. Cybele stands as a middle term half-way between these dark forms and the Greek or Roman. Pluto is the very model of a puny attempt at darkness utterly failing. He looks big; he paints himself histrionically; he soots his face; he has a masterful dog, nothing half so fearful as a wolf-dog or bloodhound; and he raises his own manes, poor, stridulous Struldbrugs.

Vainly did the ancient Pagans fight against this fatal weakness.

They may confer upon their Gods glittering titles of 'ambrosial,' 'immortal'; but the human mind is careless of positive assertion, and of clamorous iteration in however angry a tone, when silently it observes stealing out of facts already conceded some fatal consequence at war with all these empty pretensions—mortal even in the virtual conceptions of the Pagans. If the Pagan Gods[Pg 35] were really immortal, if essentially they repelled the touch of mortality, and not through the adulatory homage of their worshippers causing their true aspects to unsettle or altogether to disappear in clouds of incense, then how came whole dynasties of Gods to pass away, and no man could tell whither? If really they defied the grave, then how was it that age and the infirmities of age passed upon them like the shadow of eclipse upon the golden faces of the planets? If Apollo were a beardless young man, his father was not such—he was in the vigour of maturity; maturity is a flattering term for expressing it, but it means past youth—and his grandfather was superannuated. But even this grandfather, who had been once what Apollo was now, could not pretend to more than a transitory station in the long succession of Gods. Other dynasties, known even to man, there had been before his; and elder dynasties before that, of whom only rumours and suspicions survived. Even this taint, however, this direct access of mortality, was less shocking to my mind in after-years than the abominable fact of its reflex or indirect access in the shape of grief for others who had died. I need not multiply instances; they are without end. The reader has but to throw his memory back upon the anguish of Jupiter, in the 'Iliad,' for the approaching death of his son Sarpedon, and his vain struggles to deliver himself from this ghastly net; or upon Thetis, fighting against the vision of her matchless Pelides caught in the same vortex; or upon the Muse in Euripides, hovering in the air and wailing over her young Rhesus, her brave, her beautiful one, of whom she trusted that he had been destined to confound the Grecian host. What! a God, and liable to the pollution[Pg 36] of grief! A Goddess, and standing every hour within the peril of that dismal shadow!

Here in one moment mark the recoil, the intolerable recoil, upon the Pagan mind, of that sting which vainly they pretended to have conquered on behalf of their Pantheon. Did the reader fancy that I was fatiguing myself with any task so superfluous as that of proving the Gods of the heathen to be no Gods? In that case he has not understood me. My object is to show that the ancients, that even the Greeks, could not support the idea of immortality. The idea crumbled to pieces under their touch. In realizing that idea unconsciously, they suffered elements to slip in which defeated its very essence in the result; and not by accident: other elements they could not have found. Doubtless an insolent Grecian philosopher would say, 'Surely, I knew that immortality meant the being liberated from mortality.' Yes, but this is no more than the negative idea, and the demand is to give the affirmative idea. Or perhaps I shall better explain my meaning by substituting other terms with my own illustration of their value. I say, then, that the Greek idea of immortality involves only the nominal idea, not the real idea. Now, the nominal idea (or, which is the same thing, the nominal definition) is that which simply sketches the outline of an object in the shape of a problem; whereas the real definition fills up that outline and solves that problem. The nominal definition states the conditions under which an object would be realized for the mind; the real definition executes those conditions. The nominal definition, that I may express it most briefly and pointedly, puts a question; the real definition answers that question. Thus, to give our illustration, the insoluble problem of squaring[Pg 37] the circle presents us with a good nominal idea. There is no vagueness at all in the idea of such a square; it is that square which, when a given circle is laid before you, would present the same superficial contents in such exquisite truth of repetition that the eye of God could detect no shadow of more or of less. Nothing can be plainer than the demand—than the question. But as to the answer, as to the real conditions under which this demand can be realized, all the wit of man has not been able to do more than approach it. Or, again, the idea of a perfect commonwealth, clear enough as a nominal idea, is in its infancy as a real idea. Or, perhaps, a still more lively illustration to some readers may be the idea of perpetual motion. Nominally—that is, as an idea sketched problem-wise—what is plainer? You are required to assign some principle of motion such that it shall revolve through the parts of a mechanism self-sustained. Suppose those parts to be called by the names of our English alphabet, and to stand in the order of our alphabet, then A is through B C D, etc., to pass down with its total power upon Z, which reciprocally is to come round undiminished upon A B C, etc., for ever. Never was a nominal definition of what you want more simple and luminous. But coming to the real definition, and finding that every letter in succession must still give something less than is received—that O, for instance, cannot give to P all which it received from N—then no matter for the triviality of the loss in each separate case, always it is gathering and accumulating; your hands drop down in despair; you feel that a principle of death pervades the machinery; retard it you may, but come it will at last. And a proof remains behind, as your only result, that whilst the nominal definition may sometimes[Pg 38] run before the real definition for ages, and yet finally be overtaken by it, in other cases the one flies hopelessly before the pursuit of the other, defies it, and never will be overtaken to the end of time.

That fate, that necessity, besieged the Grecian idea of immortality. Rise from forgotten dust, my Plato; Stagyrite, stand up from the grave; Anaxagoras, with thy bright, cloudless intellect that searched the skies, Heraclitus, with thy gloomy, mysterious intellect that fathomed the deeps, come forward and execute for me this demand. How shall that immortality, which you give, which you must give as a trophy of honour to your Pantheon, sustain itself against the blights from those humanities which also, by an equal necessity, starting from your basis, give you must to that Pantheon? How will you prevent the sad reflux of that tide which finally engulfs all things under any attempt to execute the nominal idea of a Deity? You cannot do it. Weave your divinities in that Grecian loom of yours, and no skill in the workmanship, nor care that wisdom can devise, will ever cure the fatal flaws in the texture: for the mortal taint lies not so much in your work as in the original errors of your loom.


[Pg 39]

IV. ON PAGAN SACRIFICES.

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Ask any well-informed man at random what he supposes to have been done with the sacrifices, he will answer that really he never thought about it, but that naturally he supposes the flesh was burnt upon the altars. Not at all, reader; a sacrifice to the Gods meant universally a banquet to man. He who gave a splendid public dinner announced in other words that he designed to celebrate a sacrificial rite. This was of course. He, on the other hand, who announced a sacrificial pomp did in other words proclaim by sound of trumpet that he gave a dinner. This was of necessity. Hence, when Agamemnon offers a hecatomb to Jupiter, his brother Menelaus walks in to dinner, ἁχλητος, without invitation. As a brother, we are told by Homer that no invitation was required. He had the privilege of what in German is beautifully called 'ein Kind des Hauses,' a child of the house. This dispensation from the necessity of a formal invitation Homer explains, but as to explanation how he knew that there was a dinner, that he passes over as superfluous. A vast herd of oxen could not be sacrificed without open and public display of the preparation, and that a human banquet must accompany a divine sacrifice—this was so much a self-evident[Pg 40] truth that Homer does not trouble himself to make so needless an explanation.

Hence, therefore, a case of legislation in St. Paul's Christian administration, which I will venture to say few readers understand. Take the Feast of Ephesus. Here, as in all cities of Asia Minor and Greece, the Jews lived in great numbers. The universal hospitality over all these regions was exhibited in dinners (δεἱπνα). Now, it happened not sometimes, but always, that he who gave a dinner had on the same day made a sacrifice at the Great Temple; nay, the dinner was always part of the sacrifice, and thus the following dilemma arose. Scruples of eating part of sacrifices were absolutely unintelligible, except as insults to Ephesus. To deny the existence of Diana had no meaning in the ears of an Ephesian. All that he did understand was, that if you happened to be a hater of Ephesus, you must hate the guardian deity of Ephesus. And the sole inference he could collect from your refusing to eat what had been hallowed to Diana was—that you hated Ephesus. The dilemma, therefore, was this: either grant a toleration of this practice, or else farewell to all amicable intercourse for the Jews with the citizens. In fact, it was to proclaim open war if this concession were refused. A scruple of conscience might have been allowed for, but a scruple of this nature could find no allowance in any Pagan city whatever. Moreover, it had really no foundation. The truth is far otherwise than that Pagan deities were dreams. Far from it. They were as real as any other beings. The accommodation, therefore, which St. Paul most wisely granted was—to eat socially, without regard to any ceremony through which the food might have passed. So long as the Judaizing Christian[Pg 41] was no party to the religious ceremonies, he was free of all participation in idolatry. Since if the mere open operation of a Pagan process could transform into the character of an accomplice one who with no assenting heart ate of the food, in that case Christ Himself might by possibility have shared in an idolatrous banquet, and we Christians at this day in the East Indies might for months together become unconscious accomplices in the foul idolatries of the Buddhist and Brahminical superstitions.

But so essentially were the convivial banquets of the Pagans interwoven with their religious rites, so essentially was a great dinner a great offering to the Gods, and vice versâ—a great offering to the Gods a great dinner—that the very ministers and chief agents in religion were at first the same. Cocus, or μαγειροστ, was the very same person as the Pope, or presiding arbiter in succession to a Pope. 'Sunt eadem,' says Casaubon, 'Cocus et Pope.' And of this a most striking example is yet extant in Athenæus. From the correspondence which for many centuries was extant between Alexander the Great, when embarked upon his great expeditions, and his royal mother Olympias, who remained in Macedon, was one from which we have an extract even at this day, where; he, as we learn from the letter quoted, had been urging his mother to purchase for him a good cook. And what was made the test supreme of his skill? Why, this, that he should be θυσιὡν ἑμπειροστ, an artist able to dress a sacrificial banquet. What he meant is this: I do not want an ordinary cook, who might be equal to the preparation of a plain (or, what is the same thing, secular) dinner, but a person qualified or competent to take charge of a hecatomb dinner. His mother's reply[Pg 42] addresses itself to that one point only: Πελιγυα τον μαγειρον λαβε ἁπδ θηστ μητοστ, which is in effect: 'A cook is it that you want? Why, then, you cannot do better than take mine. The man is a reliable table of sacrifices; he knows the whole ritual of those great official and sacred dinners given by the late king, your father. He is acquainted with the whole cuisine of the more mysterious religions, the Orgiacs' (probably from the neighbouring Thrace), 'and all the great ceremonies and observances practised at Olympia, and even what you may eat on the great St. Leger Day. So don't lose sight of the arrangement, but take the man as a present, from me, your affectionate mother, and be sure to send off an express for him at your earliest convenience.'

Professor Robertson Smith in his latest work has well pointed out that even with the Hebrews the sacrifices were eaten in common till the seventh century b.c., when the sin-offerings, in a time of great national distress, came to be slain before Jehovah, and 'none but the priests ate of the flesh,' a phase of sacrificial specialization which marks the beginning of the exclusive sacerdotalism of the Jews.—Ed.


[Pg 43]

V. ON THE MYTHUS.

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That which the tradition of the people is to the truth of facts—that is a mythus to the reasonable origin of things. ...° These objects to an eye at ° might all melt into one another, as stars are confluent which modern astronomy has prismatically split. Says Rennell, as a reason for a Mahometan origin of a canal through Cairo, such is the tradition of the people. But we see amongst ourselves how great works are ascribed to the devil or to the Romans by antiquarians. In Rennell we see the effects of synthesis. He throws back his observations, like a woman threading a series of needles or a shuttle running through a series of rings, through a succession of Egyptian canals (p. 478), showing the real action of the case, that a tendency existed to this. And, by the way, here comes another strong illustration of the popular adulterations. They in our country confound the 'Romans,' a vulgar expression for the Roman Catholics, with the ancient national people of Rome. Here one element of a mythus B has melted into the mythus X, and in far-distant times might be very perplexing to antiquarians, when the popular tradition was too old for them to see the point of juncture where the alien stream had fallen in.

Then, again, not only ignorance, but love, combines to[Pg 44] adulterate the tradition. Every man wishes to give his own country an interest in anything great. What an effort has been made to suck Sir T. R. back into Scotland!

Thus, it is too difficult without a motive to hold apart vast distances or intervals that lie in a field which has all gathered into a blue haze. Stars, divided by millions of miles, collapse into each other. So mythi: and then comes the perplexity—the entanglement. Then come also, from lacunæ arising in these interwelded stories, temptations to falsehood. By the way, even the recent tale of Astyages seems to have been pieced: the difficulty was to find a motive for Cyrus, reputed a good man, to make war on his grandfather. Kill him he might by accident. But the dream required that he should dethrone his grandfather. Accordingly the dreadful story is devised; but why should Cyrus adopt the injuries of a nobleman who, if all were true, had only saved himself by accident?

Impossible as it would seem to transmute Socrates into a mythus, considering the broad daylight which then rested upon Athenian history, and the inextricable way in which Socrates is entangled in that history (although we have all seen many a Scriptural personage so transmuted under far less colourable pretences or advantages), still it is evident that the mediæval schoolmen did practically treat Socrates as something of that sort—as a mythical, symbolic, or representative man. Socrates is the eternal burthen of their quillets, quodlibets, problems, syllogisms; for them he is the Ulysses of the Odyssey, that much-suffering man; or, to speak more adequately, for them he is the John Doe and the Richard Roe of English law, whose feuds have tormented the earth and[Pg 45] incensed the heavens through a cycle of uncounted centuries, and must have given a bad character of our planet on its English side. To such an extent was this pushed, that many of the scholastic writers became wearied of enunciating or writing his name, and, anticipating the occasional fashion of My lud and Your ludship at our English Bar, or of Hocus Pocus as an abbreviation of pure weariness for Hoc est Corpus, they called him not Socrates, but Sortes. Now, whence, let me ask, was this custom derived? As to Doe and Roe, who or what first set them by the ears together is now probably past all discovery. But as to Sortes, that he was a mere contraction for Socrates is proved in the same way that Mob is shown to have been a brief way of writing Mobile vulgus, viz., that by Bishop Stillingfleet in particular the two forms, Mob and Mobile vulgus are used interchangeably and indifferently through several pages consecutively—just as Canter and Canterbury gallop, of which the one was at first the mere shorthand expression of the other, were at one period interchanged, and for the same reason. The abbreviated form wore the air of plebeian slang at its first introduction, but its convenience favoured it: soon it became reconciled to the ear, then it ceased to be slang, and finally the original form, ceasing to have any apparent advantage of propriety or elegance, dropped into total disuse. Sortes, it is a clear case, inherited from Socrates his distressing post of target-general for the arrows of disputatious Christendom. But how came Socrates by that distinction? I cannot have a doubt that it was strength of tradition that imputed such a use of the Socratic name and character to Plato. The reader must remember that, although Socrates was no mythus, and least of all could be such, to his own leading[Pg 46] disciple, that was no reason why he should not be treated as a mythus. In Wales, some nine or ten years ago, Rebecca, as the mysterious and masqued redresser of public wrongs, was rapidly passing into a mythical expression for that universal character of Rhadamanthian avenger or vindicator. So of Captain Rock, in Ireland. So of Elias amongst the Jews (when Elias shall come), as the sublime, mysterious, and in some degree pathetic expression for a great teacher lurking amongst the dreadful mists.


[Pg 47]

VI. DAVID'S NUMBERING OF THE PEOPLE—THE POLITICS OF THE SITUATION.

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You read in the Hebrew Scriptures of a man who had thirty sons, all of whom 'rode on white asses'; the riding on white asses is a circumstance that expresses their high rank or distinction—that all were princes. In Syria, as in Greece and almost everywhere, white was the regal symbolic colour.[7] And any mode of equitation, from the far inferior wealth of ancient times, implied wealth. Mules or asses, besides that they were so far superior a race in Syria no less than in Persia, to furnish a favourite designation for a warlike hero, could much more conveniently be used on the wretched roads, as yet found everywhere, until the Romans began to treat road-making as a regular business of military pioneering. In this case, therefore, there were thirty sons of one man, and all provided with princely establishments. Consequently, to have thirty sons at all was somewhat surprising, and possible only in a land of polygamy; but to keep none back in obscurity (as was done in cases where the funds [Pg 48]of the family would not allow of giving to each his separate establishment) argued a condition of unusual opulence. That it was surprising is very true. But as therefore involving any argument against its truth, the writer would justly deny by pleading—for that very reason, because it was surprising, did I tell the story. In a train of 1,500 years naturally there must happen many wonderful things, both as to events and persons. Were these crowded together in time or locally, these indeed we should incredulously reject. But when we understand the vast remoteness from each other in time or in place, we freely admit the tendency lies the other way; the wonder would be if there were not many coincidences that each for itself separately might be looked upon as strange. And as the surgeon had set himself to collect certain cases for the very reason that they were so unaccountably fatal, with a purpose therefore of including all that did not terminate fatally, so we should remember that generally historians (although less so if a Jewish historian, because he had a far nobler chain of wonders to record) do not feel themselves open to the objection of romancing if they report something out of the ordinary track, since exactly that sort of matter is their object, and it cannot but be found in a considerable proportion when their course travels over a vast range of successive generations. It would be a marvellous thing indeed if every one of five hundred men whom an author had chosen to record biographically should have for his baptismal name—Francis. But if you found that this was the very reason for his admitting the man into his series, that, however strange a reason, it had in fact governed him in selecting his subjects, you would no longer see anything to startle your belief.[Pg 49]

But let me give an interesting case partly illustrating this principle. Once I was present on an occasion where, of two young men, one very young and very clever was suggesting infidel scruples, and the other, so much older as to be entering on a professional career with considerable distinction, was on the very point of drinking-in all that his companion urged as so much weighty objection that could not be answered. The younger man (in fact, a boy) had just used a passage from the Bible, in which one of the circumstances was—that the Jewish army consisted of 120,000 men. 'Now,' said he, 'knowing as we all do the enormity of such a force as a peace establishment, even for mighty empires like England, how perfectly like a fairy-tale or an Arabian Nights' entertainment does it sound to hear of such monstrous armaments in a little country like Judæa, equal, perhaps, to the twelve counties of Wales!' This was addressed to myself, and I could see by the whole expression of the young physician that his condition was exactly this—his studies had been purely professional; he made himself a king, because (having happened to hurt his leg) he wore white fasciæ about his thigh. He knew little or nothing of Scriptural records; he had not read at all upon this subject; quite as little had he thought, and, unfortunately, his conversation had lain amongst clever chemists and naturalists, who had a prejudgment in the case that all the ability and free power of mind ran into the channel of scepticism; that only people situated as most women are should acquiesce in the faith or politics of their fathers or predecessors, or could believe much of the Scriptures, except those who were slow to examine for themselves; but that multitudes pretended to believe upon some interested motive. This was pre[Pg 50]cisely the situation of the young physician himself—he listened with manifest interest, checked himself when going to speak; he knew the danger of being reputed an infidel, and he had no temper for martyrdom, as his whole gesture and manner, by its tendency, showed what was passing in his mind. 'Yes, X is right, manifestly right, and every rational view from our modern standard of good sense and reflective political economy tends to the same conclusion. By the reflex light of political economy we know even at this hour much as to the condition of ancient lands like Palestine, Athens, etc., quite unrevealed to the wisest men amongst them. But for me, who am entering on a critical walk of social life, I shall need every aid from advantageous impression in favour of my religious belief, so I cannot in prudence speak, for I shall speak too warmly, and I forbear.'

What I replied, and in that instance usefully replied—for it sufficed to check one who was gravitating downwards to infidelity, and likely to settle there for ever if he once reached that point—was in substance this:

Firstly, that the plea, with regard to the numbers as most extraordinary, was so far from affecting the credibility of the statement disadvantageously, that on that ground, agreeably to the logic I have so scantily expounded, this very feature in the case was what partly engaged the notice of the Scriptural writer. It was a great army for so little a nation. And therefore, would the writer say, therefore in print I record it.

Secondly, that we must not, however, be misled by the narrow limits, the Welsh limits, to suppose a Welsh population. For that whilst the twelve counties of Wales do not now yield above half-a-million of people,[Pg 51] Palestine had pretty certainly a number fluctuating between four and six millions.

Thirdly, that the great consideration of this was the stage in the expansion of society at which the Hebrew nation then stood, and the sublime interest—sublime enough to them, though far from comprehending the solemn freight of hopes confided to themselves—which they consciously defended. It was an age in which no pay was given to the soldier. Now, when the soldier constitutes a separate profession, with the regular pay he undertakes the regular danger and hardships. There is no motive for giving the pay and the rations but precisely that he does so undertake. But when no pay at all is allowed out of any common fund, it will never be endured by the justice of the whole society or by an individual member that he, the individual, as one insulated stake-holder, having no greater interest embarked than others, should undertake the danger or the labour of warfare for the whole. And two inferences arise upon having armies so immense:

First, that they were a militia, or more properly not even that, but a Landwehr—that is, a posse comitatus, the whole martial strength of the people (one in four), drawn out and slightly trained to meet a danger, which in those times was always a passing cloud. Regular and successive campaigns were unknown; the enemy, whoever he might be, could as little support a regular army as the people of Palestine. Consequently, all these enemies would have to disperse hastily to their reaping and mowing, just as we may observe the Jews do under Joshua. It required, therefore, no long absence from home. It was but a march, but a waiting for opportunity, watching for a favourable day—sunshine or[Pg 52] cloud, the rising or subsiding of a river, the wind in the enemy's face, or an ambush skilfully posted. All was then ready; the signal was given, a great battle ensued, and by sunset of one anxious day all was over in one way or another. Upon this position of circumstances there was neither any fair dispensation from personal service (except where citizens' scruples interfered), nor any motive for wishing it. On the contrary, by a very few days' service, a stigma, not for the individual only, but for his house and kin, would be evaded for ages of having treacherously forsaken the commonwealth in agony. And the preference for a fighting station would be too eager instead of too backward. It would become often requisite to do what it is evident the Jews in reality did—to make successive sifting and winnowing from the service troops, at every stage throwing out upon severer principles of examination those who seemed least able to face a trying crisis, whilst honourable posts of no great dependency would be assigned to those rejected, as modes of soothing their offended pride. This in the case of a great danger; but in the case of an ordinary danger there is no doubt that many vicarious arrangements would exist by way of evading so injurious a movement as that of the whole fighting population. Either the ordinary watch and ward, in that section which happened to be locally threatened—as, for instance, by invasion on one side from Edom or Moab, on another side from the Canaanites or Philistines—would undertake the case as one which had fallen to them by allotment of Providence; or that section whose service happened to be due for the month, without local regards, would face the exigency. But in any great national danger, under that stage of society which the[Pg 53] Jews had reached between Moses and David—that stage when fighting is no separate professional duty, that stage when such things are announced by there being no military pay—not the army which is so large as 120,000 men, but the army which is so small, requires to be explained.[8]

Secondly, the other inference from the phenomenon of no military pay, and therefore no separate fighting profession, is this—that foreign war, war of aggression, war for booty, war for martial glory, is quite unknown. Now, all rules of political economy, applied to the maintenance of armies, must of course contemplate a regular trade of war pursued with those objects, and not a domestic war for beating off an attack upon hearths and altars. Such a war only, be it observed, could be lawfully entertained by the Jewish people. Mahomet, when he stole all his great ideas from the Mosaic and Christian revelations, found it inevitable to add one principle unknown to either: this was a religious motive for perpetual war of aggression, and such a principle he discovered in the imaginary duty of summary proselytism. No instruction was required. It was sufficient for the convert that, with or without sincerity, under terror of a sword at his throat, he spoke the words aloud which disowned all other faith than in Allah and Mahomet his prophet. It was sufficient for the soldier that he heard of a nation [Pg 54]denying or ignoring Mahomet, to justify any atrocity of invasive warfare. But the Jews had no such commission—a proselyte needed more evidences of assent than simply to bawl out a short formula of words, and he who refused to become a proselyte was no object of persecution. Some nations have forced their languages upon others as badges of servitude. But the Romans were so far from treating their language in this way, that they compelled barbarous nations on their frontier to pay for a license to use the Latin tongue. And with much more reason did the Jews, instead of wishing to obtrude their sublime religion upon foreigners, expect that all who valued it should manifest their value by coming to Jerusalem, by seeking instruction from the doctors of the law, and by worshipping in the outer court of the Temple.

Such was the prodigious state of separation from a Mahometan principle of fanatical proselytism in which the Jews were placed from the very first. One small district only was to be cleared of its ancient idolatrous, and probably desperately demoralized, tribes. Even this purification it was not intended should be instant; and upon the following reason, partly unveiled by God and partly left to an integration, viz., that in the case of so sudden a desolation the wild beasts and noxious serpents would have encroached too much on the human population. So much is expressed, and probably the sequel foreseen was, that the Jews would have lapsed into a wild hunting race, and have outworn that ceremonial propensity which fitted them for a civil life, which formed them into a hive in which the great work of God in Shiloh, His probationary Temple or His glorious Temple and service at Jerusalem, operated as the mys[Pg 55]terious instinct of a queen bee, to compress and organize the whole society into a cohesion like this of life. Here, perhaps, lay the reason for not allowing of any sudden summary extirpation, even for the idolatrous tribes; whilst, upon a second principle, it was never meant that this extirpation should be complete. Snares and temptations were not to be too thickly sown—in that case the restless Jew would be too severely tried; but neither were they to be utterly withdrawn—in that case his faith would undergo no probation. Even upon this small domestic scale, therefore, it appears that aggressive warfare was limited both for interest and for time. First, it was not to be too complete; second, even for this incompleteness it was not to be concentrated within a short time. It was both to be narrow and to be gradual. By very necessity, therefore, of its original appointment this part of the national economy, this small system of aggressive warfare, could not provide a reason for a military profession. But all other wars of aggression, wars operating upon foreign objects, had no allowance, no motive, no colourable plea; for the attacks upon Edom, Midian, Moab, were mere acts of retaliation, and, strictly speaking, not aggressive at all, but parts of defensive warfare. Consequently there remained no permanent case of war under Divine allowance that could ever justify the establishment of a military caste; for the civil wars of the Jews either grew out of some one intolerable crime taken up, adopted, and wickedly defended by a whole tribe (as in the case of that horrible atrocity committed by a few Benjamites, and then adopted by the whole tribe), in which case a bloody exterminating war under God's sanction succeeded and rapidly drew to a close, or else[Pg 56] grew out of the ruinous schism between the ten tribes and the two seated in or about Jerusalem. And as this schism had no countenance from God, still less could the wars which followed it. So that what belligerent state remains that could have been contemplated or provided for in the original Mosaic theory of their constitution? Clearly none at all, except the one sole case of a foreign invasion. But as this, if in any national strength, struck at the very existence of the people, and at their holy citadel in Shiloh or in Jerusalem, it called out the whole military strength to the last man of the Hebrew people. Consequently in any case, when the armies could tend at all to great numerical amount, they must tend to an excessive amount. And, so far from being a difficult problem to solve in the 120,000 men, the true difficulty would lie the other way, to account for its being so much reduced.

It seems to me highly probable that the offence of David in numbering the people, which ultimately was the occasion of fixing the site for the Temple of Jerusalem, pointed to this remarkable military position of the Jewish people—a position forbidding all fixed military institutions, and which yet David was probably contemplating in that very census. Simply to number the people could not have been a crime, nor could it be any desideratum for David; because we are too often told of the muster rolls for the whole nation, and for each particular tribe, to feel any room for doubt that the reports on this point were constantly corrected, brought under review of the governing elders, councils, judges, princes, or king, according to the historical circumstances, so that the need and the criminality of such a census would vanish at the same moment. But this[Pg 57] was not the census ordered by David. He wanted a more specific return, probably of the particular wealth and nature of the employment pursued by each individual family, so that upon this return he might ground a permanent military organization for the people; and such an organization would have thoroughly revolutionized the character of the population, as well as drawn them into foreign wars and alliances.

It is painful to think that many amiable and really candid minds in search of truth are laid hold of by some plausible argument, as in this case the young physician, by a topic of political economy, when a local examination of the argument would altogether change its bearing. This argument, popularly enforced, seemed to imply the impossibility of supporting a large force when there were no public funds but such as ran towards the support of the Levites and the majestic service of the altar. But the confusion arises from the double sense of the word 'army,' as a machine ordinarily disposable for all foreign objects indifferently, and one which in Judæa exclusively could be applied only to such a service as must in its own nature be sudden, brief, and always tending to a decisive catastrophe.

And that this was the true form of the crime, not only circumstances lead me to suspect, but especially the remarkable demur of Joab, who in his respectful remonstrance said in effect that, when the whole strength of the nation was known in sum—meaning from the ordinary state returns—what need was there to search more inquisitively into the special details? Where all were ready to fight cheerfully, why seek for separate minutiæ as to each particular class? Those general returns had regard only to the ordinary causa belli—a hostile inva[Pg 58]sion. And, then, all nations alike, rude or refined, have gone upon the same general outline of computation—that, subtracting the females from the males, this, in a gross general way, would always bisect the total return of the population. And, then, to make a second bisection of the male half would subtract one quarter from the entire people as too young or too old, or otherwise as too infirm for warlike labours, leaving precisely one quarter of the nation—every fourth head—as available for war. This process for David's case would have yielded perhaps about 1,100,000 fighting men throughout Palestine. But this unwieldy pospolite was far from meeting David's secret anxieties. He had remarked the fickle and insurrectionary state of the people. Even against himself how easy had it been found to organize a sudden rebellion, and to conceal it so prosperously that he and his whole court saved themselves from capture only by a few hours' start of the enemy, and through the enemy's want of cavalry. This danger meantime having vanished, it might be possible that for David personally no other great conspiracy should disturb his seat upon the throne. None of David's sons approached to Absalom in popularity; and yet the subsequent attempt of Adonijah showed that the revolutionary temper was still awake in that quarter. But what David feared, in a further-looking spirit, was the tenure by which his immediate descendants would maintain their title. The danger was this: over and above the want of any principle for regulating the succession, and this want operating in a state of things far less determined than amongst monogamous nations—one son pleading his priority of birth; another, perhaps, his mother's higher rank, a third pleading his very juniority, inasmuch as this brought him within the[Pg 59] description of porphyrogeniture, or royal birth, which is often felt as transcendent as primogeniture—even the people, apart from the several pretenders to the throne, would create separate interests as grounds for insurrection or for intestine feuds. There seems good reason to think that already the ten tribes, Israel as opposed to Judah, looked upon the more favoured and royal tribe of Judah, with their supplementary section of Benjamin, as unduly favoured in the national economy. Secretly there is little doubt that they murmured even against God for ranking this powerful tribe as the prerogative tribe. The jealousy had evidently risen to a great height; it was suppressed by the vigilant and strong government of Solomon; but at the outset of his son's reign it exploded at once, and the Scriptural account of the case shows that it proceeded upon old grievances. The boyish rashness of Rehoboam might exasperate the leaders, and precipitate the issue; but very clearly all had been prepared for a revolt. And I would remark that by the 'young men' of Rehoboam are undoubtedly meant the soldiers—the body-guards whom the Jewish kings now retained as an element of royal pomp. This is the invariable use of the term in the East. Even in Josephus the term for the military by profession is generally 'the young men'; whilst 'the elders' mean the councillors of state. David saw enough of the popular spirit to be satisfied that there was no political reliance on the permanence of the dynasty; and even at home there was an internal source of weakness. The tribe of Benjamin were mortified and incensed at the deposition of Saul's family and the bloody proscription of that family adopted by David. One only, a grandson of Saul, he had spared out of love to his friend Jonathan. This was Mephibo-[Pg 60]sheth; but he was incapacitated for the throne by lameness. And how deep the resentment was amongst the Benjamites is evident from the insulting advantage taken of his despondency in the day of distress by Shimei. For Shimei had no motive for the act of coming to the roadside and cursing the king beyond his attachment to the house of Saul. Humanly speaking, David's prospect of propagating his own dynasty was but small. On the other hand, God had promised him His support. And hence it was that his crime arose, viz., upon his infidelity, in seeking to secure the throne by a mere human arrangement in the first place; secondly, by such an arrangement as must disorganize the existing theocratic system of the Jewish people. Upon this crime followed his chastisement in a sudden pestilence. And it is remarkable in how significant a manner God manifested the nature of the trespass, and the particular course through which He had meant originally, and did still mean, to counteract the worst issue of David's apprehensions. It happened that the angel of the pestilence halted at the threshing-floor of Araunah; and precisely that spot did God by dreams to David indicate as the site of the glorious Temple. Thus it seemed as though in so many words God had declared: 'Now that all is over, your crime and its punishment, understand that your fears were vain. I will continue the throne in your house longer than your anxieties can personally pursue its descent. And with regard to the terrors from Israel, although this event of a great schism is inevitable and essential to My councils, yet I will not allow it to operate for the extinction of your house. And that very Temple, in that very place where My angel was commissioned to pause, shall be one great means and one great pledge to you of My decree in[Pg 61] favour of your posterity. For this house, as a common sanctuary to all Jewish blood, shall create a perpetual interest in behalf of Judah amongst the other tribes, even when making war upon Jerusalem.' Witness if it were but that one case where 200,000 captives of Judah were restored without ransom, were clothed completely, were fed, by the very men who had just massacred their fighting relatives.

FOOTNOTES:

[7] Even in Rome, where the purple (whatever colour that might have been) is usually imagined to be the symbol of regal state—and afterwards their improved arts of dyeing, and improved materials, became so splendid that it was made so—white had always been the colour of a monarchy. ['A white linen band was the simple badge of Oriental royalty' (Merivale's 'History of Rome,' ii., p. 468).—Ed.]

[8] This was the case even with the Homeric Greeks. Mr. Gladstone makes a point of this (see 'Juventus Mundi,' p. 429): 'The privates of the army are called by the names of laos, the people; demos, the community; and plethūs, the multitude. But no notice is taken throughout the poem of the exploits of any soldier below the rank of an officer. Still, all attend the Assemblies. On the whole, the Greek host is not so much an army, as a community in arms.' Even the common people, not only in cities but in camps, assembled to hear the deliberations of the chiefs.—Ed.


[Pg 62]

VII. THE JEWS AS A SEPARATE PEOPLE.

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The argument for the separation and distinct current of the Jews, flowing as they pretend of the river Rhone through the Lake of Geneva—never mixing its waters with those which surround it—has been by some infidel writers defeated and evaded by one word; and here, as everywhere else, an unwise teacher will seek to hide the answer. Yet how infinitely better to state it fully, and then show that the evasion has no form at all; but, on the contrary, powerfully argues the inconsistency and incapacity of those who urge it. For instance, I remember Boulanger, a French infidel, whose work was duly translated by a Scotchman, answers it thus: What is there miraculous in all this? he demands. Listen to me, and I will show you in two minutes that it rests upon mere show and pure delusion. How is it, why is it, that the Jews have remained a separate people? Simply from their usages, in the first place; but, secondly, still more from the fact that these usages, which with other peoples exist also in some representative shape, with them modify themselves, shift, alter, adapt themselves to the climate or to the humour or accidents of life amongst those amidst whom chance has thrown them; whereas amongst the Jews every custom, the most trivial, is also part of their legislation; and their legislation is also their[Pg 63] religion. (Boulanger, by the way, is far from expressing that objection so clearly as I have here done; but this is his drift and purpose, so far as he knew how to express it.) Take any other people—Isaurians, Athenians, Romans, Corinthians—doubtless all these and many others have transmitted their blood down to our ages, and are now living amongst us by representation. But why do we not perceive this? Why do the Athenians seem to have perished utterly? Simply for this reason: they were a plastic, yielding, unobstinate race. An Athenian lived in a port of Italy, married an Italian woman; thence threw out lines of descent to Milan, thence to Paris; and because his Attic usages were all local, epichorial, and tied to a particular mythology which has given way, or to a superstition which is defunct, or to a patriotic remembrance which has vanished with the land and the sympathy that supported it; hence, and upon other similar arguments, the Athenian has long since melted into the mass with which he was intermixed; he was a unit attached to a vast overpowering number from another source, and into that number he has long since been absorbed; he was a drop in a vast ocean, and long ago he has been confounded with the waters that did not differ, except numerically, from his own. But the Jews are an obstinate, bigoted people; and they have maintained their separation, not by any overruling or coercing miracle, but in a way perfectly obvious and palpable to themselves—obvious by its operation, obvious in its remedy. They would not resign their customs. Upon these ordinances, positive and negative, commanding and forbidding many peculiar rites, consecrating and desecrating many common esculent articles, these Jews have laid the stress and emphasis of religion. They would[Pg 64] not resign them; they did not expect others to adopt them—not in any case; à fortiori not from a degraded people. And hence, not by any mysterious operation of Providential control, arose their separation, their resolute refusal to blend with other races.

This is the infidel's attempt to rebut, to defeat, utterly to confound, the argumentative force of this most astonishing amongst all historical pictures that the planet presents.

The following is the answer:

It is forgotten that along with the Jews there is another people concerned as illustrations of the same prophetic fatality—of that same inevitable eye, that same perspective of vision, which belonged to those whose eyes God had opened. The Arabs, as children of a common ancestor, ought not to be forgotten in this sentence upon their brother nation. They through Ishmael, the Jews through Isaac, and more immediately through Israel the son of Isaac, were two diverging branches of one original stem; and to both was pronounced a corresponding doom—a sentence which argued in both a principle of duration and self-propagation, that is memorable in any race. The children of Ishmael are the Arabs of the desert. Their destiny as a roving robber nation, and liable to all men's hands, as they indifferently levied spoil on all, was early pronounced. And here, again, we see at once how it will be evaded: it is the desert, it is the climate, it is the solemnity of that unchanging basis, which will secure the unchanging life of its children. But it is remarkable enough that Gibbon and other infidels, kicking violently against this standing miracle (because, if not so in itself, yet, according to Bishop Butler's just explanation concerning miraculous per de-[Pg 65]rivationem as recording a miraculous power of vision), have by oscillation clung to the fixture of basis, and rejected it; for now Gibbon denies that the Arabs have held this constant tenor of life; they have changed it, he asserts, in large and notorious cases. Well, then, if they have, then at once falls to the ground this alleged overruling coercion a priori of the climate and the desert. Climate and desert do not necessarily coerce them, if in large and notorious cases they have failed to do so. So feels Gibbon; and, by an instinct of timidity, back he flies to the previous evasion—to the natural controlling power of climate and soil, admitting the Scriptural fact, but seeking for it an unscriptural ground, as before he had flown in over-precipitate anxiety to the denial of the Scriptural fact, but in that denial involving a withdrawal of the unscriptural ground.

The sceptics in that instance show their secret sense of a preference from the distracted eagerness with which they fly backwards and forwardwise between two reciprocally hostile evasions.

The answer I reserve, and meantime I remark:

Secondly, that, supposing this answer to have any force, still it meets only one moiety of the Scriptural fatality; viz., the dispersion of the Jews—the fact that, let them be gathered in what numbers they might, let them even be concentrated by millions, therefore in the literal sense not dispersed, yet in the political sense universally understood, they would be dispersed, because never, in no instance, rising to be a people, sui juris, a nation, a distinct community, known to the public law of Europe as having the rights of peace and war, but always a mere accident and vagrant excess amongst nations, not having the bare rights of citizenship; so far from being a nation,[Pg 66] not being an acknowledged member of any nation. This exquisite dispersion—not ethnographic only, but political—is that half of the Scriptural malediction which the Boulanger answer attempts to meet; but the other half—that they should be 'a byword, an astonishment,' etc.—is entirely blinked. Had the work even prospered, it would still have to recommence. The Armenians are dispersed through all Eastern lands, so are the Arabs; even the descendants of Ali are found severed from their natal soil; but they are not therefore dispersed: they have endured no general indignities.

Thirdly, it does not meet the fact of the Jewish existence in any shape, whether as a distinct or an amalgamated people. There is no doubt that many races of men, as of brute animals, have been utterly extinguished. In cases such as those of the Emim, or Rethinim, a race distinguished by peculiar size, so as to be monstrous in comparison with other men, this extinction could more readily be realized; or in the case of a nation marked, as Herodotus records, by a slighter texture of scale, the extinction might be ascertained by the physiologist; but no doubt it has often occurred, precisely as a family is extinguished, or as certain trees (for example, the true golden pippin) are observed to die off, not by local influences only, but by a decay attacking the very principle of their existence. Of many ancient races it is probable enough that no blood directly traced from them could at this day be searched by the eye of God. Families arise amongst the royal lineage of Europe that suddenly, like a lamp fitfully glowing up just the moment before it expires, throw off, as by some final effort, a numerous generation of princes and princesses; then suddenly all contract as rapidly into a single child, which[Pg 67] perishing, the family is absolutely extinct. And so must many nations have perished, and so must the Jews have been pre-eminently exposed to perish, from the peculiar, fierce, and almost immortal, persecutions which they have undergone, and the horrid frenzies of excited mobs in cruel cities of which they have stood the brunt.


[Pg 68]

VIII. 'WHAT IS TRUTH?' THE JESTING PILATE SAID—A FALSE GLOSS.

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It is true that Pilate could not be expected fully to comprehend an idea which was yet new to man; Christ's words were beyond his depth. But, still, his natural light would guide him thus far—that, although he had never heard of any truth which rose to that distinction, still, if any one class of truth should in future come to eclipse all other classes of truth immeasurably, as regarded its practical results, as regarded some dark dependency of human interests, in that case it would certainly merit the distinctive name of 'The Truth.' The case in which such a distinction would become reasonable and available was one utterly unrealized to his experience, not even within the light of his conjectures as to its special conditions; but, still, as a general possibility it was conceivable to his understanding; though not comprehensible, yet apprehensible. And in going on to the next great question, to the inevitable question, 'What is the truth?' Pilate had no thought of jesting. Jesting was the last thing of which his impassioned mood in that great hour was capable. Roman magistrates of supreme rank were little disposed to jesting on the judgment-seat amongst a refractory and dan[Pg 69]gerous people; and of Pilate in particular, every word, every effort, every act, demonstrate that he was agitated with new instincts and misgivings of some shadowy revelation opening upon man, that his heart was convulsed with desponding anxiety in the first place to save the man who appeared the depositary of this revelation, but who, if, after all, only a sublime lunatic, was, at the very least, innocent of all offence. It must have struck all close observers of early Christianity how large a proportion of the new converts lay amongst Roman officers, or (to speak more adequately) amongst Romans of high rank, both men and women. And for that there was high reason. In the advance of civilization, and in the corresponding decay of idolatrous religions, there was fast arising a new growth of cravings amongst men. Mythological and desperately immoral religions, that spoke only to the blind sense of power, had been giving way through the three previous centuries to a fearful extent. They had receded from the higher natures of both Greece and Rome as the sea has locally receded from many shores of the earth. Such natures were left 'miserably bare'; the sense of dependency by any tie upon the invisible world, or at least upon the supernatural world, had decayed, and unless this painful void were filled up by some supplementary bond in the same direction, a condition of practical atheism must take place, such as could not but starve and impoverish in human nature those yearnings after the infinite which are the pledges of all internal grandeur. But this dependency could not be replaced by one of the same vicious nature. Into any new dependency a new element must be introduced. The sense of insufficiency would be renewed in triple strength if merely the old relations[Pg 70] of weakness to power, of art to greater art, of intellect to higher intellect, of less to more within the same exact limits as to kind of excellence, should be rehearsed under new names or improved theogonies. Hitherto, no relation of man to divine or demoniac powers had included the least particle or fraction or hint of any moral element; nor was such an element possible in that dependency, for profound reasons.


[Pg 71]

IX. WHAT SCALIGER SAYS ABOUT THE EPISTLE TO JUDE.

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Before any canon was settled, many works had become current in Christian circles whose origin was dubious. The traditions about them varied locally. Some, it is alleged, that would really have been entitled to a canonical place, had been lost by accident; to some, which still survived, this place had been refused upon grounds that might not have satisfied us of this day, if we had the books and the grounds of rejection before us; and, finally, others, it is urged, have obtained this sacred distinction with no right to it. In particular, the Second Epistle of St. Peter, the Second of St. Jude, the Epistle of St. James, and the three of St. John, are denounced as supposititious in the 'Scaligerana.' But the writer before us is wrong in laying any stress on the opinions there expressed. They bear the marks of conversational haste and of Scaligeran audacity. What is the objection made, for instance, to 'in quibus sunt mira, quæ non videntur esse Apostolica'? That is itself more strange as a criticism than anything in the epistles can be for its doctrine. The only thing tending to a reason for the summary treatment is that the Eastern Church does not acknowledge them for canonical. But opinions quoted from ana are seldom of any authority; indeed, I have[Pg 72] myself too frequently seen the unfaithfulness of such reports. The reporter, as he cannot decently be taking notes at the time of speaking, endeavours afterwards to recall the most interesting passages by memory. He forgets the context; what introduced—what followed to explain or modify the opinions. He supplies a conjectural context of his own, and the result is a romance. But if the reporter were even accurate, so much allowance must be made for the license of conversation—its ardour, its hurry, and its frequent playfulness—that when all these deductions are made, really not a fraction remains that one can honestly carry to account. Besides, the elder Scaliger was drunk pretty often, and Joe seems rather 'fresh' at times.

Upon consideration, it may be as well to repeat what it is that Scaliger is reported to have said:

'The Epistle of Jude is not his, as neither is that of James, nor the second of Peter, in all which are strange things that seem (seem—mark that!) far enough from being Apostolical. The three Epistles of John are not from John the Apostle. The second of Peter and Jude belong to a later age. The Eastern Church does not own them, neither are they of evangelical authority. They are unlearned, and offer no marks of Gospel majesty. As regards their internal value, believe them I may say that I do, but it is because they are in no ways hostile to us.'

Now, observe, the grounds of objection are purely æsthetical, except in the single argument from the authority of the Eastern Church. What does he mean by 'unlearned,' or wanting 'majesty,' or containing 'strange things'? Were ever such vague puerilities collected into one short paragraph? This is pure imper[Pg 73]tinence, and Phil. deserves to be privately reprimanded for quoting such windy chaff without noting and protesting it as colloquial. But what I wish the reader to mark—the θο ἑπιμὑθιον—is, that suppose the two Scaligers amongst the Christian Fathers engaged in fixing the canon: greater learning you cannot have; neither was there, to a dead certainty, one tenth part as much amongst the canon-settlers. Yet all this marvellous learning fumes away in boyish impertinence. It confounds itself. And every Christian says, Oh, take away this superfluous weight of erudition, that, being so rare a thing, cannot be wanted in the broad highways of religion. What we do want is humility, docility, reverence for God, and love for man. These are sown broadcast amongst human hearts. Now, these apply themselves to the sense of Scripture, not to its grammatical niceties. But if so, even that case shows indirectly how little could depend upon the mere verbal attire of the Bible, when the chief masters of verbal science were so ready to go astray—riding on the billows so imperfectly moored. In the ideas of Scripture lies its eternal anchorage, not in its perishable words, which are shifting for ever like quicksands, as the Bible passes by translation successively into every spoken language of the earth.

What then?—'What then?' retorts the angry reader after all this, 'why then, perhaps, there may be a screw loose in the Bible.' True, there may, and what is more, some very great scholars take upon them to assert that there is. Yet, still, what then? The two possible errors open to the Fathers of our canon, to the men upon whom rested the weighty task of saying to all mankind what should be Bible, and what should be not Bible, of making[Pg 74] and limiting that mighty world, are—that they may have done that which they ought not to have done, and, secondly, left undone that which they ought to have done. They may have admitted writers whom they ought to have excluded; and they may have excluded writers whom they ought to have admitted. This is the extent of their possible offences, and they are supposed by some critics to have committed both. But suppose that they have, still I say—what then? What is the nature of the wrong done to us by the worst mistake ascribed to them? Let us consider. It is supposed by some scholars that we have in the New Testament as it now stands a work written by Apollos, viz., the Epistle to the Romans. Yet, if so, the error amounts only to a misnomer. On the other hand, there are Epistles on which has been charged the same error in relation to the name of the author, and the more important error of thoughts unbecoming to a Christian in authority: for instance, the Epistle of St. James. This charge was chiefly urged by a very intemperate man, and in a very intemperate style. I notice it as being a case which Phil. has noticed. But Phil. merits a gentle rap on his knuckles for the inconsideration with which he has cited a charge made and reported with so much levity. He quotes it from the 'Scaligerana.' Now, what right upon such a subject has any man to quote such an authority? The reasons against listening with much attention to the 'Scaligerana' are these:

First, the Scaligers, both father and son, were the two most impudent men that ever walked the planet. I should be loath to say so ill-natured a thing as that their impudence was equal to their learning, because that forces every man to say, 'Ah, then, what impudent fellows they[Pg 75] must have been!' It is kinder and juster to say that their learning was at least equal to their impudence, for that will force every man to exclaim, 'Ah, if so, what prodigies of learning they must have been!' Yes, they were—absolute monsters of learning, learned monsters. But as much learning often makes men mad, still more frequently it makes them furious for assault and battery; to use the American phrase, they grow 'wolfy about the shoulders,' from a periodical itchiness for fighting. Other men being shy of attacking the Scaligers, it was no fault of theirs, you know, but a necessity, to attack other men—unless you expected them to have no fighting at all. It was always a reason with them for trying a fall with a writer, if they doubted much whether they had any excuse for hanging a quarrel on.

Secondly, all ana whatever are bad authorities. Supposing the thing really said, we are to remember the huge privilege of conversation, how immeasurable is that! You yourself, reader, I presume, when talking, will say more in an hour than you will stand to in a month. I'm sure I do. When the reins are put into my hands I stick at nothing—headlong I drive like a lunatic, until the very room in which we are talking, with all that it inherits, seems to spin round with absolute vertigo at the extravagances I utter.

Thirdly, but again, was the thing really said? For, as another censure upon the whole library of ana, I can assert—that, if the license of conversation is enormous, to that people who inhale that gas of colloquial fermentation seldom mean much above one part in sixty of what they say, on the other hand the license of reporters is far greater. To forget the circumstances under which a thing was said is to alter the thing, to have lost the con[Pg 76]text, the particular remark in which your own originated, the mitigations of a harsh sentiment from playfulness of manner; in short, to drop the setting of the thoughts is oftentimes to falsify the tendency and value of those thoughts.

Note by the Editor.—The Phil. here referred to is the Philoleutheros Anglicanus of the essay on 'Protestantism,' as shortened by De Quincey, and with whom De Quincey, in that essay, deals very effectively and wittily on occasion.


[Pg 77]

X. MURDER AS A FINE ART.

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(SOME NOTES FOR A NEW PAPER.)

A new paper on Murder as a Fine Art might open thus: that on the model of those Gentlemen Radicals who had voted a monument to Palmer, etc., it was proposed to erect statues to such murderers as should by their next-of-kin, or other person interested in their glory, make out a claim either of superior atrocity, or, in equal atrocity, of superior neatness, continuity of execution, perfect preparation or felicitous originality, smoothness or curiosa felicitas (elaborate felicity). The men who murdered the cat, as we read in the Newgate Calendar, were good, but Williams better who murdered the baby. And perhaps (but the hellish felicity of the last act makes us demur) Fielding was superior. For you never hear of a fire swallowing up a fire, or a rain stopping a deluge (for this would be a reign of Kilkenny cats); but what fire, deluge, or Kilkenny cats could not do, Fielding proposed, viz., to murder the murderers, to become himself the Nemesis. Fielding was the murderer of murderers in a double sense—rhetorical and literal. But that was, after all, a small matter compared with the fine art of the man calling himself Outis, on which for a moment we must dwell. Outis—so at all events he was called, but doubtless he[Pg 78] indulged in many aliases—at Nottingham joined vehemently and sincerely, as it seemed, in pursuit of a wretch taxed with having murdered, twelve years previously, a wife and two children at Halifax, which wretch (when all the depositions were before the magistrate) turned out to be the aforesaid Mr. Outis. That suggests a wide field of speculation and reference.[9]

Note the power of murderers as fine-art professors to make a new start, to turn the corner, to retreat upon the road they have come, as though it were new to them, and to make diversions that disarm suspicion. This they owe to fortunate obscurity, which attests anew the wonderful compensations of life; for celebrity and power combine to produce drawbacks.

A foreigner who lands in Calcutta at an hour which nobody can name, and endeavours to effect a sneaking entrance at the postern-gate[10] of the governor-general's palace, may be a decent man; but this we know, that he has cut the towing-rope which bound his own boat to the great ark of his country. It may be that, in [Pg 79]leaving Paris or Naples, he was simply cutting the connection with creditors who showed signs of attachment not good for his health. But it may also be that he ran away by the blaze of a burning inn, which he had fired in order to hide three throats which he had cut, and nine purses which he had stolen. There is no guarantee for such a man's character. Have we, then, no such vauriens at home? No, not in the classes standing favourably for promotion. The privilege of safe criminality, not liable to exposure, is limited to classes crowded together like leaves in Vallombrosa; for them to run away into some mighty city, Manchester or Glasgow, is to commence life anew. They turn over a new leaf with a vengeance. Many are the carpenters, bricklayers, bakers' apprentices, etc., who are now living decently in Bristol, Newcastle, Hull, Liverpool, after marrying sixteen wives, and leaving families to the care of twelve separate parishes. That scamp is at this moment circulating and gyrating in society, like a respectable te-totum, though we know not his exact name, who, if he were pleased to reveal himself in seventeen parts of this kingdom, where (to use the police language) he has been 'wanted' for some years, would be hanged seventeen times running, besides putting seventeen Government rewards into the pockets of seventeen policemen. Oh, reader, you little know the unutterable romances perpetrated for ever in our most populous empire, under cloud of night and distance and utter poverty, Mark that—of utter poverty. Wealth is power; but it is a jest in comparison of poverty. Splendour is power; but it is a joke to obscurity. To be poor, to be obscure, to be a baker's apprentice or a tailor's journeyman, throws a power about a man, clothes him[Pg 80] with attributes of ubiquity, really with those privileges of concealment which in the ring of Gyges were but fabulous. Is it a king, is it a sultan, that such a man rivals? Oh, friend, he rivals a spiritual power.

Two men are on record, perhaps many more might have been on that record, who wrote so many books, and perpetrated so many pamphlets, that at fifty they had forgotten much of their own literary villainies, and at sixty they commenced with murderous ferocity a series of answers to arguments which it was proved upon them afterwards that they themselves had emitted at thirty—thus coming round with volleys of small shot on their own heads, as the Whispering Gallery at St. Paul's begins to retaliate any secrets you have committed to its keeping in echoing thunders after a time, or as Sir John Mandeville under Arctic skies heard in May all those curses thawing, and exploding like minute-guns, which had been frozen up in November. Even like those self-replying authors, even like those self-reverberators in St. Paul's, even like those Arctic practitioners in cursing, who drew bills and post obits in malediction, which were to be honoured after the death of winter, many men are living at this moment in merry England who have figured in so many characters, illustrated so many villages, run away from so many towns, and performed the central part in so many careers, that were the character, the village, the town, the career, brought back with all its circumstances to their memories, positively they would fail to recognise their own presence or incarnation in their own acts and bodies.

We have all read the story told by Addison of a sultan, who was persuaded by a dervish to dip his head into a basin of enchanted water, and thereupon found himself[Pg 81] upon some other globe, a son in a poor man's family, married after certain years the woman of his heart, had a family of seven children whom he painfully brought up, went afterwards through many persecutions, walked pensively by the seashore meditating some escape from his miseries, bathed in the sea as a relief from the noon-day heat, and on lifting up his head from the waves found himself lifting up his head from the basin into which that cursed dervish had persuaded him to dip. And when he would have cudgelled the holy man for that long life of misery which had, through his means, been inflicted upon himself, behold! the holy man proved by affidavit that, in this world, at any rate (where only he could be punishable), the life had lasted but thirty-three seconds. Even so do the dark careers of many amongst our obscure and migratory villains from years shrink up to momentary specks, or, by their very multitude, altogether evanesce. Burke and Hare, it is well known, had lost all count of their several murders; they no more remembered, or could attempt to remember, their separate victims, than a respectable old banker of seventy-three can remember all the bills with their indorsements made payable for half-a-century at his bank; or than Foote's turnpike-keeper, who had kept all the toll-bar tickets to Kensington for forty-eight years, pretended to recollect the features of all the men who had delivered them at his gate. For a time, perhaps, Burke (who was a man of fine sensibility) had a representative vision of spasms, and struggles, and convulsions, terminating in a ten-pound note indorsed by Dr. ——. Hare, on the other hand, was a man of principle, a man that you could depend upon—order a corpse for Friday, and on Friday you had it—but he[Pg 82] had no feeling whatever. Yet see the unity of result for him and Burke. For both alike all troublesome recollections gathered into one blue haze of heavenly abstractions: orders executed with fidelity, cheques on the bankers to be crossed and passed and cashed, are no more remembered. That is the acme of perfection in our art.


One great class of criminals I am aware of in past times as having specially tormented myself—the class who have left secrets, riddles, behind them. What business has any man to bequeath a conundrum to all posterity, unless he leaves in some separate channel the solution? This must have been done in malice, and for the purpose of annoying us, lest we should have too much proper enjoyment of life when he should have gone. For nobody knows whether the scoundrel could have solved it himself—too like in that respect to some charades which, in my boyish days (but then I had the excuse of youth, which they had not), I not unfrequently propounded to young ladies. Take this as a specimen: My first raises a little hope; my second very little indeed; and my whole is a vast roar of despair. No young lady could ever solve it; neither could I. We all had to give it up. A charade that only needs an answer, which, perhaps, some distant generation may supply, is but a half and half, tentative approach to this. Very much of this nature was the genius or Daimon (don't say Demon) of Socrates. How many thousands of learned writers and printers have gone to sleep over too profound attempts to solve that, which Socrates ought to have been able to solve at sight. I am myself of opinion that it was a dram-bottle, which someone[Pg 83] raised a ghost to explain. Then the Entelecheia of Aristotle; did you ever read about that, excellent reader? Most people fancy it to have meant some unutterable crotchet in metaphysics, some horrible idea (lest the police should be after it) without a name; that is, until the Stagyrite repaired the injustice of his conduct by giving it a pretty long one. My opinion now, as you are anxious to know it, is, that it was a lady, a sweetheart of Aristotle's; for what was to hinder Aristotle having a sweetheart? I dare say Thomas Aquinas, dry and arid as he was, raised his unprincipled eyes to some Neapolitan beauty, began a sonnet to some lady's eyebrow, though he might forget to finish it. And my belief is that this lady, ambitious as Semele, wished to be introduced as an eternal jewel into the great vault of her lover's immortal Philosophy, which was to travel much farther and agitate far longer than his royal pupil's conquests. Upon that Aristotle, keeping her hand, said: 'My love, I'll think of it.' And then it occurred to him, that in the very heavens many lovely ladies, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Ariadne, etc., had been placed as constellations in that map which many chronologists suppose to have been prepared for the use of the ship Argo, a whole generation before the Trojan war. Berenice, though he could not be aware of that, had interest even to procure a place in that map for her ringlets; and of course for herself she might have. Considering which, Aristotle said: 'Hang me! if I don't put her among the ten Categories!' On after thoughts he put her higher, for an Entelecheia is as much above a Category as our Padishah Victoria is above a Turkish sultan. 'But now, Stag,' said the lady (privileged as a sweetheart she called him Stag, though everybody else was obliged[Pg 84] to call him Stagyrite), 'how will they know it's meant for me, Stag?' Upon which I am sorry to say the philosopher fell to cursing and swearing, bestowing blessings on his own optics and on posterity's, meaning yours and mine, saying: 'Let them find it out.' Well, now, you see I have found it out. But that is more than I hope for my crypto-criminals, and therefore I take this my only way of giving them celebration and malediction in one breath.

FOOTNOTES:

[9] Notwithstanding what he had written in the essay on the 'Essenes,' no doubt De Quincey, if he had completed this paper, could not have escaped characteristic, and perhaps grimly humorous, references of his own to the Sicarii, of whom Josephus has a good deal to tell in his 'Jewish War'; for it seems to us his thoughts were bearing directly that way. Josephus says of the Sicarii: 'In these days there arose another sort of robbers in Jerusalem, who were named Sicarii, who slew men in the day-time and in the middle of the city, more especially at the festivals. There they mixed with the multitude, and having concealed little daggers under their garments, with these they stabbed those that were their enemies; and when any fell down dead, the murderers joined the bystanders in expressing their indignation; so that from their plausibilities they could by no means be discovered. The first man that was slain by them was Jonathan the high-priest, after which many were slain every day.'—Ed.

[10] 'Postern-gate.' See the legend of Sir Eustace the Crusader, and the good Sir Hubert, who 'sounded the horn which he alone could sound,' as told by Wordsworth.


[Pg 85]

XI. ANECDOTES—JUVENAL.

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All anecdotes, as I have often remarked in print, are lies. It is painful to use harsh words, and, knowing by my own feelings how much the reader is shocked by this rude word lies, I should really be much gratified if it were possible to supplant it by some gentler or more courteous word, such as falsehoods, or even fibs, which dilutes the atrocity of untruth into something of an amiable weakness, wrong, but still venial, and natural (and so far, therefore, reasonable). Anything for peace: but really in this instance I cannot indulge the reader. The instincts of morality will not allow of it, and still less the passion which made Juvenal a poet,[11] viz., the passion of enormous and bloody indignation. From the beginning of this century, with wrath continually growing, I have laid it down as a rule, and if the last year of it, viz., a. d. 1900, should overhear my voice amongst the babblings that will then be troubling the atmosphere—in [Pg 86]that case it will hear me still reaffirming, with an indignation still gathering strength, and therefore approaching ever nearer and nearer to a Juvenalian power of versification, so that perhaps I shall then speak in rhymed couplets—that all anecdotes pretending to be smart, but to a dead certainty if they pretend to be epigrammatic, are and must be lies. There is, in fact, no security for the truth of an anecdote, no guarantee whatever, except its intense stupidity. If a man is searched at a police-office, on the ground that he was caught trying the window-shutters of silversmiths; then, if it should happen that in his pockets is found absolutely nothing at all except one solitary paving-stone, in that case Charity, which believeth all things (in fact, is credulous to an anile degree), will be disposed to lock up the paving-stone, and restore it to the man on his liberation as if it were really his own, though philosophy mutters indignantly, being all but certain that the fellow stole it. And really I have been too candid a great deal in admitting that a man may appropriate an anecdote, and establish his claim to it by pleading its awful stupidity. That might be the case, and I believe it was, when anecdotes were many and writers were few. But things are changed now. Fifty years ago, if a man were seen running away with the pace of a lunatic, and you should sing out, 'Stop that fellow; he is running off with the shin-bone of my great-grandmother!' all the people in the street would have cried out in reply, 'Oh, nonsense! What should he want with your great-grandmother's shin-bone?' and that would have seemed reasonable. But now, to see how things are altered, any man of sense would reply, 'What should he want with my great-grandmother's shin-bone? Why, he'll grind it, and then[Pg 87] he'll mix it with guano.' This is what he and the like of him have actually done by shiploads of people far more entitled to consideration than any one of my four great-grandmothers (for I had four, with eight shin-bones amongst them). It is well known that the field of Waterloo was made to render up all its bones, British or French, to certain bone-mills in agricultural districts. Borodino and Leipzig, the two bloodiest of modern battlefields, are supposed between them—what by the harvest of battle, what by the harvest of neighbouring hospitals—to be seized or possessed of four hundred thousand shin-bones, and other interesting specimens to match. Negotiations have been proceeding at various times between the leading bone-mills in England and the Jews in Dresden or in Moscow. Hitherto these negotiations have broken down, because the Jews stood out for 37 per shent., calculated upon the costs of exhumation. But of late they show a disposition to do business at 33 per shent.: the contract will therefore move forwards again; it will go ahead; and the dust of the faithful armies, together with the dust of their enemies, will very soon be found, not in the stopper of a bunghole (as Prince Hamlet conceived too prematurely), but in an unprecedented crop of Swedish turnips.

Bones change their value, it seems thus clearly; and anecdotes change their value; and in that proportion honesty, as regards one or the other, changes the value of its chances. But what has all this to do with 'Old Nick'? Stop: let me consider. That title was placed at the head of this article, and I admit that it was placed there by myself. Else, whilst I was wandering from my text, and vainly endeavouring to recollect what it was that I had meant by this text, a random thought came[Pg 88] over me (immoral, but natural), that I would charge the heading of Old Nick upon the compositor, asserting that he had placed it there in obstinate defiance of all the orders to the contrary, and supplications to the contrary, that I had addressed to him for a month; by which means I should throw upon him the responsibility of accounting for so portentous an ensign.

Editor's Note.—It is evident that De Quincey meditated a much longer essay on anecdotes as false, in which Niccolo Machiavelli would have come in for notice—hence the playful references in the close.


FOOTNOTES:

[11] 'The passion which made Juvenal a poet.' The scholar needs no explanation; but the reader whose scholarship is yet amongst his futurities (which I conceive to be the civilest way of describing an ignoramus) must understand that Juvenal, the Roman satirist, who was in fact a predestined poet in virtue of his ebullient heart, that boiled over once or twice a day in anger that could not be expressed upon witnessing the enormities of domestic life in Rome, was willing to forego all pretensions to natural power and inspiration for the sake of obtaining such influence as would enable him to reprove Roman vices with effect.


[Pg 89]

XII. ANNA LOUISA.

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SPECIMEN TRANSLATION FROM VOSS IN HEXAMETERS, WITH
LETTER TO PROFESSOR W. ('CHRISTOPHER NORTH').

Dr. North,

Doctor, I say, for I hear that the six Universities of England and Scotland have sent you a doctor's degree, or, if they have not, all the world knows they ought to have done; and the more shame for them if they keep no 'Remembrancer' to put them in mind of what they must allow to be amongst their most sacred duties. But that's all one. I once read in my childhood a pretty book, called 'Wilson's Account of the Pelew Islands,' at which islands, you know, H.M.S. Antelope was wrecked—just about the time, I fancy, when you, Doctor, and myself were in long petticoats and making some noise in the world; the book was not written by Captain Wilson, but by Keates, the sentimentalist. At the very end, however, is an epitaph, and that was written by the captain and ship's company:

'Stop, reader, stop, let nature claim a tear;
A prince of mine, Lee Boo, lies buried here.'

This epitaph used often to make me cry, and in commemoration of that effect, which (like that of all cathartics that I know of, no matter how drastic at first) has long[Pg 90] been growing weaker and weaker, I propose (upon your allowing me an opportunity) to superscribe you in any churchyard you will appoint:

'Stop, reader, stop, let genius claim a tear;
A doct'r of mine, Lee Kit, lies buried here.'

'Doct'r of' you are to read into a dissyllable, and pretty much like Boney's old friend on the road from Moscow, General Doct'roff, who 'doctor'd them off,' as the Laureate observes, and prescribed for the whole French army gratis. But now to business.

For your information, Doctor, it cannot be necessary, but on account of very many readers it will be so, to say that Voss's 'Luise' has long taken its place in the literature of Germany as a classical work—in fact, as a gem or cabinet chef d'œuvre; nay, almost as their unique specimen in any national sense of the lighter and less pretending muse; less pretending, I mean, as to the pomp or gravity of the subject, but on that very account more pretending as respects the minuter graces of its execution. In the comparative estimate of Germans, the 'Luise' holds a station corresponding to that of our 'Rape of the Lock,' or of Gresset's 'Vert-vert'—corresponding, that is, in its degree of relative value. As to its kind of value, some notion may be formed of it even in that respect also from the 'Rape of the Lock,' but with this difference, that the scenes and situations and descriptions are there derived from the daily life and habits of a fashionable belle and the fine gentlemen who surround her, whereas in the 'Luise' they are derived exclusively from the homelier and more patriarchal economy of a rural clergyman's household; and in this respect the 'Luise' comes nearest by much, in com[Pg 91]parison of any other work that I know of, to our own 'Vicar of Wakefield.' Like that delightful portrait of rural life in a particular aspect, or idyll as it might be called, the 'Luise' aims at throwing open for our amusement the interior of a village parsonage (Scotice, 'manse'); like that in its earlier half (for the latter half of the 'Vicar' is a sad collapse from the truth and nature of the original conception into the marvellous of a commonplace novel), the 'Luise' exhibits the several members of a rustic clergyman's family according to their differences of sex, age, and standing, in their natural, undisguised features, all unconsciously marked by characteristic foibles, all engaged in the exercise of their daily habits, neither finer nor coarser than circumstances naturally allow, and all indulging in such natural hopes or fictions of romance as grow out of their situation in life. The 'Luise,' in short, and the 'Vicar of Wakefield' are both alike a succession of circumstantial delineations selected from mere rustic life, but rustic life in its most pure and intellectual form; for as to the noble countess in the 'Luise,' or the squire and his uncle, Sir William, in the 'Vicar of Wakefield,' they do not interfere sufficiently to disturb the essential level of the movement as regards the incidents, or to colour the manners and the scenery. Agreeing, however, in this general purpose, the two works differ in two considerable features; one, that the 'Vicar of Wakefield' describes the rural clergyman of England, 'Luise' the rural clergyman of North Germany; the other, that the English idyll is written in prose, the German in verse—both of which differences, and the separate peculiarities growing out of them, will, it may perhaps be thought, require a few words of critical discussion.[Pg 92]

There has always existed a question as to the true principles of translation when applied, not to the mere literature of knowledge (because there it is impossible that two opinions can arise, by how much closer the version by so much the better), but to the literature of power, and to such works—above all, to poems—as might fairly be considered works of art in the highest sense. To what extent the principle of compensation might reasonably be carried, the license, that is, of departing from the strict literal forms of the original writer, whether as to expressions, images, or even as to the secondary thoughts, for the sake of reproducing them in some shape less repellent to a modern ear, and therefore virtually sustaining the harmony of the composition by preventing the attention from settling in a disproportionate degree upon what might have a startling effect to a taste trained under modern discipline—this question has always been pending as a question open to revision before the modern courts of criticism; as surely to you, Dr. North, one of the chief 'swells' on that bench, I need not say. But, for the sake of accurate thinking, it is worth while observing that formerly this question was moved almost exclusively with a view to the Latin and Greek classics; and that circumstance gave a great and a very just bias to the whole dispute. For the difference with regard to any capital author of ancient days, as compared with modern authors, is this, that here we have a twofold interest—an interest with work, and a separate interest in the writer. Take the 'Prometheus Desmotes' of Æschylus, and suppose that a translator should offer us an English 'Prometheus,' which he acknowledged to be very free, but at the same time contended that his variations from the Greek were so many downright improve[Pg 93]ments, so that, if he had not given us the genuine 'Prometheus,' he had given us something better. In such a case we should all reply, but we do not want something better. Our object is not the best possible drama that could be produced on the fable of 'Prometheus'; what we want is the very 'Prometheus' that was written by Æschylus, the very drama that was represented at Athens. The Athenian audience itself, and what pleased its taste, is already one subject of interest. Æschylus on his own account is another. These are collateral and alien subjects of interest quite independent of our interest in the drama, and for the sake of these we wish to see the real original 'Prometheus'—not according to any man's notion of improvement, but such as came from a sublime Grecian poet, such as satisfied a Grecian audience, more than two thousand years ago. We wish, in fact, for the real Æschylus, 'unhousel'd, unaneal'd,' with all his imperfections on his head.

Such was the way, and the just way, of arguing the point when the application was limited to a great authentic classic of the Antique; nor was the case at all different where Ariosto or any other illustrious Italian classic was concerned. But a new sort of casuistry in this question has arisen in our own times, and by accident chiefly in connection with German literature; but it may well be, Dr. North, that you will be more diverted by a careful scrutiny of my metres after Voss in illustration, than by any further dissertation on my part on a subject that you know so well.

Believe me,

Always yours admiringly,
X. Y. Z.

[Pg 94]

The Parson's Dinner.
In the month of leafy June, beneath celestial azure
Of skies all cloudless, sate the aged Rector of Esthwaite
Dining amidst his household; but not the meridian ardour
Of sunbeams fierce he felt; him the shady veranda
With vine-clad trellis defends: beyond a pendulous awning
Of boughs self-wreath'd from limes (whose mighty limbs overarching
Spanned the low roof of the house) spreads far effectual umbrage
For young and old alike; noontide awfully breathless
Settled in deepest silence on the woods and valley of Esthwaite.
Yet not the less there would rise, after stillest interval often,10
Low whispering gales that stole, like sobbing murmur of infant
Dreaming in arms maternal, into the heart o' the youngest:
Gales that at most could raise a single ringlet of auburn
As it pencill'd the noble brow of the youthful Anna Louisa—
Sole child that survived to thee, oh, aged pastor of Esthwaite.
Clad in his morning gown, the reverend priest at a table
Of sculptur'd stone was seated; and his seat was a massy but easy
Settle of oak, which in youth his ancient servitor, Isaac,
Footman, sexton, and steward, butler and gardener also,
[Pg 95] Carved by the winter fire in nights of gloomy November,
And through many a long, long night of many a dark December.21
The good man's heart was glad, and his eyes were suffus'd with a rapture
Of perfect love as they settled on her—that pulse of his heart's blood,
The one sole prop of his house, the beautiful Anna Louisa.
By the side of himself sate his wife, that ancient tamer of housemaids,[12]
Yet kind of heart as a dove, and with matron graces adorning
Her place as she sate dispensing hospitality boundless
To the strangers within her gates; for, lo! two strangers on one side
Sate of the long stone table; yet strangers by manner or action
One would not suppose them; nor were they, but guests ever honour'd,30
And dear to each heart in the house of th' ancient Rector of Esthwaite.
The elder of them was called Augustus Harry Delancey,
And he rode as a cornet of horse in the mighty imperial army.
Him had the parents approved (and those were melodious accents,
The sweetest he ever had heard) as suitor of Anna Louisa.
But from lips more ruby far—far more melodious accents
[Pg 96] Had reach'd his ears since then; for she, the daughter, her own self,
Had condescended at last to utter sweet ratification
Of all his hopes; low whisp'ring the 'yes'—celestial answer
That raised him to paradise gates on pinion[13] of expectation.40
Over against his beloved he sate—the suitor enamour'd:
And God He knows that indeed should it prove an idolatrous error
To look in the eyes of a lady till you feel a dreamy devotion,
I fear for the health of your soul that day, oh, Harry Delancey!
Next to Delancey there sate his pupil, Magnus Adolphus,
A fair-haired boy of ten, half an orphan, a count of the empire—
Magnus Adolphus of Arnstein, that great Bavarian earldom.
Him had his widowed mother, the noble Countess of Arnstein,
Placed with Delancey betimes, as one in knightly requirements
Skilful and all-accomplished, that he the 'youthful idea'[14]50
[Pg 97] Might 'teach how to shoot' (with a pistol, videlicet),—horses
To mount and to manage with boldness, hounds to follow in hunting
The fox, the tusky boar, the stag with his beautiful antlers:
Arts, whether graceful or useful, in arms or equestrian usage,
Did Augustus impart to his pupil, the youthful earl of the empire.
To ride with stirrups or none, to mount from the near-side or off-side
(Which still is required in the trooper who rides in the Austrian army),
To ride with bridle or none, on a saddle Turkish or English,
To force your horse to curvet, pirouette, dance on his haunches,
And whilst dancing to lash with his feet, and suggest an effectual hinting60
To the enemy's musqueteers to clear the road for the hinter:
Or again, if you want a guide by night, in a dangerous highway
Beset with the enemies' marksmen and swarming with murderous ambush,
To train your horse in the art of delicate insinuation,
Gently raising a hoof to tap at the door o' the woodsman.
But, if he persists in snoring, or pretending to snore, or is angry
At your summons to leave his lair in the arms of his wife or his infants,
[Pg 98] To practise your horse in the duty of stormy recalcitration,
Wheeling round to present his heels, and in mid caracoling
To send the emperor's greeting smack through the panel of oakwood[15]70
That makes the poor man so hard of hearing imperial orders.
Arts such as these and others, the use of the sabre on horseback,
All modes of skill gymnastic, modes whether forceful or artful,
Of death-grapple if by chance a cannon-shot should un-horse you,
All modes of using the limbs with address, with speed, or enormous
Effort of brutal strength, all this did Harry Delancey
Teach to his docile pupil: and arts more nobly delightful,
Arts of the head or the heart, arts intellectual; empire
Over dead men's books, over regions of high meditation,
Comparative tactics, warfare as then conducted in ages
When powder was none, nor cannon, but brute catapultæ,81
Blind rams, brainless wild asses, the stony slinger of huge stones.[16]
[Pg 99] Iron was lord of the world; iron reigned, man was his engine;
But now the rule is reversed, man binds and insults over iron.
Together did they, young tutor, young pupil, Augustus, Adolphus,
Range over history martial, or read strategical authors,
Xenophon, Arrian, old Polybius, old Polyænus
(Think not these Polys, my boy, were blooming Pollies of our days!),
And above all others, they read the laurel'd hero of heroes,
Thrice kingly Roman Julius, sun-bright leader of armies,
Who planted his god-like foot on the necks of a whole generation.91
Such studies, such arts were those by which young Harry Delancey
Sought to discharge the trust which to him the Lady of Arnstein
Confided with hopes maternal; thus trained, he hoped that Adolphus
Would shine in his native land, for high was his place in the empire.

Editor's Note.—This was, of course, written for Blackwood's Magazine; but it never appeared there.


FOOTNOTES:

[12] 'That tamer of housemaids': Εκτορος ιπποδαμοιο—of Hector, the tamer of horses ('Iliad').

[13] 'On pinion of expectation.' Here I would request the reader to notice that it would have been easy for me to preserve the regular dactylic close by writing 'pinion of anticipation;' as also in the former instance of 'many a dark December' to have written 'many a rainy December.' But in both cases I preferred to lock up by the massy spondaic variety; yet never forgetting to premise a dancing dactyle—'many a'—and 'pinion of.' Not merely for variety, but for a separate effect of peculiar majesty.

[14] Alluding to a ridiculous passage in Thomson's 'Seasons':

'Delightful task! to teach the young idea how to shoot.'

[15] All these arts, viz., teaching the horse to fight with his forelegs or lash out with his hind-legs at various angles in a general melée of horse and foot, but especially teaching him the secret of 'inviting' an obstinate German boor to come out and take the air strapped in front of a trooper, and do his duty as guide to the imperial cavalry, were imported into the Austrian service by an English riding-master about the year 1775-80. And no doubt it must have been horses trained on this learned system of education from which the Highlanders of Scotland derived their terror of cavalry.

[16] 'Blind rams, brainless wild asses,' etc. The 'arietes,' or battering-rams with iron-bound foreheads, the 'onagri,' or wild asses, etc., were amongst the poliorcetic engines of the ancients, which do not appear to have received any essential improvement after the time of the brilliant Prince Demetrius, the son of Alexander's great captain, Antigonus.


[Pg 100]

XIII. SOME THOUGHTS ON BIOGRAPHY.

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We have heard from a man who witnessed the failure of Miss Baillie's 'De Montford,' notwithstanding the scenic advantages of a vast London theatre, fine dresses, fine music at intervals, and, above all, the superb acting of John Kemble, supported on that occasion by his incomparable sister, that this unexpected disappointment began with the gallery, who could not comprehend or enter into a hatred so fiendish growing out of causes so slight as any by possibility supposable in the trivial Rezenvelt. To feel teased by such a man, to dislike him, occasionally to present him with your compliments in the shape of a duodecimo kick—well and good, nothing but right. And the plot manifestly tended to a comic issue. But murder!—a Macbeth murder!—not the injury so much as the man himself was incommensurate, was too slight by a thousand degrees for so appalling a catastrophe. It reacts upon De Montford, making him ignoble that could be moved so profoundly by an agency so contemptible.

Something of the same disproportion there is, though in a different way, between any quarrel that may have divided us from a man in his life-time and the savage revenge of pursuing the quarrel after his death through a malicious biography. Yet, if you hated him through[Pg 101] no quarrel, but simply (as we all hate many men that died a thousand years ago) for something vicious, or which you think vicious, in his modes of thinking, why must you, of all men, be the one to undertake an edition of his works, 'with a life of the author'? Leave that to some neutral writer, who neither loves nor hates. And whilst crowds of men need better biographical records whom it is easy to love and not difficult to honour, do not you degrade your own heart or disgust your readers by selecting for your exemplification not a model to be imitated, but a wild beast to be baited or a criminal to be tortured? We privately hate Mr. Thomas Hobbes, of Malmsbury; we know much evil of him, and we could expose many of his tricks effectually. We also hate Dean Swift, and upon what we think substantial arguments. Some of our own contemporaries we hate particularly; Cobbett, for instance, and other bad fellows in fustian and corduroys. But for that very reason we will not write their lives. Or, if we should do so, only because they might happen to stand as individuals in a series, and after warning the reader of our own bias. For it is too odious a spectacle to imprison a fellow-creature in a book, like a stag in a cart, and turn him out to be hunted through all his doubles for a day's amusement. It too much resembles that case of undoubted occurrence both in France and Germany, where 'respectable' individuals, simply as amateurs, and not at all with any view to the salary or fees of operating, have come forward as candidates for the post of public executioner. What is every man's duty is no man's duty by preference. And unless where a writer is thrust upon such a duty by an official necessity (as, if he contracts for a 'Biographia Britannica,' in that case he is bound[Pg 102] by his contract to go through with the whole series—rogues and all), it is too painful to see a human being courting and wooing the task of doing execution upon his brother in his grave. Nay, even in the case where this executioner's task arises spontaneously out of some duty previously undertaken without a thought of its severer functions, we are still shocked by any exterminating vengeance too rancorously pursued. Every reader must have been disgusted by the unrelenting persecution with which Gifford, a deformed man, with the spiteful nature sometimes too developed in the deformed, had undertaken 'for our fathers in the Row' an edition of Massinger. Probably he had not thought at the time of the criminals who would come before him for judgment. But afterwards it did not embitter the job that these perquisites of office accrued, lucro ponatur, that such offenders as Coxeter, Mr. Monck Mason, and others were to be 'justified' by course of law. Could he not have stated their errors, and displaced their rubbish, without further personalities? However, he does not, but makes the air resound with his knout, until the reader wishes Coxeter in his throat, and Monck Mason, like 'the cursed old fellow' in Sinbad, mounted with patent spurs upon his back.

We shall be interrupted, however, and that we certainly foresee, by the objection—that we are fighting with shadows, that neither the éloge in one extreme, nor the libel in the other extreme, finds a place in our literature. Does it not? Yes, reader, each of these biographical forms exists in favour among us, and of one it is very doubtful indeed whether it ought not to exist. The éloge is found abundantly diffused through our monumental epitaphs in the first place, and there every[Pg 103] man will countersign Wordsworth's judgment (see 'The Excursion' and also Wordsworth's prose Essay on Epitaphs), that it is a blessing for human nature to find one place in this world sacred to charitable thoughts, one place at least offering a sanctuary from evil speaking. So far there is no doubt. But the main literary form, in which the English éloge presents itself, is the Funeral Sermon. And in this also, not less than in the churchyard epitaph, kind feeling ought to preside; and for the same reasons, the sanctity of the place where it is delivered or originally published, and the solemnity of the occasion which has prompted it; since, if you cannot find matter in the departed person's character fertile in praise even whilst standing by the new-made grave, what folly has tempted you into writing an epitaph or a funeral sermon? The good ought certainly to predominate in both, and in the epitaph nothing but the good, because were it only for a reason suggested by Wordsworth, viz., the elaborate and everlasting character of a record chiselled out painfully in each separate letter, it would be scandalous to confer so durable an existence in stone or marble upon trivial human infirmities, such as do not enter into the last solemn reckoning with the world beyond the grave; whilst, on the other hand, all graver offences are hushed into 'dread repose,' and, where they happen to be too atrocious or too memorable, are at once a sufficient argument for never having undertaken any such memorial. These considerations privilege the epitaph as sacred to charity, and tabooed against the revelations of candour. The epitaph cannot open its scanty records to any breathing or insinuation of infirmity. But the Funeral Sermon, though sharing in the same general temper of indulgence towards the[Pg 104] errors of the deceased person, might advantageously be laid open to a far more liberal discussion of those personal or intellectual weaknesses which may have thwarted the influence of character otherwise eminently Christian. The Oraison Funèbre of the French proposes to itself by its original model, which must be sought in the Epideictic or panegyrical oratory of the Greeks, a purpose purely and exclusively eulogistic: the problem supposed is to abstract from everything not meritorious, to expand and develop the total splendour of the individual out of that one centre, that main beneficial relation to his own age, from which this splendour radiated. The incidents of the life, the successions of the biographical detail, are but slightly traced, no farther, in fact, than is requisite to the intelligibility of the praises. Whereas, in the English Funeral Sermon, there is no principle of absolute exclusion operating against the minutest circumstantiations of fact which can tend to any useful purpose of illustrating the character. And what is too much for the scale of a sermon literally preached before a congregation, or modelled to counterfeit such a mode of address, may easily find its place in the explanatory notes. This is no romance, or ideal sketch of what might be. It is, and it has been. There are persons of memorable interest in past times, of whom all that we know is embodied in a funeral sermon. For instance, Jeremy Taylor in that way, or by his Epistles Dedicatory, has brought out the characteristic features in some of his own patrons, whom else we should have known only as nominis umbras. But a more impressive illustration is found in the case of John Henderson, that man of whom expectations so great were formed, and of whom Dr. Johnson and Burke, after meeting and con[Pg 105]versing with him, pronounced (in the Scriptural words of the Ethiopian queen applied to the Jewish king, Solomon) 'that the half had not been told them.' For this man's memory almost the sole original record exists in Aguttar's funeral sermon; for though other records exist, and one from the pen of a personal friend, Mr. Joseph Cottle, of Bristol, yet the main substance of the biography is derived from the fundus of this one sermon.[17] And it is of some importance to cases of fugitive or unobtrusive merit that this more quiet and sequestered current of biography should be kept open. For the local motives to an honorary biographical notice, in the shape of a Funeral Sermon, will often exist, when neither the materials are sufficient, nor a writer happens to be disposable, for a labour so serious as a regular biography.

Here then, on the one side, are our English éloges. And we may add that amongst the Methodists, the Baptists, and other religious sectaries, but especially among the missionaries of all nations and churches, this class of éloges is continually increasing. Not unfrequently men of fervent natures and of sublime aspirations are thus rescued from oblivion, whilst the great power of such bodies as the Methodists, their growing wealth, and consequent responsibility to public opinion, are pledges that they will soon command all the advantages of colleges and academic refinement; so that if, in the manner of these funeral éloges, there has sometimes [Pg 106]been missed that elegance which should have corresponded to the weight of the matter, henceforwards we may look to see this disadvantage giving way before institutions more thoroughly matured. But if these are our éloges, on the other hand, where are our libels?

This is likely to be a topic of offence, for many readers will start at hearing the upright Samuel Johnson and the good-humoured, garrulous Plutarch denounced as traffickers in libel. But a truth is a truth. And the temper is so essentially different in which men lend themselves to the propagation of defamatory anecdotes, the impulses are so various to an offence which is not always consciously perceived by those who are parties to it, that we cannot be too cautious of suffering our hatred of libel to involve every casual libeller, or of suffering our general respect for the person of the libeller to exonerate him from the charge of libelling. Many libels are written in this little world of ours unconsciously, and under many motives. Perhaps we said that before, but no matter. Sometimes a gloomy fellow, with a murderous cast of countenance, sits down doggedly to the task of blackening one whom he hates worse 'than toad or asp.' For instance, Procopius performs that 'labour of hate' for the Emperor Justinian, pouring oil into his wounds, but, then (as Coleridge expresses it in a 'neat' sarcasm), oil of vitriol. Nature must have meant the man for a Spanish Inquisitor, sent into the world before St. Dominic had provided a trade for him, or any vent for his malice—so rancorous in his malignity, so horrid and unrelenting the torture to which he subjects his sovereign and the beautiful Theodora. In this case, from the withering scowl which accompanies the libels, we may be assured that they are such in the most[Pg 107] aggravated form—not malicious only, but false. It is commonly said, indeed, in our courts, that truth it is which aggravates the libel. And so it is as regards the feelings or the interests of the man libelled. For is it not insufferable that, if a poor man under common human infirmity shall have committed some crime and have paid its penalty, but afterwards reforming or out-growing his own follies, seeks to gain an honest livelihood for his children in a place which the knowledge of his past transgression has not reached, then all at once he is to be ruined by some creature purely malignant who discovers and publishes the secret tale? In such a case most undoubtedly it is the truth of the libel which constitutes its sting, since, if it were not true or could be made questionable, it would do the poor man no mischief. But, on the other hand, it is the falsehood of the libel which forms its aggravation as regards the publisher. And certain we are, had we no other voucher than the instinct of our hatred to Procopius, that his disloyal tales about his great lord and lady are odiously overcharged, if not uniformly false. Gibbon, however, chooses to gratify his taste for the luxury of scandal by believing at once in the perfect malice of the slanderer, and the perfect truth of his slanders.

Here then, in this Procopius, is an instance of the gloomy libeller, whose very gloom makes affidavit of his foul spirit from the first. There is also another form, less odious, of the hostile libeller: it occurs frequently in cases where the writer is not chargeable with secret malice, but is in a monstrous passion. A shower-bath might be of service in that case, whereas in the Procopius case nothing but a copious or a Procopius application of the knout can answer. We, for instance,[Pg 108] have (or had, for perhaps it has been stolen) a biography of that same Parker, afterwards Bishop of Oxford, with whom Andrew Marvell 'and others who called Milton friend' had such rough-and-tumble feuds about 1666, and at whose expense it was that Marvell made the whole nation merry in his 'Rehearsal Transprosed.' This Parker had a 'knack' at making himself odious; he had a curiosa felicitas in attracting hatreds, and wherever he lodged for a fortnight he trailed after him a vast parabolic or hyperbolic tail of enmity and curses, all smoke and fire and tarnish, which bore the same ratio to his small body of merit that a comet's tail, measuring billions of miles, does to the little cometary mass. The rage against him was embittered by politics, and indeed sometimes by knavish tricks; the first not being always 'confounded,' nor the last 'frustrated.' So that Parker, on the whole, was a man whom it might be held a duty to hate, and therefore, of course, to knout as often as you could persuade him to expose a fair extent of surface for the action of the lash. Many men purchased a knout for his sake, and took their chance for getting a 'shy' at him, as Parker might happen to favour their intentions. But one furious gentleman, who is resolved to 'take his full change' out of Parker, and therefore to lose no time, commences operations in the very first words of his biography: 'Parker,' says he, 'the author of ——, was the spawn of Samuel Parker.' His rage will not wait for an opportunity; he throws off a torrent of fiery sparks in advance, and gives full notice to Parker that he will run his train right into him, if he can come up with his rear. This man is not malicious, but truculent; like the elder Scaliger, of whom it was observed that, having been an officer of cavalry up to his fortieth year (when[Pg 109] he took to learning Greek), he always fancied himself on horseback, charging, and cutting throats in the way of professional duty, as often as he found himself summoned to pursue and 'cut up' some literary delinquent. Fire and fury, 'bubble and squeak,' is the prevailing character of his critical composition. 'Come, and let me give thee to the fowls of the air,' is the cry with which the martial critic salutes the affrighted author. Yet, meantime, it is impossible that he can entertain any personal malice, for he does not know the features of the individual enemy whom he is pursuing. But thus far he agrees with the Procopian order of biographers—that both are governed, in whatever evil they may utter, by a spirit of animosity: one by a belligerent spirit which would humble its enemy as an enemy in a fair pitched battle, the other by a subtle spirit of malice, which would exterminate its enemy not in that character merely, but as an individual by poison or by strangling.

Libels, however, may be accredited and published where there is no particle of enmity or of sudden irritation. Such were the libels of Plutarch and Dr. Johnson. They are libels prompted by no hostile feelings at all, but adopted by mere blind spirit of credulity. In this world of ours, so far as we are acquainted with its doings, there are precisely four series—four aggregate bodies—of Lives, and no more, which you can call celebrated; which have had, and are likely to have, an extensive influence—each after its own kind. Which be they? To arrange them in point of time, first stand Plutarch's lives of eminent Greeks and Romans; next, the long succession of the French Memoirs, beginning with Philippe de Commines, in the time of Louis XI. or our Edward IV., and ending, let us[Pg 110] say, with the slight record of himself (but not without interest) of Louis XVIII.; thirdly, the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists; fourthly, Dr. Johnson's 'Lives of the Poets.' The third is a biographical record of the Romish saints, following the order of the martyrology as it is digested through the Roman calendar of the year; and, as our own 'Biographia Britannica' has only moved forwards in seventy years to the letter 'H,' or thereabouts (which may be owing to the dissenting blight of Dr. Kippis), pari passu, the Acta Sanctorum will be found not much farther advanced than the month of May—a pleasant month certainly, but (as the Spectator often insinuates) perilous to saintship. Laying this work out of consideration, as being chiefly employed in eulogy such as could not be extravagant when applied to the glorious army of martyrs (although here also, we doubt not, are many libels against men concerning whom it matters little whether they were libelled or not), all the rest of the great biographical works are absolutely saturated with libels. Plutarch may be thought to balance his extravagant slanders by his impossible eulogies. He sees nothing wonderful in actions that were far beyond the level of any motives existing under pagan moralities; and, on the other hand, he traduces great men like Cæsar, whose natures were beyond his scale of measurement, by tracing their policy to petty purposes entirely Plutarchian. But he was a Greekling in a degenerate age of Grecians. As to the French Memoirs, which are often so exceedingly amusing, they purchase their liveliness by one eternal sacrifice of plain truth. Their repartees, felicitous propos, and pointed anecdotes are but one rolling fire of falsehoods. And, generally, it may be laid down as a rule, that all collec[Pg 111]tors of happy retorts and striking anecdotes are careless of truth. Louis XIV. does seem to have had a natural gift of making brilliant compliments and happy impromptus; and yet the very best of his reputed mots were spurious. Some may be traced to Cicero, Hierocles, Diogenes; and some to his modern predecessors. That witty remark ascribed to him about the disposition of Fortune, as being a lady, to withdraw her favours from old men like himself and the Maréchal Boufflers, was really uttered nearly two centuries before by the Emperor Charles V., who probably stole it from some Spanish collection of jests. And so of fifty in every hundred beside. And the French are not only apt beyond other nations to abuse the license of stealing from our predecessor quod licuit semperque licebit, but also, in a degree peculiar to themselves, they have a false de-naturalized taste in the humorous, and as to the limits of the extravagant. We have formerly illustrated this point, and especially we noticed it as a case impossible to any nation but the French to have tolerated the pretended 'absences' of La Fontaine—as, for instance, his affecting to converse with his own son as an entire stranger, and asking the lady who had presented him what might be the name of that amiable young man. The incredulus odi faces one in every page of a French memoir; veracity is an unknown virtue, and, wherever that is the taste, look for libels by wholesale. Too often even the unnatural and the monstrous is courted, rather than miss the object of arresting and startling. Now, Dr. Johnson's calumnies or romances were not of that order. He had a healthy spirit of reverence for truth; but he was credulous to excess, and he was plagued by an infirmity not uncommon amongst literary men who have[Pg 112] no families of young people growing up around their hearth—the hankering after gossip. He was curious about the domestic habits of his celebrated countrymen; inquisitive in a morbid degree about their pecuniary affairs: 'What have you got in that pocket which bulges out so prominently?' 'What did your father do with that hundred guineas which he received on Monday from Jacob Jonson?' And, as his 'swallow' was enormous—as the Doctor would believe more fables in an hour than an able-bodied liar would invent in a week—naturally there was no limit to the slanders with which his 'Lives of the Poets' are overrun.

Of the four great biographical works which we have mentioned, we hold Dr. Johnson's to be by far the best in point of composition. Even Plutarch, though pardonably overrated in consequence of the great subjects which he treats (which again are 'great' by benefit of distance and the vast abstracting process executed by time upon the petty and the familiar), is loose and rambling in the principles of his nexus; and there lies the great effort for a biographer, there is the strain, and that is the task—viz., to weld the disconnected facts into one substance, and by interfusing natural reflections to create for the motions of his narrative a higher impulse than one merely chronologic. In this respect, the best of Dr. Johnson's 'Lives' are undoubtedly the very best which exist. They are the most highly finished amongst all masterpieces of the biographic art, and, as respects the Doctor personally, they are, beyond comparison, his best work. It is a great thing in any one art or function, even though it were not a great one, to have excelled all the literature of all languages. And if the reader fancies that there lurks anywhere a collection of lives, or even one life (though[Pg 113] it were the 'Agricola' of Tacitus), which as a work of refined art and execution can be thought equal to the best of Dr. Johnson's, we should be grateful to him if he would assign it in a letter to Mr. Blackwood:

'And though the night be raw,
We'll see it too, the first we ever saw.'

We say nothing of the Calmuck Tartars; they hold (see Bergmann's 'Streifereien') that their 'Dschangariade' is the finest of all epic poems, past or coming; and, therefore, the Calmuck Lives of the Poets will naturally be inimitable. But confining our view to the unhappy literatures of Europe, ancient or modern, this is what we think of Dr. Johnson's efforts as a biographer. Consequently, we cannot be taxed with any insensibility to his merit. And as to the critical part of his Lives, if no thoughtful reader can be expected to abide by his haughty decisions, yet, on the other hand, every man reads his opinions with pleasure, from the intellectual activity and the separate justice of the thoughts which they display. But as to his libellous propensity, that rests upon independent principles; for all his ability and all his logic could not elevate his mind above the region of gossip.

Take his 'Life of Savage.' This was the original nest-egg, upon which, as a basis, and perhaps as the occasional suggestion of such an enterprise, all the rest—allow us a pompous word—supervened. It was admirably written, because written con amore, and also because written con odio; and under either impulse is it possible to imagine grosser delusions? Johnson persuaded himself that Savage was a fine gentleman (a rôle not difficult to support in that age, when ceremony and a gorgeous costume were amongst the auxiliary distinctions of a gentleman), and also that he was a man of genius. The first claim[Pg 114] was necessarily taken upon trust by the Doctor's readers; the other might have been examined; but after a few painful efforts to read 'The Wanderer' and other insipid trifles, succeeding generations have resolved to take that upon trust also; for in very truth Savage's writings are of that order which 'do not let themselves be read.' Why, then, had publishers bought them? Publishers in those days were mere tradesmen, without access to liberal society. Even Richardson, though a man of great genius, in his publisher's character was an obsequious, nay, servile, admirer of the fine gentleman who wore a sword, embroidered clothes, and Mechlin ruffles about his wrists; above all things, he glorified and adored a Lovelace, with a fine person, who sang gaily to show his carelessness of low people, never came abroad except in a sedan-chair, and liberally distributed his curses to the right and the left in all respectable men's shops. This temper, with her usual sagacity, Lady M. Wortley Montagu could detect in Richardson, and for this she despised him. But this it was, and some little vision of possible patronage from Lord Tyrconnel, which had obtained any prices at all for Savage from such knowing publishers as were then arising; but generally Savage had relied upon subscriptions, which were still common, and, in his case, as a man supposed unfortunate, were given purely as charity. With what astonishment does a literary foreigner of any judgment find a Savage placed amongst the classics of England! and from the scale of his life reasonably he must infer that he is ranked amongst the leaders, whilst the extent in which his works are multiplied would throw him back upon the truth—that he is utterly unknown to his countrymen. These, however, were the delusions of good nature. But[Pg 115] what are we to think of Dr. Johnson's abetting that monstrous libel against Lady Macclesfield? She, unhappily, as a woman banished without hope from all good society by her early misconduct as a wife (but, let it not be forgotten, a neglected wife), had nobody to speak a word on her behalf: all evil was believed of one who had violated her marriage vows. But had the affair occurred in our days, the public journals would have righted her. They would have shown the folly of believing a vain, conceited man like Savage and his nurse, with no vouchers whatever, upon a point where they had the deepest interest at stake; whilst on the opposite side, supposing their story true, spoke for them the strongest of all natural instincts—the pleading of the maternal heart, combated by no self-interest whatever. Surely if Lady Macclesfield had not been supported by indignation against an imposture, merely for her own ease and comfort, she would have pensioned Savage, or have procured him some place under Government—not difficult in those days for a person with her connections (however sunk as respected female society) to have obtained for an only son. In the sternness of her resistance to all attempts upon her purse we read her sense of the fraud. And, on the other hand, was the conduct of Savage that of a son? He had no legal claims upon her, consequently no pretence for molesting her in her dwelling-house. And would a real son—a great lubberly fellow, well able to work as a porter or a footman—however wounded at her obstinate rejection, have been likely, in pursuit of no legal rights, to have alarmed her by threatening letters and intrusions, for no purpose but one confessedly of pecuniary extortion? From the very mode of pursuing his claim it is plain that Savage felt it to be a false one.[Pg 116] It seems, also, to be forgotten by most readers, that at this day real sons—not denied to be such—are continually banished, nay, ejected forcibly by policemen, from the paternal roof in requital of just such profligate conduct as Savage displayed; so that, grant his improbable story, still he was a disorderly reprobate, who in these days would have been consigned to the treadmill. But the whole was a hoax.

Savage, however, is but a single case, in relation to which Dr. Johnson stood in a special position, that diseased his judgment. But look at Pope's life, at Swift's, at Young's—at all the lives of men contemporary with himself: they are overrun with defamatory stories, or traits of that order which would most have stung them, had they returned to life. But it was an accident most beneficial to Dr. Johnson that nearly all these men left no near relatives behind to call him to account. The public were amused, as they always are by exhibitions of infirmity or folly in one whom otherwise they were compelled to admire; that was a sort of revenge for them to set off against a painful perpetuity of homage. Thus far the libels served only as jests, and, fortunately for Dr. Johnson, there arose no after-reckoning. One period, in fact, of thirty years had intervened between the last of these men and the publication of the Lives; it was amongst the latest works of Dr. Johnson: thus, and because most of them left no descendants, he escaped. Had the ordinary proportion of these men been married, the result would have been different; and whatever might have been thought of any individual case amongst the complaints, most undoubtedly, from the great number to which the Doctor had exposed himself, amongst which many were not of a nature to be evaded by any vouchers[Pg 117] whatsoever, a fatal effect would have settled on the Doctor's moral reputation. He would have been passed down to posterity as a dealer in wholesale scandal, who cared nothing for the wounded feelings of relatives. It is a trifle after that to add that he would frequently have been cudgelled.

This public judgment upon Dr. Johnson and these cudgellings would have been too severe a chastisement for the offences, which, after all, argued no heavier delinquency than a levity in examining his chance authorities, and a constitutional credulity. Dr. Johnson's easiness of faith for the supernatural, the grossness of his superstition in relation to such miserable impostures as the Cock Lane ghost, and its scratchings on the wall, flowed from the same source; and his conversation furnishes many proofs that he had no principle of resistance in his mind, no reasonable scepticism, when any disparaging anecdote was told about his nearest friends. Who but he would have believed the monstrous tale: that Garrick, so used to addressing large audiences extempore, so quick and lively in his apprehensions, had absolutely been dismissed from a court of justice as an idiot—as a man incapable of giving the court information even upon a question of his own profession? As to his credulity with respect to the somewhat harmless forgeries of Psalmanazer, and with respect to the villainous imposture of Lander, we imagine that other causes co-operated to those errors beyond mere facility of assenting. In the latter case we fear that jealousy of Milton as a scholar, a feeling from which he never cleansed himself, had been the chief cause of his so readily delivering himself a dupe to allegations not specious, backed by forgeries that were anything but ingenious. Dr. Johnson had a narrow[Pg 118] escape on that occasion. Had Dr. Douglas fastened upon him as the collusive abettor of Lander, as the man whose sanction had ever won even a momentary credit for the obscure libeller, and as the one beyond all others of the age whose critical occupation ought most to have secured him against such a delusion, the character of Johnson would have suffered seriously. Luckily, Dr. Douglas spared him; and Johnson, seeing the infamy of the hoax, and the precipice near which he stood, hastened to separate himself from Lander, and to offer such reparation as he could, by dictating that unhappy letter of recantation. Lander must have consented to this step from hopes of patronage; and perhaps the obscure place of slave-driver in the West Indies, in which he died (after recanting his recantation), might be the unsatisfactory bait of his needy ambition. But assuredly Lander could have made out a better case for himself than that which, under his name, the Doctor addressed to the Bishop; it was a dark spot in Dr. Johnson's life. A Scotsman, said he, must be a strange one who would not tell a falsehood in a case where Scotland was concerned; and we fear that any fable of defamation must have been gross indeed which Dr. Johnson would not have countenanced against Milton. His 'Life of Milton,' as it now stands, contains some of the grossest calumnies against that mighty poet which have ever been hazarded; and some of the deepest misrepresentations are coloured, to the unsuspecting reader, by an affectation of merriment. But in his 'heart of hearts' Dr. Johnson detested Milton. Gray, even though, as being little of a meddler with politics, he furnished no handle to the Doctor for wrath so unrelenting, was a subject of deep jealousy from his reputed scholarship. Never did the spite of the Doctor more[Pg 119] emblazon itself than in his review of Gray's lyrical compositions; the very affectation of prefacing his review by calling the two chief odes 'the wonderful wonder of wonders' betrays a female spite; and never did the arrogance of Dr. Johnson's nature flame out so conspicuously as in some of the phrases used on this occasion. Perhaps it is an instance of self-inflation absolutely unique where he says, 'My kindness for a man of letters'; this, it seems, caused him to feel pain at seeing Gray descending to what he, the Doctor (as a one-sided opinion of his own), held to be a fantastic foppery. The question we point at is not this supposed foppery—was it such or not? Milton's having cherished that 'foppery' was a sufficient argument for detesting it. What we fix the reader's eye upon is, the unparalleled arrogance of applying to Gray this extreme language of condescending patronage. He really had 'a kindness' for the little man, and was not ashamed, as some people would be, to own it; so that it shocked him more than else it would have done, to see the man disgracing himself in this way.

However, it is probable that all the misstatements of Dr. Johnson, the invidious impressions, and the ludicrous or injurious anecdotes fastened ad libitum upon men previously open to particular attacks, never will be exposed; and for this, amongst other reasons, that sometimes the facts of the case are irrecoverable, though falsehood may be apparent; and still more because few men will be disposed to degrade themselves by assuming a secondary and ministerial office in hanging upon the errors of any man. Pope was a great favourite with Dr. Johnson, both as an unreflecting Tory, who travelled the whole road to Jacobitism—thus far resembling the Doctor himself; secondly, as one who complimented[Pg 120] himself whilst yet a young man, and even whilst wearing a masque—complimented him under circumstances which make compliments doubly useful, and make them trebly sincere. If any man, therefore, he would have treated indulgently Pope: yet his life it is which has mainly fixed upon Pope that false impression which predominates at this day—that doubtless intellectually he was a very brilliant little man; but morally a spiteful, peevish, waspish, narrow-hearted cynic. Whereas no imputation can be more unfounded. Pope, unless in cases when he had been maddened by lampoons, was a most benignant creature; and, with the slightest acknowledgment of his own merit, there never lived a literary man who was so generously eager to associate others in his own honours—those even who had no adequate pretensions. If you, reader, should, like ourselves, have had occasion to investigate Pope's life, under an intention of recording it more accurately or more comprehensively than has yet been done, you will feel the truth of what we are saying. And especially we would recommend to every man, who wishes to think justly of Pope in this respect, that he should compare his conduct towards literary competitors with that of Addison. Dr. Johnson, having partially examined the lives of both, must have been so far qualified to do justice between them. But justice he has not done; and to him chiefly we repeat that at this day are owing the false impressions of Pope's selfish, ungenial, or misanthropic nature; and the humiliating associations connected with Pope's petty manœuvring in trivial domestic affairs, chiefly through Dr. Johnson's means, will never be obliterated. Let us turn, however, from Dr. Johnson, whom, with our general respect for his upright nature, it is painful to follow through circum[Pg 121]stances where either jealousy (as sometimes) or credulity and the love of gossip (as very often) has misled him into gratifying the taste of the envious at a great sacrifice of dignity to the main upholders of our literature. These men ought not to have been 'shown up' for a comic or malicious effect. A nation who value their literature as we have reason to value ours ought to show their sense of this value by forgetting the degrading infirmities (not the venial and human infirmities) of those to whose admirable endowments they owe its excellence.

Turning away, therefore, from those modes of biography which have hitherto pursued any vicious extreme, let us now briefly explain our own ideal of a happier, sounder, and more ennobling biographical art, having the same general objects as heretofore, but with a more express view to the benefit of the reader. Looking even at those memoirs which, like Hayley's of Cowper, have been checked by pathetic circumstances from fixing any slur or irreverential scandal upon their subject, we still see a great fault in the mass of biographic records; and what is it? It is—that, even where no disposition is manifested to copy either the éloge or the libellous pasquinade, too generally the author appears ex officio as the constant 'patronus' or legal advocate for the person recorded. And so he ought, if we understand that sort of advocacy which in English courts the judge was formerly presumed to exercise on behalf of the defendant in criminal trials. Before that remarkable change by which a prisoner was invested with the privilege of employing separate counsel, the judge was his counsel. The judge took care that no wrong was done to him; that no false impression was left with the jury; that the witnesses against him should not be suffered to run on[Pg 122] without a sufficient rigour of cross-examination. But certainly the judge thought it no part of his duty to make 'the worse appear the better reason'; to throw dust into the eyes of the jury; or to labour any point of equivocation for the sake of giving the prisoner an extra chance of escaping. And, if it is really right that the prisoner, when obviously guilty, should be aided in evading his probable conviction, then certainly in past times he had less than justice. For most undoubtedly no judge would have attempted what we all saw an advocate attempting about a year ago, that, when every person in court was satisfied of the prisoner's guilt, from the proof suddenly brought to light of his having clandestinely left the plate of his murdered victim in a particular party's safe keeping, at that moment the advocate (though secretly prostrated by this overwhelming discovery) struggled vainly to fix upon the honourable witness a foul stigma of self-contradiction and perjury for the single purpose of turning loose a savage murderer upon society. If this were not more than justice, then assuredly in all times past the prisoner had far less. Now, precisely the difference between the advocacy of the judge, and the advocacy of a special counsel retained by the prisoner, expresses the difference which we contemplate between the biographer as he has hitherto protected his hero and that biographer whom we would substitute. Is he not to show a partiality for his subject? Doubtless; but hitherto, in those lives which have been farthest from éloges, the author has thought it his duty to uphold the general system, polity, or principles upon which his subject has acted. Thus Middleton and all other biographers of Cicero, whilst never meditating any panegyrical account of that statesman, and oftentimes regret[Pg 123]ting his vanity, for instance, have quite as little thought it allowable to condemn the main political views, theories, and consequently actions, of Cicero. But why not? Why should a biographer be fettered in his choice of subjects by any imaginary duty of adopting the views held by him whose life he records? To make war upon the man, to quarrel with him in every page, that is quite as little in accordance with our notions; and we have already explained above our sense of its hatefulness. For then the question recurs for ever: What necessity forced you upon a subject whose conduct you thoroughly disapprove? But let him show the tenderness which is due to a great man even when he errs. Let him expose the total aberrations of the man, and make this exposure salutary to the pathetic wisdom of his readers, not alimentary to their self-conceit, by keeping constantly before their eyes the excellence and splendour of the man's powers in contrast with his continued failures. Let him show such patronage to the hero of his memoir as the English judge showed to the poor prisoner at his bar, taking care that he should suffer no shadow of injustice from the witnesses; that the prisoner's own self-defence should in no part be defeated of its effect by want of proper words or want of proper skill in pressing the forcible points on the attention of the jury; but otherwise leaving him to his own real merits in the facts of his case, and allowing him no relief from the pressure of the hostile evidence but such as he could find either in counter-evidence or in the intrinsic weight of his own general character. On the scheme of biography there would be few persons in any department of life who would be accompanied to the close by a bowing and obsequious reporter; there would be far less of uniform approbation presumable in memoirs;[Pg 124] but, on the other hand, there would be exhibited pretty generally a tender spirit of dealing with human infirmities; a large application of human errors to the benefit of succeeding generations; and, lastly, there would be an opening made for the free examination of many lives which are now in a manner closed against criticism; whilst to each separate life there would be an access and an invitation laid bare for minds hitherto feeling themselves excluded from approaching the subject by imperfect sympathy with the principles and doctrines which those lives were supposed to illustrate.

But our reformed view of biography would be better explained by a sketch applied to Cicero's life or to Milton's. In either case we might easily show, consistently with the exposure of enormous errors, that each was the wisest man of his own day. And with regard to Cicero in particular, out of his own letters to Atticus, we might show that every capital opinion which he held on the politics of Rome in his own day was false, groundless, contradictory. Yet for all that, we would engage to leave the reader in a state of far deeper admiration for the man than the hollow and hypocritical Middleton ever felt himself, or could therefore have communicated to his readers.

Editor's Note.—The reference on p. 122 is to the famous case of Courvoisier, in 1840, and this fixes 1841 as the date of the essay. Courvoisier was a valet who murdered and robbed his master, putting the plate into the care of an old woman, and making it appear a burglary. He was defended by a barrister named Philips, who received from the prisoner a confession of his guilt, and afterwards, in court, took Heaven to witness that he believed him innocent, though the woman, by accident almost, had been found, and given evidence. Philips was disbarred.


FOOTNOTES:

[17] In Mrs. Hannah More's drawing-room at Barley Wood, amongst the few pictures which adorned it, hung a kit-kat portrait of John Henderson. This, and our private knowledge that Mrs. H. M. had personally known and admired Henderson, led us to converse with that lady about him. What we gleaned from her in addition to the notices of Aguttar and of some amongst Johnson's biographers may yet see the light.


[Pg 125]

XIV. GREAT FORGERS: CHATTERTON AND WALPOLE, AND 'JUNIUS.'

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I have ever been disposed to regard as the most venial of deceptions such impositions as Chatterton had practised on the public credulity. Whom did he deceive? Nobody but those who well deserved to be deceived, viz., shallow antiquaries, who pretended to a sort of knowledge which they had not so much as tasted. And it always struck me as a judicial infatuation in Horace Walpole, that he, who had so brutally pronounced the death of this marvellous boy to be a matter of little consequence, since otherwise he would have come to be hanged for forgery, should himself, not as a boy under eighteen (and I think under seventeen at the first issuing of the Rowley fraud), slaving for a few guineas that he might procure the simplest food for himself, and then buy presents for the dear mother and sister whom he had left in Bristol, but as an elderly man, with a clear six thousand per annum,[18] commit a far more deliberate and audacious forgery than that imputed (if even accurately imputed) to Chatterton. I know of no published document, or none published under Chatterton's sanction, in which he formally declared the Rowley poems to have been the composi[Pg 126]tions of a priest living in the days of Henry IV., viz., in or about the year 1400. Undoubtedly he suffered people to understand that he had found MSS. of that period in the tower of St. Mary Redcliff at Bristol, which he really had done; and whether he simply tolerated them in running off with the idea that these particular poems, written on discoloured parchments by way of colouring the hoax, were amongst the St. Mary treasures, or positively said so, in either view, considering the circumstances of the case, no man of kind feelings will much condemn him.

But Horace Walpole roundly and audaciously affirmed in the first sentence of his preface to the poor romance of 'Otranto,' that it had been translated from the Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, and that the MS. was still preserved in the library of an English Catholic family; circumstantiating his needless falsehood by other most superfluous details. Needless, I say, because a book with the Walpole name on the title-page was as sure of selling as one with Chatterton's obscure name was at that time sure of not selling. Possibly Horace Walpole did not care about selling, but wished to measure his own intrinsic power as a novelist, for which purpose it was a better course to preserve his incognito. But this he might have preserved without telling a circumstantial falsehood. Whereas Chatterton knew that his only chance of emerging from the obscure station of a grave-digger's son, and carrying into comfort the dear female relatives that had half-starved themselves for him (I speak of things which have since come to my knowledge thirty-five years after Chatterton and his woes had been buried in a pauper's coffin), lay in bribing public attention by some extrinsic attraction. Macpherson had[Pg 127] recently engaged the public gaze by his 'Ossian'—an abortion fathered upon the fourth century after Christ. What so natural as to attempt other abortions—ideas and refinements of the eighteenth century—referring themselves to the fifteenth? Had this harmless hoax succeeded, he would have delivered those from poverty who delivered him from ignorance; he would have raised those from the dust who raised him to an aerial height—yes, to a height from which (but it was after his death), like Ate or Eris, come to cause another Trojan war, he threw down an apple of discord amongst the leading scholars of England, and seemed to say: 'There, Dean of Exeter! there, Laureate! there, Tyrwhitt, my man! Me you have murdered amongst you. Now fight to death for the boy that living you would not have hired as a shoeblack. My blood be upon you!' Rise up, martyred blood! rise to heaven for a testimony against these men and this generation, or else burrow in the earth, and from that spring up like the stones thrown by Deucalion and Pyrrha into harvests of feud, into armies of self-exterminating foes. Poor child! immortal child! Slight were thy trespasses on this earth, heavy was thy punishment, and it is to be hoped, nay, it is certain, that this disproportion did not escape the eye which, in the algebra of human actions, estimates both sides of the equation.

Lord Byron was of opinion that people abused Horace Walpole for several sinister reasons, of which the first is represented to be that he was a gentleman. Now, I, on the contrary, am of opinion that he was not always a gentleman, as particularly seen in his correspondence with Chatterton. On the other hand, it is but just to recollect that in retaining Chatterton's MSS. (otherwise an unfeeling act, yet chiefly imputable to indolence), the[Pg 128] worst aggravation of the case under the poor boy's construction, viz., that if Walpole had not known his low rank 'he would not have dared to treat him in that way,' though a very natural feeling, was really an unfounded one. Horace Walpole (I call him so, because he was not then Lord Orford) certainly had not been aware that Chatterton was other than a gentleman by birth and station. The natural dignity of the boy, which had not condescended to any degrading applications, misled this practised man of the world. But recurring to Lord Byron's insinuations as to a systematic design of running Lord Orford down, I beg to say that I am no party to any such design. It is not likely that a furious Conservative like myself, who have the misfortune also to be the most bigoted of Tories, would be so. I disclaim all participation in any clamour against Lord Orford which may have arisen on democratic feeling. Feeling the profoundest pity for the 'marvellous boy' of Bristol, and even love, if it be possible to feel love for one who was in his unhonoured grave before I was born, I resent the conduct of Lord Orford, in this one instance, as universally the English public has resented it. But generally, as a writer, I admire Lord Orford in a very high degree. As a letter-writer, and as a brilliant sketcher of social aspects and situations, he is far superior to any French author who could possibly be named as a competitor. And as a writer of personal or anecdotic history, let the reader turn to Voltaire's 'Siècle de Louis Quatorze,' in order to appreciate his extraordinary merit.


Next will occur to the reader the forgery of 'Junius.' Who did that? Oh, villains that have ever doubted since[Pg 129] '"Junius" Identified'! Oh, scamps—oh, pitiful scamps! You, reader, perhaps belong to this wretched corps. But, if so, understand that you belong to it under false information. I have heard myriads talk upon this subject. One man said to me, 'My dear friend, I sympathize with your fury. You are right. Righter a man cannot be. Rightest of all men you are.' I was right—righter—rightest! That had happened to few men. But again this flattering man went on, 'Yes, my excellent friend, right you are, and evidently Sir Philip Francis was the man. His backer proved it. The day after his book appeared, if any man had offered me exactly two thousand to one in guineas, that Sir Philip was not the man, by Jupiter! I would have declined the bet. So divine, so exquisite, so Grecian in its perfection, was the demonstration, the apodeixis (or what do you call it in Greek?), that this brilliant Sir Philip—who, by the way, wore his order of the Bath as universally as ever he taxed Sir William Draper with doing—had been the author of "Junius." But here lay the perplexity of the matter. At the least five-and-twenty excellent men proved by posthumous friends that they, every mother's son of them, had also perpetrated "Junius."' 'Then they were liars,' I answered. 'Oh no, my right friend,' he interrupted, 'not liars at all; amiable men, some of whom confessed on their death-beds (three to my certain knowledge) that, alas! they had erred against the law of charity. "But how?" said the clergyman. "Why, by that infernal magazine of sneers and all uncharitableness, the 'Letters of Junius.'" "Let me understand you," said the clergyman: "you wrote 'Junius'?" "Alas! I did," replied A. Two years after another clergyman said to another penitent, "And so you wrote 'Junius'?" "Too true,[Pg 130] my dear sir. Alas! I did," replied B. One year later a third penitent was going off, and upon the clergyman saying, "Bless me, is it possible? Did you write 'Junius'?" he replied, "Ah, worshipful sir, you touch a painful chord in my remembrances—I now wish I had not. Alas! reverend sir, I did." Now, you see,' went on my friend, 'so many men at the New Drop, as you may say, having with tears and groans taxed themselves with "Junius" as the climax of their offences, one begins to think that perhaps all men wrote "Junius."' Well, so far there was reason. But when my friend contended also that the proofs arrayed in pamphlets proved the whole alphabet to have written 'Junius,' I could not stand his absurdities. Death-bed confessions, I admitted, were strong. But as to these wretched pamphlets, some time or other I will muster them all for a field-day; I will brigade them, as if the general of the district were coming to review them; and then, if I do not mow them down to the last man by opening a treacherous battery of grape-shot, may all my household die under a fiercer Junius! The true reasons why any man fancies that 'Junius' is an open question must be these three:

First, that they have never read the proofs arrayed against Sir Philip Francis; this is the general case.

Secondly, that, according to Sancho's proverb, they want better bread than is made of wheat. They are not content with proofs or absolute demonstrations. They require you, like the witch of Endor, to raise Sir Philip from the grave, that they may cross-examine him.

Thirdly (and this is the fault of the able writer who unmasked Sir Philip), there happened to be the strongest argument that ever picked a Bramah-lock against the unknown writer of 'Junius'; apply this, and if it fits the[Pg 131] wards, oh, Gemini! my dear friend, but you are right—righter—rightest; you have caught 'Junius' in a rabbit-snare.

Editor's Note.—De Quincey is guilty of a slight lapse of memory in reference to 'The Castle of Otranto' and Onuphrio Muralto. It was not in the first sentence of the preface, but on the title-page, that Walpole so plainly attributed the work to another. The original title-page, which, of course, was dropped out when it became known to all the world that Walpole was the author, read thus: 'The Castle of Otranto: a Story. Translated by William Marshall, Gent. From the original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, Canon of the Church of St. Nicholas, at Otranto. London: printed for Thomas Lownds, in Fleet Street. 1765.'


FOOTNOTES:

[18] 'Six thousand per annum,' viz., on the authority of his own confession to Pinkerton.


[Pg 132]

XV. DANIEL O'CONNELL.

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With a single view to the intellectual pretensions of Mr. O'Connell, let us turn to his latest General Epistle, dated from 'Conciliation Hall,' on the last day of October. This is no random, or (to use a pedantic term) perfunctory document; not a document is this to which indulgence is due. By its subject, not less than by its address, it stands forth audaciously as a deliberate, as a solemn, as a national state paper; for its subject is the future political condition of Ireland under the assumption of Repeal; for its address is, 'To the People of Ireland.' So placing himself, a writer has it not within his choice to play the fool; it is not within his competence to tumble or 'come aloft' or play antics as a mountebank; his theme binds him to decency, his audience to gravity. Speaking, though it be but by the windiest of fictions, to a nation, is not a man pledged to respectful language? speaking, though it is but by a chimera as wild as Repeal to a question of national welfare, a man is pledged to sincerity. Had he seven devils of mockery and banter within him, for that hour he must silence them all. The foul fiend must be rebuked, though it were Mahu and Bohu who should prompt him to buffoonery, when standing at the bar of nations.

This is the law, this the condition, under which Mr.[Pg 133] O'Connell was speaking when he issued that recent address. Given such a case, similar circumstances presupposed, he could not evade the obligations which they impose. From such obligations there is no dispensation to be bought—no, not at Rome; from the obligations observe, and those obligations, we repeat, are—sincerity in the first place, and respectful or deferential language in the second. Such were the duties; now let us look to the performance. And that we may judge of that with more advantage for searching and appraising the qualities of this document, permit us to suggest three separate questions, the first being this: What was the occasion of the Address? Secondly, what was its ostensible object? Thirdly, what are the arguments by which, as its means, the paper travels towards that object?

First, as to the occasion of the Address. We have said that the date, viz., the 31st of October, is falsified. It was not dated on the 31st of October, but on or about the seventh day of November. Even that falsehood, though at first sight trivial, is enough for suspicion. If X, a known liar, utters a lie at starting, it is not for him to plead in mitigation the apparent uselessness of the lie, it is for us to presume out of the fact a use, where the fact exists. A leader in the French Revolution protested often against bloodshed and other atrocities—not as being too bad, but, on the contrary, as being too good, too precious to be wasted upon ordinary occasions. And, on the same principle, we may be sure that any habitual liar, who has long found the benefit of falsehoods at his utmost need, will have formed too profound a reverence for this powerful resource in a moment of perplexity ever to throw away a falsehood, or to squander upon a caprice of the moment that lie which, being seasonably employed,[Pg 134] might have saved him from confusion. The artist in lying is not the man to lie gratuitously. From the first, therefore, satisfied ourselves that there was a lurking motive—the key to this falsification of date—we paused to search it out. In that we found little difficulty. For what was the professed object of this Address? It was to meet and to overthrow two notions here represented as great popular errors. But why at this time? Wherefore all this heat at the present moment? Grant that the propositions denounced as erroneous were so in very deed, why should criminals standing under the shadow of public vengeance ready to descend, so childishly misuse the interval, mercifully allowed for their own defence, in reading lectures upon abstract political speculations, confessedly bearing no relation to any militant interest now in question? Quite as impertinent it would be, when called upon for the answer upon 'Guilty or not Guilty?' to read a section from the Council of Trent, or a rescript from Cardinal Bellarmine. Yet the more extravagant was the logic of this proceeding, the more urgent became the presumption of a covert motive, and that motive we soon saw to be this. Let the reader weigh it, and the good sense of the man who at such a moment could suffer such a motive to prevail. Thus it is: when Clontarf was intercepted, and implicitly, though not formally, all similar meetings were by that one act for ever prohibited, the first days of terror were naturally occupied with the panic of the conspirators, and in providing for their personal terrors. But when the dust of this great uproar began to settle, and objects again became distinguishable in natural daylight, the first consequence which struck the affrighted men of the conspiracy was the chilling effect of the Government policy upon the O'Connell rent;[Pg 135] not the weekly rent, applied nobody knows how, but the annual rent applied to Mr. O'Connell's private benefit. This was in jeopardy, and on the following argument: Originally this rent had been levied as a compensation to Mr. O'Connell in his character of Irish barrister—not for services rendered or to be rendered, but for current services continually being rendered in Parliament from session to session, for expenses incident to that kind of duty, and also as an indemnification for the consequent loss of fees at the Irish Bar. Yet now, in 1843, having ceased to attend his duty in Parliament, Mr. O'Connell could no longer claim to that senatorial character. Such a pretension would be too gross for the understanding even of a Connaught peasant. And in that there was a great loss. For the allegation of a Parliamentary warfare, under the vague idea of pushing forward good bills for Ireland, or retarding bad ones, had been a pleasant and easy labour to the parish priests. It was not necessary to horsewhip[19] their flocks too severely. If all was not clear to 'my children's' understanding, at least my children had no mutinous demur in a positive shape ready for service. Recusants there were, and sturdy ones, but they could put no face on their guilt, and their sin was not contagious. Unhappily, from this indefinite condition of merit Mr. O'Connell himself had translated his claim to a very distinct one founded upon a clear, known, absolute attempt to coerce the Government into passive collusion with prospective treason. This attempt, said the peasantry, will the Government stand, or will it [Pg 136]not? 'Why, then,' replied the Government, on the 17th of October, 'we will not.'

The aristocracy of Ireland may not have done their duty as regards the Repeal; it is too certain that they have not, because they have done nothing at all. But it is also certain that their very uttermost would have been unavailing for one principal object concerned. Other great objects, however, might have been attained. Foreign nations might have been disabused of their silly delusions on the Irish relations to England, although the Irish peasantry could not. The monstrous impression also upon many English and Scotch parties, that a general unity of sentiment prevailed in Ireland as to the desirableness of an independent Parliament—this, this, we say loudly, would have been dissipated, had every Irish county met by its gentry disavowing and abominating all sentiments tending towards a purpose so guilty as political disunion. Yet, in palliation of this most grievous failure, we, in the spirit of perfect candour, will remind our readers of the depressing effect too often attending one flagrant wound in any system of power or means. Let a man lose by a sudden blow—by fire, by shipwreck, or by commercial failure—a sum of twenty thousand pounds, that being four-fifths of his entire property, how often it is found that mere dejection of mind will incapacitate him from looking cheerfully after the remaining fifth! And this though it is now become far more essential to his welfare; and, secondly, upon a motion tending upwards and not downwards, he would have regarded five thousand pounds as a precious treasure worthy of his efforts, whether for protection or for improvement. Something analogous to this weighs down the hearty exertions of the Irish gentry. Met at the very[Pg 137] threshold, affronted at starting, by this insufferable tyranny of priestly interference—humiliated and stung to the heart by the consciousness that those natural influences which everywhere else settle indefeasibly upon property, are in Ireland intercepted, filched, violently robbed and pocketed by a body of professional nuisances sprung almost universally from paupers—thus disinherited of their primary rights, thus pillaged, thus shorn like Samson of those natural ornaments in which resided their natural strength, feeling themselves (like that same Samson in the language of Milton) turned out to the scorn of their countrymen as 'tame wethers' ridiculously fleeced and mutilated—they droop, they languish as to all public spirit; and whilst by temperament, by natural endowment, by continual intercourse with the noble aristocracy of Britain (from whom also they are chiefly descended), they should be amongst the leading chivalries of Europe, in very fact they are, for political or social purposes, the most powerless gentry in existence. Acting in a corporate capacity, they can do nothing. The malignant planet of this low-born priesthood comes between them and the peasantry, eclipsing oftentimes the sunshine of their comprehensive beneficence, and always destroying their power to discountenance[20] evil-doers. Here is the sad excuse. But, for all that, we must affirm that, if the Irish landed gentry do not yet come forward to retrieve the ground which they have forfeited by inertia, history will record them as passive colluders with the Dublin repealers. The evil is so operatively deep, [Pg 138]looking backward or forward, that we have purposely brought it forward in a second aspect, viz., as contrasted with the London press. For the one, as we have been showing, there is a strong plea in palliation; for the other there is none.

Let us be frank. This is what we affirm, that it was, it is, it will be hereafter, within the powers of the London press to have extinguished the Repeal or any similar agitation; they could have done this, and this they have not done. But let us also not be misunderstood. Do we say this in a spirit of disrespect? Are we amongst the parties who (when characterizing the American press) infamously say, 'Let us, however, look homewards to our own press, and be silent for very shame'? Are we the people to join the vicious correspondent of an evening paper whom but a week ago we saw denouncing the editor of the Examiner newspaper as a public nuisance, and recommending him as a fit subject of some degrading punishment, for no better reason than that he had exercised his undoubted right of exposing delinquencies or follies in a garrulous lord? Far be such vilenesses from us. We honour the press of this country. We know its constitution, and we know the mere impossibility (were it only from the great capital required) that any but men of honour and sensibilities and conspicuous talent, and men brilliantly accomplished in point of education, should become writers or editors of a leading journal, or indeed of any daily journal. Here and there may float in gurgite vasto some atrocious paper lending itself upon system to the villainies of private slander. But such a paper is sure to be an inconsiderable one in the mere sense of property, and therefore, by a logical consequence in our frame of society, every way inconsiderable—rising without effort,[Pg 139] sinking without notice. In fact, the whole staff and establishment of newspapers have risen in social consideration within our own generation; and at this moment not merely proprietors and editors, but reporters and other ministerial agents to these vast engines of civility, have all ascended in their superior orders to the highest levels of authentic responsibility.

We make these acknowledgments in the mere spirit of equity, and because we disdain to be confounded with those rash persons who talk glibly of a 'licentious press' through their own licentious ignorance. Than ignorance nothing is so licentious for rash saying or for obstinate denying. The British press is not licentious; neither in London nor in Edinburgh is it ever licentious; and there is much need that it should be otherwise, having at this time so unlimited a power over the public mind. But the very uprightness of the leading journalists, and all the other elements of their power, do but constitute the evil, do but aggravate the mischief, where they happen to go astray; yes, in every case where these journalists miss the narrow path of thoughtful prudence. They do miss it occasionally; they must miss it; and we contend that they have missed it at present. What they have done that they ought not to have done. Currency, buoyancy, they ought not to have impressed upon sedition, upon conspiracy, upon treason. Currency, buoyancy, they have impressed upon sedition, upon conspiracy, upon treason.

As to Mr. O'Connell himself, it is useless, and it argues some thick darkness of mind, to remonstrate or generally to address any arguments from whatsoever quarter, which either appeal to a sense of truth, which, secondly, manifest inconsistencies, or, thirdly, which argue therein a[Pg 140] tendency ruinous to himself. Let us think. Burke asserted of himself, and to our belief truly, that having at different periods set his face in different directions—now to the east, now to the west, now pointing to purposes of relaxation or liberality, now again to purposes of coercive and popular restraint—he had notwithstanding been uniform, if measured upon a higher scale. Transcending objects, coinciding neither instantly with the first, nor except by accident with the last, but indifferently aided by aristocratic forces or by democratic, shifting weights which sometimes called for accessories of gravity, sometimes for subtraction, mighty fluctuating wheels which sometimes needed flywheels to moderate or harmonize, sometimes needed concurrent wheels to urge or aggravate their impetus—these were the powers which he had found himself summoned to calculate, to check, to support, the vast algebraic equation of government; for this he had strengthened substantially by apparent contrarieties of policy; and in a system of watch-work so exquisite as to vary its fine balances eternally, eternally he had consulted by redressing the errors emergent, by varying the poise in order that he might not vary the equipoise, by correcting inequalities, or by forestalling extremes. That was a man of heroic build, and of him it might be said at his death, 'Truly this man was a son of Anak.' Now, of Mr. O'Connell a man might affirm something similar; that as with regard to Edmund Burke it is altogether useless to detect contradictions in form, seeing that he knows of this, that he justifies this, glories in this, vehemently demands praise for this contradiction, as all discord is harmony not understood, planned in the letter and overruled in the spirit; so may O'Connell say, 'Gentlemen, grubs, rep[Pg 141]tiles, vermin, trouble not yourselves to find out contradictions or discords in my conduct; vex not your slender faculties by arraying hosts of promises that defeat promises, or principles that destroy principles—you shall not need to labour; I will make you a present of three huge canisters laden and running over with the flattest denials in one breath of that which I affirmed in another. But, like Edmund Burke, I register my conduct by another table and by its final result. On the dial which you see, the hands point thus and thus; but upon a higher and transcendent dial these fingers do but precipitate or retard one gigantic hand, pointing always and monotonously to the unity of a perfect selfishness. The everlasting tacking in my course gives me often the air of retrograding and losing; but, in fact, these retrogressions are momentary, these losings of my object are no more than seeming, are still but the same stealthy creeping up under cover of frequent compliances with the breeze that happens to thwart me, towards the one eternal pole of my own self-interest; that is the pole-star which only never sets, and I flatter myself that amidst vast apparent wanderings or multiplied divergences there will be detected by the eye of the philosopher a consistency in family objects which is absolute, a divine unity of selfishness.'

This we do not question. But to will is not to do; and Mr. O'Connell, with a true loyalty to his one object of private aims, has not maintained the consistency of his policy. All men know that he has adventured within the limits of conspiracy; that could not be for his benefit. He has touched even the dark penumbra of treason; that could not but risk the sum of his other strivings. But he who has failed for himself in a strife so abso[Pg 142]lute, for that only must be distrusted by his countrymen.

Note by the Editor.—This article on O'Connell, written in the end of 1843, is printed, not on account of any political reference it might be presumed to have, but only because of its historical and literary interest. Apart from the light it may throw on De Quincey's leanings, as, in certain respects, distinctly in the direction of patriotic Toryism of the most rampant type, it may be of value as suggesting how essentially, in not a few points, the Irish question to-day remains precisely as it was in the time of O'Connell; and how the Tories of to-day are apt to view it from precisely the same plane as those of 1843. It might also be cited as another proof not only of De Quincey's very keen interest in all the leading questions of the time, but as an illustration of the John Bull warmth and heat which he, the dreamer, the recluse, the lover of abstract problems, could bring into such discussions. Here, at all events, his views were definite enough, and stated with a bold precision of English plainness that would have pleased the most pronouncedly Tory or Unionist newspaper editors of that day.


FOOTNOTES:

[19] 'To horsewhip,' etc. Let it not be said that this is any slander of ours; would that we could pronounce it a slander! But those who (like ourselves) have visited Ireland extensively know that the parish priest uses a horsewhip, in many circumstances, as his professional insigne.

[20] Look at Lord Waterford's case, in the very month of November, 1843. Is there a county in all England that would have tamely witnessed his expulsion from amongst them by fire, and by sword and by poison?


[Pg 143]

XVI. FRANCE PAST AND FRANCE PRESENT.

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To speak in the simplicity of truth, caring not for party or partisan, is not the France of this day, the France which has issued from that great furnace of the Revolution, a better, happier, more hopeful France than the France of 1788? Allowing for any evil, present or reversionary, in the political aspects of France, that may yet give cause for anxiety, can a wise man deny that from the France of 1840, under Louis Philippe of Orleans, ascends to heaven a report of far happier days from the sons and daughters of poverty than from the France of Louis XVI.? Personally that sixteenth Louis was a good king, sorrowing for the abuses in the land, and willing (at least, after affliction had sharpened his reflecting conscience), had that choice been allowed him, to have redeemed them by any personal sacrifice. But that was not possible. Centuries of misrule are not ransomed by an individual ruin; and had it been possible that the dark genius of his family, the same who once tolled funeral knells in the ears of the first Bourbon, and called him out as a martyr hurrying to meet his own sacrifice—could we suppose this gloomy representative of his family destinies to have met him in some solitary apartment of the Tuileries or Versailles, some twilight gallery of ancestral portraits, he could have met him with the purpose of raising the curtain from before the long series of his[Pg 144] household woes—from him the king would have learned that no personal ransom could be accepted for misgovernment so ancient. Leviathan is not so tamed. Arrears so vast imply a corresponding accountability, corresponding by its amount, corresponding by its personal subjects. Crown and people—all had erred; all must suffer. Blood must flow, tears must be shed through a generation; rivers of lustration must be thrown through that Augean accumulation of guilt.

And exactly there, it is supposed, lay the error of Burke; the compass of the penalty, the arch which it traversed, must bear some proportion to that of the evil which had produced it.

When I referred to the dark genius of the family who once tolled funeral knells in the ears of the first Bourbon, I meant, of course, the first who sat upon the throne of France, viz., Henri Quatre. The allusion is to the last hours of Henry's life, to the remarkable prophecies which foreran his death, to their remarkable fulfilment, and (what is more remarkable than all beside) to his self-surrender, in the spirit of an unresisting victim, to a bloody fate which he regarded as inexorably doomed. This king was not the good prince whom the French hold out to us; not even the accomplished, the chivalrous, the elevated prince to whom history points for one of her models. French and ultra-French must have been the ideal of the good or the noble to which he could have approximated in the estimate of the most thoughtless. He had that sort of military courage which was, and is, more common than weeds. In all else he was a low-minded man, vulgar in his thoughts, most unprincely in his habits. He was even worse than that: wicked, brutal, sensually cruel. And his wicked minister,[Pg 145] Sully, than whom a more servile mind never existed, illustrates in one passage his own character and his master's by the apology which he offers for Henry's having notoriously left many illegitimate children to perish of hunger, together with their too-confiding mothers. What? That in the pressure of business he really forgot them. Famine mocked at last the deadliest offence. His own innocent children, up and down France, because they were illegitimate, their too-confiding mothers, because they were weak and friendless by having for his sake forfeited the favour of God and man, this amiable king had left to perish of hunger. They did perish; mother and infant. A cry ascended against the king. Even in sensual France such atrocities could not utterly sink to the ground. But what says the apologetic minister? Astonished that anybody could think of abridging a king's license in such particulars, he brushes away the whole charge as so much ungentlemanly impertinence, disdaining any further plea than the pressure of business, which so naturally accounted for the royal inattention or forgetfulness in these little affairs. Observe that this pressure of business never was such that the king could not find time for pursuing these intrigues and multiplying these reversions of woe. What enormities! A king (at all times of Navarre, and for half his life of France) suffers his children to die of hunger, consigns their mothers to the same fate, but aggravated by remorse and by the spectacle of their perishing infants! These clamours could not penetrate to the Louvre, but they penetrated to a higher court, and were written in books from which there is no erasure allowed. So much for the vaunted 'generosity' of Henry IV. As to another feature of the chivalrous[Pg 146] character, elegance of manners, let the reader consult the report of an English ambassador, a man of honour and a gentleman, Sir George Carew. It was published about the middle of the last century by the indefatigable Birch, to whom our historic literature is so much indebted, and it proves sufficiently that this idol of Frenchmen allowed himself in habits so coarse as to disgust the most creeping of his own courtiers; such that even the blackguards of a manly nation would revolt from them as foul and self-dishonouring. Deep and permanent is the mischief wrought in a nation by false models; and corresponding is the impression, immortal the benefit, from good ones. The English people have been the better for their Alfred, that pathetic ideal of a good king, through a space of now nearly a thousand years. The French are the worse to this hour in consequence of Francis I. and Henry IV. And note this, that even the spurious merit of the two French models can be sustained only by disguises, by suppressions, by elaborate varnishings; whereas the English prince is offered to our admiration with a Scriptural simplicity and a Scriptural fidelity, not as some gay legend of romance, some Telemachus of Fénelon, but as one who had erred, suffered, and had been purified; as a shepherd that had gone astray, and saw that through his transgressions the flock also had been scattered.


[Pg 147]

XVII. ROME'S RECRUITS AND ENGLAND'S RECRUITS.

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Two facts on which a sound estimate of the Roman corn-trade depends are these: first, the very important one, that it was not Rome in the sense of the Italian peninsula which relied upon foreign corn, but in the narrowest sense Rome the city; as respected what we now call Lombardy, Florence, Genoa, etc., Rome did not disturb the ancient agriculture. The other fact offers, perhaps, a still more important consideration. Rome was latterly a most populous city—we are disposed to agree with Lipsius, that it was four times as populous as most moderns esteem—most certainly it bore a higher ratio to the total Italy than any other capital (even London) has since borne to the territory over which it presided. Consequently it will be argued that in such a ratio must the foreign importations of Rome, even in the limited sense of Rome the city, have operated more destructively upon the domestic agriculture. Grant that not Italy, but Rome, was the main importer of foreign grain, still, if Rome to all Italy were as one to four in population, which there is good reason to believe it was, then even upon that distinction it will be insisted that the Roman importation crushed one-fourth of the native[Pg 148] agriculture. Now, this we deny. Some part of the African and Egyptian grain was but a substitution for the Sardinian, and so far made no difference to Italy in ploughs, but only in denarii. But the main consideration of all is, that the Italian grain was not withdrawn from the vast population of Rome—this is not the logic of the case—no; on the contrary, the vast population of Rome arose and supervened as a consequence upon the opening of the foreign Alexandrian corn trade. It was not Rome that quirted the home agriculture. Rome, in the full sense, never would have existed without foreign supplies. If, therefore, Rome, by means of foreign grain, rose from four hundred thousand heads to four millions, then it follows that (except as to the original demand for the four hundred thousand) not one plough was disused in Italy that ever had been used. Whilst, even with regard to the original demand of the four hundred thousand, by so much of the Egyptian grain as had been a mere substitution for Sardinian no effect whatever could have followed to Italian agriculture.

Here, therefore, we see the many limitations which arise to the modern doctrine upon the destructive agricultural consequences of the Roman corn trade. Rome may have prevented the Italian agriculture from expanding, but she could not have caused it to decline.[21] Now, let us see how far this Roman corn trade affected the Roman recruiting service. It is alleged that agriculture declined under the foreign corn trade, and that for this reason [Pg 149]ploughmen declined. But if we have shown cause for doubting whether agriculture declined, or only did not increase, then we are at liberty to infer that ploughmen did not decline, but only did not increase. Even of the real and not imaginary ploughmen at any time possessed by Italy, too many in the south were slaves, and therefore ineligible for the legionary service, except in desperate intestine struggles like the Social war or the Servile. Rome could not lose for her recruiting service any ploughmen but those whom she had really possessed; nor out of those whom really she possessed any that were slaves; nor out of those whom (not being slaves) she might have used for soldiers could it be said that she was liable to any absolute loss except as to those whom ordinarily she did use as soldiers, and preferred to use in circumstances of free choice.

These points premised, we go on to say that no craze current amongst learned men has more deeply disturbed the truth of history than the notion that 'Marsi' and 'Peligni,' or other big-boned Italian rustics, ever by choice constituted the general or even the favourite recruiting fund of the Roman republic. In thousands of books we have seen it asserted or assumed that the Romans triumphed so extensively chiefly because their armies were composed of Roman or kindred blood. This is false. Not the material, but the military system, of the Romans was the true key to their astonishing successes. In the time of Hannibal a Roman consul relied chiefly, it is true, upon Italian recruits, because he could seldom look for men of other blood. And it is possible enough that the same man, Fabius or Marcellus, if he had been sent abroad as a proconsul, might find his choice even then in what formerly had been his necessity.[Pg 150] In some respects it is probable that the Italian rustic of true Italian blood was at that period the best raw material[22] easily procured for the legionary soldier. But circumstances altered; as the range of war expanded to the East it became far too costly to recruit in Italy; nor, if it had been less costly, could Italy have supplied the waste. Above all, with the advantages of the Roman military system, no particular physical material was required for making good soldiers. For these reasons it was that, after the Levant was permanently occupied by the Romans, where any legion had been originally stationed there it continued to be stationed, and there it was recruited, and, unless in some rare emergency of a critical war arising at a distance, there it was so continually recruited, that in the lapse of a generation it contained hardly any Roman or Italian blood in its composition, like the Attic ship which had been repaired with cedar until it retained no fragment of its original oak. Thus, the legion stationed at Antioch became entirely Syrian; that stationed at Alexandria, Grecian, Jewish, and, in a separate sense, Alexandrine. Cæsar, it is notorious, raised one entire legion of Gauls (distinguished by the cognizance upon the helmet of the lark, whence [Pg 151]commonly called the legion of the Alauda). But he recruited all his legions in Gaul. In Spain the armies of Assanius and Petreius, who surrendered to Cæsar under a convention, consisted chiefly of Spaniards (not Hispanienses, or Romans born in Spain, but Hispani, Spaniards by blood); at Pharsalia a large part of Cæsar's army were Gauls, and of Pompey's it is well known that many even amongst the legions contained no Europeans at all, but (as Cæsar seasonably reminded his army) consisted of vagabonds from every part of the East. From all this we argue that S.P.Q.R. did not depend latterly upon native recruiting. And, in fact, they did not need to do so; their system and discipline would have made good soldiers out of mop-handles, if (like Lucian's magical mop-handles) they could only have learned to march and to fill buckets with water at the word of command.

We see, too, the secret power and also the secret political wisdom of Christianity in another instance. Those public largesses of grain, which, in old Rome, commenced upon principles of ambition and of factious encouragement to partisans, in the new Rome of Constantinople were propagated for ages under the novel motive of Christian charity to paupers. This practice has been condemned by the whole chorus of historians who fancy that from this cause the domestic agriculture languished, and that a bounty was given upon pauperism. But these are reveries of literary men. That particular section of rural industry which languished in Italy, did so by a reaction from rent in the severe modern sense. The grain imported from Sardinia, from Africa the province, and from Egypt, was grown upon soils less costly, because with equal cost more productive.[Pg 152] The effect upon Italy from bringing back any considerable portion of this provincial corn-growth[23] to her domestic districts would have been suddenly to develop rent upon a large series of evils, and to load the provincial grain as well as the home-grown—the cheap provincial as well as the dear home-grown—with the whole difference of these new costs. Neither is the policy of the case at all analogous to our own at the moment. In three circumstances it differs essentially:

First, provinces are not foreigners; colonies are not enemies. An exotic corn-trade could not for Rome do the two great injuries which assuredly it would do for England; it could not transfer the machinery of opulence to a hostile and rival state; it could not invest a jealous competitor with power suddenly to cut off supplies that had grown into a necessity, and thus to create in one month a famine or an insurrection. Egypt had neither the power nor any prospect of the power to act as an independent state towards Rome; the transfer to Egypt of the Roman agriculture, supposing it to have been greater than it really was, could have operated but like a transfer from Norfolk to Yorkshire.

Secondly, as respected Italy, the foreign grain [Pg 153]did not enter the same markets as the native. Either one or the other would have lost its advantage, and the natural bounty which it enjoyed from circumstances, by doing so. Consequently the evils of an artificial scale, where grain raised under one set of circumstances fixes or modifies the price for grain raised under a different set of circumstances, were unknown in the Italian markets. But these evils by a special machinery, viz., the machinery of good and bad seasons, are aggravated for a modern state intensely, whenever she depends too much upon alien stores; and specifically they are aggravated by the fact that both grains enter the same market, so that the one by too high a price is encouraged unreasonably, the other by the same price (too low for opposite circumstances) is depressed ruinously as regards coming years; whence in the end two sets of disturbances—one set frequently from the present seasons, and a second set from the way in which these are made to act upon the future markets.

Thirdly, the Roman corn-trade did not of necessity affect her military service injuriously, and for this reason, that rural economy did not of necessity languish because agriculture languished locally; some other culture, as of vineyards, oliveta, orchards, pastures, replaced the declining culture of grain; if ploughmen were fewer, other labourers were more. It is forgotten, besides, that the decline of Italian agriculture, never more than local, was exceedingly gradual; for two hundred and fifty years before the Christian era Italy never had depended exclusively upon herself. Sardinia and Sicily, at her own doors, were her granaries; consequently the change never had been that abrupt change which modern writers imagine.[Pg 154]

But let us indulge in the luxury of confirming what we have said by the light of contrast. Suppose the circumstances changed, suppose them reversed, and then all those evil consequence sought to take effect which in the case of Rome we have denied. Now, it happened that they were reversed; not, indeed, for Rome, who had been herself ruined as metropolis of the West before the effects of a foreign corn-dependence could unfold themselves, but for her daughter and rival in the East. Early in the seventh century, near to the very crisis of the Hegira (which dates from the Christian year 622), Constantinople, Eastern Rome, suddenly became acquainted with the panic of famine. In one hour perhaps this change fell upon the imperial city, and, but for the imperial granaries, not the panic of famine, but famine itself, would have surprised the imperial city; for the suddenness of the calamity would have allowed no means of searching out or raising up a relief to it. At that time the greatest man who ever occupied the chair of the Eastern Cæsars, viz., Heraclius,[24] was at the head of affairs. But the perplexity was such that no man could face it. On the one hand Constantine, the founder of this junior Rome, had settled upon the houses of the city a claim for a weekly dimensum of grain. Upon this they relied; so that doubly the Government stood pledged—first, for the importation of corn that should be sufficient; secondly, for its distribution upon terms as near to those of Constantine as possible. But, on the other hand, Persia [Pg 155](the one great stationary enemy of the empire) had in the year 618 suddenly overrun Egypt; grain became deficient on the banks of the Nile—had it even been plentiful, to so detested an enemy it would have been denied—and thus, without a month's warning, the supply, which had not failed since the inauguration of the city in 330, ceased in one week. The people of this mighty city were pressed by the heaviest of afflictions. The emperor, under false expectations, was tempted into making engagements which he could not keep; the Government, at a period which otherwise and for many years to come was one of awful crisis, became partially insolvent; the shepherd was dishonoured, the flocks were ruined; and had that Persian armament which about ten years later laid siege to Constantinople then stood at her gates, the Cross would have been trampled on by the fire-worshipping idolater, and the barbarous Avar would have desolated the walls of the glorified Cæsar who first saw Christ marching in the van of Roman armies. Such an iliad of woes would have expanded itself seriatim, and by a long procession, from the one original mischief of depending for daily bread upon those who might suddenly become enemies or tools of enemies. England! read in the distress of that great Cæsar,[25] who [Pg 156]may with propriety be called the earliest (as he was the most prosperous) of Crusaders, read in the internal struggle of his heart—too conscious that dishonour had settled upon his purple—read in the degradations which he traversed as some fiery furnace (yet not unsinged), the inevitable curses which await nations who sacrifice, for a momentary convenience of bread, sacrifice for a loaf, the charter of their supremacy! This is literally to fulfil [Pg 157]the Scriptural case of selling a birthright for a mess of pottage.

For England we may say of this case—Transeat in exemplum!

Great Britain, on the contrary, is limited in her recruiting-grounds by modern political relations as respects Europe: she has formed an excellent foreign corps long ago in the Mediterranean; a Hessian corps in America; an admirable Hanoverian legion during the late war. But circumstances too often prevent her relying (as the Romans did) on the perfection of her military system so far as to dispense with native materials; except, indeed, in the East, where the Roman principle is carried out to the widest extent, needing only one-tenth of British by way of model and inspiration under circumstances of peculiar trial! In African stations also, in the West Indies and on the American continent (as in Honduras), England proceeds (though insufficiently) upon this fine Roman principle, making her theory, her discipline, and the network of her rules do the work of her own too costly hands. She, like Rome, finds the benefit of her fine system chiefly in the dispensation which it facilitates from working with any exhaustible fund of means. Excellent must be that workmanship which can afford to be careless about its materials; yet still—where naturally and essentially it must be said that materiem superabat opus, because one section of our martial service moves by nautical soldiers, and with respect to the other half because it is necessary to meet European troops by men of British blood—we cannot, for European purposes, look to any other districts than our own native officinæ of population. The Life Guards (1st regiment) and the Blues (2nd) recruit chiefly, or did so thirty years ago, in York[Pg 158]shire. This is a manufacturing county, though in a mode of manufacturing which escapes many evils of the factory system. And generally we are little disposed pedantically to disparage towns as funds of a good soldiery. Men of mighty bone and thews, sons of Anak, to our own certain knowledge, arise in Kendal, Wakefield, Bradford and Leeds; huge men, by thousands, amongst the spinners and weavers of Glasgow, Paisley, etc., well able to fight their way through battalions of clod-hoppers whose talk is of oxen. But, unless in times subject to special distress, it is not so easy to tempt away the weaver from his loom as the delver from his spade. We believe the reason to be, that the monotony of a rustic life is more oppressive to those who have limited resources than the corresponding monotony of a town life. For this reason, and for many others, it is certain—and perhaps (unless we get to fighting with steam-men) it will continue to be certain through centuries—that, for the main staple of her armies and her navies, England must depend upon the quality of her bold peasantry and noble yeomanry; for we must remember that, of those huge-limbed men who are found in the six northern counties of England and in the Scottish Lowlands, of those elegantly-formed men who are found in Devonshire, Cornwall, etc., of those hardy men (a feature in human physics still more important) who are found in every district—if many are now resident in towns, most of them originated in rustic life; and from rustic life it is that the reservoir of towns is permanently fed. Rome was, England never will be, independent of her rural population. Rome never had a yeomanry, Rome never had a race of country gentlemen; England has both upon a scale so truly noble that it will be the simplest[Pg 159] expression of that nobility to say, pointing to our villages, 'Behold the cradle of our army!' as inversely to say, pointing to that army: 'Behold the manhood of our villages!' As regards Rome, from the bisection of the Roman territory into two several corn districts depending upon a separate agriculture, it results that her wealth could not be defeated and transferred; secondly, it results from the total subjection of Egypt, that no embargo could be laid on the harvests of the Nile, and no famine could be organized against Rome; thirdly, it results that the Roman military system was thus not liable to be affected by any dependency upon foreign grain. On the argument that this dependency had always been proceeding gradually in Italy, so as virtually to reimburse itself by vicarious culture, whereas in England the transition from independency to dependency, being accomplished (if at all) in one day by Act of Parliament, would be ruinously abrupt; and also on the argument B, that Rome, if slowly losing any recruiting districts at home, found compensatory districts all round the Mediterranean, whilst England could find no such compensatory districts—we deny that the circumstances of the Roman corn trade have ever been stated truly; and we expect the thanks of our readers for drawing their attention to this outline of the points which essentially differenced it from the modern corn trade of England. England must, but Rome could not, reap from a foreign corn dependency: firstly, ruinous disturbance to the natural expansions of her wealth; secondly, famine by intervals for her vast population; thirdly, impoverishment to her recruiting service. These are the dreadful evils (some uniform, some contingent) which England would inherit of her native agriculture, but which Rome escaped under that[Pg 160] partial transfer, never really accomplished. Meantime, let the reader remember that it is Rome, and not England—Rome historically, not England politically—which forms the object of our exposure. England is but the means of the illustration.

In our own days wars in their ebbs and flows are but another name for the resources of the national exchequer, or expressions of its artificial facilities for turning those resources to account. The great artifice of anticipation applied to national income—an artifice sure to follow where civilization has expanded, and which would have arisen to Rome had her civilization been either (A) completely developed, or (B) expanded originally from a true radix—has introduced a new era into national history. The man who, having had property, invests in the Funds, and divides between his grandchildren and the five subsequent generations what will yield them subsistence, is the author of an expansive improvement which has been enjoyed by all in turn, and with more fixed assurance in the last case than in the first. He is a public benefactor in more ways than appears on the surface: he takes the most efficient guarantees against needless wars.

Captain Jenkins's ears[26] might have been redeemed at a less price; but still the war taught a lesson, which, if avoidable at that instant, was certainly blamable; but it had its use in enforcing on other nations the conviction that England washed out insult with retribution, and for every drop of blood wantonly spilt demanded an ocean in return. Perhaps you will say this was no great improvement on the old. No; not in appearance, it may be; but that was because war had to open a field which mere [Pg 161]diplomacy, unsupported by the sword, could not open, and secured what we may well call a moral result in the eye of the whole world, which diplomacy could not secure in our guilty Europe. But was that, you ask, a condition to be contemplated with complete satisfaction? No; nor is it right that it should. But the dawn of a new era is approaching, for which that may have done its instalment of preparation. Not that war will cease for many generations, but that it will continually move more in greater subjection to national laws and Christian opinion. Nevermore will it be excited by mere court intrigue, or even by ministerial necessities. No more will a quarrel between two ladies about a pair of gloves, or a fit of ill-temper in a prince toward his minister, call forth the dread scourge by way of letting off personal irritation or redressing the balance of parties.

Funding, therefore, was a great step in advance; and even already we have only to look into the Exchequer in order to read the possibilities, the ebbs and flows of war beforehand. This consideration of money, it is true—even as the sinews of war—was not so great in ancient history. And the reason is evident. Kings did not then go to war by money, but for money. They did not look into the Exchequer for the means of a campaign, but they looked into a campaign for the means of an Exchequer. Yet even in these nations, more of their history, of their doings and sufferings, lay in their economy than anywhere else. The great Oriental phantoms, such as the Pharaohs and the Sargons, did, it is true, bring nations to war without much more care for the commissariat department than is given in the battles of the Kites and Daws. Yet even there the political economy made itself felt, obscurely and indirectly it may be, but really and[Pg 162] effectively, acting by laws that varied their force rather to the eye than to the understanding, and presented indeed a final restraining force to these kings also. For examine these wars, fabulous as they are; look into the when, the whence, the how; into the duration of the campaigns, into their objects, and into the quality of the troops, into the circumstances under which they were trained and fought, and this will abundantly appear.

Certainly, the commissariat which we do by foresight, they did by brute efforts of power; but the leading economical laws which are now clear to us, and which, with full perception of their inevitable operation, we take into account, made themselves felt in the last result if only then blindly realized; and in the fact that these laws are now clearly apprehended lies the prevailing reason that modern wars must, on the side alike of the commissariat and of social effects in various directions, be widely different from war in ancient times.

FOOTNOTES:

[21] One pretended proof of a decline is found in the supposed substitution of slave labour for free Italian labour. This began, it is urged, on the opening of the Nile corn trade. Unfortunately, that is a mere romance. Ovid, describing rural appearances in Italy when as yet the trade was hardly in its infancy, speaks of the rustic labourer as working in fetters. Juvenal, in an age when the trade had been vastly expanded, notices the same phenomenon almost in the same terms.

[22] 'The best raw material.' Some people hold that the Romans and Italians were a cowardly nation. We doubt this on the whole. Physically, however, they were inferior to their neighbours. It is certain that the Transalpine Gauls were a conspicuously taller race. Cæsar says: 'Gallis, præ magnitudine corporum quorum, brevitas nostra contemptui est' ('Bell. Gall.' 2, 30 fin.); and the Germans, in a still higher degree, were both larger men and every way more powerful. The kites, says Juvenal, had never feasted on carcases so huge as those of the Cimbri and Teutones. But this physical superiority, though great for special purposes, was not such absolutely. For the more general uses of the legionary soldier, for marching, for castrametation, and the daily labours of the spade or mattock, a lighter build was better. As to single combats, it was one effect from the Roman (as from every good) discipline—that it diminished the openings for such showy but perilous modes of contest.

[23] 'Any considerable portion of this provincial corn growth,' i.e., of the provincial culture which was pursued on account of Rome, meaning not the government of Rome, but, in a rigorous sense, on account of Rome the city. For here lies a great oversight of historians and economists. Because Rome, with a view to her own privileged population, i.e., the urban population of Rome, the metropolis, in order that she might support her public distributions of grain, almost of necessity depended on foreign supplies, we are not to suppose that the great mass of Italian towns and municipia did so. Maritime towns, having the benefit of ports or of convenient access, undoubtedly were participators in the Roman advantage. But inland towns would in those days have forfeited the whole difference between foreign and domestic grain by the enormous cost of inland carriage. Of canals there was but one; the rivers were not generally navigable, and ports as well as river shipping were wanting.

[24] 'Heraclius.' The same prosodial fault affects this name as that of Alexandria. In each name the Latin i represents a Greek ei, and in that situation (viz., as a penultimate syllable) should receive the emphasis in pronunciation as well as the sound of a long i (that sound which is heard in Longinus). So again Academia, not Academia. The Greek accentuation may be doubted, but not the Roman.

[25] We have already said that Heraclius, who and whose family filled the throne of Eastern Cæsar for exactly one hundred years (611-711), consequently interesting in this way (if in no other), that he, as the reader will see by considering the limits in point of time, must have met and exhausted the first rage of the Mahometan avalanche, merits according to our estimate the title of first and noblest amongst the Oriental Cæsars. There are records or traditions of his earliest acts that we could wish otherwise. Which of us would not offend even at this day, if called upon to act under one scale of sympathies, and to be judged under another? In his own day, too painfully we say it, Heraclius could not have followed what we venture to believe the suggestions of his heart, in relation to his predecessor, because a policy had been established which made it dangerous to be merciful, and a state of public feeling which made it effeminate to pardon. First make it safe to permit a man's life, before you pronounce it ignoble to authorize his death. Strip mercy of ruin to its author, before you affirm upon a judicial punishment of death (as then it was) cruelty in the adviser or ignobility in the approver. Escaping from these painful scenes at the threshold of his public life, we find Heraclius preparing for a war, the most difficult that in any age any hero has confronted. We call him the earliest of Crusaders, because he first and literally fought for the recovery of the Cross. We call him the most prosperous of Crusaders, because he first—he last—succeeded in all that he sought, bringing back to Syria (ultimately to Constantinople) that sublime symbol of victorious Christianity which had been disgracefully lost at Jerusalem. Yet why, when comparing him not with Crusaders, but with Cæsars, do we pronounce him the noblest? Reader, which is it that is felt by a thoughtful man—supposing him called upon to select one act by preference before all others—to be the grandest act of our own Wellesley? Is it not the sagacious preparation of the lines at Torres Vedras, the self-mastery which lured the French on to their ruin, the long-suffering policy which reined up his troops till that ruin was accomplished? 'I bide my time,' was the dreadful watchword of Wellington through that great drama; in which, let us tell the French critics on Tragedy, they will find the most absolute unity of plot; for the forming of the lines as the fatal noose, the wiling back the enemy, the pursuit when the work of disorganization was perfect, all were parts of one and the same drama. If he (as another Scipio) saw another Zama, in this instance he was not our Scipio or Marcellus, but our Fabius Maximus:

'Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem.'—'Ann.' 8, 27.

Now, such was the Emperor Heraclius. He also had his avenging Zama. But, during a memorable interval of eleven years, he held back; fiercely reined up his wrath; brooded; smiled often balefully; watched in his lair; and then, when the hour had struck, let slip his armies and his thunderbolts as no Cæsar had ever done, except that one who founded the name of Cæsar.

[26] A brutal outrage on a Captain Jenkins—i.e., cutting off his ears—was the cause of a war with Spain in the reign of George II.—Ed.


[Pg 163]

XVIII. NATIONAL MANNERS AND FALSE JUDGMENT OF THEM.

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Anecdotes illustrative of manners, above all of national manners, will be found on examination, in a far larger proportion than might be supposed, rank falsehoods. Malice is the secret foundation of all anecdotes in that class. The ordinary course of such falsehoods is, that first of all some stranger and alien to those feelings which have prompted a particular usage—incapable, therefore, of entering fully into its spirit or meaning—tries to exhibit its absurdity more forcibly by pushing it into an extreme or trying case. Coming himself from some gross form of Kleinstädtigkeit, where no restraints of decorum exist, and where everybody speaks to everybody, he has been utterly confounded by the English ceremony of 'introduction,' when enforced as the sine quâ non condition of personal intercourse. If England is right, then how clownishly wrong must have been his own previous circles! If England is not ridiculously fastidious, then how bestially grovelling must be the spirit of social intercourse in his own land! But no man reconciles himself to this view of things in a moment. He kicks even against his own secret convictions. He blushes with shame and anger at the thought of his own family perhaps[Pg 164] brought suddenly into collision with polished Englishmen; he thrills with wrath at the recollection of having himself trespassed upon this code of restriction at a time when he was yet unwarned of its existence. In this temper he is little qualified to review such a regulation with reason and good sense. He seeks to make it appear ridiculous. He presses it into violent cases for which it was never intended. He supposes a case where some fellow-creature is drowning. How would an Englishman act, how could he act, even under such circumstances as these? We know, we who are blinded by no spite, that as a bar to personal communication or to any interchange of good offices under appeals so forcible as these, this law of formal presentation between the parties never did and never will operate. The whole motive to such a law gives way at once.


[Pg 165]

XIX. INCREASED POSSIBILITIES OF SYMPATHY
IN THE PRESENT AGE.

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Some years ago I had occasion to remark that a new era was coming on by hasty strides for national politics, a new organ was maturing itself for public effects. Sympathy—how great a power is that! Conscious sympathy—how immeasurable! Now, for the total development of this power, time is the most critical of elements. Thirty years ago, when the Edinburgh mail took ninety-six hours in its transit from London, how slow was the reaction of the Scottish capital upon the English! Eight days for the diaulos[27] of the journey, and two, suppose, for getting up a public meeting, composed a cycle of ten before an act received its commentary, before a speech received its refutation, or an appeal its damnatory answer. What was the consequence? The sound was disconnected from its echo, the kick was severed from the recalcitration, the 'Take you this!' was unlinked from the 'And take you that!' Vengeance was defeated, and sympathy dissolved into the air. But now mark the [Pg 166]difference. A meeting on Monday in Liverpool is by possibility reported in the London Standard of Monday evening. On Tuesday, the splendid merchant, suppose his name were Thomas Sands, who had just sent a vibration through all the pulses of Liverpool, of Manchester, of Warrington, sees this great rolling fire (which hardly yet has reached his own outlying neighbourhoods) taken up afar off, redoubled, multiplied, peal after peal, through the vast artilleries of London. Back comes rolling upon him the smoke and the thunder—the defiance to the slanderer and the warning to the offender—groans that have been extorted from wounded honour, aspirations rising from the fervent heart—truth that had been hidden, wisdom that challenged co-operation.

And thus it is that all the nation, thus 'all that mighty heart,' through nine hundred miles of space, from Sutherlandshire by London to the myrtle climate of Cornwall, has become and is ever more becoming one infinite harp, swept by the same breeze of sentiment, reverberating the same sympathies

'Here, there, and in all places at one time.'[28]

Time, therefore, that ancient enemy of man and his frail purposes, how potent an ally has it become in combination with great mechanic changes! Many an imperfect hemisphere of thought, action, desire, that could not heretofore unite with its corresponding hemisphere, because separated by ten or fourteen days of suspense, now moves electrically to its integration, hurries to its complement, realizes its orbicular perfection, spherical completion, through that simple series of improvements [Pg 167]which to man have given the wings and talaria of Gods, for the heralds have dimly suggested a future rivalship with the velocities of light, and even now have inaugurated a race between the child of mortality and the North Wind.

FOOTNOTES:

[27] 'The diaulos of the journey.' We recommend to the amateur in words this Greek phrase, which expresses by one word an egress linked with its corresponding regress, which indicates at once the voyage outwards and the voyage inwards, as the briefest of expressions for what is technically called 'course of post,' i.e., the reciprocation of post, its systole and diastole.

[28] Wordsworth.


[Pg 168]

XX. THE PRINCIPLE OF EVIL.

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We are not to suppose the rebel, or, more properly, corrupted angels—the rebellion being in the result, not in the intention (which is as little conceivable in an exalted spirit as that man should prepare to make war on gravitation)—were essentially evil. Whether a principle of evil—essential evil—anywhere exists can only be guessed. So gloomy an idea is shut up from man. Yet, if so, possibly the angels and man were nearing it continually.

Possibly after a certain approach to that Maelstrom recall might be hopeless. Possibly many anchors had been thrown out to pick up, had all dragged, and last of all came to the Jewish trial. (Of course, under the Pagan absence of sin, a fall was impossible. A return was impossible, in the sense that you cannot return to a place which you have never left. Have I ever noticed this?) We are not to suppose that the angels were really in a state of rebellion. So far from that, it was evidently amongst the purposes of God that what are called false Gods, and are so in the ultimate sense of resting on tainted principles and tending to ruin—perhaps irretrievable (though it would be the same thing practically if no restoration were possible but through vast æons of unhappy incarnations)—but otherwise were as[Pg 169] real as anything can be into whose nature a germ of evil has entered, should effect a secondary ministration of the last importance to man's welfare. Doubt there can be little that without any religion, any sense of dependency, or gratitude, or reverence as to superior natures, man would rapidly have deteriorated; and that would have tended to such destruction of all nobler principles—patriotism (strong in the old world as with us), humanity, ties of parentage or neighbourhood—as would soon have thinned the world; so that the Jewish process thus going on must have failed for want of correspondencies to the scheme—possibly endless oscillations which, however coincident with plagues, would extirpate the human race. We may see in manufacturing neighbourhoods, so long as no dependency exists on masters, where wages show that not work, but workmen, are scarce, how unamiable, insolent, fierce, are the people; the poor cottagers on a great estate may sometimes offend you by too obsequious a spirit towards all gentry. That was a transition state in England during the first half of the eighteenth century, when few manufacturers and merchants had risen to such a generous model. But this leaves room for many domestic virtues that would suffer greatly in the other state. Yet this is but a faint image of the total independency. Oaths were sacred only through the temporal judgments supposed to overtake those who insulted the Gods by summoning them to witness a false contract. But this would have been only part of the evil. So long as men acknowledged higher natures, they were doubtful about futurity. This doubt had little strength on the side of hope, but much on the side of fear. The blessings of any future state were cheerless and insipid mockeries; so Achilles—how he bemoans his state! But the tor[Pg 170]ments were real. By far more, however, they, through this coarse agency of syllogistic dread, would act to show man the degradation of his nature when all light of a higher existence had disappeared. That which did not exist for natures supposed capable originally of immortality, how should it exist for him? And that man must have observed with little attention what takes place in this world if he needs to be told that nothing tends to make his own species cheap and hateful in his eyes so certainly as moral degradation driven to a point of no hope. So in squalid dungeons, in captivities of slaves, nay, in absolute pauperism, all hate each other fiercely. Even with us, how sad is the thought—that, just as a man needs pity, as he is stript of all things, when most the sympathy of men should settle on him, then most is he contemplated with a hard-hearted contempt! The Jews when injured by our own oppressive princes were despised and hated. Had they raised an empire, licked their oppressors well, they would have been compassionately loved. So lunatics heretofore; so galley-slaves—Toulon, Marseilles, etc. This brutal principle of degradation soon developed in man. The Gods, therefore, performed a great agency for man. And it is clear that God did not discourage common rites or rights for His altar or theirs. Nay, he sent Israel to Egypt—as one reason—to learn ceremonies amongst a people who sequestered them. In evil the Jews always clove to their religion. Next the difficulty of people, miracles, though less for false Gods, and least of all for the meanest, was alike for both. Astarte does not kill Sayth on the spot, but by a judgment. Gods, no more their God, spake an instant law. Even the prophets are properly no prophets, but only the mode of speech by God,—as clear as He can speak. Men[Pg 171] mistake God's hate by their own. So neither could He reveal Himself. A vast age would be required for seeing God.

But for the thought of man as evil (or of any other form of evil), as reconcilable with their idea of a perfect God, a happy idea may, like the categories, proceed upon a necessity for a perfect inversion of the methodus conspiciendi. Let us retrace, but in such a form as to be apprehensible by all readers. Analytic and synthetic propositions at once throw light upon the notion of a category. Once it had been a mere abstraction; of no possible use except as a convenient cell for referring (as in a nest of boxes), which may perhaps as much degrade the idea as a relative of my own degraded the image of the crescent moon by saying, in his abhorrence of sentimentality, that it reminded him of the segment from his own thumb-nail when clean cut by an instrument called a nail-cutter. This was the Aristotelian notion. But Kant could not content himself with this idea. His own theory (1) as to time and space, (2) the refutation of Hume's notion of cause, and (3) his own great discovery of synthetic and analytic propositions, all prepared the way for a totally new view. But, now, what is the origin of this necessity applied to the category as founded in the synthesis? How does a synthesis make itself or anything else necessary? Explain me that.

This was written perhaps a fortnight ago. Now, Monday, May 23 (day fixed for Dan Good's execution), I do explain it by what this moment I seem to have discovered—the necessity of cause, of substance, etc., lies in the intervening synthesis. This you must pass through in the course tending to and finally reaching the idea; for the analytical presupposes this synthesis.[Pg 172]

Not only must the energies of destruction be equal to those of creation, but, in fact, perhaps by the trespassing a little of the first upon the last, is the true advance sustained; for it must be an advance as well as a balance. But you say this will but in other words mean that forces devoted (and properly so) to production or creation are absorbed by destruction. True; but the opposing phenomena will be going on in a large ratio, and each must react on the other. The productive must meet and correspond to the destructive. The destructive must revise and stimulate the continued production.


[Pg 173]

XXI. ON MIRACLES.

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What else is the laying of such a stress on miracles but the case of 'a wicked and adulterous generation asking a sign'?

But what are these miracles for? To prove a legislation from God. But, first, this could not be proved, even if miracle-working were the test of Divine mission, by doing miracles until we knew whether the power were genuine; i.e., not, like the magicians of Pharaoh or the witch of Endor, from below. Secondly, you are a poor, pitiful creature, that think the power to do miracles, or power of any kind that can exhibit itself in an act, the note of a god-like commission. Better is one ray of truth (not seen previously by man), of moral truth, e.g., forgiveness of enemies, than all the powers which could create the world.

'Oh yes!' says the objector; 'but Christ was holy as a man.' This we know first; then we judge by His power that He must have been from God. But if it were doubtful whether His power were from God, then, until this doubt is otherwise, is independently removed, you cannot decide if He was holy by a test of holiness absolutely irrelevant. With other holiness—apparent holiness—a simulation might be combined. You can never[Pg 174] tell that a man is holy; and for the plain reason that God only can read the heart.

'Let Him come down from the cross, and we,' etc. Yes; they fancied so. But see what would really have followed. They would have been stunned and confounded for the moment, but not at all converted in heart. Their hatred to Christ was not built on their unbelief, but their unbelief in Christ was built on their hatred; and this hatred would not have been mitigated by another (however astounding) miracle. This I wrote (Monday morning, June 7, 1847) in reference to my saying on the general question of miracles: Why these dubious miracles?—such as curing blindness that may have been cured by a process?—since the unity given to the act of healing is probably (more probably than otherwise) but the figurative unity of the tendency to mythus; or else it is that unity misapprehended and mistranslated by the reporters. Such, again, as the miracles of the loaves—so liable to be utterly gossip, so incapable of being watched or examined amongst a crowd of 7,000 people. Besides, were these people mad? The very fact which is said to have drawn Christ's pity, viz., their situation in the desert, surely could not have escaped their own attention on going thither. Think of 7,000 people rushing to a sort of destruction; for if less than that the mere inconvenience was not worthy of Divine attention. Now, said I, why not give us (if miracles are required) one that nobody could doubt—removing a mountain, e.g.? Yes; but here the other party begin to see the evil of miracles. Oh, this would have coerced people into believing! Rest you safe as to that. It would have been no believing in any proper sense: it would, at the utmost—and supposing no vital demur to[Pg 175] popular miracle—have led people into that belief which Christ Himself describes (and regrets) as calling Him Lord! Lord! The pretended belief would have left them just where they were as to any real belief in Christ. Previously, however, or over and above all this, there would be the demur (let the miracle have been what it might) of, By what power, by whose agency or help? For if Christ does a miracle, probably He may do it by alliance with some Z standing behind, out of sight. Or if by His own skill, how or whence derived, or of what nature? This obstinately recurrent question remains.

There is not the meanest court in Christendom or Islam that would not say, if called on to adjudicate the rights of an estate on such evidence as the mere facts of the Gospel: 'O good God, how can we do this? Which of us knows who this Matthew was—whether he ever lived, or, if so, whether he ever wrote a line of all this? or, if he did, how situated as to motives, as to means of information, as to judgment and discrimination? Who knows anything of the contrivances or the various personal interests in which the whole narrative originated, or when? All is dark and dusty.' Nothing in such a case can be proved but what shines by its own light. Nay, God Himself could not attest a miracle, but (listen to this!)—but by the internal revelation or visiting of the Spirit—to evade which, to dispense with which, a miracle is ever resorted to.

Besides the objection to miracles that they are not capable of attestation, Hume's objection is not that they are false, but that they are incommunicable. Two different duties arise for the man who witnesses a miracle and for him who receives traditionally. The duty of the first is to confide in his own experience, which may,[Pg 176] besides, have been repeated; of the second, to confide in his understanding, which says: 'Less marvel that the reporter should have erred than that nature should have been violated.'

How dearly do these people betray their own hypocrisy about the divinity of Christianity, and at the same time the meanness of their own natures, who think the Messiah, or God's Messenger, must first prove His own commission by an act of power; whereas (1) a new revelation of moral forces could not be invented by all generations, and (2) an act of power much more probably argues an alliance with the devil. I should gloomily suspect a man who came forward as a magician.

Suppose the Gospels written thirty years after the events, and by ignorant, superstitious men who have adopted the fables that old women had surrounded Christ with—how does this supposition vitiate the report of Christ's parables? But, on the other hand, they could no more have invented the parables than a man alleging a diamond-mine could invent a diamond as attestation. The parables prove themselves.


[Pg 177]

XXII. 'LET HIM COME DOWN FROM THE CROSS.'

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Now, this is exceedingly well worth consideration. I know not at all whether what I am going to say has been said already—life would not suffice in every field or section of a field to search every nook and section of a nook for the possibilities of chance utterance given to any stray opinion. But this I know without any doubt at all, that it cannot have been said effectually, cannot have been so said as to publish and disperse itself; else it is impossible that the crazy logic current upon these topics should have lived, or that many separate arguments should ever for very shame have been uttered. Said or not said, let us presume it unsaid, and let me state the true answer as if de novo, even if by accident somewhere the darkness shelters this same answer as uttered long ago.

Now, therefore, I will suppose that He had come down from the Cross. No case can so powerfully illustrate the filthy falsehood and pollution of that idea which men generally entertain, which the sole creditable books universally build upon. What would have followed? This would have followed: that, inverting the order of every true emanation from God, instead of growing and expanding for ever like a <, it would have attained[Pg 178] its maximum at the first. The effect for the half-hour would have been prodigious, and from that moment when it began to flag it would degrade rapidly, until, in three days, a far fiercer hatred against Christ would have been moulded. For observe: into what state of mind would this marvel have been received? Into any good-will towards Christ, which previously had been defeated by the belief that He was an impostor in the sense that He pretended to a power of miracles which in fact He had not? By no means. The sense in which Christ had been an impostor for them was in assuming a commission, a spiritual embassy with appropriate functions, promises, prospects, to which He had no title. How had that notion—not, viz., of miraculous impostorship, but of spiritual impostorship—been able to maintain itself? Why, what should have reasonably destroyed the notion? This, viz., the sublimity of His moral system. But does the reader imagine that this sublimity is of a nature to be seen intellectually—that is, insulated and in vacuo for the intellect? No more than by geometry or by a sorites any man constitutionally imperfect could come to understand the nature of the sexual appetite; or a man born deaf could make representable to himself the living truth of music, a man born blind could make representable the living truth of colours. All men are not equally deaf in heart—far from it—the differences are infinite, and some men never could comprehend the beauty of spiritual truth. But no man could comprehend it without preparation. That preparation was found in his training of Judaism; which to those whose hearts were hearts of flesh, not stony and charmed against hearing, had already anticipated the first outlines of Christian ideas. Sin, purity, holiness unimaginable,[Pg 179] these had already been inoculated into the Jewish mind. And amongst the race inoculated Christ found enough for a central nucleus to His future Church. But the natural tendency under the fever-mist of strife and passion, evoked by the present position in the world operating upon robust, full-blooded life, unshaken by grief or tenderness of nature, or constitutional sadness, is to fail altogether of seeing the features which so powerfully mark Christianity. Those features, instead of coming out into strong relief, resemble what we see in mountainous regions where the mist covers the loftiest peaks.

We have heard of a man saying: 'Give me such titles of honour, so many myriads of pounds, and then I will consider your proposal that I should turn Christian.' Now, survey—pause for one moment to survey—the immeasurable effrontery of this speech. First, it replies to a proposal having what object—our happiness or his? Why, of course, his: how are we interested, except on a sublime principle of benevolence, in his faith being right? Secondly, it is a reply presuming money, the most fleshly of objects, to modify or any way control religion, i.e., a spiritual concern. This in itself is already monstrous, and pretty much the same as it would be to order a charge of bayonets against gravitation, or against an avalanche, or against an earthquake, or against a deluge. But, suppose it were not so, what incomprehensible reasoning justifies the notion that not we are to be paid, but that he is to be paid for a change not concerning or affecting our happiness, but his?


[Pg 180]

XXIII. IS THE HUMAN RACE ON THE DOWN GRADE?

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As to individual nations, it is matter of notoriety that they are often improgressive. As a whole, it may be true that the human race is under a necessity of slowly advancing; and it may be a necessity, also, that the current of the moving waters should finally absorb into its motion that part of the waters which, left to itself, would stagnate. All this may be true—and yet it will not follow that the human race must be moving constantly upon an ascending line, as thus:

        B
       /
      /
     /
    /
   /
  /
 A

nor even upon such a line, with continual pauses or rests interposed, as thus:

[Pg 181]

p196a

where there is no going back, though a constant interruption to the going forward; but a third hypothesis is possible: there may be continual loss of ground, yet so that continually the loss is more than compensated, and the total result, for any considerable period of observation, may be that progress is maintained:

p196b

At O, by comparison with the previous elevation at A, there is a repeated falling back; but still upon the whole, and pursuing the inquiry through a sufficiently large segment of time, the constant report is—ascent.

Upon this explanation it is perfectly consistent with a general belief in the going forward of man—that this particular age in which we live might be stationary, or might even have gone back. It cannot, therefore, be upon any à priori principle that I maintain the superiority of this age. It is, and must be upon special examination, applied to the phenomena of this special age. The last[Pg 182] century, in its first thirty years, offered the spectacle of a death-like collapse in the national energies. All great interests suffered together. The intellectual power of the country, spite of the brilliant display in a lower element, made by one or two men of genius, languished as a whole. The religious feeling was torpid, and in a degree which insured the strong reaction of some irritating galvanism, or quickening impulse such as that which was in fact supplied by Methodism. It is not with that age that I wish to compare the present. I compare it with the age which terminated thirty years ago—roused, invigorated, searched as that age was through all its sensibilities by the electric shock of the French Revolution. It is by comparison with an age so keenly alive, penetrated by ideas stirring and uprooting, that I would compare it; and even then the balance of gain in well-calculated resource, fixed yet stimulating ideals, I hold to be in our favour—and this in opposition to much argument in an adverse spirit from many and influential quarters. Indeed, it is a remark which more than once I have been led to make in print: that if a foreigner were to inquire for the moral philosophy, the ethics, and even for the metaphysics, of our English literature, the answer would be, 'Look for them in the great body of our Divinity.' Not merely the more scholastic works on theology, but the occasional sermons of our English divines contain a body of richer philosophical speculation than is elsewhere to be found; and, to say the truth, far more instructive than anything in our Lockes, Berkeleys, or other express and professional philosophers. Having said this by way of showing that I do not overlook their just pretensions, let me have leave to notice a foible in these writers which is not merely somewhat ludicrous, but even seriously[Pg 183] injurious to truth. One and all, through a long series of two hundred and fifty years, think themselves called upon to tax their countrymen—each severally in his own age—with a separate, peculiar, and unexampled guilt of infidelity and irreligion. Each worthy man, in his turn, sees in his own age overt signs of these offences not to be matched in any other. Five-and-twenty periods of ten years each may be taken, concerning each of which some excellent writer may be cited to prove that it had reached a maximum of atrocity, such as should not easily have been susceptible of aggravation, but which invariably the relays through all the subsequent periods affirm their own contemporaries to have attained. Every decennium is regularly worse than that which precedes it, until the mind is perfectly confounded by the Pelion upon Ossa which must overwhelm the last term of the twenty-five. It is the mere necessity of a logical sorites, that such a horrible race of villains as the men of the twenty-fifth decennium ought not to be suffered to breathe. Now, the whole error arises out of an imbecile self-surrender to the first impressions from the process of abstraction as applied to remote objects. Survey a town under the benefit of a ten miles' distance, combined with a dreamy sunshine, and it will appear a city of celestial palaces. Enter it, and you will find the same filth, the same ruins, the same disproportions as anywhere else. So of past ages, seen through the haze of an abstraction which removes all circumstantial features of deformity. Call up any one of those ages, if it were possible, into the realities of life, and these worthy praisers of the past would be surprised to find every feature repeated which they had fancied peculiar to their own times. Meanwhile this erroneous doctrine of sermons has a double ill con[Pg 184]sequence: first, the whole chain of twenty-five writers, when brought together, consecutively reflect a colouring of absurdity upon each other; separately they might be endurable, but all at once, predicating (each of his own period exclusively) what runs with a rolling fire through twenty-five such periods in succession, cannot but recall to the reader that senseless doctrine of a physical decay in man, as if man were once stronger, broader, taller, etc.—upon which hypothesis of a gradual descent why should it have stopped at any special point? How could the human race have failed long ago to reach the point of zero? But, secondly, such a doctrine is most injurious and insulting to Christianity. If, after eighteen hundred years of development, it could be seriously true of Christianity that it had left any age or generation of men worse in conduct, or in feeling, or in belief, than all their predecessors, what reasonable expectation could we have that in eighteen hundred years more the case would be better? Such thoughtless opinions make Christianity to be a failure.


[Pg 185]

XXIV. BREVIA: SHORT ESSAYS (IN CONNECTION
WITH EACH OTHER.
)

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1.—Paganism and Christianity—the Ideas of Duty and Holiness.

The Pagan God could have perfect peace with his votary, and yet could have no tendency to draw that votary to himself. Not so with the God of Christianity, who cannot give His peace without drawing like a vortex to Himself, who cannot draw into His own vortex without finding His peace fulfilled.

'An age when lustre too intense.'—I am much mistaken if Mr. Wordsworth is not deeply wrong here. Wrong he is beyond a doubt as to the fact; for there could have been no virtual intensity of lustre (unless merely as a tinsel toy) when it was contradicted by everything in the manners, habits, and situations of the Pagan Gods—they who were content to play in the coarsest manner the part of gay young bloods, sowing their wild oats, and with a recklessness of consequences to their female partners never by possibility rivalled by men. I believe and affirm that lustre the most dazzling and blinding would not have any ennobling effect except as received into a matrix of previous unearthly and holy type.[Pg 186]


As to Bacchus being eternally young, the ancients had no idea or power to frame the idea of eternity. Their eternity was a limitary thing. And this I say not empirically, but à priori, on the ground that without the idea of holiness and unfleshliness, eternity cannot rise buoyant from the ground, cannot sustain itself. But waive this, and what becomes of the other things? If he were characteristically distinguished as young, then, by a mere rebound of the logic, the others were not so honoured, else where is the special privilege of Bacchus?


'And she shall sing there as in the days of her youth' (Hosea ii. 15).—The case of pathos, a person coming back to places, recalling the days of youth after a long woe, is quite unknown to the ancients—nay, the maternal affection itself, though used inevitably, is never consciously reviewed as an object of beauty.


Duties arise everywhere, but—do not mistake—not under their sublime form as duties. I claim the honour to have first exposed a fallacy too common: duties never did, never will, arise save under Christianity, since without it the sense of a morality lightened by religious motive, aspiring to holiness, not only of act, but of motive, had not before it even arisen. It is the pressure of society, its mere needs and palpable claims, which first calls forth duties, but not as duties; rather as the casting of parts in a scenical arrangement. A duty, under the low conception to which at first it conforms, is a rôle, no more; it is strictly what we mean when we talk of a part. The sense of conscience strictly is not touched under any preceding system of religion. It is the daughter of Christianity. How little did Wordsworth[Pg 187] seize the fact in his Ode: 'Stern Daughter of the Voice of God' is not enough; the voice of God is the conscience; and neither has been developed except by Christianity.


The conscience of a pagan was a conscience pointing to detection: it pointed only to the needs of society, and caused fear, shame, anxiety, only on the principles of sympathy; that is, from the impossibility of releasing himself from a dependence on the reciprocal feelings—the rebound, the dependence on the resentments of others.


Morals.—Even ordinary morals could have little practical weight with the ancients: witness the Roman juries and Roman trials. Had there been any sense of justice predominant, could Cicero have hoped to prevail by such defences as that of Milo and fifty-six others, where the argument is merely fanciful—such a Hein-gespinst as might be applauded with 'very good!' 'bravo!' in any mock trial like that silly one devised by Dean Swift.


The slowness and obtuseness of the Romans to pathos appears à priori in their amphitheatre, and its tendency to put out the theatre; secondly, à posteriori, in the fact that their theatre was put out; and also, à posteriori, in the coarseness of their sensibilities to real distresses unless costumed and made sensible as well as intelligible. The grossness of this demand, which proceeded even so far as pinching to elicit a cry, is beyond easy credit to men of their time.


The narrow range of the Greek intellect, always revolving through seven or eight centuries about a few[Pg 188] memorable examples—from the Life of Themistocles to Zeno or Demosthenes.


The Grecian glories of every kind seem sociable and affable, courting sympathy. The Jewish seem malignantly αυταρκεις.


But just as Paganism respected only rights of action, possession, etc., Christianity respects a far higher scale of claims, viz., as to the wounds to feelings, to deep injury, though not grounded in anything measurable or expoundable by external results. Man! you have said that which you were too proud and obstinate to unsay, which has lacerated some heart for thirty years that had perhaps secretly and faithfully served you and yours. Christianity lays hold on that as a point of conscience, if not of honour, to make amends, if in no other way, by remorse.


As to the tears of Œdipus in the crises. I am compelled to believe that Sophocles erred as regarded nature; for in cases so transcendent as this Greek nature and English nature could not differ. In the great agony on Mount Œta, Hercules points the pity of his son Hyllus to the extremity of torment besieging him on the humiliating evidence of the tears which they extorted from him. 'Pity me,' says he, 'that weep with sobs like a girl: a thing that no one could have charged upon the man' (pointing to himself); 'but ever without a groan I followed out to the end my calamities.' Now, on the contrary, on the words of the oracle, that beckoned away with impatient sounds Œdipus from his dear sublime Antigone, Œdipus is made to weep.[Pg 189]

But this is impossible. Always the tears arose, and will arise, on the relaxation of the torment and in the rear of silent anguish on its sudden suspense, amidst a continued headlong movement; and also, in looking back, tears, unless checked, might easily arise. But never during the torment: on the rack there are no tears shed, and those who suffered on the scaffold never yet shed tears, unless it may have been at some oblique glance at things collateral to their suffering, as suppose a sudden glimpse of a child's face which they had loved in life.


Is not every αιων of civilization an inheritance from a previous state not so high? Thus, e.g., the Romans, with so little of Christian restraint, would have perished by reaction of their own vices, but for certain prejudices and follies about trade, manufacture, etc., and but for oil on their persons to prevent contagion. Now, this oil had been, I think, a secret bequeathed from some older and higher civilization long since passed away. We have it not, but neither have we so much needed it. Soon, however, we shall restore the secret by science more perfect.


Was Christianity meant to narrow or to widen the road to future happiness? If I were translated to some other planet, I should say:

1. No; for it raised a far higher standard—ergo, made the realization of this far more difficult.

2. Yes; for it introduced a new machinery for realizing this standard: (first) Christ's atonement, (second) grace.


But, according to some bigots (as Jeremy Taylor and Sir Thomas Browne), as cited by Coleridge, Christianity[Pg 190] first opened any road at all. Yet, surely they forget that, if simply to come too early was the fatal bar to their claims in the case, Abraham, the father of the faithful, could not benefit.


Yesterday, Thursday, October 21 (1843), I think, or the day before, I first perceived that the first great proof of Christianity is the proof of Judaism, and the proof of that lies in the Jehovah. What merely natural man capable of devising a God for himself such as the Jewish?


Of all eradications of this doctrine (of human progress), the most difficult is that connected with the outward shows—in air, in colouring, in form, in grouping of the great elements composing the furniture of the heavens and the earth. It is most difficult, even when confining one's attention to the modern case, and neglecting the comparison with the ancient, at all to assign the analysis of those steps by which to us Christians (but never before) the sea and the sky and the clouds and the many inter-modifications of these, A, B, C, D, and again the many interactions of the whole, the sun (S.), the moon (M.), the noon (N. S.)—the breathless, silent noon—the gay afternoon—the solemn glory of sunset—the dove-like glimpse of Paradise in the tender light of early dawn—by which these obtain a power utterly unknown, undreamed of, unintelligible to a Pagan. If we had spoken to Plato—to Cicero—of the deep pathos in a sunset, would he—would either—have gone along with us? The foolish reader thinks, Why, perhaps not, not altogether as to the quantity—the degree of emotion.[Pg 191] Doubtless, it is undeniable that we moderns have far more sensibility to the phenomena and visual glories of this world which we inhabit. And it is possible that, reflecting on the singularity of this characteristic badge worn by modern civilization, he may go so far as to suspect that Christianity has had something to do with it. But, on seeking to complete the chain which connects them, he finds himself quite unable to recover the principal link.

Now, it will prove, after all, even for myself who have exposed and revealed these new ligatures by which Christianity connects man with awful interests in the world, a most insurmountable task to assign the total nidus in which this new power resides, or the total phenomenology through which that passes to and fro. Generally it seems to stand thus: God reveals Himself to us more or less dimly in vast numbers of processes; for example, in those of vegetation, animal growth, crystallization, etc. These impress us not primarily, but secondarily on reflection, after considering the enormity of changes worked annually, and working even at the moment we speak. Then, again, other arrangements throw us more powerfully upon the moral qualities of God; e.g., we see the fence, the shell, the covering, varied in ten million ways, by which in buds and blossoms He insures the ultimate protection of the fruit. What protection, analogous to this, has He established for animals; or, taking up the question in the ideal case, for man, the supreme of His creatures? We perceive that He has relied upon love, upon love strengthened to the adamantine force of insanity or delirium, by the mere aspect of utter, utter helplessness in the human infant. It is not by power, by means visibly developed,[Pg 192] that this result is secured, but by means spiritual and 'transcendental' in the highest degree.


The baseness and incorrigible ignobility of the Oriental mind is seen in the radical inability to appreciate justice when brought into collision with the royal privileges of rulers that represent the nation. Not only, for example, do Turks, etc., think it an essential function of royalty to cut off heads, but they think it essential to the consummation of this function that the sacrifice should rest upon caprice known and avowed. To suppose it wicked as a mere process of executing the laws would rob it of all its grandeur. It would stand for nothing. Nay, even if the power were conceded, and the sovereign should abstain from using it of his own free will and choice, this would not satisfy the wretched Turk. Blood, lawless blood—a horrid Moloch, surmounting a grim company of torturers and executioners, and on the other side revelling in a thousand unconsenting women—this hideous image of brutal power and unvarnished lust is clearly indispensable to the Turk as incarnating the representative grandeur of his nation. With this ideal ever present to the Asiatic and Mohammedan mind, no wonder that even their religion needs the aid of the sword and bloodshed to secure conversion.


In the Spectator is mentioned, as an Eastern apologue, that a vizier who (like Chaucer's Canace) had learned the language of birds used it with political effect to his sovereign. The sultan had demanded to know what a certain reverend owl was speechifying about to another owl distantly related to him. The vizier listened, and reported that the liberal old owl was making a settle[Pg 193]ment upon his daughter, in case his friend's son should marry her, of a dozen ruined villages. Loyally long life to our noble sultan! I shall, my dear friend, always have a ruined village at your service against a rainy day, so long as our present ruler reigns and desolates.


Obliviscor jam injurias tuas, Clodia.—This is about the most barefaced use of the rhetorical trick—viz., to affect not to do, to pass over whilst actually doing all the while—that anywhere I have met with.—'Pro Cælio,' p. 234 [p. 35, Volgraff's edition].


Evaserint and comprehenderint.—Suppose they had rushed out, and suppose they had seized Licinus. So I read—not issent.Ibid., p. 236 [Ibid., p. 44].


Velim vel potius quid nolim dicere.—Aristotle's case of throwing overboard your own property. He vult dicere, else he could not mean, yet nonvult, for he is shocked at saying such things of Clodia.—Ibid., p. 242 [Ibid., p. 49].[Pg 194]

2.—MORAL AND PRACTICAL.

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Morality.—That Paley's principle does not apply to the higher morality of Christianity is evident from this: when I seek to bring before myself some ordinary form of wickedness that all men offend by, I think, perhaps, of their ingratitude. The man born to £400 a year thinks nothing of it, compares himself only with those above his own standard, and sees rather a ground of discontent in his £400 as not being £4,000 than any ground of deep thankfulness. Now, this being so odious a form of immorality, should—by Paley—terminate in excessive evil. On the contrary, it is the principle, the very dissatisfaction which God uses for keeping the world moving (how villainous the form—these 'ings'!).


All faith in the great majority is, and ought to be, implicit. That is, your faith is not unrolled—not separately applied to each individual doctrine—but is applied to some individual man, and on him you rely. What he says, you say; what he believes, you believe. Now, he believes all these doctrines, and you implicitly through him. But what I chiefly say as the object of this note is, that the bulk of men must believe by an implicit faith. Ergo, decry it not.


You delude yourself, Christian theorist, with the idea[Pg 195] of offences that else would unfit you for heaven being washed out by repentance. But hearken a moment. Figure the case of those innumerable people that, having no temptation, small or great, to commit murder, would have committed it cheerfully for half-a-crown; that, having no opening or possibility for committing adultery, would have committed it in case they had. Now, of these people, having no possibility of repentance (for how repent of what they have not done?), and yet ripe to excess for the guilt, what will you say? Shall they perish because they might have been guilty? Shall they not perish because the potential guilt was not, by pure accident, accomplished in esse?


Here is a mistake to be guarded against. If you ask why such a man, though by nature gross or even Swift-like in his love of dirty ideas, yet, because a gentleman and moving in corresponding society, does not indulge in such brutalities, the answer is that he abstains through the modifications of the sympathies. A low man in low society would not be doubtful of its reception; but he, by the anticipations of sympathy (a form that should be introduced as technically as Kant's anticipations of perception), feels it would be ill or gloomily received. Well now, I, when saying that a man is altered by sympathy so as to think that, through means of this power, which otherwise he would not think, shall be interpreted of such a case as that above. But wait; there is a distinction: the man does not think differently, he only acts as if he thought differently. The case I contemplate is far otherwise; it is where a man feels a lively contempt or admiration in consequence of seeing or hearing such feelings powerfully expressed by a multitude, or, at[Pg 196] least, by others which else he would not have felt. Vulgar people would sit for hours in the presence of people the most refined, totally unaware of their superiority, for the same reason that most people (if assenting to the praise of the Lord's Prayer) would do so hyper-critically, because its real and chief beauties are negative.


Not only is it false that my understanding is no measure or rule for another man, but of necessity it is so, and every step I take towards truth for myself is a step made on behalf of every other man.


We doubt if the world in the sense of a synthesis of action—the procession and carrying out of ends and purposes—could consist with the αντι-world (in a religious sense). Men who divide all into pious people and next to devils see in such a state of evil the natural tendency (as in all other monstrous evils—which this must be if an evil at all) to correction and redress. But now assume a man, sober, honourable, cheerful, healthy, active, occupied all day long in toilsome duties (or what he believes duties) for ends not selfish; this man has never had a thought of death, hell, etc., and looking abroad on those who dwell in such contemplations, he regards them sincerely, not unkindly or with contempt; partially he respects them, but he looks on them as under a monstrous delusion, in a fever, in a panic, as in a case of broken equilibrium. Now he is right. And, moreover, secondly, two other feelings or suspicions come on, (1) of hypocrisy, (2) of the violation of inner shame in publishing the most awful private feelings.


The Tendency of a Good Fortune inherited.—I know not that any man has reason to wish a sufficient patrimonial[Pg 197] estate for his son. Much to have something so as to start with an advantage. But the natural consequence of having a full fortune is to become idle and vapid. For, on asking what a young man has that he can employ himself upon, the answer would be, 'Oh! why, those pursuits which presuppose solitude.' At once you feel this to be hollow nonsense. Not one man in ten thousand has powers to turn solitude into a blessing. They care not, e.g., for geometry; and the cause is chiefly that they have been ill taught in geometry; and the effect is that geometry must and will languish, if treated as a mere amateur pursuit. So of any other. Secondly, yet of Englishmen I must say that beyond all nations a man so situated does not, in fact, become idle. He it is, and his class, that discharge the public business of each county or district. Thirdly: And in the view, were there no other, one sees at once the use of fox-hunting, let it be as boisterous as you please. Is it not better to be boisterous than gossip-ridden, eaves-dropping, seeking aliment for the spirits in the petty scandal of the neighbourhood?


'He' (The Times) 'declares that the poorest artisan has a greater stake than they' ('the Landed Interest') 'in the prosperity of the country, and is, consequently, more likely to give sound advice. His exposition of the intimate connection existing between the welfare of the poor workman and the welfare of the country is both just and admirable. But he manifestly underrates the corresponding relations of the landowners, and wholly omits to show, even if the artisan's state were the greatest, how his opinions are likely to be most valuable. To suppose that a man is necessarily the best judge in[Pg 198] whatever concerns him most is a sad non-sequitur; for if self-interest ensured wisdom, no one would ever go wrong in anything. Every man would be his own minister, and every invalid would be his own best physician. The wounded limbs of the community are the best judges of the pain they suffer; but it is the wise heads of the community that best can apply a remedy that best can cure the wound without causing it to break out in another quarter. Poverty is blind; but the upper classes "education has enlightened, and habit made foreseeing."'


We live in times great from the events and little from the character of the actors. Every month summons us to the spectacle of some new perfidy in the leaders of parties and the most conspicuous public servants; and the profligacy which we charge upon the statesmen of the seventeenth century has revolved in full measure upon our own days.


Justifications of Novels.—The two following justifications of novels occur to me. Firstly, that if some dreadful crisis awaited a ship of passengers at the line—where equally the danger was mysterious and multiform, the safety mysterious and multiform—how monstrous if a man should say to a lady, 'What are you reading?' 'Oh, I'm reading about our dreadful crisis, now so near'; and he should answer, 'Oh, nonsense! read something to improve your mind; read about Alexander the Great, about Spurius Ahala, about Caius Gracchus, or, if you please, Tiberius.' But just such nonsense it is, when people ridicule reading romances in which the great event of the fiction is the real great event of a female life.[Pg 199]

There are others, you say—she loses a child. Yes, that's a great event. But that arises out of this vast equinoctial event.

Secondly, as all things are predisposed to the natures which must be surrounded by them, so we may see that the element of social evolution of character, manners, caprices, etc., has been adapted to the vast mass of human minds. It is a mean element, you say. The revelations of Albert Smith, Dickens, etc., are essentially mean, vulgar, plebeian, not only in an aristocratic sense, but also in a philosophical sense. True, but the minds that are to live and move in it are also mean, essentially mean. Nothing grand in them? Yes, doubtless in the veriest grub as to capacity, but the capacity is undeveloped.

Ergo, as to the intrigue or fable, and as to the conduct or evolution of this fable—novels must be the chief natural resource of woman.


Moral Certainty.—As that a child of two years (or under) is not party to a plot. Now, this would allow a shade of doubt—a child so old might cry out or give notice.


This monstrous representation that the great war with France (1803-15) had for its object to prevent Napoleon from sitting on the throne of France—which recently, in contempt of all truth and common-sense, I have so repeatedly seen advanced—throws a man profoundly on the question of what was the object of that war. Surely, in so far as we are concerned, the matter was settled at Amiens in the very first year of the century. December, 1799, Napoleon had been suffered by the unsteady public opinion of France—abhorring a master, and yet sensible[Pg 200] that for the chief conscious necessity of France, viz., a developer of her latent martial powers, she must look for a master or else have her powers squandered—to mount the consular throne. He lived, he could live, only by victorious war. Most perilous was the prospect for England. In the path which not Napoleon, but France, was now preparing to tread, and which was the path of Napoleon no otherwise than that he was the tool of France, was that servitor who must gratify her grand infirmity or else be rapidly extinguished himself, unhappily for herself, England was the main counter-champion. The course of honour left to England was too fatally the course of resistance. Resistance to what? To Napoleon personally? Not at all; but to Napoleon as pledged by his destiny to the prosecution of a French conquering policy. That personally England had no hostility to Napoleon is settled by the fact that she had at Amiens cheerfully conceded the superior power. Under what title? would have been the most childish of demurs. That by act she never conceded the title of emperor was the mere natural diplomatic result of never having once been at peace with Napoleon under that title. Else it was a point of entire indifference. Granting the consulship, she had granted all that could be asked. And what she opposed was the determined war course of Napoleon and the schemes of ultra-Polish partition to which Napoleon had privately tempted her under circumstances of no such sense as existed and still exist for Russia. This policy, as soon as exposed, and not before bitter insults to herself, England resisted. And therefore it is that at this day we live. But as to Napoleon, as apart from the policy of Napoleon, no childishness can be wilder.[Pg 201]


At some unlucky moment when the Crown commanded unusual resources, the De Quinceys met with the fate ascribed, perhaps fabulously, to some small heavenly bodies (asteroids or what, I do not precisely know): on some dark day, by mistake perhaps, they exploded, and scattered their ruins all over the central provinces of England, where chiefly had lain their territorial influence. Especially in the counties of Leicester, Lincoln and Rutland were found fragments of the vast landed estates held by these potentates when Earls of Winchester.


The hatred of truth at first dawning—that instinct which makes you revolt from the pure beams which search the foul depths and abysses of error—is well illustrated by the action of the atmospheric currents, when blowing through an open window upon smoke. What do you see? Sometimes the impression is strong upon your ocular belief that the window is driving the smoke in. You can hardly be convinced of the contrary—scarcely when five or seven minutes has absolutely rarefied the smoke so much that a book-lettering previously invisible has become even legible. And at last, when the fact, the result, the experience, has corrected the contradictory theory of the eye, you begin to suspect, without any aid from science, that there were two currents, one of which comes round in a curve and effects the exit for the other which the window had driven in; just as in the Straits of Gibraltar there is manifestly an upper current setting one way, which you therefore conjecture to argue a lower current setting the other, and thus redressing the equilibrium. Here the smoke corresponds to bits of chip or any loose suspended body in the Gibraltar current. What answers to the current of water is the air, and if[Pg 202] the equilibrium is kept up, the re-entrant current balances your retiring current, and the latter carries out the smoke entangled in itself. By the objection, say, of a child, there ought to be a re-entrant column of smoke, which there is not. For the air drives the smoke of the fire up the chimney, and of its own contribution the air has no smoke to give.

Or the Augean stable may image it. Doubtless when the first disturbance took place in the abominable mess, those acting would be apt to question for a moment whether it had not been more advisable to leave it alone.


Moralists say, 'Nobody will attack you, or hate you, or blame you for your virtues.' What falsehood! Not as virtues, it may be in their eyes, but virtues, nevertheless. Connect with Kant the error of supposing ætas parentum, etc., to be the doctrine of sin.


Not for what you have done, but for what you are—not because in life you did forsake a wife and children—did endure to eat and drink and lie softly yourself whilst those who should have been as your heart-drops were starving: not because you did that so much is forgiven you, but because you were capable of that, therefore you are incapable of heaven.


Immodesty.—The greatest mistake occurs to me now (Wednesday, April 17th, '44). A girl who should have been unhappily conscious of voluptuous hours, her you would call modest in case of her passing with downcast looks. But why, then, is she not so? That girl is im[Pg 203]modest who reconciles to herself such things, and yet assumes the look of innocence.


About Women.—A man brings his own idle preconceptions, and fancies that he has learned them from his experience.


Far more to be feared than any depth of serious love, however absorbing and apparently foolish, is that vicious condition in which trifling takes the place of all serious love, when women are viewed only as dolls, and addressed with an odious leer of affected knowingness as 'my dear,' wink, etc. Now to this tends the false condition of women when called 'the ladies.' On the other hand, what an awful elevation arises when each views in the other a creature capable of the same noble duties—she no less than he a creature of lofty aspirations; she by the same right a daughter of God as he a son of God; she bearing her eyes erect to the heavens no less than he!


Low Degree.—We see often that this takes place very strongly and decidedly with regard to men, notoriously pleasant men and remarkably good-natured, which shows at once in what road the thing travels. And if such a nature should be combined with what Butler thinks virtue, it might be doubtful to which of the two the tribute of kind attentions were paid; but now seeing the true case, we know how to interpret this hypothetical case of Butler's accordingly.


'Visit the sins of the fathers,' etc. This people pretend to think monstrous. Yet what else in effect happens[Pg 204] and must happen to Jews inheriting by filial obedience and natural sympathy all that anti-Christian hostility which prevailed in the age succeeding to that of Christ? What evil—of suffering, of penalties now or in reserve may be attached to this spirit of hostility—follows the children through all generations!


Case of Timoleon, whose killing of his brother might afterwards be read into X Y Z or into X a b according to his conduct (either into murder or patriotism), is a good illustration of synthesis.


To illustrate Cicero's argument in 'Pro Cælio' as to the frequency of men wild and dissipated in youth becoming eminent citizens, one might adduce this case from the word Themistocles in the Index to the Græci Rhetorici. But I see or I fancy cause to notice this passage for the following cause: it contains only nine words, four in the first comma, five in the last, and of these nine four are taken up in noting the time το πρωτον το τελεν; ergo, five words record the remarkable revolution from one state to another, and the character of each state.

Two cases of young men's dissipation—1. Horace's record of his father's advice: 'Concessa,' etc.; 2. Cicero's 'Pro Cælio.'


What Crotchets in every Direction!—1. The Germans, or, let me speak more correctly, some of the Germans (and doubtless full of Hoch beer or strong drink), found out some thirty years ago that there were only three men of genius in the records of our planet. And who were they? (1) Homer; (2) Shakespeare;[Pg 205] (3) Goethe. So that absolutely Milton was shut out from the constellation. Even he wanted a ticket, though Master Sorrows-of-Werther had one. The porter, it seems, fancied he had no marriage garment, a mistake which a mob might correct, saying, 'No marriage garment! then, damme, he shall have this fellow's' (viz., Goethe's). The trinity, according to these vagabonds, was complete without Milton, as the Roman pomp was full to the eye of the sycophant without the bust of Brutus.

2. Macaulay fancied there were only two men of genius in the reign of Charles II., viz., Milton and the tinker Bunyan.

3. Coleridge (p. 237, 'Table-Talk') fancied there were only two men of genius in his own generation: W. W. and Sir Humphrey Davy.


Jeremy Taylor having mentioned two religious men, St. Paul the Hermit and Sulpitius, as having atoned for some supposed foolish garrulities, the one by a three years' silence, the other by a lifelong silence, goes on to express his dissatisfaction with a mode of rabiosa silentia so memorable as this.

Yet it is certain in silence there is wisdom, and there may be deep religion. And indeed it is certain, great knowledge, if it be without vanity, is the most severe bridle of the tongue. For so I have heard that all the noises and prating of the pool, the croaking of frogs and toads, is hushed and appeased upon the instant of bringing upon them the light of a candle or torch. Every beam of reason and ray of knowledge checks the dissoluteness of the tongue. 'Ut quisque contemplissimus est, ita solutissimæ linguæ est,' said Seneca.[Pg 206]

The silence must be καιριος, not sullen and ill-natured; 'nam sic etiam tacuisse nocet'?—of all things in the world a prating religion and much talk in holy things does most profane the mysteriousness of it, and dismantles its regard, and makes cheap its reverence and takes off fear and awfulness, and makes it loose and garish, and like the laughters of drunkenness.


Public Morality.—It ought not to be left to a man's interest merely to protect the animals in his power. Dogs are no longer worked in the way they were, although the change must have arbitrarily robbed many poor men of half bread. But in a case as valuable as that of the horse, it has been known that a man has incurred the total ruin of a series of horses against even his own gain or self-interest. There ought to be a custos veteranorum, a keeper and protector of the poor brutes who are brought within the pale of social use and service. The difficulty, you say! Legislation has met and dealt effectively with far more complicated and minute matters than that. For, after all, consider how few of the brute creation on any wide and permanent scale are brought into the scheme of human life. Some birds as food, some fishes as ditto; beeves as food and sometimes as appliers of strength; horses in both characters. These with elephants and camels, mules, asses, goats, dogs, and sheep, cats and rabbits, gold-fishes and singing-birds, really compose the whole of our animal equipage harnessed to the car of human life.[Pg 207]

3.—On Words And Style.

Top

There are a number of words which, unlocked from their absurd imprisonment, would become extensively useful. We should say, for instance, 'condign honours,' 'condign treatment' (treatment appropriate to the merits), thus at once realizing two rational purposes, viz., giving a useful function to a word, which at present has none, and also providing an intelligible expression for an idea which otherwise is left without means of uttering itself except through a ponderous circumlocution. Precisely in the same circumstances of idle and absurd sequestration stands the term polemic. At present, according to the popular usage, this word has some fantastic inalienable connection with controversial theology. There cannot be a more childish chimera. No doubt there is a polemic side or aspect of theology; but so there is of all knowledge; so there is of every science. The radical and characteristic idea concerned in this term polemic is found in our own Parliamentary distinction of the good speaker, as contrasted with the good debater. The good speaker is he who unfolds the whole of a question in its affirmative aspects, who presents these aspects in their just proportions, and according to their orderly and symmetrical deductions from each[Pg 208] other. But the good debater is he who faces the negative aspects of the question, who meets sudden objections, has an answer for any momentary summons of doubt or difficulty, dissipates seeming inconsistencies, and reconciles the geometrical smoothness of à priori abstractions with the coarse angularities of practical experience. The great work of Ricardo is of necessity, and almost in every page, polemic; whilst very often the particular objections or difficulties, to which it replies, are not indicated at all, being spread through entire systems, and assumed as precognita that are familiar to the learned student.


Writing to scholastic persons, I should be ashamed to explain, but hoping that I write to many also of the non-scholastic, and even of the unlearned, I rejoice to explain the proper sense of the word implicit. As the word condign, so capable of an extended sense, is yet constantly restricted to one miserable association, viz., that with the word punishment (for we never say, as we might say, 'condign rewards'), so also the word implicit is in English always associated with the word faith. People say that Papists have an implicit faith in their priests. What they mean is this: If a piece of arras, or a carpet, is folded up, then it is implicit according to the original Latin word; if it is unfolded and displayed, then it is explicit. Therefore, when a poor illiterate man (suppose a bog-trotter of Mayo or Galway) says to his priest (as in effect always he does say), 'Sir, I cannot comprehend all this doctrine; bless you, I have not the thousandth part of the learning for it, so it is impossible that I should directly believe it. But your reverence believes it, the thing is wrapt up (implicit) in you, and I[Pg 209] believe it on that account.' Here the priest believes explicitly: he believes implicitly.


Modern.—Is it not shameful that to this hour even literary men of credit and repute cannot for the life of them interpret this line from 'As You Like It'—

'Full of wise saws and modern instances'?

A man as well read as Mr. Theodore Hook, and many a hundred beside, have seriously understood it to mean 'Full of old proverbs, the traditionary wisdom of nations, and of illustrative examples drawn from modern experience.' Nonsense! The meaning is, 'Full of old maxims and proverbs, and of trivial attempts at argument.' That is, tediously redundant in rules derived from the treasury of popular proverbs,' and in feeble attempts at connecting these general rules with the special case before him. The superannuated old magistrate sets out with a proverb, as for instance this, that the mother of mischief is no bigger than a midge's wing. That proverb forms his major proposition. In his minor proposition he goes on to argue that the trespass charged upon the particular prisoner before him was very little bigger than a midge's wing. And then in his conclusion triumphantly he infers, Ergo, the prisoner at the bar is the mother of mischief. But says the constable, 'Please, your worship, the prisoner is a man, a hulking clodhopper, some six or seven feet high, with a strong black beard.' 'Well, that makes no odds,' rejoins his worship; 'then he's the father of mischief. Clerk, make out his mittimus.'

The word 'instance' (from the scholastic instantia) never meant example in Shakespeare's age. The word 'modern' never once in Shakespeare means what it[Pg 210] means to us in these days. Even the monkish Latin word 'modernus' fluctuated in meaning, and did not always imply recens, neotericus; but in Shakespeare never. What does it mean in Shakespeare? Once and for ever it means trivial, inconsiderable. Dr. Johnson had too much feeling not to perceive that the word 'modern' had this value in Shakespeare's acceptation; practically, he felt that it availed for that sense, but theoretically he could not make out the why. It means that, said the Doctor; but feebly and querulously, like one sick of the pip, he added, 'Yet I don't know why.' Don't you? Now, we do. The fact is, Dr. Johnson was in a fit of the dismals at that time; he had recently committed a debauch of tea, having exceeded his usual allowance by seventy-five cups, so that naturally he had a 'curmurring' in the stomach. Else he could not have failed to see what we are now going to explain with a wet finger. Everybody is aware that to be material is the very opposite of being trivial. What is 'material' in a chain of evidence, or in an argument, can never be trifling. Now, therefore, if you can find a word that will flatly contradict this word material, then you have a capital term for expressing what is trivial. Well, you find in the word immaterial all that you are seeking. 'It is quite immaterial' will suit Mr. Touts's purpose just as well as 'It is really of no consequence, of no consequence in the world.' To say in a law court that the objection is immaterial is otherwise to say that it is trivial. Here, then, is the first step: to contradict the idea of material is effectually to express the idea of trivial. Let us now see if we can find any other contradiction to the idea of material, for one antithesis to that idea will express as well as any other antithesis the counterpole of[Pg 211] the trivial. Now, clearly the substance of a thing, the material out of which it is made, is oftentimes of great importance by comparison with its shape, fashion, or mode. It is of value in your eyes to know whether your family plate is in substance of gold or of silver; but whether such a vessel is round or square, ornamented with a wreath of acanthus or ivy, supported by tigers or by fawns, may be a trivial consideration, or even worse; for the fashion of your plate, after it has once become obsolete, may count against you for so much loss as something that will cost a good deal of money to alter. Here, then, is another contradiction to the material, and therefore another expression for the trivial: matter, as against vacancy or the privation of matter, yields the antithesis of material or immaterial, substantial and unsubstantial; matter, as against form, yields the antithesis of substance and shape, or otherwise of material and modal—what is matter and what is the mere modification of matter, its variation by means of ornament or shape.

The word 'modern' is therefore in Shakespeare uniformly to be pronounced with the long o, as in the words modal, modish, and never with the short o of mŏderate, mŏdest, or our present word mŏdern. And the law under which Shakespeare uses the word is this: whatsoever is so trivial as to fall into the relation of a mere shape or fleeting mode to a permanent substance, that with Shakespeare is modish, or (according to his form) modern.[29] Thus, a weak, trivial argument (or instantia, [Pg 212]the scholastic term for an argument not latent merely, or merely having the office of sustaining a truth, but urged as an objection, having the polemic office of contradicting an opponent) is in Shakespeare's idiom, when viewed as against a substantial argument, a modern argument.

Again, when Cleopatra, defending herself against the perfidy of her steward, wishes to impress upon Octavius that any articles which she may have kept back from the inventory of her personal chattels are but trifles, she expresses this by saying that they are but

'Such as we greet modern friends withal;'

i.e., such as we bestow, at welcoming or at parting, upon the slightest acquaintances. The whole stress of the logic lies upon the epithet modern—for simply as friends, had they been substantial friends, they might have levied any amount from the royal lady's bounty; kingdoms would have been slight gifts in her eyes, and that would soon have been objected to by her conqueror. But her argument is, that the people to whom such gifts would be commensurate are mere modish friends, persons known to us on terms of bare civility, people with whom we exchange salutations in the street, or occasional calls, what now we call acquaintances, for whom in Shakespeare's time there was no distinguishing expression.

Another case we remember at this moment in 'All's Well that Ends Well.' It occurs in Act II., at the very opening of scene iii.; the particular edition, the only one we can command at the moment, is an obscure one published by Scott, Webster and Geary, Charterhouse Square, 1840, and we mention it thus circumstantially because the passage is falsely punctuated; and we have little doubt that in all other editions, whether with or without the false punctuation, the syntax is generally misapprehended.[Pg 213] In reality, the false punctuation has itself grown out of the false apprehension of the syntax, and not vice versâ. Thus the words stand literatim et punctuatim: 'They say, miracles are past: and we have our philosophical persons to make modern and familiar things, supernatural and causeless.' The comma ought to have been placed after 'familiar,' the sense being this—and we have amongst us sceptical and irreligious people to represent as trivial and of daily occurrence things which in reality are supernatural and causeless (that is, not lying amongst the succession of physical causes and effects, but sent as miracles by the immediate agency of God). According to the true sense, things supernatural and causeless must be understood as the subject, of which modern and familiar is the predicate.


Mr. Grindon fancies that frog is derived from the syllable τραχ of βατραχος. This will cause some people to smile, and recall Menage's pleasantry about Alfana, the man of Orlando; It is true that frog at first sight seems to have no letter in common except the snarling letter (litera canina). But this is not so; the a and the o, the s and the k, are perhaps essentially the same. And even in the case where, positively and literally, not a single letter is identical, it is odd, but undeniable, that the two words may be nearly allied as mother and child. One instance is notorious, but it is worth citing for a purpose of instructive inference. 'Journal,' as a French word, or, if you please, as an English word—whence came that? Unquestionably and demonstrably from the Latin word dies, in which, however, visibly there is not one letter the same as any one of the seven that are in journal. Yet mark the rapidity of the transition. Dies (a day) has for its derivative adjective daily the word[Pg 214] diurnus. Now, the old Roman pronunciation of diu was exactly the same as gio, both being pronounced as our English jorn. Here, in a moment, we see the whole—giorno, a day, was not derived directly from dies, but secondarily through diurnus. Then followed giornal, for a diary, or register of a day, and from that to French, as also, of course, the English journal. But the moral is, that when to the eye no letter is the same, may it not be so to the ear? Already the di of dies anticipates and enfolds the giorno.

Mr. Grindon justly remarks upon the tendency, in many instances, of the German ss to reappear in English forms as t. Thus heiss (hot), fuss (foot), etc. These are Mr. Grindon's own examples, and a striking confirmation occurs in the old English hight, used for he was called, and again for the participle called, and again, in the 'Met. Romanus,' for I was called: 'Lorde, he saide, I highth Segramour.' Now, the German is heissen (to be called). And this is a tendency hidden in many long ages: as, for instance, in Greek, every person must remember the transition of ττ and σσ as in θαττω, θασσω.


On Pronunciation and Spelling.—If we are to surrender the old vernacular sound of the e in certain situations to a ridiculous criticism of the eye, and in defiance of the protests rising up clamorously from every quarter of old English scholarship, let us at least know to what we surrender. What letter is to usurp the vacant seat? What letter? retorts the purist—why, an e, to be sure. An e? And do you call that an e? Do you pronounce 'ten' as if it were written 'tun', or 'men' as if written 'mun'? The 'Der' in Derby, supposing it tolerable at all to alter its present legitimate sound, ought, then, to[Pg 215] be pronounced as the 'Der' in the Irish name Derry, not as 'Dur'; and the 'Ber' in Berkeley not as 'Bur,' but as the 'Ber' in Beryl. But the whole conceit has its origin in pure ignorance of English archæology, and in the windiest of all vanities, viz., the attempt to harmonize the spelling and the pronunciation of languages.

Naturally, it fills one with contempt for these 'Derby' purists to find that their own object, the very purpose they are blindly and unconsciously aiming at, has been so little studied or steadily contemplated by them in anything approaching to its whole extent. Why, upon the principle which they silently and virtually set up, though carrying it out so contradictorily (driving out an a on the plea that it is not an e, only to end by substituting, and without being aware, the still remoter letter u), the consequence must be that the whole language would go to wreck. Nine names out of every ten would need tinkering. 'London,' for instance, no more receives the normal sound of the o in either of its syllables than does the e in 'Derby.' The normal sound of the o is that heard in 'song,' 'romp,' 'homage,' 'drop.' Nevertheless, the sound given to the o in 'London,' 'Cromwell,' etc., which strictly is the short sound of u in 'lubber,' 'butter,' etc., is a secondary sound of o in particular combinations, though not emphatically its proper sound. The very same defence applies to the e in 'Berkeley,' etc. It is the legitimate sound of the English e in that particular combination, viz., when preceding an r, though not its normal sound. But think of the wild havoc that would be made of other more complex anomalies, if these purists looked an inch in advance. Glocester or Gloucester, Worcester, Cirencester, Pontefract, etc. What elaborate and monstrous[Pg 216] pronunciations would they affix to these names? The whole land would cease to recognise itself. And that the purists should never have contemplated these veritable results, this it is which seals and rivets one's contempt for them.

Now, if such harmony were at all desirable (whereas, on the contrary, we should thus be carrying ruin into the traditions and obliteration into the ethnological links of languages, industriously, in fact, throwing up insuperable obstacles in the path of historical researches), it would be far better, instead of adjusting the pronunciation to the imaginary value of the spelling, inversely to adjust the spelling to the known and established pronunciation, as a certain class of lunatics amongst ourselves, viz., the phonetic gang, have for some time been doing systematically.

Here, therefore, I hope is one fixed point. Here there is anchorage. The usage is the rule, at any rate; and the law of analogy takes effect only where that cannot be decisively ascertained.


The Latin Word 'Felix.'—The Romans appear to me to have had no term for happy, which argues that they had not the idea. Felix is tainted with the idea of success, and is thus palpably referred to life as a competition, which for Romans every distinguished life was. In fact, apart from his city the Roman was nothing. Too poor to have a villa or any mode of retirement, it is clear that the very idea of Roman life supposes for the vast majority a necessity of thick crowded intercourse, without the possibility of solitude. I, for my peculiar constitution of mind, to whom solitude has in all periods of life been more of a necessity almost than air, view with special[Pg 217] horror the life of a Roman or Athenian. All the morning he had to attend a factious hustings or a court—assemblies deliberative or judicial. Here only he was somebody, and yet, however, somebody through others. Combining with one leader and many underlings like himself, he also became a power; but in himself and for himself, after all, he was consciously nothing. When Cicero speaks of his nunquam minus Solus quam cum solus, he is announcing what he feels to be, and knows will be, accepted as a very extraordinary fact. For even in rure it is evident that friends made it a duty of friendship to seek out and relieve their rusticating friends.


On the Distinction between 'Rhetorica utens' and 'Rhetorica docens'.—It was a perplexity, familiar to the experience of the Schoolmen, that oftentimes one does not know whether to understand by the term logic the act and process of reasoning involved and latent in any series of connected propositions, or this same act and process formally abstracting itself as an art and system of reasoning. For instance, if you should happen to say, 'Dr. Isaac Watts, the English Nonconformist, was a good man, and a clever man; but alas! for his logic, what can his best friend say for it? The most charitable opinion must pronounce it at the best so, so'—in such a case, what is it that you would be understood to speak of? Would it be the general quality of the Doctor's reasoning, the style and character of his philosophical method, or would it be the particular little book known as 'The Doctor: his Logic,' price 5s., bound in calf, and which you might be very shy of touching with a pair of tongs, for fear of dimming their steel polish, so long as your wife's eye was upon your motions? The same ambiguity[Pg 218] affects many other cases. For instance, if you heard a man say, 'The rhetoric of Cicero is not fitted to challenge much interest,' you might naturally understand it of the particular style and rhetorical colouring—which was taxed with being florid; nay, Rhodian; nay, even Asiatic—that characterizes that great orator's compositions; or, again, the context might so restrain the word as to force it into meaning the particular system or theory of rhetoric addressed to Herennius, a system which (being traditionally ascribed to Cicero) is usually printed amongst his works. Here, and in scores of similar cases, lies often a trap for the understanding; but the Schoolmen evaded this trap by distinguishing between 'Rhetorica utens,' and 'Rhetorica docens,' between the rhetoric that laid down or delivered didactically the elements of oratorical persuasion as an art to be learned, and rhetoric, on the other hand, as a creative energy that wielded these elements by the mouth of Pericles in the year 440 b. c., or by the mouth of Demosthenes, 340 b. c.; between rhetoric the scholastic art and rhetoric the heaven-born power; between the rhetoric of Aristotle that illuminated the solitary student, and the rhetoric of Demosthenes that ran along in rolling thunders to the footstool of Artaxerxes' throne. Oh, these dear spindle-shanked Schoolmen! they were people, respected reader, not to be sneezed at. What signifies having spindle-shanks?


Synonyms.—A representative and a delegate, according to Burke, are identical; but there is the same difference as between a person who on his own results of judgment manages the interests of X, and a person merely reporting the voice of X. Probably there never was a case which so sharply illustrated the liability[Pg 219] of goodish practical understanding to miss, to fail in seeing, an object lying right before the eyes; and that is more wonderful in cases where the object is not one of multitude, but exists almost in a state of insulation. At the coroner's inquest on a young woman who died from tight-lacing, acting, it was said, in combination with a very full meal of animal food, to throw the heart out of position, Mr. Wakely pronounced English or British people all distorted in the spine, whereas Continental people were all right. Continental! How unlimited an idea! Why, it meant nothing; it defines nothing, limits nothing, excludes nothing. Who or what is Continental? Apparently it means anyone out of 240 millions not being one of the 27 millions in the Britannides. Every man escapes an insane folly who happens to breathe an air E. (N. E., S. E., N. N. E., S. S. E., etc.) of the Britannides. Vanity, the inevitable wish to improve, or rather to avail, one's self of a natural means offered for deepening and marking out the natural outline of the shape, i.e., of the sexual characteristics, has no effect, dies out, the instant that a family is one of those who have the privilege of basking anywhere 2,000 miles E. or 2,000 miles N. and S.!


A whistling to a horse: Poppysme (vide Whistling, Lat. Dict.); but poppysme is a patting, a clapping, on the back, neck, or, doubtless, wherever the animal is sensible of praise.


'Takest away.' This beautiful expression, though exquisitely treated by position—

'That all evil thoughts and aims
Takest away,'

[Pg 220]is yet originally borrowed by Mr. W. from the Litany: 'O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world.'


In style to explain the true character of note-writing—how compressed and unrambling and direct it ought to be, and illustrate by the villainous twaddle of many Shakespearian notes.


Syllogism.—In the Edin. Advertiser for Friday, January 25, 1856, a passage occurs taken from Le Nord (or Journal du Nord), or some paper whose accurate title I do not know, understood to be Russian in its leanings, which makes a most absurd and ignorant use of this word. The Allies are represented as addressing an argument to Russia, amounting, I think, to this, viz.: that, in order to test her sincerity, would it not be well for Russia at once to cede such insulated points of territory as were valuable to Russia or suspicious to the Allies simply as furnishing means for invasion of Turkey? And this argument is called a syllogism.


'Laid in wait for him.'—This false phrase occurs in some article (a Crimea article, I suppose) in the same Advertiser of January 25. And I much doubt whether any ordinary ear would reconcile itself to lay in wait (as a past tense) even when instructed in its propriety.


Those Scotticisms are worst which are nonsensical, as e.g.:

'Whenever he died
Fully more.'

Timeous and dubiety are bad, simply as not authorized by any but local usage. A word used only in Provence[Pg 221] or amongst the Pyrenees could not be employed by a classical French writer, except under a caveat and for a special purpose.


Plenty, used under the absurd misleading of its terminal 'y' as an adjective. Alongst, remember of; able for, the worse of liquor, to call for, to go the length of, as applied to a distance; 'I don't think it,' instead of 'I don't think so.'


In the Lady's Newspaper for Saturday, May 8, 1852 (No. 280), occurs the very worst case of exaggerated and incredible mixed silliness and vulgarity connected with the use of assist for help at the dinner-table that I have met with. It occurs in the review of a book entitled 'The Illustrated London Cookery Book,' by Frederick Bishop. Mr. Bishop, it seems, had 'enjoyed the office of cuisinier at the Palace, and among some of our first nobility.' He has, by the way, an introductory 'Philosophy of Cookery.' Two cases occur of this matchless absurdity:

1. An ideal carver is described: he, after carving, 'is as cool and collected as ever, and assists the portions he has carved with as much grace as he displayed in carving the fowl.'

2. Further on, when contrasting, not the carvers, but the things to be carved, coming to 'Neck of Veal,' he says of the carver: 'Should the vertebræ have not been jointed by the butcher, you would find yourself in the position of the ungraceful carver, being compelled to exercise a degree of strength which should never be suffered to appear, very possibly, too, assisting gravy in a manner not contemplated by the person unfortunate enough to receive it.'[Pg 222]


Genteel is the vulgarest and most plebeian of all known words. Accordingly (and strange it is that the educated users of this word should not perceive that fact), aristocratic people—people in the most undoubted élite of society as to rank or connections—utterly ignore the word. They are aware of its existence in English dictionaries; they know that it slumbers in those vast repositories; they even apprehend your meaning in a vague way when you employ it as an epithet for assigning the pretensions of an individual or a family. Generally it is understood to imply that the party so described is in a position to make morning calls, to leave cards, to be presentable for anything to the contrary apparent in manners, style of conversation, etc. But these and other suggestions still leave a vast area unmapped of blank charts in which the soundings are still doubtful.

The word 'genteel' is so eminently vulgar apparently for this reason, that it presents a non-vulgar distinction under a gross and vulgar conception of that distinction. The true and central notion, on which the word revolves, is elevating; but, by a false abstraction of its elements, it is degraded. And yet in parts of this island where the progress of refinement is torpid, and the field of vision is both narrow and unchanging in all that regards the nuances of manners, I have remarked that the word 'genteel' maintains its old advantageous acceptation; and as a proof of this, eminent and even revolutionary thinkers born and bred in such provincial twilight, use the word as if untainted and hardly aware that it is flyblown.

Among ourselves it is certain that a peculiar style of gossip, of babble, and of miniature intriguing, invests the atmosphere of little 'townishness,' such as often en[Pg 223]tangles the more thoughtful and dignified of the residents in troublesome efforts at passive resistance or active counter-action. In dealing with this matter, Mr. Wordsworth instanced Northampton and Nottingham; but a broader difference could hardly be than between these towns. And just as 'genteel' remains the vulgarest of all words, so the words 'simple' and 'simplicity,' amongst all known words, offer the most complex and least simple of ideas.

Having made this deprecation on behalf of my own criminality in using such a word as 'genteel,' I go on to say that whilst Northampton was (and is, I believe) of all towns the most genteel, Nottingham for more than two centuries has been the most insurrectionary and in a scarlet excess democratic. Nottingham, in fact, has always resembled the Alexandria of ancient days; whilst Northampton could not be other than aristocratic as the centre of a county more thickly gemmed by the ancestral seats of our nobility than any beside in the island. Norwich, again, though a seat of manufacturing industry, has always been modified considerably by a literary body of residents.


'Mein alter Herr' (von Stein) 'pflegte dann wohl scherzend zu sagen: Ich müsse von irgend eine Hexe meinen Altem als ein Wechselbalg in's Nest gelegt seyn; ich gehöre offenbar einem Stamm amerikanischer wilden an, und habe noch die Hühnerhundnase zum Auswittern des verschiedenen Blutes.' Arndt, speaking of his power to detect at sight (when seen at a distance) Russians, English, etc., says that Von Stein replied thus in his surprise. But I have cited the passage as one which amply illustrates the suspensive form of sentence[Pg 224] in the German always indicated by a colon (:), thus: 'zu sagen: Ich müsse'—to say that I must have been (p. 164).


The active sense of fearful, viz., that which causes and communicates terror—not that which receives terror—was undoubtedly in Shakespeare's age, but especially amongst poets, the preponderant sense. Accordingly I am of opinion that even in neutral cases, such as are open indifferently to either sense, viz., that which affrights, or that which is itself affrighted, the bias in Shakespeare's interpretation of the feeling lay towards the former movement. For instance, in one of his sonnets:

'Oh, fearful meditation! where, alas!'

the true construction I believe to be—not this: Oh, though deriving terror from the circumstances surrounding thee, suffering terror from the entourage of considerations pursuing thee; but this: Oh, thought impressing and creating terror, etc. A 'fearful' agent in Shakespeare's use is not one that shrinks in alarm from the act, but an agent that causes others to shrink; not panic-struck, but panic-striking.


Miss Edgeworth, let me remark, commits trespasses on language that are really past excusing. In one place she says that a man 'had a contemptible opinion' of some other man's understanding. Such a blunder is not of that class which usage sanctions, and an accuracy not much short of pedantry would be argued in noticing: it is at once illiterate and vulgar in the very last degree. I mean that it is common amongst vulgar people, and them[Pg 225] only. It ranks, for instance, with the common formula of 'I am agreeable, if you prefer it.'


Style is the disentangling of thoughts or ideas reciprocally involved in each other.[Pg 226]

4.—Theological and Religious.

Top

Religion under any of its aspects, revealing or consoling—religion in connection with any of its affinities, ethics or metaphysics, when self-evoked by a person of earnest nature, not imposed from without by the necessities of monastic life, not caught as a contagion from the example of friends that surround you, argues some 'vast volcanic agency' moving at subterraneous depths below the ordinary working mind of daily life, and entitled by its own intrinsic grandeur to ennoble the curiosity (else a petty passion) which may put questions as to its origin. In any case of religion arising, as a spontaneous birth, in the midst of alien forces, it is inevitable to ask for its why and its whence. Religion considered as a sentiment of devotion, as a yearning after some dedication to an immeasurable principle of that noblest temple among all temples—'the upright heart and pure,' or religion, again, as the apprehension of some mighty synthesis amongst truths dimly perceived heretofore amidst separating clouds, but now brought into strict indissoluble connection, proclaims a revolution so great that it is otherwise not to be accounted for than as the breaking out of a germ of the supernatural in man as a seed from a hitherto barren soil.


Sin is that secret word, that dark aporréton of the[Pg 227] human race, undiscoverable except by express revelation, which having once been laid in the great things of God as a germinal principle, has since blossomed into a vast growth of sublime ideas known only to those nations who have lived under the moulding of Scriptural truth—and comprehending all functions of the Infinite operatively familiar to man. Yes, I affirm that there is no form through which the Infinite reveals itself in a sense comprehensible by man and adequate to man; that there is no sublime agency which compresses the human mind from infancy so as to mingle with the moments of its growth, positively none but has been in its whole origin—in every part—and exclusively developed out of that tremendous mystery which lurks under the name of sin.

Yes, I affirm that even in its dreams every Christian child is invested by an atmosphere of sublimity unknown to the greatest of Pagan philosophers: that golden rays reach it by two functions of the Infinite; and that these, in common with those emanations of the Infinite that do not settle upon the mind until mature years, are all projections—derivations or counterpositions—from the obscure idea of sin; could not have existed under any previous condition; and for a Pagan mind would not have been intelligible.


Sin.—It is not only that the Infinite arises as part of the entire system resting on sin, but specifically from sin apart from its counterforces or reactions, viz., from sin as a thing, and the only thing originally shadowy and in a terrific sense mysterious.


Stench.—I believe that under Burke's commentary, this idea would become a high test of the doctrine of the[Pg 228] Infinite. He pronounces it sublime, or sublime in cases of intensity. Now, first of all, the intense state of everything or anything is but a mode of power, that idea or element or moment of greatness under a varied form. Here, then, is nothing proper or separately peculiar to stench: it is not stench as stench, but stench as a mode or form of sensation, capable therefore of intensification. It is but a case under what we may suppose a general Kantian rule—that every sensation runs through all gradations, from the lowest or most obscure and nascent to the highest. Secondly, however, pass over to the contemplation of stench as stench: then I affirm—that as simply expounding the decay, and altering or spoiling tendency or state of all things—simply as a register of imperfection, and of one which does not (as ruins to the eye) ever put on a pleasing transitional aspect, it is merely disagreeable, but also at the same time mean. For the imperfection is merely transitional and fleeting, not absolute. First, midst and last, it is or can be grand when it reverts or comes round upon its mediating point, or point of reaction.


The arrangement of my Infinite must be thus: After having expounded the idea of holiness which I must show to be now potent, proceed to show that the Pagan Gods did not realize and did not meet this idea; that then came the exposure of the Pagan Gods and the conscious presence of a new force among mankind, which opened up the idea of the Infinite, through the awakening perception of holiness.


I believe that in every mode of existence, which probably is always by an incarnation, the system of flesh is[Pg 229] made to yield the organs that express the alliance of man with the Infinite. Thus the idea of mystery, αποροητα, finds its organ of expression in the sensualities of the human race. Again, the crime, whatever it were, and the eternal pollution is expressed in these same organs. Also, the prolongation of the race so as to find another system is secured by the same organs.


Generally, that is, for a million against a unit, the awful mystery by which the fearful powers of death, and sorrow, and pain, and sin are locked into parts of a whole; so as, in fact, to be repetitions, reaffirmations of each other under a different phase—this is nothing, does not exist. Death sinks to a mere collective term—a category—a word of convenience for purposes of arrangement. You depress your hands, and, behold! the system disappears; you raise them, it reappears. This is nothing—a cipher, a shadow. Clap your hands like an Arabian girl, and all comes back. Unstop your ears, and a roar as of St. Lawrence enters: stop your ears, and it is muffled. To and fro; it is and it is not—is not and is. Ah, mighty heaven, that such a mockery should cover the whole vision of life! It is and it is not; and on to the day of your death you will still have to learn what is the truth.

The eternal now through the dreadful loom is the overflowing future poured back into the capacious reservoir of the past. All the active element lies in that infinitesimal now. The future is not except by relation; the past is not at all, and the present but a sign of a nexus between the two.


God's words require periods, so His counsels. He[Pg 230] cannot precipitate them any more than a man in a state of happiness can commit suicide. Doubtless it is undeniable that a man may arm his hand with a sword: and that his flesh will be found penetrable to the sword, happy or not. But this apparent physical power has no existence, no value for a creature having a double nature: the moral nature not only indisposes him to use his power, but really creates a far greater antagonist power.


This God—too great to be contemplated steadily by the loftiest of human eyes; too approachable and condescending to be shunned by the meanest in affliction: realizing thus in another form that reconcilement of extremes, which St. Paul observed: far from all created beings, yet also very near.


'A conviction that they needed a Saviour was growing amongst men.' How? In what sense? Saviour from what? You can't be saved from nothing. There must be a danger, an evil threatening, before even in fancy you can think of a deliverer. Now, what evil was there existing to a Pagan? Sin? Monstrous! No such idea ever dawned upon the Pagan intellect. Death? Yes; but that was inalienable from his nature. Pain and disease? Yes; but these were perhaps inalienable also. Mitigated they might be, but it must be by human science, and the progress of knowledge. Grief? Yes; but this was inalienable from life. Mitigated it might be, but by superior philosophy. From what, then, was a Saviour to save? If nothing to save from, how any Saviour? But here arises as the awful of awfuls to me, the deep, deep exposure of the insufficient knowledge[Pg 231] and sense of what is peculiar to Christianity. To imagine some sense of impurity, etc., leading to a wish for a Saviour in a Pagan, is to defraud Christianity of all its grandeur. If Paganism could develop the want, it is not at all clear that Paganism did not develop the remedy. Heavens! how deplorable a blindness! But did not a Pagan lady feel the insufficiency of earthly things for happiness? No; because any feeling tending in that direction would be to her, as to all around her, simply a diseased feeling, whether from dyspepsia or hypochondria, and one, whether diseased or not, worthless for practical purposes. It would have to be a Christian lady, if something far beyond, something infinite, were not connected with it, depending on it. But if this were by you ascribed to the Pagan lady, then that is in other words to make her a Christian lady already.


Exhibition of a Roman Dialogue on Sin.—What! says the ignorant and unreflecting modern Christian. Do you mean to tell me that a Roman, however buried in worldly objects, would not be startled at hearing of a Saviour? Now, hearken.

Roman. Saviour! What do you mean? Saviour for what? In good faith, my friend, you labour under some misconception. I am used to rely on myself for all the saving that I need. And, generally speaking, if you except the sea, and those cursed north-east winds, I know of no particular danger.

Christian. Oh, my friend, you totally mistake the matter. I mean saving from sin.

Roman. Saving from a fault, that is—well, what sort of a fault? Or, how should a man, that you say is no[Pg 232] longer on earth, save me from any fault? Is it a book to warn me of faults that He has left?

Christian. Why, yes. Not that He wrote Himself; but He talked, and His followers have recorded His views. But still you are quite in the dark. Not faults, but the fountain of all faults, that is what He will save you from.

Roman. But how? I can understand that by illuminating my judgment in general He might succeed in making me more prudent.

Christian. 'Judgment,' 'prudent'—these words show how wide by a whole hemisphere you are of the truth. It is your will that He applies His correction to.

Roman. 'Will!' why I've none but peaceable and lawful designs, I assure you. Oh! I begin to see. You think me a partner with those pirates that we just spoke to.

Christian. Not at all, my friend. I speak not of designs or intentions. What I mean is, the source of all desires—what I would call your wills, your whole moral nature.

Roman (bridling). Ahem! I hope Roman nature is quite as little in need of improvement as any other. There are the Cretans; they held up their heads. Accordingly they had their fire institutions, and that true institution against bribery and luxury, and all such stuff. They fancied themselves impregnable. Why, bless you! even Marcus Tullius, that was a prosing kind of man and rather peevish about such things, could not keep in the truth. 'Why, Cato, my boy,' says he, 'you talk.' And to hear you, bribery and luxury would not leave one a stick to fight for. Why, now, these same Cretans—lord! we took the conceit out of them in[Pg 233] twenty-five minutes. No more time, I assure you, did it cost three of our cohorts to settle the whole lot of them.

Christian. My friend, you are more and more in the dark. What I mean is not present in your senses, but a disease.

Roman. Oh, a disease! that's another thing. But where?

Christian. Why, it affects the brain and the heart.

Roman. Well, now, one at a time. Take the brain—we have a disease, and we treat it with white hellebore. There may be a better way. But answer me this. If you are generally affected, what right have you to bring, as you are supposing, a diseased brain to a sound one? We Romans are all sound—sound as a bell.

Then Christian goes on to the history of the fall. But the whole would be self-baffled and construed away from want of sin as the antithesis of holiness.


Why St. Paul and the Athenians did not come to an Understanding.—So, again, if you think that St. Paul had a chance with the Athenians. If he had, it would tax his divine benevolence to see that he forbore to pursue it. This attempt shows that he was under a misconception. He fancied a possibility of preaching a pure religion. What followed? He was, he must have been defeated. That is, practically, else why did he not persist? But his confutation was the factual confutation of experience. It was no go. That he found too surely. But why? I am sure that he never found out. Enough that he felt—that under a strong instinct he misgave—a deep, deep gulf between him and them, so that neither could he make a way to their sense, nor they, except conjecturally, to his. For, just review the case. What[Pg 234] was the ευαγγελιον, the good tidings, which he announced to man? What burthen of hope? What revelation of a mystery of hope arising out of a deeper mystery of despair? He announced a deliverer. Deliverer! from what? Answer that—from what? Why, from evil, you say. Evil! of what kind? Why, you retort, did not the Pagans admit that man was lying under evil? Not at all; nothing of the kind. But you are sure you have heard of such things? Very likely. And now you are forced back upon your arguments you remember specially that evil as to its origin was a favourite speculation of theirs. Evil, in its most comprehensive designation, whence is it? How came it? Now, mark, even to that extent, viz., the extent indicated by this problem, the ancients had no conception of evil corresponding to, no, nor dimly approaching to, a correspondence with ours. They had no ineffable standard of purity; how, then, any function of impurity? They had no ineffable doctrine of pain or suffering answering to a far more realized state of perception, and, therefore, unimaginably more exquisite; how, then, could they raise a question on the nature or fountains of such pains? They executed no synthesis, and could execute none upon the calamities of life; they never said in ordinary talk that this was a world of sorrow, either apostrophizing a newborn child, or a world of disappointment, bemoaning a mature victim; neither as in the anguish of meditative reflection, nor in the prudence of extenuating apology. The grand sanctus which arises from human sensibility, Perish empires and the crowns of kings, etc., first arose in connection with Christianity.[30] Life was a good life; [Pg 235]man was a prosperous being. Hope for men was his natural air; despondency the element of his own self-created folly. Neither could it be otherwise. For, besides that, it would be too immeasurable a draught of woe to say in one breath that this only was the crux or affirmation of man's fate, and yet that this also was wretched per se; not accidentally made wretched by imprudence, but essentially and irrevocably so by necessity of its nature. Besides all this, which has a lurking dependency upon man's calculations of what is safe, he sees that this mode of thinking would leave him nothing; yet even that extreme consequence would not check some honest or sincere or desperate minds from uttering their convictions that life really was this desperate game[Pg 236]—much to lose and nothing in the best case to win. So far there would have been a dangerous gravitation at all times to the sad conclusion of Paganism. But, meanwhile, this dangerous gravitation was too dangerous, and Providence has deeply counteracted it by principles laid down in human nature. I affirm that where the ideas of man, where the possible infinities are not developed, then also the exorbitant on the other field is strongly pulled up. No ideals of evil can take place except under ideals of happiness that passeth all understanding. No synthesis can ever be executed, that is, no annumeration of A, B, C into a common total, viewed as elements tending to a common unity, unless previously this unity has been preconceived, because the elements are not elements, viz., original constituents of a representative whole (a series tending to a summation), unless that which is constituted—that whole—is previously given in idea. Since A and B and C could not be viewed as tending to a unity, having no existence except through them, unless previously that unity had existed for the regulation and eduction of its component elements. And this unity in the case of misery never could have been given unless far higher functions than any which could endure Paganism, or which Paganism could endure. Until the sad element of a diseased will is introduced, until the affecting notion is developed of a fountain in man himself welling up the misery for ever, no idea of misery could arise. Suffering is limited and transitory. What pain is permanent in man? Even the deepest laceration of the human heart, that which is inflicted by the loss of those who were the pulses of our hearts, is soothed (if never wholly healed) by time. One agency of time would avail for this effect were there no other.[Pg 237] The features of the individual whom we mourn grow dimmer and dimmer as time advances; and, pari passu, the features of places and collateral objects and associated persons from whom reverberated these afflicting reminiscences of the lost object.

I return: Deliverer from what? From suffering or misery. But that was not acknowledged, nor could have been, we could see no misery as a hypothesis except in these two modes: First, as a radication in man by means of something else, some third thing. Secondly, as a synthesis—as a gathering under a principle which must act prior to the gathering in order to provoke it. (The synthesis must be rendered possible and challenged by the à priori unity which otherwise constitutes that unity.) As a metaphysical possibility evil was recognised through its unfathomable nature. But this was because such a nature already presupposed a God's nature, realizing his own ends, stepped in with effect. For the highest form—the normal or transcendent form—of virtue to a Pagan, was in the character of citizen. Indeed, the one sole or affirmative form of virtue lay in this sole function, viz., of public, of patriotic virtue. Since here only it was possible to introduce an additional good to the world. All other virtue, as of justice between individual and individual, did but redress a previous error, sometimes of the man himself, sometimes of social arrangement, sometimes of accident. It was a plus which balanced and compensated a pre-existing minus—an action in regressu, which came back with prevailing power upon an action in progressu. But to be a patriot was to fulfil a call of the supererogatory heart—a great nisus of sympathy with the one sole infinite, the sole practical infinite that man pre-Christian ever could generate for his contemplation.[Pg 238] Now, therefore, it followed that the idea of virtue here only found its realization. Virtue, in fact, was not derivatively or consequentially connected with patriotism, it was immanent; not transitively associated by any links whatever, but immanently intertwisted, indwelling in the idea. Therefore it happened that a man, however heartsick of this tumid, bladdery delusion, although to him it was a balloon, by science punctured, lacerated, collapsing, trailed through ditch and mud under the rough handling and the fearful realities of life, yet he durst not avow his private feelings. That would have been even worse than with us: it would have been to proclaim virtue and vice mere bubbles and chimeras. He who really thinks so even we reasonably suspect of practical indifference unless when we believe him to speak as a misanthrope.

The question suppose to commence as to the divine mission of Christ. And the feeble understanding is sure to think this will be proved best by proving the subject of this doubt to have been a miracle-working power. And of all miracles, to have mastered (not merely escaped or evaded) death will be in his opinion the greatest. So that if Christ could be proved to have absolutely conquered death, i.e., to have submitted to death, but only to recoil from his power and overthrow it, to have died and subsequently to have risen again, will, à fortiori, prove Him to have been sent of God.

Not so. All and every basis of credibility must be laid in the moral nature, where the thing to be believed is important, i.e., moral. And I therefore open with this remark absolutely zermalmende to the common intellect: That from a holy faith you may infer a power of resurrection, but not from a power of resurrection fifty times repeated can we infer a holy faith. What in the last result[Pg 239] is the thing to be proved? Why, a holy revelation, not of knowledge, but of things practical; of agenda, not scienda. It is essential that this holy should also be new, original, revelatum. Because, else, the divinest things which are connata and have been common to all men, point to no certain author. They belong to the dark foundations of our being, and cannot challenge a trust, faith, or expectation as suspended upon any particular individual man whatever.

Here, then, arises the πρωτοντοκινον. Thick darkness sits on every man's mind as to Christ's revelation. He fancies that it amounts to this: 'Do what is good. Do your duty. Be good.' And with this vague notion of the doctrine, natural is it that he should think it as old as the hills. The first step to a saner view is, to understand—if a man has sense enough to reach so high—that the subtlest discoveries ever made by man, all put together, do not make one wave of that Atlantic as to novelty and originality which lies in the moral scheme of Christianity. I do not mean in the total scheme of Christianity, redemption, etc. No, but in the ethics.

All ethics that ever Greece refined or Rome illustrated, was, and could be, only the same universal system of social ethics—ethics proper and exclusive to man and man inter se, with no glimpse of any upward relationship.

Now Christianity looks upward for the first time. This in the first place. Secondly, out of that upward look Christianity looks secondarily down again, and reacts even upon the social ethics in the most tremendous way.


For my Book on the Relations of Christianity to Man.—S. T. C. cites Jeremy Taylor, etc., for horrible passages[Pg 240] on the gloomy state of the chances for virtuous Pagans. S. T. C. in a more liberal generation is shocked; and of course in his readers as in himself secretly, he professes more liberal ideas. Aye, but how is he entitled to these ideas? For, on further consideration, it is not Cicero only, or Epictetus only, that would suffer under this law of Christianity viewed in its reagency, but also Abraham, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hezekiah. Because, how could they benefit by a Redeemer not yet revealed—nay, by a Redeemer not even existing? For it is not the second person in the Trinity—not He separately and abstractedly—that is the Redeemer, but that second person incarnated. St. Paul apparently wished to smuggle this tremendous question into a fraudulent solution, by mixing up Abraham (with others pre-Christian and Christian) into the long array of those whose Faith had saved them. But faith in whom? General faith in God is not the thing, it is faith in Jesus Christ; and we are solemnly told in many shapes that no other name was given on earth through which men could be delivered. Indeed, if not, how is the Messiah of such exclusive and paramount importance to man? The Messiah was as yet (viz., in Abraham's time) a prophecy—a dim, prophetic outline of one who should be revealed. But if Abraham and many others could do without Him, if this was a dispensable idea, how was it in any case, first or last, indispensable? Besides, recur to the theory of Christianity. Most undeniably it was this, that neither of the two elements interested in man could save him; not God; He might have power, but His purity revolted. Power (or doubtfully so), but no will. Not man—for he, having the will, had no power. God was too holy; manhood too unholy. Man's gifts, applicable, but insufficient. God's sufficient, but in[Pg 241]applicable. Then came the compromise. How if man could be engrafted upon God? Thus only, and by such a synthesis, could the ineffable qualities of God be so co-ordinated with those of man.


Suppose even that a verbal inspiration could have been secured—secured, observe, against gradual changes in language and against the reactionary corruption of concurrent versions, which it would be impossible to guarantee as also enjoying such an inspiration (since, in that case, what barrier would divide mine or anybody's wilfully false translations from that pretending to authority? I repeat what? None is conceivable, since what could you have beyond the assurance of the translator, even which could only guarantee his intentions)—here is a cause of misinterpretation amounting to ruin, viz., after being read for centuries as if practically meant for our guidance, such and such a chapter (e.g., Jael and Sisera), long proscribed by the noble as a record of abominable perfidy, has at length been justified on the ground that it was never meant for anything else. Thus we might get rid of David, etc., were it not that for his flexible obedience to the clerus he has been pronounced the man after God's own heart.

Is it not dreadful that at the very vestibule of any attempt to execute the pretended law of God and its sentences to hell we are interrupted by one case in every three as exceptional? Of the deaths, one in three are of children under five. Add to these surely very many up to twelve or thirteen, and many up to eighteen or twenty, then you have a law which suspends itself for one case in every two.

[Pg 242]Note in the argument drawn from perishableness of language. Not only (which I have noted) is any language, ergo the original, Chaldæan, Greek, etc., perishable even for those who use it, but also the vast openings to error which all languages open to translators form a separate source of error in translators, viz.:

1. The old one on my list that for them the guidance of inspiration has ceased, else, if not, you must set up an inspiration separately to translators, since, if you say—No, not at all, why, which then?

2. The uncertainty of a foreign language even in a day contemporary with the original writer, and therefore over and above what arises from lapse of time and gradual alterations.


On Human Progress.—Oftentimes it strikes us all that this is so insensible as to elude observation the very nicest. Five years add nothing, we fancy. Now invert your glass. In 1642 Englishmen are fighting for great abstract principles. In 1460-83 (i.e., 100 + 17 + 42 years before, or 159 years) they are fighting for persons, for rival candidates. In 1460 they could not have conceived more than an Esquimaux can entertain a question about the constitution of lyric poetry, or the differential principles of English and Greek tragedy, the barest approximation to questions that in 1642 are grounds of furious quarrel, of bloody quarrel, of extermination. Now then, looking forward, you would see from year to year little if any growth; but inverting your glass, looking back from the station of 1642 to 1460, you see a progress that if subdivided amongst all the 159 years would give to each x/0 as its quota, i.e. infinity. In fact, it is like the progression from nothing to something. It is—creation.[Pg 243]

All the body of the Christian world would fly out in a rage if you should say that Christianity required of you many things that were easy, but one thing that was not. Yet this is undoubtedly true; it requires you to believe, and even in the case where you know what it is to believe, and so far are free from perplexity, you have it not in your own power to ensure (though you can influence greatly) your own power to believe. But also great doubt for many (and for all that are not somewhat metaphysical) attends the knowledge of what is believing.


As to my mother's fancy that Sir W. Jones had found in the East proofs of Christianity, having gone out an infidel.

To do her justice, never once after she had adopted a theory of Christianity did she inquire or feel anxious about its proof. But to review the folly of this idea.

1. That Christianity there where it reigned and was meant to reign should be insufficient in its proofs; but that in a far distant land, lurking in some hole or corner, there should be proofs of its truth, just precisely where these proofs were not wanted. And again, that these should be reserved for one scholar rambling into a solitary path, where in a moral sense nobody could follow him (for it is nobody—this or that oriental scholar). And we are sure that his proof was not of that order to shine by its own light, else it would have resounded through England.

2. That for many hundreds of years Christianity should have been received, generation after generation should have lived under its vital action, upon no sufficient argument, and suddenly such an argument should turn up as a reward to a man in a country not Christian for being more incredulous than his neighbours; how impossible![Pg 244]

That fraudulent argument which affects to view the hardships of an adventurous life and its perils as capable of one sole impression—that of repulsion—and secondly as the sole circumstances about such adventures, injures from the moment when it is perceived: not

1. The writer only; no matter for him, worthless liar, how much he sinks in the opinion of his readers: but

2. The Apostles. Now see the injury of falsehood. Suddenly it snaps, and with a great reaction causes a jar to the whole system, which in ordinary minds it is never likely to recover. The reason it is not oftener perceived is that people read such books in a somnolent, inactive state of mind, one-tenth coming to a subject on which they have already made up their minds, and open to no fresh impressions, the other nine-tenths caring not one straw about the matter, as reading it in an age of irreflectiveness and purely through an act of obedience to their superiors, else not only does this hypocritical attempt to varnish give way all at once, and suddenly (with an occasion ever after of doubt, and causing a reflection to any self-sufficient man, suddenly coming to perceive that he has been cheated, and with some justification for jealousy thenceforwards to the maker up of a case), but also it robs the Apostles of the human grace they really possessed. For if we suppose them armed against all temptations, snares, seductions, by a supernatural system of endowments, this is but the case of an angel—nay, not of an angel, for it is probable that when an angel incarnated himself, or one of the Pagan deities, who was obliged first to incarnate himself before he could act amongst men, or so much as be seen by men, he was bound by all the defects of man, i.e., he could choose only an ideal, so far ideal as to elude[Pg 245] the worst effects from vice, intemperance, etc. The angel who wrestled with Jacob probably did his best; he was a stout fellow, but so was the patriarch. The very condition of incarnation, and this because the mere external form already includes limitations (as of a fish, not to fly; of a man, not to fly, etc.) probably includes as a necessity, not as a choice, the adoption of all evils connected with the nature assumed. Even the Son of God, once incarnated, was not exempted from any evil of flesh; He grew, passed through the peculiar infirmities of every stage up to mature life; would have grown old, infirm, weak, had He lived longer; was liable to death, the worst of all human evils, and was not, we may be sure, exempted from any one fleshly desire with regard to sex, or enemies, or companions, but because that divine principle, which also is in man, yes, in every man the foulest and basest—this light which the darkness comprehended not, and which in some is early extinguished, but in all fights fitfully with the winds and storms of this human atmosphere, in Him was raised to a lustre unspeakable by His pure and holy will.

If the Apostles were more celestially armed in any other sense than as we are all armed from above by calling forth our better natures, if in any other sense than as sorrow arms us by purifying our natures, as sorrowful reflection, as meditation and earnest endeavours to resist our angry instincts (which, on the contrary, how often do men obey under the vile pretence of being put by conscience on a painful duty), then, I say, what were the Apostles to us? Why should we admire them? How can we make them models of imitation? It is like that case of Anarcharsis the Scythian.[Pg 246]


It does certainly incense a Christian to think that stupid Mahommedans should impute to us such childish idolatries as that of God having a son and heir—just as though we were barbarous enough to believe that God was liable to old age—that the time was coming, however distant, when somebody would say to him, 'Come, Sir,' or 'Come, my Lord, really you are not what you were. It's time you gave yourself some ease (ευφημι, time, indeed, that you resigned the powers to which you are unequal), and let a younger man take the reins.' None but a filthy barbarian could carry forward his thoughts so little as not to see that this son in due time would find himself in the same predicament.

Now mark how Christian lands would enforce this doctrine of unity by horrid coercions. They hang, drown, burn, crucify those who deny it. So that, be assured you are planting your corner-stone on the most windy of delusions. You yourselves do not ascribe any merit to Mahommed separate from that of revealing the unity of God. Consequently, if that is a shaken craze arising from mere inability on his part, a little, a very little information would have cut up by the very roots the whole peculiarity of Islam. For if a wise man could have assembled these conceited Arabians and told them: Great thieves, you fancy yourselves to have shot far ahead of the Christians as to the point of unity, and if you had I would grant that you had made a prodigious advance. But you are deceiving quarrellers. It is all a word—mere smoke, that blinds you. The Christian seems to affirm three Gods, and even to aggravate this wickedness by calling one of them 'a Son,' thus seeming to accept that monstrous notion that God is liable to old age and decrepitude, so as to provide wisely against His[Pg 247] own dotage. But all this is an error: these three apparent Gods are but one, and in the most absolute sense one.


The most shockingly searching, influential, and permanent blunder that ever has affected the mind of man has been the fancy that a religion includes a creed as to its απορῥητα, and a morality; in short, that it was doctrinal by necessity, enactory, and (which has been the practical part of the blunder) therefore exclusive, because:

1. With our notion of a religion as essentially doctrinal, the very first axiom about it is, that being true itself it makes all others false. Whereas, the capital distinction of the Pagan was—that given, supposing to be assumed, 10,000 religions—all must be true simultaneously, all equally. When a religion includes any distinct propositions offered to the understanding (that is, I think, resting upon a principle or tendency to a consequence by way of differencing from facts which also are for the understanding, but then barely to contemplate not with a power of reacting on the understanding, for every principle introduces into the mind that which may become a modification, a restraint; whereas, a fact restrains nothing in the way of thought unless it includes a principle), it would rise continually in its exclusive power according to the number of those propositions. At first it might exclude all but ten, eight, seven, and so on; finally, as integrated it would exclude all.

2. If you ask on what principle a Pagan believed his religion, the question to him was almost amusing and laughable. I will illustrate the case. A man meets you who inquires in a hurried, suppose even in an agitated way,[Pg 248] whether you met a tall man, blind of one eye, dressed in such a coloured dress, etc. Now, does it ever occur to you that the inquirer is lying? Lying! Wherefore should he lie? Or again, if you say that your house stands under a hill, that three out of four chimneys smoke, and that you must indeed try some of the inventions for remedying this annoyance, would any man in his senses think of speculating on the possibility that all this should be a romance? Or, to come nearer in the kind of fact, if a man represented his family fortune as having been bequeathed by a maiden aunt in the last generation, would any man say otherwise than that doubtless the man knew his own benefactors and relatives best? On this same principle, when Christ was mentioned as the divinity adored by a certain part of the Jews who were by way of distinction called Christians, why should a Roman object? What motive could he have for denying the existence or the divine existence of Christ? Even the idea of dissent or schism, some Jews worshipping, some protesting, would not much puzzle him. Something like it had occurred in Pagan lands. Neptune and Athene had contended for Attica. And under the slight inquiry which he would ever make, or listen to when made by others, he might wonder at the rancour displayed by the protesting party, but he would take it for granted that a divinity of some local section had been unduly pushed into pre-eminence over a more strictly epichorial divinity. He would go off with this notion, that whereas, the elder Jews insisted on paying vows, etc., to a God called Jehovah, a section sought to transfer that allegiance to a divinity called Christ. If he were further pressed on the subject, he would fancy that very possibly, as had been thought, found or imagined in the case of Syrian deities[Pg 249] or Egyptian, etc., that perhaps Christ might correspond to Apollo, as Astarte to Diana, Neptune of Latium to the Poseidôn of Greece. But if not, that would cause no scruple at all. Thus far it was by possibility a mere affair of verbal difference. But suppose it ascertained that in no point of the symbols surrounding the worship of Christ, or the conception of His person, He could be identified with any previously-known Pagan God—that would only introduce Him into the matricula of Gods as a positive novelty. Nor would it have startled a Roman to hear that in India or any country large enough there should be a separate Pantheon of many thousand deities, plus some other Pantheon of divinities corresponding to their own. For Syria—but still more in one section of Syrian Palestine—this would surprise him quoad the degree, not quoad the principle. The Jew had a separate or peculiar God, why not? No nation could exist without Gods: the very separate existence of a people, trivial as it might be in power and wealth, argued a tutelary God, but, of course, proportioned to the destinies at least (and in part to the present size) of the country. Thus far no difficulties at all. But the morality! Aye, but that would never be accounted a part of religion. As well confound a science with religion. Aye, but the απορῥητα. These would be viewed as the rites of Adonis, or of Ceres; you could not warn him from his preconception that these concerned only Jews. Where, therefore, lodged the offence? Why here, as personalities—for such merely were all religions—the God must be measured by his nation. So some Romans proposed to introduce Christ into the Roman Pantheon. But what first exploded as a civil offence was the demand of supremacy and the inconceivable[Pg 250] principle set up of incompatibility. This was mere folly.


A much more solemn, significant and prophetic meaning than the common one may be secured to the famous passage in St. Matthew—'And thou shalt call His name Jesus.' This injunction wears the most impressive character belonging to heavenly adjuration, when it is thus confided to the care and custody of a special angel, and in the very hour of inauguration, and amongst the very birth-throes of Christianity. For in two separate modes the attention is secretly pointed and solicited to the grand serpentine artifice, which met and confronted the almost insurmountable difficulty besetting Christianity on its very threshold: First, by the record of the early therapeutic miracles, since in that way only, viz., by a science of healing, which the philosopher equally with the populace recognised as resting upon inspiration from God, could the magistrate and civil authority have been steadily propitiated; secondly, by the very verbal suggestion couched in the name Jesus, or Healer. At the most critical of moments an angel reveals himself, for the purpose of saying 'Thou shalt call His name Jesus'—and why Jesus? Because, says the angel, 'He shall heal or cleanse His people from sin as from a bodily disease.' Thus, in one and the same moment is suggested prospectively to the early Christian, who is looking forward in search of some adequate protection against the civil magistrate, and theoretically and retrospectively is suggested to the Christian of our own philosophizing days, that admirable resource of what by a shorthand expression I will call Hakimism. The Hakim, the Jesus, the Healer, comes from God. Mobs[Pg 251] must not be tolerated. But neither must the deep therapeutic inspirations of God be made of none effect, or narrowed in their applications. And thus in one moment was the panic from disease armed against the panic from insurgent mobs; the privileged Hakim was marshalled against the privileged magistrate; and the deep superstition, which saw, and not unreasonably, a demon raging in a lawless mob, saw also a demon not less blind or cruel in the pestilence that walked in darkness. And, as one magnet creates other magnets, so also the Hakim, once privileged, could secretly privilege others. And the physical Hakim could by no test or shibboleth be prevented from silently introducing the spiritual Hakim. And thus, whilst thrones and councils were tumultuating in panic, behold! suddenly the Christian soldier was revealed amongst them as an armed man.


'Écrasez l'infâme,' I also say: and who is he? It would be mere insanity to suppose that it could be any teacher of moral truths. Even I, who so much despise Socrates, could not reasonably call him l'infâme.

But who, then, is l'infâme? It is he who, finding in those great ideas which I have noticed as revelations from God, and which throw open to the startled heart the heaven of heavens, in the purity, the holiness, the peace which passeth all understanding, finding no argument of divinity, then afterwards does find it in the little tricks of legerdemain, in conjuring, in præstigia. But here, though perhaps roused a little to see the baseness of relying on these miracles, and also in the rear a far worse argument against them, he still feels uncomfortable at such words applied to things which Christ did. Christ[Pg 252] could not make, nor wished to make, that great which was inherently mean; that relevant, which was originally irrelevant. If He did things in themselves mean, it was because He suited Himself to mean minds, incapable of higher views; wretches such as exist amongst us of modern days by millions, on whom all His Divine words were thrown away, wretches deaf and blind and besotted, to whom it was said in vain: 'He that looketh upon a woman,' and what follows, creating by a rod of divinity in man's heart a far superior ideal of the moral; who heard with indifference His 'Bless those who persecute you;' yes, listened unmoved to His 'Suffer little children to come unto Me;' who heard with anger His 'In heaven there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage;' who abhorred His great doctrine that the counsels of God were not read in the events of things[31]; who slighted as trivial that prayer which a wise man might study with profit for a thousand years; beasts, wretches, that turned away deaf and blind, even as their sons turn away, from these arguments of a truth far transcending all that yet had come amongst men; but whilst trampling with their brutal hoofs upon such flowers of Paradise, turned in stupid wonderment to some mere legerdemain or jugglery.


The Truth.—But what tongue can express, what scale can measure, the awful change in man's relations to the unseen world? Where there had been a blank not filled by anything, not by any smoke or dusky tarnish of suspicion, not filled by so much as any shadowy outline or vague phantom of possibility, there was now seen rising, 'like Teneriffe or Atlas'—say rather, by symbolizing [Pg 253]the greatest of human interests by the greatest of human visual objects, like the snowy peaks of the Himalaya, peaks that by men's feelings are referred to the heavens rather than to the earth; to the beings 'whose dwelling is no thick flesh,' rather than to men who have in no age succeeded in scaling them; and who in their steps to those mighty thrones have heard nothing but dread crashes of sound—again to fade or vanish, the colossal form, never the mighty idea of 'The Truth.'[32] Where there had been nothing, a blank, a chasm, there stood in solemn proportions a new object for man, called The Truth. Why was it called The Truth? How could such an idea arise? Many persons will be weak enough to fancy that, as ὁποητης was sometimes an artifice of rhetoric for expressing the exclusive supremacy of Homer, and as by a pure affectation and movement of dissimulation a man was called by the title of The Orator, his own favourite Greek or Roman thus affecting for the moment to know of no other (for all such emphatic and exclusive uses of the imply a momentary annihilation of the competitors, as though in comparison of the ideal exemplification these minor and approximating forms had no existence—or at least, not quoad hunc locum—as 'the mountain in Sicily' would rightly indicate Etna), on the same artificial principle they may imagine rhetoricians to have denominated (or if not, to have had it in [Pg 254]their power to denominate) some one department of truth which they wished to favour as the truth. But this conventional denomination would not avail, and for two reasons: First, that rival modes of truth (physics against mathematics, rhetoric against music) would contest the title, and no such denomination would have a basis of any but a sort of courtesy or vicarious harmonious reality from the very first. Secondly, that, standing in no relation whatever to God, every mode, form, division or subdivision of truth merely intellectual would gain nothing at all by such ostentatious arts. Algebra has been distinguished by glorious names; so has the fancied knowledge of transmutation applied to the metals; so, doubtless, has many a visionary speculation of magic; so, again, has the ridiculous schwermerey of the Rabbis in particular ages. But those are as transient and even for the moment as partial titles as the titles of Invincible or Seraphic applied to scholastic divines. Out of this idea the truth grew, next (suppose x) another Martyrdom.

The difference between all human doctrines and this is as between a marble statue and a quick thing. The statue may be better, and it may be of better material; it may be of ivory, of marble, and amongst marbles known to the ancient sculptors of several different kinds the most prized; of silver gilt, of hollow gold, of massy gold, and in all degrees of skill; but still one condition applies to all—whatever the material, whoever the artist, the statue is inanimate, the breath of life is not within its nostrils. Motion, spontaneity, action and antagonist action, the subtle watch-work of the brain, the mighty laboratory of the heart, vision, sensibility, self-propagated warmth, pleasure, hope, memory, thought, liberty—not[Pg 255] one of these divine gifts does it possess. It is cold, icy, senseless, dull, inert matter. Let Phidias have formed the statue, it is no better. Let the purest gold be its material, it is no worthier than the meanest model in clay to the valuation of the philosopher. And here, as in so many cases, the great philosopher meets with the labouring man; both meet with the little innocent child. All have the same undervaluation of the statue. And if any man values it preposterously, it will be neither a great philosopher, nor a labouring man with horny fists, nor a little innocent and natural child. It will be some crazy simpleton, who dignifies himself as a man of taste, as elegans formarum spectator, as one having a judicious eye for the distinctions of form. But now, suddenly, let one of the meanest of these statues begin to stir and shiver with the mystery of life, let it be announced that something 'quick' is in the form, let the creeping of life, the suffusion of sensibility, the awful sense of responsibility and accountability ripen themselves, what a shock—what a panic! What an interest—how profound—would diffuse itself in every channel. Such is the ethics of God as contrasted with the ethics of Greek philosophers. The only great thing ever done by Greece or by Greek philosophers was the ethics. Yet, after all, these were but integrations of the natural ethics implanted in each man's heart. Integrations they were, but rearrangements—redevelopments from some common source.


It is remarkable that the Scriptures, valuing clearness and fencing against misunderstandings above all things, never suspend—there is no εποχη in the scriptural style of the early books. And, therefore, when I first came to[Pg 256] a text, 'If when,' I was thunderstruck, and I found that this belongs to the more cultivated age of Hebrew literature.


'And the swine because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you' (Deut. xiv. 8). Now the obvious meaning is, primâ facie, that the ground of its uncleanness was its dividing the hoof. Whereas, so far from this, to divide the hoof is a ground of cleanness. It is a fact, a sine quâ non—that is, a negative condition of cleanness; but not, therefore, taken singly the affirmative or efficient cause of cleanness. It must in addition to this chew the cud—it must ruminate. Which, again, was but a sine quâ non—that is, a negative condition, indispensable, indeed; whose absence could not be tolerated in any case, but whose presence did not therefore, and as a matter of course, avail anything. For the reverse case occurred in the camel, hare, and rabbit. They do chew the cud, the absence of which habit caused the swine to be rejected, but then they 'divide not the hoof.' Accordingly they were equally rejected as food with the swine.


We see the great Jewish lawgiver looking forward to cases which actually occurred nearly five hundred years after, as demanding a king, and again looking still farther to cases eight hundred and a thousand years after—their disobedience and rebellion to God. Now, many will think that it must have been an easy thing for any people, when swerving from their law, and especially in that one great fundamental article of idolatry as the Jews so continually did, and so naturally when the case is examined, to always have an easy retreat: the[Pg 257] plagues and curses denounced would begin to unfold themselves, and then what more easy than to relinquish the idolatrous rites or customs, resuming with their old rituals to God their old privileges? But this was doubly impossible. First, because men utterly misconceive the matter when they suppose that with direct consecutive succession the judgment would succeed the trespass. Large tracts of time would intervene. Else such direct clockwork as sin and punishment, repentance and relief, would dishonour God not less than they would trivialize the people. God they would offend by defeating all His purposes; the people they would render vile by ripening into mechanic dissimulation. The wrath of God slept often for a long season; He saw as one who saw not. And by the time that His large councils had overtaken them, and His judgments were fast coming up with the offenders, they had so hardened themselves in error that a whole growth of false desires had sprung up, and of false beliefs, blind maxims, bad habits, bad connections, and proverbs, which found out a reconciliation of that irreconcilable truth with the foulest pollutions. The victims of temptation had become slow even to suspect their own condition. And, if some more enlightened did so, the road of existence was no longer easy. Error had woven chains about them. They were enmeshed. And it is but a faint emblem of their situation to say, that as well may a man commence a habit of intoxication for the purpose of having five years' pleasure, and then halting in his career, as the Jews may contaminate themselves tentatively with idolatrous connections under the delusion that it would always be time enough for untreading their steps when these connections had begun to produce evil. For they could not recover the station[Pg 258] from which they swerved. They that had now realized the casus fœderis, the case in which they had covenanted themselves to desist from idolatry, were no longer the men who had made that covenant. They had changed profoundly and imperceptibly. So that the very vision of truth was overcast with carnal doubts; the truth itself had retired to a vast distance and shone but feebly for them, and the very will was palsied in its motions of recovery.

In such a state, suppose it confirmed and now threatening towards a total alienation from the truth once delivered, what could avail to save them? Nothing but affliction in the heaviest form. Vain it was now to hope for a cheaper restoration, since the very first lightening of their judicial punishment would seem to them a reason for relapsing, by seeming to argue that there had been two principles. It was but a false alarm, they would say, after all. Affliction, therefore, was past all substitution or remedy. Yet even this case, this prostration to the ground, had been met for a thousand years by God's servants.


If I have shown that quickening spirit which, diffusing itself through all thoughts, schemata, possible principles, motives of sensibility, and forms of taste, has differenced the pre-Christian man from the post-Christian; if I have detected that secret word which God subtly introduced into this world, kept in a state of incubation for two millennia, then with the flames and visible agency of a volcanic explosion forced into infinite disruption, caused to kindle into a general fire—that word by which sadness is spread over the face of things, but also infinite grandeur—then may I rightly[Pg 259] lay this as one chapter of my Emendation of Human Knowledge.


The same thing precisely takes place in literature as in spiritual things. When a man is entangled and suffocated in business, all relating to that which shrinks up to a point—and observe, I do not mean that being conceived as a tent above his head it contracts, but that, viewed as a body at a distance, it shrinks up to a point, and really vanishes as a real thing—when this happens, having no subjective existence at all, but purely and intensely objective, he misconceives it just in the same way as a poor ignorant man misconceives learning or knowledge; fancying, e.g., like Heylius senior, that he ought to know the road out of the wood in which they were then entangled.


It is probable that Adam meant only the unity of man as to his nature, which also is meant by making all men of one blood. Similarly Boeckh—εν γενει—which does not mean that Gods and men are the same, but that of each the separate race has unity in itself. So the first man, Adam, will mean the earliest race of men, perhaps spread through thousands of years.


It is a violent case of prejudice, this ordinary appeal of Bossuet, 'Qu'ont gagné les philosophes avec leurs discours pompeux?' (p. 290). Now how should that case have been tried thoroughly before the printing of books? Yet it may be said the Gospel was so tried. True, but without having the power of fully gratifying itself through the whole range of its capability. That was for a later time, hence a new proof of its reality.


An Analogy.—1. I have somewhere read that a wicked set of Jews, probably, when rebuked for wickedness,[Pg 260] replied, 'What! are we not the peculiar people of God? Strange, then, if we may not have a privilege more than others to do wrong!' The wretches fancied that to be the people of God—the chosen people—implied a license to do wrong, and had a man told them, No, it was just the other way; they were to be better than others, absolutely, they would have trembled with wrath.

2. Precisely the same idea, I am sure, lurks in many minds as to repentance. It is odious to think of, this making God the abettor and encourager of evil; but I am sure it is so, viz., that, because God has said He will have mercy on the penitent, they fancy that, as the chief consequence from that doctrine, they may commit sins without anxiety; though others, not under the Christian privilege, would be called to account for the same sin, penitent or not penitent. But they—such is their thought—are encouraged to sin by the assurance that repentance will always be open to them, and this they may pursue at leisure.

Now, if a man should say: 'But, my friends, this means real penitence;' they would reply, 'Oh, but we mean real penitence.' 'Well, if you do, you must know that that is not always possible.' 'Not possible!' Then make them understand that; they will roar with wrath, and protest against it as no privilege at all.


The literal interpretation of the Mosaic Cosmogony is the very expression of a barbarian mind and people, relying so far on magic as to make all natural process of generation or production impossible, relying so far on natural processes as to make the fiat of supreme power evidently inapplicable. It is exactly the Minerva of the Pagans draggled in her skirts.[Pg 261]


Idolatry.—It is not only a mere blind crotchet of Isaiah's (Jeremiah's?) to ridicule idols—utterly wide of any real imperfection, but also it misses all that really might be bad. The true evil is not to kindle the idea of Apollo by an image or likeness, but to worship Apollo, i.e., a god to be in some sense false—belonging to a system connected with evil. That may be bad; but there can be no separate evil in reanimating the idea of this Apollo by a picture.


I have observed many times, but never could understand in any rational sense, the habit of finding a confirmation of the Bible in mere archæologic facts occasionally brought to light and tallying with the Biblical records. As in the Pharaonic and Egyptian usages, and lately in the case of Nimrod, a great collateral confirmation of Ezekiel has been fancied. But how? Supposing Ezekiel to have recited accurately the dimensions of Nineveh, how should that make him a true prophet? Or supposing him a false one, what motive should that furnish for mismeasuring Nineveh? The Gospels appear to have been written long after the events, and when controversies or variations had arisen about them, they have apparently been modified and shaped to meet those disputes.


The sun stands still. I am persuaded that this means no such incredible miracle as is ordinarily imagined. The interpretation arises from misconceiving an Oriental expression, and a forcible as well as natural one. Of all people the Jews could least mistake the nature of the sun and moon, as though by possibility they could stand in a relation to a particular valley: that the sun could have[Pg 262] stood still in Gibeon, and the moon in Ajalon. Since they viewed sun and moon as two great lights, adequated and corresponding to day and night, that alone shows that they did not mean any objective solstice of the hour, for else why in Ajalon? Naturally it would be a phenomenon chiefly made known to the central sanctity of that God whose miraculous interposition had caused so unknown an arrest of ordinary nature; Jerusalem was not then known, it was Jebus, a city of Jebusites; and the fact which subsequently created its sanctity did not occur till more than four centuries afterwards (viz., on the threshing-floor of Araunah). But Shiloh existed, and Horeb, and Sinai, and the graves of the Patriarchs. And all those places would have expounded the reference of the miracle, would have traced it to the very source of its origin; so as to show not then only, not to the contemporaries only, but (which would be much more important) to after generations, who might suspect some mistake in their ancestors as explaining their meaning, or in themselves as understanding it. What it really means, I am persuaded, is merely to express that the day was, of all historical days, the most important. What! do people never reflect on the το positive of their reading? If they did, they would remember that the very idea of a great cardinal event, as of the foundation of the Olympiads, was as an arrest, a pausing, of time; causing you to hang and linger on that time. And the grandeur of this Jewish Waterloo in which God established possessions for His people and executed an earthly day of judgment on the ancient polluters (through perhaps a thousand years) of the sacred land (already sacred as the abode and burying-place of His first servants under a covenant) was expressed by saying that the day lingered, arrested[Pg 263] itself by a burthen of glorious revolution so mighty as this great day of overthrow. For remember this: Would not God have changed Pharaoh's heart, so intractable, by such a miracle, had it been at all open to His eternal laws? Whereas, if you say, Aye, but on that account why grant even so much distinction to the day as your ancestor does? answer, it was the final-cause day.


The English Church pretends to give away the Bible without note or comment, or—which, in fact, is the meaning—any impulse or bias to the reader's mind. The monstrous conceit of the Protestant Churches, viz., the right of private judgment (which is, in effect, like the right to talk nonsense, or the right to criticise Sir John Herschel's books without mathematics), is thus slavishly honoured. Yet all is deception. Already in the translation at many hundred points she has laid a restraining bias on the reader, already by the division of verses, already by the running abstracts over the Prophets, she has done this.


Can the power adequated to a generation of minds, or to a succession of many generations, find its comprehension in an individual? Can the might which overflows the heaven of heavens be confined within a local residence like that which twice reared itself by its foundations, and three times by its battlements, above the threshing-floor of Araunah?[33] Of that mystery, of that [Pg 264]local circumscription—in what sense it was effected, in what sense not effected, we know nothing. But this by mere human meditation, this profound difficulty we may humanly understand and measure, viz., the all but impossibility of reaching the man who stands removed to an extent of fifteen centuries. But here comes in the unspiritual mind which thinks only of facts—yet mark me so far, Rome by an augury of wicked gods stretched to a period of 1,200 years. Yet how open to doubt in one sense! Not, I am sure, in any sense understood by man, but I doubt not in the ominous sense intended. Changed in all things essential, she was yet a mighty sceptred potentate for the world until her dependency on Attila's good-will and forbearance. 444 after Christ added to 752 b. c. complete the period. But period for what? For whom? For a great idea that could not be lost. The conception could not perish if the execution perished. But, next think of the temptation to mythus. And, finally, of God's plan unrealized, His conceptions unanswered. We should remember that by the confusion introduced into the economy of internal Divine operations there is a twofold difficulty placed between the prayer and the attainment of the prayer. 1st, the deflection, slight though it may seem to the man, from the state of perfect simplicity and of natural desire; 2ndly, the deflection of the object desired from the parallelism with the purposes now became necessary to God in order to remedy abnormous shifting of the centre by man. And again, in the question of the language of Scripture, I see the same illustration. Sir William Jones, in a fit of luxurious pleasure-giving, like Gibbons' foolish fit[34] as to the Archbishop of Carthagena, praises [Pg 265]the language of Scripture as unattainable. I say, No. This is hypocrisy. It is no dishonour if we say of God that, in the sense meant by Sir William Jones, it is not possible for Him to speak better than powerful writers can speak. They have the same language as their instrument, and as impossible would it be for Apollonius or Sir William Jones to perform a simple process of addition better than an ordinary keeper of a shop. In the schemata, because in the original ideas, God says indeed what man cannot, for these are peculiar to God; but who before myself has shown what they were? As to mere language, however, and its management, we have the same identically. And when a language labours under an infirmity, as all do, not God Himself could surmount it! He is compromised, coerced, by the elements of language; but what of that? It is an element of man's creating. And just as in descending on man by His answers God is defeated or distorted many times by the foul atmosphere in which man has thrown himself, so in descending upon the mind (unless by dreams, or some language that he may have kept pure), God is thwarted and controlled by the imperfections of human language. And, apart from the ideas, I myself could imitate the Scriptural language—I know its secret, its principle of movement which lies chiefly in high abstractions—far better than is done in most parts of the Apocrypha.

The power lies in the spirit—the animating principle; and verily such a power seems to exist. And the fact derived from the holiness, the restraints even upon the Almighty's power through His own holiness, goodness, [Pg 266]and wisdom, are so vast that, instead of the unlimited power which hypocritical glorifiers ascribe to Him by way of lip-honour, in reaching man ex-abundantibus in so transcendent a way that mere excess of means would have perplexed a human choice, on the contrary, I am persuaded that besides the gulf of 1,500 years so as to hold on, so as to hold hard, and to effect the translation of His will unaltered, uncorrupted, through the violent assaults of idolatries all round, and the perverse, headstrong weakness of a naturally unbelieving people,[35] down to the time of Christ from the time of Moses—there was the labour hardly to be effected; and why? I have always been astonished at men treating such a case as a simple original problem as to God. But far otherwise. It was a problem secondary to a change effected by man. His rays, His sun, still descended as ever; but when they came near to the foul atmosphere of man, no ray could pierce unstained, unrefracted, or even untwisted. It was distorted so as to make it hardly within the limits of human capacity (observe, the difficulty was in the human power to receive, to sustain, to comprehend—not in the Divine power to radiate, to receive what was directed to it). Often I have reflected on the tremendous gulf of separation placed between man, by his own act, and all the Divine blessings which could visit him. (This is illustrated by prayer; for, while we think it odd that so [Pg 267]many prayers of good men for legitimate objects of prayer should seem to be unanswered, we nevertheless act as to our prayers in a kind of unconscious hypocrisy, as though to our sense they had been answered in some ineffable way, and all the while our conduct, to speak strictly, lies outside all this, and remains wholly uninfluenced by it).

These ideas of God have life only by their own inherent power: yet what risk that Jews should lapse into supposing themselves separately a favoured people? By this very error they committed the rebellion against which they had been warned—in believing that they only were concerned in receiving a supernatural aid of redemption: thus silently substituting their own merits for the Divine purposes. All which did in fact happen. But their errors were overruled, else how could the human race be concerned in their offences, errors, or ministries? The Jews forgot what we moderns forget, that they were no separate objects of favour with God, but only a means of favour.

What occasion to 'argal-bargal' about why God did not sooner accomplish the scheme of Christianity? For besides that, 1st, possibly the scheme in its expansion upon earth required a corresponding expansion elsewhere; 2ndly, it is evident even to our human sense that none but the most childish eudamonist, whose notion of happiness is that of lazy luxury, would think of cramming men, bidding them open their mouths, and at once drugging them with a sensual opium (as all blessing must be without previous and commensurate elevation to the level of that blessing); 3rdly, the physical nature of the evil to be undone was such as would not have been (objectively would not have been, but still less could it subjectively have been) for the conception of man that dreadful[Pg 268] mystery which it really is, had the awful introversion been measured back by fewer steps; 4thly, and finally, it seems at first sight shocking to say of God that He cannot do this and this, but it is not so. Without adverting to the dark necessities that compass our chaotic sense when we ascend by continual abstraction to the absolute, without entangling ourselves vainly in those wildernesses that no created intellect can range or measure—even one sole attribute of God, His holiness, makes it as impossible for Him to proceed except by certain steps as it would be impossible for a man, though a free agent, and apparently master, as he feels and thinks, of his own life, to cut his throat while in a state of pleasurable health both of mind and body.[Pg 269]

5.—Political, etc.

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Sir Robert Walpole, as to patriots, was like a man who has originally, from his nursery up, been thoroughly imbued with the terror of ghosts, which by education and example afterwards he has been encouraged to deny. Half he does disbelieve, and, under encouraging circumstances, he does disbelieve it stoutly. But at every fresh plausible alarm his early faith intrudes with bitter hatred against a class of appearances that, after all, he is upon system pledged to hold false. Nothing can be more ludicrous than his outcry, and his lashing of his own tail to excite his courage and his wrath and his denial—than his challenge of the lurking patriots in what he conceives the matter of frauds on the revenue. He assaults them as if he saw them standing in a row behind the door, and yet he pummels them for being mere men of the shades—horrible mockeries. Had there been any truth in their existence, surely, so strongly as they muster by their own report, some one or other of this fact should have given me warning—should have exposed the frauds. But no, all are silent as the grave. But here Sir Robert Walpole is as much wrong as if, doubting the value or power of Methodist preachers, he should make it the test of their useful existence that, as often as a highwayman, a footpad, started out of the wayside, from the other side should[Pg 270] start a Methodist preacher to reason with him and to convert him.


Are the Whigs less aristocratic than the Tories? Not at all. In tendency by principle they are the same. The real difference is not in the creed, in the groundwork, but in certain points of practice and method.


'He took his stand upon the truth'—said by me of Sir Robert Peel—might seem to argue a lower use of 'the truth,' but in fact it is as happens to the article the itself: you say the guard, speaking of a coach; the key, speaking of a trunk or watch, i.e., the as by usage appropriated to every coach, watch, trunk. So here the truth, namely, of the particular perplexity.


The Sepoy mutiny will be best understood if you suppose the Roman emperors, from Romulus to Augustus, from the Alban Fathers down to the Ostrogoths—the whole line of a thousand years crowded into two.


Trunkmakers may be great men: they clearly have the upper hand of authors whom all the world admits to be great men. For the trunkmaker is the principal in the concern—he makes the trunk, whereas the author, quite a secondary artist, furnishes only the linings.


Case of Casuistry.—Wraxall justly notices that errors like Prince Rupert's from excess of courage, however ruinous, are never resented by a country. Ergo the inference that prudence would be, always if in Byng's or Lord St. German's cases, in a matter of doubt held to be bold fighting; and yet in morals is that an allowable position?[Pg 271]

6.—Personal Confessions, etc.

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Avaunt, ye hypocrites! who make a whining pretence, according to a fixed rule, of verbally uttering thanks to God for every chastisement, and who say this is good for you. So do not I, being upright, and God seeing my heart, who also sees that I murmur not; but if it were not good in the end, yet I submit. He is not offended that with upright sincerity I give no thanks for it. And I say that, unless a man perceives the particular way in which it has been good for him, he cannot sincerely, truly, or so as not to mock God with his lips, give thanks simply on an à priori principle, though, of course, he may submit in humbleness.


I do not believe that the faith of any man in the apparent fact that he will never again see such a person (i.e., by being removed by death) is real. I believe that the degree of faith in this respect is regulated by an original setting or fixing of our nature quite unconscious to ourselves. So, again, I believe that hope is never utterly withdrawn, despair is never absolute. And again, I believe that, at the lowest nadir, the resource of dying as a means of escape and translation to new chances and openings is lodged in every man far down[Pg 272] below the sunlights of consciousness. He feels that his death is not final; were it otherwise he could not rush at the escape so lightly. Indeed, were his fate fixed immutably, I feel that it would not have been left possible for him to commit suicide.


Justice.—You say in the usual spirit of vanity, Y or X has the same degree of the spirit of justice as V. This is easily said, but the test is, what will he do for it? Suppose a man to propose rewards exclusively to those who assisted at a fire, then X and Y, suppose, have equally seen that many did not assist, even refused to do so. But X perhaps will shrink from exposing them; V will encounter any hatred for truth and justice by exposing the undeserving.


It is a foolish thing to say 'Hard words break no bones.' How impossible to call up from the depths of forgotten times all the unjust or shocking insinuations, all the scornful refusals to understand one aright, etc. But surely an injury is nothing to them; for that may be measured, made sensible, and cannot be forgotten, whereas the other case is like the dispute, 'Is he wrong as a poet?' compared with this, 'Is he wrong as a geometrician?' There need be no anger with the latter dispute; it is capable of decision.


Then, again, a heart so lacerated is required by Christianity to forgive the lacerator. Hard it is to do, and imperfectly it is ever done, except through the unbuckling of human nature under higher inspirations working together with time.


Instead of being any compliment it is the most[Pg 273] profound insult, the idea one can write something rapidly. It is no homage to the writer; it is villainous insensibility to the written.


Two subjects of stories occur to me. 1. For my Arabian tales, founded on the story of the Minyas Treasure-House at Orchomenus. 2. Another of an abbess, who was such by dispensation, but had been married; her accomplished son succeeds in carrying off a nun. She labours for the discovery and punishment of the unknown criminal, till she learns who he is; then parting from him for ever in the early dawn, she, sacrificing to a love that for her was to produce only hatred and the total destruction of the total hopes of her ageing life. Splendide Mendax! and the more angel she.


I find the double effect as the reason of my now reading again with profit every book, however often read in earlier times, that by and through my greater knowledge and the more numerous questions growing out of that knowledge, I have deeper interest, and by and through this deeper interest I have a value put upon those questions, and I have other questions supervening through the interest alone. The interest is incarnated in the wider knowledge; the knowledge is incarnated in the interest, or at least the curiosity and questions.


Upon trying to imprint upon my memory that at such a period the Argives ceased to be called Pelasgi, and were henceforward called Danai, I felt how impracticable (and doubtless in their degree injurious, for though an infinitesimal injury only as regards any single act[Pg 274] doubtless, yet, per se, by tendency doubtless all blank efforts of the memory unsupported by the understanding are bad), must be any violent efforts of the memory not falling in with a previous preparedness.


Music.—I am satisfied that music involves a far greater mystery than we are aware of. It is that universal language which binds together all creatures, and binds them by a profounder part of their nature than anything merely intellectual ever could.


It is remarkable (as proving to me the delibility of caste) that the Sudras of Central India, during its vast confusions under the Mahrattas have endeavoured to pass themselves for descendants of the Kshatriyas (or warrior caste) by assuming the sacred thread, also assumed by the Rajpoots, and also by some of the Sikhs.


I never see a vast crowd of faces—at theatres, races, reviews—but one thing makes them sublime to me: the fact that all these people have to die. Strange it is that this multitude of people, so many of them intellectually, but also (which is worse) morally, blind, are without forethought or sense of the realities of life.


Though I love fun, eternal jesting, buffoonery, punning absolutely kills me. Such things derive all their value from being made to intervene well with other things.


This is curious:

Shame, pain, and poverty shall I endure,
When ropes or opium can my ease procure?

[Pg 275]This offends nobody, not till you say, 'I'll buy a rope.' But now:

When money's gone, and I no debts can pay,
Self-murder is an honourable way—

though the same essentially, this shocks all men.


I have in the course of my misfortunes fasted for thirty years: a dreadful fate, if it had been to come. But, being past, it is lawful to regard it with satisfaction, as having, like all fasting and mortification, sharpened to an excruciating degree my intellectual faculties. Hence my love and even furor now for mathematics, from which in my youth I fled.


The Arrow Ketch, six guns, is recorded in the Edinburgh Advertiser for June 14th, 1844, as having returned home (to Portsmouth) on Thursday, June 7th, 'after six years and upwards in commission,' most of it surveying the Falkland Islands; 'has lost only two men during this long service, and those from natural causes;' 'never lost a spar, and has ploughed the ocean for upwards of 100,000 miles.'


Anecdotes from Edinburgh Advertiser, for June and May. The dog of a boy that died paralytic from grief. Little child run over by railway waggon and horse, clapping its hands when the shadow passed away, leaving it unhurt. Little girl of six committing suicide from fear of a stepmother's wrath.


To note the dire reactions (?) of evils: young thieves growing to old ones, no sewers, damp, famine-engendering, desolating and wasting plagues or typhus fever,[Pg 276] want of granaries or mendacious violence destroying food, civil feuds coming round in internecine wars, and general desolations, and, as in Persia, eight millions occupying the homesteads of three hundred millions. Here, if anywhere, is seen the almighty reactions through which the cycle of human life, oscillating, moves.


In the speech of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh (reported on June 14th, 1844), it is recited that boys 'left to stroll about the streets and closes,' acquire habits so fixed, if not of vice, at least of idleness, that in consequence of their not being trained to some kind of discipline in their early years, the habit of vagabondizing acquires such power that it is uncontrollable. And how apt and forcible was that quotation in the place assigned it: 'If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not, doth not He that pondereth the heart, consider it?'—consider it, regard it, make account of it.


Manners.—The making game of a servant before company—a thing impossible to well-bred people. Now observe how this is illustrative of H—— Street.


I confess myself wholly at a loss to comprehend the objections of the Westminster reviewer and even of my friend Dr. Nichol, to my commentary on the strange appearance in Orion. The reviewer says that this appearance (on which he seems to find my language incomprehensible) had been dispersed by Lord Rosse's telescope. True, or at least so I hear. But for all this, it was originally created by that telescope. It was in[Pg 277] the interval between the first report and the subsequent reports from Lord Rosse's telescope that I made my commentary. But in the case of contradiction between two reports, more accurate report I have not. As regards the reviewer, there had been no time for this, because the book, which he reviews, is a simple reprint in America, which he knows I had had no opportunity of revising. But Dr. Nichol perplexes me. That a new stage of progress had altered the appearances, as doubtless further stages will alter them, concerns me nothing, though referring to a coming republication; for both alike apparently misunderstood the case as though it required a real phenomenon for its basis. To understand the matter as it really is, I beg to state this case. Wordsworth in at least four different places (one being in the fourth book of 'The Excursion,' three others in Sonnets) describes most impressive appearances amongst the clouds: a monster, for instance, with a bell-hanging air, a dragon agape to swallow a golden spear, and various others of affecting beauty. Would it have been any just rebuke to Wordsworth if some friend had written to him: 'I regret most sincerely to say that the dragon and the golden spear had all vanished before nine o'clock'? So, again, of Hawthorne's face on a rock. The very beauty of such appearances is in part their evanescence.


To be or not to be. 'Not to be, by G——' said Garrick. This is to be cited in relation to Pope's—

'Man never is, but always to be blessed.'

Political Economy.—Which of these two courses shall I take? 1. Shall I revise, extend, condense my logic[Pg 278] of Political Economy, embodying every doctrine (and numbering them) which I have amended or re-positioned, and introduce them thus in a letter to the Politico-Economical Society: 'Gentlemen, certain ideas fundamental to Political Economy I presented in a book in the endeavour to effect a certain purpose. These were too much intermingled with less elementary ideas in consequence of my defective self-command from a dreadful nervous idea, and thus by interweaving they were overlapped and lost. But I am not disposed to submit to that wrong. I affirm steadily that the foundations of Political Economy are rotten and crazy. I defy, and taking up my stand as a scholar of Aristotle, I defy all men to gainsay the following exposures of folly, one or any of them. And when I show the darkness all round the very base of the hill, all readers may judge how great is that darkness.' Or, 2. Shall I introduce them as a chapter in my Logic?[Pg 279]

7.—Pagan Literature.

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We must never forget, that it is not impar merely, but also dispar. And such is its value in this light, that I protest five hundred kings' ransoms, nay, any sum conceivable as a common contribution from all nations would not be too much for the infinite treasure of the Greek tragic drama alone. Is it superior to our own? No, nor (so far as capable of collation) not by many degrees approaching to it. And were the case, therefore, one merely of degrees, there would be no room for the pleasure I express. But it shows us the ultimatum of the human mind mutilated and castrated of its infinities, and (what is worse) of its moral infinities.

You must imagine not only everything which there is dreadful in fact, but everything which there is mysterious to the imagination in the pariah condition, before you can approach the Heracleidæ. Yet, even with this pariah, how poorly do most men conceive it as nothing more than a civil, a police, an economic affair!


Valckenaer, an admirable Greek scholar, was not a man of fine understanding; nor, to say the truth, was Porson. Indeed, it is remarkable how mean, vulgar, and uncapacious has been the range of intellect in many[Pg 280] first-rate Grecians; though, on the other hand, the reader would deeply deceive himself if he should imagine that Greek is an attainment other than difficult, laborious, and requiring exemplary talents. Greek taken singly is, to use an indispensable Latin word, instar, the knowledge of all other languages. But men of the highest talents have often beggarly understandings. Hence, in the case of Valckenaer, we must derive the contradictions in his diatribe. He practises this intolerable artifice; he calls himself φιλενριπιδειος; bespeaks an unfair confidence from the reader; he takes credit for being once disposed to favour and indulge Euripides. In this way he accredits to the careless reader all the false charges or baseless concessions which he makes on any question between Euripides and his rivals. Such men as Valckenaer it is who are biased and inflected beforehand, without perceiving it, by all the commonplaces of criticism. These, it is true, do not arise out of mere shadows. Usually they have a foundation in some fact or modification. What they fail in is, in the just interpretation of these truths, and in the reading of their higher relations. 'The Correggiosity of Correggio' was precisely meant for Valckenaer. The Sophocleity of Sophocles he is keen to recognise, and the superiority of Sophocles as an artist is undeniable; nor is it an advantage difficult to detect. On the other hand, to be more Homeric than Homer is no praise for a tragic poet. It is far more just, pertinent praise, it is a ground of far more interesting praise, that Euripides is granted by his undervalues to be the most tragic (τραγιχοτατος) of tragic poets. After that he can afford to let Sophocles be 'Ὁμεριχωτος, who, after all, is not 'Ὁμεριχωτυτος, so long as Æschylus survives. But even so far we are valuing[Pg 281] Euripides as a poet. In another character, as a philosopher, as a large capacious thinker, as a master of pensive and sorrow-tainted wisdom, as a large reviewer of human life, he is as much beyond all rivalship from his scenic brethren as he is below one of them as a scenic artist.

Is the Nile ancient? So is Homer. Is the Nile remote and hiding its head in fable? So is Homer. Is the Nile the diffusive benefactor of the world? So is Homer.[36]

The Æneid.—It is not any supposed excellence that has embalmed this poem; but the enshrining of the differential Roman principle (the grand aspiring character of resolution), all referred to the central principle of the aggrandizement of Rome.

The sublime of wrath is nowhere exhibited so well as in Juvenal. Yet in Juvenal pretty glimpses of rural rest—

'... infans cum collusore catello.'[37]

That is pretty! There is another which comes to my mind and suggests his rising up and laying aside, etc., and shows it to be an occasional act, and, ergo, his garden is but a relaxation, amusement.

Glances which the haughty eyes of Rome threw sometimes gently and relentingly aside on man or woman, children or the flowers.

[Pg 282]

Herodotus is as sceptical as Plutarch is credulous. How often is now and at this time applied to the fictitious present of the author, whilst a man arguing generally beforehand would say that surely a man could always distinguish between now and then.

8.—Historical, etc.

[Pg 283]

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Growth of the House of Commons.—The House of Commons was the power of the purse, and what gave its emphasis to that power? Simply the growing necessity of standing forces, and the growing increase of war, so that now out of twenty millions, fifteen are applied to army and navy.

One great evil, as in practice it had begun to show itself, pressed with equal injustice on the party who suffered from it (viz., the nation), and the party who seemed to reap its benefit. This was the fact that as yet no separation had taken place between the royal peculiar revenue, and that of the nation. The advance of the nation was now (1603, 1st of James I.) approaching to the point which made the evil oppression, and yet had not absolutely reached the point at which it could be undeniably perceived. Much contest and debate divided the stage of incipient evil from the stage of confessed grievance. In spending £100,000 upon a single fête, James I. might reasonably allege that he misapplied, at any rate, his own funds. Wise or not, the act concerned his own private household. Yet, on the other hand, in the case of money really public, the confusion of the two expenditures invited and veiled the transfer[Pg 284] of much from national objects that could wait, and were, at any rate, hidden from effectual scrutiny to the private objects which tempted the king's profusion. When Mr. Macaulay speaks so often of England sinking under this or that Stuart to a third-rate power, he is anachronizing. There was no scale of powers. Want of roads and intercommunication forbade it. And hence until the Thirty Years' War there was no general war. Austria, as by fiction the Roman Empire, and always standing awfully near to North Italy, had a natural relation and gravitation towards Rome. France, by vainglory and the old literary pretensions of Anjou, had also a balancing claim upon Italy. Milanese formed indeed (as Flanders afterwards) the rendezvous for the two powers. Otherwise, only Austria and Spain (and Spain not till joined to Austria) and France—as great powers that touched each other in many points—had ever formed a warlike trio. No quadrille had existed until the great civil war for life and death between Popery and Protestantism. It was another great evil that the functions towards which, by inevitable instincts and tendency of progress, the House of Commons was continually travelling,—not, I repeat, through any encroaching spirit as the Court and that House of Commons itself partially fancied,—were not yet developed: false laws of men, i.e., laws framed under theories misunderstood of rights and constitutional powers, having as much distorted the true natural play of the organic manifestation and tendency towards a whole, as ever a dress too tight, or a flower-pot too narrow, impeded the development of child or plant. Queen Elizabeth, therefore, always viewed the House of Commons as a disturber of the public peace, as a mutineer and insurrectionist, when any special accident[Pg 285] threw it upon its natural function; she spoke of State affairs, and especially of foreign affairs, as beyond their 'capacity,' which expression, however, must in charity be interpreted philosophically as meaning the range of comprehension consistent with their total means of instruction and preparation, including, therefore, secret information, knowledge of disposable home resources as known to the official depositaries of State secrets, etc., and not, as the modern reader will understand it, simply and exclusively the intellectual power of appreciation. Since, with all her disposition to exalt the qualities of princely persons, she could not be so absurdly haughty as to claim for princes and the counsellors whom interest or birth had suggested to them a precedency in pure natural endowments.

Charles was a sincere believer but not an earnest believer of the Roman Catholic faith. James was both sincere and preternaturally earnest.


The Reformation.—This seems to show two things: 1st, that a deep searching and 'sagacious-from-afar' spirit of morality can mould itself under the prompting of Christianity, such as could not have grown up under Paganism. For it was the abominations in point of morality (en fait de moralité?)—indulgences, the confessional, absolution, the prevalence of a mere ritual—the usurpation of forms—these it was which Rome treated violently; and if she draw in her horns for the present, still upon any occasion offering, upon the cloud of peril passing away, clearly she would renew her conduct. It was a tendency violently and inevitably belonging to the Roman polity combined with the Roman interest, unless, perhaps, as permanently con[Pg 286]trolled by a counter-force. 2ndly, the synthesis of this curative force is by apposition of parts separately hardly conscious of the danger or even of their own act. For we cannot suppose the vast body of opposition put forward was so under direct conscious appreciation of the evil and by an adequate counter-action—doubtless it was by sympathy with others having better information. These last burned more vividly as the evil was fiercer. That more vivid sympathy drew increase of supporters.


Memorandum.—In my historical sketches not to forget the period of woe, anterior to the Siege of Jerusalem, which Josephus describes as occurring in all the Grecian cities, but which is so unaccountably overlooked by historians.

The rule is to speak like the foolish, and think like the wise, and therefore I agree to call our worthy old mother 'little'—our 'little island'—as that seems to be the prevailing notion; otherwise I myself consider Great Britain rather a tall island. A man is not called short because some few of his countrymen happen to be a trifle taller; and really I know but of two islands, among tens of thousands counted up by gazetteers on our planet, that are taller; and I fancy, with such figures as theirs, they are neither of them likely to think of any rivalship with our dear old mother. What island, for instance, would choose to be such a great fat beast as Borneo, as broad as she is long, with no apology for a waist? Talk of lacing too tight, indeed! I'm sure Borneo does not injure herself in that way. Now our mother, though she's old, and has gone through a world of trouble in her time, is as jimp about the waist as a[Pg 287] young lass of seventeen. Look at her on any map of Europe, and she's quite a picture. It's an old remark that the general outline of the dear creature exactly resembles a lady sitting. She turns her back upon the Continent, no doubt, and that's what makes those foreigneering rascals talk so much of her pride. But she must turn her back upon somebody, and who is it that should have the benefit of her countenance, if not those people in the far West that are come of her own blood? They say she's 'tetchy' also. Well, then, if she is, you let her alone, good people of the Continent. She'll not meddle with you if you don't meddle with her. She's kind enough, and, as to her person, I do maintain that she's quite tall enough, rather thin, it's true, but, on the whole, a bonny, elegant, dear old fighting mamma.


Mora Alexandrina.—Note on Middleton's affected sneer. A villa of Cicero's, where probably the usual sound heard would be the groans of tormented slaves, had been changed for the cells of Christian monks. Now mark: what the hound Middleton means is, how shocking to literary sensibilities that where an elegant master of Latinity had lived, there should succeed dull, lazy monks, writing (if they wrote at all) in a barbarous style, and dreaming away their lives in torpor. Now permit me to pause a little. This is one of those sneers which Paley[38] and Bishop Butler[39] think so unanswerable, that we must necessarily lie down and let the sneer ride rough-shod over us all. Let us see, and for this reason, reader, do not grudge a little delay, especially as you may 'skip' it.

[Pg 288]

Dr. Conyers ought to have remembered, in the first place, that the villa could not long remain in the hands of Cicero. Another owner would succeed, and then the chances would be that the sounds oftenest ascending in the hour of sunset or in the cool of the dawn would be the shrieks of slaves under torture. By their own poor miserable fare contrasted with the splendour reeking around them, these slaves had a motive, such as our tenderly-treated (often pampered) servants can never know the strength of, for breaking the seal of any wine cask. From the anecdote told of his own mother by the wretched Quintus Cicero, the foul brother of Marcus, it appears that generally there was some encouragement to do this, on the chance of 'working down' on the master that the violated seal had been amongst the casks legitimately opened. For it seems that old Mrs. Cicero's housewifely plan was to seal up all alike, empty and not empty. Consequently with her no such excuse could avail. Which proves that often it did avail, since her stratagem is mentioned as a very notable artifice. What follows? Why, that the slave was doubly tempted: 1st, by the luxury he witnessed; 2ndly, by the impunity on which he might calculate. Often he escaped by sheer weight of metal in lying. Like Chaucer's miller, he swore, when charged with stealing flour, that it was not so. But this very prospect and likelihood of escape was often the very snare for tempting to excesses too flagrant or where secret marks had been fixed. Besides, many other openings there were, according to the individual circumstances, but this was a standing one, for tempting the poor unprincipled slave into trespass that irritated either the master or the mistress. And then came those periodical lacerations and ascending groans which[Pg 289] Seneca mentions as the best means of telling what o'clock it was in various households, since the punishments were going on just at that hour.

After, when the gracious revolution of Christianity had taught us, and by a memento so solemn and imperishable, no longer to pursue our human wrath, that hour of vesper sanctity had come, which, by the tendency of the Christian law and according to the degree in which it is observed, is for us a type and a symbol and a hieroglyphic of wrath extinguished, of self-conquest, of charity in heaven and on earth.

Now, the monks, it is supposable, might be commonplace drones. Often, however, they would be far other, transmitters by their copying toils of those very Ciceronian works which, but for them, would have perished. And pausing duly here, what sense, what propriety would there be in calling on the reader to notice with a shock the profanation of classical ground in such an example as this: 'Mark the strange revolutions of ages; there, where once the divine Plato's Academus stood, now rises a huge printing-house chiefly occupied for the last two years in reprinting Plato's works.' Why, really Plato himself would look graciously on that revolution, Master Conyers. But next, the dullest of these monks would hear the Gloria in Excelsis.


Oh, how pitiful it is to hear B—— alleging against Mahomet that he had done no public miracles. What? Would it, then, alter your opinion of Mahomet if he had done miracles? What a proof, how full, how perfect! That Christianity, in spirit, in power, in simplicity, and in truth, had no more hold over B—— than it had over any Pagan Pontiff in Rome, is clear to me from that.[Pg 290] So, then, the argument against Mahomet is not that he wants utterly the meekness—wants? wants? No, that he utterly hates the humility, the love that is stronger than the grave, the purity that cannot be imagined, the holiness as an ideal for man that cannot be approached, the peace that passeth all understanding, that power which out of a little cloud no bigger than a man's hand grows for ever and ever until it will absorb the world and all that it inherit, that first of all created the terror of death and the wormy grave; but that first and last she might triumph over time—not these, it seems by B——, are the arguments against Mahomet, but that he did not play legerdemain tricks, that he did not turn a cow into a horse!

In which position B—— is precisely on a level with those Arab Sheikhs, or perhaps Mamelukes, whom Napoleon so foolishly endeavoured to surprise by Chinese tricks: 'Aye, all this is very well, but can you make one to be in Cairo and in Damascus at the same moment?' demanded the poor brutalized wretches. And so also for B—— it is nothing. Oh, blind of heart not to perceive that the defect was entirely owing to the age. Mahomet came to a most sceptical region. There was no semblance or shadow among the Arabs of that childish credulity which forms the atmosphere for miracle. On the contrary, they were a hard, fierce people, and in that sense barbarous; but otherwise they were sceptical, as is most evident from all that they accomplished, which followed the foundation of Islamism. Here lies the delusion upon that point. The Arabs were evidently like all the surrounding nations. They were also much distinguished among all Oriental peoples for courage. This fact has been put on record in (1) the East Indies,[Pg 291] where all the Arab troops have proved themselves by far more formidable than twelve times the number of effeminate Bengalese and Mahrattas, etc. (2) At Aden, where as rude fighters without the science of war they have been most ugly customers. (3) In Algeria, where the French, with all advantage of discipline, science, artillery, have found it a most trying and exhausting war. Well, as they are now, so they were before Mahomet, and just then they were ripe for conquest. But they wanted a combining motive and a justifying motive. Mahomet supplied both these. Says he, 'All nations are idolaters; go and thrust them into the mill that they may be transformed to our likeness.'

Consequently, the great idea of the truth, of a truth transcending all available rights on the other side, was foreign to Mahometanism, and any glimmering of this that may seem to be found in it was borrowed, was filched from Christianity.[Pg 292]

9.—Literary.

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The three greatest powers which we know of in moulding human feelings are, first, Christianity; secondly, the actions of men emblazoned by history; and, in the third place, poetry. If the first were represented to the imagination by the atmospheric air investing our planet, which we take to be the most awful laboratory of powers—mysterious, unseen, and absolutely infinite—the second might be represented by the winds, and the third by lightning. Napoleon and Lord Byron have done more mischief to the moral feelings, to the truth of all moral estimates, to the grandeur and magnanimity of man, in this present generation, than all other causes acting together. But how? Simply by throwing human feelings into false combinations. Both of them linked the mean to the grand, the base to the noble, in a way which often proves fatally inextricable to the poor infirm mind of the ordinary spectator. Here is Napoleon, simply because he wields a vast national machinery, throwing a magic of celerity and power into a particular action which absolutely overpowers the genus attonitorum, so that they are reconciled by the dazzle of a splendour not at all in Napoleon, to a baseness which really is in Napoleon. The man that never praised an enemy is shown to this[Pg 293] vile mob by the light thrown off from the radiant power of France as the greatest of men; he is confounded with his supporting element, even as the Jupiter Olympus of Phidias, that never spared a woman in his lust, seemed the holiest of deities when his rottenness was concealed by ivory and gold, and his libidinous head was lighted up by sunbeams from above. Here is Lord Byron connecting, in the portrait of some poor melodramatic hero possibly, some noble quality of courage or perseverance with scorn the most puerile and senseless. Prone enough is poor degraded human nature to find something grand in scorn; but, after this arbitrary combination of Lord Byron's, never again does the poor man think of scorn but it suggests to him moral greatness, nor think of greatness but it suggests scorn as its indispensable condition.


Wordsworth is always recording phenomena as they are enjoyed; Coleridge as they reconcile themselves with opposing or conflicting phenomena.


W. W.'s social philosophy is surely shallow. It is true the man who has a shallow philosophy under the guidance of Christianity has a profound philosophy. But this apart, such truths as 'He who made the creature will allow for his frailties,' etc., are commonplace.


Invention as a Characteristic of Poets.—I happened this evening (Saturday, August 3rd, '44) to be saying of W. W. to myself: 'No poet is so free from all cases like this, viz., where all the feelings and spontaneous thoughts which they have accumulated coming to an end, and yet the case seeming to require more to finish it, or bring it round, like a peal of church bells, they are[Pg 294] forced to invent, and form descants on raptures never really felt. Suddenly this suggested that invention, therefore, so far from being a differential quality of poetry, was, in fact, the polar opposite, spontaneousness being the true quality.


Tragedy.—I believe it is a very useful thing to let young persons cultivate their kind feelings by repeated indulgences. Thus my children often asked when anything was to be paid or given to any person, that they might have the satisfaction of giving it. So I see clearly that young boys or girls allowed to carry abroad their infant brothers and sisters, when the little creature feels and manifests a real dependence upon them in every act and movement, which matre præsente they would not have done, which again seen and felt calls out every latent goodness of the elder child's heart. So again (here I have clipped out the case). However, feeding rabbits, but above all the action upon women's hearts in the enormous expansion given by the relation to their own children, develops a feeling of tenderness that afterwards sets the model for the world, and would die away, or freeze, or degenerate, if it were generally balked. Now just such an action has tragedy, and if the sympathy with calamities caused to noble natures by ignobler, or by dark fates, were never opened or moved or called out, it would slumber inertly, it would rust, and become far less ready to respond upon any call being made. Such sensibilities are not consciously known to the possessor until developed.


Punctuation.—Suppose an ordinary case where the involution of clauses went three deep, and that each[Pg 295] was equally marked off by commas, now I say that so far from aiding the logic it would require an immense effort to distribute the relations of logic. But the very purpose and use of points is to aid the logic. If indeed you could see the points at all in this relation

              strophe                     antistrophe
        1     2     3                    3     2     1
        ——,   ——,   ——,         apodosis ——,   ——,   ——,

then indeed all would be clear, but the six commas will and must be viewed by every reader unversed in the logical mechanism of sentences as merely a succession of ictuses, so many minute-guns having no internal system of correspondence, but merely repeating and reiterating each other, exactly as in men, guns, horses, timbrels, baggage-waggons, standards.


Sheridan's Disputatiousness.—I never heard of any case in the whole course of my life where disputatiousness was the author of any benefit to man or beast, excepting always one, in which it became a storm anchor for poor Sheridan, saving him from sudden shipwreck. This may be found in Mr. Moore's life, somewhere about the date of 1790, and in chapter xiii. The book is thirty-seven miles off, which is too far to send for water, or for scandal, or even for 'extract,' though I'm 'fond of extract.' Therefore, in default of Mr. Moore's version, I give my own. The situation was this: Sheridan had been cruising from breakfast to dinner amongst Jews, Christians, and players (men, women, and Herveys),[40] and constantly in the same hackney coach, so that the freight at last settled like the sand-heap of an hour-glass into a frightful record of [Pg 296]costly moments. Pereunt et imputantur, say some impertinent time-pieces, in speaking of the hours. They perish and are debited to our account. Yes, and what made it worse, the creditor was an inexorable old Jarvie, who, though himself a creditor, had never heard the idea of credit. A guinea might be owing, and Sheridan, seldom remembering his purse, had but a shilling, which even in a court of Irish law seemed too small a compromise to offer. Black looked the horizon, stormy the offing, and night was coming on, whilst the port of consignment was now within thirty minutes' sail. Suddenly a sight of joy was described. Driving before the wind, on bare poles, was a well-known friend of Sheridan's, Richardson, famed for various talent, but also for an invincible headlong necessity of disputing. To pull the check-string, to take his friend on board, and to rush into fierce polemic conversation was the work of a moment for Sheridan. He well understood with this familiar friend how to bring on a hot dispute. In three minutes it raged, yard-arm to yard-arm. Both grew warm. Sheridan grew purple with rage. Violently interrupting Richardson, he said: 'And these are your real sentiments?' Richardson with solemnity and artificial restraint replied: 'Most solemnly they are.' 'And you stand to them, and will maintain them?' 'I will,' said Richardson, with menacing solemnity and even mournfulness. 'I will to my dying day.' 'Then,' said Sheridan furiously, 'I'm hanged if I'll stay another minute with a man capable of such abominable opinions!' Bang went the door, out he bounced, and Richardson, keeping his seat, pursued him with triumphant explosions. 'Ah, wretch! what? you can't bear the truth. You're obliged to hate the truth. That is why you cut and run[Pg 297] before it. Huzza! Mr. Sheridan, M. P. for Stafford, runs like a hare for fear that he should hear the truth.' Precisely so, the truth it was that he ran from. The truth at this particular moment was too painful to his heart. Sheridan had fled; the awful truth amounted to eighteen shillings.

Yes, virtuous Richardson, you were right; truth it was that he fled from; truth had just then become too painful to his infirm mind, although it was useless to tell him so, as by this time he was out of hearing. 'Yes,' said Richardson meditatively to himself, 'the truth has at last become insupportable to this unhappy man.' Right, it had so. And in one minute more it became insupportable even to the virtuous Richardson, when the coachman revealed the odious extent of the truth, viz., that the fare now amounted to two-and-twenty shillings.

As I hate everything that the people love, and above all the odious levity with which they adopt every groundless anecdote, especially where it happens to be calumnious, I beg not to be supposed a believer in the common stories current about Sheridan's carelessness of pecuniary obligations. So far from 'never paying,' which is what public slander has not ceased to report of him, he was (in Mr. Moore's language) 'always paying;' and for once that he paid too little, a thousand times he paid a great deal too much. Had, indeed, all his excesses of payment been gathered into one fund, that fund would have covered his deficits ten times over. It is, however, true that, whilst he was continually paying the hundred-pound demands against him, with all their Jewish accumulations of interest, he was continually unfurnished with money for his 'menus plaisirs' and trifling personal expenses.[Pg 298]

By strong natural tendency of disposition, Sheridan was a man of peculiarly sensitive honour, and the irregularities into which he fell, more conspicuously after the destruction of Drury Lane by fire, pained nobody so much as himself. It is the sense of this fact, and the belief that Sheridan was never a defaulter through habits of self-indulgence, which call out in my mind a reaction of indignation at the stories current against him.


Bookbinding and Book-Lettering.—Literature is a mean thing enough in the ordinary way of pursuing it as what the Germans call a Brodstudium; but in its higher relations it is so noble that it is able to ennoble other things, supposing them in any degree ministerial to itself. The paper-maker, ergo the rag-maker, ergo the linen cloth-maker, is the true and original creator of the modern press, as the Archbishop of Dublin long ago demonstrated. For the art of printing had never halted for want of the typographic secret; that was always known, known and practised hundreds of years before the Christian era. It halted for want of a material cheap enough and plentiful enough to make types other than a most costly substitute for hand-copying. Do you hear that, gentlemen blockheads, that seldom hear anything but yourselves? Next after the paper-maker, who furnished the sine quâ non, takes rank, not the engraver or illustrator (our modern novelist cannot swim without this caricaturing villain as one of his bladders; all higher forms of literature laugh at him), but the binder; for he, by raising books into ornamental furniture, has given even to non-intellectual people by myriads a motive for encouraging literature and an interest in its extension.[Pg 299]

Any specimen of Mr. Ferrar's binding I never saw, but by those who have, it is said to have been magnificent. He and his family were once, if not twice, visited by Charles I., and they presented to that prince a most sumptuous Bible of their own binding; which Bible, a lady once told me, was in that collection gradually formed by George III. at Buckingham House, and finally presented to the nation by his son. I should fear it must be in ruins as a specimen of the Little Gidding workmanship. The man who goes to bed in his coffin dressed in a jewelled robe and a diamond-hilted sword, is very liable to a visit from the resurrection-man, who usually disarms and undresses him. The Bible that has its binding inlaid with gold, sowed with Oriental pearl, and made horrent with rubies, suggests to many a most unscriptural mode of searching into its treasures, and too like the Miltonic Mammon's mode of perusing the gorgeous floors of heaven. Besides that, if the Bible escaped the Parliamentary War, the true art of the Ferrar family would be better displayed in a case of less cost and luxury. Certainly, in no one art was the stupidity of Europe more atrociously recorded than in this particular art practised by the Ferrars. Boundless was the field for improvement. And in particular, I had myself drawn from this art, as practised of old, one striking memorial of that remarkable genius for stupidity, which in all ages alike seems to haunt man as by an inspiration, unless he is roused out of it by panic. It is this. Look at the lettering—that is, the labels lettered with the titles of books—in all libraries that are not of recent date. No man would believe that the very earliest attempt to impress a mark of ownership upon some bucket of the Argonauts, or the rudest scrawl[Pg 300] of Polyphemus in forging a tarry brand upon some sheep which he had stolen, could be so bad, so staggering and illegible, as are these literary inscriptions. How much better to have had a thin tablet or veneering of marble or iron adjusted to the back of the book. A stone-cutter in a rural churchyard once told me that he charged a penny per letter. That may be cheap for a gravestone, but it seems rather high for a book. Plato would cost you fivepence, Aristotle would be shocking; and in decency you must put him into Latin, which would add twopence more to every volume. On a library like that of Dresden or the Vatican, it would raise a national debt to letter the books.


Cause of the Novel's Decline.—No man, it may be safely laid down as a general rule, can obtain a strong hold over the popular mind without more or less of real power. A reality there must be. The artifice, the trickery, cannot arise in this first stage, as by any substitution of a shadow for a reality. If the mass of readers feel a power, and acknowledge a power, in that case power there must be. It was the just remark of Dr. Johnson that men do not deceive themselves in their amusements. And amusement it is that the great public seek in literature. The meaner and the more sensual the demands of a man are, so much the less possible it becomes to cheat him. Seeking for warmth, he cannot be wrong when he says that he has found it. Asking for alcohol, he will never be cheated with water. His feelings in such a case, his impressions, instantaneously justify themselves; that is, they bear witness past all doubting to the certainty of what they report. So far there is no opening to mistake. The error, the opening[Pg 301] to the spurious on the largest scale, arises first upon the quality of the power. Strength varies upon an endless scale, not merely by its own gradations, but by the modes and the degrees in which it combines with other qualities. And there are many combinations, cases of constant recurrence, in which some natural vigour, but of no remarkable order, enters into alliance with animal propensities; where a portentous success will indicate no corresponding power in the artist, but only an unusual insensibility to decency and the opinion of thoughtful persons.

Novels are the one sole class of books that ever interest the public, that reach its heart, or even catch its eye. And the reason why novels are becoming much more licentious, and much grosser in the arts by which they court public favour, lies undoubtedly in the quality of that new reading public which the extension of education has added to the old one. An education miserably shallow, whilst unavailing for any purpose of real elevation, lets in upon the theatre of what is called by courtesy literature a vast additional audience that once would have been excluded altogether. This audience, changed in no respect from its former condition of intellect and manners and taste, bringing only the single qualification of ability to read, is now strong enough in numbers to impress a new character upon literature in so far as literature has a motive for applying itself to their wants. The consequences are showing themselves, and will show themselves more broadly. It is difficult with proper delicacy to seek illustrations amongst our own living writers. Illustrations were all too easily found did we care to enter on the task.

It is true that, during the currency of any year, whilst[Pg 302] the quantity is liable to indeterminate augmentation, ballads will be rather looking down in the market. But that is a shadow which settles upon every earthly good thing. No Greek book, for instance, amongst the many that have perished, would so much rejoice many of us by its resurrection as the comedies of Menander. Yet, if a correspondent should write word from Pompeii that twenty-five thousand separate dramas of Menander had been found in good preservation, adding in a postscript that forty thousand more had been impounded within the last two hours, and that there was every prospect of bagging two hundred thousand more before morning, we should probably petition Government to receive the importing vessels with chain-shot. Not even Milton or Shakespeare could make head against such a Lopez de Vega principle of ruinous superfluity. Allowing for this one case of preternatural excess, assuming only that degree of limitation which any absolute past must almost always create up to that point, we say that there is no conceivable composition, or class of compositions, which will not be welcomed into literature provided, as to matter, that it shall embody some natural strain of feeling, and provided, as to manner, that it illustrate the characteristic style of a known generation.

It might suffice for our present purpose to have once firmly distinguished between the two modes of literature. But it may be as well to point out a few corollaries from this distinction, which will serve at the same time to explain and to confirm it. For instance, first of all, it has been abundantly insisted on in our modern times, that the value of every literature lies in its characteristic part; a truth certainly, but a truth upon which the German chanticleer would not have crowed and flapped[Pg 303] his wings so exultingly, had he perceived the original and indispensable schism between the literature of knowledge and the literature of power, because in this latter only can anything characteristic of a man or of a nation be embodied. The science of no man can be characteristic, no man can geometrize or chemically analyze after a manner peculiar to himself. He may be the first to open a new road, and in that meaning it may be called his road; but his it cannot be by any such peculiarities as will found an incommunicable excellence. In literature proper, viz., the literature of power, this is otherwise. There may doubtless have been many imitative poets, wearing little or nothing of a natural individuality; but of no poet, that ever led his own class, can it have been possible that he should have been otherwise than strongly differenced by inimitable features and by traits not transferable. Consequently the τὁ characteristic, of which in German cloudland so noisy a proclamation is made as of some transcendental discovery, is a mere inference from the very idea of a literature. For we repeat that in blank knowledge a separate peculiarity marking the individual is not conceivable, whereas in a true literature reflecting human nature, not as it represents, but as it wills, not as a passive minor, but as a self-moving power, it is not possible to avoid the characteristic except only in the degree by which the inspiring nature happens to be feeble. The exorbitations that differentiate them may be of narrow compass, but only where the motive power was originally weak. And agreeably to this remark it may be asserted that in all literature properly so-called genius, is always manifested, and talent generally; but in the literature of knowledge it may be doubted very seriously whether there is any opening for more than[Pg 304] talent. Genius may be defined in the severest manner as that which is generally characteristic; but a thousand times we repeat that one man's mode of knowing an object cannot differ from another man's. It cannot be characteristic, and its geniality cannot be externally manifested. To have said, therefore, of the poetry surviving from ancient Latium, from Castile, from England, that this is nationally characteristic, and knowable apart by inalienable differences, is saying no more than follows out of the very definition by which any and every literature proper is limited and guarded as a mode of power.

Secondly, even in the exceptions and hesitations upon applying the rigour of this distinction, we may read the natural recognition (however latent or unconscious) of the rule itself. No man would think, for example, of placing a treatise on surveying, on mensuration, on geological stratifications, in any collection of his national literature. He would be lunatic to do so. A Birmingham or Glasgow Directory has an equal title to take its station in the national literature. But he will hesitate on the same question arising with regard to a history. Where upon examination the history turns out to be a mere chronicle, or register of events chronologically arranged, with no principle of combination pervading it, nor colouring from peculiar views of policy, nor sympathy with the noble and impassioned in human action, the decision will be universal and peremptory to cashier it from the literature. Yet this case, being one of degree, ranges through a large and doubtful gamut. A history like that of Froissart, or of Herodotus, where the subjective from the writer blends so powerfully with the gross objective, where the moral picturesque is so predominant, together[Pg 305] with freshness of sensation which belongs to 'blissful infancy' in human life, or to a stage of society in correspondence to it, cannot suffer a demur of jealousy as to its privilege of entering the select fold of literature. But such advantages are of limited distribution. And, to say the truth, in its own nature neither history nor biography, unless treated with peculiar grace, and architecturally moulded, has any high pretension to rank as an organic limb of literature. The very noblest history, in much of its substance, is but by a special indulgence within the privilege of that classification. Biography stands on the same footing. Of the many memorials dedicated to the life of Milton, how few are entitled to take their station in the literature! And why? Not merely that they are disqualified by their defective execution, but often that they necessarily record what has become common property.

FOOTNOTES:

[29] Between the forms modal, modish, and modern, the difference is of that slight order which is constantly occurring between the Elizabethan age and our own. Ish, ous, ful, some, are continually interchanging; thus, pitiful for piteous, quarrelous for quarrelsome.

[30] I deny that there is or could have been one truant fluttering murmur of the heart against the reality of glory. And partly for these reasons: 1st, That, hoc abstracto, defrauding man of this, you leave him miserably bare—bare of everything. So that really and sincerely the very wisest men may be seen clinging convulsively, and clutching with their dying hands the belief that glory, that posthumous fame (which for profound ends of providence has been endowed with a subtle power of fraud such as no man can thoroughly look through; for those who, like myself, despise it most completely, cannot by any art bring forward a rationale, a theory of its hollowness that will give plenary satisfaction except to those who are already satisfied). Thus Cicero, feeling that if this were nothing, then had all his life been a skirmish, one continued skirmish for shadows and nonentities; a feeling of blank desolation, too startling—too humiliating to be faced. But (2ndly), the unsearchable hypocrisy of man, that hypocrisy which even to himself is but dimly descried, that latent hypocrisy which always does, and most profitably, possess every avenue of every man's thoughts, hence a man who should openly have avowed a doctrine that glory was a bubble, besides that, instead of being prompted to this on a principle which so far raised him above other men, must have been prompted by a principle that sank him to the level of the brutes, viz., acquiescing in total ventrine improvidence, imprescience, and selfish ease (if ease, a Pagan must have it cum dignitate), but above all he must have made proclamation that in his opinion all disinterested virtue was a chimera, since all the quadrifarious virtue of the scholastic ethics was founded either on personal self-sufficiency, on justice, moderation, etc., etc., or on direct personal and exclusive self-interest as regarded health and the elements of pleasure.

[31] The tower of Siloam.

[32] Every definition is a syllogism. Now, because the minor proposition is constantly false, this does not affect the case; each man is right to fill up the minor with his own view, and essentially they do not disagree with each other.

A (the subject of def.)is x.The Truth is the sum of Christianity.
But C is x.But my Baptist view is the sum of Christianity.
Ergo C is A.Ergo my Baptist view is the Truth.

[33] It seems that Herod made changes so vast—certainly in the surmounting works, and also probably in one place as to the foundations, that it could not be called the same Temple with that of the Captivity, except under an abuse of ideas as to matter and form, of which all nations have furnished illustrations, from the ship Argo to that of old Drake, from Sir John Cutler's stockings to the Highlander's (or Irishman's) musket.

[34] Just as if a man spending his life to show the folly of Methodism should burst into maudlin tears at sight of John Wesley, and say, 'Oh, if all men, my dear brothers, were but Methodists!'

[35] How so? If the Jews were naturally infidels, why did God select them? But, first, they might have, and they certainly had, other balancing qualities; secondly, in the sense here meant, all men are infidels; and we ourselves, by the very nature of one object which I will indicate, are pretty generally infidels in the same sense as they. Look at our evidences; look at the sort of means by which we often attempt to gain proselytes among the heathen and at home. Fouler infidelities there are not. Special pleading, working for a verdict, etc., etc.

[36] [This idea is expanded and followed out in detail in the opening of 'Homer and the Homeridæ;' but this is evidently the note from which that grew, and is here given alike on account of its compactness and felicity.—Ed.]

[37] Satire ix., lines 60, 61.

[38] Who can answer a sneer?

[39] Butler—'unanswerable ridicule.'

[40] Said of members of the Bristol family.


[Pg 306]

XXV. OMITTED PASSAGES AND VARIATIONS.

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1.—The Rhapsodoi.

The following on the 'Rhapsodoi' is a variation on that which appeared in 'Homer and the Homeridæ,' with some quite additional and new thoughts on the subject.


About these people, who they were, what relation they bore to Homer, and why they were called 'Rhapsodoi,' we have seen debated in Germany through the last half century with as much rabid ferocity as was ever applied to the books of a fraudulent bankrupt. Such is the natural impertinence of man. If he suspects any secret, or any base attempt to hide and conceal things from himself, he is miserable until he finds out the mystery, and especially where all the parties to it have been defunct for 2,500 years. Great indignation seems reasonably to have been felt by all German scholars that any man should presume to have called himself a rhapsodos at any period of Grecian history without sending down a sealed letter to posterity stating all the reasons which induced him to take so unaccountable a step. No possible solution, given to any conceivable question bearing upon the 'Rhapsodoi,' seems by any tendency to affect any question outstanding about Homer. And we do not therefore understand the propriety of intermingling this dispute with the general Homeric litigation. However, to comply with the practice of Germany, we shall throw[Pg 307] away a few sentences upon this, as a pure ad libitum digression.

The courteous reader, whom we beg also to suppose the most ignorant of readers, by way of thus founding a necessity and a case of philosophic reasonableness for the circumstantiality of our own explanations, will be pleased to understand that by ancient traditionary usage the word rhapsodia is the designation technically applied to the several books or cantos of the 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey.' So the word fytte has gained a technical appropriation to our narrative poetry when it takes the ballad form. Now, the Greek word rhapsody is derived from a tense of the verb rhapto, to sew as with a needle, to connect, and ode, a song, chant, or course of singing. If, therefore, you conceive of a rhapsodia, not as the opera, but as the opus of a singer, not as the form, but as the result of his official ministration, viz., as that section of a narrative poem which forms an intelligible whole in itself, whilst in a subordinate relation it is one part of a larger whole—this idea represents accurately enough the use of the word rhapsodia in the latter periods of Greek literature. Suppose the word canto to be taken in its literal etymological sense, it would indicate a metrical composition meant to be sung or chanted. But what constitutes the complexity of the idea in the word rhapsodia is that both its separate elements, the poetry and the musical delivery, are equally essential; neither is a casual, neither a subordinate, element.

Now, the 'Rhapsodoi,' as may be supposed, are the personal correlates of the rhapsodia. This being the poem adapted to chanting, those were the chanters. And the only important question which we can imagine to arise is, How far in any given age we may presume[Pg 308] the functions of the poetical composer and the musical deliverer to have been united. We cannot perceive that any possible relation between a rhapsody considered as a section of a poem and the whole of that poem, or any possible relation which this same rhapsody considered as a thing to be sung or accompanied instrumentally could bear to the naked-speaking rehearsal of the same poem or to the original text of that poem, ever can affect the main question of Homer's integrity. The 'Rhapsodoi' come to be mentioned at all simply as being one link in the transmission of the Homeric poems. They are found existing before Pisistratus, they are found existing after Pisistratus. And they declined exactly as the art of reading became general. We can approximate pretty closely to the time when the 'Rhapsodoi' ceased; but at what time they began we defy any man to say. Plato (Rep. x.) represents them as going back into the days of Homer; nay, according to Plato, Homer himself was a rhapsodos, and itinerated in that character. So was Hesiod. And two remarkable lines, ascribed to Hesiod by one of the Scholiasts upon Pindar, if we could be sure that they were genuine, settle that question:

Εν Δελο τοτε πρωτον εγο ξαι Ὁμερος αοιδοι
Μελπομεν, εν νεαροις ὑμνοις ραψαντες αοιδη

'Then, first of all,' says Hesiod, 'did I and Homer chant as bards in Delos, laying the nexus of our poetic composition in proæmial hymns.' We understand him to mean this: There were many singers and harpers who sang or accompanied the words of others; perhaps ancient words—at all events, not their own. Naturally he was anxious to have it understood that he and Homer had higher pretensions. They killed their own mutton. They composed the words as well as sang them. Where both functions were so often united in one man's person,[Pg 309] it became difficult to distinguish them. Our own word bard or minstrel stood in the same ambiguity. You could not tell in many cases whether the word pointed to the man's poetic or musical faculty. Anticipating that doubt, Hesiod says that they sang as original poets. For it is a remark of Suidas, which he deduces laboriously, that poetry, being uniformly sung in the elder Greece, acquired the name of αοιδη. This term became technically appropriated to the poetry, or substance of whatever was sung, in contradistinction to the musical accompaniment. And the poet was called αοιδος So far Hesiod twice over secures the dignity of their office from misinterpretation. And there, by the word ραφαντες he indicates the sort of poetry which they cultivated, viz., that which was expanded into long heroic narratives, and naturally connected itself both internally amongst its own parts, and externally with other poems of the same class. Thus, having separated Homer and himself from the mere musicians, next he separates them even as poets from those who simply composed hymns to the Gods. These heroic legends were known to require much more elaborate study and art. Yet, because a critical reviewer might take occasion to tax his piety in thus composing human legends in neglect of the Gods, Hesiod, forestalling him, replies: 'You're out there, my friend; we were both pious, and we put our piety into hymns addressed to the Gods, which, with cabinetmakers' skill, we used also as interludes of transition from one legend to another.' For it is noticed frequently and especially by a Scholiast on Aristophanes (Pac. 826), that generally speaking the proæmia to the different parts of narrative-poems were entirely detached, και ουδεν προς το πραγμα δηλον, and explain nothing at all that concerns the business.[Pg 310]

2.—Mrs. Evans and the 'Gazette.'

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In his autobiographic sketch, 'Introduction to the World of Strife,' he tells of his brother's enterprise in establishing the Gazette, which was to record their doings, and also of Mrs. Evans's place on the Gazette. The following is evidently a passage which was prepared for that part of the article, but was from some cause or other omitted:


I suppose no creature ever led such a life as I led on the Gazette; sometimes running up, like Wallenstein, to the giddiest pinnacles of honour, then down again without notice or warning to the dust; cashiered—rendered incapable of ever serving H. M. again; nay, actually drummed out of the army, my uniform stripped off, and the 'rogue's march' played after me. And all for what? I protest, to this hour, I have no guess. If any person knows, that person is not myself; and the reader is quite as well able to furnish guesses to me as I to him—to enlighten me upon the subject as I him.

Mrs. Evans was a very important person in the play; I don't suppose that things could have gone on without her. For, as there was no writer in the Gazette but my brother, so there was no reader of it except Mrs. Evans.[Pg 311] And here came in a shocking annoyance to me that, as often as any necessity occurred (which was every third day) for restoring me to my rank, since my brother would not have it supposed that he could be weak enough to initiate such an indulgence, the Gazette threw the onus of this amiable weakness, and consequently of my gratitude, upon Mrs. Evans, affirming that the major-general had received a pardon and an amnesty for all his past atrocities at the request of 'a distinguished lady,' who was obscurely indicated in a parenthesis as 'the truly honourable Mrs. Evans.' To listen to the Gazette one would have supposed that this woman, who so cordially detested me, spent her whole time in going down on her knees and making earnest supplications to the throne on my behalf. But what signified the representations of the Gazette if I knew them to be false? Aye, but I did not know that they were false. It is true that my obligations to her were quite aerial, and might, as the reader will think, have been supported without any preternatural effort. But exactly these aerial burdens, whether of gratitude or of honour, most oppressed me as being least tangible and incapable of pecuniary or other satisfaction. No sinking fund could meet them. And even the dull unimaginative woman herself, eternally held up to admiration as my resolute benefactress, got the habit (I am sure) of looking upon me as under nameless obligations to her. This raised my wrath. It was not that to my feelings the obligations were really a mere figment of pretence. On the contrary, according to my pains endured, they towered up to the clouds. But I felt that nobody had any right to load me with favours that I had never asked for, and without leave even asked from me; and the[Pg 312] more real were the favours, the deeper the wrong done to me. I sought, therefore, for some means of retaliation. And it is odd that it was not till thirty years after that I perceived one. It then struck me that the eternal intercession might have been equally odious to her. To find herself prostrate for ever, weeping like Niobe, and, if the Gazette was to be believed, refusing to raise herself from the mud or the flinty pavement till I had been forgiven, and reinstated in my rank—ah, how loathsome that must have been to her! Ah, how loathsome the whole cycle of favours were to me, considering from whom they came! Then we had effectually plagued each other. And it was not without loud laughter, as of malice unexpectedly triumphant, that I found one night thirty years after, on regretting my powerlessness of vengeance, that, in fact, I had amply triumphed thirty years before. So, undaunted Mrs. Evans, if you live anywhere within call, listen to the assurance that all accounts are squared between us, and that we balanced our mutual debts by mutual disgust; and that, if you plagued me perversely, I plagued you unconsciously.

And though shot and bullets were forbidden fruit, yet something might be done with hard wadding. A good deal of classical literature disappeared in this way, which by one who valued no classics very highly might be called the way of all flesh. The best of authors, he contended, had better perish by this warlike consummation than by the inglorious enmity of bookworms and moths—honeycombed, as most of the books had been which had gone out to India with our two uncles. Even wadding, however, was declared to be inadmissible as too dangerous, after wounds had been inflicted more than once.[Pg 313]

3.—A Lawsuit Legacy.

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De Quincey, in his autobiographic sketch headed 'Laxton,' tells of the fortune of Miss Watson, who afterwards became Lady Carbery, and also of the legacy left to her in the form of a lawsuit by her father against the East India Company; and among his papers we find the following passage either overlooked or omitted, for some undiscoverable reason, from that paper, though it has a value in its own way as expressing some of De Quincey's views on law and equity; and it is sufficiently characteristic to be included here:


In consequence of her long minority, Miss Watson must have succeeded at once to six thousand a year on completing her twenty-first year; and she also inherited a Chancery-suit, which sort of property is now (1853) rather at a discount in public estimation; but let the reader assure himself that even the Court of Chancery is not quite so black as it is painted; that the true ground for the delays and ruinous expenses in ninety-nine out of one hundred instances is not legal chicanery, still less the wilful circuitousness and wordiness of law processes, but the great eternal fact that, what through lapse of time, decays of memory, and loss of documents, and what through interested suppressions of truth, and the disper[Pg 314]sions of witnesses, and causes by the score beside, the ultimate truth and equity of human disputes is a matter of prodigious perplexity; neither is there any possibility that the mass of litigations as to property ever can be made cheap except in proportion as it is made dismally imperfect.

No power that ever yet was lodged in senates or in councils could avail, ever has availed, ever will avail, to intercept the immeasurable expansion of that law which grows out of social expansion. Fast as the relations of man multiply, and the modifications of property extend, must the corresponding adaptations of the law run alongside. The pretended arrests applied to this heaving volcanic system of forces by codifications, like those of Justinian or Napoleon, had not lasted for a year before all had broke loose from its moorings, and was again going ahead with redoubling impetus. Equally delusive are the prospects held out that the new system of cheap provincial justice will be a change unconditionally for the better. Already the complaints against it are such in bitterness and extent as to show that in very many cases it must be regarded as a failure; and, where it is not, that it must be regarded as a compromise: once you had 8 degrees of the advantage X, 4 of Y; now you have 7 of X, 5 of Y.[Pg 315]

4.—The True Justifications of War.

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The following was evidently intended to appear in the article on War:


'Most of what has been written on this subject (the cruelty of war), in connection with the apparently fierce ethics of the Old Testament, is (with submission to sentimentalists) false and profoundly unphilosophic. It is of the same feeble character as the flashy modern moralizations upon War. The true justifications of war lie far below the depths of any soundings taken upon the charts of effeminate earth-born ethics. And ethics of God, the Scriptural ethics, search into depths that are older and less measurable, contemplate interests that are more mysterious and entangled with perils more awful than merely human philosophy has resources for appreciating. It is not at all impossible that a crisis has sometimes arisen for the human race, in which its capital interest may be said to have ridden at single anchor. Upon the issue of a single struggle between the powers of light and darkness—upon a motion, a bias, an impulse given this way or that—all may have been staked. Out of Judaism came Christianity, and the mere possibility of Christianity. From elder stages of the Hebrew race, hidden in thick darkness to us, descended the only pure glimpse allowed to man of God's nature. Traditionally,[Pg 316] but through many generations, and fighting at every stage with storms or with perils more than ever were revealed to us, this idea of God, this holy seed of truth, like some secret jewel passing onwards through armies of robbers, made its way downward to an age in which it became the matrix of Christianity. The solitary acorn had reached in safety the particular soil in which it was first capable of expanding into a forest. The narrow, but at the same time austere, truth of Judaism, furnished the basis which by magic, as it were, burst suddenly and expanded into a vast superstructure, no longer fitted for the apprehension of one single unamiable race, but offering shelter and repose to the whole family of man. These things are most remarkable about this memorable trans-migration of one faith into another, of an imperfect into a perfect religion, viz., that the early stage had but a slight resemblance to the latter, nor could have prefigured it to a human sagacity more than a larva could prefigure a chrysalis; and, secondly, that whereas the product, viz., Christianity, never has been nor will be in any danger of ruin, the germ, viz., the Judaic idea of God, the great radiation through which the Deity kept open His communication with man, apparently must more than once have approached an awful struggle for life. This solitary taper of truth, struggling across a howling wilderness of darkness, had it been ever totally extinguished, could probably never have been reillumined. It may seem an easy thing for a mere human philosophy to recover, and steadily to maintain a pure Hebrew conception of God; but so far is this from being true, that we believe it possible to expose in the closest Pagan approximation to this Hebrew type some adulterous elements such as would have ensured its relapse into idolatrous impurity.'[Pg 317]

5.—Philosophy Defeated.

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We have come upon a passage which is omitted from the 'Confessions,' and as it is, in every way, characteristic, we shall give it:


My studies have now been long interrupted. I cannot read to myself with any pleasure, hardly with a moment's endurance. Yet I read aloud sometimes for the pleasure of others—because reading is an accomplishment of mine, and, in the slang use of the word 'accomplishment' as a superficial and ornamental attainment, almost the only one I possess—and, formerly, if I had any vanity at all connected with any endowment or attainment of mine, it was with this; for I had observed that no accomplishment was so rare. Players are the worst readers of all; —— reads vilely, and Mrs. ——, who is so celebrated, can read nothing well but dramatic compositions—Milton she cannot read sufferably. People in general read poetry without any passion at all, or else overstep the modesty of nature and read not like scholars. Of late, if I have felt moved by anything in books, it has been by the grand lamentations of 'Samson Agonistes,' or the great harmonies of the Satanic speaker in 'Paradise Regained,' when read aloud by myself. A young lady sometimes comes and drinks tea with us. At her[Pg 318] request and M——'s I now and then read W——'s poems to them. (W——, by-the-bye, is the only poet I ever met who could read his own verses. Blank verse he reads admirably.)

This, then, has been the extent of my reading for upwards of sixteen months. It frets me to enter those rooms of my cottage in which the books stand. In one of them, to which my little boy has access, he has found out a use for some of them. Somebody has given him a bow and arrows—God knows who, certainly not I, for I have not energy or ingenuity to invent a walking-stick—thus equipped for action, he rears up the largest of the folios that he can lift, places them on a tottering base, and then shoots until he brings down the enemy. He often presses me to join him; and sometimes I consent, and we are both engaged together in these intellectual labours. We build up a pile, having for its base some slender modern metaphysician, ill able (poor man!) to sustain such a weight of philosophy. Upon this we place the Dutch quartos of Descartes and Spinoza; then a third story of Schoolmen in folio—the Master of Sentences, Suarez, Picus Mirandula, and the Telemonian bulk of Thomas Aquinas; and when the whole architecture seems firm and compact, we finish our system of metaphysics by roofing the whole with Duval's enormous Aristotle. So far there is some pleasure—building up is something, but what is that to destroying? Thus thinks, at least, my little companion, who now, with the wrath of the Pythian Apollo, assumes his bow and arrows; plants himself in the remotest corner of the room, and prepares his fatal shafts. The bow-string twangs, flights of arrows are in the air, but the Dutch impregnability of the Bergen-op-Zooms at the base receives the few which reach the mark,[Pg 319] and they recoil without mischief done. Again the baffled archer collects his arrows, and again he takes his station. An arrow issues forth, and takes effect on a weak side of Thomas. Symptoms of dissolution appear—the cohesion of the system is loosened—the Schoolmen begin to totter; the Stagyrite trembles; Philosophy rocks to its centre; and, before it can be seen whether time will do anything to heal their wounds, another arrow is planted in the schism of their ontology; the mighty structure heaves—reels—seems in suspense for one moment, and then, with one choral crash—to the frantic joy of the young Sagittary—lies subverted on the floor! Kant and Aristotle, Nominalists and Realists, Doctors Seraphic or Irrefragable, what cares he? All are at his feet—the Irrefragable has been confuted by his arrows, the Seraphic has been found mortal, and the greatest philosopher and the least differ but according to the brief noise they have made.

For nearly two years I believe that I read no book but one, and I owe it to the author, Mr. Ricardo, to make grateful record of it.

And then he proceeds:

Suddenly, in 1818, a friend in Edinburgh sent me down Mr. Ricardo's book, etc.[Pg 320]

6.—The Highwayman's Skeleton.

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In the account which De Quincey gives of the highwayman's skeleton, which figured in the museum of the distinguished surgeon, Mr. White, in his chapter in the 'Autobiographic Sketches' headed 'The Manchester Grammar School,' he was evidently restrained from inserting one passage, which we have found among his papers, from considerations of delicacy towards persons who might then still be living. But as he has there plainly given the names of the leading persons concerned—the famous Surgeon Cruikshank,[41] there can at this time of day be little risk of offending or hurting anyone by presenting the passage, which the curious student of the Autobiography can insert at the proper point, and may feel that its presence adds to the completeness of the impression, half-humorous, half-eerie, which De Quincey was fain to produce by that somewhat grim episode. Here is the passage:


It was a regular and respectable branch of public industry which was carried on by the highwaymen of England, and all the parties to it moved upon decent motives and by considerate methods. In particular, the robbers themselves, as the leading parties, could not be [Pg 321]other than first-rate men, as regarded courage, animal vigour, and perfect horsemanship. Starting from any lower standard than this, not only had they no chance of continued success—their failure was certain as regarded the contest with the traveller, but also their failure was equally certain as regarded the competition within their own body. The candidates for a lucrative section of the road were sure to become troublesome in proportion as all administration of the business upon that part of the line was feebly or indiscreetly worked. Hence it arose that individually the chief highwaymen were sure to command a deep professional interest amongst the surgeons of the land. Sometimes it happened that a first-rate robber was arrested and brought to trial, but from defective evidence escaped. Meanwhile his fine person had been locally advertised and brought under the notice of the medical body. This had occurred in a more eminent degree than was usual to the robber who had owned when living the matchless skeleton possessed by Mr. White. He had been most extensively surveyed with anatomical eyes by the whole body of the medical profession in London: their deliberate judgment upon him was that a more absolutely magnificent figure of a man did not exist in England than this highwayman, and naturally therefore very high sums were offered to him as soon as his condemnation was certain. The robber, whose name I entirely forget, finally closed with the offer of Cruikshank, who was at that time the most eminent surgeon in London. Those days, as is well known, were days of great irregularity in all that concerned the management of prisons and the administration of criminal justice. Consequently there is no reason for surprise or for doubt[Pg 322] in the statement made by Mr. White, that Cruikshank, whose pupil Mr. White then was, received some special indulgences from one of the under-sheriffs beyond what the law would strictly have warranted. The robber was cut down considerably within the appointed time, was instantly placed in a chaise-and-four, and was thus brought so prematurely into the private rooms of Cruikshank, that life was not as yet entirely extinct. This I heard Mr. White repeatedly assert. He was himself at that time amongst the pupils of Cruikshank, and three or four of the most favoured amongst these were present, and to one of them Cruikshank observed quietly: 'I think the subject is not quite dead; pray put your knife in (Mr. X. Y.) at this point.' That was done; a solemn finis was placed to the labours of the robber, and perhaps a solemn inauguration to the labours of the student. A cast was taken from the superb figure of the highwayman; he was then dissected, his skeleton became the property of Cruikshank, and subsequently of Mr. White. We were all called upon to admire the fine proportions of the man, and of course in that hollow and unmeaning way which such unlearned expressors of judgment usually assume, we all obsequiously met the demand levied upon our admiration. But, for my part, though readily confiding in the professional judgment of anatomists, I could not but feel that through my own unassisted judgment I never could have arrived at such a conclusion. The unlearned eye has gathered no rudimental points to begin with. Not having what are the normal outlines to which the finest proportions tend, an eye so untutored cannot of course judge in what degree the given subject approaches to these.[Pg 323]

7.—The Ransom for Waterloo.

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The following gives a variation on a famous passage in the 'Dream Fugue,' and it may be interesting to the reader to compare it with that which the author printed. From these variations it will be seen that De Quincey often wrote and re-wrote his finest passages, and sometimes, no doubt, found it hard to choose between the readings:


Thus as we ran like torrents; thus as with bridal rapture our flying equipage swept over the campo santo of the graves; thus as our burning wheels carried warrior instincts, kindled earthly passions amongst the trembling dust below us, suddenly we became aware of a vast necropolis to which from afar we were hurrying. In a moment our maddening wheels were nearing it.

'Of purple granite in massive piles was this city of the dead, and yet for one moment it lay like a visionary purple stain on the horizon, so mighty was the distance. In the second moment this purple city trembled through many changes, and grew as by fiery pulsations, so mighty was the pace. In the third moment already with our dreadful gallop we were entering its suburbs. Systems of sarcophagi rose with crests aerial of terraces[Pg 324] and turrets into the upper glooms, strode forward with haughty encroachment upon the central aisle, ran back with mighty shadows into answering recesses. When the sarcophagi wheeled, then did our horses wheel. Like rivers in horned floods wheeling in pomp of unfathomable waters round headlands; like hurricanes that ride into the secrets of forests, faster than ever light travels through the wilderness of darkness, we shot the angles, we fled round the curves of the labyrinthine city. With the storm of our horses' feet, and of our burning wheels, did we carry earthly passions, kindle warrior instincts amongst the silent dust around us, dust of our noble fathers that had slept in God since Creci. Every sarcophagus showed many bas-reliefs, bas-reliefs of battles, bas-reliefs of battlefields, battles from forgotten ages, battles from yesterday; battlefields that long since Nature had healed and reconciled to herself with the sweet oblivion of flowers; battlefields that were yet angry and crimson with carnage.

And now had we reached the last sarcophagus, already we were abreast of the last bas-relief; already we were recovering the arrow-like flight of the central aisle, when coming up it in counterview to ourselves we beheld the frailest of cars, built as might seem from floral wreaths, and from the shells of Indian seas. Half concealed were the fawns that drew it by the floating mists that went before it in pomp. But the mists hid not the lovely countenance of the infant girl that sate wistful upon the ear, and hid not the birds of tropic plumage with which she played. Face to face she rode forward to meet us, and baby laughter in her eyes saluted the ruin that approached. 'Oh, baby,' I said in anguish, 'must we that carry tidings of great joy to[Pg 325] every people be God's messengers of ruin to thee?' In horror I rose at the thought. But then also, in horror at the thought, rose one that was sculptured in the bas-relief—a dying trumpeter. Solemnly from the field of Waterloo he rose to his feet, and, unslinging his stony trumpet, carried it in his dying anguish to his stony lips, sounding once, and yet once again, proclamation that to thy ears, oh baby, must have spoken from the battlements of death. Immediately deep shadows fell between us, and shuddering silence. The choir had ceased to sing; the uproar of our laurelled equipage alarmed the graves no more. By horror the bas-relief had been unlocked into life. By horror we that were so full of life—we men, and our horses with their fiery forelegs rising in mid-air to their everlasting gallop—were petrified to a bas-relief. Oh, glacial pageantry of death, that from end to end of the gorgeous cathedral for a moment froze every eye by contagion of panic. Then for the third time the trumpet sounded. Back with the shattering burst came the infinite rushing of life. The seals of frost were raised from our stifling hearts.[Pg 326]

8.—Desiderium.

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Here is another variation on a famous passage in the 'Autobiographic Sketches,' which will give the reader some further opportunity for comparison:


At six years of age, or thereabouts (I write without any memorial notes), the glory of this earth for me was extinguished. It is finished—not those words but that sentiment—was the misgiving of my prophetic heart; thought it was that gnawed like a worm, that did not and that could not die. 'How, child,' a cynic would have said, if he had deciphered the secret reading of my sighs—'at six years of age, will you pretend that life has already exhausted its promises? Have you communicated with the grandeurs of earth? Have you read Milton? Have you seen Rome? Have you heard Mozart?' No, I had not, nor could in those years have appreciated any one of them if I had; and, therefore, undoubtedly the crown jewels of our little planet were still waiting for me in the rear. Milton and Rome and 'Don Giovanni' were yet to come. But it mattered not what remained when set over against what had been taken away. That it was which I sought for ever in my blindness. The love which had existed between[Pg 327] myself and my departed sister, that, as even a child could feel, was not a light that could be rekindled. No voice on earth could say, 'Come again!' to a flower of Paradise like that. Love, such as that is given but once to any. Exquisite are the perceptions of childhood, not less so than those of maturest wisdom, in what touches the capital interests of the heart. And no arguments, nor any consolations, could have soothed me into a moment's belief, that a wound so ghastly as mine admitted of healing or palliation. Consequently, as I stood more alone in the very midst of a domestic circle than ever Christian traveller in an African Bilidulgerid amidst the tents of infidels, or the howls of lions, day and night—in the darkness and at noon-day—I sate, I stood, I lay, moping like an idiot, craving for what was impossible, and seeking, groping, snatching, at that which was irretrievable for ever.

FOOTNOTES:

[41] [Born 1746, died 1800.—Ed.]


THE END.

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