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The Essays of "George Eliot" - Complete
by George Eliot
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In August Mr. Jones's tone is slightly modified. Earnest entreaties, not lucrative considerations, have induced him to cheer the Doctor's dejected heart by remaining at Welwyn some time longer. The Doctor is, "in various respects, a very unhappy man," and few know so much of these respects as Mr. Jones. In September he recurs to the subject:

"My ancient gentleman here is still full of trouble, which moves my concern, though it moves only the secret laughter of many, and some untoward surmises in disfavor of him and his household. The loss of a very large sum of money (about 200l.) is talked of; whereof this vill and neighborhood is full. Some disbelieve; others says, 'It is no wonder, where about eighteen or more servants are sometimes taken and dismissed in the course of a year.' The gentleman himself is allowed by all to be far more harmless and easy in his family than some one else who hath too much the lead in it. This, among others, was one reason for my late motion to quit."

No other mention of Young's affairs occurs until April 2d, 1765, when he says that Dr. Young is very ill, attended by two physicians.

"Having mentioned this young gentleman (Dr. Young's son), I would acquaint you next, that he came hither this morning, having been sent for, as I am told, by the direction of Mrs. Hallows. Indeed, she intimated to me as much herself. And if this be so, I must say, that it is one of the most prudent Acts she ever did, or could have done in such a case as this; as it may prove a means of preventing much confusion after the death of the Doctor. I have had some little discourse with the son: he seems much affected, and I believe really is so. He earnestly wishes his father might be pleased to ask after him; for you must know he has not yet done this, nor is, in my opinion, like to do it. And it has been said farther, that upon a late application made to him on the behalf of his son, he desired that no more might be said to him about it. How true this may be I cannot as yet be certain; all I shall say is, it seems not improbable . . . I heartily wish the ancient man's heart may prove tender toward his son; though, knowing him so well, I can scarce hope to hear such desirable news."

Eleven days later he writes:

"I have now the pleasure to acquaint you, that the late Dr. Young, though he had for many years kept his son at a distance from him, yet has now at last left him all his possessions, after the payment of certain legacies; so that the young gentleman (who bears a fair character, and behaves well, as far as I can hear or see) will, I hope, soon enjoy and make a prudent use of a handsome fortune. The father, on his deathbed, and since my return from London, was applied to in the tenderest manner, by one of his physicians, and by another person, to admit the son into his presence, to make submission, intreat forgiveness, and obtain his blessing. As to an interview with his son, he intimated that he chose to decline it, as his spirits were then low and his nerves weak. With regard to the next particular, he said, 'I heartily forgive him;' and upon 'mention of this last, he gently lifted up his hand, and letting it gently fall, pronounced these words, 'God bless him!' . . . I know it will give you pleasure to be farther informed that he was pleased to make respectful mention of me in his will; expressing his satisfaction in my care of his parish, bequeathing to me a handsome legacy, and appointing me to be one of his executors."

So far Mr. Jones, in his confidential correspondence with a "friend, who may be trusted." In a letter communicated apparently by him to the Gentleman's Magazine, seven years later, namely, in 1782, on the appearance of Croft's biography of Young, we find him speaking of "the ancient gentleman" in a tone of reverential eulogy, quite at variance with the free comments we have just quoted. But the Rev. John Jones was probably of opinion, with Mrs. Montagu, whose contemporary and retrospective letters are also set in a different key, that "the interests of religion were connected with the character of a man so distinguished for piety as Dr. Young." At all events, a subsequent quasi-official statement weighs nothing as evidence against contemporary, spontaneous, and confidential hints.

To Mrs. Hallows, Young left a legacy of 1000 pounds, with the request that she would destroy all his manuscripts. This final request, from some unknown cause, was not complied with, and among the papers he left behind him was the following letter from Archbishop Secker, which probably marks the date of his latest effort after preferment:

"DEANERY OF ST. PAUL'S, July 8, 1758.

"Good DR. YOUNG: I have long wondered that more suitable notice of your great merit hath not been taken by persons in power. But how to remedy the omission I see not. No encouragement hath ever been given me to mention things of this nature to his Majesty. And therefore, in all likelihood, the only consequence of doing it would be weakening the little influence which else I may possibly have on some other occasions. Your fortune and your reputation set you above the need of advancement; and your sentiments above that concern for it, on your own account, which, on that of the public, is sincerely felt by

"Your loving Brother,

"THO. CANT."

The loving brother's irony is severe!

Perhaps the least questionable testimony to the better side of Young's character is that of Bishop Hildesley, who, as the vicar of a parish near Welwyn, had been Young's neighbor for upward of twenty years. The affection of the clergy for each other, we have observed, is, like that of the fair sex, not at all of a blind and infatuated kind; and we may therefore the rather believe them when they give each other any extra-official praise. Bishop Hildesley, then writing of Young to Richardson, says:

"The impertinence of my frequent visits to him was amply rewarded; forasmuch as, I can truly say, he never received me but with agreeable open complacency; and I never left him but with profitable pleasure and improvement. He was one or other, the most modest, the most patient of contradiction, and the most informing and entertaining I ever conversed with—at least, of any man who had so just pretensions to pertinacity and reserve."

Mr. Langton, however, who was also a frequent visitor of Young's, informed Boswell—

"That there was an air of benevolence in his manner; but that he could obtain from him less information than he had hoped to receive from one who had lived so much in intercourse with the brightest men of what had been called the Augustan age of England; and that he showed a degree of eager curiosity concerning the common occurrences that were then passing, which appeared somewhat remarkable in a man of such intellectual stores, of such an advanced age, and who had retired from life with declared disappointment in his expectations."

The same substance, we know, will exhibit different qualities under different tests; and, after all, imperfect reports of individual impressions, whether immediate or traditional, are a very frail basis on which to build our opinion of a man. One's character may be very indifferently mirrored in the mind of the most intimate neighbor; it all depends on the quality of that gentleman's reflecting surface.

But, discarding any inferences from such uncertain evidence, the outline of Young's character is too distinctly traceable in the well-attested facts of his life, and yet more in the self-betrayal that runs through all his works, for us to fear that our general estimate of him may be false. For, while no poet seems less easy and spontaneous than Young, no poet discloses himself more completely. Men's minds have no hiding-place out of themselves—their affectations do but betray another phase of their nature. And if, in the present view of Young, we seem to be more intent on laying bare unfavorable facts than on shrouding them in "charitable speeches," it is not because we have any irreverential pleasure in turning men's characters "the seamy side without," but because we see no great advantage in considering a man as he was not. Young's biographers and critics have usually set out from the position that he was a great religious teacher, and that his poetry is morally sublime; and they have toned down his failings into harmony with their conception of the divine and the poet. For our own part, we set out from precisely the opposite conviction—namely, that the religious and moral spirit of Young's poetry is low and false, and we think it of some importance to show that the "Night Thoughts" are the reflex of the mind in which the higher human sympathies were inactive. This judgment is entirely opposed to our youthful predilections and enthusiasm. The sweet garden-breath of early enjoyment lingers about many a page of the "Night Thoughts," and even of the "Last Day," giving an extrinsic charm to passages of stilted rhetoric and false sentiment; but the sober and repeated reading of maturer years has convinced us that it would hardly be possible to find a more typical instance than Young's poetry, of the mistake which substitutes interested obedience for sympathetic emotion, and baptizes egoism as religion.

* * * * *

Pope said of Young, that he had "much of a sublime genius without common-sense." The deficiency Pope meant to indicate was, we imagine, moral rather than intellectual: it was the want of that fine sense of what is fitting in speech and action, which is often eminently possessed by men and women whose intellect is of a very common order, but who have the sincerity and dignity which can never coexist with the selfish preoccupations of vanity or interest. This was the "common-sense" in which Young was conspicuously deficient; and it was partly owing to this deficiency that his genius, waiting to be determined by the highest prize, fluttered uncertainly from effort to effort, until, when he was more than sixty, it suddenly spread its broad wing, and soared so as to arrest the gaze of other generations besides his own. For he had no versatility of faculty to mislead him. The "Night Thoughts" only differ from his previous works in the degree and not in the kind of power they manifest. Whether he writes prose or poetry, rhyme or blank verse, dramas, satires, odes, or meditations, we see everywhere the same Young—the same narrow circle of thoughts, the same love of abstractions, the same telescopic view of human things, the same appetency toward antithetic apothegm and rhapsodic climax. The passages that arrest us in his tragedies are those in which he anticipates some fine passage in the "Night Thoughts," and where his characters are only transparent shadows through which we see the bewigged embonpoint of the didactic poet, excogitating epigrams or ecstatic soliloquies by the light of a candle fixed in a skull. Thus, in "The Revenge," "Alonzo," in the conflict of jealousy and love that at once urges and forbids him to murder his wife, says:

"This vast and solid earth, that blazing sun, Those skies, through which it rolls, must all have end. What then is man? The smallest part of nothing. Day buries day; month, month; and year the year! Our life is but a chain of many deaths. Can then Death's self be feared? Our life much rather: Life is the desert, life the solitude; Death joins us to the great majority; 'Tis to be born to Plato and to Caesar; 'Tis to be great forever; 'Tis pleasure, 'tis ambition, then, to die."

His prose writings all read like the "Night Thoughts," either diluted into prose or not yet crystallized into poetry. For example, in his "Thoughts for Age," he says:

"Though we stand on its awful brink, such our leaden bias to the world, we turn our faces the wrong way; we are still looking on our old acquaintance, Time; though now so wasted and reduced, that we can see little more of him than his wings and his scythe: our age enlarges his wings to our imagination; and our fear of death, his scythe; as Time himself grows less. His consumption is deep; his annihilation is at hand."

This is a dilution of the magnificent image—

"Time in advance behind him hides his wings, And seems to creep decrepit with his age. Behold him when past by! What then is seen But his proud pinions, swifter than the winds?"

Again:

"A requesting Omnipotence? What can stun and confound thy reason more? What more can ravish and exalt thy heart? It cannot but ravish and exalt; it cannot but gloriously disturb and perplex thee, to take in all that suggests. Thou child of the dust! Thou speck of misery and sin! How abject thy weakness! how great is thy power! Thou crawler on earth, and possible (I was about to say) controller of the skies! Weigh, and weigh well, the wondrous truths I have in view: which cannot be weighed too much; which the more they are weighed, amaze the more; which to have supposed, before they were revealed, would have been as great madness, and to have presumed on as great sin, as it is now madness and sin not to believe."

Even in his Pindaric odes, in which he made the most violent efforts against nature, he is still neither more nor less than the Young of the "Last Day," emptied and swept of his genius, and possessed by seven demons of fustian and bad rhyme. Even here his "Ercles' Vein" alternates with his moral platitudes, and we have the perpetual text of the "Night Thoughts:"

"Gold pleasure buys; But pleasure dies, For soon the gross fruition cloys; Though raptures court, The sense is short; But virtue kindles living joys;—

"Joys felt alone! Joys asked of none! Which Time's and fortune's arrows miss: Joys that subsist, Though fates resist, An unprecarious, endless bliss!

"Unhappy they! And falsely gay! Who bask forever in success; A constant feast Quite palls the taste, And long enjoyment is distress."

In the "Last Day," again, which is the earliest thing he wrote, we have an anticipation of all his greatest faults and merits. Conspicuous among the faults is that attempt to exalt our conceptions of Deity by vulgar images and comparisons, which is so offensive in the later "Night Thoughts." In a burst of prayer and homage to God, called forth by the contemplation of Christ coming to judgment, he asks, Who brings the change of the seasons? and answers:

"Not the great Ottoman, or Greater Czar; Not Europe's arbitress of peace and war!"

Conceive the soul in its most solemn moments, assuring God that it doesn't place his power below that of Louis Napoleon or Queen Victoria!

But in the midst of uneasy rhymes, inappropriate imagery, vaulting sublimity that o'erleaps itself, and vulgar emotions, we have in this poem an occasional flash of genius, a touch of simple grandeur, which promises as much as Young ever achieved. Describing the on-coming of the dissolution of all things, he says:

"No sun in radiant glory shines on high; No light but from the terrors of the sky."

And again, speaking of great armies:

"Whose rear lay wrapt in night, while breaking dawn Rous'd the broad front, and call'd the battle on."

And this wail of the lost souls is fine:

"And this for sin? Could I offend if I had never been? But still increas'd the senseless, happy mass, Flow'd in the stream, or shiver'd in the grass? Father of mercies! Why from silent earth Didst thou awake and curse me into birth? Tear me from quiet, ravish me from night, And make a thankless present of thy light? Push into being a reverse of Thee, And animate a clod with misery?"

But it is seldom in Young's rhymed poems that the effect of a felicitous thought or image is not counteracted by our sense of the constraint he suffered from the necessities of rhyme—that "Gothic demon," as he afterward called it, "which, modern poetry tasting, became mortal." In relation to his own power, no one will question the truth of this dictum, that "blank verse is verse unfallen, uncurst; verse reclaimed, reinthroned in the true language of the gods; who never thundered nor suffered their Homer to thunder in rhyme." His want of mastery in rhyme is especially a drawback on the effects of his Satires; for epigrams and witticisms are peculiarly susceptible to the intrusion of a superfluous word, or to an inversion which implies constraint. Here, even more than elsewhere, the art that conceals art is an absolute requisite, and to have a witticism presented to us in limping or cumbrous rhythm is as counteractive to any electrifying effect as to see the tentative grimaces by which a comedian prepares a grotesque countenance. We discern the process, instead of being startled by the result.

This is one reason why the Satires, read seriatim, have a flatness to us, which, when we afterward read picked passages, we are inclined to disbelieve in, and to attribute to some deficiency in our own mood. But there are deeper reasons for that dissatisfaction. Young is not a satirist of a high order. His satire has neither the terrible vigor, the lacerating energy of genuine indignation, nor the humor which owns loving fellowship with the poor human nature it laughs at; nor yet the personal bitterness which, as in Pope's characters of Sporus and Atticus, insures those living touches by virtue of which the individual and particular in Art becomes the universal and immortal. Young could never describe a real, complex human being; but what he could do with eminent success was to describe, with neat and finished point, obvious types, of manners rather than of character—to write cold and clever epigrams on personified vices and absurdities. There is no more emotion in his satire than if he were turning witty verses on a waxen image of Cupid or a lady's glove. He has none of these felicitious epithets, none of those pregnant lines, by which Pope's Satires have enriched the ordinary speech of educated men. Young's wit will be found in almost every instance to consist in that antithetic combination of ideas which, of all the forms of wit, is most within reach of a clever effort. In his gravest arguments, as well as in his lightest satire, one might imagine that he had set himself to work out the problem, how much antithesis might be got out of a given subject. And there he completely succeeds. His neatest portraits are all wrought on this plan. "Narcissus," for example, who

"Omits no duty; nor can Envy say He miss'd, these many years, the Church or Play: He makes no noise in Parliament, 'tis true; But pays his debts, and visit when 'tis due; His character and gloves are ever clean, And then he can out-bow the bowing Dean; A smile eternal on his lip he wears, Which equally the wise and worthless shares. In gay fatigues, this most undaunted chief, Patient of idleness beyond belief, Most charitably lends the town his face For ornament in every public place; As sure as cards he to th' assembly comes, And is the furniture of drawing-rooms: When Ombre calls, his hand and heart are free, And, joined to two, he fails not—to make three; Narcissus is the glory of his race; For who does nothing with a better grace? To deck my list by nature were designed Such shining expletives of human kind, Who want, while through blank life they dream along, Sense to be right and passion to be wrong."

It is but seldom that we find a touch of that easy slyness which gives an additional zest to surprise; but here is an instance:

"See Tityrus, with merriment possest, Is burst with laughter ere he hears the jest, What need he stay, for when the joke is o'er, His teeth will be no whiter than before."

Like Pope, whom he imitated, he sets out with a psychological mistake as the basis of his satire, attributing all forms of folly to one passion—the love of fame, or vanity—a much grosser mistake, indeed, than Pope's, exaggeration of the extent to which the "ruling passion" determines conduct in the individual. Not that Young is consistent in his mistake. He sometimes implies no more than what is the truth—that the love of fame is the cause, not of all follies, but of many.

Young's satires on women are superior to Pope's, which is only saying that they are superior to Pope's greatest failure. We can more frequently pick out a couplet as successful than an entire sketch. Of the too emphatic "Syrena" he says:

"Her judgment just, her sentence is too strong; Because she's right, she's ever in the wrong."

Of the diplomatic "Julia:"

"For her own breakfast she'll project a scheme, Nor take her tea without a stratagem."

Of "Lyce," the old painted coquette:

"In vain the cock has summoned sprites away; She walks at noon and blasts the bloom of day."

Of the nymph, who, "gratis, clears religious mysteries:"

"'Tis hard, too, she who makes no use but chat Of her religion, should be barr'd in that."

The description of the literary belle, "Daphne," well prefaces that of "Stella," admired by Johnson:

"With legs toss'd high, on her sophee she sits, Vouchsafing audience to contending wits: Of each performance she's the final test; One act read o'er, she prophecies the rest; And then, pronouncing with decisive air, Fully convinces all the town—she's fair. Had lonely Daphne Hecatessa's face, How would her elegance of taste decrease! Some ladies' judgment in their features lies, And all their genius sparkles in their eyes. But hold, she cries, lampooner! have a care; Must I want common sense because I'm fair? O no; see Stella: her eyes shine as bright As if her tongue was never in the right; And yet what real learning, judgment, fire! She seems inspir'd, and can herself inspire. How then (if malice ruled not all the fair) Could Daphne publish, and could she forbear?"

After all, when we have gone through Young's seven Satires, we seem to have made but an indifferent meal. They are a sort of fricassee, with some little solid meat in them, and yet the flavor is not always piquant. It is curious to find him, when he pauses a moment from his satiric sketching, recurring to his old platitudes:

"Can gold calm passion, or make reason shine? Can we dig peace or wisdom from the mine? Wisdom to gold prefer;"—

platitudes which he seems inevitably to fall into, for the same reason that some men are constantly asserting their contempt for criticism—because he felt the opposite so keenly.

The outburst of genius in the earlier books of the "Night Thoughts" is the more remarkable, that in the interval between them and the Satires he had produced nothing but his Pindaric odes, in which he fell far below the level of his previous works. Two sources of this sudden strength were the freedom of blank verse and the presence of a genuine emotion. Most persons, in speaking of the "Night Thoughts," have in their minds only the two or three first Nights, the majority of readers rarely getting beyond these, unless, as Wilson says, they "have but few books, are poor, and live in the country." And in these earlier Nights there is enough genuine sublimity and genuine sadness to bribe us into too favorable a judgment of them as a whole. Young had only a very few things to say or sing—such as that life is vain, that death is imminent, that man is immortal, that virtue is wisdom, that friendship is sweet, and that the source of virtue is the contemplation of death and immortality—and even in his two first Nights he had said almost all he had to say in his finest manner. Through these first outpourings of "complaint" we feel that the poet is really sad, that the bird is singing over a rifled nest; and we bear with his morbid picture of the world and of life, as the Job-like lament of a man whom "the hand of God hath touched." Death has carried away his best-beloved, and that "silent land" whither they are gone has more reality for the desolate one than this world which is empty of their love:

"This is the desert, this the solitude; How populous, how vital is the grave!"

Joy died with the loved one:

"The disenchanted earth Lost all her lustre. Where her glitt'ring towers? Her golden mountains, where? All darkened down To naked waste; a dreary vale of tears: The great magician's dead!"

Under the pang of parting, it seems to the bereaved man as if love were only a nerve to suffer with, and he sickens at the thought of every joy of which he must one day say—"_it _was_." In its unreasoning anguish, the soul rushes to the idea of perpetuity as the one element of bliss:

"O ye blest scenes of permanent delight!— Could ye, so rich in rapture, fear an end,— That ghastly thought would drink up all your joy, And quite unparadise the realms of light."

In a man under the immediate pressure of a great sorrow, we tolerate morbid exaggerations; we are prepared to see him turn away a weary eye from sunlight and flowers and sweet human faces, as if this rich and glorious life had no significance but as a preliminary of death; we do not criticise his views, we compassionate his feelings. And so it is with Young in these earlier Nights. There is already some artificiality even in his grief, and feeling often slides into rhetoric, but through it all we are thrilled with the unmistakable cry of pain, which makes us tolerant of egoism and hyperbole:

"In every varied posture, place, and hour, How widow'd every thought of every joy! Thought, busy thought! too busy for my peace! Through the dark postern of time long elapsed Led softly, by the stillness of the night,— Led like a murderer (and such it proves!) Strays (wretched rover!) o'er the pleasing past,— In quest of wretchedness, perversely strays; And finds all desert now; and meets the ghosts Of my departed joys."

But when he becomes didactic, rather than complaining—when he ceases to sing his sorrows, and begins to insist on his opinions—when that distaste for life which we pity as a transient feeling is thrust upon us as a theory, we become perfectly cool and critical, and are not in the least inclined to be indulgent to false views and selfish sentiments.

Seeing that we are about to be severe on Young's failings and failures, we ought, if a reviewer's space were elastic, to dwell also on his merits—on the startling vigor of his imagery—on the occasional grandeur of his thought—on the piquant force of that grave satire into which his meditations continually run. But, since our "limits" are rigorous, we must content ourselves with the less agreeable half of the critic's duty; and we may the rather do so, because it would be difficult to say anything new of Young, in the way of admiration, while we think there are many salutary lessons remaining to be drawn from his faults.

One of the most striking characteristics of Young is his radical insincerity as a poetic artist. This, added to the thin and artificial texture of his wit, is the true explanation of the paradox—that a poet who is often inopportunely witty has the opposite vice of bombastic absurdity. The source of all grandiloquence is the want of taking for a criterion the true qualities of the object described or the emotion expressed. The grandiloquent man is never bent on saying what he feels or what he sees, but on producing a certain effect on his audience; hence he may float away into utter inanity without meeting any criterion to arrest him. Here lies the distinction between grandiloquence and genuine fancy or bold imaginativeness. The fantastic or the boldly imaginative poet may be as sincere as the most realistic: he is true to his own sensibilities or inward vision, and in his wildest flights he never breaks loose from his criterion—the truth of his own mental state. Now, this disruption of language from genuine thought and feeling is what we are constantly detecting in Young; and his insincerity is the more likely to betray him into absurdity, because he habitually treats of abstractions, and not of concrete objects or specific emotions. He descants perpetually on virtue, religion, "the good man," life, death, immortality, eternity—subjects which are apt to give a factitious grandeur to empty wordiness. When a poet floats in the empyrean, and only takes a bird's-eye view of the earth, some people accept the mere fact of his soaring for sublimity, and mistake his dim vision of earth for proximity to heaven. Thus:

"His hand the good man fixes on the skies, And bids earth roll, nor feels her idle whirl,"

may, perhaps, pass for sublime with some readers. But pause a moment to realize the image, and the monstrous absurdity of a man's grasping the skies, and hanging habitually suspended there, while he contemptuously bids the earth roll, warns you that no genuine feeling could have suggested so unnatural a conception. Again,

"See the man immortal: him, I mean, Who lives as such; whose heart, full bent on Heaven, Leans all that way, his bias to the stars."

This is worse than the previous example: for you can at least form some imperfect conception of a man hanging from the skies, though the position strikes you as uncomfortable and of no particular use; but you are utterly unable to imagine how his heart can lean toward the stars. Examples of such vicious imagery, resulting from insincerity, may be found, perhaps, in almost every page of the "Night Thoughts." But simple assertions or aspirations, undisguised by imagery, are often equally false. No writer whose rhetoric was checked by the slightest truthful intentions could have said—

"An eye of awe and wonder let me roll, And roll forever."

Abstracting the more poetical associations with the eye, this is hardly less absurd than if he had wished to stand forever with his mouth open.

Again:

"Far beneath A soul immortal is a mortal joy."

Happily for human nature, we are sure no man really believes that. Which of us has the impiety not to feel that our souls are only too narrow for the joy of looking into the trusting eyes of our children, of reposing on the love of a husband or a wife—nay, of listening to the divine voice of music, or watching the calm brightness of autumnal afternoons? But Young could utter this falsity without detecting it, because, when he spoke of "mortal joys," he rarely had in his mind any object to which he could attach sacredness. He was thinking of bishoprics, and benefices, of smiling monarchs, patronizing prime ministers, and a "much indebted muse." Of anything between these and eternal bliss he was but rarely and moderately conscious. Often, indeed, he sinks very much below even the bishopric, and seems to have no notion of earthly pleasure but such as breathes gaslight and the fumes of wine. His picture of life is precisely such as you would expect from a man who has risen from his bed at two o'clock in the afternoon with a headache and a dim remembrance that he has added to his "debts of honor:"

"What wretched repetition cloys us here! What periodic potions for the sick, Distemper'd bodies, and distemper'd minds?"

And then he flies off to his usual antithesis:

"In an eternity what scenes shall strike! Adventures thicken, novelties surprise!"

"Earth" means lords and levees, duchesses and Dalilahs, South-Sea dreams, and illegal percentage; and the only things distinctly preferable to these are eternity and the stars. Deprive Young of this antithesis, and more than half his eloquence would be shrivelled up. Place him on a breezy common, where the furze is in its golden bloom, where children are playing, and horses are standing in the sunshine with fondling necks, and he would have nothing to say. Here are neither depths of guilt nor heights of glory; and we doubt whether in such a scene he would be able to pay his usual compliment to the Creator:

"Where'er I torn, what claim on all applause!"

It is true that he sometimes—not often—speaks of virtue as capable of sweetening life, as well as of taking the sting from death and winning heaven; and, lest we should be guilty of any unfairness to him, we will quote the two passages which convey this sentiment the most explicitly. In the one he gives "Lorenzo" this excellent recipe for obtaining cheerfulness:

"Go, fix some weighty truth; Chain down some passion; do some generous good; Teach Ignorance to see, or Grief to smile; Correct thy friend; befriend thy greatest foe; Or, with warm heart, and confidence divine, Spring up, and lay strong hold on Him who made thee."

The other passage is vague, but beautiful, and its music has murmured in our minds for many years:

"The cuckoo seasons sing The same dull note to such as nothing prize But what those seasons from the teeming earth To doting sense indulge. But nobler minds, Which relish fruit unripened by the sun, Make their days various; various as the dyes On the dove's neck, which wanton in his rays. On minds of dove-like innocence possess'd, On lighten'd minds that bask in Virtue's beams, Nothing hangs tedious, nothing old revolves In that for which they long, for which they live. Their glorious efforts, winged with heavenly hopes, Each rising morning sees still higher rise; Each bounteous dawn its novelty presents To worth maturing, new strength, lustre, fame; While Nature's circle, like a chariot wheel, Boiling beneath their elevated aims, Makes their fair prospect fairer every hour; Advancing virtue in a line to bliss."

Even here, where he is in his most amiable mood, you see at what a telescopic distance he stands from mother Earth and simple human joys—"Nature's circle rolls beneath." Indeed, we remember no mind in poetic literature that seems to have absorbed less of the beauty and the healthy breath of the common landscape than Young's. His images, often grand and finely presented—witness that sublimely sudden leap of thought,

"Embryos we must be till we burst the shell, Yon ambient azure shell, and spring to life"—

lie almost entirely within that circle of observation which would be familiar to a man who lived in town, hung about the theatres, read the newspaper, and went home often by moon and starlight.

There is no natural object nearer than the moon that seems to have any strong attraction for him, and even to the moon he chiefly appeals for patronage, and "pays his court" to her. It is reckoned among the many deficiencies of "Lorenzo" that he "never asked the moon one question"—an omission which Young thinks eminently unbecoming a rational being. He describes nothing so well as a comet, and is tempted to linger with fond detail over nothing more familiar than the day of judgment and an imaginary journey among the stars. Once on Saturn's ring he feels at home, and his language becomes quite easy:

"What behold I now? A wilderness of wonders burning round, Where larger suns inhabit higher spheres; Perhaps the villas of descending gods!"

It is like a sudden relief from a strained posture when, in the "Night Thoughts," we come on any allusion that carries us to the lanes, woods, or fields. Such allusions are amazingly rare, and we could almost count them on a single hand. That we may do him no injustice, we will quote the three best:

"Like blossom'd trees o'erturned by vernal storm, Lovely in death the beauteous ruin lay.

* * * * *

"In the same brook none ever bathed him twice: To the same life none ever twice awoke. We call the brook the same—the same we think Our life, though still more rapid in its flow; Nor mark the much irrevocably lapsed And mingled with the sea."

* * * * *

"The crown of manhood is a winter joy; An evergreen that stands the northern blast, And blossoms in the rigor of our fate."

The adherence to abstractions, or to the personification of abstractions, is closely allied in Young to the want of genuine emotion. He sees virtue sitting on a mount serene, far above the mists and storms of earth; he sees Religion coming down from the skies, with this world in her left hand and the other world in her right; but we never find him dwelling on virtue or religion as it really exists—in the emotions of a man dressed in an ordinary coat, and seated by his fireside of an evening, with his hand resting on the head of his little daughter, in courageous effort for unselfish ends, in the internal triumph of justice and pity over personal resentment, in all the sublime self-renunciation and sweet charities which are found in the details of ordinary life. Now, emotion links itself with particulars, and only in a faint and secondary manner with abstractions. An orator may discourse very eloquently on injustice in general, and leave his audience cold; but let him state a special case of oppression, and every heart will throb. The most untheoretic persons are aware of this relation between true emotion and particular facts, as opposed to general terms, and implicitly recognize it in the repulsion they feel toward any one who professes strong feeling about abstractions—in the interjectional "Humbug!" which immediately rises to their lips. Wherever abstractions appear to excite strong emotion, this occurs in men of active intellect and imagination, in whom the abstract term rapidly and vividly calls up the particulars it represents, these particulars being the true source of the emotion; and such men, if they wished to express their feeling, would be infallibly prompted to the presentation of details. Strong emotion can no more be directed to generalities apart from particulars, than skill in figures can be directed to arithmetic apart from numbers. Generalities are the refuge at once of deficient intellectual activity and deficient feeling.

If we except the passages in "Philander," "Narcissa," and "Lucia," there is hardly a trace of human sympathy, of self-forgetfulness in the joy or sorrow of a fellow-being, throughout this long poem, which professes to treat the various phases of man's destiny. And even in the "Narcissa" Night, Young repels us by the low moral tone of his exaggerated lament. This married step-daughter died at Lyons, and, being a Protestant, was denied burial, so that her friends had to bury her in secret—one of the many miserable results of superstition, but not a fact to throw an educated, still less a Christian man, into a fury of hatred and vengeance, in contemplating it after the lapse of five years. Young, however, takes great pains to simulate a bad feeling:

"Of grief And indignation rival bursts I pour'd, Half execration mingled with my pray'r; Kindled at man, while I his God adored; Sore grudg'd the savage land her sacred dust; Stamp'd the cursed soil; and with humanity (Denied Narcissa) wish'd them all a grave."

The odiously bad taste of this last clause makes us hope that it is simply a platitude, and not intended as witticism, until he removes the possibility of this favorable doubt by immediately asking, "Flows my resentment into guilt?"

When, by an afterthought, he attempts something like sympathy, he only betrays more clearly his want of it. Thus, in the first Night, when he turns from his private griefs to depict earth as a hideous abode of misery for all mankind, and asks,

"What then am I, who sorrow for myself?"

he falls at once into calculating the benefit of sorrowing for others:

"More generous sorrow, while it sinks, exalts; And conscious virtue mitigates the pang. Nor virtue, more than prudence, bids me give Swollen thought a second channel."

This remarkable negation of sympathy is in perfect consistency with Young's theory of ethics:

"Virtue is a crime, A crime of reason, if it costs us pain Unpaid."

If there is no immortality for man—

"Sense! take the rein; blind Passion, drive us on; And Ignorance! befriend us on our way. . . Yes; give the pulse full empire; live the Brute, Since as the brute we die. The sum of man, Of godlike man, to revel and to rot."

* * * * *

"If this life's gain invites him to the deed, Why not his country sold, his father slain?"

* * * * *

"Ambition, avarice, by the wise disdain'd, Is perfect wisdom, while mankind are fools, And think a turf or tombstone covers all."

* * * * *

"Die for thy country, thou romantic fool! Seize, seize the plank thyself, and let her sink."

* * * * *

"As in the dying parent dies the child, Virtue with Immortality expires. Who tells me he denies his soul immortal, Whate'er his boost, has told me he's a knave. His duty 'tis to love himself alone. Nor care though mankind perish if he smiles."

We can imagine the man who "denies his soul immortal," replying, "It is quite possible that you would be a knave, and love yourself alone, if it were not for your belief in immortality; but you are not to force upon me what would result from your own utter want of moral emotion. I am just and honest, not because I expect to live in another world, but because, having felt the pain of injustice and dishonesty toward myself, I have a fellow-feeling with other men, who would suffer the same pain if I were unjust or dishonest toward them. Why should I give my neighbor short weight in this world, because there is not another world in which I should have nothing to weigh out to him? I am honest, because I don't like to inflict evil on others in this life, not because I'm afraid of evil to myself in another. The fact is, I do not love myself alone, whatever logical necessity there may be for that in your mind. I have a tender love for my wife, and children, and friends, and through that love I sympathize with like affections in other men. It is a pang to me to witness the sufferings of a fellow-being, and I feel his suffering the more acutely because he is mortal—because his life is so short, and I would have it, if possible, filled with happiness and not misery. Through my union and fellowship with the men and women I have seen, I feel a like, though a fainter, sympathy with those I have not seen; and I am able so to live in imagination with the generations to come, that their good is not alien to me, and is a stimulus to me to labor for ends which may not benefit myself, but will benefit them. It is possible that you may prefer to 'live the brute,' to sell your country, or to slay your father, if you were not afraid of some disagreeable consequences from the criminal laws of another world; but even if I could conceive no motive but my own worldly interest or the gratification of my animal desire, I have not observed that beastliness, treachery, and parricide are the direct way to happiness and comfort on earth. And I should say, that if you feel no motive to common morality but your fear of a criminal bar in heaven, you are decidedly a man for the police on earth to keep their eye upon, since it is matter of world-old experience that fear of distant consequences is a very insufficient barrier against the rush of immediate desire. Fear of consequences is only one form of egoism, which will hardly stand against half a dozen other forms of egoism bearing down upon it. And in opposition to your theory that a belief in immortality is the only source of virtue, I maintain that, so far as moral action is dependent on that belief, so far the emotion which prompts it is not truly moral—is still in the stage of egoism, and has not yet attained the higher development of sympathy. In proportion as a man would care less for the rights and welfare of his fellow, if he did not believe in a future life, in that proportion is he wanting in the genuine feelings of justice and benevolence; as the musician who would care less to play a sonata of Beethoven's finely in solitude than in public, where he was to be paid for it, is wanting in genuine enthusiasm for music."

Thus far might answer the man who "denies himself immortal;" and, allowing for that deficient recognition of the finer and more indirect influences exercised by the idea of immortality which might be expected from one who took up a dogmatic position on such a subject, we think he would have given a sufficient reply to Young and other theological advocates who, like him, pique themselves on the loftiness of their doctrine when they maintain that "virtue with immortality expires." We may admit, indeed, that if the better part of virtue consists, as Young appears to think, in contempt for mortal joys, in "meditation of our own decease," and in "applause" of God in the style of a congratulatory address to Her Majesty—all which has small relation to the well-being of mankind on this earth—the motive to it must be gathered from something that lies quite outside the sphere of human sympathy. But, for certain other elements of virtue, which are of more obvious importance to untheological minds—a delicate sense of our neighbor's rights, an active participation in the joys and sorrows of our fellow-men, a magnanimous acceptance of privation or suffering for ourselves when it is the condition of good to others, in a word, the extension and intensification of our sympathetic nature—we think it of some importance to contend that they have no more direct relation to the belief in a future state than the interchange of gases in the lungs has to the plurality of worlds. Nay, to us it is conceivable that in some minds the deep pathos lying in the thought of human mortality—that we are here for a little while and then vanish away, that this earthly life is all that is given to our loved ones and to our many suffering fellow-men—lies nearer the fountains of moral emotion than the conception of extended existence. And surely it ought to be a welcome fact, if the thought of mortality, as well as of immortality, be favorable to virtue. Do writers of sermons and religious novels prefer that men should be vicious in order that there may be a more evident political and social necessity for printed sermons and clerical fictions? Because learned gentlemen are theological, are we to have no more simple honesty and good-will? We can imagine that the proprietors of a patent water-supply have a dread of common springs; but, for our own part, we think there cannot be too great a security against a lack of fresh water or of pure morality. To us it is a matter of unmixed rejoicing that this latter necessary of healthful life is independent of theological ink, and that its evolution is insured in the interaction of human souls as certainly as the evolution of science or of art, with which, indeed, it is but a twin ray, melting into them with undefinable limits.

To return to Young. We can often detect a man's deficiencies in what he admires more clearly than in what he contemns—in the sentiments he presents as laudable rather than in those he decries. And in Young's notion of what is lofty he casts a shadow by which we can measure him without further trouble. For example, in arguing for human immortality, he says:

"First, what is true ambition? The pursuit Of glory nothing less than man can share.

* * * *

The Visible and Present are for brutes, A slender portion, and a narrow bound! These Reason, with an energy divine, O'erleaps, and claims the Future and Unseen; The vast Unseen, the Future fathomless! When the great soul buoys up to this high point, Leaving gross Nature's sediments below, Then, and then only, Adam's offspring quits The sage and hero of the fields and woods, Asserts his rank, and rises into man."

So, then, if it were certified that, as some benevolent minds have tried to infer, our dumb fellow-creatures would share a future existence, in which it is to be hoped we should neither beat, starve, nor maim them, our ambition for a future life would cease to be "lofty!" This is a notion of loftiness which may pair off with Dr. Whewell's celebrated observation, that Bentham's moral theory is low because it includes justice and mercy to brutes.

But, for a reflection of Young's moral personality on a colossal scale, we must turn to those passages where his rhetoric is at its utmost stretch of inflation—where he addresses the Deity, discourses of the Divine operations, or describes the last judgment. As a compound of vulgar pomp, crawling adulation, and hard selfishness, presented under the guise of piety, there are few things in literature to surpass the Ninth Night, entitled "Consolation," especially in the pages where he describes the last judgment—a subject to which, with naive self-betrayal, he applies phraseology, favored by the exuberant penny-a-liner. Thus, when God descends, and the groans of hell are opposed by "shouts of joy," much as cheers and groans contend at a public meeting where the resolutions are not passed unanimously, the poet completes his climax in this way:

"Hence, in one peal of loud, eternal praise, The charmed spectators thunder their applause."

In the same taste he sings:

"Eternity, the various sentence past, Assigns the sever'd throng distinct abodes, Sulphureous or ambrosial."

Exquisite delicacy of indication! He is too nice to be specific as to the interior of the "sulphureous" abode; but when once half the human race are shut up there, hear how he enjoys turning the key on them!

"What ensues? The deed predominant, the deed of deeds! Which makes a hell of hell, a heaven of heaven! The goddess, with determin'd aspect turns Her adamantine key's enormous size Through Destiny's inextricable wards, Deep driving every bolt on both their fates. Then, from the crystal battlements of heaven, Down, down she hurls it through the dark profound, Ten thousand, thousand fathom; there to rust And ne'er unlock her resolution more. The deep resounds; and Hell, through all her glooms, Returns, in groans, the melancholy roar."

This is one of the blessings for which Dr. Young thanks God "most:"

"For all I bless thee, most, for the severe; Her death—my own at hand—the fiery gulf, That flaming bound of wrath omnipotent! It thunders;—but it thunders to preserve; . . . its wholesome dread Averts the dreaded pain; its hideous groans Join Heaven's sweet Hallelujahs in Thy praise, Great Source of good alone! How kind in all! In vengeance kind! Pain, Death, Gehenna, save" . . .

i.e., save me, Dr. Young, who, in return for that favor, promise to give my divine patron the monopoly of that exuberance in laudatory epithet, of which specimens may be seen at any moment in a large number of dedications and odes to kings, queens, prime ministers, and other persons of distinction. That, in Young's conception, is what God delights in. His crowning aim in the "drama" of the ages, is to vindicate his own renown. The God of the "Night Thoughts" is simply Young himself "writ large"—a didactic poet, who "lectures" mankind in the antithetic hyperbole of mortal and immortal joys, earth and the stars, hell and heaven; and expects the tribute of inexhaustible "applause." Young has no conception of religion as anything else than egoism turned heavenward; and he does not merely imply this, he insists on it. Religion, he tells us, in argumentative passages too long to quote, is "ambition, pleasure, and the love of gain," directed toward the joys of the future life instead of the present. And his ethics correspond to his religion. He vacillates, indeed, in his ethical theory, and shifts his position in order to suit his immediate purpose in argument; but he never changes his level so as to see beyond the horizon of mere selfishness. Sometimes he insists, as we have seen, that the belief in a future life is the only basis of morality; but elsewhere he tells us—

"In self-applause is virtue's golden prize."

Virtue, with Young, must always squint—must never look straight toward the immediate object of its emotion and effort. Thus, if a man risks perishing in the snow himself rather than forsake a weaker comrade, he must either do this because his hopes and fears are directed to another world, or because he desires to applaud himself afterward! Young, if we may believe him, would despise the action as folly unless it had these motives. Let us hope he was not so bad as he pretended to be! The tides of the divine life in man move under the thickest ice of theory.

Another indication of Young's deficiency in moral, i.e., in sympathetic emotion, is his unintermitting habit of pedagogic moralizing. On its theoretic and perceptive side, morality touches science; on its emotional side, Art. Now, the products of Art are great in proportion as they result from that immediate prompting of innate power which we call Genius, and not from labored obedience to a theory or rule; and the presence of genius or innate prompting is directly opposed to the perpetual consciousness of a rule. The action of faculty is imperious, and excludes the reflection why it should act. In the same way, in proportion as morality is emotional, i.e., has affinity with Art, it will exhibit itself in direct sympathetic feeling and action, and not as the recognition of a rule. Love does not say, "I ought to love"—it loves. Pity does not say, "It is right to be pitiful"—it pities. Justice does not say, "I am bound to be just"—it feels justly. It is only where moral emotion is comparatively weak that the contemplation of a rule or theory habitually mingles with its action; and in accordance with this, we think experience, both in literature and life, has shown that the minds which are pre-eminently didactic—which insist on a "lesson," and despise everything that will not convey a moral, are deficient in sympathetic emotion. A certain poet is recorded to have said that he "wished everything of his burned that did not impress some moral; even in love-verses, it might be flung in by the way." What poet was it who took this medicinal view of poetry? Dr. Watts, or James Montgomery, or some other singer of spotless life and ardent piety? Not at all. It was Waller. A significant fact in relation to our position, that the predominant didactic tendency proceeds rather from the poet's perception that it is good for other men to be moral, than from any overflow of moral feeling in himself. A man who is perpetually thinking in apothegms, who has an unintermittent flux of admonition, can have little energy left for simple emotion. And this is the case with Young. In his highest flights of contemplation and his most wailing soliloquies he interrupts himself to fling an admonitory parenthesis at "Lorenzo," or to hint that "folly's creed" is the reverse of his own. Before his thoughts can flow, he must fix his eye on an imaginary miscreant, who gives unlimited scope for lecturing, and recriminates just enough to keep the spring of admonition and argument going to the extent of nine books. It is curious to see how this pedagogic habit of mind runs through Young's contemplation of Nature. As the tendency to see our own sadness reflected in the external world has been called by Mr. Ruskin the "pathetic fallacy," so we may call Young's disposition to see a rebuke or a warning in every natural object, the "pedagogic fallacy." To his mind, the heavens are "forever scolding as they shine;" and the great function of the stars is to be a "lecture to mankind." The conception of the Deity as a didactic author is not merely an implicit point of view with him; he works it out in elaborate imagery, and at length makes it the occasion of his most extraordinary achievement in the "art of sinking," by exclaiming, a propos, we need hardly say, of the nocturnal heavens,

"Divine Instructor! Thy first volume this For man's perusal! all in CAPITALS!"

It is this pedagogic tendency, this sermonizing attitude of Young's mind, which produces the wearisome monotony of his pauses. After the first two or three nights he is rarely singing, rarely pouring forth any continuous melody inspired by the spontaneous flow of thought or feeling. He is rather occupied with argumentative insistence, with hammering in the proofs of his propositions by disconnected verses, which he puts down at intervals. The perpetual recurrence of the pause at the end of the line throughout long passages makes them as fatiguing to the ear as a monotonous chant, which consists of the endless repetition of one short musical phrase. For example:

"Past hours, If not by guilt, yet wound us by their flight, If folly bound our prospect by the grave, All feeling of futurity be numb'd, All godlike passion for eternals quench'd, All relish of realities expired; Renounced all correspondence with the skies; Our freedom chain'd; quite wingless our desire; In sense dark-prison'd all that ought to soar; Prone to the centre; crawling in the dust; Dismounted every great and glorious aim; Enthralled every faculty divine, Heart-buried in the rubbish of the world."

How different from the easy, graceful melody of Cowper's blank verse! Indeed, it is hardly possible to criticise Young without being reminded at every step of the contrast presented to him by Cowper. And this contrast urges itself upon us the more from the fact that there is, to a certain extent, a parallelism between the "Night Thoughts" and the "Task." In both poems the author achieves his greatest in virtue of the new freedom conferred by blank verse; both poems are professionally didactic, and mingle much satire with their graver meditations; both poems are the productions of men whose estimate of this life was formed by the light of a belief in immortality, and who were intensely attached to Christianity. On some grounds we might have anticipated a more morbid view of things from Cowper than from Young. Cowper's religion was dogmatically the more gloomy, for he was a Calvinist; while Young was a "low" Arminian, believing that Christ died for all, and that the only obstacle to any man's salvation lay in his will, which he could change if he chose. There was real and deep sadness involved in Cowper's personal lot; while Young, apart from his ambitious and greedy discontent, seems to have had no great sorrow.

Yet, see how a lovely, sympathetic nature manifests itself in spite of creed and circumstance! Where is the poem that surpasses the "Task" in the genuine love it breathes, at once toward inanimate and animate existence—in truthfulness of perception and sincerity of presentation—in the calm gladness that springs from a delight in objects for their own sake, without self-reference—in divine sympathy with the lowliest pleasures, with the most short-lived capacity for pain? Here is no railing at the earth's "melancholy map," but the happiest lingering over her simplest scenes with all the fond minuteness of attention that belongs to love; no pompous rhetoric about the inferiority of the "brutes," but a warm plea on their behalf against man's inconsiderateness and cruelty, and a sense of enlarged happiness from their companionship in enjoyment; no vague rant about human misery and human virtue, but that close and vivid presentation of particular sorrows and privations, of particular deeds and misdeeds, which is the direct road to the emotions. How Cowper's exquisite mind falls with the mild warmth of morning sunlight on the commonest objects, at once disclosing every detail, and investing every detail with beauty! No object is too small to prompt his song—not the sooty film on the bars, or the spoutless teapot holding a bit of mignonette that serves to cheer the dingy town-lodging with a "hint that Nature lives;" and yet his song is never trivial, for he is alive to small objects, not because his mind is narrow, but because his glance is clear and his heart is large. Instead of trying to edify us by supercilious allusions to the "brutes" and the "stalls," he interests us in that tragedy of the hen-roost when the thief has wrenched the door,

"Where Chanticleer amidst his harem sleeps In unsuspecting pomp;"

in the patient cattle, that on the winter's morning

"Mourn in corners where the fence Screens them, and seem half petrified to sleep In unrecumbent sadness;"

in the little squirrel, that, surprised by him in his woodland walk,

"At once, swift as a bird, Ascends the neighboring beech; there whisks his brush, And perks his ears, and stamps, and cries aloud, With all the prettiness of feign'd alarm And anger insignificantly fierce."

And then he passes into reflection, not with curt apothegm and snappish reproof, but with that melodious flow of utterance which belongs to thought when it is carried along in a stream of feeling:

"The heart is hard in nature, and unfit For human fellowship, as being void Of sympathy, and therefore dead alike To love and friendship both, that is not pleased With sight of animals enjoying life, Nor feels their happiness augment his own."

His large and tender heart embraces the most every-day forms of human life—the carter driving his team through the wintry storm; the cottager's wife who, painfully nursing the embers on her hearth, while her infants "sit cowering o'er the sparks,"

"Retires, content to quake, so they be warm'd;"

or the villager, with her little ones, going out to pick

"A cheap but wholesome salad from the brook;"

and he compels our colder natures to follow his in its manifold sympathies, not by exhortations, not by telling us to meditate at midnight, to "indulge" the thought of death, or to ask ourselves how we shall "weather an eternal night," but by presenting to us the object of his compassion truthfully and lovingly. And when he handles greater themes, when he takes a wider survey, and considers the men or the deeds which have a direct influence on the welfare of communities and nations, there is the same unselfish warmth of feeling, the same scrupulous truthfulness. He is never vague in his remonstrance or his satire, but puts his finger on some particular vice or folly which excites his indignation or "dissolves his heart in pity," because of some specific injury it does to his fellow-man or to a sacred cause. And when he is asked why he interests himself about the sorrows and wrongs of others, hear what is the reason he gives. Not, like Young, that the movements of the planets show a mutual dependence, and that

"Thus man his sovereign duty learns in this Material picture of benevolence,"

or that—

"More generous sorrow, while it sinks, exalts, And conscious virtue mitigates the pang."

What is Cowper's answer, when he imagines some "sage, erudite, profound," asking him "What's the world to you?"

"Much. I was born of woman, and drew milk As sweet as charity from human breasts. I think, articulate, I laugh and weep, And exercise all functions of a man. How then should I and any man that lives Be strangers to each other?"

Young is astonished that men can make war on each other—that any one can "seize his brother's throat," while

"The Planets cry, 'Forbear.'"

Cowper weeps because

"There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart: It does not feel for man."

Young applauds God as a monarch with an empire and a court quite superior to the English, or as an author who produces "volumes for man's perusal." Cowper sees his father's love in all the gentle pleasures of the home fireside, in the charms even of the wintry landscape, and thinks—

"Happy who walks with him! whom what he finds Of flavor or of scent in fruit or flower, Or what he views of beautiful or grand In nature, from the broad, majestic oak To the green blade that twinkles in the sun, Prompts with remembrance of a present God."

To conclude—for we must arrest ourselves in a contrast that would lead us beyond our bounds. Young flies for his utmost consolation to the day of judgment, when

"Final Ruin fiercely drives Her ploughshare o'er creation;"

when earth, stars, and sun are swept aside,

"And now, all dross removed, Heaven's own pure day, Full on the confines of our ether, flames: While (dreadful contrast!) far (how far!) beneath, Hell, bursting, belches forth her blazing seas, And storms suphureous; her voracious jaws Expanding wide, and roaring for her prey,"

Dr. Young and similar "ornaments of religion and virtue" passing of course with grateful "applause" into the upper region. Cowper finds his highest inspiration in the Millennium—in the restoration of this our beloved home of earth to perfect holiness and bliss, when the Supreme

"Shall visit earth in mercy; shall descend Propitious in his chariot paved with love; And what his storms have blasted and defaced For man's revolt, shall with a smile repair."

And into what delicious melody his song flows at the thought of that blessedness to be enjoyed by future generations on earth!

"The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks Shout to each other, and the mountains tops From distant mountains catch the flying joy; Till, nation after nation taught the strain, Earth rolls the rapturous Hosanna round!"

The sum of our comparison is this: In Young we have the type of that deficient human sympathy, that impiety toward the present and the visible, which flies for its motives, its sanctities, and its religion, to the remote, the vague, and the unknown: in Cowper we have the type of that genuine love which cherishes things in proportion to their nearness, and feels its reverence grow in proportion to the intimacy of its knowledge.



VIII. THE INFLUENCE OF RATIONALISM. {257}

There is a valuable class of books on great subjects which have something of the character and functions of good popular lecturing. They are not original, not subtle, not of close logical texture, not exquisite either in thought or style; but by virtue of these negatives they are all the more fit to act on the average intelligence. They have enough of organizing purpose in them to make their facts illustrative, and to leave a distinct result in the mind even when most of the facts are forgotten; and they have enough of vagueness and vacillation in their theory to win them ready acceptance from a mixed audience. The vagueness and vacillation are not devices of timidity; they are the honest result of the writer's own mental character, which adapts him to be the instructor and the favorite of "the general reader." For the most part, the general reader of the present day does not exactly know what distance he goes; he only knows that he does not go "too far." Of any remarkable thinker, whose writings have excited controversy, he likes to have it said that "his errors are to be deplored," leaving it not too certain what those errors are; he is fond of what may be called disembodied opinions, that float in vapory phrases above all systems of thought or action; he likes an undefined Christianity which opposes itself to nothing in particular, an undefined education of the people, an undefined amelioration of all things: in fact, he likes sound views—nothing extreme, but something between the excesses of the past and the excesses of the present. This modern type of the general reader may be known in conversation by the cordiality with which he assents to indistinct, blurred statements: say that black is black, he will shake his head and hardly think it; say that black is not so very black, he will reply, "Exactly." He has no hesitation, if you wish it, even to get up at a public meeting and express his conviction that at times, and within certain limits, the radii of a circle have a tendency to be equal; but, on the other hand, he would urge that the spirit of geometry may be carried a little too far. His only bigotry is a bigotry against any clearly defined opinion; not in the least based on a scientific scepticism, but belonging to a lack of coherent thought—a spongy texture of mind, that gravitates strongly to nothing. The one thing he is staunch for is, the utmost liberty of private haziness.

But precisely these characteristics of the general reader, rendering him incapable of assimilating ideas unless they are administered in a highly diluted form, make it a matter of rejoicing that there are clever, fair-minded men, who will write books for him—men very much above him in knowledge and ability, but not too remote from him in their habits of thinking, and who can thus prepare for him infusions of history and science that will leave some solidifying deposit, and save him from a fatal softening of the intellectual skeleton. Among such serviceable writers, Mr. Lecky's "History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe" entitles him to a high place. He has prepared himself for its production by an unusual amount of well-directed reading; he has chosen his facts and quotations with much judgment; and he gives proof of those important moral qualifications, impartiality, seriousness, and modesty. This praise is chiefly applicable to the long chapter on the history of Magic and Witchcraft, which opens the work, and to the two chapters on the antecedents and history of Persecution, which occur, the one at the end of the first volume, the other at the beginning of the second. In these chapters Mr. Lecky has a narrower and better-traced path before him than in other portions of his work; he is more occupied with presenting a particular class of facts in their historical sequence, and in their relation to certain grand tide-marks of opinion, than with disquisition; and his writing is freer than elsewhere from an apparent confusedness of thought and an exuberance of approximative phrases, which can be serviceable in no other way than as diluents needful for the sort of reader we have just described.

The history of magic and witchcraft has been judiciously chosen by Mr. Lecky as the subject of his first section on the Declining Sense of the Miraculous, because it is strikingly illustrative of a position with the truth of which he is strongly impressed, though he does not always treat of it with desirable clearness and precision, namely, that certain beliefs become obsolete, not in consequence of direct arguments against them, but because of their incongruity with prevalent habits of thought. Here is his statement of the two "classes of influences" by which the mass of men, in what is called civilized society, get their beliefs gradually modified:

"If we ask why it is that the world has rejected what was once so universally and so intensely believed, why a narrative of an old woman who had been seen riding on a broomstick, or who was proved to have transformed herself into a wolf, and to have devoured the flocks of her neighbors, is deemed so entirely incredible, most persons would probably be unable to give a very definite answer to the question. It is not because we have examined the evidence and found it insufficient, for the disbelief always precedes, when it does not prevent, examination. It is rather because the idea of absurdity is so strongly attached to such narratives, that it is difficult even to consider them with gravity. Yet at one time no such improbability was felt, and hundreds of persons have been burnt simply on the two grounds I have mentioned.

"When so complete a change takes place in public opinion, it may be ascribed to one or other of two causes. It may be the result of a controversy which has conclusively settled the question, establishing to the satisfaction of all parties a clear preponderance of argument or fact in favor of one opinion, and making that opinion a truism which is accepted by all enlightened men, even though they have not themselves examined the evidence on which it rests. Thus, if any one in a company of ordinarily educated persons were to deny the motion of the earth, or the circulation of the blood, his statement would be received with derision, though it is probable that some of his audience would be unable to demonstrate the first truth, and that very few of them could give sufficient reasons for the second. They may not themselves be able to defend their position; but they are aware that, at certain known periods of history, controversies on those subjects took place, and that known writers then brought forward some definite arguments or experiments, which were ultimately accepted by the whole learned world as rigid and conclusive demonstrations. It is possible, also, for as complete a change to be effected by what is called the spirit of the age. The general intellectual tendencies pervading the literature of a century profoundly modify the character of the public mind. They form a new tone and habit of thought. They alter the measure of probability. They create new attractions and new antipathies, and they eventually cause as absolute a rejection of certain old opinions as could be produced by the most cogent and definite arguments."

Mr. Lecky proceeds to some questionable views concerning the evidences of witchcraft, which seem to be irreconcilable even with his own remarks later on; but they lead him to the statement, thoroughly made out by his historical survey, that "movement was mainly silent, unargumentative, and insensible; that men came gradually to disbelieve in witchcraft, because they came gradually to look upon it as absurd; and that this new tone of thought appeared, first of all, in those who were least subject to theological influences, and soon spread through the educated laity, and, last of all, took possession of the clergy."

We have rather painful proof that this "second class of influences," with a vast number go hardly deeper than Fashion, and that witchcraft to many of us is absurd only on the same ground that our grandfathers' gigs are absurd. It is felt preposterous to think of spiritual agencies in connection with ragged beldames soaring on broomsticks, in an age when it is known that mediums of communication with the invisible world are usually unctuous personages dressed in excellent broadcloth, who soar above the curtain-poles without any broomstick, and who are not given to unprofitable intrigues. The enlightened imagination rejects the figure of a witch with her profile in dark relief against the moon and her broomstick cutting a constellation. No undiscovered natural laws, no names of "respectable" witnesses, are invoked to make us feel our presumption in questioning the diabolic intimacies of that obsolete old woman, for it is known now that the undiscovered laws, and the witnesses qualified by the payment of income tax, are all in favor of a different conception—the image of a heavy gentleman in boots and black coat-tails foreshortened against the cornice. Yet no less a person than Sir Thomas Browne once wrote that those who denied there were witches, inasmuch as they thereby denied spirits also, were "obliquely and upon consequence a sort, not of infidels, but of atheists." At present, doubtless, in certain circles, unbelievers in heavy gentlemen who float in the air by means of undiscovered laws are also taxed with atheism; illiberal as it is not to admit that mere weakness of understanding may prevent one from seeing how that phenomenon is necessarily involved in the Divine origin of things. With still more remarkable parallelism, Sir Thomas Browne goes on: "Those that, to refute their incredulity, desire to see apparitions, shall questionless never behold any, nor have the power to be so much as witches. The devil hath made them already in a heresy as capital as witchcraft, and to appear to them were but to convert them." It would be difficult to see what has been changed here, but the mere drapery of circumstance, if it were not for this prominent difference between our own days and the days of witchcraft, that instead of torturing, drowning, or burning the innocent, we give hospitality and large pay to—the highly distinguished medium. At least we are safely rid of certain horrors; but if the multitude—that "farraginous concurrence of all conditions, tempers, sexes, and ages"—do not roll back even to a superstition that carries cruelty in its train, it is not because they possess a cultivated reason, but because they are pressed upon and held up by what we may call an external reason—the sum of conditions resulting from the laws of material growth, from changes produced by great historical collisions shattering the structures of ages and making new highways for events and ideas, and from the activities of higher minds no longer existing merely as opinions and teaching, but as institutions and organizations with which the interests, the affections, and the habits of the multitude are inextricably interwoven. No undiscovered laws accounting for small phenomena going forward under drawing-room tables are likely to affect the tremendous facts of the increase of population, the rejection of convicts by our colonies, the exhaustion of the soil by cotton plantations, which urge even upon the foolish certain questions, certain claims, certain views concerning the scheme of the world, that can never again be silenced. If right reason is a right representation of the co-existence and sequences of things, here are co-existences and sequences that do not wait to be discovered, but press themselves upon us like bars of iron. No seances at a guinea a head for the sake of being pinched by "Mary Jane" can annihilate railways, steamships, and electric telegraphs, which are demonstrating the interdependence of all human interests, and making self-interest a duct for sympathy. These things are part of the external Reason to which internal silliness has inevitably to accommodate itself.

Three points in the history of magic and witchcraft are well brought out by Mr. Lecky. First, that the cruelties connected with it did not begin until men's minds had ceased to repose implicitly in a sacramental system which made them feel well armed against evil spirits; that is, until the eleventh century, when there came a sort of morning dream of doubt and heresy, bringing on the one side the terror of timid consciences, and on the other the terrorism of authority or zeal bent on checking the rising struggle. In that time of comparative mental repose, says Mr. Lecky,

"All those conceptions of diabolical presence; all that predisposition toward the miraculous, which acted so fearfully upon the imaginations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, existed; but the implicit faith, the boundless and triumphant credulity with which the virtue of ecclesiastical rites was accepted, rendered them comparatively innocuous. If men had been a little less superstitious, the effects of their superstition would have been much more terrible. It was firmly believed that any one who deviated from the strict line of orthodoxy must soon succumb beneath the power of Satan; but as there was no spirit of rebellion or doubt, this persuasion did not produce any extraordinary terrorism."

The Church was disposed to confound heretical opinion with sorcery; false doctrine was especially the devil's work, and it was a ready conclusion that a denier or innovator had held consultation with the father of lies. It is a saying of a zealous Catholic in the sixteenth century, quoted by Maury in his excellent work, "De la Magie"—"Crescit cum magia haeresis, cum haeresi magia." Even those who doubted were terrified at their doubts, for trust is more easily undermined than terror. Fear is earlier born than hope, lays a stronger grasp on man's system than any other passion, and remains master of a larger group of involuntary actions. A chief aspect of man's moral development is the slow subduing of fear by the gradual growth of intelligence, and its suppression as a motive by the presence of impulses less animally selfish; so that in relation to invisible Power, fear at last ceases to exist, save in that interfusion with higher faculties which we call awe.

Secondly, Mr. Lecky shows clearly that dogmatic Protestantism, holding the vivid belief in Satanic agency to be an essential of piety, would have felt it shame to be a whit behind Catholicism in severity against the devil's servants. Luther's sentiment was that he would not suffer a witch to live (he was not much more merciful to Jews); and, in spite of his fondness for children, believing a certain child to have been begotten by the devil, he recommended the parents to throw it into the river. The torch must be turned on the worst errors of heroic minds—not in irreverent ingratitude, but for the sake of measuring our vast and various debt to all the influences which have concurred, in the intervening ages, to make us recognize as detestable errors the honest convictions of men who, in mere individual capacity and moral force, were very much above us. Again, the Scotch Puritans, during the comparatively short period of their ascendency, surpassed all Christians before them in the elaborate ingenuity of the tortures they applied for the discovery of witchcraft and sorcery, and did their utmost to prove that if Scotch Calvinism was the true religion, the chief "note" of the true religion was cruelty. It is hardly an endurable task to read the story of their doings; thoroughly to imagine them as a past reality is already a sort of torture. One detail is enough, and it is a comparatively mild one. It was the regular profession of men called "prickers" to thrust long pins into the body of a suspected witch in order to detect the insensible spot which was the infallible sign of her guilt. On a superficial view one would be in danger of saying that the main difference between the teachers who sanctioned these things and the much-despised ancestors who offered human victims inside a huge wicker idol, was that they arrived at a more elaborate barbarity by a longer series of dependent propositions. We do not share Mr. Buckle's opinion that a Scotch minister's groans were a part of his deliberate plan for keeping the people in a state of terrified subjection; the ministers themselves held the belief they taught, and might well groan over it. What a blessing has a little false logic been to the world! Seeing that men are so slow to question their premises, they must have made each other much more miserable, if pity had not sometimes drawn tender conclusions not warranted by Major and Minor; if there had not been people with an amiable imbecility of reasoning which enabled them at once to cling to hideous beliefs, and to be conscientiously inconsistent with them in their conduct. There is nothing like acute deductive reasoning for keeping a man in the dark: it might be called the technique of the intellect, and the concentration of the mind upon it corresponds to that predominance of technical skill in art which ends in degradation of the artist's function, unless new inspiration and invention come to guide it.

And of this there is some good illustration furnished by that third node in the history of witchcraft, the beginning of its end, which is treated in an interesting manner by Mr. Lecky. It is worth noticing, that the most important defences of the belief in witchcraft, against the growing scepticism in the latter part of the sixteenth century and in the seventeenth, were the productions of men who in some departments were among the foremost thinkers of their time. One of them was Jean Bodin, the famous writer on government and jurisprudence, whose "Republic," Hallam thinks, had an important influence in England, and furnished "a store of arguments and examples that were not lost on the thoughtful minds of our countrymen." In some of his views he was original and bold; for example, he anticipated Montesquieu in attempting to appreciate the relations of government and climate. Hallam inclines to the opinion that he was a Jew, and attached Divine authority only to the Old Testament. But this was enough to furnish him with his chief data for the existence of witches and for their capital punishment; and in the account of his "Republic," given by Hallam, there is enough evidence that the sagacity which often enabled him to make fine use of his learning was also often entangled in it, to temper our surprise at finding a writer on political science of whom it could be said that, along with Montesquieu, he was "the most philosophical of those who had read so deeply, the most learned of those who had thought so much," in the van of the forlorn hope to maintain the reality of witchcraft. It should be said that he was equally confident of the unreality of the Copernican hypothesis, on the ground that it was contrary to the tenets of the theologians and philosophers and to common-sense, and therefore subversive of the foundations of every science. Of his work on witchcraft, Mr. Lecky says:

"The 'Demonomanie des Sorciers' is chiefly an appeal to authority, which the author deemed on this subject so unanimous and so conclusive, that it was scarcely possible for any sane man to resist it. He appealed to the popular belief in all countries, in all ages, and in all religions. He cited the opinions of an immense multitude of the greatest writers of pagan antiquity, and of the most illustrious of the Fathers. He showed how the laws of all nations recognized the existence of witchcraft; and he collected hundreds of cases which had been investigated before the tribunals of his own or of other countries. He relates with the most minute and circumstantial detail, and with the most unfaltering confidence, all the proceedings at the witches' Sabbath, the methods which the witches employed in transporting themselves through the air, their transformations, their carnal intercourse with the devil, their various means of injuring their enemies, the signs that lead to their detection, their confessions when condemned, and their demeanor at the stake."

Something must be allowed for a lawyer's affection toward a belief which had furnished so many "cases." Bodin's work had been immediately prompted by the treatise "De Prestigiis Daenionum," written by John Wier, a German physician, a treatise which is worth notice as an example of a transitional form of opinion for which many analogies may be found in the history both of religion and science. Wier believed in demons, and in possession by demons, but his practice as a physician had convinced him that the so-called witches were patients and victims, that the devil took advantage of their diseased condition to delude them, and that there was no consent of an evil will on the part of the women. He argued that the word in Leviticus translated "witch" meant "poisoner," and besought the princes of Europe to hinder the further spilling of innocent blood. These heresies of Wier threw Bodin into such a state of amazed indignation that if he had been an ancient Jew instead of a modern economical one, he would have rent his garments. "No one had ever heard of pardon being accorded to sorcerers;" and probably the reason why Charles IX. died young was because he had pardoned the sorcerer, Trios Echelles! We must remember that this was in 1581, when the great scientific movement of the Renaissance had hardly begun—when Galileo was a youth of seventeen, and Kepler a boy of ten.

But directly afterward, on the other side, came Montaigne, whose sceptical acuteness could arrive at negatives without any apparatus of method. A certain keen narrowness of nature will secure a man from many absurd beliefs which the larger soul, vibrating to more manifold influences, would have a long struggle to part with. And so we find the charming, chatty Montaigne—in one of the brightest of his essays, "Des Boiteux," where he declares that, from his own observation of witches and sorcerers, he should have recommended them to be treated with curative hellebore—stating in his own way a pregnant doctrine, since taught more gravely. It seems to him much less of a prodigy that men should lie, or that their imaginations should deceive them, than that a human body should be carried through the air on a broomstick, or up a chimney by some unknown spirit. He thinks it a sad business to persuade oneself that the test of truth lies in the multitude of believers—"en une prosse ou les fols surpassent de tant les sages en nombre." Ordinarily, he has observed, when men have something stated to them as a fact, they are more ready to explain it than to inquire whether it is real: "ils passent pardessus les propositions, mais ils examinent les consequences; ils laissent les choses, et courent aux causes." There is a sort of strong and generous ignorance which is as honorable and courageous as science—"ignorance pour laquelle concevoir il n'y a pas moins de science qu'a concevoir la science." And a propos of the immense traditional evidence which weighed with such men as Bodin, he says—"As for the proofs and arguments founded on experience and facts, I do not pretend to unravel these. What end of a thread is there to lay hold of? I often cut them as Alexander did his knot. Apres tout, c'est mettre ses conjectures a bien haut prix, que d'en faire cuire un homme tout dif."

Writing like this, when it finds eager readers, is a sign that the weather is changing; yet much later, namely, after 1665, when the Royal Society had been founded, our own Glanvil, the author of the "Scepsis Scientifica," a work that was a remarkable advance toward the true definition of the limits of inquiry, and that won him his election as fellow of the society, published an energetic vindication of the belief in witchcraft, of which Mr. Lecky gives the following sketch:

"The 'Sadducismus Triumphatus,' which is probably the ablest book ever published in defence of the superstition, opens with a striking picture of the rapid progress of the scepticism in England. Everywhere, a disbelief in witchcraft was becoming fashionable in the upper classes; but it was a disbelief that arose entirely from a strong sense of its antecedent improbability. All who were opposed to the orthodox faith united in discrediting witchcraft. They laughed at it, as palpably absurd, as involving the most grotesque and ludicrous conceptions, as so essentially incredible that it would be a waste of time to examine it. This spirit had arisen since the Restoration, although the laws were still in force, and although little or no direct reasoning had been brought to bear upon the subject. In order to combat it, Glanvil proceeded to examine the general question of the credibility of the miraculous. He saw that the reason why witchcraft was ridiculed was, because it was a phase of the miraculous and the work of the devil; that the scepticism was chiefly due to those who disbelieved in miracles and the devil; and that the instances of witchcraft or possession in the Bible were invariably placed on a level with those that were tried in the law courts of England. That the evidence of the belief was overwhelming, he firmly believed; and this, indeed, was scarcely disputed; but, until the sense of a priori improbability was removed, no possible accumulation of facts would cause men to believe it. To that task he accordingly addressed himself. Anticipating the idea and almost the words of modern controversialists, he urged that there was such a thing as a credulity of unbelief; and that those who believed so strange a concurrence of delusions, as was necessary on the supposition of the unreality of witchcraft, were far more credulous than those who accepted the belief. He made his very scepticism his principal weapon; and, analyzing with much acuteness the a priori objections, he showed that they rested upon an unwarrantable confidence in our knowledge of the laws of the spirit world; that they implied the existence of some strict analogy between the faculties of men and of spirits; and that, as such analogy most probably did not exist, no reasoning based on the supposition could dispense men from examining the evidence. He concluded with a large collection of cases, the evidence of which was, as he thought, incontestable."

We have quoted this sketch because Glanvil's argument against the a priori objection of absurdity is fatiguingly urged in relation to other alleged marvels which, to busy people seriously occupied with the difficulties of affairs, of science, or of art, seem as little worthy of examination as aeronautic broomsticks. And also because we here see Glanvil, in combating an incredulity that does not happen to be his own, wielding that very argument of traditional evidence which he had made the subject of vigorous attack in his "Scepsis Scientifica." But perhaps large minds have been peculiarly liable to this fluctuation concerning the sphere of tradition, because, while they have attacked its misapplications, they have been the more solicited by the vague sense that tradition is really the basis of our best life. Our sentiments may be called organized traditions; and a large part of our actions gather all their justification, all their attraction and aroma, from the memory of the life lived, of the actions done, before we were born. In the absence of any profound research into psychological functions or into the mysteries of inheritance, in the absence of any comprehensive view of man's historical development and the dependence of one age on another, a mind at all rich in sensibilities must always have had an indefinite uneasiness in an undistinguishing attack on the coercive influence of tradition. And this may be the apology for the apparent inconsistency of Glanvil's acute criticism on the one side, and his indignation at the "looser gentry," who laughed at the evidences for witchcraft on the other. We have already taken up too much space with this subject of witchcraft, else we should be tempted to dwell on Sir Thomas Browne, who far surpassed Glanvil in magnificent incongruity of opinion, and whose works are the most remarkable combination existing, of witty sarcasm against ancient nonsense and modern obsequiousness, with indications of a capacious credulity. After all, we may be sharing what seems to us the hardness of these men, who sat in their studies and argued at their ease about a belief that would be reckoned to have caused more misery and bloodshed than any other superstition, if there had been no such thing as persecution on the ground of religious opinion.

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