« PrécédentContinuer »
books which ought to have been read, I have left unread; such is the sad necessity under the absence of all preconceived plan; and the proper road is first ascertained when the journey is drawing to its close."
3. In a wilderness so vast as that of books, to go astray often and widely is pardonable, because it is inevitable; and in proportion as the errors on this primary field of study have been great, it is important to have reaped some compensatory benefits on the secondary field of conversation. Books teach by one machinery, conversation by another; and, if these resources were trained into correspondence to their own separate īdē'als, they might become reciprocally the complements of each other.
4. It had happened that amongst our nursery collection of books was the Bible illustrated with many pictures. And in long dark evenings, as my three sisters with myself sat by the firelight round the guard of our nursery, no book was so much in request amongst us. It ruled us and swayed us as mysteriously as music. One young nurse, whom we all loved, before any candle was lighted, would often strain her eyes to read it for us; and, sometimes, according to hcr simple powers, would endeavor to explain what we found obscure. We, the children, were all constitutionally touched with pensiveness; the fitful gloom and sudden lambencies of the room by firelight suited our evening state of feelings; and they suited, also, the divine revelations of power and mysterious beauty which awed us. Above all, the story of a just man-man and yet not man, reäl above all things, and yet shadowy above all things, who had suffered the passion of death in Palestine-slept upon our minds like early dawn upon the waters.
5. A MAN of original genius, shown to us as revolving through the leisurely stages of a biographical memoir, lays open, to readers prepared for sympathy, two separate theaters of interest; one in his personal career: the other in his works and his intellectual development. Both unfold together; and each borrows a secondary interest from the other: the life from the recollection of the works-the works from the joy and sorrow of the life. There have, indeed, been authors whose great creations, severely preconceived in a region of thought transcendent to all impulses of earth, would have been pretty nearly
what they are under any possible changes in the dramatic arrangement of their lives. Happy or not happy-gay or sadthese authors would equally have fulfilled a mission too solemn and too stern in its obligations to suffer any warping from chance, or to bend before the accidents of life, whether dressed in sunshine or in wintry gloom.
6. But generally this is otherwise. Children of Paradise, like the Miltons of our planet, have the privilege of stars-to "dwell apart.” But the children of flesh, whose pulses beat too sympathetically with the agitations of mother-earth, can not sequester themselves in that way. They walk in no such altitudes, but at elevations easily reached by ground-winds of humble calamity. And from that cup of sorrow, which upon all lips is pressed in some proportion, they must submit, by the very tenure on which they hold their gifts, to drink, if not more profoundly than others, yet always with more bitternèss.
7. "PUT not your trust in princès, nor in the sons of princes," this has been the warning,-this has been the farewell moral, winding up and pointing the experience of dying statesmen. Not less truly it might be said, "Put not your trust in the intellectual princes of your age:" form no connections too close with any who live only in the atmosphere of admiration and praise. The love or the friendship of such people rarely contracts itself into the narrow circle of individuals. You, if you are brilliant like themselves, they will hate; you, if you are dull, they will despise. Gaze, therefore, on the splendor of such idols as a passing stranger. Look for a moment as one sharing in the idolatry; but pass on before the splendor has been sullied by human frailty, or before your own generous homage has been confounded with offerings of weeds.
8. GRIEF! thou art classed amongst the depressing passions. And true it is that thou humblèst to the dust, but also thou exaltest to the clouds. Thou shakest as with ague, but also thou steadiëst like frost. Thou sickenest the heart, but also thou healest its infirmities.
9. SOLITUDE, though it may be silent as light, is, like light, the mightiest of agencies; for solitude is essential to man. All men come into this world alōne; all leave it alone. Even a little child has a dread, whispering consciousness, that, if he should be summoned to travel into God's presence, no gentle nurse
will be allowed to lead him by the hand, nor mother to carry him in her arms, nor little sister to share his trepidations. King and priest, warrior and maiden, philosopher and child, all must walk those mighty galleries alone. The solitude, therefore, which in this world appalls or fascinates a child's heart, is but the echo of a far deeper solitude, through which already he has passed, and of another solitude deeper still, through which he has to pass: reflex of one solitude-prefiguration of another.
10. Deep is the solitude of millions who, with hearts welling forth love, have none (nun) to love them. Deep is the solitude of those who, under secret griefs, have none to pity them. Deep is the solitude of those who, fighting with doubts or darknèss, have none to counsel them. But deeper than the deepest of these solitudes is that which broods over childhood under the passion of sorrow-bringing before it, at intervals, the final solitude which watches for it, and is waiting for it within the gates of death. O mighty and essential solitude, that wast, and art, and art to be, thy kingdom is made perfect in the grave; but even over those that keep watch outside the grave, thou stretchèst out a scepter of fascination.
11. THE dream commenced with a music which now I often heard in dreams-a music of preparation and of awakening suspense; a music like the opening of the Coronation Anthem, and which, like that, gave the feeling of a vast march, of infinito cavalcades filing off, and the tread of innumerable armies. The morning was come of a mighty day-a day of crisis and of final hope for human nature, then suffering some mysterious eclipse, and laboring in some dread extremity. Somewhere, I knew not wherc-somehow, I knew not how-by some beings, I knew not whom-a battle, a strife, an agony, was conducting, -was evolving like a great drama, or piece of music; with which my sympathy was the more insupportable from my confusion as to its place, its cause, its nature, and its possible issue. I, as is usual in dreams (where, of necessity, we make ourselves central to every movement), had the power, and yet had not the power, to decide it. I had the power, if I could raise myself, to will it; and yet again had not the power, for the weight of twenty Atlantics was upon me, or the oppression of inexpiable guilt. "Deeper than ever plummet sounded," I lay inactive.
12. Then, like a chorus, the passion deepened. Some greater interest was at stake; some mightier cause than ever yet the sword had pleaded, or trumpet had proclaimed. Then came sudden alarms; hurryings to and fro; trepidations of innumerable fugitives. I knew not whether from the good cause or the bad; darkness and lights; tempèst and human faces; and at last, with the sense that all was lost, female forms, and the features that were worth all the world to me, and but a moment allowed, and clasped hands, and heart-breaking partings, and then-everlasting farewells! and, with a sigh, such as the caves of hell sighed when the incestuous mother uttered the abhorred name of Death, the sound was reverberated-everlasting farewells! and again, and yet again reverberated—everlasting farewells! And I awoke in struggles, and cried aloud—“I WILL SLEEP NO MORE!" DE QUINCEY,
58. GIL BLAS AND THE OLD ARCHBISHOP.
RCHBISHOP. Well, young man, what is your business with me?
Gil Blas. I am the young man whom your nephew, Don Fernando, was pleased to mention to you.
Arch. Oh! you are the person, then, of whom he spoke so handsomely. I engage you in my service, and consider you a valuable acquisition. From the specimens he showed me of your powers, you must be pretty well acquainted with the Greek and Latin authors. It is very evident your education has not been neglected. I am satisfied with your handwriting, and still more with your understanding. I thank my nephew, Don Fernando, for having given me such an able young man, whom I consider a rich acquisition. You transcribe so well, you must certainly understand grammar. Tell me, ingenuously, my friend, did you find nothing that shocked you in writing over the homily I sent you on trial,—some neglect, perhaps, in style, or some improper term?
Gil B. Oh! sir, I am not learnèd enough to make critical observations; and if I was, I am persuaded the works of your grace would escape my censure.
Arch. Young man, you are disposed to flatter; but tell me, which parts of it did you think most strikingly beautiful.
Gil B. If, where all was excellent, any parts were particularly sɔ, I should say they were the personification of hope, and the description of a good man's death.
Arch. I see you have a delicate knowledge of the truly beautiful. This is what I call having taste and sentiment. Gil Blas,' henceforth give thyself no uneasiness about thy fortune, I will take care of that. I love thee, and as a proof of my affection, I will make thee my confidant: yes, my child, thou shalt be the repository of my most secret thoughts. Listen with attention to what I am going to say. My chief pleasure consists in preaching, and the Lord gives a blessing to my homilies, but I confess my weakness. The honor of being thought a perfect orator has charmed my imagination; my performances are thought equally nervous and delicate; but I would of all things avoid the fault of good authors, who write too long. Wherefore, my dear Gil Blas, one thing that I exact of thy zeal, is, whenever thou shalt perceive my pen smack of old age, and my genius flag, don't fail to advertise' me of it, for I don't trust to my own judgment, which may be seduced by self-love. That observation must proceed from a disinterested understanding, and I make choice of thine, which I know is good, and am resolved to stand by thy decision.
Gil B. Thank heaven, sir, that time is far off. Besides, a genius like that of your grace, will preserve its vigor much better than any other; or, to speak more justly, will be always the same. I look upon you as another Cardinal Ximenes,' whose superior genius, instead of being weakened, seemed to acquire new strength by age.
Arch. No flattery, friend: I know I am liable to sink all at once. People at my age begin to feel infirmities, and the in
1 Gil Blas, (zèl blå).
"Francis Ximenes, (zỉ mě′ nèz), archbishop of Toledo, confessor to Queen Isabella of Spain, was born in 1437. He received the cardinal's hat in 1507. His chief influence
arose from his efforts to reform the Romish Church. He was a great patron of letters, and by his exertions and expenditure produced the earliest edition of a polyglot Bible. He died November 8th, 1517.