The Notebook of an English Opium-Eater
by Thomas de Quincey
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'From that placid aspect and meek regard,'

on the ground that; 'meek regard conveys no new idea to placid aspect.' But aspect is the countenance of Christ when passive to the gaze of others: regard is the same countenance in active contemplation of those others whom he loves or pities. The placid aspect expresses, therefore, the divine rest; the meek regard expresses the divine benignity: the one is the self-absorption of the total Godhead, the other the eternal emanation of the Filial Godhead.

'By what ingenuity,' says Landor, 'can we erect into a verse—

"In the bosom of bliss, and light of light?'"

Now really it is by my watch exactly three minutes too late for him to make that objection. The court cannot receive it now; for the line just this moment cited, the ink being hardly yet dry, is of the same identical structure. The usual iambic flow is disturbed in both lines by the very same ripple, viz., a trochee in the second foot, placid in the one line, bosom in the other. They are a sort of snags, such as lie in the current of the Mississippi. There, they do nothing but mischief. Here, when the lines are read in their entire nexus, the disturbance stretches forwards and backwards with good effect on the music. Besides, if it did not, one is willing to take a snag from Milton, but one does not altogether like being snagged by the Mississippi. One sees no particular reason for bearing it, if one only knew how to be revenged on a river.

But, of these metrical skirmishes, though full of importance to the impassioned text of a great poet (for mysterious is the life that connects all modes of passion with rhythmus), let us suppose the casual reader to have had enough. And now at closing for the sake of change, let us treat him to a harlequin trick upon another theme. Did the reader ever happen to see a sheriff's officer arresting an honest gentleman, who was doing no manner of harm to gentle or simple, and immediately afterwards a second sheriff's officer arresting the first—by which means that second officer merits for himself a place in history; for at the same moment he liberates a deserving creature (since an arrested officer cannot possibly bag his prisoner), and he also avenges the insult put upon that worthy man? Perhaps the reader did not ever see such a sight; and, growing personal, he asks me, in return, if I ever saw it. To say the truth, I never did; except once, in a too-flattering dream; and though I applauded so loudly as even to waken myself, and shouted 'encore,' yet all went for nothing; and I am still waiting for that splendid exemplification of retributive justice. But why? Why should it be a spectacle so uncommon? For surely those official arresters of men must want arresting at times as well as better people. At least, however, en attendant one may luxuriate in the vision of such a thing; and the reader shall now see such a vision rehearsed. He shall see Mr. Landor arresting Milton—Milton, of all men!— for a flaw in his Roman erudition; and then he shall see me instantly stepping up, tapping Mr. Landor on the shoulder, and saying, 'Officer, you're wanted;' whilst to Milton I say, touching my hat, 'Now, sir, be off; run for your life, whilst I hold his man in custody, lest he should fasten on you again.'

What Milton had said, speaking of the 'watchful cherubim,' was—

'Four faces each Had, like a double Janus;'

Upon which Southey—but, of course, Landor, ventriloquizing through Southey—says, 'Better left this to the imagination: double Januses are queer figures.' Not at all. On the contrary, they became so common, that finally there were no other. Rome, in her days of childhood, contented herself with a two-faced Janus; but, about the time of the first or second Caesar, a very ancient statue of Janus was exhumed, which had four faces. Ever afterwards, this sacred resurgent statue became the model for any possible Janus that could show himself in good company. The quadrifrons Janus was now the orthodox Janus; and it would have been as much a sacrilege to rob him of any single face as to rob a king's statue [2] of its horse. One thing may recall this to Mr. Landor's memory. I think it was Nero, but certainly it was one of the first six Caesars, that built, or that finished, a magnificent temple to Janus; and each face was so managed as to point down an avenue leading to a separate market-place. Now, that there were four market-places, I will make oath before any Justice of the Peace. One was called the Forum Julium, one the Forum Augustum, a third the Forum Transitorium: what the fourth was called is best known to itself, for really I forget. But if anybody says that perhaps it was called the Forum Landorium, I am not the man to object; for few names have deserved such an honor more, whether from those that then looked forward into futurity with one face, or from our posterity that will look back into the vanishing past with another.


[1] Squatters:—They are a sort of self-elected warming-pans. What we in England mean by the political term 'warming-pans,' are men who occupy, by consent, some official place, or Parliamentary seat, until the proper claimant is old enough in law to assume his rights. When the true man comes to bed, the warming-pan respectfully turns out. But these ultra-marine warming-pans wouldn't turn out. They showed fight, and wouldn't hear of the true man, even as a bed-fellow.

[2] A king's statue:—Till very lately the etiquette of Europe was, that none but royal persons could have equestrian statues. Lord Hopetoun, the reader will object, is allowed to have a horse, in St. Andrew's Square, Edinburgh. True, but observe that he is not allowed to mount him. The first person, so far as I remember, that, not being royal, has, in our island, seated himself comfortably in the saddle, is the Duke of Wellington.


I am myself, and always have been, a member of the Church of England, and am grieved to hear the many attacks against the Church [frequently most illiberal attacks], which not so much religion as political rancor gives birth to in every third journal that I take up. This I say to acquit myself of all dishonorable feelings, such as I would abhor to co-operate with, in bringing a very heavy charge against that great body in its literary capacity. Whosoever has reflected on the history of the English constitution—must be aware that the most important stage of its development lies within the reign of Charles I. It is true that the judicial execution of that prince has been allowed by many persons to vitiate all that was done by the heroic parliament of November, 1640: and the ordinary histories of England assume as a matter of course that the whole period of parliamentary history through those times is to be regarded as a period of confusion. Our constitution, say they, was formed in 1688-9. Meantime it is evident to any reflecting man that the revolution simply re-affirmed the principles developed in the strife between the two great parties which had arisen in the reign of James I., and had ripened and come to issue with each other in the reign of his son. Our constitution was not a birth of a single instant, as they would represent it, but a gradual growth and development through a long tract of time. In particular the doctrine of the king's vicarious responsibility in the person of his ministers, which first gave a sane and salutary meaning to the doctrine of the king's personal irresponsibility ['The king can do no wrong'], arose undeniably between 1640 and 1648. This doctrine is the main pillar of our constitution, and perhaps the finest discovery that was ever made in the theory of government. Hitherto the doctrine that the King can do no wrong had been used not to protect the indispensable sanctity of the king's constitutional character, but to protect the wrong. Used in this way, it was a maxim of Oriental despotism, and fit only for a nation where law had no empire. Many of the illustrious patriots of the Great Parliament saw this; and felt the necessity of abolishing a maxim so fatal to the just liberties of the people. But some of them fell into the opposite error of supposing that this abolition could be effected only by the direct negation of it; their maxim accordingly was—'The king can do wrong,' i.e. is responsible in his own person. In this great error even the illustrious wife of Colonel Hutchinson participated; [1] and accordingly she taxes those of her own party who scrupled to accede to the new maxim, and still adhered to the old one, with unconscientious dealing. But she misapprehended their meaning, and failed to see where they laid the emphasis: the emphasis was not laid, as it was by the royal party, on the words 'can do no wrong'—but on 'The king:' that is, wrong may be done; and in the king's name; but it cannot be the king who did it [the king cannot constitutionally be supposed the person who did it]. By this exquisite political refinement, the old tyrannical maxim was disarmed of its sting; and the entire redress of all wrong, so indispensable to the popular liberty, was brought into perfect reconciliation with the entire inviolability of the sovereign, which is no less indispensable to the popular liberty. There is moreover a double wisdom in the new sense: for not only is one object [the redress of wrong] secured in conjunction with another object [the king's inviolability] hitherto held irreconcilable,— but even with a view to the first object alone a much more effectual means is applied, because one which leads to no schism in the state, than could have been applied by the blank negation of the maxim; i.e. by lodging the responsibility exactly where the executive power [ergo the power of resisting this responsibility] was lodged. Here then is one example in illustration of my thesis—that the English constitution was in a great measure gradually evolved in the contest between the different parties in the reign of Charles I. Now, if this be so, it follows that for constitutional history no period is so important as that: and indeed, though it is true that the Revolution is the great era for the constitutional historian, because he there first finds the constitution fully developed as the 'bright consummate flower,' and what is equally important he there first finds the principles of our constitution ratified by a competent authority,—yet, to trace the root and growth of the constitution, the three reigns immediately preceding are still more properly the objects of his study. In proportion then as the reign of Charles I. is Important to the history of our constitution, in that proportion are those to be taxed with the most dangerous of all possible falsifications of our history, who have misrepresented either the facts or the principles of those times. Now I affirm that the clergy of the Church of England have been in a perpetual conspiracy since the era of the restoration to misrepresent both. As an illustration of what I mean I refer to the common edition of Hudibras by Dr. Grey: for the proof I might refer to some thousands of books. Dr. Grey's is a disgusting case: for he swallowed with the most anile credulity every story, the most extravagant that the malice of those times could invent against either the Presbyterians or the Independents: and for this I suppose amongst other deformities his notes were deservedly ridiculed by Warburton. But, amongst hundreds of illustrations more respectable than Dr. Grey's I will refer the reader to a work of our own days, the Ecclesiastical Biography [in part a republication of Walton's Lives] edited by the present master of Trinity College, Cambridge, who is held in the highest esteem wherever he is known, and is I am persuaded perfectly conscientious and as impartial as in such a case it is possible for a high churchman to be. Yet so it is that there is scarcely one of the notes having any political reference to the period of 1640-1660, which is not disfigured by unjust prejudices: and the amount of the moral which the learned editor grounds upon the documents before him—is this, that the young student is to cherish the deepest abhorrence and contempt of all who had any share on the parliamentary side in the 'confusions' of the period from 1640 to 1660: that is to say of men to whose immortal exertions it was owing that the very revolution of 1688, which Dr. W. will be the first to applaud, found us with any such stock of political principles or feelings as could make a beneficial revolution possible. Where, let me ask, would have been the willingness of some Tories to construe the flight of James II. into a virtual act of abdication, or to consider even the most formal act of abdication binding against the king,-had not the great struggle of Charles's days gradually substituted in the minds of all parties a rational veneration of the king's office for the old superstition in behalf of the king's person, which would have protected him from the effects of any acts however solemnly performed which affected injuriously either his own interests or the liberties of his people. Tempora mutantur: nos et mutamur in illis. Those whom we find in fierce opposition to the popular party about 1640 we find still in the same personal opposition fifty years after, but an opposition resting on far different principles: insensibly the principles of their antagonists had reached even them: and a courtier of 1689 was willing to concede more than a patriot of 1630 would have ventured to ask. Let me not be understood to mean that true patriotism is at all more shown in supporting the rights of the people than those of the king: as soon as both are defined and limited, the last are as indispensable to the integrity of the constitution—as the first: and popular freedom itself would suffer as much, though indirectly, from an invasion of Caesar's rights—as by a more direct attack on itself. But in the 17th century the rights of the people were as yet not defined: throughout that century they were gradually defining themselves—and, as happiness to all great practical interests, defining themselves through a course of fierce and bloody contests. For the kingly rights are almost inevitably carried too high in ages of imperfect civilization: and the well-known laws of Henry the Seventh, by which he either broke or gradually sapped the power of the aristocracy, had still more extravagantly exalted them. On this account it is just to look upon democratic or popular politics as identical in the 17th century with patriotic politics. In later periods, the democrat and the patriot have sometimes been in direct opposition to each other: at that period they were inevitably in conjunction. All this, however, is in general overlooked by those who either write English history or comment upon it. Most writers of or upon English history proceed either upon servile principles, or upon no principles: and a good Spirit of English History, that is, a history which should abstract the tendencies and main results [as to laws, manners, and constitution] from every age of English history, is a work which I hardly hope to see executed. For it would require the concurrence of some philosophy, with a great deal of impartiality. How idly do we say, in speaking of the events of our own time which affect our party feelings,—'We stand too near to these events for an impartial estimate: we must leave them to the judgment of posterity!' For it is a fact that of the many books of memoirs written by persons who were not merely contemporary with the great civil war, but actors and even leaders in its principal scenes—there is hardly one which does not exhibit a more impartial picture of that great drama than the histories written at his day. The historian of Popery does not display half so much zealotry and passionate prejudice in speaking of the many events which have affected the power and splendor of the Papal See for the last thirty years, and under his own eyes, as he does when speaking of a reformer who lived three centuries ago—of a translator of the Bible into a vernacular tongue who lived nearly five centuries ago—of an Anti-pope—of a Charlemagne or a Gregory the Great still further removed from himself. The recent events he looks upon as accidental and unessential: but in the great enemies, or great founders of the Romish temporal power, and in the history of their actions and their motives, he feels that the whole principle of the Romish cause and its pretensions are at stake. Pretty much under the same feeling have modern writers written with a rancorous party spirit of the political struggles in the 17th century: here they fancy that they can detect the incunabula of the revolutionary spirit: here some have been so sharpsighted as to read the features of pure jacobinism: and others [2] have gone so far as to assert that all the atrocities of the French revolution had their direct parallelisms in acts done or countenanced by the virtuous and august Senate of England in 1640! Strange distortion of the understanding which can thus find a brotherly resemblance between two great historical events, which of all that ever were put on record stand off from each other in most irreconcilable enmity: the one originating, as Mr. Coleridge has observed, in excess of principle; the other in the utter defect of all moral principle whatever; and the progress of each being answerable to its origin! Yet so it is. And not a memoir-writer of that age is reprinted in this, but we have a preface from some red-hot Anti- jacobin warning us with much vapid common-place from the mischiefs and eventual anarchy of too rash a spirit of reform as displayed in the French revolution—not by the example of that French revolution, but by that of our own in the age of Charles I. The following passage from the Introduction to Sir William Waller's Vindication published in 1793, may serve as a fair instance: 'He' (Sir W. Waller) 'was, indeed, at length sensible of the misery which he had contributed to bring on his country;' (by the way, it is a suspicious circumstance—that Sir William [3] first became sensible that his country was miserable, when he became sensible that he himself was not likely to be again employed; and became fully convinced of it, when his party lost their ascendancy:) 'he was convinced, by fatal experience, that anarchy was a bad step towards a perfect government; that the subversion of every establishment was no safe foundation for a permanent and regular constitution: he found that pretences of reform were held up by the designing to dazzle the eyes of the unwary, &c.; he found in short that reformation, by popular insurrection, must end in the destruction and cannot tend to the formation of a regular Government.' After a good deal more of this well-meaning cant, the Introduction concludes with the following sentence:—the writer is addressing the reformers of 1793, amongst whom—'both leaders and followers,' he says, 'may together reflect—that, upon speculative and visionary reformers,' (i.e. those of 1640) 'the severest punishment which God in his vengeance ever yet inflicted—was to curse them with the complete gratification of their own inordinate desires.' I quote this passage—not as containing any thing singular, but for the very reason that it is not singular: it expresses in fact the universal opinion: notwithstanding which I am happy to say that it is false. What 'complete gratification of their own desires' was ever granted to the 'reformers' in question? On the contrary, it is well known (and no book illustrates that particular fact so well as Sir William Waller's) that as early as 1647 the army had too effectually subverted the just relations between itself and parliament—not to have suggested fearful anticipations to all discerning patriots of that unhappy issue which did in reality blight their prospects. And, when I speak of an 'unhappy issue,' I would be understood only of the immediate issue: for the remote issue was—the revolution of 1688, as I have already asserted. Neither is it true that even the immediate issue was 'unhappy' to any extent which can justify the ordinary language in which it is described. Here again is a world of delusions. We hear of 'anarchy,' of 'confusions,' of 'proscriptions,' of 'bloody and ferocious tyranny.' All is romance; there was no anarchy; no confusions; no proscriptions; no tyranny in the sense designed. The sequestrations, forfeitures, and punishments of all sorts which were inflicted by the conquering party on their antagonists—went on by due course of law; and the summary justice of courts martial was not resorted to in England: except for the short term of the two wars, and the brief intermediate campaign of 1648, the country was in a very tranquil state. Nobody was punished without an open trial; and all trials proceeded in the regular course, according to the ancient forms, and in the regular courts of justice. And as to 'tyranny,' which is meant chiefly of the acts of Cromwell's government, it should be remembered that the Protectorate lasted not a quarter of the period in question (1640-1660); a fact which is constantly forgotten even by very eminent writers, who speak as though Cromwell had drawn his sword in January 1649—cut off the king's head— instantly mounted his throne—and continued to play the tyrant for the whole remaining period of his life (nearly ten years). Secondly, as to the kind of tyranny which Cromwell exercised, the misconception is ludicrous: continental writers have a notion, well justified by the language of English writers, that Cromwell was a ferocious savage who built his palace of human skulls and desolated his country. Meantime, he was simply a strong-minded—rough-built Englishman, with a character thoroughly English, and exceedingly good-natured. Gray valued himself upon his critical knowledge of English history: yet how thoughtlessly does he express the abstract of Cromwell's life in the line on the village Cromwell—'Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood!' How was Cromwell guilty of his country's blood? What blood did he cause to be shed? A great deal was shed no doubt in the wars (though less, by the way, than is imagined): but in those Cromwell was but a servant of the parliament: and no one will allege that he had any hand in causing a single war. After he attained the sovereign power, no more domestic wars arose: and as to a few persons who were executed for plots and conspiracies against his person, they were condemned upon evidence openly given and by due course of law. With respect to the general character of his government, it is evident that in the unsettled and revolutionary state of things which follows a civil war some critical cases will arise to demand an occasional 'vigor beyond the law'—such as the Roman government allowed of in the dictatorial power. But in general, Cromwell's government was limited by law: and no reign in that century, prior to the revolution, furnishes fewer instances of attempts to tamper with the laws —to overrule them—to twist them to private interpretations—or to dispense with them. As to his major-generals of counties, who figure in most histories of England as so many Ali Pachas that impaled a few prisoners every morning before breakfast—or rather as so many ogres that ate up good Christian men, women and children alive, they were disagreeable people who were disliked much in the same way as our commissioners of the income-tax were disliked in the memory of us all; and heartily they would have laughed at the romantic and bloody masquerade in which they are made to figure in the English histories. What then was the 'tyranny' of Cromwell's government, which is confessedly complained of even in those days? The word 'tyranny' was then applied not so much to the mode in which his power was administered (except by the prejudiced)—as to its origin. However mercifully a man may reign,—yet, if he have no right to reign at all, we may in one sense call him a tyrant; his power not being justly derived, and resting upon an unlawful (i.e. a military) basis. As a usurper, and one who had diverted the current of a grand national movement to selfish and personal objects, Cromwell was and will be called a tyrant; but not in the more obvious sense of the word. Such are the misleading statements which disfigure the History of England in its most important chapter. They mislead by more than a simple error of fact: those, which I have noticed last, involve a moral anachronism; for they convey images of cruelty and barbarism such as could not co-exist with the national civilization at that time; and whosoever has not corrected this false picture by an acquaintance with the English literature of that age, must necessarily image to himself a state of society as rude and uncultured as that which prevailed during the wars of York and Lancaster—i.e. about two centuries earlier. But those, with which I introduced this article, are still worse; because they involve an erroneous view of constitutional history, and a most comprehensive act of ingratitude: the great men of the Long Parliament paid a heavy price for their efforts to purchase for their descendants a barrier to irresponsible power and security from the anarchy of undefined regal prerogative: in these efforts most of them made shipwreck of their own tranquillity and peace; that such sacrifices were made unavailingly (as it must have seemed to themselves), and that few of them lived to see the 'good old cause' finally triumphant, does not cancel their claims upon our gratitude—but rather strengthen them by the degree in which it aggravated the difficulty of bearing such sacrifices with patience. But whence come these falsifications of history? I believe, from two causes; first (as I have already said) from the erroneous tone impressed upon the national history by the irritated spirit of the clergy of the established church: to the religious zealotry of those times—the church was the object of especial attack; and its members were naturally exposed to heavy sufferings: hence their successors are indisposed to find my good in a cause which could lead to such a result. It is their manifest right to sympathize with their own order in that day; and in such a case it is almost their duty to be incapable of an entire impartiality. Meantime they have carried this much too far: the literature of England must always be in a considerable proportion lodged in their hands; and the extensive means thus placed at their disposal for injuriously coloring that important part of history they have used with no modesty or forbearance. There is not a page of the national history even in its local subdivisions which they have not stained with the atrabilious hue of their wounded remembrances: hardly a town in England, which stood a siege for the king or the parliament, but has some printed memorial of its constancy and its sufferings; and in nine cases out of ten the editor is a clergyman of the established church, who has contrived to deepen 'the sorrow of the time' by the harshness of his commentary. Surely it is high time that the wounds of the 17th century should close; that history should take a more commanding and philosophic station; and that brotherly charity should now lead us to a saner view of constitutional politics; or a saner view of politics to a more comprehensive charity. The other cause of this falsification springs out of a selfishness which has less claim to any indulgence—viz. the timidity with which the English Whigs of former days and the party to whom They [4] succeeded, constantly shrank from acknowledging any alliance with the great men of the Long Parliament under the nervous horror of being confounded with the regicides of 1649. It was of such urgent importance to them, for any command over the public support, that they should acquit themselves of an sentiment of lurking toleration for regicide, with which their enemies never failed to load them, that no mode of abjuring it seemed sufficiently emphatic to them hence it was that Addison, with a view to the interest of his party, thought fit when in Switzerland, to offer a puny insult to the memory of General Ludlow; hence it is that even in our own days, no writers have insulted Milton with so much bitterness and shameless irreverence as the Whigs; though it is true that some few Whigs, more however in their literary than in their political character, have stepped forward in his vindication. At this moment I recollect a passage in the writings of a modern Whig bishop—in which, for the sake of creating a charge of falsehood against Milton, the author has grossly mis-translated a passage in the Defensio pro Pop. Anglicano: and, if that bishop were not dead, I would here take the liberty of rapping his knuckles—were it only for breaking Priscian's head. To return over to the clerical feud against the Long Parliament,—it was a passage in a very pleasing work of this day (Ecclesiastical Biography) which suggested to me the whole of what I have now written. Its learned editor, who is incapable of uncandid feelings except in what concerns the interests of his order, has adopted the usual tone in regard to the men of 1640 throughout his otherwise valuable annotations: and somewhere or other (in the Life of Hammond, according to my remembrance) he has made a statement to this effect—That the custom prevalent among children in that age of asking their parents' blessing was probably first brought into disuse by the Puritans. Is it possible to imagine a perversity of prejudice more unreasonable? The unamiable side of the patriotic character in the seventeenth century was unquestionably its religious bigotry; which, however, had its ground in a real fervor of religious feeling and a real strength of religious principle somewhat exceeding the ordinary standard of the 19th century. But, however palliated, their bigotry is not to be denied; it was often offensive from its excess; and ludicrous in its direction. Many harmless customs, many ceremonies and rituals that had a high positive value, their frantic intolerance quarrelled with: and for my part I heartily join in the sentiment of Charles II.—applying it as he did, but a good deal more extensively, that their religion 'was not a religion for a gentleman:' indeed all sectarianism, but especially that which has a modern origin— arising and growing up within our own memories, unsupported by a grand traditional history of persecutions—conflicts—and martyrdoms, lurking moreover in blind alleys, holes, corners, and tabernacles, must appear spurious and mean in the eyes of him who has been bred up in the grand classic forms of the Church of England or the Church of Rome. But, because the bigotry of the Puritans was excessive and revolting, is that a reason for fastening upon them all the stray evils of omission or commission for which no distinct fathers can be found? The learned editor does not pretend that there is any positive evidence, or presumption even, for imputing to the Puritans a dislike to the custom in question: but, because he thinks it a good custom, his inference is that nobody could have abolished it but the Puritans. Now who does not see that, if this had been amongst the usages discountenanced by the Puritans, it would on that account have been the more pertinaciously maintained by their enemies in church and state? Or, even if this usage were of a nature to be prohibited by authority, as the public use of the liturgy—organs—surplices, &c., who does not see that with regard to that as well as to other Puritanical innovations there would have been a reflux of zeal in the restoration of the king which would have established them in more strength than ever? But it is evident to the unprejudiced that the usage in question gradually went out in submission to the altered spirit of the times. It was one feature of a general system of manners, fitted by its piety and simplicity for a pious and simple age, and which therefore even the 17th century had already outgrown. It is not to be inferred that filial affection and reverence have decayed amongst us, because they no longer express themselves in the same way. In an age of imperfect culture, all passions and emotions are in a more elementary state—'speak a plainer language'—and express themselves externally: in such an age the frame and constitution of society is more picturesque; the modes of life rest more undisguisedly upon the basis of the absolute and original relation of things: the son is considered in his sonship, the father in his fatherhood: and the manners take an appropriate coloring. Up to the middle of the 17th century there were many families in which the children never presumed to sit down in their parents' presence. But with us, in an age of more complete intellectual culture, a thick disguise is spread over the naked foundations of human life; and the instincts of good taste banish from good company the expression of all the profounder emotions. A son therefore, who should kneel down in this age to ask his papa's blessing on leaving town for Brighton or Bath—would be felt by himself to be making a theatrical display of filial duty, such as would be painful to him in proportion as his feelings were sincere. All this would have been evident to the learned editor in any case but one which regarded the Puritans: they were at any rate to be molested: in default of any graver matter, a mere fanciful grievance is searched out. Still, however, nothing was effected; fanciful or real, the grievance must be connected with the Puritans: here lies the offence, there lies the Puritans: it would be very agreeable to find some means of connecting the one with the other: but how shall this be done? Why, in default of all other means, the learned editor assumes the connection. He leaves the reader with an impression that the Puritans are chargeable with a serious wound to the manners of the nation in a point affecting the most awful of the household charities: and he fails to perceive that for this whole charge his sole ground is— that it would be very agreeable to him if he had a ground. Such is the power of the esprit de corps to palliate and recommend as colorable the very weakest logic to a man of acknowledged learning and talent!—In conclusion I must again disclaim any want of veneration and entire affection for the Established Church: the very prejudices and injustice, with which I tax the English clergy, have a generous origin: but it is right to point the attention of historical students to their strength and the effect which they have had. They have been indulged to excess; they have disfigured the grandest page in English history; they have hid the true descent and tradition of our constitutional history; and, by impressing upon the literature of the country a false conception of the patriotic party in and out of Parliament, they have stood in the way of a great work,—a work which, according to my ideal of it, would be the most useful that could just now be dedicated to the English public—viz. a philosophic record of the revolutions of English History. The English Constitution, as proclaimed and ratified in 1688-9, is in its kind, the noblest work of the human mind working in conjunction with Time, and what in such a case we may allowably call Providence. Of this chef d'oeuvre of human wisdom it were desirable that we should have a proportionable history: for such a history the great positive qualification would be a philosophic mind: the great negative qualification would be this [which to the established clergy may now be recommended as a fit subject for their magnanimity]; viz. complete conquest over those prejudices which have hitherto discolored the greatest era of patriotic virtue by contemplating the great men of that era under their least happy aspect—namely, in relation to the Established Church.

Now that I am on the subject of English History, I will notice one of the thousand mis-statements of Hume's which becomes a memorable one from the stress which he has laid upon it, and from the manner and situation in which he has introduced it. Standing in the current of a narrative, it would have merited a silent correction in an unpretending note: but it occupies a much more assuming station; for it is introduced in a philosophical essay; and being relied on for a particular purpose with the most unqualified confidence, and being alleged in opposition to the very highest authority [viz. the authority of an eminent person contemporary with the fact] it must be looked on as involving a peremptory defiance to all succeeding critics who might hesitate between the authority of Mr. Hume at the distance of a century from the facts and Sir William Temple speaking to them as a matter within his personal recollections. Sir William Temple had represented himself as urging in a conversation with Charles II., the hopelessness of any attempt on the part of an English king to make himself a despotic and absolute monarch, except indeed through the affections of his people. [5] This general thesis he had supported by a variety of arguments; and, amongst the rest, he had described himself as urging this—that even Cromwell had been unable to establish himself in unlimited power, though supported by a military force of eighty thousand men. Upon this Hume calls the reader's attention to the extreme improbability which there must beforehand appear to be in supposing that Sir W. Temple,—speaking of so recent a case, with so much official knowledge of that case at his command, uncontradicted moreover by the king whose side in the argument gave him an interest in contradicting Sir William's statement, and whose means of information were paramount to those of all others,—could under these circumstances be mistaken. Doubtless, the reader will reply to Mr. Hume, the improbability is extreme, and scarcely to be invalidated by any possible authority—which, at best, must terminate in leaving an equilibrium of opposing evidence. And yet, says Mr. Hume, Sir William was unquestionably wrong, and grossly wrong: Cromwell never had an army at all approaching to the number of eighty thousand. Now here is a sufficient proof that Hume had never read Lord Clarendon's account of his own life: this book is not so common as his 'History of the Rebellion;' and Hume had either not met with it, or had neglected it. For, in the early part of this work, Lord Clarendon, speaking of the army which was assembled on Blackheath to welcome the return of Charles II., says that it amounted to fifty thousand men: and, when it is remembered that this army was exclusive of the troops in garrison—of the forces left by Monk in the North—and above all of the entire army in Ireland,—it cannot be doubted that the whole would amount to the number stated by Sir William Temple. Indeed Charles II. himself, in the year 1678 [i.e. about four years after this conversation] as Sir W. Temple elsewhere tells us, 'in six weeks' time raised an army of twenty thousand men, the completest—and in all appearance the bravest troops that could be any where seen, and might have raised many more; and it was confessed by all the Foreign Ministers that no king in Christendom could have made and completed such a levy as this appeared in such a time.' William III. again, about eleven years afterwards, raised twenty- three regiments with the same ease and in the same space of six weeks. It may be objected indeed to such cases, as in fact it was objected to the case of William III. by Howlett in his sensible Examination of Dr. Price's Essay on the Population of England, that, in an age when manufactures were so little extended, it could ever have been difficult to make such a levy of men—provided there were funds for paying and equipping them. But, considering the extraordinary funds which were disposable for this purpose in Ireland, &c. during the period of Cromwell's Protectorate, we may very safely allow the combined authority of Sir William Temple—of the king—and of that very prime minister who disbanded Cromwell's army, to outweigh the single authority of Hume at the distance of a century from the facts. Upon any question of fact, indeed, Hume's authority is none at all.


[1] This is remarked by her editor and descendant Julius Hutchinson, who adds some words to this effect—'that if the patriot of that day were the inventors of the maxim [The king can do no wrong], we are much indebted to them.' The patriots certainly did not invent the maxim, for they found it already current: but they gave it its new and constitutional sense. I refer to the book, however, as I do to almost all books in these notes, from memory; writing most of them in situations where I have no access to books. By the way, Charles I., who used the maxim in the most odious sense, furnished the most colorable excuse for his own execution. He constantly maintained the irresponsibility of his ministers: but, if that were conceded, it would then follow that the king must be made responsible in his own person:—and that construction led of necessity to his trial and death.

[2] Amongst these Mr. D'Israeli in one of the latter volumes of his 'Curiosities of Literature' has dedicated a chapter or so to a formal proof of this proposition. A reader who is familiar with the history of that age comes to the chapter with a previous indignation, knowing what sort of proof he has to expect. This indignation is not likely to be mitigated by what he will there find. Because some one madman, fool, or scoundrel makes a monstrous proposal—which dies of itself unsupported, and is in violent contrast to all the acts and the temper of those times, —this is to sully the character of the parliament and three-fourths of the people of England. If this proposal had grown out of the spirit of the age, that spirit would have produced many more proposals of the same character and acts corresponding to them. Yet upon this one infamous proposal, and two or three scandalous anecdotes from the libels of the day, does the whole onus of Mr. D'Israeli's parallel depend. Tantamne rem tam negligenter?—in the general character of an Englishman I have a right to complain that so heavy an attack upon the honor of England and her most virtuous patriots in her most virtuous age should be made with so much levity: a charge so solemn in its matter should have been prosecuted with a proportionate solemnity of manner. Mr. D'Israeli refers with just applause to the opinions of Mr. Coleridge: I wish that he would have allowed a little more weight to the striking passage in which that gentleman contrasts the French revolution with the English revolution of 1640-8. However, the general tone of honor and upright principle, which marks Mr. D'Israeli's' work, encourages me and others to hope that he will cancel the chapter—and not persist in wounding the honor of a great people for the sake of a parallelism, which—even if it were true—is a thousand times too slight and feebly supported to satisfy the most accommodating reader.

[3] Sir William and his cousin Sir Hardress Waller, were both remarkable men. Sir Hardress had no conscience at all; Sir William a very scrupulous one; which, however, he was for ever tampering with—and generally succeeded in reducing into compliance with his immediate interest. He was, however, an accomplished gentleman: and as a man of talents worthy of the highest admiration.

[4] Until after the year 1688, I do not remember ever to have found the term Whig applied except to the religious characteristics of that party: whatever reference it might have to their political distinctions was only secondary and by implication.

[5] Sir William had quoted to Charles a saying from Gourville (a Frenchman whom the king esteemed, and whom Sir William himself considered the only foreigner he had ever known that understood England) to this effect: 'That a king of England who will be the man of his people, is the greatest king in the world; but, if he will be something more, by G— he is nothing at all.'


He was a man of very extraordinary genius. He has generally been treated by those who have spoken of him in print as a madman. But this is a mistake and must have been founded chiefly on the titles of his books. He was a man of fervid mind and of sublime aspirations: but he was no madman; or, if he was, then I say that it is so far desirable to be a madman. In 1798 or 1799, when I must have been about thirteen years old, Walking Stewart was in Bath—where my family at that time resided. He frequented the pump-room, and I believe all public places—walking up and down, and dispersing his philosophic opinions to the right and the left, like a Grecian philosopher. The first time I saw him was at a concert in the Upper Rooms; he was pointed out to me by one of my party as a very eccentric man who had walked over the habitable globe. I remember that Madame Mara was at that moment singing: and Walking Stewart, who was a true lover of music (as I afterwards came to know), was hanging upon her notes like a bee upon a jessamine flower. His countenance was striking, and expressed the union of benignity with philosophic habits of thought. In such health had his pedestrian exercises preserved him, connected with his abstemious mode of living, that though he must at that time have been considerably above forty, he did not look older than twenty-eight; at least the face which remained upon my recollection for some years was that of a young man. Nearly ten years afterwards I became acquainted with him. During the interval I had picked up one of his works in Bristol,—viz. his Travels to discover the Source of Moral Motion, the second volume of which is entitled The Apocalypse of Nature. I had been greatly impressed by the sound and original views which in the first volume he had taken of the national characters throughout Europe. In particular he was the first, and so far as I know the only writer who had noticed the profound error of ascribing a phlegmatic character to the English nation. 'English phlegm' is the constant expression of authors when contrasting the English with the French. Now the truth is, that, beyond that of all other nations, it has a substratum of profound passion: and, if we are to recur to the old doctrine of temperaments, the English character must be classed not under the phlegmatic but under the melancholic temperament; and the French under the sanguine. The character of a nation may be judged of in this particular by examining its idiomatic language. The French, in whom the lower forms of passion are constantly bubbling up from the shallow and superficial character of their feelings, have appropriated all the phrases of passion to the service of trivial and ordinary life: and hence they have no language of passion for the service of poetry or of occasions really demanding it: for it has been already enfeebled by continual association with cases of an unimpassioned order. But a character of deeper passion has a perpetual standard in itself, by which as by an instinct it tries all cases, and rejects the language of passion as disproportionate and ludicrous where it is not fully justified. 'Ah Heavens!' or 'Oh my God!' are exclamations with us so exclusively reserved for cases of profound interest,—that on hearing a woman even (i.e. a person of the sex most easily excited) utter such words, we look round expecting to see her child in some situation of danger. But, in France, 'Ciel!' and 'Oh mon Dieu!' are uttered by every woman if a mouse does but run across the floor. The ignorant and the thoughtless, however, will continue to class the English character under the phlegmatic temperament, whilst the philosopher will perceive that it is the exact polar antithesis to a phlegmatic character. In this conclusion, though otherwise expressed and illustrated, Walking Stewart's view of the English character will be found to terminate: and his opinion is especially valuable—first and chiefly, because he was a philosopher; secondly, because his acquaintance with man civilized and uncivilized, under all national distinctions, was absolutely unrivalled. Meantime, this and others of his opinions were expressed in language that if literally construed would often appear insane or absurd. The truth is, his long intercourse with foreign nations had given something of a hybrid tincture to his diction; in some of his works, for instance, he uses the French word helas! uniformly for the English alas! and apparently with no consciousness of his mistake. He had also this singularity about him —that he was everlastingly metaphysicizing against metaphysics. To me, who was buried in metaphysical reveries from my earliest days, this was not likely to be an attraction any more than the vicious structure of his diction was likely to please my scholarlike taste. All grounds of disgust, however, gave way before my sense of his powerful merits; and, as I have said, I sought his acquaintance. Coming up to London from Oxford about 1807 or 1808 I made inquiries about him; and found that he usually read the papers at a coffee-room in Piccadilly: understanding that he was poor, it struck me that he might not wish to receive visits at his lodgings, and therefore I sought him at the coffee-room. Here I took the liberty of introducing myself to him. He received me courteously, and invited me to his rooms—which at that time were in Sherrard-street, Golden-square—a street already memorable to me. I was much struck with the eloquence of his conversation; and afterwards I found that Mr. Wordsworth, himself the most eloquent of men in conversation, had been equally struck when he had met him at Paris between the years 1790 and 1792, during the early storms of the French revolution. In Sherrard-street I visited him repeatedly, and took notes of the conversations I had with him on various subjects. These I must have somewhere or other; and I wish I could introduce them here, as they would interest the reader. Occasionally in these conversations, as in his books, he introduced a few notices of his private history: in particular I remember his telling me that in the East Indies he had been a prisoner of Hyder's: that he had escaped with some difficulty; and that, in the service of one of the native princes as secretary or interpreter, he had accumulated a small fortune. This must have been too small, I fear, at that time to allow him even a philosopher's comforts: for some part of it, invested in the French funds, had been confiscated. I was grieved to see a man of so much ability, of gentlemanly manners, and refined habits, and with the infirmity of deafness, suffering under such obvious privations; and I once took the liberty, on a fit occasion presenting itself, of requesting that he would allow me to send him some books which he had been casually regretting that he did not possess; for I was at that time in the hey-day of my worldly prosperity. This offer, however, he declined with firmness and dignity, though not unkindly. And I now mention it, because I have seen him charged in print with a selfish regard to his own pecuniary interest. On the contrary, he appeared to me a very liberal and generous man: and I well remember that, whilst he refused to accept of any thing from me, he compelled me to receive as presents all the books which he published during my acquaintance with him: two of these, corrected with his own hand, viz. the Lyre of Apollo and the Sophiometer, I have lately found amongst other books left in London; and others he forwarded to me in Westmoreland. In 1809 I saw him often: in the spring of that year, I happened to be in London; and Mr. Wordsworth's tract on the Convention of Cintra being at that time in the printer's hands, I superintended the publication of it; and, at Mr. Wordsworth's request, I added a long note on Spanish affairs which is printed in the Appendix. The opinions I expressed in this note on the Spanish character at that time much calumniated, on the retreat to Corunna then fresh in the public mind, above all, the contempt I expressed for the superstition in respect to the French military prowess which was then universal and at its height, and which gave way in fact only to the campaigns of 1814 and 1815, fell in, as it happened, with Mr. Stewart's political creed in those points where at that time it met with most opposition. In 1812 it was, I think, that I saw him for the last time: and by the way, on the day of my parting with him, I had an amusing proof in my own experience of that sort of ubiquity ascribed to him by a witty writer in the London Magazine: I met him and shook hands with him under Somerset-house, telling him that I should leave town that evening for Westmoreland. Thence I went by the very shortest road (i.e. through Moor-street, Soho—for I am learned in many quarters of London) towards a point which necessarily led me through Tottenham-court-road: I stopped nowhere, and walked fast: yet so it was that in Tottenham-court-road I was not overtaken by (that was comprehensible), but overtook, Walking Stewart. Certainly, as the above writer alleges, there must have been three Walking Stewarts in London. He seemed no ways surprised at this himself, but explained to me that somewhere or other in the neighborhood of Tottenham-court-road there was a little theatre, at which there was dancing and occasionally good singing, between which and a neighboring coffee-house he sometimes divided his evenings. Singing, it seems, he could hear in spite of his deafness. In this street I took my final leave of him; it turned out such; and, anticipating at the time that it would be so, I looked after his white hat at the moment it was disappearing and exclaimed—'Farewell, thou half- crazy and most eloquent man! I shall never see thy face again.' I did not intend, at that moment, to visit London again for some years: as it happened, I was there for a short time in 1814: and then I heard, to my great satisfaction, that Walking Stewart had recovered a considerable sum (about 14,000 pounds I believe) from the East India Company; and from the abstract given in the London Magazine of the Memoir by his relation, I have since learned that he applied this money most wisely to the purchase of an annuity, and that he 'persisted in living' too long for the peace of an annuity office. So fare all companies East and West, and all annuity offices, that stand opposed in interest to philosophers! In 1814, however, to my great regret, I did not see him; for I was then taking a great deal of opium, and never could contrive to issue to the light of day soon enough for a morning call upon a philosopher of such early hours; and in the evening I concluded that he would be generally abroad, from what he had formerly communicated to me of his own habits. It seems, however, that he afterwards held conversaziones at his own rooms; and did not stir out to theatres quite so much. From a brother of mine, who at one time occupied rooms in the same house with him, I learned that in other respects he did not deviate in his prosperity from the philosophic tenor of his former life. He abated nothing of his peripatetic exercises; and repaired duly in the morning, as he had done in former years, to St. James's Park,—where he sate in contemplative ease amongst the cows, inhaling their balmy breath and pursuing his philosophic reveries. He had also purchased an organ, or more than one, with which he solaced his solitude and beguiled himself of uneasy thoughts if he ever had any.

The works of Walking Stewart must be read with some indulgence; the titles are generally too lofty and pretending and somewhat extravagant; the composition is lax and unprecise, as I have before said; and the doctrines are occasionally very bold, incautiously stated, and too hardy and high- toned for the nervous effeminacy of many modern moralists. But Walking Stewart was a man who thought nobly of human nature: he wrote therefore at times in the spirit and with the indignation of an ancient prophet against the oppressors and destroyers of the time. In particular I remember that in one or more of the pamphlets which I received from him at Grasmere he expressed himself in such terms on the subject of Tyrannicide (distinguishing the cases in which it was and was not lawful) as seemed to Mr. Wordsworth and myself every way worthy of a philosopher; but, from the way in which that subject was treated in the House of Commons, where it was at that time occasionally introduced, it was plain that his doctrine was not fitted for the luxurious and relaxed morals of the age. Like all men who think nobly of human nature, Walking Stewart thought of it hopefully. In some respects his hopes were wisely grounded; in others they rested too much upon certain metaphysical speculations which are untenable, and which satisfied himself only because his researches in that track had been purely self-originated and self-disciplined. He relied upon his own native strength of mind; but in questions, which the wisdom and philosophy of every age building successively upon each other have not been able to settle, no mind, however strong, is entitled to build wholly upon itself. In many things he shocked the religious sense—especially as it exists in unphilosophic minds; he held a sort of rude and unscientific Spinosism; and he expressed it coarsely and in the way most likely to give offence. And indeed there can be no stronger proof of the utter obscurity in which his works have slumbered than that they should all have escaped prosecution. He also allowed himself to look too lightly and indulgently on the afflicting spectacle of female prostitution as it exists in London and in all great cities. This was the only point on which I was disposed to quarrel with him; for I could not but view it as a greater reproach to human nature than the slave-trade or any sight of wretchedness that the sun looks down upon. I often told him so; and that I was at a loss to guess how a philosopher could allow himself to view it simply as part of the equipage of civil life, and as reasonably making part of the establishment and furniture of a great city as police-offices, lamp- lighting, or newspapers. Waiving however this one instance of something like compliance with the brutal spirit of the world, on all other subjects he was eminently unworldly, child-like, simple-minded, and upright. He would flatter no man: even when addressing nations, it is almost laughable to see how invariably he prefaces his counsels with such plain truths uttered in a manner so offensive as must have defeated his purpose if it had otherwise any chance of being accomplished. For instance, in addressing America, he begins thus:—'People of America! since your separation from the mother-country your moral character has degenerated in the energy of thought and sense; produced by the absence of your association and intercourse with British officers and merchants: you have no moral discernment to distinguish between the protective power of England and the destructive power of France.' And his letter to the Irish nation opens in this agreeable and conciliatory manner:—'People of Ireland! I address you as a true philosopher of nature, foreseeing the perpetual misery your irreflective character and total absence of moral discernment are preparing for' &c. The second sentence begins thus—'You are sacrilegiously arresting the arm of your parent kingdom fighting the cause of man and nature, when the triumph of the fiend of French police- terror would be your own instant extirpation—.' And the letter closes thus:—'I see but one awful alternative—that Ireland will be a perpetual moral volcano, threatening the destruction of the world, if the education and instruction of thought and sense shall not be able to generate the faculty of moral discernment among a very numerous class of the population, who detest the civic calm as sailors the natural calm—and make civic rights on which they cannot reason a pretext for feuds which they delight in.' As he spoke freely and boldly to others, so he spoke loftily of himself: at p. 313, of 'The Harp of Apollo,' on making a comparison of himself with Socrates (in which he naturally gives the preference to himself) he styles 'The Harp,' &c., 'this unparalleled work of human energy.' At p. 315, he calls it 'this stupendous work;' and lower down on the same page he says—'I was turned out of school at the age of fifteen for a dunce or blockhead, because I would not stuff into my memory all the nonsense of erudition and learning; and if future ages should discover the unparalleled energies of genius in this work, it will prove my most important doctrine—that the powers of the human mind must be developed in the education of thought and sense in the study of moral opinion, not arts and science.' Again, at p. 225 of his Sophiometer, he says:—'The paramount thought that dwells in my mind incessantly is a question I put to myself—whether, in the event of my personal dissolution by death, I have communicated all the discoveries my unique mind possesses in the great master-science of man and nature.' In the next page he determines that he has, with the exception of one truth,—viz. 'the latent energy, physical and moral, of human nature as existing in the British people.' But here he was surely accusing himself without ground: for to my knowledge he has not failed in any one of his numerous works to insist upon this theme at least a billion of times. Another instance of his magnificent self-estimation is—that in the title pages of several of his works he announces himself as 'John Stewart, the only man of nature [1] that ever appeared in the world.'

By this time I am afraid the reader begins to suspect that he was crazy: and certainly, when I consider every thing, he must have been crazy when the wind was at NNE; for who but Walking Stewart ever dated his books by a computation drawn—not from the creation, not from the flood, not from Nabonassar, or ab urbe condita, not from the Hegira—but from themselves, from their own day of publication, as constituting the one great era in the history of man by the side of which all other eras were frivolous and impertinent? Thus, in a work of his given to me in 1812 and probably published in that year, I find him incidentally recording of himself that he was at that time 'arrived at the age of sixty-three, with a firm state of health acquired by temperance, and a peace of mind almost independent of the vices of mankind—because my knowledge of life has enabled me to place my happiness beyond the reach or contact of other men's follies and passions, by avoiding all family connections, and all ambitious pursuits of profit, fame, or power.' On reading this passage I was anxious to ascertain its date; but this, on turning to the title page, I found thus mysteriously expressed: 'in the 7000th year of Astronomical History, and the first day of Intellectual Life or Moral World, from the era of this work.' Another slight indication of craziness appeared in a notion which obstinately haunted his mind that all the kings and rulers of the earth would confederate in every age against his works, and would hunt them out for extermination as keenly as Herod did the innocents in Bethlehem. On this consideration, fearing that they might be intercepted by the long arms of these wicked princes before they could reach that remote Stewartian man or his precursor to whom they were mainly addressed, he recommended to all those who might be impressed with a sense of their importance to bury a copy or copies of each work properly secured from damp, &c. at a depth of seven or eight feet below the surface of the earth; and on their death-beds to communicate the knowledge of this fact to some confidential friends, who in their turn were to send down the tradition to some discreet persons of the next generation; and thus, if the truth was not to be dispersed for many ages, yet the knowledge that here and there the truth lay buried on this and that continent, in secret spots on Mount Caucasus—in the sands of Biledulgerid—and in hiding- places amongst the forests of America, and was to rise again in some distant age and to vegetate and fructify for the universal benefit of man,—this knowledge at least was to be whispered down from generation to generation; and, in defiance of a myriad of kings crusading against him, Walking Stewart was to stretch out the influence of his writings through a long series of [Greek: lampadophoroi] to that child of nature whom he saw dimly through a vista of many centuries. If this were madness, it seemed to me a somewhat sublime madness: and I assured him of my co- operation against the kings, promising that I would bury 'The Harp of Apollo' in my own orchard in Grasmere at the foot of Mount Fairfield; that I would bury 'The Apocalypse of Nature' in one of the coves of Helvellyn, and several other works in several other places best known to myself. He accepted my offer with gratitude; but he then made known to me that he relied on my assistance for a still more important service—which was this: in the lapse of that vast number of ages which would probably intervene between the present period and the period at which his works would have reached their destination, he feared that the English language might itself have mouldered away. 'No!' I said, 'that was not probable: considering its extensive diffusion, and that it was now transplanted into all the continents of our planet, I would back the English language against any other on earth.' His own persuasion however was, that the Latin was destined to survive all other languages; it was to be the eternal as well as the universal language; and his desire was that I would translate his works, or some part of them, into that language. [2] This I promised; and I seriously designed at some leisure hour to translate into Latin a selection of passages which should embody an abstract of his philosophy. This would have been doing a service to all those who might wish to see a digest of his peculiar opinions cleared from the perplexities of his peculiar diction and brought into a narrow compass from the great number of volumes through which they are at present dispersed. However, like many another plan of mine, it went unexecuted.

On the whole, if Walking Stewart were at all crazy, he was so in a way which did not affect his natural genius and eloquence—but rather exalted them. The old maxim, indeed, that 'Great wits to madness sure are near allied,' the maxim of Dryden and the popular maxim, I have heard disputed by Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Wordsworth, who maintain that mad people are the dullest and most wearisome of all people. As a body, I believe they are so. But I must dissent from the authority of Messrs. Coleridge and Wordsworth so far as to distinguish. Where madness is connected, as it often is, with some miserable derangement of the stomach, liver, &c. and attacks the principle of pleasurable life, which is manifestly seated in the central organs of the body (i.e. in the stomach and the apparatus connected with it), there it cannot but lead to perpetual suffering and distraction of thought; and there the patient will be often tedious and incoherent. People who have not suffered from any great disturbance in those organs are little aware how indispensable to the process of thinking are the momentary influxes of pleasurable feeling from the regular goings on of life in its primary function; in fact, until the pleasure is withdrawn or obscured, most people are not aware that they have any pleasure from the due action of the great central machinery of the system: proceeding in uninterrupted continuance, the pleasure as much escapes the consciousness as the act of respiration: a child, in the happiest state of its existence, does not know that it is happy. And generally whatsoever is the level state of the hourly feeling is never put down by the unthinking (i.e. by 99 out of 100) to the account of happiness: it is never put down with the positive sign, as equal to + x; but simply as = 0. And men first become aware that it was a positive quantity, when they have lost it (i.e. fallen into—x). Meantime the genial pleasure from the vital processes, though not represented to the consciousness, is immanent in every act—impulse—motion—word—and thought: and a philosopher sees that the idiots are in a state of pleasure, though they cannot see it themselves. Now I say that, where this principle of pleasure is not attached, madness is often little more than an enthusiasm highly exalted; the animal spirits are exuberant and in excess; and the madman becomes, if he be otherwise a man of ability and information, all the better as a companion. I have met with several such madmen; and I appeal to my brilliant friend, Professor W——, who is not a man to tolerate dulness in any quarter, and is himself the ideal of a delightful companion, whether he ever met a more amusing person than that madman who took a post-chaise with us from —— to Carlisle, long years ago, when he and I were hastening with the speed of fugitive felons to catch the Edinburgh mail. His fancy and his extravagance, and his furious attacks on Sir Isaac Newton, like Plato's suppers, refreshed us not only for that day but whenever they recurred to us; and we were both grieved when we heard some time afterwards from a Cambridge man that he had met our clever friend in a stage coach under the care of a brutal keeper.—— Such a madness, if any, was the madness of Walking Stewart: his health was perfect; his spirits as light and ebullient as the spirits of a bird in spring-time; and his mind unagitated by painful thoughts, and at peace with itself. Hence, if he was not an amusing companion, it was because the philosophic direction of his thoughts made him something more. Of anecdotes and matters of fact he was not communicative: of all that he had seen in the vast compass of his travels he never availed himself in conversation. I do not remember at this moment that he ever once alluded to his own travels in his intercourse with me except for the purpose of weighing down by a statement grounded on his own great personal experience an opposite statement of many hasty and misjudging travellers which he thought injurious to human nature: the statement was this, that in all his countless rencontres with uncivilized tribes, he had never met with any so ferocious and brutal as to attack an unarmed and defenceless man who was able to make them understand that he threw himself upon their hospitality and forbearance.

On the whole, Walking Stewart was a sublime visionary: he had seen and suffered much amongst men; yet not too much, or so as to dull the genial tone of his sympathy with the sufferings of others. His mind was a mirror of the sentient universe.—The whole mighty vision that had fleeted before his eyes in this world,—the armies of Hyder-Ali and his son with oriental and barbaric pageantry,—the civic grandeur of England, the great deserts of Asia and America,—the vast capitals of Europe,—London with its eternal agitations, the ceaseless ebb and flow of its 'mighty heart,'— Paris shaken by the fierce torments of revolutionary convulsions, the silence of Lapland, and the solitary forests of Canada, with the swarming life of the torrid zone, together with innumerable recollections of individual joy and sorrow, that he had participated by sympathy—lay like a map beneath him, as if eternally co-present to his view; so that, in the contemplation of the prodigious whole, he had no leisure to separate the parts, or occupy his mind with details. Hence came the monotony which the frivolous and the desultory would have found in his conversation. I, however, who am perhaps the person best qualified to speak of him, must pronounce him to have been a man of great genius; and, with reference to his conversation, of great eloquence. That these were not better known and acknowledged was owing to two disadvantages; one grounded in his imperfect education, the other in the peculiar structure of his mind. The first was this: like the late Mr. Shelley he had a fine vague enthusiasm and lofty aspirations in connection with human nature generally and its hopes; and like him he strove to give steadiness, a uniform direction, and an intelligible purpose to these feelings, by fitting to them a scheme of philosophical opinions. But unfortunately the philosophic system of both was so far from supporting their own views and the cravings of their own enthusiasm, that, as in some points it was baseless, incoherent, or unintelligible, so in others it tended to moral results, from which, if they had foreseen them, they would have been themselves the first to shrink as contradictory to the very purposes in which their system had originated. Hence, in maintaining their own system they both found themselves painfully entangled at times with tenets pernicious and degrading to human nature. These were the inevitable consequences of the [Greek: proton pheudos] in their speculations; but were naturally charged upon them by those who looked carelessly into their books as opinions which not only for the sake of consistency they thought themselves bound to endure, but to which they gave the full weight of their sanction and patronage as to so many moving principles in their system. The other disadvantage under which Walking Stewart labored, was this: he was a man of genius, but not a man of talents; at least his genius was out of all proportion to his talents, and wanted an organ as it were for manifesting itself; so that his most original thoughts were delivered in a crude state—imperfect, obscure, half developed, and not producible to a popular audience. He was aware of this himself; and, though he claims everywhere the faculty of profound intuition into human nature, yet with equal candor he accuses himself of asinine stupidity, dulness, and want of talent. He was a disproportioned intellect, and so far a monster: and he must be added to the long list of original-minded men who have been looked down upon with pity and contempt by commonplace men of talent, whose powers of mind—though a thousand times inferior— were yet more manageable, and ran in channels more suited to common uses and common understandings.


[1] In Bath, he was surnamed 'the Child of Nature;'—which arose from his contrasting on every occasion the existing man of our present experience with the ideal or Stewartian man that might be expected to emerge in some myriads of ages; to which latter man he gave the name of the Child of Nature.

[2] I was not aware until the moment of writing this passage that Walking Stewart had publicly made this request three years after making it to myself: opening the 'Harp of Apollo,' I have just now accidentally stumbled on the following passage, 'This Stupendous work is destined, I fear, to meet a worse fate than the Aloe, which as soon as it blossoms loses its stalk. This first blossom of reason is threatened with the loss of both its stalk and its soil: for, if the revolutionary tyrant should triumph, he would destroy all the English books and energies of thought. I conjure my readers to translate this work into Latin, and to bury it in the ground, communicating on their death-beds only its place of concealment to men of nature.'

From the title page of this work, by the way, I learn that 'the 7000th year of Astronomical History' is taken from the Chinese tables, and coincides (as I had supposed) with the year 1812 of our computation.


It is a remarkable proof of the inaccuracy with which most men read—that Donne's Biathanatos has been supposed to countenance Suicide; and those who reverence his name have thought themselves obliged to apologize for it by urging, that it was written before he entered the church. But Donne's purpose in this treatise was a pious one: many authors had charged the martyrs of the Christian church with Suicide—on the principle that if I put myself in the way of a mad bull, knowing that he will kill me—I am as much chargeable with an act of self-destruction as if I fling myself into a river. Several casuists had extended this principle even to the case of Jesus Christ: one instance of which, in a modern author, the reader may see noticed and condemned by Kant, in his Religion innerhalb die gronzen der blossen Vernunft; and another of much earlier date (as far back as the 13th century, I think), in a commoner book—Voltaire's notes on the little treatise of Beccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene. These statements tended to one of two results: either they unsanctified the characters of those who founded and nursed the Christian church; or they sanctified suicide. By way of meeting them, Donne wrote his book: and as the whole argument of his opponents turned upon a false definition of suicide (not explicitly stated, but assumed), he endeavored to reconstitute the notion of what is essential to create an act of suicide. Simply to kill a man is not murder: prima facie, therefore, there is some sort of presumption that simply for a man to kill himself—may not always be so: there is such a thing as simple homicide distinct from murder: there may, therefore, possibly be such a thing as self-homicide distinct from self-murder. There may be a ground for such a distinction, ex analogia. But, secondly, on examination, is there any ground for such a distinction? Donne affirms that there is; and, reviewing several eminent cases of spontaneous martyrdom, he endeavors to show that acts so motived and so circumstantiated will not come within the notion of suicide properly defined. Meantime, may not this tend to the encouragement of suicide in general, and without discrimination of its species? No: Donne's arguments have no prospective reference or application; they are purely retrospective. The circumstances necessary to create an act of mere self- homicide can rarely concur, except in a state of disordered society, and during the cardinal revolutions of human history: where, however, they do concur, there it will not be suicide. In fact, this is the natural and practical judgment of us all. We do not all agree on the particular cases which will justify self-destruction: but we all feel and involuntarily acknowledge (implicitly acknowledge in our admiration, though not explicitly in our words or in our principles), that there are such cases. There is no man, who in his heart would not reverence a woman that chose to die rather than to be dishonored: and, if we do not say, that it is her duty to do so, that is because the moralist must condescend to the weakness and infirmities of human nature: mean and ignoble natures must not be taxed up to the level of noble ones. Again, with regard to the other sex, corporal punishment is its peculiar and sexual degradation; and if ever the distinction of Donne can be applied safely to any case, it will be to the case of him who chooses to die rather than to submit to that ignominy. At present, however, there is but a dim and very confined sense, even amongst enlightened men (as we may see by the debates of Parliament), of the injury which is done to human nature by giving legal sanction to such brutalizing acts; and therefore most men, in seeking to escape it, would be merely shrinking from a personal dishonor. Corporal punishment is usually argued with a single reference to the case of him who suffers it; and so argued, God knows that it is worthy of all abhorrence: but the weightiest argument against it—is the foul indignity which is offered to our common nature lodged in the person of him on whom it is inflicted. His nature is our nature: and, supposing it possible that he were so far degraded as to be unsusceptible of any influences but those which address him through the brutal part of his nature, yet for the sake of ourselves—No! not merely for ourselves, or for the human race now existing, but for the sake of human nature, which trancends all existing participators of that nature— we should remember that the evil of corporal punishment is not to be measured by the poor transitory criminal, whose memory and offence are soon to perish: these, in the sum of things, are as nothing: the injury which can be done him, and the injury which he can do, have so momentary an existence that they may be safely neglected: but the abiding injury is to the most august interest which for the mind of man can have any existence,—viz. to his own nature: to raise and dignify which, I am persuaded, is the first—last—and holiest command [1] which the conscience imposes on the philosophic moralist. In countries, where the traveller has the pain of seeing human creatures performing the labors of brutes, [2]—surely the sorrow which the spectacle moves, if a wise sorrow, will not be chiefly directed to the poor degraded individual—too deeply degraded, probably, to be sensible of his own degradation, but to the reflection that man's nature is thus exhibited in a state of miserable abasement; and, what is worst of all, abasement proceeding from man himself. Now, whenever this view of corporal punishment becomes general (as inevitably it will, under the influence of advancing civilization), I say, that Donne's principle will then become applicable to this case, and it will be the duty of a man to die rather than to suffer his own nature to be dishonored in that way. But so long as a man is not fully sensible of the dishonor, to him the dishonor, except as a personal one, does not wholly exist. In general, whenever a paramount interest of human nature is at stake, a suicide which maintains that interest is self-homicide: but, for a personal interest, it becomes self-murder. And into this principle Donne's may be resolved.

* * * * *

A doubt has been raised—whether brute animals ever commit suicide: to me it is obvious that they do not, and cannot. Some years ago, however, there was a case reported in all the newspapers of an old ram who committed suicide (as it was alleged) in the presence of many witnesses. Not having any pistols or razors, he ran for a short distance, in order to aid the impetus of his descent, and leaped over a precipice, at the foot of which he was dashed to pieces. His motive to the 'rash act,' as the papers called it, was supposed to be mere taedium vitae. But, for my part, I doubted the accuracy of the report. Not long after a case occurred in Westmoreland which strengthened my doubts. A fine young blood horse, who could have no possible reason for making away with himself, unless it were the high price of oats at that time, was found one morning dead in his field. The case was certainly a suspicious one: for he was lying by the side of a stone-wall, the upper part of which wall his skull had fractured, and which had returned the compliment by fracturing his skull. It was argued, therefore, that in default of ponds, &c. he had deliberately hammered with his head against the wall; this, at first, seemed the only solution; and he was generally pronounced felo de se. However, a day or two brought the truth to light. The field lay upon the side of a hill: and, from a mountain which rose above it, a shepherd had witnessed the whole catastrophe, and gave evidence which vindicated the character of the horse. The day had been very windy; and the young creature being in high spirits, and, caring evidently as little for the corn question as for the bullion question, had raced about in all directions; and at length, descending too steep a part of the field, had been unable to check himself, and was projected by the impetus of his own descent like a battering ram against the wall.

Of human suicides, the most affecting I have ever seen recorded is one which I met with in a German book: the most calm and deliberate is the following, which is said to have occurred at Keswick, in Cumberland: but I must acknowledge, that I never had an opportunity, whilst staying at Keswick, of verifying the statement. A young man of studious turn, who is said to have resided near Penrith, was anxious to qualify himself for entering the church, or for any other mode of life which might secure to him a reasonable portion of literary leisure. His family, however, thought that under the circumstances of his situation he would have a better chance for success in life as a tradesman; and they took the necessary steps for placing him as an apprentice at some shopkeeper's in Penrith. This he looked upon as an indignity, to which he was determined in no case to submit. And accordingly, when he had ascertained that all opposition to the choice of his friends was useless, he walked over to the mountainous district of Keswick (about sixteen miles distant)—looked about him in order to select his ground—cooly walked up Lattrig (a dependency of Skiddaw)—made a pillow of sods—laid himself down with his face looking up to the sky—and in that posture was found dead, with the appearance of having died tranquilly.


[1] On which account, I am the more struck by the ignoble argument of those statesmen who have contended in the House of Commons that such and such classes of men in this nation are not accessible to any loftier influences. Supposing that there were any truth in this assertion, which is a libel not on this nation only, but on man in general,—surely it is the duty of lawgivers not to perpetuate by their institutions the evil which they find, but to presume and gradually to create a better spirit.

[2] Of which degradation, let it never be forgotten that France but thirty years ago presented as shocking cases as any country, even where slavery is tolerated. An eye-witness to the fact, who has since published it in print, told me, that in France, before the revolution, he had repeatedly seen a woman yoked with an ass to the plough; and the brutal ploughman applying his whip indifferently to either. English people, to whom I have occasionally mentioned this as an exponent of the hollow refinement of manners in France, have uniformly exclaimed—'That is more than I can believe;' and have taken it for granted that I had my information from some prejudiced Englishman. But who was my informer? A Frenchman, reader, —M. Simond; and though now by adoption an American citizen, yet still French in his heart and in all his prejudices.


It is asserted that this is the age of Superficial Knowledge; and amongst the proofs of this assertion we find Encyclopaedias and other popular abstracts of knowledge particularly insisted on. But in this notion and its alleged proofs there is equal error—wherever there is much diffusion of knowledge, there must be a good deal of superficiality: prodigious extension implies a due proportion of weak intension; a sea-like expansion of knowledge will cover large shallows as well as large depths. But in that quarter in which it is superficially cultivated the intellect of this age is properly opposed in any just comparison to an intellect without any culture at all:—leaving the deep soils out of the comparison, the shallow ones of the present day would in any preceding one have been barren wastes. Of this our modern encyclopedias are the best proof. For whom are they designed, and by whom used?—By those who in a former age would have gone to the fountain heads? No, but by those who in any age preceding

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