The Posthumous Works of Thomas De Quincey, Vol. II (2 vols)
by Thomas De Quincey
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5
Home - Random Browse

Such are the two modes in which the names of these two eminent men have been coupled. As true patriots they are deservedly coupled: as poets their names cannot be justly connected by any stricter bond than that which connects all men of high creative genius. This distinction, as to the main grounds of affinity and difference between the two writers, was open and clear to any unprejudiced mind prepared for such investigations, and we should at any rate have pointed it out at one time or other for the sake of exposing the hollowness of those impostures which offer themselves in our days as criticisms.


To write his own language with propriety is the ambition of here and there an individual; to speak it with propriety is the ambition of multitudes. Amongst the qualifications for a public writer—the preliminary one of leisure is granted to about one man in three thousand; and, this being indispensable, there at once, for most men, mercifully dies in the very instant of birth the most uneasy and bewildering of temptations. But speak a man must. Leisure or no leisure, to talk he is obliged by the necessities of life, or at least he thinks so; though my own private belief is, that the wisest rule upon which a man could act in this world (alas! I did not myself act upon it) would be to seal up his mouth from earliest youth, to simulate the infirmity of dumbness, and to answer only by signs. This would soon put an end to the impertinence of questions, to the intolerable labour of framing and uttering replies through a whole life, and, above all (oh, foretaste of Paradise!), to the hideous affliction of sustaining these replies and undertaking for all their possible consequences. That notion of the negroes in Senegal about monkeys, viz., that they can talk if they choose, and perhaps with classical elegance, but wisely dissemble their talent under the fear that the unjust whites would else make them work in Printing Houses, for instance, as 'readers' and correctors of the press, this idea, which I dare say is true, shows how much wiser, in his generation, is a monkey than a man. For, besides the wear and tear to a man's temper by the irritation of talking, and the corrosion of one's happiness by the disputes which talking entails, it is really frightful to think of the mischief caused, if one measures it only by the fruitless expense of words. Eleven hundred days make up about three years; consequently, eleven thousand days make up thirty years. But that day must be a very sulky one, and probably raining cats and dogs, on which a man throws away so few as two thousand words, not reckoning what he loses in sleep. A hundred and twenty-five words for every one of sixteen hours cannot be thought excessive. The result, therefore, is, that, in one generation of thirty years, he wastes irretrievably upon the impertinence of answering—of wrangling, and of prosing, not less than twice eleven thousand times a thousand words; the upshot of which comes to a matter of twenty-two million words. So that, if the English language contains (as some curious people say it does) forty thousand words, he will have used it up not less than five hundred and fifty times. Poor old battered language! One really pities it. Think of any language in its old age being forced to work at that rate; kneaded, as if it were so much dough, every hour of the day into millions of fantastic shapes by millions of capricious bakers! Being old, however, and superannuated, you will say that our English language must have got used to it: as the sea, that once (according to Camoens) was indignant at having his surface scratched, and his feelings harrowed, by keels, is now wrinkled and smiling.

Blessed is the man that is dumb, when speech would have betrayed his ignorance; and the man that has neither pens nor ink nor crayons, when a record of his thought would have delivered him over to the derision of posterity. This, however, the reader will say, is to embroider a large moral upon a trivial occasion. Possibly the moral may be disproportionately large; and yet, after all, the occasion may not be so trivial as it seems. One of the many revolutions worked by the railway system is, to force men into a much ampler publicity; to throw them at a distance from home amongst strangers; and at their own homes to throw strangers amongst them. Now, exactly in such situations it is, where all other gauges of appreciation are wanting, that the two great external indications of a man's rank, viz., the quality of his manners and the quality of his pronunciation, come into play for assigning his place and rating amongst strangers. Not merely pride, but a just and reasonable self-respect, irritates a man's aspiring sensibilities in such a case: not only he is, but always he ought to be, jealous of suffering in the estimation of strangers by defects which it is in his own choice to supply, or by mistakes which a little trouble might correct. And by the way we British act in this spirit, whether we ought to do or not, it is noticed as a broad characteristic of us Islanders, viz., both of the English and the Scotch, that we are morbidly alive to jealousy under such circumstances, and in a degree to which there is nothing amongst the two leading peoples of the Continent at all corresponding.[52] A Scotchman or an Englishman of low rank is anxious on a Sunday to dress in a style which may mislead the casual observer into the belief that perhaps he is a gentleman: whereas it is notorious that the Parisian artisan or labourer of the lower class is proud of connecting himself conspicuously with his own order, and ostentatiously acknowledging it, by adopting its usual costume. It is his way of expressing an esprit de corps. The same thing is true very extensively of Germans. And it sounds pretty, and reads into a sentimental expression of cheerful contentedness, that such customs should prevail on a great scale. Meantime I am not quite sure that the worthy Parisian is not an ass, and the amiable German another, for thus meekly resigning himself to the tyranny of his accidental situation. What they call the allotment of Providence is, often enough, the allotment of their own laziness or defective energy. At any rate, I feel much more inclined to respect the aspiring Englishman or Scotchman that kicks against these self-imposed restraints; that rebels in heart against whatever there may be of degradation in his own particular employment; and, therefore, though submitting to this degradation as the sine qua non for earning his daily bread, and submitting also to the external badges and dress of his trade as frequently a matter of real convenience, yet doggedly refuses to abet or countersign any such arrangements as tend to lower him in other men's opinion. And exactly this is what he would be doing by assuming his professional costume on Sundays; the costume would then become an exponent of his choice, not of his convenience or his necessity; and he would thus be proclaiming that he glories in what he detests. To found a meek and docile nation, the German is the very architect wanted; but to found a go-ahead nation quite another race is called for, other blood and other training. And, again, when I hear a notable housewife exclaiming, 'Many are the poor servant girls that have been led into temptation and ruin by dressing above their station,' I feel that she says no more than the truth; and I grieve that it should be so. Out of tenderness, therefore, and pity towards the poor girls, if I personally had any power to bias their choice, my influence should be used in counteraction to their natural propensities. But this has nothing to do with the philosophic estimate of those propensities. Perilous they are; but that does not prevent their arising in fountains that contain elements of possible grandeur, such as would never be developed by a German Audrey (see 'As You Like It') content to be treated as a doll by her lover, and viewing it as profane to wear petticoats less voluminous, or a headdress less frightful than those inherited from her grandmother.

Excuse this digression, reader. What I wished to explain was that, if a man in a humble situation seeks to refine his pronunciation of English, and finds himself in consequence taxed with pride that will not brook the necessities of his rank, at all events, he is but integrating his manifestations of pride. Already in his Sunday's costume he has begun this manifestation, and, as I contend, rightfully. If a carpenter or a stonemason goes abroad on a railway excursion, there is no moral obligation upon him—great or small—to carry about any memento whatsoever of his calling. I contend that his right to pass himself off for a gentleman is co-extensive with his power to do so: the right is limited by the power, and by that only. The man may say justly: "What I am seeking is a holiday. This is what I pay for; and I pay for it with money earned painfully enough. I have a right therefore to expect that the article shall be genuine and complete. Now, a holiday means freedom from the pains of labour—not from some of those pains, but from all. Even from the memory of these pains, if that could be bought, and from the anticipation of their recurrence. Amongst the pains of labour, a leading one next after the necessity of unintermitting muscular effort, is the oppression of people's superciliousness or of their affected condescension in conversing with one whom they know to be a working mechanic. From this oppression it is, from this oppression whether open or poorly disguised, that I seek to be delivered. It taints my pleasure: it spoils my holiday. And if by being dressed handsomely, by courtesy in manners, and by accuracy in speaking English, I can succeed in obtaining this deliverance for myself, I have a right to it." Undoubtedly he has. His real object is not to disconnect himself from an honest calling, but from that burthen of contempt or of slight consideration which the world has affixed to his calling. He takes measures for gratifying his pride—not with a direct or primary view to that pride, but indirectly as the only means open to him for evading and defeating the unjust conventional scorn that would settle upon himself through his trade, if that should happen to become known or suspected. This is what I should be glad to assist him in; and amongst other points connected with his object, towards which my experience might furnish him with some hints, I shall here offer him the very shortest of lessons for his guidance in the matter of English pronunciation.

What can be attempted on so wide a field in a paper limited so severely in dimensions as all papers published by this journal must be limited in obedience to the transcendent law of variety? To make it possible that subjects enough should be treated, the Proprietor wisely insists on a treatment vigorously succinct for each in particular. I myself, it suddenly strikes me, must have been the chief offender against this reasonable law: but my offences were committed in pure ignorance and inattention, faults which henceforth I shall guard against with a penitential earnestness. Reformation meanwhile must begin, I fear, simultaneously with this confession of guilt. It would not be possible (would it?) that, beginning the penitence this month of November, I should postpone the amendment till the next? No, that would look too brazen. I must confine myself to the two and a half pages prescribed as the maximum extent—and of that allowance already perhaps have used up one half at the least. Shocking! is it not? So much the sterner is the demand through the remaining ground for exquisite brevity.

Rushing therefore at once in medias res, I observe to the reader that, although it is thoroughly impossible to give him a guide upon so vast a wilderness as the total area of our English language, for, if I must teach him how to pronounce, and upon what learned grounds to pronounce, 40,000 words, and if polemically I must teach him how to dispose of 40,000 objections that have been raised (or that may be raised) against these pronunciations, then I should require at the least 40,000 lives (which is quite out of the question, for a cat has but nine)—seeing and allowing for all this, I may yet offer him some guidance as to his guide. One sole rule, if he will attend to it, governs in a paramount sense the total possibilities and compass of pronunciation. A very famous line of Horace states it. What line? What is the supreme law in every language for correct pronunciation no less than for idiomatic propriety?

'Usus, quem penes arbitrium est et jus et norma loquendi:'

usage, the established practice, subject to which is all law and normal standard of correct speaking. Now, in what way does such a rule interfere with the ordinary prejudice on this subject? The popular error is that, in pronunciation, as in other things, there is an abstract right and a wrong. The difficulty, it is supposed, lies in ascertaining this right and wrong. But by collation of arguments, by learned investigation, and interchange of pros and cons, it is fancied that ultimately the exact truth of each separate case might be extracted. Now, in that preconception lies the capital blunder incident to the question. There is no right, there is no wrong, except what the prevailing usage creates. The usage, the existing custom, that is the law: and from that law there is no appeal whatever, nor demur that is sustainable for a moment.


[52] Amongst the Spaniards there is.


Now, observe what I am going to prove. First A, and as a stepping-stone to something (B) which is to follow: It is, that the Jewish Scriptures could not have been composed in any modern aera. I am earnest in drawing your attention to the particular point which I have before me, because one of the enormous faults pervading all argumentative books, so that rarely indeed do you find an exception, is that, in all the dust and cloud of contest and of objects, the reader never knows what is the immediate object before the writer and himself, nor if he were told would he understand in what relation it stood to the main object of contest—the main question at stake. Recollect, therefore, that what I want is to show that these elder Jewish Scriptures must have existed in very ancient days—how ancient? for ancient is an ambiguous word—could not have been written as a memorial of tradition within a century or two of our aera. To suppose, even for the sake of answering, the case of a forgery, is too gross and shocking: though a very common practice amongst writers miscalled religious, but in fact radically, incurably unspiritual. This might be shown to be abominable even in an intellectual sense; because no adequate, no rational purpose could be answered by such a labour. The sole conceivable case would be, that from the eldest days the Jews had been governed by all the Mosaic institutions as we now have them, but that the mere copying, the mere registration on tablets of parchment, wood, leather, brass, had not occurred till some more modern period. As to this the answer is at once: Why should they not have been written down? What answer could be given? Only this: For the same reason that other nations did not commit to writing their elder institutions. And why did they not? Was it to save trouble? So far from that, this one privation imposed infinite trouble that would have been evaded by written copies. For because they did not write down, therefore, as the sole mode of providing for accurate remembrance, they were obliged to compose in a very elaborate metre; in which the mere pattern as it were of the verse, so intricate and so closely interlocked, always performed thus two services: first, it assisted the memory in mastering the tenor; but, secondly, it checked and counterpleaded to the lapses of memory or to the artifices of fraud. This explanation is well illustrated in the 'Iliad'—a poem elder by a century, it is rightly argued, than the 'Odyssey,' ergo the eldest of Pagan literature. Now, when the 'Iliad' had once come down safe to Pisistratus 555 years B.C., imagine this great man holding out his hands over the gulf of time to Homer, 1,000 years before, who is chucking or shying his poems across the gulf. Once landed in those conservative hands, never trouble yourself more about the safety of the 'Iliad.' After that it was as safe as the eyes in any Athenian's head. But before that time there was a great danger; and this danger was at all surmounted (scholars differ greatly and have sometimes cudgelled one another with real unfigurative cudgels as to the degree in which it did surmount the danger) only by the metre and a regular orchestra in every great city dedicated to this peculiar service of chanting the 'Iliad'; insomuch that a special costume was assigned to the chanters of the 'Iliad,' viz., scarlet or crimson, and also another special costume to the chanters of the 'Odyssey,' viz., violet-coloured. Now, this division of orchestras had one great evil and one great benefit. The benefit was, that if locally one orchestra went wrong (as it might do upon local temptations) yet surely all the orchestras would not go wrong: ninety-nine out of every hundred would check and expose the fraudulent hundredth. There was the good. But the evil was concurrent. For by this dispersion of orchestras, and this multiplication, not only were the ordinary chances of error according to the doctrine of chances multiplied a hundred or a thousand fold, but also, which was worse, each separate orchestra was brought by local position under a separate and peculiar action of some temptation, some horrible temptation, some bribe that could not be withstood, for falsifying the copy by compliments to local families; that is, to such as were or such as were not descendants from the Paladius of Troy. For that, let me say, was for Greece, nay, for all the Mediterranean world, what for us of Christian ages have been the Crusades. It was the pinnacle from which hung as a dependency all the eldest of families. So that they who were of such families thirsted after what they held aright to be asserted, viz., a Homeric commemoration; and they who were not thirsted after what had begun to seem a feasible ambition to be accomplished. It was feasible: for various attempts are still on record very much like our interpolations of Church books as to records of birth or marriage. Athens, for instance, was discontented with Homer's praise; and the case is interesting, because, though it argues such an attempt to be very difficult, since even a great city could not fully succeed, yet, at the same time, it argues that it was not quite hopeless, or else it would hardly have been attempted. So that here arises one argument for the main genuineness of the Homeric text. Yet you will say: Perhaps when Athens tried the trick it was too late in the day: it was too late after full daylight to be essaying burglaries. But it would have been easy in elder days. This is true; but remark the restraint which that very state of the case supposes. Precisely when this difficulty became great, became enormous, did the desire chiefly become great, become enormous, for mastering it. And when the difficulty was light, when the forgery was most a matter of ease, the ambition was least. For you cannot suppose that families standing near to the Crusades would have cared much for the reputation. As an act of piety they would prize it; as an exponent of antiquity they would not prize it at all. For, in fact, it would argue no such thing, until many centuries had passed. You see, however, by this sketch the pros and the cons respecting the difficulty of transmitting the 'Iliad' free from corruption, if at once it was resigned to mere oral tradition. The alterations were more and more tempting; but in that ratio were less and less possible. And then, secondly, there were the changes from chance or from changing language. Apply all these considerations to the case of the Hebrew Scriptures, and their great antiquity is demonstrated.


Look into the Acts of the Apostles, you see the wide dispersion of the Jews which had then been accomplished; a dispersion long antecedent to that penal dispersion which occurred subsequently to the Christian era. But search the pages of the wicked Jew, Josephus,[53] who notices expressly this universal dispersion of the Jews, and gives up and down his works the means of tracing them through every country in the southern belt of the Mediterranean, through every country of the northern belt, through every country of the connecting belt, in Asia Minor and Syria—through every island of the Mediterranean. Search Philo-Judaeus, the same result is found. But why? Upon what theory? What great purpose is working, is fermenting underneath? What principle, what law can be abstracted from this antagonist or centrifugal motion outwards now violently beating back as with a conflict of tides the original centripetal motion inwards? Manifestly this: the incubating process had been completed: the ideas of God as an ideal of Holiness, the idea of Sin as the antagonist force—had been perfected; they were now so inextricably worked into the texture of Jewish minds, or the Jewish minds were now arrived at their maximum of adhesiveness, or at their minimum of repulsiveness, in manners and social character, that this stage was perfect; and now came the five hundred years during which they were to manure all nations with these preparations for Christianity. Hence it was that the great globe of Hebraism was now shivered into fragments; projected 'by one sling of that victorious arm'—which had brought them up from Egypt. Make ready for Christianity! Lay the structure, in which everywhere Christianity will strike root. You, that for yourselves even will reject, will persecute Christianity, become the pioneers, the bridge-layers, the reception-preparers, by means of those two inconceivable ideas, for natural man—sin and its antagonist, holiness.

In this way a preparation was made. But if Christianity was to benefit by it, if Christianity was to move with ease, she must have a language. Accordingly, from the time of Alexander, the strong he-goat, you see a tendency—sudden, abrupt, beyond all example, swift, perfect—for uniting all nations by the bond of a single language. You see kings and nations taking up their positions as regularly, faithfully, solemnly as a great fleet on going into action, for supporting this chain of language.

Yet even that will be insufficient; for fluent motion out of nation into nation it will be requisite that all nations should be provinces of one supreme people; so that no hindrances from adverse laws, or from jealousies of enmity, can possibly impede the fluent passage of the apostle and the apostle's delegates—inasmuch as the laws are swallowed up into one single code, and enmity disappears with its consequent jealousies, where all nationalities are absorbed into unity.

This last change being made, a signal, it may be supposed, was given as with a trumpet; now then, move forward, Christianity; the ground is ready, the obstacles are withdrawn. Enter upon the field which is manured; try the roads which are cleared; use the language which is prepared; benefit by the laws which protect and favour your motion; apply the germinating principles which are beginning to swell in this great vernal season of Christianity. New heavens and new earth are forming: do you promote it.

Such a complexus of favourable tendencies, such a meeting in one centre of plans—commencing in far different climates and far different centres, all coming up at the same aera face to face, and by direct lines of connection meeting in one centre—the world had never seen before.


[53] 'The wicked Jew,' Josephus, as once I endeavoured to show, was perhaps the worst man in all antiquity; it is pleasant to be foremost upon any path, and Joe might assuredly congratulate himself on surmounting and cresting all the scoundrels since the flood. What there might be on the other side the flood, none of us can say. But on this side, amongst the Cis-diluvians, Joe in a contest for the deanery of that venerable chapter, would assuredly carry off the prize. Wordsworth, on a question arising as to who might be the worst man in English history, vehemently contended for the pre-eminent pretensions of Monk. And when some of us assigned him only the fifth or sixth place, was disposed to mourn for him as an ill-used man. But no difficulty of this kind could arise with regard to the place of Josephus among the ancients, full knowledge and impartial judgment being presupposed. And his works do follow him; just look at this: From the ridiculous attempt of some imbecile Christian to interpolate in Josephus's History a passage favourable to Christ, it is clear that no adequate idea prevailed of his intense hatred to the new sect of Nazarenes and Galilaeans. In our own days we have a lively illustration of the use which may be extracted from the Essenes by sceptics, and an indirect confirmation of my own allegation, against them, in Dr. Strauss (Leben Jesu). The moment that his attention was directed to that fact of the Essenes being utterly ignored in the New Testament (a fact so easily explained by my theory, a fact so utterly unaccountable to his) he conceived an affection for them. Had they been mentioned by St. John, there was an end to the dislike; but Josephus had, even with this modern sceptical Biblical critic, done his work and done it well.


If you are one that upon meditative grounds have come sincerely to perceive the philosophic value of this faith; if you have become sensible that as yet Christianity is but in its infant stages—after eighteen centuries is but beginning to unfold its adaptations to the long series of human situations, slowly unfolding as time and change move onwards; and that these self-adapting relations of the religion to human necessities, this conformity to unforeseen developments, argues a Leibnitzian pre-establishment of this great system as though it had from the first been a mysterious substratum laid under 'the dark foundations' of human nature; holding or admitting such views of the progress awaiting Christianity—you will thank us for what we are going to say. You may, possibly for yourself, when reviewing the past history of man, have chanced to perceive the same—we are not jealous of participation in a field so ample—but even in such a case, if the remark (on which we are now going to throw a ray of light) should appeal to you in particular, with less of absolute novelty, not the less you will feel thankful to be confirmed in your views by independent testimony. We, for ourselves, offer the remark as new; but, in an age teeming with so much agility of thought, it is rare that any remark can have absolutely evaded all partial glimpses or stray notices of others, even when aliud agentes, men stumble upon truths, to which they are not entitled by any meritorious or direct studies. However, whether absolutely original or not, the remark is this—Did it ever strike you, reader, as a most memorable phenomenon about Christianity, as one of those contradictory functions which, to a thing of human mechanism, is impossible, but which are found in vital agencies and in all deep-laid systems of truth—that the same scheme of belief which is the most settling, freezing, tranquillizing for one purpose, is the most unbinding, agitating, revolutionary in another? Christianity is that religion which most of all settles what is perilous in scepticism; and yet, also, it is that which most of all unsettles whatever may invite man's intellectual activity. It is the sole religion which can give any deep anchorage for man's hopes; and yet, also, in mysterious self-antagonism, it is the sole religion which opens a pathless ocean to man's useful and blameless speculations. Whilst all false religions neither as a matter of fact have produced—nor as a matter of possibility could have produced—a philosophy, it is a most significant distinction of Christianity, and one upon which volumes might be written, that simply by means of the great truths which that faith has fixed when brought afterwards into collision with the innumerable questions which that faith has left undetermined (as not essential to her own final purposes), Christianity has bred, and tempted, and stimulated a vast body of philosophy on neutral ground; ground religious enough to create an interest in the questions, yet not so religious as to react upon capital truths by any errors that may be committed in the discussion. For instance, on that one sea-like question of free agency, besides the explicit philosophy that Christianity has bred amongst the Schoolmen, and since their time, what a number of sects, heresies, orthodox churches have implicitly couched and diffused some one view or other of this question amongst their characteristic differences; and without prejudice to the integrity of their Christian views or the purity of their Christian morals. Whilst, on the other hand, the very noblest of false religions (the noblest as having stolen much from Christianity), viz., Islamism, has foreclosed all philosophy on this subject by the stupid and killing doctrine of fatalism. This we give as one instance; but in all the rest it is the same. You might fancy that from a false religion should arise a false philosophy—false, but still a philosophy. Is it so? On the contrary: the result of false religion is no philosophy at all.

Paganism produced none: the Pagans had a philosophy; but it stood in no sort of relation, real or fancied relation, to their mythology or worship. And the Mahometans, in times when they had universities and professors' chairs, drew the whole of their philosophic systems from Greece, without so much as ever attempting to connect these systems with their own religious creed. But Christianity, on the other hand, the only great doctrinal religion, the only religion which ties up—chains—and imprisons human faith, where it is good for man's peace that he should be fettered, is also the only religion which places him in perfect liberty on that vast neutral arena where it is good for him to exercise his unlimited energies of mind. And it is most remarkable, that whilst Christianity so far shoots her rays into these neutral questions as to invest them with grandeur, she keeps herself uncommitted and unpledged to such philosophic problems in any point where they might ally themselves with error. For instance, St. Austin's, or Calvin's doctrine on free agency is so far Christian, that Christian churches have adopted it into their articles of faith, or have even built upon it as a foundation. So far it seems connected with Christian truth. Yet, again, it is so far separate from Christian truth, that no man dares to pronounce his brother heretical for doubting or denying it. And thus Christianity has ministered, even in this side-chapel of its great temple, to two great necessities: it has thrown out a permanent temptation to human activity of intellect, by connecting itself with tertiary questions growing out of itself derivatively and yet indifferent to the main interests of truth. In this way Christianity has ministered to a necessity which was not religious, but simply human, through a religious radiation in a descending line. Secondly, it has kept alive and ventilated through every age the direct religious interest in its own primary truths, by throwing out secondary truths, that were doubtfully related to the first, for polemical agitation. Foolish are they who talk of our Christian disputes as arguments of an unsound state, or as silent reproaches to the sanity or perfect development of our religion. Mahometans are united, because the only points that could disunite them relate generally to fact and not to doctrinal truths. Their very national heresies turn only on a ridiculous piece of gossip—Was such a man's son-in-law his legitimate successor? Upon a point so puerile as this revolves the entire difference between the heterodoxy of Persia and the orthodoxy of Turkey. Or, if their differences go deeper, in that case they tend to the utter extinction of Islamism; they maintain no characteristic or exclusive dogma; as amongst the modern Sikhs of Hindostan, who have blended the Brahminical and Mahometan creeds by an incoherent syncretismus; or, as amongst many heretics of Persia and Arabia, who are mere crazy freethinkers, without any religious determination, without any principle of libration for the oscillating mind. Whereas our differences, leaving generally all central truths untouched, arise like our political parties, and operate like them; they grow out of our sincerity, and they sustain our sincerity. That interest must be unaffected which leads men into disputes and permanent factions, and that truth must be diffusive as life itself, which is found to underlay a vast body of philosophy. It is the cold petrific annihilation of a moral interest in the subject, by substituting a meagre interest of historical facts, which stifles all differences; stifles political differences under a despotism, from utter despair of winning practical value to men's opinions; stifles religious differences under a childish creed of facts or anecdotes, from the impossibility of bringing to bear upon the [Greek: to] positive of an arbitrary legend, or the mere conventional of a clan history—dead, inert letters—any moral views this way or that, and any life of philosophical speculation. Thence comes the soul-killing monotony (unity one cannot call it) of all false religions. Attached to mere formal facts, they provoke no hostility in the inner nature. Affirming nothing as regards the life of truth, why should they tempt any man to contradict? Lying, indeed, but lying only as a false pedigree lies, or an old mythological legend, they interest no principle in man's moral heart; they make no oracular answers, put forth no secret agitation, they provoke no question. But Christianity, merely by her settlements and fixing of truths, has disengaged and unfixed a world of other truths, for sustaining or for tempting an endless activity of the intellect. And the astonishing result has thus been accomplished—that round a centre, fixed and motionless as a polar tablet of ice, there has been in the remote offing a tumbling sea of everlasting agitation. A central gravitation in the power of Christianity has drawn to one point and converged into one tendency all capital agencies in all degrees of remoteness, making them tend to rest and unity; whilst, again, by an antagonist action, one vast centrifugal force, measured against the other, has so modified the result as to compel the intellect of man into divergencies answering to the line of convergence; balancing the central rest for man's hopes by everlasting motion for his intellect, and the central unity for man's conscience by everlasting progress for his efforts.

Now, the Scholastic philosophy meddled chiefly with those tertiary or sub-dependent truths; such, viz., as are indifferent to Christianity by any reaction which they can exert from error in their treatment, but not indifferent as regards their own original derivation. Many people connect Scholasticism with a notion of error and even of falsehood, because they suppose it to have arisen on the incitement of Popery. And it is undeniable that Popery impressed a bias or clinamen upon its movement. It is true also that Scholasticism is not only ministerial to Popery, but in parts is consubstantial with Popery. Popery is not fully fleshed and developed apart from the commentaries or polemical apologies of Aquinas. But still we must remember that Popery had not yet taken up the formal position of hostility to truth, seeing that as yet Protestantism was only beginning its first infant struggles. Many Popish errors were hardened and confirmed in the very furnace of the strife. And though perilous errors had intermingled themselves with Popery, which would eventually have strangled all the Christian truth which it involved, yet that truth it was which gave its whole interest to the Reformation. Had the Reformation fought against mere unmixed error, it could not have been viewed as a reforming process, but as one entirely innovating. So that even where it is most exclusively Popish, Scholasticism has often a golden thread of truth running through its texture; often it is not Popish in the sense of being Anti-Protestant, but in the elder sense of being Anti-Pagan. However, generally speaking, it is upon the neutral ground common to all modes of Christianity that this philosophy ranges. That being so, there was truth enough of a high order to sustain the sublimer motives of the Schoolmen; whilst the consciousness of supporting the mixed interests, secular and spiritual, of that mighty Christian church which at that time was co-extensive with Christianity in the West, gave to the Schoolmen a more instant, human, and impassioned interest in the labours of that mysterious loom which pursued its aerial web through three centuries.

As a consequence from all this, we affirm that the parallel is complete between the situation on the one side of the early Greek authors, the creators of Greek literature in the age of Pericles, and, on the other side, of the Christian Schoolmen; (1) the same intense indolence, which Helvetius fancied to be the most powerful stimulant to the mind under the reaction of ennui; (2) the same tantalizing dearth of books—just enough to raise a craving, too little to meet it; (3) the same chilling monotony of daily life and absence of female charities to mould social intercourse—for the Greeks from false composition of society and vicious sequestration of women—for the scholastic monks from the austere asceticism of their founders and the 'rule' of their order; (4) finally the same (but far different) enthusiasm and permanent elevation of thought from disinterested participation in forwarding a great movement of the times—for the one side tending to the unlimited aggrandisement of their own brilliant country; for the other, commensurate with what is conceivable in human grandeur.

This sketch of Christianity as it is mysteriously related to the total body of Philosophy actual or possible, present or in reversion, may seem inadequate. In some sense it is so. But call it a note or 'excursus,' which is the scholarlike name for notes a little longer than usual, and all will be made right. What we have in view, is to explain the situation of the Greeks under Pericles by that of the Schoolmen. We use the modern or Christian case, which is more striking from its monastic peculiarity, as a reflex picture of the other. We rely on the moulding circumstances of Scholasticism, its awakened intellect, its famishing eagerness from defect of books, its gloom from the exile of all feminine graces, and its towering participation in an interest the grandest of the age, as a sort of camera obscura for bringing down on the table before us a portraiture essentially the same of early Greek society in the rapturous spring-time of Pericles.

If the governing circumstances were the same in virtue, then probably there would be a virtual sameness in some of the results: and amongst these results would be the prevailing cast of thinking, and therefore to some extent the prevailing features of style. It may seem strange to affirm any affinities between the arid forms of Scholastic style and the free movement of the early Grecian style. They seem rather to be repelling extremes. But extremes meet more often than is supposed. And there really are some remarkable features of conformity even as to this point between the tendencies of Christian monachism and the unsocial sociality of Paganism. However, it is not with this view that we have pressed the parallel. Not by way of showing a general affinity in virtues and latent powers, and thence deducing a probable affinity in results, but generally for the sake of fixing and illustrating circumstances which made it physically impossible that the movement could have been translated by contagion from one country to the others. Roads were too bad, cities too difficult of access, travellers too rare, books too incapable of transmission, for any solution which should explain the chain of coincidences into a chain of natural causations. No; the solution was, that Christianity had everywhere gone ahead spontaneously with the same crying necessities for purification, that is, for progress. One deep, from North to South, called to another; but the deeps all alike, each separately for itself, were ready with their voices, ready without collusion to hear and to reverberate the cry to God. The light, which abides and lodges in Christianity, had everywhere, by measured steps and by unborrowed strength, kindled into mortal antagonism with the darkness which had gathered over Christianity from human corruptions. But in science this result is even more conspicuous. Not only by their powers and energies the parallel currents of science in different lands enter into emulations that secure a general uniformity of progress, run neck and neck against each other, so as to arrive at any killing rasper of a difficulty pretty nearly about the same time; not only do they thus make it probable that coincidences of victory will continually occur through the rivalships of power; but also through the rivalships of weakness. Most naturally for the same reason that they worshipped in spirit and in truth, for the same reason that led them to value such a worship, they valued its distant fountain-head. Hence their interest in the Messiah. Hence their delegation.


The Romans, so far from looking with the Jews to the Tigris, looked to the Jews themselves. Or at least they looked to that whole Syria, of which the Jews were a section. Consequently, there is a solution of two points:

1. The wise men of the East were delegates from the trans-Tigridian people.

2. The great man who should arise from the East to govern the world was, in the sense of that prophecy, i.e., in the terms of that prophecy interpreted according to the sense of all who circulated and partook in—or were parties to—the belief of that prophecy, was to come from Syria: i.e., from Judea.

Now take it either way, observe the sublimity and the portentous significance of this expectation. Every man of imaginative feeling has been struck with that secret whisper that stirred through France in 1814-15—that a man was to come with the violets. The violets were symbolically Napoleonic, as being the colour of his livery: it was also his cognizance: and the time for his return was March, from which commence the ever memorable Hundred days. And the sublimity lies in the circumstances of:

1. A whisper running through Christendom: people in remotest quarters bound together by a tie so aerial.

2. Of the dread augury enveloped in this little humble but beautiful flower.

3. Of the awful revolution at hand: the great earthquake that was mining and quarrying in the dark chambers beneath the thrones of Europe.

These and other circumstances throw a memorable sublimity upon this whisper of conspiracy. But what was this to the awful whisper that circled round the earth ([Greek: he oikoumene]) as to the being that was coming from Judea? There was no precedent, no antagonist whisper with which it could enter into any terms of comparison, unless there had by possibility been heard that mysterious and ineffable sigh which Milton ascribes to the planet when man accomplished his mysterious rebellion. The idea of such a sigh, of a whisper circling through the planet, of the light growing thick with the unimaginable charge, and the purple eclipse of Death throwing a penumbra; that may, but nothing else ever can, equal the unutterable sublimity of that buzz—that rumour, that susurrus passing from mouth to mouth—nobody knew whence coming or whither tending, and about a being of whom nobody could tell what he should be—what he should resemble—what he should do, but that all peoples and languages should have an interest in his appearance.

Now, on the one hand, suppose this—I mean, suppose the Roman whisper to be an authorized rumour utterly without root; in that case you would have a clear intervention of Heaven. But, on the other hand, suppose, which is to me the more probable idea, that it was not without a root; that in fact it was the Judaean conception of a Messiah, translated into Roman and worldly ideas; into ideas which a Roman could understand, or with which the world could sympathize, viz., that rerum potiretur. (The plural here indicates only the awful nature, its indeterminateness.)

I have, in fact, little doubt that it was a Romanized appropriation or translation of the Judaean Messiah. One thing only I must warn you against. You will naturally say: 'Since two writers among the very few surviving have both refuted this prophecy, and Josephus besides, this implies that many thousands did so. For if out of a bundle of newspapers two only had survived quite disconnected, both talking of the same man, we should argue a great popularity for that man.' And you will say: 'All these Roman people, did they interpret?' You know already—by Vespasian. Now whilst, on the one hand, I am far from believing that chance only was the parent of the ancient [Greek: eustochia], their felicitous guessing (for it was a higher science), yet, in this new matter, what coincidence of Pagan prophecy, as doubtless a horrid mistrust in the oracles, etc., made them 'sagacious from a fear' of the coming peril, and, as often happens in Jewish prophecies—God when He puts forth His hand the purposes attained roll one under the other sometimes three deep even to our eyes.


Life, naturally the antagonism of Death, must have reacted upon Life according to its own development. Christianity having so awfully affected the [Greek: to] + of Death, this + must have reacted on Life. Hence, therefore, a phenomenon existing broadly to the human sensibility in these ages which for the Pagans had no existence whatever. If to a modern spectator a very splendid specimen of animal power, suppose a horse of three or four years old in the fulness of his energies, that saith ha to the trumpets and is unable to stand loco if he hears any exciting music, be brought for exhibition—not one of the spectators, however dull, but has a dim feeling of excitement added to his admiration from the lurking antagonism of the fugacious life attached to this ebullient power, and the awful repulsion between that final tendency and the meridian development of the strength. Hence, therefore, the secret rapture in bringing forward tropical life—the shooting of enormous power from darkness, the kindling in the midst of winter and sterility of irrepressible, simultaneous, tropical vegetation—the victorious surmounting of foliage, blossoms, flowers, fruits—burying and concealing the dreary vestiges of desolation.

Reply to the fact that Xerxes wept over his forces, by showing that in kind, like the Jewish, the less ignoble superstition of Persia—which must in the time of Balaam, if we suppose the Mesotam meant to have been the tract between the Euphrates and the Tigris, have been almost coincident with the Jewish as to the unity of God—had always, amidst barbarism arising from the forces moulding social sentiment, prompted a chivalry and sensibility far above Grecian. For how else account for the sole traits of Christian sensibility in regard to women coming forward in the beautiful tale of the Armenian prince, whose wife when asked for her opinion of Cyrus the Conqueror, who promised to restore them all to liberty and favour (an act, by the way, in itself impossible to Greek feelings, which exhibit no one case of relinquishing such rights over captives) in one hour, replied that she knew not, had not remarked his person; for that her attention had been all gathered upon that prince, meaning her youthful husband, who being asked by the Persian king what sacrifice he would esteem commensurate to the recovery of his bride, answered so fervently, that life and all which it contained were too slight a ransom to pay. Even that answer was wholly impossible to a Grecian. And again the beautiful catastrophe in the tale of Abradates and Panthea—the gratitude with which both husband and wife received the royal gift of restoration to each other's arms, implying a sort of holy love inconceivable to a state of Polygamy—the consequent reaction of their thought in testifying this gratitude; and as war unhappily offered the sole chance for displaying it, the energy of Panthea in adorning with her own needle the habiliments of her husband—the issuing forth and parting on the morning of battle—the principle of upright duty and of immeasurable gratitude in Abradates forming 'a nobler counsellor' than his wife's 'poor heart'—his prowess—his glorious death—his bringing home as a corpse—the desolation of Panthea—the visit and tears of the Persian king to the sorrowing widow stretched upon the ground by the corpse of her hero—the fine incident of the right hand, by which Cyrus had endeavoured to renew his pledges of friendship with the deceased prince, coming away from the corpse and following the royal touch (this hand having been struck off in the battle)—the burial—and the subsequent death of Panthea, who refused to be comforted under all the kind assurances, the kindest protection from the Persian king—these traits, though surviving in Greek, are undoubtedly Persian. For Xenophon had less sensibility than any Greek author that survives. And besides, abstracting from the writer, how is it that Greek records offer no such story; nothing like it; no love between married people of that chivalric order—no conjugal fidelity—no capacity of that beautiful reply—that she saw him not, for that her mind had no leisure for any other thought than one?



In London and other great capitals it is well known that new diseases have manifested themselves of late years: and more would be known about them, were it not for the tremulous delicacy which waits on the afflictions of the rich. We do not say this invidiously. It is right that such forbearance should exist. Medical men, as a body, are as manly a race as any amongst us, and as little prone to servility. But obviously the case of exposure under circumstances of humiliating affliction is a very different thing for the man whose rank and consideration place him upon a hill conspicuous to a whole city or nation, and for the unknown labourer whose name excites no feeling whatever in the reader of his case. Meantime it is precisely amongst the higher classes, privileged so justly from an exposure pressing so unequally upon their rank, that these new forms of malady emerge. Any man who visits London at intervals long enough to make the spectacle of that great vision impressive to him from novelty and the force of contrast, more especially if this contrast is deepened by a general residence in some quiet rural seclusion, will not fail to be struck by the fever and tumult of London as its primary features. Struck is not the word: awed is the only adequate expression as applied to the hurry, the uproar, the strife, the agony of life as it boils along some of the main arteries among the London streets. About the hour of equinoctial sunset comes a periodic respite in the shape of dinner. Were it not for that, were it not for the wine and the lustre of lights, and the gentle restraints of courtesies, and the soothing of conversation, through which a daily reaction is obtained, London would perish from excitement in a year. The effect upon one who like ourselves simply beholds the vast frenzy attests its power. The mere sympathy, into which the nerves are forced by the eye, expounds the fury with which it must act upon those who are acting and suffering participators in the mania. Rome suffered in the same way, but in a less degree: and the same relief was wooed daily in a brilliant dinner (caena), but two and a half hours earlier.

The same state of things exists proportionately in other capitals—Edinburgh, Dublin, Naples, Vienna. And doubtless, if the curtain were raised, the same penalties would be traced as pursuing this agitated life; the penalties, we mean, that exist in varied shapes of nervous disease.


Mr. Bennett personally is that good man who interests us the more because he seems to be an ill-used one. By the way, here is a combination which escaped the Roman moralist: Vir bonus, says he, mala fortuna compositus, is a spectacle for the gods. Yet what is that case, the case of a man matched in duel with the enmity of a malicious fellow-creature—naturally his inferior, but officially having means to oppress him? No man is naturally or easily roused to anger by a blind abstraction like Fortune; and therefore he is under no temptation to lose his self-command. He sustains no trial that can make him worthy of a divine contemplation. Amongst all the extravagancies of human nature, never yet did we hear of a person who harboured a sentiment of private malice against Time for moving too rapidly, or against Space for being infinitely divisible. Even animated annoyers, if they are without spite towards ourselves, we regard with no enmity. No man in all history, if we except the twelfth Caesar, has nourished a deadly feud against flies[54]: and if Mrs. Jameson allowed a sentiment of revenge to nestle in her heart towards the Canadian mosquitoes, it was the race and not the individual parties to the trespass on herself against whom she protested. Passions it is, human passions, intermingling with the wrong itself that envenom the sense of wrong. We have ourselves been caned severely in passing through a wood by the rebound, the recalcitration we may call it, of elastic branches which we had displaced. And passing through the same wood with a Whitehaven dandy of sixty, now in Hades, who happened to wear a beautiful wig from which on account of the heat he had removed his hat, we saw with these eyes of ours one of those same thickets which heretofore had been concerned in our own caning, deliberately lift up, suspend, and keep dangling in the air for the contempt of the public that auburn wig which was presumed by its wearer to be simular of native curls. The ugliness of that death's head which by this means was suddenly exposed to daylight, the hideousness of that grinning skull so abruptly revealed, may be imagined by poets. Neither was the affair easily redressed: the wig swung buoyantly in the playful breezes: to catch it was hard, to release it without injuring the tresses was a matter of nicety: ladies were heard approaching from Rydal Mount: the dandy was agitated: he felt himself, if seen in this condition, to be a mere memento mori: for the first time in his life, as we believe, he blushed on meeting our eye: he muttered something, in which we could only catch the word 'Absalom': and finally we extricated ourselves from the cursed thicket barely in time to meet the ladies. Here were insufferable affronts: greater cannot be imagined: wanton outrages on two inoffensive men: and for ourselves, who could have identified and sworn to one of the bushes as an accomplice in both assaults, it was not easy altogether to dismiss the idea of malice. Yet, because this malice did not organize and concentrate itself in an eye looking on and genially enjoying our several mortifications, we both pocketed the affronts. All this we say to show Mr. Bennett how fully we do justice to his situation, and allow for the irritation natural to such cases as his, where the loss is clothed with contumely, and the wrong is barbed by malice. But, for all that, we do not think such confidential communications of ill-usage properly made to the public.

In fact, this querulous temper of expostulation, running through the book, disfigures its literary aspect. And possibly for our own comfort we might have turned away from a feature of discontent so gloomy and painful, were it not that we are thus accidentally recalled to a grievance in our Eastern administrations upon which we desire to enter a remark. Life is languid, the blood becomes lazy, at the extremities of our bodily system, as we ourselves know by dolorous experience under the complaint of purpura; and analogously we find the utility of our supreme government to droop and languish before it reaches the Indian world. Hence partly it is (for nearer home we see nothing of the kind), that foreign adventurers receive far too much encouragement from our British Satraps in the East. To find themselves within 'the regions of the morn,' and cheek to cheek with famous Sultans far inferior in power and substantial splendour, makes our great governors naturally proud. They are transfigured by necessity; and, losing none of their justice or integrity, they lose a good deal of their civic humility. In such a state they become capable of flattery, apt for the stratagems of foreign adulation. We know not certainly that Mr. Bennett's injuries originated in that source; though we suspect as much from the significant stories which he tells of interloping foreigners on the pension list in Ceylon. But this we do know, that, from impulses easily deciphered, foreigners creep into favour where an Englishman would not; and why? For two reasons: 1st, because a foreigner must be what is meant by 'an adventurer,' and in his necessity he is allowed to find his excuse; 2ndly, because an Englishman, attempting to play the adulatory character, finds an obstacle to his success in the standard of his own national manners from which it requires a perpetual effort to wean himself: whereas the oily and fluent obsequiousness found amongst Italians and Frenchmen makes the transition to a perfect Phrygian servility not only more easy to the artist, and less extravagantly palpable, but more agreeable in the result to his employer. This cannot be denied, and therefore needs no comment. But, as to the other reason, viz., that a foreigner must be an adventurer, allow us to explain. Every man is an adventurer, every man is in sensu strictissimo sometimes a knave.

You might imagine the situation of an adventurer who had figured virtually in many lives, to resemble that of the late revered Mr. Prig Bentham, when sitting like a contrite spider at the centre of his 'panopticon'; all the lines, which meet in a point at his seat, radiate outwards into chambers still widening as they increase their distance. This may be an image of an adventurer's mind when open to compunction, but generally it is exactly reversed; he sees the past sections of his life, however spacious heretofore, crowding up and narrowing into vanishing points to his immediate eye. And such also they become for the public. The villain, who walks, like AEneas at Carthage, shrouded in mist, is as little pursued by any bad report for his forgotten misdeeds as he is usually by remorse. In the process of losing their relation to any known and visible person, acts of fraud, robbery, murder, lose all distinct place in the memory. Such acts are remembered only through persons. And hence it is that many interesting murders, worthy to become cabinet gems in a museum of such works, have wasted their sweetness on the desert air even in our time, for no other reason than that the parties concerned did not amplify their proportions upon the public eye; the sufferers were perhaps themselves knaves; and the doers had retreated from all public knowledge into the mighty crowds of London or Glasgow.

This excursus, on the case of adventurers who run away from their own crimes into the pathless wildernesses of vast cities, may appear disproportionate. But excuse it, reader, for the subject is interesting; and with relation to our Eastern empire it is peculiarly so. Many are the anecdotes we could tell, derived from Oriental connections, about foreign scamps who have first exposed the cloven foot when inextricably connected with political intrigues or commercial interests, or possibly with domestic and confidential secrets. The dangerousness of their characters first began to reveal itself after they had become dangerous by their present position.

Mr. Bennett mentions one lively illustration of this in the case of a foreigner, who had come immediately from the Cape of Good Hope; so far, but not farther, he could be traced. And what part had he played at the Cape? The illustrious one of private sentinel, with a distant prospect perhaps of rising to be a drum-major. This man—possibly a refugee from the bagnio at Marseilles, or from the Italian galleys—was soon allowed to seat himself in an office of L1,000 per annum. For what? For which of his vices? Our English and Scottish brothers, honourable and educated, must sacrifice country, compass land and sea, face a life of storms, with often but a slender chance of any result at all from their pains, whilst a foreign rascal (without any allegation of merit in his favour) shall at one bound, by planting his servility in the right quarter and at the fortunate hour, vault into an income of 25,000 francs per annum; the money, observe, being national money—yours, ours, everybody's—since at that period Ceylon did not pay her own expenses. Now, indeed, she does, and furnishes beside, annually, a surplus of L50,000 sterling. But still, we contend that places of trust, honour, and profit, won painfully by British blood, are naturally and rightfully to be held in trust as reversions for the children of the family. To return, however, and finish the history of our scamp, it happened that through the regular action of his office, and in part perhaps through some irregular influence or consideration with which his station invested him, he became the depositary of many sums saved laboriously by poor Ceylonese. These sums he embezzled; or, as a sympathizing countryman observed of a similar offence in similar circumstances, he 'gave an irregular direction to their appropriation.' You see, he could not forget his old Marseilles tricks. This, however, was coming it too strong for his patron, who in spite of his taste for adulation was a just governor. Our poor friend was summoned most peremptorily to account for the missing dollars; and because it did not occur to him that he might plead, as another man from Marseilles in another colony had done, 'that the white ants had eaten the dollars,' he saw no help for it but to cut his throat, and cut his throat he did. This being done, you may say that he had given such a receipt as he could, and had entitled himself to a release. Well, we are not unmerciful; and were the case of the creditors our own, we should not object. But we remark, besides the private wrong, a posthumous injury to the British nation which this foreigner was enabled to commit; and it was twofold: he charged the pension-list of Ceylon with the support of his widow, in prejudice of other widows left by our meritorious countrymen, some of whom had died in battle for the State; and he had attainted, through one generation at least, the good faith of our nation amongst the poor ignorant Cinghalese, who cannot be expected to distinguish between true Englishmen and other Europeans whom English governors may think proper to exalt in the colony.

Cases such as these, it is well known to the learned in that matter, have been but too frequent in our Eastern colonies; and we do assert that any single case of that nature is too much by one. Even where the question is merely one of courtesy to science or to literature, we complain heavily, not at all of that courtesy, but that by much too great a preponderance is allowed to the pretensions of foreigners. Everybody at Calcutta will recollect the invidious distinctions (invidious upon contrast) paid by a Governor-General some years ago to a French savant, who came to the East as an itinerant botanist and geologist on the mission of a Parisian society. The Governor was Lord William Bentinck. His Excellency was a radical, and, being such, could swallow 'homage' by the gallon, which homage the Frenchman took care to administer. In reward he was publicly paraded in the howdah of Lady William Bentinck, and caressed in a way not witnessed before or since. Now this Frenchman, after visiting the late king of the Sikhs at Lahore, and receiving every sort of service and hospitality from the English through a devious route of seven thousand miles (treatment which in itself we view with pleasure), finally died of liver complaint through his own obstinacy. By way of honour to his memory, the record of his three years' wanderings has been made public. What is the expression of his gratitude to the English? One service he certainly rendered us: he disabused, if that were possible, the French of their silly and most ignorant notions as to our British government in India and Ceylon: he could do no otherwise, for he had himself been astounded at what he saw as compared with what he had been taught to expect. Thus far he does us some justice and therefore some service, urged to it by his bitter contempt of the French credulity wherever England is slandered. But otherwise he treats with insolence unbounded all our men of science, though his own name has made little impression anywhere: and, in his character of traveller he speaks of himself as of one laying the foundation-stone of any true knowledge with regard to India. In particular he dismisses with summary contempt the Travels of Bishop Heber—not very brilliant perhaps, but undoubtedly superior both in knowledge and in style to his own. Yet this was the man selected for feting by the English Governor-General; as though courtesy to a Frenchman could not travel on any line which did not pass through a mortifying slight to Englishmen.


Variation on the opening of 'Coleridge and Opium-eating.'

What is the deadest thing known to philosophers? According to popular belief, it is a door-nail. For the world says, 'Dead as a door-nail!' But the world is wrong. Dead may be a door-nail; but deader and most dead is Gillman's Coleridge. Which fact in Natural History we demonstrate thus: Up to Waterloo it was the faith of every child that a sloth took a century for walking across a street. His mother, if she 'knew he was out,' must have had a pretty long spell of uneasiness before she saw him back again. But Mr. Waterton, Baptist of a new generation in these mysteries, took that conceit out of Europe: the sloth, says he, cannot like a snipe or a plover run a race neck and neck with a first-class railway carriage; but is he, therefore, a slow coach? By no means: he would go from London to Edinburgh between seedtime and harvest. Now Gillman's Coleridge, vol. i., has no such speed: it has taken six years to come up with those whom chiefly it concerned. Some dozen of us, Blackwood-men and others, are stung furiously in that book during the early part of 1838; and yet none of us had ever perceived the nuisance or was aware of the hornet until the wheat-fields of 1844 were white for the sickle. In August of 1844 we saw Gillman.


The Fathers grant to the Oracles a real power of foresight and prophecy, but in all cases explain these supernatural functions out of diabolic inspiration. Van Dale, on the other hand, with all his Vandalish followers, treats this hypothesis, both as regards the power itself of looking into the future and as regards the supposed source of that power, in the light of a contemptible chimera. They discuss it scarcely with gravity: indeed, the very frontispiece to Van Dale's book already announces the repulsive spirit of scoffing and mockery in which he means to dismiss it; men are there represented in the act of juggling and coarsely exulting over their juggleries by protruding the tongue or exchanging collusive winks with accomplices. Now, in a grave question obliquely affecting Christianity and the course of civilization, this temper of discussion is not becoming, were the result even more absolutely convincing than it is. Everybody can see at a glance that it is not this particular agency of evil spirits which Van Dale would have found so ridiculous, were it not that he had previously addicted himself to viewing the whole existence of evil spirits as a nursery fable. Now it is not our intention to enter upon any speculation so mysterious. It is clear from the first that no man by human researches can any more add one scintillation of light to the obscure indications of Scripture upon this dark question, than he can add a cubit to his stature. We do not know, nor is it possible to know, what is even likely to be the exact meaning of various Scriptural passages partly, perhaps, adapted to the erring preconceptions of the Jews; for never let it be forgotten that upon all questions alike, which concerned no moral interest of man, all teachers alike who had any heavenly mission, patriarchs or lawgivers conversing immediately with God, prophets, apostles, or even the Founder of our religion Himself, never vouchsafe to reveal one ray of illumination. And to us it seems the strangest oversight amongst all the oversights of commentators that, in respect to the Jewish errors as to astronomy, etc., they should not have seen the broad open doctrine which vindicates the profound Scriptural neglect of errors however gross in that quality of speculation. The solution of this neglect is not such as to leave a man under any excuse for apologizing or shuffling. The solution is technical, precise, and absolute. It is not sufficient to say, as the best expounders do generally say, that science, that astronomy for instance, that geology, that physiology, were not the kind of truth which divine missionaries were sent to teach; that is true, but is far short of the whole truth. Not only was it negatively no part of the offices attached to a divine mission that it should extend its teaching to merely intellectual questions (an argument which still leaves the student to figure it as a work not indispensable, not absolutely to be expected, yet in case it were granted as so much of advantage, as a lucro ponatur), but in the most positive and commanding sense it was the business of revelation to refuse all light of this kind. According to all the analogies which explain the meaning of a revelation, it would have been a capital schism in the counsels of Providence, if in one single instance it had condescended to gratify human curiosity by anticipation with regard to any subject whatever, which God had already subjected to human capacity through the ample faculties of the human intellect.


The evangelist, stepping forward, touched her forehead. 'She is mortal,' he said; and guessing that she was waiting for some one amongst the youthful revellers, he groaned heavily; and then, half to himself and half to her, he said, 'O flower too gorgeous, weed too lovely, wert thou adorned with beauty in such excess, that not Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like thee, no nor even the lily of the field, only that thou mightest grieve the Holy Spirit of God?' The woman trembled exceedingly, and answered, 'Rabbi, what should I do? For, behold! all men forsake me.'

Brief had been the path, and few the steps, which had hurried her to destruction. Her father was a prince amongst the princes of Lebanon; but proud, stern, and inflexible.



[54] 'Against flies'—whence he must have merited the anger of Beelzebub, whom Syrians held to be the tutelary god of flies; meaning probably by 'flies' all insects whatever, as the Romans meant by passer and passerculus, all little birds of whatsoever family, and by malum every fruit that took the shape and size of a ball. How honoured were the race of flies, to have a deity of the first rank for their protector, a Caesar for their enemy! Caesar made war upon them with his stylus; he is supposed to have massacred openly, or privately and basely to have assassinated, more than seven millions of that unfortunate race, who however lost nothing of that indomitable pertinacity in retaliating all attacks, which Milton has noticed with honour in 'Paradise Regained.' In reference to this notorious spirit of persecution in the last prince of the Flavian house, Suetonius records a capital repartee: 'Is the Emperor alone?' demanded a courtier. 'Quite alone.' 'Are you sure? Really now is nobody with him?' Answer: 'Ne musca quidem.'


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5
Home - Random Browse