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Title: The Uncollected Writings of Thomas de Quincey—Vol. 1 - With a Preface and Annotations by James Hogg
Author: De Quincey, Thomas, 1785-1859
Language: English
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[Transcriber's Notes: Text that was in italics in the original book is
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[Illustration: (handwritten) Very truly yours,
                                        Thomas de Quincey.]

                           THE UNCOLLECTED WRITINGS
                              THOMAS DE QUINCEY.

                           A PREFACE AND ANNOTATIONS
                                  JAMES HOGG.

                            IN TWO VOLUMES. VOL. I.


                           SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & CO.,
                              PATERNOSTER SQUARE.


                         RICHARD CLAY & SONS, LIMITED,

                               LONDON & BUNGAY.


'_The last fruit off an old tree!_' This, in the words of WALTER
SAVAGE LANDOR, is what I have now the honour to set before the public

It was my privilege to be associated intimately with the Author some
thirty to forty years ago--from the beginning of 1850 until his death
in 1859.[1] Throughout the whole period during which he was engaged in
preparing for the Press his _Selections Grave and Gay_, I assisted in
the task.

[Footnote 1: DE QUINCEY, LEIGH HUNT, and MACAULAY all died in that

Of the singularly pleasant literary intercourse of that memorable time
I have given some reminiscences in _Harper's Magazine_ for this month.
I may yet combine in a Volume with these some amusing, scholarly
letters in my possession, and a Selection of Papers from the original
sources, which I feel warranted, by the Author's own estimate, in
calling _De Quincey's Choice Works_. Meantime, in dealing with the
various Essays and Stories here gathered together, I limit myself to
such notes as are necessary to point out the special circumstances
under which some of the papers were written; in others the nature of
the evidence I have found as to the indisputable authorship.

My special opportunities, derived from constant companionship and the
continuous discussion with DE QUINCEY of matters concerning his
writings, gave me the key to some of the admirable papers here
reprinted. It also entitles me to say, that he would have included a
number of them in his Collected Works alongside the _Suspiria de
Profundis_ (Sighs from the Depths), had he lived to continue his

When we find that most part of the _Suspiria_--perhaps the highest
reach of his intellect in impassioned power--did not appear in the
_Selections_ at all, the reader will at once understand that, in the
Author's own opinion, the Essays and Stories now first collected, were
neither less dignified in purpose nor less finished in style than
those which had passed under his hand in the fourteen volumes he
nearly completed. Rather like the _Suspiria_, some of these papers
were reserved as material upon the revision of which his energy might
be fitly bestowed when health would permit.

       *       *       *       *       *

The interesting papers which appeared in _Tait's Magazine_ are all
duly vouched for in that periodical. I have not touched any of the
autobiographical matter which appeared in _Tait_,--the Author having
recast that as well as the _Sketches from Childhood_, published in
_The Instructor_ in the 'Autobiographic Sketches' with which he
opened the _Selections_. _The Casuistry of Duelling_, indeed, appeared
in _Tait_ as part of the Autobiographic Series, but, practically, it
stood as an independent paper. The touching personal passage in this
article reveals the misery caused by the unbridled scurrility of
certain notorious publications of the last generation.

The paper on _The German Language_ appeared in _Tait_ in June 1836,
and the _Brief Appraisal of Greek Literature_ in December 1838 and
June 1839.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two long and valuable papers on _Education; Plans for the Instruction
of Boys in Large Numbers_, which appeared in _The London Magazine_ for
April and May, 1824, were duly authenticated by the following
characteristic letter from DE QUINCEY to CHRISTOPHER NORTH. It appears
in _Professor Wilson's Life_, written by his daughter, MRS. GORDON:--

'_London, Thursday, February 24th, 1825._


'I write to you on the following occasion:--Some time ago, perhaps
nearly two years ago, Mr. Hill, a lawyer, published a book on
Education, detailing a plan on which his brothers had established a
school at Hazlewood, in Warwickshire. This book I reviewed in the
_London Magazine_, and in consequence received a letter of thanks from
the Author, who, on my coming to London about midsummer last year,
called on me. I have since become intimate with him, and, excepting
that he is a sad Jacobin (as I am obliged to tell him once or twice a
month), I have no one fault to find with him, for he is a very clever,
amiable, good creature as ever existed; and in particular directions
his abilities strike me as really very great indeed. Well, his book
has just been reviewed in the last _Edinburgh Review_ (of which some
copies have been in town about a week). This service has been done
him, I suppose, _through_ some of his political friends--(for he is
connected with Brougham, Lord Lansdowne, old Bentham, etc.),--but I
understand _by_ Mr. Jeffrey. Mr. Hill, in common with multitudes in
this Babylon--who will not put their trust in Blackwood as in God
(which, you know, he ought to do)--yet privately adores him as the
Devil; and indeed publicly too, is a great _prôneur_ of Blackwood.
For, in spite of his Jacobinism, he is liberal and inevitably just to
real wit. His fear is--that Blackwood may come as Nemesis, and compel
him to regorge any puffing and cramming which Tiff has put into his
pocket, and is earnest to have a letter addressed in an influential
quarter to prevent this. I alleged to him that I am not quite sure but
it is an affront to a Professor to presume that he has any connection
as contributor, or anything else, to any work which he does not
publicly avow as his organ for communicating with the world of
letters. He answers that it would be so in him,--but that an old
friend may write _sub rosa_. I rejoin that I know not but you may have
cut Blackwood--even as a subscriber--a whole lustrum ago. He rebuts,
by urging a just compliment paid to you, as a supposed contributor, in
the _News of Literature and Fashion_, but a moon or two ago.
Seriously, I have told him that I know not what was the extent of your
connection with Blackwood at _any_ time; and that I conceive the
labours of your Chair in the University must now leave you little
leisure for any but occasional contributions, and therefore for no
regular cognizance of the work as director, etc. However, as all that
he wishes--is simply an interference to save him from any very severe
article, and not an article in his favour, I have ventured to ask of
you if you hear of any such thing, to use such influence as must
naturally belong to you in your general character (whether maintaining
any connection with Blackwood or not) to get it softened. On the
whole, I suppose no such article is likely to appear. But to oblige
Hill I make the application. He has no _direct_ interest in the
prosperity of Hazlewood; he is himself a barrister in considerable
practice, and of some standing, I believe; but he takes a strong
paternal interest in it, all his brothers (who are accomplished young
men, I believe) being engaged in it. They have already had one shock
to stand: a certain Mr. Place, a Jacobin friend of the School till
just now, having taken the pet with it--and removed his sons. Now this
Mr. Place, who was formerly a tailor--leather-breeches maker and
habit-maker,--having made a fortune and finished his studies,--is
become an immense authority as a political and reforming head with
Bentham, etc., as also with the _Westminster Review_, in which quarter
he is supposed to have the weight of nine times nine men; whence, by
the way, in the "circles" of the booksellers, the Review has got the
name of the _Breeches Review_.' ... [The writer then passes on to
details of his own plans and prospects, and thus concludes.]

'I beg my kind regards to Mrs. Wilson and my young friends, whom I
remember with so much interest as I last saw them at Elleray.--I am,
my dear Wilson,

'Very affectionately yours,


       *       *       *       *       *

In approaching the consideration of other papers said, in various
quarters (with some show of authority) to have been written by DE
QUINCEY, it was necessary to act with extreme care. One was a
painstaking list on the whole, but very inaccurate as regards certain
contributions attributed to DE QUINCEY in _Blackwood_. I have had the
kind aid of MESSRS. BLACKWOOD in examining the archives of _Maga_ to
settle the points in question.

I was puzzled by some papers in _The London Magazine_ set down as DE
QUINCEY'S contributions in a memorandum said to have been furnished by
MESSRS. TAYLOR and HESSEY, its Publishers. The _Blackwood_ blunders
made me very sceptical. There was one story in particular--the long
droll one of _Mr. Schnackenberger; or, Two Masters to one Dog_, about
which I remained in doubt.

I had a faint recollection that one day DE QUINCEY dwelt on the merits
of 'JUNO,' and owned the story when he was discussing 'bull-dogs.'

By the way, he was rather fond of 'bull-dogs,' and had some good
anecdotes about them. It was a kind of pet-admiration-horror which he
shared with SOUTHEY, on account of the difficulty in making a
well-bred bull-dog relax his grip. Some member of the canine 'fancy'
down at the Lakes had given them a so-called infallible 'tip' for
making a bull-dog let go. I am sorry to say I have quite forgotten
this admirable receipt. To be sure, one ought never to forget such
valuable pieces of information. So I thought one day lately before the
muzzling order came into force, when a bloodthirsty monster,--a big,
white bull-dog, sprang suddenly at me in Cleveland Gardens. Instantly
there flashed the thought--what was it that DE QUINCEY recommended? A
lucky lunge which drove the ferule of my umbrella down the brute's
throat fortunately created a diversion, and allowed a little more time
for the study of the problem. Perhaps I will be pardoned this
digression, as it affords an opportunity of recording the fact that DE
QUINCEY and SOUTHEY both looked up to the bull-dog as an animal of
very decided 'character.'

I was loth to abandon _Mr. Schnackenberger_, but unwilling to lean
too much on my somewhat hazy remembrance. It seemed almost hopeless to
obtain the necessary evidence. MESSRS. TAYLOR and HESSEY were long
dead, and after groping about like a detective, no one could tell me
what had become of the records of _The London Magazine_. Suddenly
there came light in October last. I ascertained that a son of one of
the Publishers is the ARCHDEACON of MIDDLESEX, the Venerable J. A.

I stated the case, and the worthy ARCHDEACON came most kindly and
promptly to my assistance. As a boy he remembered DE QUINCEY at his
father's house, and recollected very well reading _Mr. Schnackenberger_.
He informed me, 'I was greatly interested in the [London] Magazine
generally, so much so, that, at my father's request, I copied from his
private list, and attached to the head of each paper the name of the
Author.... This interesting set came to me at my father's death.'

DR. HESSEY had subsequently presented the series to his old pupil, MR.
WILLIAM CAREW HAZLITT (by whose courtesy I have been able to examine
it)--'the grandson of WILLIAM HAZLITT, who was a frequent writer in
the Magazine, and an old friend of my father. I thought he would like
to possess it, and that it would thus be in fitting hands. I should
not have parted with it in favour of any but a man like MR. HAZLITT,
who was sure to value it.'

As these valuable annotations of the ARCHDEACON ramify in various
directions--touching as they do the contributions of many brilliant
men of that period--it may not be amiss (as a possible help to others
in the future) to add a few more decisive words by DR. HESSEY:--

'If any papers are not marked (he refers only to those volumes
actually published by MESSRS. TAYLOR and HESSEY) it was because they
were anonymous, or because, from some inadvertency, they were not
assigned in my father's list. _So far as the record goes, it may be
depended upon._'

By its help I was able to fix the authorship by DE QUINCEY of (1) _The
Dog Story_--translated from the German, (2) _Moral Effects of
Revolutions_, (3) _Prefigurations of Remote Events_, (4) _Abstract of
Swedenborgianism by Immanuel Kant_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another perplexing element was the letter written by DE QUINCEY to his
uncle, COLONEL PENSON, in 1819 (PAGE'S _Life_, vol. i. p. 207),
wherein reference is made to certain contributions to _Blackwood's
Magazine_ and _The Quarterly Review_.

The archives of _Maga_ I find go back only as far as 1825. As to _The
Quarterly Review_, I have MR. MURRAY'S authority for stating that DE
QUINCEY never wrote a line in it. Whether any contributions were ever
commissioned, paid for, and afterwards suppressed, I have been unable
to ascertain. As a matter of fact, the _Schiller_ Series referred to
in the letter to COLONEL PENSON was never reviewed in _The Quarterly_
at all.

DE QUINCEY as a Newspaper Editor forms the subject of a Chapter in
PAGE'S _Life_. Some extracts are there given from cuttings out of _The
Westmorland Gazette_ found amongst the Author's Papers. This
editorship (1818-19) was of short duration, and pursued under hostile
circumstances, such as distance from the Press, &c., which soon led to
DE QUINCEY'S resignation. I had hoped to add some further specimens of
the newspaper work, but have not, as yet, obtained access to a file of
the period. In any future edition I may be able to add this in an

       *       *       *       *       *

_The Love-Charm._--In spite of the marvellous tenacity of DE QUINCEY'S
memory, even as to the very words of a passage in an Author which he
had, perhaps, only _once_ read, there were _blanks_ which confounded
himself. One of these bore on his contributions to KNIGHT'S _Quarterly
Magazine_. MR. FIELDS had been so generally careful in obtaining
sufficient authority for what he published, in the original American
edition, that DE QUINCEY good-humouredly gave the verdict against
himself, and 'supposed he _must_ be wrong' in thinking that some of
these special papers were not from his pen. Still,--he demurred, and
before including them in _The Selections Grave and Gay_, it was
resolved to institute an inquiry. Accordingly, about 1852, I was
deputed to interview MR. CHARLES KNIGHT, and request his aid. My
mission was to obtain, if possible, a correct list of the various
contributions to the _Quarterly Magazine_, including this

MR. KNIGHT, MR. RAMSAY (his first lieutenant, as he called him), and
myself all met at Fleet Street, where we had the archives of the old
_Quarterly Magazine_ turned up, and a list checked. I lately found
this particular story also referred to circumstantially in the annexed
paragraph contained in CHARLES KNIGHT'S _Passages of a Working Life_
(THORNE'S re-issue, vol. I. chap. x. p. 339).

'DE QUINCEY had written to me in December 1824, in the belief that, as
he expressed it, "many of your friends will rally about you, and urge
you to some new undertaking of the same kind. If that should happen, I
beg to say, that you may count upon me, as one of your men, for any
extent of labour, to the best of my power, which you may choose to
command." He wrote a translation of _The Love-Charm_ of TIECK, with a
notice of the Author. This is not reprinted in his Collected Works,
though perhaps it is the most interesting of his translations from the
German. In this spring and summer DE QUINCEY and I were in intimate
companionship. It was a pleasant time of intellectual intercourse for

There is no doubt _The Love-Charm_ would have been reprinted had the
Author lived to carry the _Selections_ farther.

       *       *       *       *       *

The curious little Essay _On Novels_,--written in a Lady's Album, had
passed out of MR. DAVEY'S hands before I became aware of its
existence. The _facsimile_, however, taken for _The Archivist_, by an
expert like MR. NETHERCLIFT, shows that it is, unquestionably, in the
handwriting of DE QUINCEY. I have been unable to trace the 'FAIR
INCOGNITA' to whom it was addressed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The compositions which were written for me when I edited _Titan_, and
which I now place before the public in volume form, after the lapse of
a whole generation (thirty-three years, to speak 'by the card'),
demand some special comment, particularly in their relation to the
_Selections Grave and Gay_.

_Titan_ was a half-crown monthly Magazine, a continuation in an
enlarged form of _The Instructor_. I had become the acting Editor of
its predecessor, _the New Series_ of _The Instructor_, working in
concert with my Father, the proprietor. In this _New Series_ there
appeared from DE QUINCEY'S pen _The Sphinx's Riddle_, _Judas
Iscariot_, the Series of _Sketches from Childhood_, and other notable

At that time I was but a young editor--young and, perhaps, a little
'curly,' as LORD BEACONSFIELD put it. DE QUINCEY, with a truly
paternal solicitude, gave me much good advice and valuable help, both
in the selection of subjects for the Magazine and in the mode of
handling them. The notes on _The Lake Dialect_, _Shakspere's Text and
Suetonius Unravelled_, were written to me in the form of Letters, and
published in _Titan_.

_Storms in English History_ was a consideration of part of MR.
FROUDE'S well-known book, which on its publication made a great stir
in the literary world, and profoundly impressed DE QUINCEY.

_How to write English_ was the first of a series projected for _The
Instructor_. It never got beyond this 'Introduction,' but the fragment
contains some matter well worthy of preservation.

The circumstances attending the composition of the four papers on _The
English in India_ and _The English in China_, I have explained at some
length in the introductory notices attached to them.

And now for a confession! The 'gentle reader' may, perhaps, feel a
momentary inclination to blame me when I reveal, that I rather stood
in the way of some brilliant articles which were very seriously
considered at this period.

DE QUINCEY was eager to write them, and I should have been glad indeed
to have had them for _Titan_, but for a fear of allowing the Author to
wander too far from the ever-present and irksome _Works_. Any possible
escape--even through other downright hard work, from this perplexing
labour was joyfully hailed by him as a hopeful chance of obtaining a
prosperous holiday.

For a little I wavered under the temptation (Reader,--was it not
great?)--the idea of having a little relaxation which would permit
some, at least, of these well-planned papers to be written. But I was
keenly alive to the danger which overtook us at last. We are daily
reminded that 'art is long and life is short.' I had already saved the
_Works_ from being strangled at their birth in a legal tussle with MR.
JOHN TAYLOR.[2] My Father was at my elbow anxiously inquiring about
the progress of the 'copy' for each succeeding volume. There were
eager friends also, on both sides of the Atlantic, pressing resolutely
for it. So--prudence prevailed, and we held as straightly on our way
as the Author's uncertain health would permit.

[Footnote 2: This incident was a complicated contention, concerning
the copyright of _The Confessions_, in which DE QUINCEY had long
allowed his rights to lie dormant. It was at last happily settled in
an amicable manner.]

Thus it came to pass, dear Public, that you lost some charming essays,
while you gained the fourteen volumes of the _Selections_ which the
Author all but completed.

Wherefore, seeing that you may possibly expect it of me to make some
use of my rare opportunities by doing whatever I can in these matters,
'before the night cometh,'--I have prepared this book--_ohne hast,
ohne rast_.

I cannot close these few pages better than by quoting some strong,
just, sympathetic words which appeared in two great reviews--one
American, the other British.

_The North American Review_ said:--

'In DE QUINCEY we are struck at once by the exquisite refinement of
mind, the subtleness of association, and the extreme tenuity of the
threads of thought, the gossamer filaments yet finally weaving
themselves together, and thickening imperceptibly into a strong and
expanded web. Mingled with this, and perhaps springing from a similar
mental habit, is an occasional dreaminess both in speculation and in
narrative, when the mind seems to move vaguely round in vast returning
circles. The thoughts catch hold of nothing, but are heaved and tossed
like masses of cloud by the wind. An incident of trivial import is
turned and turned to catch the light of every possible consequence,
and so magnified as to become portentous and terrible.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'A barren and trivial fact, under the power of that life-giving hand,
shoots out on all sides into waving branches and green leaves, and
odoriferous flowers. It is not the fact that interests us, but the
mind working upon it, investing it with mock-heroic dignity, or
rendering it illustrative of really serious principles; or, with the
true insight of genius, discovering, in that which a vulgar eye would
despise, the germs of grandeur and beauty; the passions of war in the
contests of the rival factions of schoolboys, the tragedy in every
peasant's death-bed.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'DE QUINCEY constantly amazes us by the amount and diversity of his
learning. Two or three of the minor papers in the collected volumes
are absolutely loaded with the life spoils of their author's
scholarship, yet carry their burden as lightly as our bodies sustain
the weight of the circumambient atmosphere. So perfect is his tact in
finding, or rather making a place for everything, that, while
inviting, he eludes the charge of pedantry.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'It is scarcely to be expected that one who tries his hand at so many
kinds of pencraft should always excel; yet such is the force of DE
QUINCEY'S intellect, the brilliancy of his imagination, and the charm
of his style, that he throws a new and peculiar interest over every
subject which he discusses, while his fictitious narratives in general
rivet the attention of the reader with a power not easily resisted.'

_The Quarterly Review_ said:--

'DE QUINCEY'S style is superb, his powers of reasoning unsurpassed,
his imagination is warm and brilliant, and his humour both masculine
and delicate.'

The writer continues:--

'A great master of English composition, a critic of uncommon delicacy,
an honest and unflinching investigator of received opinions, a
philosophic inquirer--DE QUINCEY has departed from us full of years,
and left no successor to his rank. The exquisite finish of his style,
with the scholastic vigour of his logic, form a combination which
centuries may never reproduce, but which every generation should study
as one of the marvels of English Literature.'


_London, February, 1890_.



PREFACE                                              V

IN ITS FOREMOST-PRETENSIONS                         23


MORAL EFFECTS OF REVOLUTIONS                       130


MEASURE OF VALUE                                   134


OF POLITICAL ECONOMY                               154

EDUCATION, AND CASE OF APPEAL                      160

ABSTRACT OF SWEDENBORGIANISM                       215

SKETCH OF PROFESSOR WILSON                         225

THE LAKE DIALECT                                   265

STORMS IN ENGLISH HISTORY                          275

THE ENGLISH IN INDIA                               298


DE QUINCEY'S PORTRAIT                              357


     _By way of Counsel to Adults who are hesitating as to the
     Propriety of Studying the Greek Language with a view to the
     Literature; and by way of consolation to those whom
     circumstances have obliged to lay aside that plan._

No. I.

No question has been coming up at intervals for reconsideration more
frequently than that which respects the comparative pretensions of
Pagan (viz. Greek and Roman) Literature on the one side, and Modern
(that is, the Literature of Christendom) on the other. Being brought
uniformly before unjust tribunals--that is, tribunals corrupted and
bribed by their own vanity--it is not wonderful that this great
question should have been stifled and overlaid with peremptory
decrees, dogmatically cutting the knot rather than skilfully untying
it, as often as it has been moved afresh, and put upon the roll for a
re-hearing. It is no mystery to those who are in the secret, and who
can lay A and B together, why it should have happened that the most
interesting of all literary questions, and the most comprehensive
(for it includes most others, and some special to itself), has, in
the first place, never been pleaded in a style of dignity, of
philosophic precision, of feeling, or of research, proportioned to its
own merits, and to the numerous 'issues' (forensically speaking)
depending upon it; nor, in the second place, has ever received such an
adjudication as was satisfactory _even at the moment_. For, be it
remembered, after all, that any provisional adjudication--one growing
out of the fashion or taste of a single era--could not, at any rate,
be binding for a different era. A judgment which met the approbation
of Spenser could hardly have satisfied Dryden; nor another which
satisfied Pope, have been recognised as authentic by us of the year
1838. It is the normal or exemplary condition of the human mind, its
ideal condition, not its abnormal condition, as seen in the transitory
modes and fashions of its taste or its opinions, which only

    'Can lay great bases for eternity,'

or give even a colourable permanence to any decision in a matter so
large, so perplexed, so profound, as this great pending suit between
antiquity and ourselves--between the junior men of this earth and
ourselves, the seniors, as Lord Bacon reasonably calls us. Appeals
will be brought _ad infinitum_--we ourselves shall bring appeals, to
set aside any judgment that may be given, until something more is
consulted than individual taste; better evidence brought forward than
the result of individual reading; something higher laid down as the
_grounds_ of judgment, as the very principles of the jurisprudence
which controls the court, than those vague _responsa prudentum_,
countersigned by the great name, perhaps, of Aristotle, but still too
often mere products of local convenience, of inexperience, of
experience too limited and exclusively Grecian, or of absolute
caprice--rules, in short, which are themselves not less truly _sub
judice_ and liable to appeal than that very appeal cause to which they
are applied as decisive.

We have remarked, that it is no mystery why the decision should have
gone pretty uniformly in favour of the ancients; for here is the
dilemma:--A man, attempting this problem, _is_ or _is not_ a classical
scholar. If he _is_, then he has already received a bias in his
judgment; he is a bribed man, bribed by his vanity; and is liable to
be challenged as one of the judges. If he is _not_, then he is but
imperfectly qualified--imperfectly as respects his knowledge and
powers; whilst, even as respects his will and affections, it may be
alleged that he also is under a bias and a corrupt influence; his
interest being no less obvious to undervalue a literature, which, as
to _him_, is tabooed and under lock and key, than his opponent's is to
put a preposterous value upon that knowledge which very probably is
the one sole advantageous distinction between him and his neighbours.

We might cite an illustration from the French literary history on this
very point. Every nation in turn has had its rows in this great
quarrel, which is, in fact, co-extensive with the controversies upon
human nature itself. The French, of course, have had _theirs_--solemn
tournaments, single duels, casual 'turn-ups,' and regular 'stand-up'
fights. The most celebrated of these was in the beginning of the last
century, when, amongst others who acted as bottle-holders, umpires,
&c., two champions in particular 'peeled' and fought a considerable
number of rounds, mutually administering severe punishment, and both
coming out of the ring disfigured: these were M. la Motte and Madame
Dacier. But Motte was the favourite at first, and once he got Dacier
'into chancery,' and 'fibbed' her twice round the ropes, so that she
became a truly pitiable and delightful spectacle to the connoisseurs
in fibbing and bloodshed. But here lay the difference: Motte was a
hard hitter; he was a clever man, and (which all clever men are not) a
man of sense; but, like Shakspeare, he had no Greek. On the other
hand, Dacier had nothing _but_ Greek. A certain abbé, at that time,
amused all Paris with his caricatures of this Madame Dacier, 'who,'
said he, 'ought to be cooking her husband's dinner, and darning his
stockings, instead of skirmishing and tilting with Grecian spears;
for, be it known that, after all her _not cooking_ and her _not
darning_, she is as poor a scholar as her injured husband is a good
one.' And _there_ the abbé was right; witness the husband's _Horace_,
in 9 vols., against the wife's _Homer_. However, this was not
generally understood. The lady, it was believed, waded petticoat-deep
in Greek clover; and in any Grecian field of dispute, naturally she
must be in the right, as against one who barely knew his own language
and a little Latin. Motte was, therefore, thought by most people to
have come off second best. For, as soon as ever he opened
thus--'Madame, it seems to me that, agreeably to all common sense or
common decorum, the Greek poet should here'----instantly, without
listening to his argument, the intrepid Amazon replied ([Greek:
hypodra idousa]), 'You foolish man! you remarkably silly man!--_that_
is because you know no better; and the reason you know no better, is
because you do not understand _ton d'apameibomenos_ as I do.' _Ton
d'apameibomenos_ fell like a hand-grenade amongst Motte's papers, and
blew him up effectually in the opinion of the multitude. No matter
what he might say in reply--no matter how reasonable, how
unanswerable--that one spell of 'No Greek! no Greek!' availed as a
talisman to the lady both for offence and defence; and refuted all
syllogisms and all eloquence as effectually as the cry of _À la
lanterne!_ in the same country some fourscore years after.

So it will always be. Those who (like Madame Dacier) possess no
accomplishment _but_ Greek, will, of necessity, set a superhuman value
upon that literature in all its parts, to which their own narrow skill
becomes an available key. Besides that, over and above this coarse and
conscious motive for overrating that which reacts with an equal and
answerable overrating upon their own little philological attainments,
there is another agency at work, and quite unconsciously to the
subjects of that agency, in disturbing the sanity of any estimate they
may make of a foreign literature. It is the habit (well known to
psychologists) of transferring to anything created by our own skill,
or which reflects our own skill, as if it lay causatively and
objectively[3] in the reflecting thing itself, that pleasurable power
which in very truth belongs subjectively[3] to the mind of him who
surveys it, from conscious success in the exercise of his own
energies. Hence it is that we see daily without surprise, young ladies
hanging enamoured over the pages of an Italian author, and calling
attention to trivial commonplaces, such as, clothed in plain mother
English, would have been more repulsive to them than the distinctions
of a theologian, or the counsels of a great-grandmother. They mistake
for a pleasure yielded by the author, what is in fact the pleasure
attending their own success in mastering what was lately an
insuperable difficulty.

[Footnote 3: _Objectively_ and _subjectively_ are terms somewhat too
metaphysical; but they are so indispensable to accurate thinking that
we are inclined to show them some indulgence; and, the more so, in
cases where the mere position and connection of the words are half
sufficient to explain their application.]

It is indeed a pitiable spectacle to any man of sense and feeling, who
happens to be really familiar with the golden treasures of his own
ancestral literature, and a spectacle which moves alternately scorn
and sorrow, to see young people squandering their time and painful
study upon writers not fit to unloose the shoes' latchets of many
amongst their own compatriots; making painful and remote voyages after
the drossy refuse, when the pure gold lies neglected at their feet.
Too often he is reminded of a case, which is still sometimes to be
witnessed in London. Now and then it will happen that a lover of art,
modern or antique alike, according to its excellence, will find
himself honoured by an invitation from some millionnaire, or some
towering grandee, to 'assist,' as the phrase is, at the opening of a
case newly landed from the Tiber or the Arno, and fraught (as he is
assured) with the very gems of Italian art, inter-mingled besides
with many genuine antiques. He goes: the cases are solemnly disgorged;
adulatory hangers on, calling themselves artists, and, at all events,
so much so as to appreciate the solemn farce enacted, stand by
uttering hollow applauses of my Lord's taste, and endeavouring to play
upon the tinkling cymbals of spurious enthusiasm: whilst every man of
real discernment perceives at a glance the mere refuse and sweeping of
a third-rate _studio_, such as many a native artist would disdain to
turn out of his hands; and antiques such as could be produced, with a
month's notice, by cart-loads, in many an obscure corner of London.
Yet for this rubbish has the great man taken a painful tour; compassed
land and sea; paid away in exchange a king's ransom; and claims now on
their behalf, the very humblest homage of artists who are taxed with
the basest envy if they refuse it, and who, meantime, cannot in
sincerity look upon the trumpery with other feelings than such as the
potter's wheel, if (like Ezekiel's wheels) it were instinct with
spirit, would entertain for the vilest of its own creations;--culinary
or 'post-culinary' mugs and jugs. We, the writers of this paper, are
not artists, are not connected with artists. And yet, upon the general
principle of sympathy with native merit, and of disgust towards all
affectation, we cannot but recall such anecdotes with scorn; and often
we recollect the stories recorded by poor Benvenuto Cellini, that
dissolute but brilliant vagabond, who (like our own British artists)
was sometimes upbraided with the degeneracy of modern art, and, upon
his humbly requesting some evidence, received, by way of practical
answer, a sculptured gem or vase, perhaps with a scornful demand
of--when would he be able to produce anything like that--'eh, Master
Ben? Fancy we must wait a few centuries or so, before you'll be ready
with the fellow of this.' And, lo! on looking into some hidden angle
of the beautiful production, poor Cellini discovered his own private
mark, the supposed antique having been a pure forgery of his own. Such
cases remind one too forcibly of the pretty Horatian tale, where, in a
contest between two men who undertake to mimic a pig's grunting, he
who happens to be the favourite of the audience is applauded to the
echo for his felicitous execution, and repeatedly encored, whilst the
other man is hissed off the stage, and well kicked by a band of
amateurs and cognoscenti, as a poor miserable copyist and impostor;
but, unfortunately for the credit of his exploders, he has just time,
before they have quite kicked him off, for exposing to view the real
pig concealed under his cloak, which pig it was, and not himself, that
had been the artist--forced by pinches into 'mimicry' of his own
porcine music. Of all baffled connoisseurs, surely, these Roman
pig-fanciers must have looked the most confounded. Yet there is no
knowing: and we ourselves have a clever friend, but rather too given
to subtilising, who contends, upon some argument not perfectly
intelligible to us, that Horace was not so conclusive in his logic as
he fancied; that the real pig might not have an 'ideal' or normal
squeak, but a peculiar and non-representative squeak; and that, after
all, the man might deserve the 'threshing' he got. Well, it may be so;
but, however, the Roman audience, wrong or not, for once fancied
themselves in the wrong; and we cannot but regret that our own
ungenerous disparagers of native merit, and _exclusive_ eulogisers of
the dead or the alien--of those only '_quos Libitina sacravit_,' or
whom oceans divide from us--are not now and then open to the same
_palpable_ refutation, as they are certainly guilty of the same mean
error, in prejudging the whole question, and refusing to listen even
to the plain evidence of their own feelings, or, in some cases, to the
voice of their own senses.

From this preface it is already abundantly clear what side _we_ take
in this dispute about modern literature and the antique.[4] And we now
propose to justify our leaning by a general review of the Pagan
authors, in their elder section--that is, the Grecians. These will be
enough in all conscience, for one essay; and even for them we meditate
a very cursory inquest; not such as would suffice in a grand
ceremonial day of battle--a _justum proelium_, as a Roman would
call it--but in a mere perfunctory skirmish, or (if the reader objects
to that word as pedantic, though, really, it is a highly-favoured word
amongst ancient divines, and with many a

    Who has read Alexander Ross over,')

why, in that case, let us indulge his fastidious taste by calling it
an autoschediastic combat, to which, surely, there can be no such
objection. And as the manner of the combat is autoschediastic or
extemporaneous, and to meet a hurried occasion, so is the reader to
understand that the object of our disputation is not the learned, but
the unlearned student; and our purpose, not so much to discontent the
one with his painful acquisitions, as to console the other under what,
upon the old principle of _omne ignotum pro magnifico_, he is too apt
to imagine his irreparable disadvantages. We set before us, as our
especial auditor, the reasonable man of plain sense but strong
feeling, who wishes to know how much he has lost, and what injury the
gods did him, when, though making him, perhaps, poetical, they cut
short his allowance of Latin, and, as to Greek, gave him not a jot
more than a cow has in her side pocket.

[Footnote 4: In general usage, '_The antique_' is a phrase limited to
the expression of art; but improperly so. It is quite as legitimately
used to denote the _literature_ of ancient times, in contradistinction
to the modern. As to the term _classical_, though generally employed
as equivalent to Greek and Roman, the reader must not forget this is
quite a false limitation, contradicting the very reason for applying
the word in _any_ sense to literature. For the application arose thus:
The social body of Rome being divided into six classes, of which the
lowest was the sixth, it followed that the highest was the first.
Thence, by a natural process common to most languages, those who
belonged to this highest had no number at all assigned to them. The
very absence of a number, the calling them _classici_, implied that
they belonged to _the_ class emphatically, or _par excellence_. _The
classics_ meant, therefore, the grandees in social consideration; and
thence by analogy in literature. But if this analogy be transferred
from Rome to Greece, where it had no corresponding root in civic
arrangement--then, by parity of reason, to all nations.]

Let us begin at the beginning--and that, as everybody knows, is Homer.
He is, indeed, so much at the beginning that, for that very reason (if
even there were no other), he is, and will be ever more, supremely
interesting. Is the unlearned reader aware of his age? Upon that point
there are more hypotheses than one or even two. Some there are among
the chronologers who make him eleven hundred years anterior to Christ.
But those who allow him least, place him more than nine--that is,
about two centuries before the establishment of the Grecian Olympiads,
and (which is pretty nearly the same thing as regards time) before
Romulus and Remus. Such an antiquity as this, even on its own account,
is a reasonable object of interest. A poet to whom the great-grandfather
of old Ancus Martius (his grandfather, did we say--that is, avus?--nay,
his _abavus_, his _atavus_, his _tritavus_) looked back as to one in a
line with his remote ancestor--a poet who, if he travelled about as
extensively as some have supposed him to do, or even as his own
countryman Herodotus most certainly did five or six hundred years
afterwards, might have conversed with the very workmen who laid the
foundations of the first temple at Jerusalem--might have bent the knee
before Solomon in all his glory:--Such a poet, were he no better than
the worst of our own old metrical romancers, would--merely for his
antiquity, merely for the sublime fact of having been coeval with the
eldest of those whom the eldest of histories presents to our knowledge;
coeval with the earliest kings of Judah, older than the greatest of the
Judean prophets, older than the separation of the two Jewish crowns and
the revolt of Israel, and, even with regard to Moses and to Joshua, not
in any larger sense junior than as we ourselves are junior to
Chaucer--purely and exclusively with regard to these pretensions, backed
and supported by an antique form of an antique language--the most
comprehensive and the most melodious in the world, would--could--should--ought
to merit a filial attention; and, perhaps with those who had
waggon-loads of time to spare, might plead the benefit, beyond most of
those in whose favour it was enacted, of that Horatian rule--

                  'vos exemplaria Græca,
    Nocturnâ versate manu, versate diurna.'

In fact, when we recollect that, in round numbers, we ourselves may be
considered as two thousand years in advance of Christ, and that (by
assuming less even than a mean between the different dates assigned to
Homer) he stands a thousand years before Christ, we find between Homer
and ourselves a gulf of three thousand years, or about one clear half
of the total extent which we grant to the present duration of our
planet. This in itself is so sublime a circumstance in the relations
of Homer to our era, and the sense of power is so delightfully
titillated to that man's feeling, who, by means of Greek, and a very
moderate skill in this fine language, is able to grasp the awful span,
the vast arch of which one foot rest upon 1838, and the other almost
upon the war of Troy--the mighty rainbow which, like the archangel in
the Revelation, plants its western limb amongst the carnage and the
magnificence of Waterloo, and the other amidst the vanishing gleams
and the dusty clouds of Agamemnon's rearguard--that we may pardon a
little exultation to the man who can actually mutter to himself, as he
rides home of a summer evening, the very words and vocal music of the
old blind man at whose command

      '----------the Iliad and the Odyssey
    Rose to the murmurs of the voiceful sea.'

But pleasures in this world fortunately are without end. And every
man, after all, has many pleasures peculiar to himself--pleasures
which no man shares with him, even as he is shut out from many of
other men. To renounce one in particular, is no subject for sorrow, so
long as many remain in that very class equal or superior. Elwood the
Quaker had a luxury which none of us will ever have, in hearing the
very voice and utterance of a poet quite as blind as Homer, and by
many a thousand times more sublime. And yet Elwood was not perhaps
much happier for _that_. For now, to proceed, reader--abstract from
his _sublime_ antiquity, and his being the very earliest of authors,
allowance made for one or two Hebrew writers (who, being inspired, are
scarcely to be viewed as human competitors), how much is there in
Homer, _intrinsically_ in Homer, stripped of his fine draperies of
time and circumstance, in the naked Homer, disapparelled of the pride,
pomp, and circumstance of glorious antiquity, to remunerate a man for
his labour in acquiring Greek? Men think very differently about what
_will_ remunerate any given labour. A fool (professional _fool_) in
Shakspeare ascertains, by a natural process of logic, that a
'remuneration' means a _testern_, which is just sixpence; and two
remunerations, therefore, a testoon, or one shilling. But many men
will consider the same service ill paid by a thousand pounds. So, of
the reimbursement for learning a language. Lord Camden is said to have
learned Spanish, merely to enjoy Don Quixote more racily. Cato, the
elder Cato, after abusing Greek throughout his life, sat down in
extreme old age to study it: and wherefore? Mr. Coleridge mentions an
author, in whom, upon opening his pages with other expectations, he
stumbled upon the following fragrant passage--'But from this frivolous
digression upon philosophy and the fine arts, let us return to a
subject too little understood or appreciated in these sceptical
days--the subject of _dung_.' Now, _that_ was precisely the course of
thought with this old censorious Cato: So long as Greek offered, or
seemed to offer, nothing but philosophy or poetry, he was clamorous
against Greek; but he began to thaw and melt a little upon the charms
of Greek--he 'owned the soft impeachment,' when he heard of some
Grecian treatises upon _beans_ and _turnips_; and, finally, he sank
under its voluptuous seductions, when he heard of others upon DUNG.
There are, therefore, as different notions about a 'remuneration' in
this case, as the poor fool had met with it in _his_ case. We,
however, unappalled by the bad names of 'Goth,' 'Vandal,' and so
forth, shall honestly lay before the reader _our_ notions.

When Dryden wrote his famous, indeed matchless, epigram upon the three
great masters (or reputed masters) of the Epopee, he found himself at
no loss to characterize the last of the triad--no matter what
qualities he imputed to the first and the second, he knew himself safe
in imputing them all to the third. The mighty modern had everything
that his predecessors were ever _thought_ to have, as well as
something beside.[5] So he expressed the surpassing grandeur of
Milton, by saying that in him nature had embodied, by concentration as
in one focus, whatever excellencies she had scattered separately
amongst her earlier favourites. But, in strict regard to the facts,
this is far from being a faithful statement of the relations between
Milton and his elder brothers of the _Epos_: in sublimity, if that is
what Dryden meant by 'loftiness of thought,' it is not so fair to
class Milton with the greatest of poets, as to class him apart,
retired from all others, sequestered, 'sole-sitting by the shores of
old romance.' In other poets, in Dante for example, there may be rays,
gleams, sudden coruscations, casual scintillations, of the sublime;
but for any continuous and sustained blaze of the sublime, it is in
vain to look for it, _except_ in Milton, making allowances (as before)
for the inspired sublimities of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and of the great
Evangelist's Revelations. As to Homer, no critic who writes from
personal and _direct_ knowledge on the one hand, or who understands
the value of words on the other, ever contended in any critical sense
for sublimity, as a quality to which he had the slightest pretensions.
What! not Longinus? If he did, it would have been of little
consequence; for he had no field of comparison, as we, knowing no
literature but one--whereas we have a range of seven or eight. But he
did not: [Greek: To hypsêlon],[6] or the elevated, in the Longinian
sense, expressed all, no matter of what origin, of what tendency,
which gives a character of life and animation to composition--whatever
raises it above the dead level of flat prosaic style. Emphasis, or
what in an artist's sense gives _relief_ to a passage, causing it to
stand forward, and in advance of what surrounds it--that is the
predominating idea in the 'sublime' of Longinus. And this explains
what otherwise has perplexed his modern interpreters--viz. that
amongst the elements of his sublime, he ranks even the pathetic, _i. e._
(say they) what by connecting itself with the depressing passion
of grief is the very counter-agent to the elevating affection of the
sublime. True, most sapient sirs, my very worthy and approved good
masters: but that very consideration should have taught you to look
back, and reconsider your translation of the capital word [Greek:
hypsos]. It was rather too late in the day, when you had waded
half-seas over in your translation, to find out either that you
yourselves were ignoramuses, or that your principal was an ass.
'Returning were as tedious as go o'er.' And any man might guess how
you would settle such a dilemma. It is, according to you, a little
oversight of your principal: '_humanum aliquid passus est._' We, on
the other hand, affirm that, if an error at all on the part of
Longinus, it is too monstrous for any man to have 'overlooked.' As
long as he could see a pike-staff, he must have seen that. And,
therefore, we revert to _our_ view of the case--viz. that it is
yourselves who have committed the blunder, in translating by the Latin
word _sublimis_[7] at all, but still more after it had received new
determinations under modern usage.

[Footnote 5: The beauty of this famous epigram lies in the _form_ of
the conception. The first had A; the second had B; and when nature, to
furnish out a third, should have given him C, she found that A and B
had already exhausted her cycle; and that she could distinguish her
third great favourite only by giving him both A and B in combination.
But the filling up of this outline is imperfect: for the A
(_loftiness_) and the B (_majesty_) are one and the same quality,
under different names.]

[Footnote 6: Because the Latin word _sublimis_ is applied to objects
soaring upwards, or floating aloft, or at an aerial altitude, and
because the word does _sometimes_ correspond to our idea of the
sublime (in which the notion of height is united with the notion of
moral grandeur), and because, in the excessive vagueness and lawless
latitudinarianism of our common Greek Lexicons, the word [Greek:
hypsos] is translated, _inter alia_, by [Greek: to] _sublime_,
_sublimitas_, &c. Hence it has happened that the title of the little
essay ascribed to Longinus, [Greek: Peri hypsous], is usually rendered
into English, _Concerning the sublime_. But the idea of the Sublime,
as defined, circumscribed, and circumstantiated, in English
literature--an idea altogether of English growth--the _sublime byway
of polar antithesis to the Beautiful_, had no existence amongst
ancient critics; consequently it could have no expression. It is a
great thought, a true thought, a demonstrable thought, that the
Sublime, as thus ascertained, and in contraposition to the Beautiful,
grew up on the basis of _sexual_ distinctions, the Sublime
corresponding to the male, the Beautiful, its anti-pole, corresponding
to the female. Behold! we show you a mystery.]

[Footnote 7: No word has ever given so much trouble to modern critics
as this very word (now under discussion) of the _sublime_. To those
who have little Greek and _no_ Latin, it is necessary in the first
place that we should state what are the most obvious elements of the
word. According to the noble army of etymologists, they are these two
Latin words--_sub_, under, and _limus_, mud. Oh! gemini! who would
have thought of groping for the sublime in such a situation as
that?--unless, indeed, it were that writer cited by Mr. Coleridge, and
just now referred to by ourselves, who complains of frivolous modern
readers, as not being able to raise and sequester their thoughts to
the abstract consideration of dung. Hence it has followed, that most
people have quarrelled with the etymology. "Whereupon the late Dr.
Parr, of pedantic memory, wrote a huge letter to Mr. Dugald Stewart,
but the marrow of which lies in a nutshell, especially being rather
hollow within. The learned doctor, in the first folio, grapples with
the word _sub_, which, says he, comes from the Greek--so much is
clear--but from what Greek, Bezonian? The thoughtless world, says he,
trace it to [Greek: hypo] (hypo), sub, _i. e._ under; but I, Ego,
Samuel Parr, the Birmingham doctor, trace it to [Greek: hyper]
(hyper), super, _i. e._ above; between which the difference is not
less than between a chestnut horse and a horse-chestnut. To this
learned Parrian dissertation on mud, there cannot be much reasonably
to object, except its length in the first place; and, secondly, that
we ourselves exceedingly doubt the common interpretation of _limus_.
Most unquestionably, if the sublime is to be brought into any relation
at all to mud, we shall all be of one mind--that it must be found
_above_. But to us it appears--that when the true modern idea of mud
was in view, _limus_ was not the word used. Cicero, for instance, when
he wishes to call Piso 'filth, mud,' &c. calls him _Cænum_: and, in
general, _limus_ seems to have involved the notion of something
adhesive, and rather to express _plaister_, or artificially prepared
cement, &c., than that of filth or impure depositions. Accordingly,
our own definition differs from the Parrian, or Birmingham definition;
and may, nevertheless, be a Birmingham definition also. Not having
room to defend it, for the present we forbear to state it.]

Now, therefore, after this explanation, recurring to the Longinian
critiques upon Homer, it will avail any idolator of Homer but little,
it will affect us not much, to mention that Longinus makes frequent
reference to the _Iliad_, as the great source of the sublime--

          'A quo, ceu fonte perenni,
    Vatum Pieriis ora rigantur aquis';

for, as respected Grecian poets, and as respected _his_ sense of the
word, it cannot be denied that Homer was such. He was the great
well-head of inspiration to the Pagan poets of after times, who,
however (_as a body_), moved in the narrowest circle that has ever yet
confined the natural freedom of the poetic mind. But, in conceding
this, let it not be forgotten how much we concede--we concede as much
as Longinus demanded; that is, that Homer furnished an ideal or model
of fluent narration, picturesque description, and the first outlines
of what could be called characteristic delineations of persons.
Accordingly, uninventive Greece--for we maintain loudly that Greece,
in her poets, _was_ uninventive and sterile beyond the example of
other nations--received, as a traditional inheritance, the characters
of the Paladins of the Troad.[8] Achilles is always the
all-accomplished and supreme amongst these Paladins, the Orlando of
ancient romance; Agamemnon, for ever the Charlemagne; Ajax, for ever
the sullen, imperturbable, columnar champion, the Mandricardo, the
_Bergen-op-Zoom_ of his faction, and corresponding to our modern
'Chicken' in the pugilistic ring, who was so called (as the books of
the Fancy say) because he was a 'glutton'; and a 'glutton' in this
sense--that he would take any amount of cramming (_i. e._ any possible
quantum of 'milling,' or 'punishment'). Ulysses, again, is uniformly,
no matter whether in the solemnities of the tragic scene, or the
festivities of the Ovidian romance, the same shy cock, but also sly
cock, with the least thought of a white feather in his plumage; Diomed
is the same unmeaning double of every other hero, just as Rinaldo is
with respect to his greater cousin, Orlando; and so of Teucer,
Meriones, Idomeneus, and the other less-marked characters. The Greek
drama took up these traditional characters, and sometimes deepened,
saddened, exalted the features--as Sophocles, for instance, does with
his 'Ajax Flagellifer'--Ajax the knouter of sheep--where, by the way,
the remorse and penitential grief of Ajax for his own self-degradation,
and the depth of his affliction for the triumph which he had afforded to
his enemies--taken in connection with the tender fears of his wife,
Tecmessa, for the fate to which his gloomy despair was too manifestly
driving him; her own conscious desolation, and the orphan weakness of
her son, in the event which she too fearfully anticipates--the final
suicide of Ajax; the brotherly affection of Teucer to the widow and the
young son of the hero, together with the unlooked-for sympathy of
Ulysses, who, instead of exulting in the ruin of his antagonist, mourns
over it with generous tears--compose a situation, and a succession of
situations, not equalled in the Greek tragedy; and, in that instance, we
see an effort, rare in Grecian poetry, of conquest achieved by
idealisation over a mean incident--viz. the hallucination of brain in
Ajax, by which he mistakes the sheep for his Grecian enemies, ties them
up for flagellation, and scourges them as periodically as if he were a
critical reviewer. But really, in one extremity of this madness, where
he fixes upon an old ram for Agamemnon, as the leader of the flock, the
[Greek: anax andrôn Agamemnôn], there is an extravagance of the
ludicrous against which, though not exhibited scenically, but simply
narrated, no solemnity of pathos could avail; even in narration, the
violation of tragical dignity is insufferable, and is as much worse than
the hyper-tragic horrors of _Titus Andronicus_ (a play which is usually
printed, without reason, amongst those of Shakspeare) as absolute farce
or contradiction of all pathos must inevitably be a worse indecorum than
physical horrors which simply outrage it by excess. Let us not,
therefore, hear of the judgment displayed upon the Grecian stage, when
even Sophocles, the chief master of dramatic economy and scenical
propriety, could thus err by an aberration so far transcending the most
memorable violation of stage decorum which has ever been charged upon
the English drama.

[Footnote 8: There is a difficulty in assigning any term as
comprehensive enough to describe the Grecian heroes and their
antagonists, who fought at Troy. The seven chieftains against Thebes
are described sufficiently as Theban captains; but, to say _Trojan_
chieftains, would express only the heroes of one side; _Grecian_,
again, would be liable to that fault equally, and to another far
greater, of being under no limitation as to time. This difficulty must
explain and (if it can) justify our collective phrase of the Paladins
of the Troad.]

From Homer, therefore, were left, as a bequest to all future poets,
the romantic adventures which grow, as so many collateral

    'From the tale of Troy divine';

and from Homer was derived also the discrimination of the leading
characters, which, after all, were but coarsely and rudely
discriminated; at least, for the majority. In one instance only we
acknowledge an exception. We have heard a great modern poet dwelling
with real and not counterfeit enthusiasm upon the character (or rather
upon the general picture, as made up both of character and position),
which the course of the _Iliad_ assigns gradually to Achilles. The
view which he took of this impersonation of human grandeur, combining
all gifts of intellect and of body, matchless speed, strength,
inevitable eye, courage, and the immortal beauty of a god, being also,
by his birth-right, half-divine, and consecrated to the imagination by
his fatal interweaving with the destinies of Troy, and to the heart by
the early death which to _his own knowledge_[9] impended over his
magnificent career, and so abruptly shut up its vista--the view, we
say, which our friend took of the presiding character throughout the
_Iliad_, who is introduced to us in the very first line, and who is
only eclipsed for seventeen books, to emerge upon us with more awful
lustre;--the view which he took was--that Achilles, and Achilles only,
in the Grecian poetry, was a great idea--an idealised creation; and we
remember that in this respect he compared the Homeric Achilles with
the Angelica of Ariosto. Her only he regarded as an idealisation in
the _Orlando Furioso_. And certainly in the luxury and excess of her
all-conquering beauty, which drew after her from 'ultimate Cathay' to
the camps of the baptised in France, and back again, from the palace
of Charlemagne, drew half the Paladins, and 'half Spain militant,' to
the portals of the rising sun; that sovereign beauty which (to say
nothing of kings and princes withered by her frowns) ruined for a time
the most princely of all the Paladins, the supreme Orlando, crazed him
with scorn,

    'And robbed him of his noble wits outright'--

in all this, we must acknowledge a glorification of power not unlike
that of Achilles:--

    'Irresistible Pelides, whom, unarm'd,
    No strength of man or wild beast could withstand;
    Who tore the lion as the lion tears the kid;
    Ran on embattl'd armies clad in iron;
    And, weaponless himself,
    Made arms ridiculous, useless the forgery
    Of brazen shield and spear, the hammer'd cuirass,
    Chalybean temper'd steel, and frock of mail,
    Adamantéan proof;
    But safest he who stood aloof,
    When insupportably his foot advanced
    Spurned them to death by troops. The bold Priamides
    Fled from his lion ramp; old warriors turn'd
    Their plated backs under his heel,
    Or, groveling, soil'd their crested helmets in the dust.'

These are the words of Milton in describing that 'heroic Nazarete,'
'God's champion'--

    'Promis'd by heavenly message twice descending';

heralded, like Pelides,

    'By an angel of his birth,
    Who from his father's field
    Rode up in flames after his message told';

these are the celestial words which describe the celestial prowess of
the Hebrew monomachist, the irresistible Sampson; and are hardly less
applicable to the 'champion paramount' of Greece confederate.

[Footnote 9: 'To his own knowledge'--see, for proof of this, the
gloomy serenity of his answer to his dying victim, when, predicting
his approaching end:--

    'Enough; I know my fate: to die--to see no more
    My much-lov'd parents, and my native shore,' &c. &c.]

This, therefore, this unique conception, with what power they might,
later Greek poets adopted; and the other Homeric characters they
transplanted somewhat monotonously, but at times, we are willing to
admit, and have already admitted, improving and solemnizing the
original epic portraits when brought upon the stage. But all this
extent of obligation amongst later poets of Greece to Homer serves
less to argue his opulence than their penury. And if, quitting the one
great blazing jewel, the Urim and Thummim of the _Iliad_, you descend
to individual passages of poetic effect; and if amongst these a fancy
should seize you of asking for a specimen of the _Sublime_ in
particular, what is it that you are offered by the critics? Nothing
that we remember beyond one single passage, in which the god Neptune
is described in a steeple chase, and 'making play' at a terrific
pace. And certainly enough is exhibited of the old boy's hoofs, and
their spanking qualities, to warrant our backing him against a
railroad for a rump and dozen; but, after all, there is nothing to
grow frisky about, as Longinus does, who gets up the steam of a
blue-stocking enthusiasm, and boils us a regular gallop of ranting, in
which, like the conceited snipe[10] upon the Liverpool railroad, he
thinks himself to run a match with Sampson; and, whilst affecting to
admire Homer, is manifestly squinting at the reader to see how far he
admires his own flourish of admiration; and, in the very agony of his
frosty raptures, is quite at leisure to look out for a little private
traffic of rapture on his own account. But it won't do; this old
critical posture-master (whom, if Aurelian hanged, surely he knew what
he was about) may as well put up his rapture pipes, and (as Lear says)
'not squiny' at us; for let us ask Master Longinus, in what earthly
respect do these great strides of Neptune exceed Jack with his
seven-league boots? Let him answer that, if he can. We hold that Jack
has the advantage. Or, again look at the Koran: does any man but a
foolish Oriental think that passage sublime where Mahomet describes
the divine pen? It is, says he, made of mother-of-pearl; so much for
the 'raw material,' as the economists say. But now for the size: it
can hardly be called a 'portable' pen at all events, for we are told
that it is so tall of its age, that an Arabian 'thoroughbred horse
would require 500 years for galloping down the slit to the nib. Now
this Arabic sublime is _in this instance_ quite a kin brother to the

[Footnote 10: On the memorable inaugural day of the Liverpool
railroad, when Mr. Huskisson met with so sad a fate, a snipe or a
plover tried a race with Sampson, one of the engines. The race
continued neck and neck for about six miles, after which, the snipe
finding itself likely to come off second best, found it convenient to
wheel off, at a turn of the road, into the solitudes of Chat Moss.]

However, it is likely that we shall here be reminded of our own
challenge to the Longinian word [Greek: hypsêlon] as not at all
corresponding, or even alluding to the modern word sublime. But in
this instance, the distinction will not much avail that critic--for no
matter by what particular _word_ he may convey his sense of its
quality, clear it is, by his way of illustrating its peculiar merit,
that, in his opinion, these huge strides of Neptune's have something
supernaturally grand about them. But, waiving this solitary instance
in Homer of the sublime, according to his idolatrous critics--of the
pseudo sublime according to ourselves--in all other cases where
Longinus, or any other Greek writer has cited Homer as the great
exemplary model of [Greek: hypsos] in composition, we are to
understand him according to the Grecian sense of that word. He must
then be supposed to praise Homer, not so much for any ideal grandeur
either of thought, image, or situation, as in a general sense for his
animated style of narration, for the variety and spirited effect with
which he relieves the direct formal narration in his own person by
dialogue between the subjects of his narration, thus ventriloquising
and throwing his own voice as often as he can into the surrounding
objects--or again for the similes and allusive pictures by which he
points emphasis to a situation or interest to a person.

Now then we have it: when you describe Homer, or when you hear him
described as a lively picturesque old boy [by the way, why does
everybody speak of Homer as old?], full of life, and animation, and
movement, then you say (or you hear say) what is true, and not much
more than what is true. Only about that word picturesque we demur a
little: as a chirurgeon, he certainly _is_ picturesque; for Howship
upon gunshot wounds is a joke to him when he lectures upon _traumacy_,
if we may presume to coin that word, or upon traumatic philosophy (as
Mr. M'Culloch says so grandly, Economic Science). But, apart from
this, we cannot allow that simply to say [Greek: Zakunthos nemoessa],
woody Zacynthus, is any better argument of picturesqueness than Stony
Stratford, or Harrow on the Hill. Be assured, reader, that the Homeric
age was not ripe for the picturesque. _Price on the Picturesque_, or,
_Gilpin on Forest Scenery_, would both have been sent post-haste to
Bedlam in those days; or perhaps Homer himself would have tied a
millstone about their necks, and have sunk them as public nuisances by
woody Zante. Besides, it puts almost an extinguisher on any little
twinkling of the picturesque that might have flared up at times from
this or that suggestion, when each individual had his own regular
epithet stereotyped to his name like a brass plate upon a door:
Hector, the tamer of horses; Achilles, the swift of foot; the ox-eyed,
respectable Juno. Some of the 'big uns,' it is true, had a dress and
an undress suit of epithets: as for instance, Hector was also [Greek:
korythaiolos], Hector with the tossing or the variegated plumes.
Achilles again was [Greek: dios] or divine. But still the range was
small, and the monotony was dire.

And now, if you come in good earnest to picturesqueness, let us
mention a poet in sober truth worth five hundred of Homer, and that is
Chaucer. Show us a piece of Homer's handywork that comes within a
hundred leagues of that divine prologue to the _Canterbury Tales_, or
of 'The Knight's Tale,' of the 'Man of Law's Tale,' or of the 'Tale of
the Patient Griseldis,' or, for intense life of narration and festive
wit, to the 'Wife of Bath's Tale.' Or, passing out of the _Canterbury
Tales_ for the picturesque in human manner and gesture, and play of
countenance, never equalled as yet by Pagan or Christian, go to the
_Troilus and Cresseid_, and, for instance, to the conversation between
Troilus and Pandarus, or, again, between Pandarus and Cresseid.
Rightly did a critic of the 17th century pronounce Chaucer a miracle
of natural genius, as having 'taken into the compass of his
_Canterbury Tales_, the various manners and humours of the whole
English nation in his age; not a single character has escaped him.'
And this critic then proceeds thus--'The matter and manner of these
tales, and of their telling, are so suited to their different
educations, humours, and calling, that each of them would be improper
in any other mouth. Even the grave and serious characters are
distinguished by their several sorts of gravity. Even the ribaldry of
the low characters is different. But there is such a variety of game
springing up before me, that I am distracted in my choice, and know
not which to follow. It is sufficient to say, according to the
proverb, that here is God's plenty.' And soon after he goes on to
assert (though Heaven knows in terms far below the whole truth), the
superiority of Chaucer to Boccaccio. And, in the meantime, who was
this eulogist of Chaucer? Why, the man who himself was never equalled
upon this earth, unless by Chaucer, in the art of fine narration: it
is John Dryden whom we have been quoting.

Between Chaucer and Homer--as to the main art of narration, as to the
picturesque life of the manners, and as to the exquisite delineation
of character--the interval is as wide as between Shakespeare, in
dramatic power, and Nic. Rowe.

And we might wind up this main chapter, of the comparison between
Grecian and English literature--viz. the chapter on Homer, by this
tight dilemma. You do or you do not use the Longinian word [Greek:
hypsos] in the modern sense of the sublime. If you do not, then of
course you translate it in the Grecian sense, as explained above; and
in that sense, we engage to produce many scores of passages from
Chaucer, not exceeding 50 to 80 lines, which contain more of
picturesque simplicity, more tenderness, more fidelity to nature, more
felicity of sentiment, more animation of narrative, and more truth of
character, than can be matched in all the _Iliad_ or the _Odyssey_. On
the other hand, if by [Greek: hypsos] you choose absurdly to mean
sublimity in the modern sense, then it will suffice for us that we
challenge _you_ to the production of one instance which truly and
incontestably embodies that quality.[11] The burthen of proof rests
upon you who affirm, not upon us who deny. Meantime, as a kind of
choke-pear, we leave with the Homeric adorer this one brace of
portraits, or hints for such a brace, which we commend to his
comparison, as Hamlet did the portraits of the two brothers to his
besotted mother. We are talking of the sublime: that is our thesis.
Now observe: there is a catalogue in the _Iliad_--there is a catalogue
in the _Paradise Lost_. And, like a river of Macedon and of Monmouth,
the two catalogues agree in that one fact--viz. that they _are_ such.
But as to the rest, we are willing to abide by the issue of that one
comparison, left to the very dullest sensibility, for the decision of
the total question at issue. And what is that? Not, Heaven preserve
us! as to the comparative claims of Milton and Homer in this point of
sublimity--for surely it would be absurd to compare him who has most
with him whom we affirm to have none at all--but whether Homer has the
very smallest pretensions in that point. The result, as we state it,
is this:--The catalogue of the ruined angels in Milton, is, in itself
taken separately, a perfect poem, with the beauty, and the felicity,
and the glory of a dream. The Homeric catalogue of ships is exactly on
a level with the muster-roll of a regiment, the register of a
tax-gatherer, the catalogue of an auctioneer. Nay, some catalogues are
far more interesting, and more alive with meaning. 'But him followed
fifty black ships!'--'But him follow seventy black ships!' Faugh! We
could make a more readable poem out of an Insolvent's Balance Sheet.

[Footnote 11: The description of Apollo in wrath as [Greek: nukti
eoikô], like night, is a doubtful case. With respect to the shield of
Achilles, it cannot be denied that the general conception has, in
common with all abstractions (as _e. g._ the abstractions of dreams,
of prophetic visions, such as that in the 6th Æneid, that to Macbeth,
that shown by the angel Michael to Adam), something fine and, in its
own nature, let the execution be what it may, sublime. But this part
of the _Iliad_, we firmly believe to be an interpolation of times long
posterior to that of Homer.]

One other little suggestion we could wish to offer. Those who would
contend against the vast superiority of Chaucer (and him we mention
chiefly because he really has in excess those very qualities of life,
motion, and picturesque simplicity, to which the Homeric
characteristics chiefly tend), ought to bear in mind one startling
fact evidently at war with the _degree_ of what is claimed for Homer.
It is this: Chaucer is carried naturally by the very course of his
tales into the heart of domestic life, and of the scenery most
favourable to the movements of human sensibility. Homer, on the other
hand, is kept out of that sphere, and is imprisoned in the monotonies
of a camp or a battle-field, equally by the necessities of his story,
and by the proprieties of Grecian life (which in fact are pretty
nearly those of Turkish life at this day). Men and women meet only
under rare, hurried, and exclusive circumstances. Hence it is, that
throughout the entire _Iliad_, we have but one scene in which the
finest affections of the human heart can find an opening for display;
of course, everybody knows at once that we are speaking of the scene
between Hector, Andromache, and the young Astyanax. No need for
question here; it is Hobson's choice in Greek literature, when you are
seeking for the poetry of human sensibilities. One such scene there
is, and no more; which, of itself, is some reason for suspecting its
authenticity. And, by the way, at this point, it is worth while
remarking, that a late excellent critic always pronounced the words
applied to Andromache [Greek: dakryoen gelasasa] (_tearfully smiling_,
or, _smiling through_ _her tears_), a mere Alexandrian interpolation.
And why? Now mark the reason. Was it because the circumstance is in
itself vicious, or out of nature? Not at all: nothing more probable or
more interesting under the general situation of peril combined with
the little incident of the infant's alarm at the plumed helmet. But
any just taste feels it to be out of the Homeric key; the barbarism of
the age, not mitigated (as in Chaucer's far less barbarous age) by the
tenderness of Christian sentiment, turned a deaf ear and a repulsive
aspect to such beautiful traits of domestic feeling; to Homer himself
the whole circumstance would have been one of pure effeminacy. Now, we
recommend it to the reader's reflection--and let him weigh well the
condition under which that poetry moves that cannot indulge a tender
sentiment without being justly suspected of adulterous commerce with
some after age. This remark, however, is by the by; having grown out
of the [Greek: dakryoen gelasasa], itself a digression. But, returning
from that to our previous theme, we desire every candid reader to ask
himself what must be the character, what the circumscription, of that
poetry which is limited, by its very subject,[12] to a scene of such
intense uniformity as a battle or a camp; and by the prevailing spirit
of manners to the exclusive society of men. To make bricks without
straw, was the excess even of Egyptian bondage; Homer could not fight
up against the necessities of his age, and the defects of its
manners. And the very apologies which will be urged for him, drawn as
they must be from the spirit of manners prevalent in his era, are
reciprocally but so many reasons for not seeking in him the kind of
poetry which has been ascribed to him by ignorance, or by defective
sensibility, or by the mere self-interest of pedantry.

[Footnote 12: But the _Odyssey_, at least, it will be said, is not
thus limited: no, not by its subject; because it carries us amongst
cities and princes in a state of peace; but it is equally limited by
the spirit of manners; we are never admitted amongst women, except by
accident (Nausicaa)--by necessity (Penelope)--or by romance (Circe).]

From Homer, the route stretches thus:--The Grecian drama lies about
six hundred years nearer to the Christian era, and Pindar lies in the
interval. These--_i. e._ the Dramatic and Lyric--are the important
chapters of the Greek poetry; for as to Pastoral poetry, having only
Theocritus surviving, and a very little of Bion and Moschus, and of
these one only being of the least separate importance--we cannot hold
that department entitled to any notice in so cursory a review of the
literature, else we have much to say on this also. Besides that,
Theocritus was not a natural poet, indigenous to Sicily, but an
artificial blue-stocking; as was Callimachus in a different class.

The drama we may place loosely in the generation next before that of
Alexander the Great. And his era may be best remembered by noting it
as 333 years B. C. Add thirty years to this era--that will be the era
of the Drama. Add a little more than a century, and that will be the
era of Pindar. Him, therefore, we will notice first.

Now, the chief thing to say as to Pindar is--to show cause, good and
reasonable, why no man of sense should trouble his head about him.
There was in the seventeenth century a notion prevalent about Pindar,
the very contradiction to the truth. It was imagined that he 'had a
demon'; that he was under a burthen of prophetic inspiration; that he
was possessed, like a Hebrew prophet or a Delphic priestess, with
divine fury. Why was this thought?--simply because no mortal read him.
Laughable it is to mention, that Pope, when a very young man, and
writing his _Temple of Fame_ (partly on the model of Chaucer's), when
he came to the great columns and their bas-reliefs in that temple,
each of which is sacred to one honoured name, having but room in all
for six, chose Pindar for one[13] of the six. And the first bas-relief
on Pindar's column is so pretty, that we shall quote it; especially as
it suggested Gray's car for Dryden's 'less presumptuous flight!'

    'Four swans sustain a car of silver bright,
    With heads advanc'd, and pinions stretch'd for flight:
    Here, _like some furious prophet_, Pindar rode,
    And seem'd to _labour with th' inspiring god_.'

[Footnote 13: The other five were Homer, Virgil, Horace, Aristotle,

Then follow eight lines describing other bas-reliefs, containing 'the
figured games of Greece' (Olympic, Nemean, &c.). But what we spoke of
as laughable in the whole affair is, that Master Pope neither had then
read one line of Pindar, nor ever read one line of Pindar: and reason
good; for at that time he could not read the simple Homeric Greek;
while the Greek of Pindar exceeds all other Greek in difficulty,
excepting, perhaps, a few amongst the tragic choruses, which are
difficult for the very same reason--lyric abruptness, lyric
involution, and lyric obscurity of transition. Not having read Homer,
no wonder that Pope should place, amongst the bas-reliefs illustrating
the _Iliad_, an incident which does not exist in the _Iliad_.[14] Not
having read Pindar, no wonder that Pope should ascribe to Pindar
qualities which are not only imaginary, but in absolute contradiction
to his true ones. A more sober old gentleman does not exist: his
demoniac possession is a mere fable. But there are two sufficient
arguments for not reading him, so long as innumerable books of greater
interest remain unread. First, he writes upon subjects that, to us,
are mean and extinct--race-horses that have been defunct for
twenty-five centuries, chariots that were crazy in his own day, and
contests with which it is impossible for us to sympathise. Then his
digressions about old genealogies are no whit better than his main
theme, nor more amusing than a Welshman's pedigree. The best
translator of any age, Mr. Carey, who translated Dante, has done what
human skill could effect to make the old Theban readable; but, after
all, the man is yet to come who _has_ read Pindar, _will_ read Pindar,
or _can_ read Pindar, except, indeed, a translator in the way of duty.
And the son of Philip himself, though he bade 'spare the house of
Pindarus,' we vehemently suspect, never read the works of Pindarus;
that labour he left to some future Hercules. So much for his subjects:
but a second objection is--his metre: The hexameter, or heroic metre
of the ancient Greeks, is delightful to our modern ears; so is the
Iambic metre fortunately of the stage: but the Lyric metres generally,
and those of Pindar without one exception, are as utterly without
meaning to us, as merely chaotic labyrinths of sound, as Chinese music
or Dutch concertos. Need we say more?

[Footnote 14: Viz. the supposed dragging of Hector three times round
Troy by Achilles--a mere post-Homeric fable. But it is ludicrous to
add, that, in after years--nay, when nearly at the end of his
translation of the _Iliad_, in 1718--Pope took part in a discussion
upon Homer's reasons for ascribing such conduct to his hero, seriously
arguing the _pro_ and _con_ upon a pure fiction.]

Next comes the drama. But this is too weighty a theme to be discussed
slightly; and the more so because here only we willingly concede a
strong motive for learning Greek; here, only, we hold the want of a
ready introduction to be a serious misfortune. Our general argument,
therefore, which had for its drift to depreciate Greek, dispenses, in
this case, with our saying anything; since every word we _could_ say
would be hostile to our own purpose. However, we shall, even upon this
field of the Greek literature, deliver one oracular sentence, tending
neither to praise nor dispraise it, but simply to state its relations
to the modern, or, at least, the English drama. In the ancient drama,
to represent it justly, the unlearned reader must imagine grand
situations, impressive groups; in the modern tumultuous movement, a
grand stream of action. In the Greek drama, he must conceive the
presiding power to be _Death_; in the English, _Life_. What
Death?--What Life? That sort of death or of life locked up and frozen
into everlasting slumber, which we see in sculpture; that sort of
life, of tumult, of agitation, of tendency to something beyond, which
we see in painting. The picturesque, in short, domineers over English
tragedy; the sculpturesque, or the statuesque, over the Grecian.

The moralists, such as Theogins, the miscellaneous or didactic poets,
such as Hesiod, are all alike below any notice in a sketch like this.
The Epigrammatists, or writers of monumental inscriptions, &c.,
remain; and they, next after the dramatic poets, present the most
interesting field by far in the Greek literature; but these are too
various to be treated otherwise than _viritim_ and in detail.

There remains the prose literature; and, with the exception of those
critical writers who have written on rhetoric (such as Hermogenes,
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Demetrius Phalerius, &c. &c., some of whom
are the best writers extant, on the mere art of constructing
sentences, but could not interest the general reader), the prose
writers may be thus distributed: 1st, the orators; 2nd, the
historians; 3rd, the philosophers; 4th, the literateurs (such as
Plutarch, Lucian, &c.).

As to the philosophers, of course there are only two who can present
any general interest--Plato and Aristotle; for Xenophon is no more a
philosophic writer than our own Addison. Now, in this department, it
is evident that the matter altogether transcends the manner. No man
will wish to study a profound philosopher, but for some previous
interest in his doctrines; and, if by any means a man has obtained
this, he may pursue this study sufficiently through translations. It
is true that neither Sydenham nor Taylor has done justice to Plato,
for example, as respects the colloquial graces of his style; but, when
the object is purely to pursue a certain course of principles and
inferences, the student cannot complain much that he has lost the
dramatic beauties of the dialogue, or the luxuriance of the style.
These he was not then seeking, by the supposition--what he _did_ seek,
is still left; whereas in poetry, if the golden apparel is lost, if
the music has melted away from the thoughts, all, in fact, is lost.
Old Hobbes, or Ogilbie, is no more Homer than the score of Mozart's
_Don Giovanni_ is Mozart's _Don Giovanni_.

If, however, Grecian philosophy presents no absolute temptations to
the attainment of Greek, far less does Grecian history. If you except
later historians--such as Diodorus, Plutarch, and those (like Appian,
Dionysius, Dion Cassius) who wrote of Roman things and Roman persons
in Greek, and Polybius, who comes under the same class, at a much
earlier period--and none of whom have any interest of style, excepting
only Plutarch: these dismissed, there are but three who can rank as
classical Greek historians; _three who can lose by translation_. Of
these the eldest, Herodotus, is perhaps of real value. Some call him
the father of history; some call him the father of lies. Time and
Major Rennel have done him ample justice. Yet here, again, see how
little need of Greek for the amplest use of a Greek author. Twenty-two
centuries and more have passed since the fine old man read his history
at the Grecian games of Olympia. One man only has done him right, and
put his enemies under his footstool; _and yet this man had no Greek_.
Major Rennel read Herodotus only in the translation of Beloe. He has
told us so himself. Here, then, is a little fact, my Grecian boys,
that you won't easily get over. The father of history, the eldest of
prose writers, has been first explained, illustrated, justified,
liberated from scandal and disgrace, first had his geography set to
rights, first translated from the region of fabulous romance, and
installed in his cathedral chair, as Dean (or eldest) of historians,
by a military man, who had no more Greek than Shakspeare, or than we
(perhaps you, reader) of the Kalmuck.

Next comes Thucydides. He is the second in order of time amongst the
Grecian historians who survive, and the first of those (a class which
Mr. Southey, the laureate, always speaks of as the corruptors of
genuine history) who affect to treat it philosophically. If the
philosophic historians are not always so faithless as Mr. Southey
alleges, they are, however, always guilty of dulness. Commend us to
one picturesque, garrulous old fellow, like Froissart, or Philip de
Comines, or Bishop Burnet, before all the philosophic prosers that
ever prosed. These picturesque men will lie a little now and then, for
the sake of effect--but so will the philosophers. Even Bishop Burnet,
who, by the way, was hardly so much a picturesque as an anecdotal
historian, was famous for his gift of lying; so diligently had he
cultivated it. And the Duchess of Portsmouth told a noble lord, when
inquiring into the truth of a particular fact stated by the very
reverend historian, that he was notorious in Charles the Second's
court, and that no man believed a word he said. But now Thucydides,
though writing about his own time, and doubtless embellishing by
fictions not less than his more amusing brethren, is as dull as if he
prided himself on veracity. Nay, he tells us no secret anecdotes of
the times--surely there must have been many; and this proves to us,
that he was a low fellow without political connections, and that he
never had been behind the curtain. Now, what business had such a man
to set himself up for a writer of history and a speculator on
politics? Besides, his history is imperfect; and, suppose it were
not, what is its subject? Why simply one single war; a war which
lasted twenty-seven years; but which, after all, through its whole
course was enlivened by only two events worthy to enter into general
history--viz. the plague of Athens, and the miserable licking which
the Athenian invaders received in Sicily. This dire overthrow dished
Athens out and out; for one generation to come, there was an end of
Athenian domination; and that arrogant state, under the yoke of their
still baser enemies of Sparta, learned experimentally what were the
evils of a foreign conquest. There was therefore, in the domination of
the Thirty Tyrants, something to 'point a moral' in the Peloponnesian
war: it was the judicial reaction of martial tyranny and foreign
oppression, such as we of this generation have beheld in the double
conquest of Paris by insulted and outraged Christendom. But nothing of
all this will be found in Thucydides--he is as cool as a cucumber upon
every act of atrocity; whether it be the bloody abuse of power, or the
bloody retribution from the worm that, being trampled on too long,
turns at last to sting and to exterminate--all alike he enters in his
daybook and his ledger, posts them up to the account of brutal Spartan
or polished Athenian, with no more expression of his feelings (if he
had any) than a merchant making out an invoice of puncheons that are
to steal away men's wits, or of frankincense and myrrh that are to
ascend in devotion to the saints. Herodotus is a fine, old, genial
boy, that, like Froissart or some of the crusading historians, kept
himself in health and jovial spirits by travelling about; nor did he
confine himself to Greece or the Grecian islands; but he went to
Egypt, got bousy in the Pyramid of Cheops, ate a beef-steak in the
hanging-gardens of Babylon, and listened to no sailors' yarns at the
Piræus, which doubtless, before his time, had been the sole authority
for Grecian legends concerning foreign lands. But, as to Thucydides,
our own belief is, that he lived like a monk shut up in his _museum_
or study; and that, at the very utmost, he may have gone in the
steamboat[15] to Corfu (_i. e._ Corcyra), because _that_ was the
island which occasioned the row of the Peloponnesian war.

[Footnote 15: 'In the steamboat!' Yes, reader, the steamboat. It is
clear that there _was_ one in Homer's time. See the art. _Phæacian_ in
the _Odyssey_: if it paid then, _à fortiori_ six hundred years after.
The only point unknown about it, is the captain's name and the
state-cabin fares.]

Xenophon now is quite another sort of man; he could use his pen; but
also he could use his sword; and (when need was) his heels, in running
away. His Grecian history of course is a mere fraction of the general
history; and, moreover, our own belief, founded upon the differences
of the style, is, that the work now received for his must be spurious.
But in this place the question is not worth discussing. Two works
remain, professedly historical, which, beyond a doubt, _are_ his; and
one of them the most interesting prose work by much which Athens has
bequeathed us; though, by the way, Xenophon was living in a sort of
elegant exile at a chateau in Thessaly, and not under Athenian
protection, when he wrote it. Both of his great works relate to a
Persian Cyrus, but to a Cyrus of different centuries. The _Cyropædia_
is a romance, pretty much on the plan of Fenelon's _Telemaque_, only
(Heaven be praised!) not so furiously apoplectic. It pursues the
great Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire, the Cyrus of the
Jewish prophets, from his infancy to his death-bed; and describes
evidently not any real prince, according to any authentic record of
his life, but, upon some basis of hints and vague traditions, improves
the actual Cyrus into an ideal fiction of a sovereign and a military
conqueror, as he _ought_ to be. One thing only we shall say of this
work, though no admirers ourselves of the twaddle which Xenophon
elsewhere gives us as philosophic memorabilia, that the episode of
Abradates and Panthea (especially the behaviour of Panthea after the
death of her beloved hero, and the incident of the dead man's hand
coming away on Cyrus grasping it) exceeds for pathos everything in
Grecian literature, always excepting the Greek drama, and comes
nearest of anything, throughout Pagan literature, to the impassioned
simplicity of Scripture, in its tale of Joseph and his brethren. The
other historical work of Xenophon is the _Anabasis_. The meaning of
the title is _the going-up_ or _ascent_--viz. of Cyrus the younger.
This prince was the younger brother of the reigning king Artaxerxes,
nearly two centuries from Cyrus the Great; and, from opportunity
rather than a better title, and because his mother and his vast
provincial government furnished him with royal treasures able to hire
an army, most of all, because he was richly endowed by nature with
personal gifts--took it into his head that he would dethrone his
brother; and the more so, because he was only his half-brother. His
chance was a good one: he had a Grecian army, and one from the very
_élite_ of Greece; whilst the Persian king had but a small corps of
Grecian auxiliaries, long enfeebled by Persian effeminacy and Persian
intermarriages. Xenophon was personally present in this expedition.
And the catastrophe was most singular, such as does not occur once in
a thousand years. The cavalry of the great King retreated before the
Greeks continually, no doubt from policy and secret orders; so that,
when a pitched battle became inevitable, the foreign invaders found
themselves in the very heart of the land, and close upon the
Euphrates. The battle was fought: the foreigners were victorious: they
were actually singing _Te Deum_ or _Io Pæan_ for their victory, when
it was discovered that their leader, the native prince in whose behalf
they had conquered, was missing; and soon after, that he was dead.
What was to be done? The man who should have improved their victory,
and placed them at his own right hand when on the throne of Persia,
was no more; key they had none to unlock the great fortresses of the
empire, none to unloose the enthusiasm of the native population. Yet
such was the desperation of their circumstances, that a _coup-de-main_
on the capital seemed their best chance. The whole army was and felt
itself a forlorn hope. To go forward was desperate, but to go back
much more so; for they had a thousand rivers without bridges in their
rear; and, if they set their faces in that direction, they would have
300,000 light cavalry upon their flanks, besides nations innumerable--

    'Dusk faces with white silken turbans wreath'd';

fierce fellows who understood no Greek, and, what was worse, no
joking, but well understood the use of the scymitar. Bad as things
were, they soon became worse; for the chiefs of the Grecian army,
being foolish enough to accept a dinner invitation from the Persian
commander-in-chief, were assassinated; and the words of Milton became
intelligible--that in the lowest deep a lower deep had opened to
destroy them. In this dilemma, Xenophon, the historian of the
expedition, was raised to a principal command; and by admirable skill
he led back the army by a different route to the Black Sea, on the
coast of which he knew that there were Grecian colonies: and from one
of these he obtained shipping, in which he coasted along (when he did
not march by land) to the mouth of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.
This was the famous retreat of the ten thousand; and it shows how much
defect of literary skill there was in those days amongst Grecian
authors, that the title of the book, _The Going Up_, does not apply to
the latter and more interesting seven-eighths of the account. The
Going Up is but the preparation or preface to the Going Down, the
_Anabasis_ to the _Katabasis_, in which latter part it is that
Xenophon plays any conspicuous part. A great political interest,
however, over and above the personal interest, attaches to this
expedition: for there can be no doubt, that to this proof of weakness
in the Persian empire, and perhaps to this, _as recorded by Xenophon_,
was due the expedition of Alexander in the next generation, which
changed the face of the world.

The literateurs, as we have styled Plutarch and Lucian, though far
removed from the true classical era, being both posterior to
Christianity, are truly interesting. And, for Lucian in particular,
though he is known by reputation only as a humorous and sneering
writer, we can say, upon our personal knowledge, that there are
passages of more terrific effect, more German, and approaching to the
sublime, than anywhere else in Greek literature, out of the tragic
poets. Of Plutarch we need hardly speak; one part of his voluminous
works--viz. his biographies of Greek and Roman leaders in arts[16] and
arms--being so familiar to all nations; and having been selected by
Rousseau as the book for him who should be limited (or, like Collins
the poet, should limit himself) to one book only--a foolish choice
undoubtedly, but still arguing great range of resources in Plutarch,
that he should be thought of after so many myriads of modern books had
widened the range of selection. Meantime, the reader is not to forget
that, whatever may be his powers of amusement, a more inaccurate or
faithless author as to dates, and, indeed, in all matters of research,
does not exist than Plutarch. We make it a rule, whenever we see
_Plut._ at the bottom of a dictionary article, as the authority on
which it rests, to put the better half down as a bouncer. And, in
fact, Joe Miller is quite as good authority for English history as
Plutarch for Roman.

[Footnote 16: 'In arts,' we say, because great orators are amongst his
heroes; but, after all, it is very questionable whether, simply as
orators, Plutarch would have noticed them. They were also statesmen;
and Mitford always treats Demosthenes as first lord of the treasury
and premier. Plutarch records no poet, no artist, however brilliant.]

Now remain the orators; and of these we have a right to speak, for we
have read them; and, believe us, reader, not above one or two men in a
generation have. If the Editor would allow us room, we would gladly
contrast them with modern orators; and we could easily show how
prodigious are the advantages of modern orators in every point which
can enter into a comparison. But to what purpose? Even modern orators,
with all the benefit of modern interest, and of allusions everywhere
intelligible, are not read in any generation after their own, pulpit
orators only being excepted. So that, if the gods _had_ made our
reader a Grecian, surely he would never so far misspend his precious
time, and squander his precious intellect upon old dusty quarrels,
never of more value to a philosopher than a tempest in a wash-hand
bason, but now stuffed with obscurities which no man can explain, and
with lies to which no man can bring the counter-statement. But this
would furnish matter for a separate paper.


Now, let us come to the orators. Isocrates, the eldest of those who
have survived, is a mere scholastic rhetorician: for he was a timid
man, and did not dare to confront the terrors of a stormy political
audience; and hence, though he lived about an entire century, he never
once addressed the Athenian citizens. It is true, that, although no
_bonâ fide_ orator--for he never _spoke_ in any usual acceptation of
that word, and, as a consequence, never had an opportunity of
replying, which only can bring forward a man's talents as a
_debater_--still he employed his pen upon real and upon existing
questions of public policy; and did not, as so many generations of
chamber rhetoricians continued to do in Greece, confine his powers to
imaginary cases of political difficulty, or (what were tantamount to
imaginary) cases fetched up from the long-past era of King Priam, or
the still earlier era of the Seven Chiefs warring against the
Seven-gated Thebes of Boeotia, or the half-fabulous era of the
Argonauts. Isocrates was a man of sense--a patriot in a temperate
way--and with something of a feeling for Greece generally, not merely
a champion of Athens. His heart was given to politics: and, in an age
when heavy clouds were gathering over the independence and the civil
grandeur of his country, he had a disinterested anxiety for drawing
off the lightning of the approaching storms by pacific counsels.
Compared, therefore, with the common mercenary orators of the Athenian
forum--who made a regular trade of promoting mischief, by inflaming
the pride, jealousy, vengeance, or the martial instincts of a 'fierce
democracy,' and, generally speaking, with no views, high or low, sound
or unsound, that looked beyond the momentary profit to themselves from
thus pandering to the thoughtless nationality of a most sensitive
people--Isocrates is entitled to our respect. His writings have also a
separate value, as memorials of political transactions from which the
historian has gathered many useful hints; and, perhaps, to a diligent
search, they might yield more. But, considered as an orator--if that
title can be, with any propriety, allowed to one who declaimed only in
his closet--one who, in relation to public affairs, was what, in
England, when speaking of practical jurisprudence, we call a Chamber
Counsel--Isocrates is languid, and with little of anything
characteristic in his manner to justify a separate consideration. It
is remarkable that he, beyond all other rhetoricians of that era,
cultivated the _rhythmus_ of his periods. And to this object he
sacrificed not only an enormity of time, but, I have no doubt, in many
cases, the freedom and natural movement of the thoughts. My reason,
however, for noticing this peculiarity in Isocrates, is by way of
fixing the attention upon the superiority, even artificial ornaments,
of downright practical business and the realities of political strife,
over the torpid atmosphere of a study or a school. Cicero, long after,
had the same passion for _numerositas_, and the full, pompous
rotundity of cadence. But in Cicero, all habits and all faculties were
nursed by the daily practice of life and its impassioned realities, in
the forum or in the senate. What is the consequence? Why this--that,
whereas in the most laboured performance of Isocrates (which cost him,
I think, one whole _decennium_, or period of ten years), few modern
ears are sensible of any striking art, or any great result of harmony;
in Cicero, on the other hand, the fine, sonorous modulations of his
periodic style, are delightful to the dullest ear of any European.
Such are the advantages from real campaigns, from the unsimulated
strife of actual stormy life, over the torpid dreams of what the
Romans called an _umbratic_[17] experience.

[Footnote 17: 'Umbratic.' I have perhaps elsewhere drawn the attention
of readers to the peculiar effects of climate, in shaping the modes of
our thinking and imaging. A life of _inertia_, which retreats from the
dust and toil of actual experience, we (who represent the idea of
effeminacy more naturally by the image of shrinking from cold) call a
chimney-corner of a fireside experience; but the Romans, to whom the
same effeminacy more easily fell under the idea of shrinking from the
heat of the sun, called it an experience won in the shade; and a mere
scholastic student, they called an _umbraticus doctor_.]

_Isocrates_ I have noticed as the oldest of the surviving Greek
orators: _Demosthenes_, of course, claims a notice more emphatically,
as, by universal consent of Athens, and afterwards of Rhodes, of Rome,
and other impartial judges, the greatest, or, at least, the most
comprehensively great. For, by the way, it must not be forgotten--though
modern critics _do_ forget this rather important fact in weighing the
reputation of Demosthenes--he was not esteemed, in his own day, as the
greatest in that particular quality of energy and demoniac power
([Greek: deinotês]) which is generally assumed to have been his leading
characteristic and his _forte_; not only by comparison with his own
compatriots, but even with Cicero and the greatest men of the Roman bar.
It was not of Demosthenes that the Athenians were accustomed to say, 'he
thunders and lightens,' but of Pericles, an elder orator; and even
amongst the written oratory of Greece, which still survives (for as to
the speeches ascribed to Pericles by Thucydides, I take it for granted
that, as usual, these were mere forgeries of the historian), there is a
portion which perhaps exceeds Demosthenes in the naked quality of
vehemence. But this, I admit, will not impeach his supremacy; for it is
probable, that wherever an orator is characterised exclusively by
turbulent power, or at least remembered chiefly for that quality, all
the other numerous graces of eloquence were wanting to that man, or
existed only in a degree which made no equipoise to his insulated gift
of Jovian terror. The Gracchi, amongst the Roman orators, were probably
more properly 'sons of thunder' than Crassus or Cicero, or even than
Cæsar himself, whose oratory, by the way, was, in this respect, like his
own character and infinite accomplishments; so that even by Cicero it is
rarely cited without the epithet of splendid, magnificent, &c. We must
suppose, therefore, that neither Cicero nor Demosthenes was held to be
at the head of their respective fields in Rome and Athens, in right of
any absolute pre-eminence in the one leading power of an orator--viz.
native and fervent vigour--but in right of a large comprehensive harmony
of gifts, leaving possibly to some other orators, elder or rival to
themselves, a superiority in each of an orator's talents taken apart,
but claiming the supremacy, nevertheless, upon the whole, by the
systematic union of many qualities tending to one result: pleasing the
taste by the harmonious _coup d'oeil_ from the total assemblage, and
also adapting itself to a far larger variety of situations; for, after
all, the _mere_ son of thunder is disarmed, and apt to become
ridiculous, if you strip him of a passionate cause, of a theme saturated
with human strife, and of an excitable or tempestuous audience.

Such an audience, however, it will be said that Demosthenes had, and
sometimes (but not very often in those orations which survive) such a
theme. As to his audience, certainly it was all that could be wished
in point of violence and combustible passion; but also it was
something more. A mighty advantage it is, doubtless, to an orator,
when he sees and hears his own kindling passions instantaneously
reflected in the blazing eyes and fiery shouts (the _fremitus_) of
his audience--when he sees a whole people, personally or by
deputation, swayed backwards and forwards, like a field of corn in a
breeze, by the movements of his own appeals. But, unfortunately, in
the Athenian audience, the ignorance, the headstrong violence of
prejudice, the arrogance, and, above all, the levity of the national
mind--presented, to an orator the most favourite, a scene like that of
an ocean always rocking with storms; like a wasp always angry; like a
lunatic, always coming out of a passion or preparing to go into one.
Well might Demosthenes prepare himself by sea-shore practice; in which
I conceive that his purpose must have been, not so much (according to
the common notion) to overcrow the noise of the forum, as to _stand
fire_ (if I may so express it) against the uproarious demonstrations
of mob fury.

This quality of an Athenian audience must very seriously have
interfered with the intellectual display of an orator. Not a word
could he venture to say in the way of censure towards the public
will--not even hypothetically to insinuate a fault; not a syllable
could he utter even in the way of dissent from the favourite
speculations of the moment. If he did, instantly a roar of menaces
recalled him to a sense even of personal danger. And, again, the mere
vivacity of his audience, requiring perpetual amusement and variety,
compelled a man, as great even as Demosthenes, to curtail his
arguments, and rarely, indeed, to pursue a theme with the requisite
fulness of development or illustration; a point in which the superior
dignity and the far less fluctuating mobility of the Roman mind gave
an immense advantage to Cicero.

Demosthenes, in spite of all the weaknesses which have been arrayed
against his memory by the hatred of his contemporaries, or by the
anti-republican feelings of such men as Mitford, was a great man and
an honest man. He rose above his countrymen. He despised, in some
measure, his audience; and, at length, in the palmy days of his
influence, he would insist on being heard; he would insist on telling
the truth, however unacceptable; he would not, like the great rout of
venal haranguers, lay any flattering unction to the capital distempers
of the public mind; he would point out their errors, and warn them of
their perils. But this upright character of the man, victorious over
his constitutional timidity, does but the more brightly illustrate the
local law and the tyranny of the public feeling. How often do we find
him, when on the brink of uttering 'odious truth,' obliged to pause,
and to propitiate his audience with deprecatory phrases, entreating
them to give him time for utterance, not to yell him down before they
had heard his sentence to the end. [Greek: Mê thoryzeite]--'Gentlemen
of Athens! for the love of God, do not make an uproar at what I am
going to say! Gentlemen of Athens! humbly I beseech you to let me
finish my sentence!' Such are his continual appeals to the better
feelings of his audience. Now, it is very evident that, in such
circumstances, no man could do justice to any subject. At least, when
speaking not before a tribunal of justice, but before the people in
council assembled--that is, in effect, on his greatest stage of
all--Demosthenes (however bold at times, and restive in a matter which
he held to be paramount) was required to bend, and did bend, to the
local genius of democracy, reinforced by a most mercurial
temperament. The very air of Attica, combined with great political
power, kept its natives in a state of habitual intoxication; and even
wise men would have had some difficulty in mastering, as it affected
themselves, the permanent bias towards caprice and insolence.

Is this state of things at all taken into account in our modern
critiques upon Demosthenes? The upshot of what I can find in most
modern lecturers upon rhetoric and style, French or English, when
speaking of Demosthenes, is this notable simile, by way of
representing the final effect of his eloquence--'that, like a mountain
torrent, swollen by melting snow, or by rain, it carries all things
before it.' Prodigiously original! and exceedingly discriminative! As
if such an illustration would not equally represent the effect of a
lyrical poem, of Mozart's music, of a stormy chorus, or any other form
whatever of impassioned vehemence. Meantime, I suspect grievously that
not one of these critics has ever read a paragraph of Demosthenes.
Nothing do you ever find quoted but a few notorious passages about
Philip of Macedon, and the too-famous oath, by the manes of those that
died at Marathon. I call it too famous, because (like Addison's
comparison of Marlborough, at Blenheim, to the angel in the storm--of
which a schoolmaster then living said, that nine out of every ten boys
would have hit upon it in a school exercise) it has no peculiar
boldness, and must have occurred to every Athenian, of any
sensibility, every day of his life. Hear, on the other hand, a modern
oath, and (what is most remarkable) an oath sworn in the pulpit. A
dissenting clergyman (I believe, a Baptist), preaching at Cambridge,
and having occasion to affirm or to deny something or other, upon his
general confidence in the grandeur of man's nature, the magnificence
of his conceptions, the immensity of his aspirations, &c., delivered
himself thus:--'By the greatness of human ideals--by the greatness of
human aspirations--by the immortality of human creations--_by the
Iliad_--_by the Odyssey_'--Now, that _was_ bold, startling, sublime.
But, in the other case, neither was the oath invested with any great
pomp of imagery or expression; nor, if it had--which is more to the
purpose--was such an oath at all representative of the peculiar manner
belonging to Demosthenes. It is always a rude and inartificial style
of criticism to cite from an author that which, whether fine or not in
itself, is no fair specimen of his ordinary style.

What then _is_ the characteristic style of Demosthenes?--It is one
which grew naturally, as did his defects (by which I mean faults of
_omission_, in contradiction to such as are positive), from the
composition of his audience. His audience, comprehending so much
ignorance, and, above all, so much high-spirited impatience, being, in
fact, always on the fret, kept the orator always on the fret. Hence
arose short sentences; hence, the impossibility of the long,
voluminous sweeps of beautiful rhythmus which we find in Cicero;
hence, the animated form of apostrophe and crowded interrogations
addressed to the audience. This gives, undoubtedly, a spirited and
animated character to the style of Demosthenes; but it robs him of a
large variety of structure applied to the logic, or the embellishment,
or the music of his composition. His style is full of life, but not
(like Cicero's) full of pomp and continuous grandeur. On the contrary,
as the necessity of rousing attention, or of sustaining it, obliged
the Attic orator to rely too much on the _personality_ of direct
question to the audience, and to use brief sentences, so also the same
impatient and fretful irritability forbade him to linger much upon an
idea--to theorise, to speculate, or, generally, to quit the direct
business path of the question then under consideration--no matter for
what purpose of beauty, dignity, instruction, or even of _ultimate_
effect. In all things, the _immediate_--the instant--the _præsens
præsentissimum_, was kept steadily before the eye of the Athenian
orator, by the mere coercion of self-interest.

And hence, by the way, arises one most important feature of
distinction between Grecian oratory (political oratory at least) on
the one hand, and Roman (to which, in this point, we may add British)
on the other. A Roman lawyer, senator, or demagogue, even, under
proper restrictions--a British member of parliament--or even a
candidate from the hustings--but, most assuredly, and by the evidence
of many a splendid example, an advocate addressing a jury--may
embellish his oration with a wide circuit of historical, or of
antiquarian, nay, even speculative discussion. Every Latin scholar
will remember the leisurely and most facetious, the good-natured and
respectful, yet keenly satiric, picture which the great Roman
barrister draws of the Stoic philosophy, by way of _rowing_ old Cato,
who professed that philosophy with too little indulgence for venial
human errors. The _judices_--that is, in effect, the jury--were
tickled to the soul by seeing the grave Marcus Cato badgered with
this fine razor-like raillery; and there can be no doubt that, by
flattering the self-respect of the jury, in presuming them susceptible
of so much wit from a liberal kind of knowledge, and by really
delighting them with such a display of adroit teasing applied to a man
of scenical gravity, this whole scene, though quite extrajudicial and
travelling out of the record, was highly useful in conciliating the
good-will of Cicero's audience. The same style of liberal _excursus_
from the more thorny path of the absolute business before the court,
has been often and memorably practised by great English
barristers--as, in the trial of Sacheverel, by many of the managers
for the Commons; by 'the fluent Murray,' on various occasions; in the
great cause of impeachment against our English Verres (or, at least,
our Verres as to the situation, though not the guilt), Mr. Hastings;
in many of Mr. Erskine's addresses to juries, where political rights
were at stake; in Sir James Mackintosh's defence of Peltier for a
libel upon Napoleon, when he went into a history of the press as
applied to politics--(a liberal inquiry, but which, except in the
remotest manner, could not possibly bear upon the mere question of
fact before the jury); and in many other splendid instances, which
have really made _our_ trials and the annals of _our_ criminal
jurisprudence one great fund of information and authority to the
historian. In the senate, I need not say how much farther, and more
frequently, this habit of large generalisation, and of liberal
excursion from perhaps a lifeless theme, has been carried by great
masters; in particular, by Edmund Burke, who carried it, in fact, to
such excess, and to a point which threatened so much to disturb the
movement of public business, that, from that cause more perhaps than
from rude insensibility to the value of his speculations, he put his
audience sometimes in motion for dinner, and acquired (as is
well-known) the surname of the Dinner Bell.[18]

[Footnote 18: Yet this story has been exaggerated; and, I believe, in
strict truth, the whole case arose out of some fretful expressions of
ill-temper on the part of Burke, and that the name was a retort from a
man of wit, who had been personally stung by a sarcasm of the offended

Now, in the Athenian audience, all this was impossible: neither in
political nor in forensic harangues was there any license by rule, or
any indulgence by usage, or any special privilege by personal favour,
to the least effort at improving an individual case of law or politics
into general views of jurisprudence, of statesmanship, of diplomacy;
no collateral discussions were tolerated--no illustrative details--no
historical parallelisms--still less any philosophical moralisations.
The slightest show of any tendency in these directions was summarily
nipped in the bud: the Athenian gentlemen began to [Greek: thoryzein]
in good earnest if a man showed symptoms of entering upon any
discussion whatever that was not intensely needful and pertinent in
the first place--or which, in the second place, was not of a nature to
be wound up in two sentences when a summons should arise either to
dinner, or to the theatre, or to the succession of some variety
anticipated from another orator.

Hence, therefore, finally arises one great peculiarity of Greek
eloquence; and a most unfortunate one for its chance of ever
influencing a remote posterity, or, in any substantial sense, of its
ever surviving in the real unaffected admiration of us moderns--that
it embodies no alien, no collateral information as to manners, usages,
modes of feeling--no extrinsic ornament, no side glimpses into Grecian
life, no casual historical details. The cause, and nothing but the
cause--the political question, and nothing but the question--- pealed
for ever in the ears of the terrified orator, always on sufferance,
always on his good behaviour, always afraid, for the sake of his party
or of his client, lest his auditors should become angry, or become
impatient, or become weary. And from that intense fear, trammeling the
freedom of his steps at every turn, and overruling every motion to the
right or to the left, in pure servile anxiety for the mood and
disposition of his tyrannical master, arose the very opposite result
for us of this day--that we, by the very means adopted to prevent
weariness in the immediate auditors, find nothing surviving in Grecian
orations but what _does_ weary us insupportably through its want of
all general interest; and, even amongst private or instant details of
politics or law, presenting us with none that throw light upon the
spirit of manners, or the Grecian peculiarities of feeling. Probably
an Athenian mob would not have cared much at the prospect of such a
result to posterity; and, at any rate, would not have sacrificed one
atom of their ease or pleasure to obviate such a result: but, to an
Athenian orator, this result would have been a sad one to contemplate.
The final consequence is, that whilst all men find, or may find,
infinite amusement, and instruction of the most liberal kind, in that
most accomplished of statesmen and orators, the Roman Cicero--nay,
would doubtless, from the causes assigned, have found, in their
proportion, the same attractions in the speeches of the elder Antony,
of Hortensius, of Crassus, and other contemporaries or immediate
predecessors of Cicero--no person ever reads Demosthenes, still less
any other Athenian orator, with the slightest interest beyond that
which inevitably attaches to the words of one who wrote his own divine
language with probably very superior skill.

But, from all this, results a further inference--viz. the dire
affectation of those who pretend an enthusiasm in the oratory of
Demosthenes; and also a plenary consolation to all who are obliged,
from ignorance of Greek, to dispense with that novelty. If it be a
luxury at all, it is and can be one for those only who cultivate
verbal researches and the pleasures of philology.

Even in the oratory of our own times, which oftentimes discusses
questions to the whole growth and motion of which we have been
ourselves parties present, or even accessary--questions which we have
followed in their first emersion and separation from the clouds of
general politics; their advance, slow or rapid, towards a domineering
interest in the public passions; their meridian altitude; and perhaps
their precipitous descent downwards, whether from the consummation of
their objects (as in the questions of the Slave Trade, of Catholic
Emancipation, of East India Monopoly), or from a partial victory and
compromise with the abuse (as in the purification of that Augean
stable, prisons, and, still more, private houses for the insane), or
from the accomplishment of one stage or so in a progress which, by its
nature, is infinite (as in the various steps taken towards the
improvement, and towards the extension of education): even in cases
like these, when the primary and ostensible object of the speaker
already, on its own account, possesses a commanding attraction, yet
will it often happen that the secondary questions, growing out of the
leading one, the great elementary themes suggested to the speaker by
the concrete case before him--as, for instance, the general question
of Test Laws, or the still higher and transcendent question of
Religious Toleration, and the relations between the State and
religious opinions, or the general history of Slavery and the commerce
in the human species, the general principles of economy as applied to
monopolies, the past usages of mankind in their treatment of prisoners
or of lunatics--these comprehensive and transcendent themes are
continually allowed to absorb and throw into the shade, for a time,
the minor but more urgent question of the moment through which they
have gained their interest. The capital and primary interest gives way
for a time to the derivative interest; and it does so by a silent
understanding between the orator and his audience. The orator is well
assured that he will not be taxed with wandering; the audience are
satisfied that, eventually, they will not have lost their time: and
the final result is, to elevate and liberalise the province of
oratory, by exalting mere business (growing originally, perhaps, out
of contingencies of finance, or trade, or local police) into a field
for the higher understanding; and giving to the mere necessities of
our position as a nation the dignity of great problems for civilising
wisdom or philosophic philanthropy. Look back to the superb orations
of Edmund Burke on questions limited enough in themselves, sometimes
merely personal; for instance, that on American Taxation, on the
Reforms in our Household or Official Expenditure, or at that from the
Bristol hustings (by its _primâ facie_ subject, therefore, a mere
electioneering harangue to a mob). With what marvellous skill does he
enrich what is meagre, elevate what is humble, intellectualise what is
purely technical, delocalise what is local, generalise what is
personal! And with what result? Doubtless to the absolute
contemporaries of those speeches, steeped to the very lips in the
passions besetting their topics, even to those whose attention was
sufficiently secured by the domineering interest, friendly or hostile,
to the views of the speaker--even to these I say, that, in so far as
they were at all capable of an intellectual pleasure, those parts
would be most attractive which were least occupied with the present
business and the momentary details. This order of precedency in the
interests of the speech held even for them; but to us, removing at
every annual step we take in the century, to a greater distance from
the mere business and partisan interests of the several cases, this
secondary attraction is not merely the greater of the two--to us it
has become pretty nearly the sole one, pretty nearly the exclusive

As to religious oratory, _that_ stands upon a different footing--the
questions afloat in that province of human speculation being eternal,
or at least essentially the same under new forms, receives a strong
illustration from the annals of the English senate, to which also it
gives a strong and useful illustration. Up to the era of James I., the
eloquence of either House could not, for political reasons, be very
striking, on the very principle which we have been enforcing.
Parliament met only for dispatch of business; and that business was
purely fiscal, or (as at times it happened) judicial. The
constitutional functions of Parliament were narrow; and they were
narrowed still more severely by the jealousy of the executive
government. With the expansion, or rather first growth and development
of a gentry, or third estate, expanded, _pari passu_, the political
field of their jurisdiction and their deliberative functions. This
widening field, as a birth out of new existences, unknown to former
laws or usages, was, of course, not contemplated by those laws or
usages. Constitutional law could not provide for the exercise of
rights by a body of citizens, when, as yet, that body had itself no
existence. A gentry, as the depository of a vast overbalance of
property, real as well as personal, had not matured itself till the
latter years of James I. Consequently the new functions, which the
instinct of their new situation prompted them to assume, were looked
upon by the Crown, most sincerely, as unlawful usurpations. This led,
as we know, to a most fervent and impassioned struggle, the most so of
any struggle which has ever armed the hands of men with the sword. For
the passions take a far profounder sweep when they are supported by
deep thought and high principles.

This element of fervid strife was already, for itself, an atmosphere
most favourable to political eloquence. Accordingly, the speeches of
that day, though generally too short to attain that large compass and
sweep of movement without which it is difficult to kindle or to
sustain any conscious enthusiasm in an audience, were of a high
quality as to thought and energy of expression, as high as their
circumstantial disadvantages allowed. Lord Strafford's great effort is
deservedly admired to this day, and the latter part of it has been
often pronounced a _chef-d'oeuvre_. A few years before that era, all
the orators of note were, and must have been, judicial orators; and,
amongst these, Lord Bacon, to whom every reader's thoughts will point
as the most memorable, attained the chief object of all oratory, if
what Ben Jonson reports of him be true, that he had his audience
passive to the motions of his will. But Jonson was, perhaps, too
scholastic a judge to be a fair representative judge; and, whatever he
might choose to say or to think, Lord Bacon was certainly too
weighty--too massy with the bullion of original thought--ever to have
realized the idea of a great popular orator--one who

    'Wielded at will a fierce democracy,'

and ploughed up the great deeps of sentiment, or party strife, or
national animosities, like a Levanter or a monsoon. In the schools of
Plato, in the _palæstra Stoicorum_, such an orator might be potent;
not _in fæce Romuli_. If he had laboured with no other defect, had he
the gift of tautology? Could he say the same thing three times over in
direct sequence? For, without this talent of iteration--of repeating
the same thought in diversified forms--a man may utter good heads of
an oration, but not an oration. Just as the same illustrious man's
essays are good hints--useful topics--for essays; but no approximation
to what we, in modern days, understand by _essays_: they are, as an
eminent author once happily expressed it to myself, '_seeds, not
plants or shrubs; acorns, that is, oaks in embryo, but not oaks_.'

Reverting, however, to the oratory of the Senate, from the era of its
proper birth, which we may date from the opening of that our memorable
Long Parliament, brought together in November of 1642,[19] our
Parliamentary eloquence has now, within four years, travelled through
a period of two centuries. A most admirable subject for an essay, or a
Magazine article, as it strikes me, would be a bird's-eye view--or
rather a bird's-wing flight--pursuing rapidly the revolutions of that
memorable oracle (for such it really was to the rest of civilised
Europe), which, through so long a course of years, like the Delphic
oracle to the nations of old, delivered counsels of civil prudence and
of national grandeur, that kept alive for Christendom the
recollections of freedom, and refreshed to the enslaved Continent the
old ideas of Roman patriotism, which, but for our Parliament, would
have uttered themselves by no voices on earth. That this account of
the position occupied by our British Parliament, in relation to the
rest of Europe, at least after the publication of the Debates had been
commenced by Cave, with the aid of Dr. Johnson, is, in no respect,
romantic or overcharged, may be learned from the German novels of the
last century, in which we find the British debates as uniformly the
morning accompaniment of breakfast, at the houses of the rural gentry,
&c., as in any English or Scottish county. Such a sketch would, of
course, collect the characteristics of each age, show in what
connection these characteristics stood with the political aspects of
the time, or with the modes of managing public business (a fatal rock
to our public eloquence in England!), and illustrate the whole by
interesting specimens from the leading orators in each generation:
from Hampden to Pulteney, amongst oppositionists or patriots; from
Pulteney to O'Connell; or, again, amongst Ministers, from Hyde to
Somers, from Lord Sunderland to Lords Oxford and Bolingbroke; and from
the plain, downright Sir Robert Walpole, to the plain, downright Sir
Robert Peel.

[Footnote 19: There was another Parliament of this same year 1642,
which met in the spring (April, I think), but was summarily dissolved.
A small quarto volume, of not unfrequent occurrence, I believe,
contains some good specimens of the eloquence then prevalent--it was
rich in thought, never wordy--in fact, too parsimonious in words and
illustrations; and it breathed a high tone of religious principle as
well as of pure-minded patriotism; but, for the reason stated
above--its narrow circuit and very limited duration--the general
character of the Parliamentary eloquence was ineffective.]

Throughout the whole of this review, the same 'moral,' if one might so
call it, would be apparent--viz. that in proportion as the oratory was
high and intellectual, did it travel out into the collateral questions
of less instant necessity, but more durable interest; and that, in
proportion as the Grecian necessity _was_ or was _not_ enforced by the
temper of the House, or by the pressure of public business--the
necessity which cripples the orator, by confining him within the
severe limits of the case before him--in that proportion had or had
not the oratory of past generations a surviving interest for modern
posterity. Nothing, in fact, so utterly effete--not even old law, or
old pharmacy, or old erroneous chemistry--nothing so insufferably dull
as political orations, unless when powerfully animated by that spirit
of generalisation which only gives the breath of life and the salt
which preserves from decay, through every age alike. The very
strongest proof, as well as exemplification of all which has been said
on Grecian oratory, may thus be found in the records of the British

And this, by the way, brings us round to an aspect of Grecian oratory
which has been rendered memorable, and forced upon our notice, in the
shape of a problem, by the most popular of our native historians--the
aspect, I mean, of Greek oratory in comparison with English. Hume has
an essay upon the subject; and the true answer to that essay will open
a wide field of truth to us. In this little paper, Hume assumes the
superiority of Grecian eloquence, as a thing admitted on all hands,
and requiring no proof. Not the proof of this point did he propose to
himself as his object; not even the illustration of it. No. All that,
Hume held to be superfluous. His object was, to investigate the causes
of this Grecian superiority; or, if _investigate_ is too pompous a
word for so slight a discussion, more properly, he inquired for the
cause as something that must naturally lie upon the surface.

What is the answer? First of all, before looking for causes, a man
should be sure of his facts. Now, as to the main fact at issue, I
utterly deny the superiority of Grecian eloquence. And, first of all,
I change the whole field of inquiry by shifting the comparison. The
Greek oratory is all political or judicial: we have those also; but
the best of our eloquence, by immeasurable degrees, the noblest and
richest, is our religious eloquence. Here, of course, all comparison
ceases; for classical Grecian religious eloquence, in Grecian attire,
there is none until three centuries after the Christian era, when we
have three great orators, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil--of which two I
have a very fixed opinion, having read large portions of both--and a
third of whom I know nothing. To our Jeremy Taylor, to our Sir Thomas
Browne, there is no approach made in the Greek eloquence. The
inaugural chapter of the _Holy Dying_, to say nothing of many another
golden passage; or the famous passage in the _Urn Buriall_,
beginning--'Now, since these bones have rested under the drums and
tramplings of three conquests'--have no parallel in literature. The
winding up of the former is more, in its effect, like a great
tempestuous chorus from the _Judas Maccabeus_, or from Spohr's _St.
Paul_, than like human eloquence.

But, grant that this transfer of the comparison is unfair--still, it
is no less unfair to confine the comparison on our part to the weakest
part of our oratory; but no matter--let issue be joined even here.
Then we may say, at once, that, for the intellectual qualities of
eloquence, in fineness of understanding, in depth and in large compass
of thought, Burke far surpasses any orator, ancient or modern. But, if
the comparison were pushed more widely, very certain I am, that, apart
from classical prejudice, no qualities of just thinking, or fine
expression, or even of artificial ornament, could have been assigned
by Hume, in which the great body of our deliberative and forensic
orators fall short of Grecian models; though I will admit, that, by
comparison with the Roman model of Cicero, there is seldom the same
artful prefiguration of the oration throughout its future course, or
the same sustained rhythmus and oratorial tone. The qualities of art
are nowhere so prominently expressed, nowhere aid the effect so much,
as in the great Roman master.

But, as to Greece, let us now, in one word, unveil the sole advantage
which the eloquence of the Athenian _assembly_ has over that of the
English senate. It is this--_the public business of Athens was as yet
simple and unencumbered by details_; the dignity of the occasion was
scenically sustained. But, in England, the vast intricacy and complex
interweaving of property, of commerce, of commercial interests, of
details infinite in number, and infinite in littleness, break down and
fritter away into fractions and petty minutiæ, the whole huge
labyrinth of our public affairs. It is scarcely necessary to explain
my meaning. In Athens, the question before the public assembly was,
peace or war--before our House of Commons, perhaps the Exchequer
Bills' Bill; at Athens, a league or no league--in England, the Tithe
of Agistment Commutation-Bills' Renewal Bill; in Athens--shall we
forgive a ruined enemy? in England--shall we cancel the tax on
farthing rushlights? In short, with us, the infinity of details
overlays the simplicity and grandeur of our public deliberations.

Such was the advantage--a mighty advantage--for Greece. Now, finally,
for the use made of this advantage. To that point I have already
spoken. By the clamorous and undeliberative qualities of the Athenian
political audience, by its fitful impatience, and vehement arrogance,
and fervid partisanship, all wide and general discussion was barred
_in limine_. And thus occurred this singular inversion of
positions--the greatest of Greek orators was obliged to treat these
Catholic questions as mere Athenian questions of business. On the
other hand, the least eloquent of British senators, whether from the
immense advance in knowledge, or from the custom and usage of
Parliament, seldom fails, more or less, to elevate his intense details
of pure technical business into something dignified, either by the
necessities of pursuing the _historical_ relations of the matter in
discussion, or of arguing its merits as a case of general finance, or
as connected with general political economy, or, perhaps, in its
bearings on peace or war. The Grecian was forced, by the composition
of his headstrong auditory, to degrade and personalise his grand
themes; the Englishman is forced, by the difference of his audience,
by old prescription, and by the opposition of a well-informed, hostile
party, into elevating his merely technical and petty themes into great
national questions, involving honour and benefit to tens of millions.


Using a New Testament, of which (in the narrative parts at least) any
one word being given will suggest most of what is immediately
consecutive, you evade the most irksome of the penalties annexed to
the first breaking ground in a new language: you evade the necessity
of hunting up and down a dictionary. Your own memory, and the
inevitable suggestions of the context, furnish a dictionary _pro hac
vice_. And afterwards, upon advancing to other books, where you are
obliged to forego such aids, and to swim without corks, you find
yourself already in possession of the particles for expressing
addition, succession, exception, inference--in short, of all the forms
by which transition or connection is effected (_if_, _but_, _and_,
_therefore_, _however_, _notwithstanding_), together with all those
adverbs for modifying or restraining the extent of a subject or a
predicate, which in all languages alike compose the essential
frame-work or _extra-linear_ machinery of human thought. The
filling-up--the _matter_ (in a scholastic sense)--may differ
infinitely; but the _form_, the periphery, the determining moulds
into which this matter is fused--all this is the same for ever: and so
wonderfully limited in its extent is this frame-work, so narrow and
rapidly revolving is the clock-work of connections among human
thoughts, that a dozen pages of almost any book suffice to exhaust all
the [Greek: epea pteroenta][20] which express them. To have mastered
these [Greek: epea pteroenta] is in effect to have mastered
seven-tenths, at the least, of any language; and the benefit of using
a New Testament, or the familiar parts of an Old Testament, in this
preliminary drill, is, that your own memory is thus made to operate as
a perpetual dictionary or nomenclator. I have heard Mr. Southey say
that, by carrying in his pocket a Dutch, Swedish, or other Testament,
on occasion of a long journey performed in '_muggy_' weather, and in
the inside of some venerable 'old heavy'--such as used to bestow their
tediousness upon our respectable fathers some thirty or forty years
ago--he had more than once turned to so valuable an account the
doziness or the dulness of his fellow-travellers, that whereas he had
'booked' himself at the coach-office utterly [Greek: analphabêtos],
unacquainted with the first rudiments of the given language, he had
made his parting bows to his coach brethren (secretly returning thanks
to them for their stupidity), in a condition for grappling with any
common book in that dialect. One of the polyglot Old or New Testaments
published by Bagster, would be a perfect Encyclopædia, or
_Panorganon_, for such a scheme of coach discipline, upon dull roads
and in dull company. As respects the German language in particular, I
shall give one caution from my own experience, to the self-instructor:
it is a caution which applies to the German language exclusively, or
to that more than to any other, because the embarrassment which it is
meant to meet, grows out of a defect of taste characteristic of the
German mind. It is this: elsewhere, you would naturally, as a
beginner, resort to _prose_ authors, since the license and audacity of
poetic thinking, and the large freedom of a poetic treatment, cannot
fail to superadd difficulties of individual creation to the general
difficulties of a strange dialect. But this rule, good for every other
case, is _not_ good for the literature of Germany. Difficulties there
certainly are, and perhaps in more than the usual proportion, from the
German peculiarities of poetic treatment; but even these are
overbalanced in the result, by the single advantage of being limited
in the extent by the metre, or (as it may happen) by the particular
stanza. To German poetry there is a known, fixed, calculable limit.
Infinity, absolute infinity, is impracticable in any German metre.
Not so with German prose. Style, in any sense, is an inconceivable
idea to a German intellect. Take the word in the limited sense of what
the Greeks called [Greek: Synthesis onomatôn]--_i. e._ the
construction of sentences--I affirm that a German (unless it were here
and there a Lessing) cannot admit such an idea. Books there are in
German, and, in other respects, very good books too, which consist of
one or two enormous sentences. A German sentence describes an arch
between the rising and the setting sun. Take Kant for illustration: he
has actually been complimented by the cloud-spinner, Frederic
Schlegel, who is now in Hades, as a most original artist in the matter
of style. 'Original' Heaven knows he was! His idea of a sentence was
as follows:--We have all seen, or read of, an old family coach, and
the process of packing it for a journey to London some seventy or
eighty years ago. Night and day, for a week at least, sate the
housekeeper, the lady's maid, the butler, the gentleman's gentleman,
&c., packing the huge ark in all its recesses, its 'imperials,' its
'wills,' its 'Salisbury boots,' its 'sword-cases,' its front pockets,
side pockets, rear pockets, its 'hammer-cloth cellars' (which a lady
explains to me as a corruption from _hamper-cloth_, as originally a
cloth for hiding a hamper, stored with _viaticum_), until all the uses
and needs of man, and of human life, savage or civilised, were met
with separate provision by the infinite chaos. Pretty nearly upon the
model of such an old family coach packing, did Kant institute and
pursue the packing and stuffing of one of his regular sentences.
Everything that could ever be needed in the way of explanation,
illustration, restraint, inference, by-clause, or indirect comment,
was to be crammed, according to this German philosopher's taste, into
the front pockets, side pockets, or rear pockets, of the one original
sentence. Hence it is that a sentence will last in reading whilst a

    'Might reap an acre of his neighbour's corn.'

Nor is this any peculiarity of Kant's. It is common to the whole
family of prose writers of Germany, unless when they happen to have
studied French models, who cultivate the opposite extreme. As a
caution, therefore, practically applied to this particular anomaly in
German prose-writing, I advise all beginners to choose between two
classes of composition--ballad poetry, or comedy--as their earliest
school of exercise; ballad poetry, because the form of the stanza
(usually a quatrain) prescribes a very narrow range to the sentences;
comedy, because the form of dialogue, and the imitation of daily life
in its ordinary tone of conversation, and the spirit of comedy
naturally suggesting a brisk interchange of speech, all tend to short
sentences. These rules I soon drew from my own experience and
observation. And the one sole purpose towards which I either sought or
wished for aid, respected the pronunciation; not so much for attaining
a just one (which I was satisfied could not be realised out of
Germany, or, at least, out of a daily intercourse with Germans) as for
preventing the formation, unawares, of a radically false one. The
guttural and palatine sounds of the _ch_, and some other German
peculiarities, cannot be acquired without constant practice. But the
false Westphalian or Jewish pronunciation of the vowels, diphthongs,
&c., may easily be forestalled, though the true delicacy of Meissen
should happen to be missed. Thus much guidance I purchased, with a
very few guineas, from my young Dresden tutor, who was most anxious
for permission to extend his assistance; but this I would not hear of:
and, in the spirit of fierce (perhaps foolish) independence, which
governed most of my actions at that time of life, I did all the rest
for myself.

    'It was a banner broad unfurl'd,
    The picture of that western world.'

These, or words like these, in which Wordsworth conveys the sudden
apocalypse, as by an apparition, to an ardent and sympathising spirit,
of the stupendous world of America, rising, at once, like an
exhalation, with all its shadowy forests, its endless savannas, and
its pomp of solitary waters--well and truly might I have applied to my
first launching upon that vast billowy ocean of the German literature.
As a past literature, as a literature of inheritance and tradition,
the German was nothing. Ancestral titles it had none; or none
comparable to those of England, Spain, or even Italy; and there, also,
it resembled America, as contrasted with the ancient world of Asia,
Europe, and North Africa.[21] But, if its inheritance were nothing,
its prospects, and the scale of its present development, were in the
amplest style of American grandeur. _Ten thousand_ new books, we are
assured by Menzel, an author of high reputation--a _literal
myriad_--is considerably below the number annually poured from all
quarters of Germany, into the vast reservoir of Leipsic; spawn
infinite, no doubt, of crazy dotage, of dreaming imbecility, of
wickedness, of frenzy, through every phasis of Babylonian confusion;
yet, also, teeming and heaving with life and the instincts of
truth--of truth hunting and chasing in the broad daylight, or of truth
groping in the chambers of darkness; sometimes seen as it displays its
cornucopia of tropical fruitage; sometimes heard dimly, and in
promise, working its way through diamond mines. Not the tropics, not
the ocean, not life itself, is such a type of variety, of infinite
forms, or of creative power, as the German literature, in its recent
motions (say for the last twenty years), gathering, like the Danube, a
fresh volume of power at every stage of its advance. A banner it was,
indeed, to me of miraculous promise, and suddenly unfurled. It seemed,
in those days, an El Dorado as true and undeceiving as it was
evidently inexhaustible. And the central object in this interminable
wilderness of what then seemed imperishable bloom and verdure--the
very tree of knowledge in the midst of this Eden--was the new or
transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant.

[Footnote 20: [Greek: Epea pteroenta], literally _winged words_. To
explain the use and origin of this phrase to non-classical readers, it
must be understood that, originally, it was used by Homer to express
the few, rapid, and significant words which conveyed some hasty order,
counsel, or notice, suited to any sudden occasion or emergency: _e.
g._ 'To him flying from the field the hero addressed these winged
words--"Stop, coward, or I will transfix thee with my spear."' But by
Horne Tooke, the phrase was adopted on the title-page of his
_Diversions of Purley_, as a pleasant symbolic expression for all the
non-significant particles, the _articuli_ or joints of language, which
in his well-known theory are resolved into abbreviations or
compendious forms (and therefore rapid, flying, _winged_ forms),
substituted for significant forms of greater length. Thus, _if_ is a
non-significant particle, but it is an abbreviated form of an
imperative in the second person--substituted for gif, or give, or
grant the case--put the case that. All other particles are shown by
Horne Tooke to be equally shorthand (or _winged_) substitutions.]

[Footnote 21: It has been rather too much forgotten, that Africa, from
the northern margin of Bilidulgerid and the Great Desert,
southwards--everywhere, in short, beyond Egypt, Cyrene, and the modern
Barbary States--belongs, as much as America, to the New World--the
world unknown to the ancients.]

I have described the gorgeousness of my expectations in those early
days of my prelusive acquaintance with German literature. I have a
little lingered in painting that glad aurora of my first pilgrimage to
the fountains of the Rhine and of the Danube, in order adequately to
shadow out the gloom and blight which soon afterwards settled upon the
hopes of that golden dawn. In Kant, I had been taught to believe,
were the keys of a new and a creative philosophy. Either '_ejus
ductu_,' or '_ejus auspiciis_'--that is, either directly under his
guidance, or indirectly under any influence remotely derived from his
principles--I looked confidingly to see the great vistas and avenues
of truth laid open to the philosophic inquirer. Alas! all was a dream.
Six weeks' study was sufficient to close my hopes in that quarter for
ever. The philosophy of Kant--so famous, so commanding in Germany,
from about the period of the French Revolution--already, in 1805, I
had found to be a philosophy of destruction, and scarcely, in any one
chapter, so much as _tending_ to a philosophy of reconstruction. It
destroys by wholesale, and it substitutes nothing. Perhaps, in the
whole history of man, it is an unexampled case, that such a scheme of
speculation--which offers nothing seducing to human aspirations,
nothing splendid to the human imagination, nothing even positive and
affirmative to the human understanding--should have been able to found
an interest so broad and deep among thirty-five millions of cultivated
men. The English reader who supposes this interest to have been
confined to academic bowers, or the halls of philosophic societies, is
most inadequately alive to the case. Sects, heresies, schisms, by
hundreds, have arisen out of this philosophy--many thousands of books
have been written by way of teaching it, discussing it, extending it,
opposing it. And yet it is a fact, that all its doctrines are
negative--teaching, in no case, what we _are_, but simply what we are
_not_ to believe--and that all its truths are barren. Such being its
unpopular character, I cannot but imagine that the German people have
received it with so much ardour, from profound incomprehension of its
meaning, and utter blindness to its drift--a solution which may seem
extravagant, but is not so; for, even amongst those who have expressly
commented on this philosophy, not one of the many hundreds whom I have
myself read, but has retracted from every attempt to explain its dark
places. In these dark places lies, indeed, the secret of its
attraction. Were light poured into them, it would be seen that they
are _culs-de-sac_, passages that lead to nothing; but, so long as they
continue dark, it is not known whither they lead, how far, in what
direction, and whether, in fact, they may not issue into paths
connected directly with the positive and the infinite. Were it known
that upon every path a barrier faces you insurmountable to human
steps--like the barriers which fence in the Abyssinian valley of
Rasselas--the popularity of this philosophy would expire at once; for
no popular interest can long be sustained by speculations which, in
every aspect, are known to be essentially negative and essentially
finite. Man's nature has something of infinity within itself, which
requires a corresponding infinity in its objects. We are told, indeed,
by Mr. Bulwer, that the Kantian system has ceased to be of any
authority in Germany--that it is defunct, in fact--and that we have
first begun to import it into England, after its root had withered, or
begun to wither, in its native soil. But Mr. Bulwer is mistaken. The
philosophy has never withered in Germany. It cannot even be said that
its fortunes have retrograded: they have oscillated: accidents of
taste and ability in particular professors, or caprices of fashion,
have given a momentary fluctuation to this or that new form of
Kantianism,--an ascendency, for a period, to various, and, in some
respects, conflicting, modifications of the transcendental system; but
all alike have derived their power mediately from Kant. No weapons,
even if employed as hostile weapons, are now forged in any armoury but
that of Kant; and, to repeat a Roman figure which I used above, all
the modern polemic tactics of what is called metaphysics, are trained
and made to move either _ejus ductu_ or _ejus auspiciis_. Not one of
the new systems affects to call back the Leibnitzian philosophy, the
Cartesian, or any other of earlier or later date, as adequate to the
purposes of the intellect in this day, or as capable of yielding even
a sufficient terminology. Let this last fact decide the question of
Kant's vitality. _Qui bene distinguit bene docet._ This is an old
adage. Now, he who imposes new names upon all the acts, the functions,
and the objects of the philosophic understanding, must be presumed to
have distinguished most sharply, and to have ascertained with most
precision, their general relations--_so long as his terminology
continues to be adopted_. This test, applied to Kant, will show that
his spirit yet survives in Germany. Frederic Schlegel, it is true,
twenty years ago, in his lectures upon literature, assures us that
even the disciples of the great philosopher have agreed to abandon his
philosophic nomenclature. But the German philosophic literature, since
that date, tells another tale. Mr. Bulwer is, therefore, wrong; and,
without going to Germany, looking only to France, he will see cause to
revise his sentence. Cousin--the philosophic Cousin, the only great
name in philosophy for modern France--familiar as he is with North
Germany, can hardly be presumed unacquainted with a fact so striking,
if it _were_ a fact, as the extinction of a system once so
triumphantly supreme as that of Kant; and yet Mr. Bulwer, admiring
Cousin as he does, cannot but have noticed his efforts to naturalise
Kant in France. Meantime, if it were even true that transcendentalism
had lost its hold of the public mind in Germany, _primâ facie_, this
would prove little more than the fickleness of that public which must
have been wrong in one of the two cases--either when adopting the
system, or when rejecting it. Whatever there may be of truth and value
in the system, will remain unimpeached by such caprices, whether of an
individual or of a great nation; and England would still be in the
right to import the philosophy, however late in the day, if it were
true even (which I doubt greatly) that she _is_ importing it.

Both truth and value there certainly _is_ in one part of the Kantian
philosophy; and that part is its foundation. I had intended, at this
point, to introduce an outline of the transcendental philosophy--not,
perhaps, as entering by logical claim of right into any biographical
sketch, but as a very allowable digression in the record of that man's
life to whom, in the way of hope and of profound disappointment, it
had been so memorable an object. For two or three years before I
mastered the language of Kant,[22] it had been a pole-star to my
hopes, and _in hypothesi_ agreeably to the uncertain plans of
uncertain knowledge, the luminous guide to my future life--as a life
dedicated and set apart to philosophy. Such it was some years _before_
I knew it: for, at least ten long years _after_ I came into a
condition of valueing its true pretensions and measuring its
capacities, this same philosophy shed the gloom of something like
misanthropy upon my views and estimates of human nature; for man was
an abject animal, if the limitations which Kant assigned to the
motions of his speculative reason were as absolute and hopeless as,
under _his_ scheme of the understanding and _his_ genesis of its
powers, too evidently they were. I belonged to a reptile race, if the
wings by which we had sometimes _seemed_ to mount, and the buoyancy
which had _seemed_ to support our flight, were indeed the fantastic
delusions which he represented them. Such, and so deep and so abiding
in its influence upon my life, having been the influence of this
German philosophy, according to all logic of proportions, in selecting
the objects of my notice, I might be excused for setting before the
reader, in its full array, the analysis of its capital sections.
However, in any memorial of a life which professes to keep in view
(though but as a secondary purpose) any regard to popular taste, the
logic of proportions must bend, after all, to the law of the
occasion--to the proprieties of time and place. For the present,
therefore, I shall restrict myself to the few sentences in which it
may be proper to gratify the curiosity of _some_ readers, the two or
three in a hundred, as to the peculiar distinctions of this
philosophy. Even to these two or three out of each hundred, I shall
not venture to ascribe a larger curiosity than with respect to the
most general 'whereabouts' of its position--from what point it
starts--whence and from what aspect it surveys the ground--and by what
links from this starting-point it contrives to connect itself with the
main objects of philosophic inquiry.

[Footnote 22: I might have mastered the philosophy of Kant, without
waiting for the German language, in which all his capital works are
written; for there is a Latin version of the whole, by Born, and a
most admirable digest of the cardinal work (admirable for its fidelity
and the skill by which that fidelity is attained), in the same
language, by Rhiseldek, a Danish professor. But this fact, such was
the slight knowledge of all things connected with Kant in England, I
did not learn for some years.]

Immanuel Kant was originally a dogmatist in the school of Leibnitz and
Wolf; that is, according to his trisection of all philosophy into
dogmatic, sceptical, and critical, he was, upon all questions,
disposed to a strong _affirmative_ creed, without courting any
particular examination into the grounds of this creed, or into its
assailable points. From this slumber, as it is called by himself, he
was suddenly aroused by the Humian doctrine of cause and effect. This
celebrated essay on the nature of necessary connection--so thoroughly
misapprehended at the date of its first publication to the world by
its _soi-disant_ opponents, Oswald, Beattie, &c., and so imperfectly
comprehended since then by various _soi-disant_ defenders--became in
effect the 'occasional cause' (in the phrase of the logicians) of the
entire subsequent philosophic scheme of Kant--every section of which
arose upon the accidental opening made to analogical trains of
thought, by this memorable effort of scepticism, applied by Hume to
one capital phenomenon among the necessities of the human
understanding. What is the nature of Hume's scepticism as applied to
this phenomenon? What is the main thesis of his celebrated essay on
cause and effect? For few, indeed, are they who really know anything
about it. If a man really understands it, a very few words will avail
to explain the _nodus_. Let us try. It is a necessity of the _human_
understanding (very probably not a necessity of a higher order of
intelligences) to connect its experiences by means of the idea of
_cause_ and its correlate, _effect_: and when Beattie, Oswald, Reid,
&c. were exhausting themselves in proofs of the indispensableness of
this idea, they were fighting with shadows; for no man had ever
questioned the practical necessity for such an idea to the coherency
of human thinking. Not the practical necessity, but the internal
consistency of this notion, and the original right to such a notion,
was the point of inquisition. For, attend, courteous reader, and three
separate propositions will set before your eyes the difficulty. _First
Prop._, which, for the sake of greater precision, permit me to throw
into Latin:--_Non datur aliquid_ [A] _quo posito ponitur aliud_ [B] _à
priori_; that is, in other words, You cannot lay your hands upon that
one object or phenomenon [A] in the whole circle of natural
existences, which, being assumed, will entitle you to assume _à
priori_, any other object whatsoever [B] as succeeding it. You could
not, I say, of any object or phenomenon whatever, assume this
succession _à priori_--that is, _previously to experience_. _Second
Prop._ But, if the succession of B to A be made known to you, not _à
priori_ (by the involution of B in the idea of A), but by experience,
then you cannot ascribe _necessity_ to the succession: the connection
between them is not necessary but contingent. For the very widest
experience--an experience which should stretch over all ages, from
the beginning to the end of time--can never establish a _nexus_ having
the least approximation to necessity; no more than a rope of sand
could gain the cohesion of adamant, by repeating its links through a
billion of successions. _Prop. Third._ Hence (_i. e._ from the two
preceding propositions), it appears that no instance or case of
_nexus_ that ever can have been offered to the notice of any human
understanding, has in it, or, by possibility, could have had anything
of necessity. Had the _nexus_ been necessary, you would have seen it
beforehand; whereas, by Prop. I. _Non datur aliquid, quo posito
ponitur aliud à priori._ This being so, now comes the startling fact,
that the notion of a _cause_ includes the notion of necessity. For, if
A (the cause) be connected with B (the effect) only in a casual or
accidental way, you do not feel warranted in calling it a cause. If
heat applied to ice (A) were sometimes followed by a tendency to
liquefaction (B) and sometimes not, you would not consider A connected
with B as a cause, but only as some variable accompaniment of the true
and unknown cause, which might allowably be present or be absent.
This, then, is the startling and mysterious phenomenon of the human
understanding--that, in a certain notion, which is indispensable to
the coherency of our whole experience, indispensable to the
establishing any _nexus_ between the different parts and successions
of our whole train of notices, we include an accessary notion of
necessity, which yet has no justification or warrant, no assignable
derivation from any known or possible case of human experience. We
have one idea at least--viz. the idea of causation--which transcends
our possible experience by one important element, the element of
_necessity_, that never can have been derived from the only source of
ideas recognised by the philosophy of this day. A Lockian never can
find his way out of this dilemma. The experience (whether it be the
experience of sensation or the experience of reflection) which he
adopts for his master-key, never will unlock this case; for the sum
total of human experience, collected from all ages, can avail only to
tell us what _is_, but never what _must be_. The idea of necessity is
absolutely transcendant to experience, _per se_, and must be derived
from some other source. From what source? Could Hume tell us? No: he,
who had started the game so acutely (for with every allowance for the
detection made in Thomas Aquinas, of the original suggestion, as
recorded in the _Biographia Literaria_ of Coleridge, we must still
allow great merit of a secondary kind to Hume for his modern revival
and restatement of the doctrine), this same acute philosopher broke
down confessedly in his attempt to hunt the game down. His solution is

Kant, however, having caught the original scent from Hume, was more
fortunate. He saw, at a glance, that here was a test applied to the
Lockian philosophy, which showed, at the very least, its
_insufficiency_. If it were good even for so much as it
explained--which Burke is disposed to receive as a sufficient warrant
for the favourable reception of a new hypothesis--at any rate, it now
appeared that there was something which it could _not_ explain. But
next, Kant took a large step in advance _proprio morte_. Reflecting
upon the one idea adduced by Hume, as transcending the ordinary
source of ideas, he began to ask himself, whether it were likely that
this idea should stand alone? Were there not other ideas in the same
predicament; other ideas including the same element of necessity, and,
therefore, equally disowning the parentage assigned by Locke? Upon
investigation, he found that there were: he found that there were
eleven others in exactly the same circumstances. The entire twelve he
denominated categories; and the mode by which he ascertained their
number--that there were so many and no more--is of itself so
remarkable as to merit notice in the most superficial sketch. But, in
fact, this one explanation will put the reader in possession of Kant's
system, so far as he could understand it without an express and
toilsome study. With this explanation, therefore, of the famous
categories, I shall close my slight sketch of the system. Has the
reader ever considered the meaning of the term _Category_--a term so
ancient and so venerable from its connection with the most domineering
philosophy that has yet appeared amongst men? The doctrine of the
Categories (or, in its Roman appellation, of the _Predicaments_), is
one of the few wrecks from the Peripatetic philosophy which still
survives as a doctrine taught by public authority in the most ancient
academic institutions of Europe. It continues to form a section in the
code of public instruction; and perhaps under favour of a pure
accident. For though, strictly speaking, a _metaphysical_ speculation,
it has always been prefixed as a sort of preface to the _Organon_ (or
_logical_ treatises) of Aristotle, and has thus accidentally shared in
the immortality conceded to that most perfect of human works. Far
enough were the Categories from meriting such distinction. Kant was
well aware of this: he was aware that the Aristotelian Categories were
a useless piece of scholastic lumber: unsound in their first
conception; and, though illustrated through long centuries by the
schoolmen, and by still earlier Grecian philosophers, never in any one
known instance turned to a profitable account. Why, then, being aware
that even in idea they were false, besides being practically
unsuitable, did Kant adopt or borrow a name laden with this
superfetation of reproach--all that is false in theory superadded to
all that is useless in practice? He did so for a remarkable reason: he
felt, according to his own explanation, that Aristotle had been
_groping_ [the German word expressive of his blind procedure is
_herumtappen_]--groping in the dark, but under a semi-conscious
instinct of truth. Here is a most remarkable case or situation of the
human intellect, happening alike to individuals and to entire
generations--in the situation of yearning or craving, as it were, for
a great idea as yet unknown, but dimly and uneasily prefigured.
Sometimes the very brink, as it may be called, of such an idea is
approached; sometimes it is even imperfectly discovered; but with
marks in the very midst of its imperfections, which serve as
indications to a person coming better armed for ascertaining the
sub-conscious thought which had governed their tentative motions. As
it stands in Aristotle's scheme, the idea of a category is a mere
lifeless abstraction. Rising through a succession of species to
genera, and from these to still higher genera, you arrive finally at a
highest genus--a naked abstraction, beyond which no further regress is
possible. This highest genus, this _genus generalissimum_, is, in
peripatetic language, a category; and no purpose or use has ever been
assigned to any one of these categories, of which ten were enumerated
at first, beyond that of classification--_i. e._ a purpose of mere
convenience. Even for as trivial a purpose as this, it gave room for
suspecting a failure, when it was afterwards found that the original
ten categories did not exhaust the possibilities of the case; that
other supplementary categories (_post-prædicamenti_) became necessary.
And, perhaps, 'more last words' might even yet be added, supplementary
supplements, and so forth, by a hair-splitting intellect. Failures as
gross as these, revisals still open to revision, and amendments
calling for amendments, were at once a broad confession that here
there was no falling in with any great law of nature. The paths of
nature may sometimes be arrived at in a tentative way; but they are
broad and determinate; and, when found, vindicate themselves. Still,
in all this erroneous subtilisation, and these abortive efforts, Kant
perceived a grasping at some real idea--fugitive indeed and coy, which
had for the present absolutely escaped; but he caught glimpses of it
continually in the rear; he felt its necessity to any account of the
human understanding that could be satisfactory to one who had
meditated on Locke's theory as probed and searched by Leibnitz. And in
this uneasy state--half sceptical, half creative, rejecting and
substituting, pulling down and building up--what was in sum and
finally the course which he took for bringing his trials and essays to
a crisis? He states this himself, somewhere in the Introduction to his
_Critik der reinen Vernunft_; and the passage is a memorable one.
Fifteen years at the least have passed since I read it; and,
therefore, I cannot pretend to produce the words; but the substance I
shall give; and I appeal to the candour of all his readers, whether
they have been able to apprehend his meaning. I certainly did not for
years. But, now that I do, the passage places his procedure in a most
striking and edifying light. Astronomers, says Kant, had gone on for
ages, assuming that the earth was the central body of our system; and
insuperable were the difficulties which attended that assumption. At
length, it occurred to try what would result from inverting the
assumption. Let the earth, instead of offering a fixed centre for the
revolving motions of other heavenly bodies, be supposed itself to
revolve about some one of these, as the sun. That supposition was
tried, and gradually all the phenomena which, before, had been
incoherent, anomalous, or contradictory, began to express themselves
as parts of a most harmonious system. 'Something,' he goes on to say,
'analogous to this I have practised with regard to the subject of my
inquiry--the human understanding. All others had sought their central
principle of the intellectual phenomena out of the understanding, in
something external to the mind. I first turned my inquiries upon the
mind itself. I first applied my examination to the very analysis of
the understanding.' In words, not precisely these, but pretty nearly
equivalent to them, does Kant state, by contradistinction, the value
and the nature of his own procedure. He first, according to his own
representation, thought of applying his investigation to the mind
itself. Here was a passage which for years (I may say) continued to
stagger and confound me. What! he, Kant, in the latter end of the 18th
century, about the year 1787--he the first who had investigated the
mind! This was not arrogance so much as it was insanity. Had he
said--I, first, upon just principles, or with a fortunate result,
investigated the human understanding, he would have said no more than
every fresh theorist is bound to suppose, as his preliminary apology
for claiming the attention of a busy world. Indeed, if a writer, on
any part of knowledge, does _not_ hold himself superior to all his
predecessors, we are entitled to say--Then, why do you presume to
trouble us? It may _look_ like modesty, but _is_, in effect, downright
effrontery for you to think yourself no better than other critics; you
were at liberty to think so whilst no claimant of public notice--as
being so, it is most arrogant in you to be modest. This would be the
criticism applied justly to a man who, in Kant's situation, as the
author of a new system, should use a language of unseasonable modesty
or deprecation. To have spoken boldly of himself was a duty; we could
not tolerate his doing otherwise. But to speak of himself in the
exclusive terms I have described, does certainly seem, and for years
did seem to myself, little short of insanity. Of this I am sure that
no student of Kant, having the passage before him, can have known
heretofore what consistent, what rational interpretation to give it;
and, in candour, he ought to own himself my debtor for the light he
will now receive. Yet, so easy is it to imagine, after a meaning is
once pointed out, and the station given from which it shows itself
_as_ the meaning--so easy, under these circumstances, is it to
imagine that one has, or that one could have, found it for one's
self--that I have little expectation of reaping much gratitude for my
explanation. I say this, not as of much importance one way or the
other in a single case of the kind, but because a general
consideration of this nature has sometimes operated to make me more
indifferent or careless as to the publication of commentaries on
difficult systems, when I had found myself able to throw much light on
the difficulties. The very success with which I should have
accomplished the task--the perfect removal of the obstacles in the
student's path--were the very grounds of my assurance-that the service
would be little valued. For I have found what it was occasionally, in
conversation, to be too luminous--to have explained, for instance, too
clearly a dark place in Ricardo. In such a case, I have known a man of
the very greatest powers, mistake the intellectual effort he had put
forth to apprehend my elucidation, and to meet it half way, for his
own unassisted conquest over the difficulties; and, within an hour or
two after, I have had, perhaps, to stand, as an attack upon myself,
arguments entirely and recently furnished by myself. No case is more
possible: even to apprehend a complex explanation, a man cannot be
passive; he must exert considerable energy of mind; and, in the fresh
consciousness of this energy, it is the most natural mistake in the
world for him to feel the argument which he has, by considerable
effort, appropriated to be an argument which he has originated. Kant
is the most unhappy champion of his own doctrines, the most
infelicitous expounder of his own meaning, that has ever existed.
Neither has any other commentator succeeded in throwing a moonlight
radiance upon his philosophy. Yet certain I am, that, were I, or any
man, to disperse all his darkness, exactly in that proportion in which
we did so--exactly in the proportion in which we smoothed all
hindrances--exactly in that proportion would it cease to be known or
felt that there had ever been any hindrances to be smoothed. This,
however, is digression, to which I have been tempted by the
interesting nature of the grievance. In a jesting way, this grievance
is obliquely noticed in the celebrated couplet--

    'Had you seen but these roads before they were made,
    You'd lift up your hands and bless Marshal Wade.'

The pleasant bull here committed conceals a most melancholy truth, and
one of large extent. Innumerable are the services to truth, to
justice, or society, which never _can_ be adequately valued by those
who reap their benefits, simply because the transition from the early
and bad state to the final or improved state cannot be retraced or
kept alive before the eyes. The record perishes. The last point gained
is seen; but the starting-point, the points _from_ which it was
gained, is forgotten. And the traveller never _can_ know the true
amount of his obligations to Marshal Wade, because, though seeing the
roads which the Marshal has created, he can only guess at those which
he superseded. Now, returning to this impenetrable passage of Kant, I
will briefly inform the reader that he may read it into sense by
connecting it with a part of Kant's system, from which it is in his
own delivery entirely dislocated. Going forwards some thirty or forty
pages, he will find Kant's development of his own categories. And, by
placing in juxtaposition with that development this blind sentence, he
will find a reciprocal light arising. All philosophers, worthy of that
name, have found it necessary to allow of some great cardinal ideas
that transcended all the Lockian origination--ideas that were larger
in their compass than any possible notices of sense or any reflex
notices of the understanding; and those who have denied such ideas,
will be found invariably to have supported their denial by a _vitium
subreptionis_, and to have deduced their pretended genealogies of such
ideas by means of a _petitio principii_--silently and stealthily
putting _into_ some step of their _leger-de-main_ process everything
that they would pretend to have extracted _from_ it. But, previously
to Kant, it is certain that all philosophers had left the origin of
these higher or transcendent ideas unexplained. Whence came they? In
the systems to which, Locke replies, they had been called _innate_ or
_connate_. These were the Cartesian systems. Cudworth, again, who
maintained certain '_immutable ideas_' of morality, had said nothing
about their origin; and Plato had supposed them to be reminiscences
from some higher mode of existence. Kant first attempted to assign
them an origin within the mind itself, though not in any Lockian
fashion of reflection upon sensible impressions. And this is doubtless
what he means by saying that he first had investigated the mind--that
is, he first for such a purpose.

Where, then, is it, in what act or function of the mind, that Kant
finds the matrix of these transcendent ideas? Simply in the logical
forms of the understanding. Every power exerts its agency under some
_laws_--that is, in the language of Kant, by certain _forms_. We leap
by certain laws--viz. of equilibrium, of muscular motion, of
gravitation. We dance by certain laws. So also we reason by certain
laws. These laws, or _formal_ principles, under a particular
condition, become the categories.

Here, then, is a short derivation, in a very few words, of those ideas
transcending sense, which all philosophy, the earliest, has been
unable to dispense with, and yet none could account for. Thus, for
example, every act of reasoning must, in the first place, express
itself in distinct propositions; that is, in such as contain a subject
(or that concerning which you affirm or deny something), a predicate
(that which you affirm or deny), and a copula, which connects them.
These propositions must have what is technically called, in logic, a
certain _quantity_, or compass (viz. must be universal, particular, or
singular); and again they must have what is called _quality_ (that is,
must be affirmative, or negative, or infinite): and thus arises a
ground for certain corresponding ideas, which are Kant's categories of
quantity and quality.

But, to take an illustration more appropriately from the very idea
which first aroused Kant to the sense of a vast hiatus in the received
philosophies--the idea of _cause_, which had been thrown as an apple
of discord amongst the schools, by Hume. How did Kant deduce this?
Simply thus: it is a doctrine of universal logic, that there are three
varieties of syllogism--viz. 1st, Categoric, or directly declarative
[_A is B_]; 2nd, Hypothetic, or conditionally declarative [_If C is D,
then A is B_]; 3rd, Disjunctive, or declarative, by means of a choice
which exhausts the possible cases [_A is either B, or C, or D; but
not C or D; ergo B_]. Now, the idea of _causation_, or, in Kant's
language, the category of Cause and Effect, is deduced immediately,
and most naturally, as the reader will acknowledge on examination,
from the 2nd or hypothetic form of syllogism, when the relation of
dependency is the same as in the idea of causation, and the
_necessary_ connection a direct type of that which takes place between
a cause and its effect.

Thus, then, without going one step further, the reader will find
grounds enough for reflection and for reverence towards Kant in these
two great results: 1st, That an order of ideas has been established,
which all deep philosophy has demanded, even when it could not make
good its claim. This postulate is fulfilled. 2ndly, The postulate is
fulfilled without mysticism or Platonic reveries. Ideas, however
indispensable to human needs, and even to the connection of our
thoughts, which came to us from nobody knew whence, must for ever have
been suspicious; and, as in the memorable instance cited from Hume,
must have been liable for ever to a question of validity. But, deduced
as they now are from a matrix within our own minds, they cannot
reasonably fear any assaults of scepticism.

Here I shall stop. A reader new to these inquiries may think all this
a trifle. But he who reflects a little, will see that, even thus far,
and going no step beyond this point, the Kantian doctrine of the
Categories answers a standing question hanging aloof as a challenge to
human philosophy, fills up a _lacuna_ pointed out from the era of
Plato. It solves a problem which has startled and perplexed every age:
viz. this--that man is in possession, nay, in the hourly exercise, of
ideas larger than he can show any title to. And in another way, the
reader may measure the extent of this doctrine, by reflecting that,
even so far as now stated, it is precisely coextensive with the famous
scheme of Locke. For what is the capital thesis of that scheme? Simply
this--that all necessity for supposing immediate impressions made upon
our understandings by God, or other supernatural, or antenatal, or
connatal, agencies, is idle and romantic; for that, upon examining the
furniture of our minds, nothing will be found there which cannot
adequately be explained out of our daily experience; and, until we
find something that cannot be solved by this explanation, it is
childish to go in quest of higher causes. Thus says Locke: and his
whole work, upon its first plan, is no more than a continual pleading
of this single thesis, pursuing it through all the plausible
objections. Being, therefore, as large in its extent as Locke, the
reader must not complain of the transcendental scheme as too narrow,
even in that limited section of it here brought under his notice.

For the purpose of repelling it, he must do one of two things: either
he must show that these categories or transcendent notions are not
susceptible of the derivation and genesis here assigned to them--that
is, from the forms of the _logos_ or formal understanding; or, if
content to abide by that derivation, he must allege that there are
other categories besides those enumerated, and unprovided with any
similar parentage.

Thus much in reply to him who complains of the doctrine here stated;
as, 1st, Too narrow; or, 2nd, As insufficiently established. But, 3rd,
in reply to him who wishes to see it further pursued or applied, I
say that the possible applications are perhaps infinite. With respect
to those made by Kant himself, they are chiefly contained in his main
and elementary work, the _Critik der reinen Vernunft_; and they are of
a nature to make any man melancholy. Indeed, let a man consider merely
this one notion of _causation_; let him reflect on its origin; let him
remember that, agreeably to this origin, it follows that we have no
right to view anything _in rerum naturâ_ as objectively, or in itself
a cause; that when, upon the fullest philosophic proof, we call A the
cause of B, we do in fact only subsume A under the notion of a cause;
we invest it with that function under that relation, that the whole
proceeding is merely with respect to a _human_ understanding, and by
way of indispensable _nexus_ to the several parts of our experience;
finally, that there is the greatest reason to doubt, whether the idea
of _causation_ is at all applicable to any other world than this, or
any other than a human experience. Let a man meditate but a little on
this or other aspects of this transcendental philosophy, and he will
find the steadfast earth itself rocking as it were beneath his feet; a
world about him, which is in some sense a world of deception; and a
world before him, which seems to promise a world of confusion, or '_a
world not realised_.' All this he might deduce for himself without
further aid from Kant. However, the particular purposes to which Kant
applies his philosophy, from the difficulties which beset them, are
unfitted for anything below a regular treatise. Suffice it to say
here, that, difficult as these speculations are from one or two
embarrassing doctrines on the Transcendental Consciousness, and
depressing as they are from their general tendency, they are yet
painfully irritating to the curiosity, and especially so from a sort
of _experimentum crucis_, which they yield in the progress of their
development on behalf of the entire doctrine of Kant--a test which, up
to this hour, has offered defiance to any hostile hand. The test or
defiance which I speak of, takes the shape of certain _antinomies_ (so
they are termed), severe adamantine arguments, affirmative and
negative, on two or three celebrated problems, with no appeal to any
possible decision, but one, which involves the Kantian doctrines. A
_quæstio vexata_ is proposed--for instance, the _infinite divisibility
of matter_; each side of this question, _thesis_ and _antithesis_, is
argued; the logic is irresistible, the links are perfect, and for each
side alternately there is a verdict, thus terminating in the most
triumphant _reductio ad absurdum_--viz. that A, at one and the same
time and in the same sense, is and is not B, from which no escape is
available, but through a Kantian solution. On any other philosophy, it
is demonstrated that this opprobrium of the human understanding, this
scandal of logic, cannot be removed. This celebrated chapter of
_antinomies_ has been of great service to the mere polemics of the
transcendental philosophy: it is a glove or gage of defiance,
constantly lying on the ground, challenging the rights of victory and
supremacy so long as it is _not_ taken up by any antagonist, and
bringing matters to a short decision when it _is_.

One section, and that the introductory section, of the transcendental
philosophy, I have purposely omitted, though in strictness not to be
insulated or dislocated from the faithful exposition even of that
which I have given. It is the doctrine of Space and Time. These
profound themes, so confounding to the human understanding, are
treated by Kant under two aspects--1st, as Anchauungen, or
_Intuitions_ (so the German word is usually translated for want of a
better); 2ndly, as forms, _à priori_, of all our other intuitions.
Often have I laughed internally at the characteristic exposure of
Kant's style of thinking--that he, a man of so much worldly sagacity,
could think of offering, and of the German scholastic habits, that any
modern nation could think of accepting such cabalistical phrases, such
a true and very '_Ignotium per Ignotius_,' in part payment of an
explanatory account of Time and Space. Kant repeats these words--as a
charm before which all darkness flies; and he supposes continually the
case of a man denying his explanations or demanding proofs of them,
never once the sole imaginable case--viz. of all men demanding an
explanation of these explanations. Deny them! Combat them! How should
a man deny, why should he combat, what might, for anything to the
contrary appearing, contain a promissory note at two months after date
for 100 guineas? No; it will cost a little preliminary work before
_such_ explanations will much avail any scheme of philosophy, either
for the _pro_ or the _con_. And yet I do myself really profess to
understand the dark words; and a great service it would be to sound
philosophy amongst us, if this one word _anschauung_ were adequately
unfolded and naturalised (as naturalised it might be) in the English
philosophic dictionary, by some full Grecian equivalent. Strange that
no man acquainted with German philosophy, should yet have been struck
by the fact--or, being struck, should not have felt it important to
call public attention to the fact of our inevitable feebleness in a
branch of study for which as yet we want the indispensable words. Our
feebleness is at once argued by this want, and partly caused.
Meantime, as respects the Kantian way of viewing space, by much the
most important innovation which it makes upon the old doctrines
is--that it considers space as a _subjective_ not an _objective_
aliquid; that is, as having its whole available foundation lying
ultimately in ourselves, not in any external or alien tenure. This one
distinction, as applied to space, for ever secures (what nothing else
_can_ secure or explain) the cogency of geometrical evidence. Whatever
is true for any determinations of a space originally included in
ourselves, must be true for such determinations for ever, since they
cannot become objects of consciousness to us but in and by that very
mode of conceiving space, that very form of schematism which
originally presented us with these determinations of space, or any
whatever. In the uniformity of our own space-conceiving faculty, we
have a pledge of the absolute and _necessary_ uniformity (or internal
agreement among themselves) of all future or possible determinations
of space; because they could not otherwise become to us conceivable
forms of space, than by adapting themselves to the known conditions of
our conceiving faculty. Here we have the _necessity_ which is
indispensable to all geometrical demonstration: it is a necessity
founded in our human organ, which cannot admit or conceive a space,
unless as preconforming to these original forms or schematisms.
Whereas, on the contrary, if space were something _objective_, and
consequently being a separate existence, independent of a human organ,
then it is altogether impossible to find any intelligible source of
_obligation_ or cogency in the evidence--such as is indispensable to
the very nature of geometrical demonstration. Thus we will suppose
that a regular demonstration has gradually, from step to step
downwards, through a series of propositions--No. 8 resting upon 7,
that upon 5, 5 upon 3--at length reduced you to the elementary axiom,
that Two straight lines cannot enclose a space. Now, if space be
_subjective_ originally--that is to say, founded (as respects us and
our geometry) in ourselves--then it is impossible that two such lines
can enclose a space, because the possibility of anything whatever
relating to the determinations of space is exactly co-extensive with
(and exactly expressed by) our power to conceive it. Being thus able
to affirm its impossibility universally, we can build a demonstration
upon it. But, on the other hypothesis, of space being _objective_, it
is impossible to guess whence we are to draw our proof of the alleged
inaptitude in two straight lines for enclosing a space. The most we
could say is, that hitherto no instance has been found of an enclosed
space circumscribed by two straight lines. It would not do to allege
our human inability to conceive, or in imagination to draw, such a
circumscription. For, besides that such a mode of argument is exactly
the one supposed to have been rejected, it is liable to this
unanswerable objection, so long as space is assumed to have an
_objective_ existence, viz. that the human inability to conceive such
a possibility, only argues (what in fact is often found in other
cases) that the _objective_ existence of space--_i. e._ the existence
of space in itself, and in its absolute nature--is far larger than its
subjective existence--_i. e._ than its mode of existing _quoad_ some
particular subject. A being more limited than man might be so framed
as to be unable to conceive curve lines; but this subjective
inaptitude for those determinations of space would not affect the
objective reality of curves, or even their subjective reality for a
higher intelligence. Thus, on the hypothesis of an objective existence
for space, we should be thrown upon an ocean of possibilities, without
a test for saying what was--what was not possible. But, on the other
hypothesis, having always in the last resort what is _subjectively_
possible or impossible (_i. e._ what is conceivable or not by us, what
can or cannot be drawn or circumscribed by a human imagination), we
have the means of demonstration in our power, by having the ultimate
appeals in our power to a known uniform test--viz. a known human

This is no trifling matter, and therefore no trifling advantage on the
side of Kant and his philosophy, to all who are acquainted with the
disagreeable controversies of late years among French geometricians of
the first rank, and sometimes among British ones, on the question of
mathematical evidence. Legendre and Professor Leslie took part in one
such a dispute; and the temper in which it was managed was worthy of
admiration, as contrasted with the angry controversies of elder days,
if, indeed, it did not err in an opposite spirit, by too elaborate and
too calculating a tone of reciprocal flattery. But think as we may of
the discussion in this respect, most assuredly it was painful to
witness so infirm a philosophy applied to an interest so mighty. The
whole aerial superstructure--the heaven-aspiring pyramid of
geometrical synthesis--all tottered under the palsying logic of
evidence, to which these celebrated mathematicians appealed. And
wherefore?--From the want of any philosophic account of space, to
which they might have made a common appeal, and which might have so
far discharged its debt to truth, as at least to reconcile its theory
with the great outstanding phenomena in the most absolute of sciences.
Geometry is the _science_ of space: therefore, in any _philosophy_ of
space, geometry is entitled to be peculiarly considered, and used as a
court of appeal. Geometry has these two further claims to
distinction--that, 1st, It is the most perfect of the sciences, so far
as it has gone; and, 2ndly, That it has gone the farthest. A
philosophy of space, which does not consider and does not reconcile to
its own doctrines the facts of geometry, which, in the two points of
beauty and of vast extent, is more like a work of nature than of man,
is, _primâ facie_, of no value. A philosophy of space _might_ be
false, which should harmonise with the facts of geometry--it _must_ be
false, if it contradict them. Of Kant's philosophy it is a capital
praise, that its very opening section--that section which treats the
question of space, not only quadrates with the facts of geometry, but
also, by the _subjective_ character which it attributes to space, is
the very first philosophic scheme which explains and accounts for the
cogency of geometrical evidence.

These are the two primary merits of the transcendental theory--1st,
Its harmony with mathematics, and the fact of having first, by its
doctrine of space, applied philosophy to the nature of geometrical
evidence; 2ndly, That it has filled up, by means of its doctrine of
categories, the great _hiatus_ in all schemes of the human
understanding from Plato downwards. All the rest, with a reserve as to
the part which concerns the _practical_ reason (or will), is of more
questionable value, and leads to manifold disputes. But I contend,
that, had transcendentalism done no other service than that of laying
a foundation, sought but not found for ages, to the human
understanding--namely, by showing an intelligible genesis to certain
large and indispensable ideas--it would have claimed the gratitude of
all profound inquiries. To a reader still disposed to undervalue
Kant's service in this respect, I put one parting question--Wherefore
he values Locke? What has _he_ done, even if value is allowed in full
to his pretensions? Has the reader asked himself _that_? He gave a
_negative_ solution at the most. He told his reader that certain
disputed ideas were _not_ deduced thus and thus. Kant, on the other
hand, has given him at the least a _positive_ solution. He teaches
him, in the profoundest revelation, by a discovery in the most
absolute sense on record, and the most entirely a single act--without
parts, or contributions, or stages, or preparations from other
quarters--that these long disputed ideas could not be derived from the
experience assigned by Locke, inasmuch as they are themselves
_previous conditions under which any experience at all is possible_:
he teaches him that these ideas are not mystically originated, but
are, in fact, but another phasis of the functions, or, forms of his
own understanding; and, finally, he gives consistency, validity, and
a charter of authority, to certain modes of _nexus_, without which the
sum total of human experience would be a rope of sand.

In terminating this slight account of the Kantian philosophy, I may
mention that in or about the year 1818-19, Lord Grenville, when
visiting the lakes of England, observed to Professor Wilson that,
after five years' study of this philosophy, he had not gathered from
it one clear idea. Wilberforce, about the same time, made the same
confession to another friend of my own.

It is not usual for men to meet with their capital disappointments in
early life, at least not in youth. For, as to disappointments in love,
which are doubtless the most bitter and incapable of comfort, though
otherwise likely to arise in youth, they are in this way made
impossible at a very early age, that no man can be in love to the
whole extent of his capacity, until he is in full possession of all
his faculties, and with the sense of dignified maturity. A perfect
love, such as is necessary to the anguish of a perfect disappointment,
presumes also for its object not a mere girl, but woman, mature both
in person and character, and womanly dignity. This sort of
disappointment, in a degree which could carry its impression through
life, I cannot therefore suppose occurring earlier than at twenty-five
or twenty-seven. My disappointment--the profound shock with which I
was repelled from German philosophy, and which thenceforwards tinged
with cynical disgust towards man in certain aspects, a temper which,
originally, I will presume to consider the most benign that can ever
have been created--occurred when I was yet in my twentieth year. In a
poem under the title of _Saul_, written many years ago by Mr. Sotheby,
and perhaps now forgotten, having never been popular, there occurs a
passage of some pathos, in which Saul is described as keeping amongst
the splendid equipments of a royal wardrobe, that particular pastoral
habit which he had worn in his days of earliest manhood, whilst yet
humble and undistinguished by honour, but also yet innocent and happy.
There, also, with the same care, he preserved his shepherd's crook,
which, in hands of youthful vigour, had been connected with
remembrances of heroic prowess. These memorials, in after times of
trouble or perplexity, when the burthen of royalty, its cares, or its
feverish temptations, pointed his thoughts backwards, for a moment's
relief, to scenes of pastoral gaiety and peace, the heart-wearied
prince would sometimes draw from their repository, and in solitude
would apostrophise them separately, or commune with the bitter-sweet
remembrances which they recalled. In something of the same spirit--but
with a hatred to the German philosopher such as men are represented as
feeling towards the gloomy enchanter, Zamiel or whomsoever, by whose
hateful seductions they have been placed within a circle of malign
influences--did I at times revert to Kant: though for me his power had
been of the very opposite kind; not an enchanter's, but the power of a
disenchanter--and a disenchanter the most profound. As often as I
looked into his works, I exclaimed in my heart, with the widowed queen
of Carthage, using her words in an altered application--

    'Quæsivit lucem--_ingemuitque repertâ_.'

Had the transcendental philosophy corresponded to my expectations,
and had it left important openings for further pursuit, my purpose
then was, to have retired, after a few years spent in Oxford, to the
woods of Lower Canada. I had even marked out the situation for a
cottage and a considerable library, about seventeen miles from Quebec.
I planned nothing so ambitious as a scheme of _Pantisocracy_. My
object was simply profound solitude, such as cannot now be had in any
part of Great Britain--with two accessary advantages, also peculiar to
countries situated in the circumstances and under the climate of
Canada: viz. the exalting presence in an under-consciousness of
forests endless and silent, the everlasting sense of living amongst
forms so ennobling and impressive, together with the pleasure attached
to natural agencies, such as frost, more powerfully manifested than in
English latitudes, and for a much longer period. I hope there is
nothing fanciful in all this. It is certain that, in England, and in
all moderate climates, we are too slightly reminded of nature or the
focus of nature. Great heats, or great colds (and in Canada there are
both), or great hurricanes, as in the West Indian latitudes, recall us
continually to the sense of a powerful presence, investing our paths
on every side; whereas, in England, it is possible to forget that we
live amongst greater agencies than those of men and human
institutions. Man, in fact, 'too much man,' as Timon complained most
reasonably in Athens, was then, and is now, our greatest grievance in
England. Man is a weed everywhere too rank. A strange place must that
be with us, from which the sight of a hundred men is not before us, or
the sound of a thousand about us.

Nevertheless, being in this hotbed of man inevitably for some years,
no sooner had I dismissed my German philosophy than I relaxed a little
that spirit of German abstraction which it had prompted; and, though
never mixing freely with society, I began to look a little abroad. It
may interest the reader, more than anything else which I can record of
this period, to recall what I saw within the ten first years of the
century, that was at all noticeable or worthy of remembrance amongst
the literati, the philosophers, or the poets of the time. For, though
I am not in my academic period from 1804 to 1808, my knowledge of
literary men--or men distinguished in some way or other, either by
their opinions, their accomplishments, or their position and the
accidents of their lives--began from the first year of the century,
or, more accurately, from the year 1800; which, with some difficulty
and demurs, and with some arguments from the Laureate Pye, the world
was at length persuaded to consider the last year of the eighteenth

[Footnote 23: Those who look back to the newspapers of 1799 and 1800,
will see that considerable discussion went on at that time upon the
question, whether the year 1800 was entitled to open the 19th century,
or to close the 18th. Mr. Laureate Pye wrote a poem, with a long and
argumentative preface on the point.]


(_May, 1822._)

In revolutionary times, as when a civil war prevails in a country, men
are much worse, as moral beings, than in quiet and untroubled states
of peace. So much is matter of history. The English, under Charles
II., after twenty years' agitation and civil tumults; the Romans after
Sylla and Marius, and the still more bloody proscriptions of the
Triumvirates; the French, after the Wars of the League and the storms
of the Revolution--were much changed for the worse, and exhibited
strange relaxations of the moral principle. But why? What is the
philosophy of the case? Some will think it sufficiently explained by
the necessity of witnessing so much bloodshed--the hearths and the
very graves of their fathers polluted by the slaughter of their
countrymen--the _acharnement_ which characterises civil contests (as
always the quarrels of friends are the fiercest)--and the license of
wrong which is bred by war and the majesties of armies. Doubtless this
is part of the explanation. But is this all? Mr. Coleridge has
referred to this subject in _The friend_; but, to the best of my
remembrance, only noticing it as a fact. Fichte, the celebrated German
philosopher, has given us his view of it (_Idea of War_); and it is
so ingenious, that it deserves mention. It is this--'Times of
revolution force men's minds inwards: hence they are led amongst other
things to meditate on morals with reference to their own conduct. But
to subtilise too much upon this subject must always be ruinous to
morality, with all understandings that are not very powerful, _i. e._
with the majority, because it terminates naturally in a body of maxims
a specious and covert self-interest. Whereas, when men meditate less,
they are apt to act more from natural feeling, in which the natural
goodness of the heart often interferes to neutralise or even to
overbalance its errors.'


(_April, 1823._)

With a total disbelief in all the vulgar legends of supernatural
agency, and _that_ upon firmer principles than I fear most people
could assign for their incredulity, I must yet believe that the 'soul
of the world' has in some instances sent forth mysterious types of the
cardinal events, in the great historic drama of our planet. One has
been noticed by a German author, and it is placed beyond the limits of
any rational scepticism; I mean the coincidence between the augury
derived from the flight of the twelve vultures as types of the
duration of the Roman empire, _i. e._ Western Empire, for twelve
centuries, and the actual event. This augury we know to have been
recorded many centuries before its consummation; so that no juggling
or collusion between the prophets and the witnesses to the final event
can be suspected. Some others might be added. At present I shall
notice a coincidence from our own history, which, though not so
important as to come within the class of prefigurations I have been
alluding to, is yet curious enough to deserve mention. The oak of
Boscobel and its history are matter of household knowledge. It is not
equally well known, that in a medal, struck to commemorate the
installation (about 1636) of Charles II., then Prince of Wales, as a
Knight of the Garter, amongst the decorations was introduced an
oak-tree with the legend--'Seris factura nepotibus umbram.'

[Footnote 24: This is only signed Z in _The London Magazine_, but is
clearly labelled 'DE QUINCEY' in ARCHDEACON HESSEY'S marked copy.--H.]


(_December, 1823._)

To the reader.--This article was written and printed before the author
heard of the lamented death of Mr. Ricardo.

It is remarkable at first sight that Mr. Malthus, to whom Political
Economy is so much indebted in one chapter (viz. the chapter of
Population), should in every other chapter have stumbled at every
step. On a nearer view, however, the wonder ceases. His failures and
his errors have arisen in all cases from the illogical structure of
his understanding; his success was in a path which required no logic.
What is the brief abstract of his success? It is this: _he took an
obvious and familiar truth, which until his time had been a barren
truism, and showed that it teemed with consequences_. Out of this
position--_That in the ground which limited human food lay the ground
which limited human increase_--united with this other position--_That
there is a perpetual nisus in the principle of population to pass
that limit_, he unfolded a body of most important corollaries. I have
remarked in another article on this subject--how entirely these
corollaries had escaped all Mr. Malthus's[26] predecessors in the same
track. Perhaps the most striking instance of this, which I could have
alleged, is that of the celebrated French work--_L'Ami des Hommes, ou
Traité de la Population_ (written about the middle of the last
century), which sets out deliberately from this principle, expressed
almost in the very words of Mr. Malthus,--'_Que la mésure de la
Subsistance est celle de la Population_;'--beats the bushes in every
direction about it; and yet (with the exception of one corollary on
the supposed depopulating tendency of war and famine) deduces from it
none but erroneous and Anti-Malthusian doctrines. That from a truth
apparently so barren any corollaries were deducible--was reserved for
Mr. Malthus to show. _As_ corollaries, it may be supposed that they
imply a logical act of the understanding. In some small degree, no
doubt; but no more than necessarily accompanies every exercise of
reason. Though inferences, they are not remote inferences, but
immediate and proximate; and not dependent upon each other, but
collateral. Not logic but a judicious choice of his ground placed Mr.
Malthus at once in a station from which he commanded the whole truth
at a glance--with a lucky dispensation from all necessity of
continuous logical processes. But such a dispensation is a privilege
indulged to few other parts of Political Economy, and least of all to
that which is the foundation of all Political Economy, viz. the
doctrine of value. Having therefore repeatedly chosen to tamper with
this difficult subject, Mr. Malthus has just made so many exposures of
his intellectual infirmities--which, but for this volunteer display,
we might never have known. Of all the men of talents, whose writings I
have read up to this hour, Mr. Malthus has the most perplexed
understanding. He is not only confused himself, but is the cause that
confusion is in other men. Logical perplexity is shockingly
contagious: and he, who takes Mr. Malthus for his guide through any
tangled question, ought to be able to box the compass very well; or
before he has read ten pages he will find himself (as the Westmorland
guides express it) 'maffled,'--and disposed to sit down and fall a
crying with his guide at the sad bewilderment into which they have
both strayed. It tends much to heighten the sense of Mr. Malthus's
helplessness in this particular point--that of late years he has given
himself the air too much of teasing Mr. Ricardo, one of the 'ugliest
customers' in point of logic that ever entered the ring. Mr. Ricardo
is a most 'dangerous' man; and Mr. Malthus would do well not to meddle
with so 'vicious' a subject, whose arm (like Neate's) gives a blow
like the kick of a horse. He has hitherto contented himself very
good-naturedly with gently laying Mr. Malthus on his back; but, if he
should once turn round with a serious determination to 'take the
conceit' out of him, Mr. Malthus would assuredly be 'put into
chancery,' and suffer a 'punishment' that must distress his
friends.--Amongst those whom Mr. Malthus has perplexed by his logic, I
am not one: in matter of logic, I hold myself impeccable; and, to say
nothing of my sober days, I defy the devil and all the powers of
darkness to get any advantage over me, even on those days when I am
drunk, in relation to 'Barbara, Celarent, Darii, or Ferio.'

[Footnote 25: MR. JOHN STUART MILL in his _Principles of Political
Economy,_ Book III chaps, i. and ii., makes some interesting and
appreciative remarks on De Quincey's settlement of 'the phraseology of
value;' also, concerning his illustrations of 'demand and supply, in
their relation to value.']

[Footnote 26: In a slight article on Mr. Malthus, lately published, I
omitted to take any notice of the recent controversy between this
gentleman--Mr. Godwin--and Mr. Booth; my reason for which was--that I
have not yet found time to read it. But, if Mr. Lowe has rightly
represented this principle of Mr. Booth's argument in his late work on
the Statistics of England, it is a most erroneous one: for Mr. Booth
is there described as alleging against Mr. Malthus that, in his view
of the tendencies of the principle of population, he has relied too
much on the case of the United States--which Mr. Booth will have to be
an extreme case, and not according to the general rule. But of what
consequence is this to Mr. Malthus? And how is he interested in
relying on the case of America rather than that of the oldest European
country? Because he assumes a perpetual nisus in the principle of
human increase to pass a certain limit, he does not therefore hold
that this limit ever _is_ passed either in the new countries or in old
(or only for a moment, and inevitably to be thrown back within it).
Let this limit be placed where it may, it can no more be passed in
America than in Europe; and America is not at all more favourable to
Mr. Malthus's theory than Europe. Births, it must be remembered, are
more in excess in Europe than in America: though they do not make so
much positive addition to the population.]

'Avoid, old Satanas!' I exclaim, if any man attempts to fling dust in
my eyes by false syllogism, or any mode of dialectic sophism. And in
relation to this particular subject of value, I flatter myself that in
a paper expressly applied to the exposure of Mr. Malthus's blunders in
his Political Economy, I have made it impossible for Mr. Malthus, even
though he should take to his assistance seven worse logicians than
himself, to put down my light with their darkness. Meantime, as a
labour of shorter compass, I will call the reader's attention to the
following blunder, in a later work of Mr. Malthus's--viz. a pamphlet
of eighty pages, entitled, _The Measure of Value, stated and applied_
(published in the spring of the present year). The question proposed
in this work is the same as that already discussed in his Political
Economy--viz. What is the measure of value? But the answer to it is
different: in the Political Economy, the measure of value was
determined to be a mean between corn and labour; in this pamphlet, Mr.
Malthus retracts that opinion, and (finally, let us hope) settles it
to his own satisfaction that the true measure is labour; not the
quantity of labour, observe, which will produce X, but the quantity
which X will command. Upon these two answers, and the delusions which
lie at their root, I shall here forbear to comment; because I am now
chasing Mr. Malthus's _logical_ blunders; and these delusions are not
so much logical as economic: what I now wish the reader to attend
to--is the blunder involved in the question itself; because that
blunder is not economic, but logical. The question is--what is the
measure of value? I say then that the phrase--'measure of value' is an
equivocal phrase; and, in Mr. Malthus's use of it, means indifferently
that which determines value, in relation to the _principium essendi_,
and that which determines value, in relation to the _principium
cognoscendi_. Here, perhaps, the reader will exclaim--'Avoid,
Satanas!' to me, falsely supposing that I have some design upon his
eyes, and wish to blind them with learned dust. But, if he thinks
_that_, he is in the wrong box: I must and will express scholastic
phrases; but, having once done this, I am then ready to descend into
the arena with no other weapons than plain English can furnish. Let us
therefore translate '_measure of value_' into '_that which determines
value_:' and, in this shape, we shall detect the ambiguity of which I
complain. For I say, that the word _determines_ may be taken
subjectively for what determines X in relation to our knowledge, or
objectively for what determines X in relation to itself. Thus, if I
were to ask--'What determined the length of the racecourse?' and the
answer were--'The convenience of the spectators who could not have
seen the horses at a greater distance,' or 'The choice of the
subscribers,' then it is plain that by the word 'determined,' I was
understood to mean 'determined objectively,' _i. e._ in relation to
the existence of the object; in other words, what _caused_ the
racecourse to be this length rather than another length: but, if the
answer were--'An actual admeasurement,' it would then be plain that by
the word 'determined,' I had been understood to mean 'determined
subjectively,' _i. e._ in relation to our knowledge;--what ascertained
it?--Now, in the objective sense of the phrase, 'determiner of value,'
the measure of value will mean _the ground of value_: in the
subjective sense, it will mean _the criterion of value_. Mr. Malthus
will allege that he is at liberty to use it in which sense he pleases.
Grant that he is, but not therefore in both. Has he then used it in
both? He will, perhaps, deny that he has, and will contend that he has
used it in the latter sense as equivalent to the _ascertainer_ or
_criterion of value_. I answer--No: for, omitting a more particular
examination of his use in this place, I say that his use of any word
is peremptorily and in defiance of his private explanation to be
extorted from the use of the corresponding term in him whom he is
opposing. Now he is opposing Mr. Ricardo: his _labour which X
commands_--is opposed to Mr. Ricardo's _quantity of labour which will
produce X_. Call the first A, the last B. Now, in making B the
determiner of value, Mr. Ricardo means that B is the ground of value:
_i. e._ that B is the answer to the question--what makes this hat of
more value than this pair of shoes? But, if Mr. Malthus means by A the
same thing, when by his own confession he has used the term _measure
of value_ in two senses: on the other hand, if he does not mean the
same thing, but simply the _criterion_ of value, then he has not used
the word in my sense which opposes him to Mr. Ricardo. And yet he
advances the whole on that footing. On either ground, therefore, he is
guilty of a logical error, which implies that, so far from answering
his own question, he did not know what his own question was.



_To the Editor of the London Magazine._

_Westmoreland, November 4, 1823_.

My dear Sir,--This morning I received your parcel, containing amongst
other inclosures, the two last numbers of your journal. In the first
of these is printed a little paper of mine on Mr. Malthus; and in the
second I observe a letter from Mr. Hazlitt--alleging two passages from
the 403rd and 421st pages of his _Political Essays_ as substantially
anticipating all that I had said. I believe that he _has_ anticipated
me: in the passage relating to the geometric and arithmetic ratios, it
is clear that he has: in the other passage, which objects to Mr.
Malthus's use of the term _perfection_, that he has represented it
under contradictory predicates, it is not equally clear; for I do not
find my own meaning so rigorously expressed as to exclude another[28]
interpretation even now when I know what to look for; and, without
knowing what to look for, I should certainly not have found it: on
the whole, however, I am disposed to think that Mr. Hazlitt's meaning
is the same as my own. So much for the _matter_ of Mr. Hazlitt's
communication: as to the _manner_, I am sorry that it is liable to a
construction which perhaps was not intended. Mr. Hazlitt says--'I do
not wish to bring any charge of plagiarism in this case;' words which
are better fitted to express his own forbearance, than to exonerate me
from the dishonour of such an act. But I am unwilling to suppose that
Mr. Hazlitt has designedly given this negative form to his words. He
says also--'as I have been a good deal abused for my scepticism on
that subject, I do not feel quite disposed that any one else should
run away with the credit of it.' Here again I cannot allow myself to
think that Mr. Hazlitt meant deliberately to bring me before the
reader's mind under the odious image of a person who was 'running
away' with the credit of another. As to 'credit,' Mr. Hazlitt must
permit me to smile when I read that word used in that sense: I can
assure him that not any abstract consideration of credit, but the
abstract idea of a credi_tor_ (often putting on a concrete shape, and
sometimes the odious concrete of a dun) has for some time past been
the animating principle of my labours. Credit therefore, except in the
sense of twelve months' credit where now alas! I have only six, is no
object of my search: in fact I abhor it: for to be a 'noted' man is
the next bad thing to being a 'protested' man. Seriously, however, I
sent you this as the first of four notes which I had written on the
logical blunders of Mr. Malthus (the other three being taken not from
his Essay on Population, but from works more expressly within the
field of Political Economy): not having met with it elsewhere, I
supposed it my own and sent it to complete the series: but the very
first sentence, which parodies the words of Chancellor Oxenstiern--('Go
and see--how _little_ logic is required,' &c.), sufficiently shows that,
so far from arrogating any great merit to myself for this discovery, I
thought it next to miraculous that it should have escaped any previous
reviewer of Mr. Malthus.--I must doubt, by the way, whether Mr. Hazlitt
has been 'a good deal abused' for these specific arguments against Mr.
Malthus; and my reason for doubting is this: about ten or twelve years
ago, happening to be on a visit to Mr. Southey, I remember to have met
with a work of Mr. Hazlitt's on this subject--_not_ that which he
quotes, but another (_Reply to Malthus_) which he refers to as
containing the same opinions (either _totidem verbis_, or in substance).
In Mr. Southey's library, and in competition with Mr. Southey's
conversation, a man may be pardoned for not studying any one book
exclusively: consequently, though I read a good deal of Mr. Hazlitt's
_Reply_, I read it cursorily: but, in all that I _did_ read, I remember
that the arguments were very different from those which he now alleges;
indeed it must be evident that the two logical objections in question
are by no means fitted to fill an octavo volume. My inference therefore
is--that any 'abuse,' which Mr. Hazlitt may have met with, must have
been directed to something else in his _Reply_; and in fact it has
happened to myself on several occasions to hear this book of Mr.
Hazlitt's treated as unworthy of his talents; but never on account of
the two arguments which he now claims. I would not be supposed, in
saying this, to insinuate any doubt that these arguments are really to
be found in the _Reply_; but simply to suggest that they do not come
forward prominently or constitute the main argument of that book: and
consequently, instead of being opposed, have been overlooked by those
who have opposed him as much as they were by myself.

[Footnote 27: This was the heading under which correspondence appeared
in _The London Magazine_ at that date.--H.]

[Footnote 28: What other interpretation? An interpretation which makes
Mr. Hazlitt's argument coincide with one frequently urged against Mr.
Malthus--viz. 'that in fact he himself relies practically upon _moral
restraint_ as one great check to Population, though denying that any
great revolution in the moral nature of man is practicable.' But so
long as Mr. Malthus means, by a _great revolution_, a revolution in
the sense which he imputes to Mr. Godwin--to Condorcet, &c. viz. a
revolution amounting to absolute perfection, so long there is no
logical error in all this: Mr. Malthus may consistently rely upon
moral restraint for getting rid, suppose, of ninety cases out of every
hundred which at present tend to produce an excessive population, and
yet maintain that even this tenth of the former excess would be
sufficient, at a certain stage of population, to reproduce famines,
&c., _i. e._ to reproduce as much misery and vice as had been got rid
of. Here there is an absolute increase of moral restraint, but still
insufficient for the purpose of preventing misery, &c. For, as soon as
the maximum of population is attained, even one single birth in excess
(_i. e._ which does more than replace the existing numbers)--_à
fortiori_, then, one-tenth of the present excess (though implying that
the other nine-tenths had been got rid of by moral restraint) would
yet be sufficient to prevent the attainment of a state of perfection.
And, if Mr. Malthus had so shaped his argument, whether wrong or
right--he would not have offended in point of _logic_: his logical
error lies in supposing a state of perfection already existing and yet
as brought to nothing by this excess of births: whereas it is clear
that such an excess may operate to prevent, but cannot operate to
destroy a state of perfection; because in such a state no excess could
ever arise; for, though an excess may co-exist with a vast increase of
moral restraint, it cannot co-exist with entire and perfect moral
restraint; and nothing less than _that_ is involved in the term
'perfection.' A perfect state, which allows the possibility of the
excess here spoken of, is already an imperfect state. Now, if Mr.
Hazlitt says that this is exactly what he means, I answer that I
believe it is; because I can in no other way explain his sixth
sentence--from the words 'but it is shifting the question' to the end
of that sentence. Yet again the seventh sentence (the last) is so
expressed as to be unintelligible to me. And all that precedes the
sixth sentence, though very intelligible, yet seems the precise
objection which I have stated above, and which I think untenable. Nay,
it is still less tenable in Mr. Hazlitt's way of putting it than as
usually put: for to represent Mr. Malthus as saying that, 'if reason
should ever get the mastery over all our actions, we shall then be
governed _entirely_ by our physical appetites' (which are Mr.
Hazlitt's words), would be objected to even by an opponent of Mr.
Malthus: why '_entirely_?' why more than we are at present? The utmost
amount of the objection is this:--That, relying so much upon moral
restraint _practically_, Mr. Malthus was bound to have allowed it more
weight _speculatively_, but it is unreasonable to say that in his
ideal case of perfection Mr. Malthus has allowed no weight at all to
moral restraint: even he, who supposes an increased force to be
inconsistent with Mr. Malthus's theory, has no reason to insist upon
his meaning a diminished force.]

Finally, Mr. Hazlitt calls the coincidence of my objections with his
own 'striking:' and thus (though unintentionally, I dare say) throws
the reader's attention upon it as a very surprising case. Now in this
there is a misconception which, apart from any personal question
between Mr. Hazlitt and myself, is worth a few words on its own
account for the sake of placing it in a proper light. I affirm then
that, considering its nature, the coincidence is _not_ a striking one,
if by 'striking' be meant surprising: and I affirm also that it would
not have been the more striking if, instead of two, it had extended to
two hundred similar cases. Supposing that a thousand persons were
required severally to propose a riddle, no conditions or limitations
being expressed as to the terms of the riddle, it would be surprising
if any two in the whole thousand should agree: suppose again that the
same thousand persons were required to solve a riddle, it would now be
surprising if any two in the whole thousand should differ. Why?
Because, in the first case, the act of the mind is an act of
synthesis; and there we may readily conceive a thousand different
roads for any one mind; but, in the second case, it is an analytic
act; and there we cannot conceive of more than one road for a thousand
minds. In the case between Mr. Hazlitt and myself there was a double
ground of coincidence for any possible number of writers: first the
object was given; _i. e._ we were not left to an unlimited choice of
the propositions we were to attack; but Mr. Malthus had himself, by
insisting on two in particular (however erroneously) as the capital
propositions of his system, determined our attention to these two as
the assailable points: secondly, not only was the object given--_i. e._
not only was it predetermined for us where[29] the error must lie,
if there were an error; but the nature of that error, which happened
to be logical, predetermined for us the nature of the solution. Errors
which are such _materialiter_, _i. e._ which offend against our
_knowing_, may admit of many answers--involving more and less of
truth. But errors, which are such logically, _i. e._ which offend
against the form (or internal law) of our _thinking_, admit of only
one answer. Except by failing of any answer at all, Mr. Hazlitt and I
could not _but_ coincide: as long as we had the same propositions to
examine (which were not of our own choice, but pointed out to us _ab
extra_), and as long as we understood those propositions in the same
sense, no variety was possible except in the expression and manner of
our answers; and to that extent a variety exists. Any other must have
arisen from our understanding that proposition in a different sense.

[Footnote 29: 'Where the error must lie'--_i. e._ to furnish a
sufficient answer _ad hominem_: otherwise it will be seen that I do
not regard either of the two propositions as essential to Mr.
Malthus's theory: and therefore to overthrow those propositions is not
to answer that theory. But still, if an author will insist on
representing something as essential to his theory which is not so, and
challenges opposition to it,--it is allowable to meet him on his own

My answer to Mr. Hazlitt therefore is--that in substance I think his
claim valid; and though it is most true that I was not aware of any
claim prior to my own, I now formally forego any claim on my own part
to the credit of whatsoever kind which shall ever arise from the two
objections to Mr. Malthus's logic in his _Essay on Population_. In
saying this, however, and acknowledging therefore a coincidence with
Mr. Hazlitt in those two arguments, I must be understood to mean a
coincidence only in what really belongs to them; meantime Mr. Hazlitt
has used two expressions in his letter to yourself which seem to
connect with those propositions other opinions from which I dissent:
that I may not therefore be supposed to extend my acquiescence in Mr.
Hazlitt's views to these points, I add two short notes upon them:
which however I have detached from this letter--as forming no proper
part of its business.--Believe me, my dear Sir, your faithful humble
servant. X.Y.Z.

1. Mr. Hazlitt represents Mr. Malthus's error in regard to the
different ratios of progression as a _mathematical_ error; but the
other error he calls _logical_. This may seem to lead to nothing
important: it is however not for any purpose of verbal cavil that I
object to this distinction, and contend that both errors are logical.
For a little consideration will convince the reader that he, who
thinks the first error mathematical, will inevitably miss the true
point where the error of Mr. Malthus arises; and the consequence of
that will be--that he will never understand the Malthusians, nor ever
make himself understood by them. Mr. Hazlitt says, 'a bushel of wheat
will sow a whole field: the produce of that will sow twenty fields.'
Yes: but this is not the point which Mr. Malthus denies: this he will
willingly grant: neither will he deny that such a progression goes on
by geometrical ratios. If he did, then it is true that his error would
be a mathematical one. But all this he will concede. Where then lies
his error? Simply in this--that he assumes (I do not mean in words,
but it is manifestly latent in all that he says) that the wheat shall
be continually resown on the same area of land: he will not allow of
Mr. Hazlitt's 'twenty fields:' keep to your original field, he will
say. In this lies his error: and the nature of that error is--that he
insists upon shaping the case for the wheat in a way which makes it no
fair analogy to the case which he has shaped for man. That it is
unfair is evident: for Mr. Malthus does not mean to contend that his
men will go on by geometrical progression; or even by arithmetical,
upon the _same_ quantity of food: no! he will himself say the positive
principle of increase must concur with the same sort of increase in
the external (negative) condition, which is food. Upon what sort of
logic therefore does he demand that his wheat shall be thrown upon the
naked power of its positive principle, _not_ concurring with the same
sort of increase in the negative condition, which in this case is
land? It is true that at length we shall come to the end of the land,
because that is limited: but this has nothing to do with the race
between man and his food, so long as the race is possible. The race is
imagined for the sake of trying their several powers: and the terms of
the match must be made equal. But there is no equality in the terms as
they are supposed by Mr. Malthus. The amount therefore is--that the
case which Mr. Malthus everywhere supposes and reasons upon, is a case
of false analogy: that is, it is a logical error. But, setting aside
the unfairness of the case, Mr. Malthus is perfectly right in his
mathematics. If it were fair to demand that the wheat should be
constantly confined to the same space of land, it is undeniable that
it could never yield a produce advancing by a geometrical progression,
but at the utmost by a very slow arithmetical progression.
Consequently, taking the case as Mr. Malthus puts it, he is right in
calling it a case of arithmetical progression: and his error is in
putting that case as a logical counterpart to his other case.

2. Mr. Hazlitt says--'This, Mr. Editor, is the writer whom "our full
senate call all-in-all sufficient."'--And why not? I ask. Mr.
Hazlitt's inference is--that, because two propositions in Mr.
Malthus's Essay are overthrown, and because these two are propositions
to which Mr. Malthus ascribes a false importance, in relation to his
theory, therefore that theory is overthrown. But, if an architect,
under some fancied weakness of a bridge which is really strong and
self-supported, chooses to apply needless props, I shall not injure
the bridge by showing these to be rotten props and knocking them away.
What is the real strength and the real use of Mr. Malthus's theory of
population, cannot well be shown, except in treating of Political
Economy. But as to the influence of his logical errors upon that
theory, I contend that it is none at all. It is one error to affirm a
different law of increase for man and for his food: it is a second
error to affirm of a perfect state an attribute of imperfection: but
in my judgment it is a third error, as great as either of the others,
to suppose that these two errors can at all affect the Malthusian
doctrine of Population. Let Mr. Malthus say what he will, the first of
those errors is not the true foundation of that doctrine; the second
of those errors does not contain its true application.

Two private communications on the paper which refuted Mr. Malthus,
both expressed in terms of personal courtesy, for which I am bound to
make my best acknowledgments, have reached me through the Editor of
the _London Magazine_. One of them refers me 'to the number of the
_New Monthly Magazine_ for March or April, 1821, for an article on
Malthus, in which the view' taken by myself 'of his doctrine, as an
answer to Godwin, seems to have been anticipated.' In reply to this I
have only to express my regret that my present situation, which is at
a great distance from any town, has not yet allowed me an opportunity
for making the reference pointed out.--The other letter disputes the
soundness of my arguments--not so much in themselves, as in their
application to Mr. Malthus: 'I know not that I am authorised to speak
of the author by name: his arguments I presume that I am at liberty to
publish: they are as follows:--The first objection appears untenable
for this reason: Mr. Malthus treats of the abstract tendency to
increase in Man, and in the Food of Man, relatively. Whereas you do
not discuss the abstract tendency to increase, but only the _measure_
of that increase, which is food. To the second objection I thus
answer: Mr. Godwin contends not (I presume) for abstract, essential
perfection; but for perfection relating to, and commensurate with, the
capabilities of an earthly nature and habitation. All this Mr. Malthus
admits _argumenti gratiâ_: and at the same time asserts that Mr.
Godwin's estimate in his own terms is incompatible with our state. 8th
October, 1823.'--To these answers my rejoinder is this:--The first
argument I am not sure that I perfectly understand; and therefore I
will not perplex myself or its author by discussing it. To the second
argument I reply thus: I am aware that whatsoever Mr. Malthus admits
from Mr. Godwin, he admits only _argumenti gratiâ._ But for whatsoever
purpose he admits it, he is bound to remember, that he _has_ admitted
it. Now what is it that he has admitted? A state of perfection. This
term, under any explanation of it, betrays him into the following
dilemma: Either he means _absolute_ perfection, perfection which
allows of no degrees; or he means (in the sense which my friendly
antagonist has supposed) _relative_ perfection, _quoad_ our present
state--_i. e._ a continual approximation to the ideal of absolute
perfection, without ever reaching it. If he means the first, then he
is exposed to the objection (which I have already insisted on
sufficiently) of bringing the idea of perfection under an inconsistent
and destructory predicate. If he means the second, then how has he
overthrown the doctrine of human perfectibility as he professes to
have done? At this moment, though the earth is far from exhausted (and
still less its powers), many countries are, according to Mr. Malthus,
suffering all the evils which they could suffer if population had
reached its maximum: innumerable children are born which the poverty
of their parents (no less fatal to them than the limitation of the
earth) causes to be thrown back prematurely into the grave. Now this
is the precise _kind_ of evil which Mr. Malthus anticipates for the
human species when it shall have reached its numerical maximum. But in
_degree_ the evil may then be much less--even upon Mr. Malthus's own
showing: for he does not fix any limit to the increase of moral
restraint, but only denies that it will ever become absolute and
universal. When the principle of population therefore has done its
worst, we may be suffering the same kind of evil--but, in proportion
to an indefinitely _in_creasing moral restraint, an indefinitely
_de_creasing degree of that evil: _i. e._ we may continually
approximate to the ideal of perfection: _i. e._ if the second sense
of perfection be Mr. Godwin's sense, then Mr. Malthus has not
overthrown Mr. Godwin.

X. Y. Z.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following admirable letter[30] seems to refer to the observations
on Kant, contained in the Opium Eater's Letters. Perhaps that acute
logician may be able to discover its meaning: or if not, he may think
it worth preserving as an illustration of Shakspeare's profound
knowledge of character displayed in Ancient Pistol.

[Footnote 30: This is attached by the Editor of _The London

       *       *       *       *       *

Can Neptune sleep?--Is Willich dead?--Him who wielded the trident of
Albion! Is it thus you trample on the ashes of my friend? All the
dreadful energies of thought--all the sophistry of fiction and the
triumphs of the human intellect are waving o'er his peaceful grave.
'He understood not Kant.' Peace then to the harmless invincible. I
have long been thinking of presenting the world with a Metaphysical
Dictionary--of elucidating Locke's romance.--I await with impatience
Kant in English. Give me that! Your letter has awakened me to a sense
of your merits. Beware of squabbles; I know the literary infirmities
of man. Scott rammed his nose against mortals--he grasped at death for
fame to chaunt the victory.


How is the Opium Eater?


(_March, 1824._)

I do not remember that any public event of our own times has touched
me so nearly, or so much with the feelings belonging to a private
affliction, as the death of Mr. Ricardo. To me in some sense it _was_
a private affliction--and no doubt to all others who knew and honoured
his extraordinary talents. For great intellectual merit, wherever it
has been steadily contemplated, cannot but conciliate some personal
regard: and for my own part I acknowledge that, abstracting altogether
from the use to which a man of splendid endowments may apply them--or
even supposing the case that he should deliberately apply them to a
bad one, I could no more on that account withhold my good wishes and
affection from his person--than, under any consideration of their
terrific attributes, I could forbear to admire the power and the
beauty of the serpent or the panther. Simply on its own account, and
without further question, a great intellect challenges, as of right,
not merely an interest of admiration--in common with all other
exhibitions of power and magnificence--but also an interest of human
love, and (where that is necessary) a spirit of tenderness to its
aberrations. Mr. Ricardo however stood in no need of a partial or
indulgent privilege: his privilege of intellect had a comprehensive
sanction from all the purposes to which he applied it in the course of
his public life: in or out of parliament, as a senator--or as an
author, he was known and honoured as a public benefactor. Though
connected myself by private friendship with persons of the political
party hostile to his, I heard amongst them all but one language of
respect for his public conduct. Those, who stood neutral to all
parties, remarked that Mr. Ricardo's voice--though heard too seldom
for the wishes of the enlightened part of the nation--was never raised
with emphasis upon any question lying out of the province in which he
reigned as the paramount authority, except upon such as seemed to
affect some great interest of liberty or religious toleration. And,
wherever a discussion arose which transcended the level of temporary
and local politics (as that for example upon corporal punishments),
the weight of authority--which mere blank ability had obtained for
him in the House of Commons--was sure to be thrown into that view of
the case which upheld the dignity of human nature. Participating most
cordially in these feelings of reverence for Mr. Ricardo's political
character, I had besides a sorrow not unmixed with self-reproach
arising out of some considerations more immediately relating to
myself. In August and September 1821 I wrote _The Confessions of an
English Opium-Eater_: and in the course of this little work I took
occasion to express my obligations, as a student of Political Economy,
to Mr. Ricardo's 'Principles' of that science. For this as for some
other passages I was justly[32] attacked by an able and liberal critic
in the _New Edinburgh Review_--as for so many absurd irrelevancies: in
that situation no doubt they were so; and of this, in spite of the
haste in which I had written the greater part of the book, I was fully
aware. However, as they said no more than was true, I was glad to take
that or any occasion which I could invent for offering my public
testimony of gratitude to Mr. Ricardo. The truth is--I thought that
something might occur to intercept any more appropriate mode of
conveying my homage to Mr. Ricardo's ear, which should else more
naturally have been expressed in a direct work on Political Economy.
This fear was at length realised--not in the way I had apprehended,
viz. by my own death--but by Mr. Ricardo's. And now therefore I felt
happy that, at whatever price of good taste, I had in some imperfect
way made known my sense of his high pretensions--although
unfortunately I had given him no means of judging whether my applause
were of any value. For during the interval between Sept. 1821 and Mr.
Ricardo's death in Sept. 1823 I had found no leisure for completing my
work on Political Economy: on that account I had forborne to use the
means of introduction to Mr. Ricardo which I commanded through my
private connections or simply as a man of letters: and in some measure
therefore I owed it to my own neglect--that I had for ever lost the
opportunity of benefiting by Mr. Ricardo's conversation or bringing
under his review such new speculations of mine in Political Economy as
in any point modified his own doctrines--whether as corrections of
supposed oversights, as derivations of the same truth from a higher
principle, as further illustrations or proofs of anything which he
might have insufficiently developed, or simply in the way of
supplement to his known and voluntary omissions. All this I should
have done with the utmost fearlessness of giving offence, and not for
a moment believing that Mr. Ricardo would have regarded anything in
the light of an undue liberty, which in the remotest degree might
seem to affect the interests of a science so eminently indebted to
himself. In reality candour may be presumed in a man of first-rate
understanding--not merely as a moral quality--but almost as a part of
his intellectual constitution _per se_; a spacious and commanding
intellect being magnanimous in a manner _suo jure_, even though it
should have the misfortune to be allied with a perverse or irritable
temper. On this consideration I would gladly have submitted to the
review of Mr. Ricardo, as indisputably the first of critics in this
department, rather than to any other person, my own review of himself.
That I have forfeited the opportunity of doing this--is a source of
some self-reproach to myself. I regret also that I have forfeited the
opportunity of perhaps giving pleasure to Mr. Ricardo by liberating
him from a few misrepresentations, and placing his vindication upon a
firmer basis even than that which he has chosen. In one respect I
enjoy an advantage for such a service, and in general for the polemic
part of Political Economy, which Mr. Ricardo did not. The course of my
studies has led me to cultivate the scholastic logic. Mr. Ricardo has
obviously neglected it. Confiding in his own conscious strength, and
no doubt participating in the common error of modern times as to the
value of artificial logic, he has taken for granted that the
Aristotelian forms and the exquisite science of distinctions matured
by the subtilty of the schoolmen can achieve nothing in substance
which is beyond the power of mere sound good sense and robust
faculties of reasoning; or at most can only attain the same end with a
little more speed and adroitness. But this is a great error: and it
was an ill day for the human understanding when Lord Bacon gave his
countenance to a notion, which his own exclusive study of one
department in philosophy could alone have suggested. Distinctions
previously examined--probed--and accurately bounded, together with a
terminology previously established, are the crutches on which all
minds--the weakest and the strongest--must alike depend in many cases
of perplexity: from pure neglect of such aids, which are to the
unassisted understanding what weapons are to the unarmed human
strength or tools and machinery to the naked hand of art, do many
branches of knowledge at this day languish amongst those which are
independent of experiment.

[Footnote 31: MR. J. R. MCCULLOCH in his _Literature of Political
Economy_ makes the following observations concerning DE QUINCEY'S
'Dialogues of Three Templars on Political Economy':--They are
unequalled, perhaps, for brevity, pungency, and force. They not only
bring the Ricardian theory of value into strong relief, but
triumphantly repel, or rather annihilate, the objections urged against
it by Malthus, in the pamphlet now referred to and his Political
Economy, and by Say, and others. They may, indeed, be said to have
exhausted the subject.]

[Footnote 32: Not so however, let me say in passing, for three
supposed instances of affected doubt; in all of which my doubts were,
and are at this moment, very sincere and unaffected; and, in one of
them at least, I am assured by those of whom I have since inquired
that my reviewer is undoubtedly mistaken. As another point which, if
left unnoticed, might affect something more important to myself than
the credit of my taste or judgment,--let me inform my reviewer that,
when he traces an incident which I have recorded most faithfully about
a Malay--to a tale of Mr. Hogg's, he makes me indebted to a book which
I never saw. In saying this I mean no disrespect to Mr. Hogg; on the
contrary, I am sorry that I have never seen it: for I have a great
admiration of Mr. Hogg's genius; and have had the honour of his
personal acquaintance for the last ten years.]

As the best consolation to myself for the lost opportunities with
which I have here reproached myself,--and as the best means of doing
honour to the memory of Mr. Ricardo,--I shall now endeavour to spread
the knowledge of what he has performed in Political Economy. To do
this in the plainest and most effectual manner, I shall abstain from
introducing any opinions peculiar to myself, excepting only when they
may be necessary for the defence of Mr. Ricardo against objections
which have obtained currency from the celebrity of their authors--or
in the few cases where they may be called for by the errors (as I
suppose them to be) even of Mr. Ricardo.--In using this language, I do
not fear to be taxed with arrogance: we of this day stand upon the
shoulders of our predecessors; and that I am able to detect any errors
in Mr. Ricardo--I owe, in most instances, to Mr. Ricardo himself.

X. Y. Z.



(_April and May, 1824._)

This is the work of a very ingenious man, and records the most
original experiment in Education which in this country at least has
been attempted since the date of those communicated by the Edgeworths.
We say designedly 'in this country;' because to compare it with some
continental schemes which have been only recently made known to the
English public (and not fully made known even yet) would impose upon
us a minute review of those schemes, which would be, _first_,
disproportionate to our limits--_secondly_, out of its best situation,
because it would be desirable to examine those schemes separately for
the direct purpose of determining their own absolute value, and not
indirectly and incidentally for the purpose of a comparison. The
Madras system, again, is excluded from the comparison--not so much for
the reason alleged (pp. 123-5), by the author before us--as though
that system were _essentially_ different from his own in its purpose
and application: the _purpose_ of the Madras system is not exclusively
economy of expense, but in combination with that purpose a far greater
accuracy (and therefore reality) in the knowledge communicated than
could be obtained on the old systems; on this account therefore the
possible _application_ of the Madras system is not simply to the
education of the poor, though as yet the actual application of it may
have been chiefly to them, but also to the education of the rich; and
in fact it is well known that the Madras system (so far from being
_essentially_ a system for the poor) has been adopted in some of the
great classical schools of the kingdom.[34] The difference is more
logically stated thus--that the Madras system regards singly the
quality of the knowledge given, and (with a view to _that_) the mode
of giving it: whereas the system, which we are going to review, does
not confine its view to _man as a being capable of knowledge_, but
extends it to _man as a being capable of action, moral or prudential_:
it is therefore a much more comprehensive system. The system before us
does not exclude the final purpose of the Madras system: on the
contrary, it is laudably solicitous for the fullest and most accurate
communication of knowledge, and suggests many hints for the attainment
of that end as just and as useful as they are enlightened. But it does
not stop here: it goes further, and contemplates the whole man with a
reference to his total means of usefulness and happiness in life. And
hence, by the way, it seems to us essential--that the whole child
should on this system be surrendered to the school; _i. e._ that there
should be no day-scholars; and this principle we shall further on
endeavour to establish on the evidence of a case related by the author
himself.[35] On the whole therefore we have designedly stated our
general estimate of the author's system with a reference to that of
the Edgeworths; not only because it has the same comprehensiveness of
object, and is in some degree a further expansion of their method and
their principles; but also because the author himself strikingly
resembles the Edgeworths in style and composition of mind; with this
single difference perhaps, that the good sense and perception of
propriety (of what in French would be called _les convenances_), which
in both is the characteristic merit (and, when it comes into conflict
with any higher quality, the characteristic defect),--in him is less
coloured by sarcastic and contemptuous feelings; which in all cases
are unamiable feelings, and argue some defect of wisdom and
magnanimity; but, when directed (as in the Edgeworths they sometimes
are) against principles in human nature which lie far beyond the field
of their limited philosophy, recoil with their whole strength upon
those who utter them. It is upon this consideration of his
intellectual affinity with the Edgeworths that we are the less
disposed to marvel at his estimate of their labours: that, for
instance, at p. 192 he styles their work on education 'inestimable,'
and that at p. 122, though he stops short of proposing 'divine
honours' to Miss Edgeworth, the course of his logic nevertheless binds
him to mean that on Grecian principles such honours are 'due to her.'
So much for the general classification and merits of the author, of
whom we know nothing more than--that, from his use of the
Scotticisms--'succumb,'--'compete,'--and 'in place of' for 'instead
of' he ought to be a Scotchman: now then for his system.

[Footnote 33: _Plans for the Government and Liberal Instruction of
Boys in large Numbers; Drawn from Experience._ London: 1822. 8vo.]

[Footnote 34: The distinguishing excellence of the Madras system is
not that it lodges in the pupils themselves the functions which on the
old systems belong to the masters, and thus at the same blow by which
it secures greater accuracy of knowledge gets rid of a great expense
in masters: for this, though a great merit, is a derivative merit: the
condition of the possibility of this advantage lies in a still
greater--viz. in the artificial _mechanism_ of the system by which,
when once established, the system works itself, and thus neutralises
and sets at defiance all difference of ability in the teachers--which
previously determined the whole success of the school. Hence is
obtained this prodigious result--that henceforward the blessing of
education in its elementary parts is made independent of accident, and
as much carried out of the empire of _luck_ as the manufacture of
woollens or cottons. That it is _mechanic_, is no conditional praise
(as alleged by the author before us), but the absolute praise of the
Madras system: neither is there any just ground of fear, as he and
many others have insinuated, that it should injure the freedom of the
human intellect.]

[Footnote 35: We have since found that we have not room for it; the
case is stated and argued in the Appendix (pp. 220-227); but in our
opinion not fairly argued. The appellant's plea was sound, and ought
not to have been set aside. [At the end of the Paper I have restored
this 'CASE OF APPEAL' from the original work.--H.]]

Of this we may judge by two criteria--experimentally by its result, or
_à priori_ by its internal aptitude for attaining its ends. Now as to
the result, it must be remembered that--even if the author of any
system could be relied on as an impartial witness to its result--yet,
because the result of a system of education cannot express itself in
any one insulated fact, it will demand as much judgment to abstract
from any limited experience what really _is_ the result as would have
sufficed to determine its merits _à priori_ without waiting for any
result. Consequently, as it would be impossible to exonerate
ourselves from the necessity of an elaborate act of judgment by any
appeal to the practical test of the result--seeing that this result
would again require an act of judgment hardly less elaborate for its
satisfactory settlement than the _à priori_ examination which it had
been meant to supersede,--we may as well do that at first which we
must do in the end; and, relying upon our own understandings, say
boldly that the system is good or bad because on this argument it is
evidently calculated to do good or on that argument to do evil, than
blindly pronounce--it is good or it is bad, because it has
produced--or has failed of producing--such and such effects; even if
those effects were easy to collect. In fact, for any conclusive
purpose of a practical test, the experience is only now beginning to
accumulate: and here we may take occasion to mention that we had
ourselves been misinformed as to the duration of the experiment; for a
period of four years, we were told, a school had existed under the
system here developed: but this must be a mistake, founded perhaps on
a footnote at p. 83 which says--'The plan has now been in operation
more than four years:' but the plan there spoken of is not the general
system, but a single feature of it--viz. the abolition of corporal
punishment: in the text this plan had been represented as an immature
experiment, having then 'had a trial of nine months' only: and
therefore, as more than three years nine months had elapsed from that
time to the publication of the book, a note is properly added
declaring that the experiment had succeeded, and that the author could
'not imagine any motive strong enough to force him back to the old
practice.' The system generally however must have existed now (_i. e._
November 1823) for nearly eight years at the least: so much is evident
from a note at p. 79, where a main regulation of the system is said to
have been established 'early in 1816.' Now a period of seven or eight
years must have been sufficient to carry many of the senior pupils
into active life, and to carry many of the juniors even into
situations where they would be brought into close comparison with the
pupils of other systems. Consequently, so much experience as is
involved in the fact of the systems outliving such a comparison--and
in the continued approbation of its founder, who is manifestly a very
able and a conscientious man,--so much experience, we say, may be
premised for the satisfaction of those who demand practical tests. For
ourselves, we shall abide rather in our valuation of the system by the
internal evidence of its composition as stated and interpreted by its
author. An abstract of all that is essential in this statement we
shall now lay before our readers.

What is the characteristic difference, in the fewest possible words,
of this system as opposed to all others? We nowhere find this stated
in a pointed manner: the author has left it rather to be collected
from his general exposition; and therefore we conceive that we shall
be entitled to his thanks by placing it in a logical, if possible in
an antithetic, shape. In order to this, we ask--what is a school? A
school is a body of young persons more or less perfectly
organised--which, by means of a certain constitution or system of
arrangements (A), aims at attaining a certain object (B). Now in all
former schemes of education this A stood to B the positive quantity
sought in the relation of a logical negative (_i. e._ of a _negation_
of quantity = _0_), or even of a mathematic negative (_i. e._
of-_x_):--but on this new system of the author before us (whom, for
the want of a better name, we shall call the Experimentalist) A for
the first time bears to B the relation of a positive quantity. The
terms _positive_ and _negative_ are sufficiently opposed to each other
to confer upon our contradistinction of this system from all others a
very marked and antithetic shape; and the only question upon it, which
arises, is this--are these terms justified in their application to
this case? That they are, will appear thus:--Amongst the positive
objects (or B) of every school, even the very worst, we must suppose
the culture of morals to be one: a mere day-school may perhaps
reasonably confine its pretensions to the disallowance of anything
positively bad; because here the presumption is that the parents
undertake the management of their children excepting in what regards
their intellectual education: but, wherever the heads of a school step
into the full duties of a child's natural guardians, they cannot
absolve themselves from a responsibility for his morals. Accordingly,
this must be assumed of course to exist amongst the positive objects
of every boarding-school. Yet so far are the laws and arrangements of
existing schools from at all aiding and promoting this object, that
their very utmost pretension is--that they do not injure it. Much
injustice and oppression, for example, take place in the intercourse
of all boys with each other; and in most schools 'the stern edict
against _bearing tales_,' causes this to go unredressed (p. 78): on
the other hand, in a school where a system of nursery-like
_surveillance_ was adopted, and 'every trifling injury was the subject
of immediate appeal to the supreme power' (p. 80), the case was still
worse. 'The indulgence of this querulousness increased it beyond all
endurance. Before the master had time to examine the justice of one
complaint, his attention was called away to redress another; until,
wearied with investigation into offences which were either too
trifling or too justly provoked for punishment, he treated all
complainants with harshness, heard their accusations with incredulity,
and thus tended, by a first example, to the re-establishment of the
old system.' The issue in any case was--that, apart from what nature
and the education of real life did for the child's morals, the school
education did nothing at all except by the positive moral instruction
which the child might draw from his lessons--_i. e._ from B. But as to
A, _i. e._ the school arrangements, either at best their effect was =
0; or possibly, by capricious interference for the regulation of what
was beyond their power to regulate, they actually disturbed the moral
sense (_i. e._ their effect was =-_x_). Now, on the new system of our
Experimentalist, the very laws and regulations, which are in any case
necessary to the going on of a school, have such an origin and are so
administered as to cultivate the sense of justice and materially to
enlarge the knowledge of justice. These laws emanate from the boys
themselves, and are administered by the boys. That is to say, A (which
on the old system is at best a mere blank, or negation, and sometimes
even an absolute negative with regard to B) thus becomes a positive
agent in relation to B--_i. e._ to one of the main purposes of the
school. Again, to descend to an illustration of a lower order, in most
schools arithmetic is one part of B: now on the new system it is so
contrived that what is technically termed _calling over_, which on any
system is a necessary arrangement for the prevention of mischief, and
which usually terminates there (_i. e._ in an effect = 0), becomes a
positive means of cultivating an elementary rule of arithmetic in the
junior students--and an attention to accuracy in all: _i. e._ here
again, from being simply = 0, A becomes = + _x_ in relation to B. A
school in short, on this system, burns its own smoke: The mere
negative conditions of its daily goings on, the mere waste products of
its machinery, being converted into the positive pabulum of its life
and motion. Such then, we affirm, is the brief abstract--antithetically
expressed--of the characteristic principle by which the system under
review is distinguished from all former systems. In relation to B (which
suppose 20 _x_) A, which heretofore was =-_x_, or at best = 0, now
becomes = + _x_, or + 2 _x_, or 3 _x_, as it may happen. In this lies
the merit of the conception: what remains to be inquired--is in what
degree, and upon what parts of B, it attains this conversion of A into a
positive quantity: and this will determine the merit of the execution.
Let us now therefore turn to the details of the book.

The book may be properly distributed into two parts: the first of
which from page 1 to page 125 inclusively (comprehending the three
first chapters) unfolds and reviews the system: all that remains from
page 126 to page 218 inclusively (_i. e._ to the end)--comprehending
four chapters--may be considered as a second or miscellaneous part,
treating of some general topics in the business of education, but with
a continual reference to the principles laid down in the first part.
An appendix, of twenty pages, contains a body of illustrative
documents. The first of the three chapters, composing what we have
called the first part, is entitled _Outline of the System_: and, as it
is very brief, we shall extract it nearly entire.

     'A schoolmaster being a governor as well as a teacher, we
     must consider the boys both as a community and as a body of
     pupils. The principle of our government is to leave, as much
     as possible, all power in the hands of the boys themselves:
     To this end we permit them to elect a committee, which
     enacts the laws of the school, subject however to the _veto_
     of the head master. We have also courts of justice for the
     trial of both civil and criminal causes, and a vigorous
     police for the preservation of order. Our rewards consist of
     a few prizes given at the end of each half year to those
     whose exertions have obtained for them the highest rank in
     the school; and certain marks which are gained from time to
     time by exertions of talent and industry. These marks are of
     two kinds: the most valuable, called premial[36] marks, will
     purchase a holiday; the others are received in liquidation
     of forfeits. Our punishments[37] are fine and imprisonment.
     Impositions, public disgrace, and corporeal pain, have been
     for some years discarded among us. To obtain rank is an
     object of great ambition among the boys; with us it is
     entirely dependent on the state of their acquirements; and
     our arrangements according to excellence are so
     frequent--that no one is safe, without constant exertion,
     from losing his place. The boys learn almost every branch of
     study in classes, that the master may have time for copious
     explanations; it being an object of great anxiety with us,
     that the pupil should be led to reason upon all his
     operations. Economy of time is a matter of importance with
     us: we look upon all restraint as an evil, and to young
     persons as a very serious evil: we are therefore constantly
     in search of means for ensuring the effective employment of
     every minute which is spent in the school-room, that the
     boys may have ample time for exercise in the open air. The
     middle state between work and play is extremely unfavourable
     to the habits[38] of the pupil: we have succeeded, by great
     attention to order and regularity, in reducing it almost to
     nothing. We avoid much confusion by accustoming the boys to
     march; which they do with great precision, headed by a band
     of young performers[39] from their own body.'

[Footnote 36: '_Premial_ marks:' this designation is vicious in point
of logic: how is it thus distinguished from the less valuable?]

[Footnote 37: 'Our punishments,' &c. This is inaccurate: by p. 83
'disability to fill certain offices' is one of the punishments.]

[Footnote 38: 'Habits!' habits of what?]

[Footnote 39: 'Performers!' _Musical_ performers, we presume.]

Such is the outline of the system as sketched by the author himself:
to us however it appears an insufficient outline even for 'the general
reader' to whom it is addressed: without having 'any intention of
reducing the system to practice,' the most general reader, if he asks
for any information at all, will ask for more than this. We shall
endeavour therefore to draw up an account of the plan somewhat less
meagre, by separating the important from the trivial details. For this
purpose we shall begin--1. with the GOVERNMENT of the school; _i. e._
with an account of the _legislative_, the _executive_, and the
_judicial_ powers, where lodged--held by what tenure--and how
administered. The _legislative power_ is vested in a committee of boys
elected by the boys themselves. The members are elected monthly; the
boy, who ranks highest in the school, electing one member; the _two_
next in rank another; the _three_ next a third; and so on. The
head-master as well as all the under-masters are members by virtue of
their office. This arrangement might seem likely to throw a dangerous
weight in the deliberations of the 'house' into the hands of the
executive power, especially as the head-master might pursue Queen
Anne's policy under the Tory ministers--and, by introducing the
fencing-master--the dancing-master--the riding-master, &c. under the
unconstitutional equivocation of the word '_teachers_,' carry a
favourite measure in the teeth of the patriotic party. Hitherto
however the reigning sovereign has shown so laudable a desire to
strengthen those checks upon his own authority which make him a
limited monarch--that 'only one teacher has been in the habit of
attending the committee's meetings' (p. 5): and, where any teacher
himself happens to be interested in the question before the house (_e.
g._ in a case of appeal from any decision of his), 'it has lately been
the etiquette' for that one who does attend to decline voting. Thus we
see that the liberty of the subject is on the growth: which is a sure
argument that it has not been abused. In fact, as a fresh proof of the
eternal truth--that in proportion as human beings are honourably
confided in, they will _in the gross_ become worthy of confidence, it
will give pleasure to the reader to be informed that, though this
committee 'has the formation of _all_ the laws and regulations of the
school (excepting such as determine the hours of attendance and the
regular amount of exercises to be performed),' yet 'the master's
assent has never even in a single instance been withheld or even
delayed.' 'I do not remember,' says Sir William Temple in 1683 to his
son, 'ever to have refused anything you have desired of me; which I
take to be a greater compliment to you than to myself; since for a
young man to make none but reasonable desires is yet more
extraordinary than for an old man to think them so.' A good
arrangement has been adopted for the purpose of combining the benefits
of mature deliberation with the vigour and dispatch necessary for
sudden emergencies: by a standing order of the committee a week's
notice must be given before a new law can be introduced for
discussion: in cases of urgency therefore a sort of _orders of
council_ are passed by a sub-committee composed of two principal
officers for the time being: these may of course be intercepted _in
limine_ by the _veto_ of the master; and they may be annulled by the
general committee: in any case they expire in a fortnight: and thus
not only is a present necessity met, but also an opportunity gained
for trying the effect of a law before it is formally proposed. The
_executive_ body, exclusively of its standing members the upper and
lower masters, is composed of a sheriff (whose duties are to levy
fines imposed by the court of justice, and to imprison on
non-payment)--of a magistrate, and of two constables. All these
officers are elected every month by the committee immediately after
its own election. The magistrate is bound, in conjunction with his
constables, to detect all offences committed in the school: petty
cases of dispute he decides himself, and so far becomes a _judicial_
officer: cases beyond his own jurisdiction he sends to the
attorney-general, directing him to draw an impeachment against the
offending party: he also enforces all penalties below a certain
amount. Of the _judicial_ body we shall speak a little more at length.
The principal officers of the court are the judge who is elected
monthly by the committee, and the attorney-general who is appointed at
the same time by the master. The court assembles every week: and the
jury, consisting of six, is 'chosen by lot from among the whole number
of qualified boys:' disqualifications arise in three ways; on account
of holding a judicial office, on account of conviction by the court
within the preceding month, and on account of youth (or, what we
presume to be tantamount, being 'in certain lower classes'). The jury
choose their own foreman. The attorney-general and the accused party,
if the case be penal, and each disputant, if civil, has a _peremptory_
challenge of three, and an unlimited right of challenge _for cause_.
The judge decides upon the validity of the objections. Such is the
constitution of the court: its forms of proceeding we cannot state in
fewer words than those of the Experimentalist, which we shall
therefore quote: 'The officers of the court and the jury having taken
their seats, the defendant (when the cause is penal) is called to the
bar by the crier of the court, and placed between the constables. The
clerk of the court then reads the indictment, at the close of which
the defendant is asked if he object to any of the jury--when he may
make his challenges (as before stated). The same question is put to
the attorney-general. A short time is then allowed the defendant to
plead _guilty_, if he be so disposed: he is asked no question however
that he may not be induced to tell a falsehood: but, in order to
encourage an acknowledgment of the fault, when he pleads _guilty_--a
small deduction is made from the penalty appointed by the law for the
offence. The consequence is--that at least five out of six of those
who are justly accused acknowledge the offence in the first instance.
If the defendant be determined to stand his trial, the attorney-general
opens the case and the trial proceeds. The defendant may either plead
his own cause, or employ a school-fellow as counsel--which he sometimes
does. The judge takes notes of the evidence, to assist him in delivering
his charge to the jury: in determining the sentence he is guided by the
regulations enacted by the committee, which affix punishments varying
with the magnitude of the offence and the age of the defendant, but
invest the judge with the power of increasing or diminishing the penalty
to the extent of one-fourth.' A copy of the sentence is laid before the
master, who has of course 'the power of mitigation or pardon.' From the
decision of the court there lies an appeal to the committee, which is
thus not only the legislative body, but also the supreme court of
judicature. Two such appeals however are all that have yet occurred:
both were brought by the attorney-general--of course therefore against
verdicts of acquittal; and both verdicts were reversed. Fresh evidence
however was in both cases laid before the committee in addition to that
which had been heard in the court below; and on this as well on other
grounds there was good reason to acquit the jury of all partiality.
Whilst appeals have thus been so rare from the verdicts of juries,
appeals from the decisions of the magistrate, and even from those of the
teachers, have been frequent: generally indeed the decisions have been
affirmed by the committee; and, when they have been reversed, in all but
two cases the reversal has met with the sanction of the teachers as a
body. Even in these two (where, by the way, the original decision was
only modified and not annulled); the Experimentalist is himself of
opinion (p. 12) that the non-concurrence of the teachers may possibly
have been owing to a partiality on their side. So far indeed as his
experience had then extended, the Experimentalist tells us (p. 79) that
'one solitary instance only' had occurred in which the verdict of the
jury did not coincide with his own opinion. This judgment, deliberately
pronounced by so competent a judge, combined with the entire
acquiescence in the verdict of the jury which is argued by the
non-existence of any appeals except on the side of the crown (and then
only in two instances), is a very striking attestation to the spirit of
conscientious justice developed in the students by this confidence in
their incorruptible integrity. 'Great,' says the Experimentalist,
'great, but of course unexpressed, anxiety has more than once been felt
by us--lest the influence of a leading boy, which in every school must
be considerable, should overcome the virtue of the jury: but our fears
have been uniformly relieved, and the hopes of the offender crushed, by
the voice of the foreman pronouncing, in a shrill but steady tone, the
awful word--Guilty!' Some persons, who hate all innovations, will
pronounce all this '_mummery_,' which is a very compendious piece of
criticism. For ourselves, though we cannot altogether agree with the
Experimentalist, who seems to build too much on an assumption that
nature and increasing intercourse with human life contribute nothing of
themselves without any artificial discipline to the evolution and
culture of the sense of justice and to the power of the understanding
for discovering where justice lies, yet thus much is evident, 1. That
the intellectual faculties must be sharpened by the constant habit of
discriminating the just and the unjust in concrete cases such as a real
experience of life produces; 2. That the moral sense must be deepened,
if it were only by looking back upon so large a body of decisions, and
thus measuring as it were, by the resistance which they had often
overcome arising out of their own immediate interest, the mightiness of
the conscientious power within which had compelled them to such
decisions; 3. That all sorts of forensic ability is thus cherished; and
much ability indeed of larger application: thus the logical faculty of
abstracting the essential from the accidental is involved in the summing
up of the judge; in the pleadings for and against are involved the
rhetorical arts of narrating facts perspicuously--of arranging arguments
in the best order of meeting (therefore of remembering) the
counter-arguments; of solving sophisms; of disentangling
misrepresentations--of weighing the value of probabilities--to say
nothing of elocution and the arts of style and diction which even the
records of the court and the committee (as is urged at p. 105) must tend
to cultivate: 4. (to descend to a humbler use) that in this way the
master is absolved from the grievous waste of time in administering
justice, which on the old system was always imperfect justice that it
might waste but little time, and which yet wasted much time though it
was imperfect justice. The author's own _moral_ of this innovation is as
follows (p. 76); and with this we shall leave the subject: 'We shall be
disappointed if the intelligent reader have not already discovered that
by the establishment of a system of legislation and jurisprudence
wherein the power of the master is bounded by general rules, and the
duties of the scholar accurately defined, and where the boys are called
upon to examine and decide upon the conduct of their fellows, we have
provided a course of instruction in the great code of morality which is
likely to produce far more powerful and lasting effects than any
quantity of mere precept.'

We now pass to the other characteristics of the new system, which seem
to lie chiefly in what relates to _economy of time_, _rewards and
punishments_, the _motives to exertion_, and _voluntary labour_. For,
as to the _musical performances_ (which occur more than twenty times a
day), we see no practical use in them except that they regulate the
marching; and the marching it is said teaches to measure time: and
measuring time accurately contributes 'to the order and celerity with
which the various evolutions of the school are performed,' and also
the conquest of 'serious impediments of speech.' But the latter case
not occurring (we presume) very frequently, and marching accurately
not being wholly dependant on music,--it appears to us that a
practice, which tends to throw an air of fanciful trifling over the
excellent good sense of the system in other respects, would be better
omitted. _Division into classes_ again, though insisted on by the
Experimentalist (see pp. 290, 291) in a way which would lead us to
suppose it a novelty in his own neighbourhood, is next to universal in
England; and in all the great grammar schools has been established for
ages. All that distinguishes this arrangement in his use of it--is
this, that the classes are variable: that is, the school forms by
different combinations according to the subject of study; the boys,
who study Greek together, are not the same who study arithmetic
together. Dismissing therefore these two arrangements as either not
characteristic or not laudably characteristic, we shall make a brief
exposition of the others. 1. _Economy of Time_:--'We have been
startled at the reflection' (says the Experimentalist)--'that if, by a
faulty arrangement, one minute be lost to sixty of our boys, the
injury sustained would be equal to the waste of an hour by a single
individual.' Hence, as the Experimentalist justly argues, the use of
classes; by means of which ten minutes spent by the tutor in
explaining a difficult point to a class of ten boys become equal to
100 minutes distributed amongst them severally. Great improvement in
the economising of time was on this system derived from exacting 'an
almost superstitious punctuality' of the _monitor_, whose duty it is
to summon the school to all its changes of employment by ringing a
bell. It is worthy of notice, but to us not at all surprising,
that--'when the duty of the monitor was easy, and he had time for
play, the exact moment for ringing the bell was but seldom observed:
but when, as the system grew more complex, he was more constantly in
requisition, it was found that with increased labour came increased
perfection: and the same boy who had complained of the difficulty of
being punctual when he had to ring the bell only ten times in the day,
found his duty comparatively easy when his memory was taxed to a
four-fold amount. It is amusing to see what a living timepiece the
giddiest boy will become during his week of office. The succession of
monitors gradually infuses a habit, and somewhat of a love of
punctuality, into the body scholastic itself. The masters also cannot
think of being absent when the scholars are waiting for them: and thus
the nominal and the real hours of attendance become exactly the
same.'--2. _Motives to Exertion._ 'After furnishing the pupil with the
_opportunity_ of spending his time to the greatest advantage, our next
case was to examine how we had supplied him with _motives_' for so
spending it (p. 92). These are ranged under five heads,--'Love of
knowledge--love of employment--emulation--hope of reward--and fear of
punishment,'--and according to what the Experimentalist rightly thinks
'their order of excellence.' The three last, he alleges, are stimuli;
and of necessity lose their power by constant use. Love of employment,
though a more durable motive, leaves the pupil open to the attractions
of any other employment that may chance to offer itself in competition
with knowledge. Love of knowledge for its own sake therefore is the
mainspring relied on; insomuch that the Experimentalist gives it as
his opinion (p. 96) that 'if it were possible for the pupil to acquire
a love of knowledge, and that only during the time he remained at
school, he would have done more towards insuring a stock of knowledge
in maturer age than if he had been the recipient of as much learning
as ever was infused into the passive school-boy' by any means which
fell short of generating such a principle of exertion. We heartily
agree with him: and we are further of opinion that this love needs not
to be generated as an independent birth previously to our commencing
the labour of tuition, but that every system of tuition in proportion
as it approaches to a good one will inevitably involve the generation
of this love of knowledge concurrently with the generation of
knowledge itself. Most melancholy are the cases which have come under
our immediate notice of good faculties wholly lost to their possessor
and an incurable disgust for literature and knowledge founded to our
certain knowledge solely on the stupidity and false methods of the
teacher, who alike in what he knew or did _not_ know was incapable of
connecting one spark of pleasurable feeling with any science, by
leading his pupils' minds to re-act upon the knowledge he attempted to
convey. Being thus important, how shall a love of knowledge be
created? According to the Experimentalist, first of all (p. 97--to the
word 'zest' in p. 107) by combining the sense of obvious _utility_
with all the elementary exercises of the intellect:--secondly (from p.
108--to the word 'rock' in p. 114) by matching the difficulties of the
learner exactly with his capacity:--thirdly (from p. 114--to the word
'attention' in p. 117) by connecting with the learner's progress the
sense of continual success:--fourthly (from p. 117--to the word
'co-operation' in p. 121) by communicating clear, vivid and accurate
conceptions. The first means is illustrated by a reference to the art
of learning a language--to arithmetic--to surveying, and to the
writing of 'themes.' Can any boy, for instance, reconcile himself to
the loathsome effort of learning '_Propria quæ maribus_' by any [but]
the dimmest sense of its future utility? No, we answer with the
Experimentalist: and we go farther even than the Experimentalist is
disposed to do (p. 98); for we deny the existence of any future
utility. We, the reviewer of this book, at eight years of age, though
even then passionately fond of study and disdainful of childish
sports, passed some of the most wretched and ungenial days of our life
in 'learning by _heart_,' as it is called (oh! most ironical
misnomer!), _Propria quæ maribus_, '_Quæ genus_,' and '_As in
præsenti_,' a three-headed monster worse than Cerberus: we _did_ learn
them _ad unguem_; and to this hour their accursed barbarisms cling to
our memory as ineradicably as the golden lines of Æschylus or
Shakspeare. And what was our profit from all this loathsome labour,
and the loathsome heap of rubbish thus deposited in the memory?
Attend, if you please, good reader: the first professes to teach the
irregularities of nouns as to gender (_i. e._ which nouns having a
masculine termination are yet feminine, &c.), the second to teach the
irregularities of nouns as to number (_i. e._ which want the singular,
which the plural), the third to teach the irregularities of verbs (_i. e._
their deviations from the generic forms of the preterite and the
supine): this is what they _profess_ to teach. Suppose then their
professions realised, what is the result? Why that you have
laboriously anticipated a case of anomaly which, if it do actually
occur, could not possibly cost more trouble to explain at the time of
its occurrence than you are thus premising. This is as if a man should
sit down to cull all the difficult cases of action which could ever
occur to him in his relations of son, father, citizen, neighbour,
public functionary, &c. under the plea that he would thus have got
over the labour of discussion before the case itself arrived.
Supposing that this could be accomplished, what would it effect but to
cancel a benevolent arrangement of providence by which the
difficulties of life are distributed with tolerable equality
throughout its whole course, and obstinately to accumulate them all
upon a particular period. Sufficient for the day is its own evil:
dispatch your business as it arises, and every day clears itself: but
suffer a few months of unaudited accounts, or of unanswered letters,
to accumulate; and a mountain of arrears is before you which years
seem insufficient to get rid of. This sort of accumulation arises in
the shape of _arrears_: but any accumulation of trouble out of its
proper place,--_i. e._ of a distributed trouble into a state of
convergement,--no matter whether in the shape of needless anticipation
or needless procrastination, has equally the practical effect of
converting a light trouble (or none at all) into a heavy and hateful
one. The daily experience of books, actual intercourse with Latin
authors, is sufficient to teach all the irregularities of that
language: just as the daily experience of an English child leads him
without trouble into all the anomalies of his own language. And, to
return to the question which we put--'What was our profit from all
this loathsome labour?' In this way it was, viz. in the way of actual
experience that we, the reviewer of this book, did actually in the end
come to the knowledge of those irregularities which the three elegant
poems in question profess to communicate. Mark this, reader: the logic
of what we are saying--is first, that, if they _did_ teach what they
profess, they would attain that end by an artificial means far more
laborious than the natural means: and secondly, that in fact they do
_not_ attain their end. The reason of this--is partly the perplexed
and barbarous texture of the verse, which for metrical purposes, _i. e._
to keep the promise of metre to the mere technical scansion, is
obliged to abandon all those natural beauties of metre in the fluent
connection of the words, in the rhythmus, cadence, cæsura, &c. which
alone recommend metre as a better or more rememberable form for
conveying knowledge than prose: prose, if it has no music, at any rate
does not compel the most inartificial writer to dislocate, and distort
it into non-intelligibility. Another reason is, that '_As in
præsenti_' and its companions, are not so much adapted to the reading
as to the writing of Latin. For instance, I remember (we will suppose)
this sequence of '_tango tetigi_' from the '_As in P_.' Now, if I am
_reading_ Latin I meet either with the tense '_tango_,' or the tense
'_tetigi_.' In the former case, I have no difficulty; for there is as
yet no irregularity: and therefore it is impertinent to offer
assistance: in the latter case I _do_ find a difficulty, for,
according to the models of verbs which I have learned in my grammar,
there is no possible verb which could yield _tetigi_: for such a verb
as _tetigo_ even ought to yield _tetixi_: here therefore I should be
glad of some assistance; but just here it is that I obtain none: for,
because I remember '_tango tetigi_' in the direct order, it is quite
contrary to the laws of association which govern the memory in such a
case, to suppose that I remember the inverted order of _tetigi
tango_--any more than the forward repetition of the Lord's prayer
ensures its backward repetition. The practical applicability of '_As
in præsenti_' is therefore solely to the act of _writing_ Latin: for,
having occasion to translate the words 'I touched' I search for the
Latin equivalent to the English word _touch_--find that it is _tango_,
and then am reminded (whilst forming the preterite) that _tango_ makes
not _tanxi_ but '_tetigi_.' Such a use therefore I might by
possibility derive from my long labours: meantime even here the
service is in all probability doubly superfluous: for, by the time
that I am called on to write Latin at all, experience will have taught
me that _tango_ makes _tetigi_; or, supposing that I am required to
write Latin as one of the earliest means for gaining experience, even
in that case the very same dictionary which teaches me what is Latin
for '_touch_' teaches me what is the irregular preterite and supine of
_tango_. And thus the 'upshot' (to use a homely word) of the whole
business--is that an effort of memory, so great as to be capable
otherwise directed of mastering a science, and secondly (because
directed to an unnatural composition, viz. an arrangement of metre,
which is at once the rudest and the most elaborately artificial), so
disgusting as that no accession of knowledge could compensate the
injury thus done to the simplicity of the child's understanding, by
connecting pain and a sense of unintelligible mystery with his
earliest steps in knowledge,--all this hyperbolical apparatus and
machinery is worked for no one end or purpose that is not better
answered by a question to his tutor, by consulting his dictionary, or
by the _insensible_ progress of daily experience. Even this argument
derived from its utter uselessness does not however weigh so much with
us as the other argument derived from the want of common-sense,
involved in the wilful forestalling and artificial concentrating into
one long rosary of anomalies, what else the nature of the case has by
good luck dispersed over the whole territory of the Latin language. To
be consistent, a tutor should take the same proleptical course with
regard to the prosody of the Latin language: every Latin
hyperdissyllable is manifestly accentuated according to the following
law: if the penultimate be long, that syllable inevitably claims the
accent; if short, inevitably it rejects it--_i. e._ gives it to the
ante-penultimate. The determining syllable is therefore the
penultimate; and for the due reading of Latin the sole question is
about the quantity of the penultimate. According to the logic
therefore which could ever have introduced '_As in præsenti_,' the
tutor ought to make his pupils commit to memory every individual word
in which the quantity was not predetermined by a mechanical rule--(as
it is _e. g._ in the gen. plural _[=o]rum_, of the second declension,
the _[=e]runt_ of the third per. plurals of the preterite, &c., or the
cases where the vowel is long by position). But what man of sense
would forbear to cry out in such a case--'Leave the poor child to his
daily reading: practice, under correct tuition, will give him
insensibly and without effort all that you would thus endeavour to
communicate through a most Herculean exertion.' Whom has it cost any
trouble to learn the accentuation of his own language? How has he
learned _that_? Simply by copying others--and so much without effort,
that the effort (and a very great effort) would have been _not_ to
copy them. In that way let him learn the quantity of Latin and Greek
penultimates. That Edmund Burke could violate the quantity of the word
'Vectigal' was owing to his tutor's ignorance, who had allowed him so
to read it; that Lord North, and every other Etonian in the house,
knew better--was owing not to any disproportionate effort of memory
directed to that particular word, as though they had committed to
memory a rule enjoining them to place the accent on the penultimate of
the word vectigal: their knowledge no more rested on such an
anticipation by express rules of their own experience, than Burke's
ignorance of the quantity on the want of such anticipation; the
anticipation was needless--coming from a tutor who knew the quantity,
and impossible--coming from a tutor who knew it not. At this moment a
little boy (three years old) is standing by our table, and repeatedly
using the word _mans_ for _men_: his sister (five years old), at his
age, made the very same mistake: but she is now correcting her
brother's grammar, which just at this moment he is stoutly
defending--conceiving his dignity involved in the assertion of his own
impeccability. Now whence came the little girl's error and its
correction? Following blindly the general analogy of the language, she
formed her plural by adding an _s_ to the singular: afterwards
everybody about her became a daily monitor--a living _Propria quæ
maribus_, as she is in her turn to her brother, instructing her that
this particular word '_man_' swerved, as to this one particular point,
from the general analogy of the language. But the result is just as
inevitable from daily intercourse with Latin books, as to the parallel
anomalies in that language. In proportion as any case of anomaly could
escape the practical regulation of such an intercourse, just in that
proportion it must be a rare case, and less important to be known:
whatsoever the future experience will be most like to demand, the past
experience will be most likely to have furnished. All this we urge not
against the Eton grammar in particular: on the contrary, as grammars
go, we admire the Eton grammar;[40] and love it with a filial
partiality from early associations (always excepting, however, the
three lead-mines of the Eton grammar, '_Propria quæ maribus_,' &c. of
which it is not extravagant to say, that the author, though possibly a
good sort of a man in his way, has undoubtedly caused more human
suffering than Nero, Robespierre, or any other enemy of the human
race). Our opposition is to the general principle, which lies at the
root of such treatises as the three we have been considering: it will
be observed that, making a proper allowance for the smallness of the
print, these three bodies of absurd anticipations of exceptions, are
collectively about equal in quantity, and virtually for the effort to
the memory far more than equal, to the whole body of the rules
contained in the Accidence and the Syntax: _i. e._ that which exits on
account of many thousand cases is put on the same level of value and
burthen to the memory, as that which exists on account of itself
alone. Here lies the original sin of grammars, the mortal taint on
which they all demand regeneration: whosoever would show himself a
great artist in the profound but as yet infant art of teaching, should
regard all arbitrary taxes upon the memory with the same superstition
that a wise lawgiver should regard the punishment of death: the
lawgiver, who sets out with little knowledge (and therefore little
veneration) of human nature, is perpetually invoking the thunders of
the law to compensate the internal weakness of his own laws: and the
same spirit of levity disposes inefficient teachers to put in motion
the weightiest machinery of the mind for the most trifling purposes:
but we are convinced that this law should be engraven on the title
page of all elementary books--that the memory is degraded, if it be
called in to deliver any individual fact, or any number of individual
facts, or for any less purpose than that of delivering a comprehensive
law, by means of which the understanding is to _produce_ the
individual cases of knowledge wanted. Wherever exceptions or insulated
cases are noticed, except in notes, which are not designed to be
committed to memory, this rule is violated; and the Scotch expression
for particularising, viz. _condescending upon_, becomes applicable in
a literal sense: when the Eton grammar, _e. g._ notices _Deus_ as
deviating in the vocative case from the general law for that
declension, the memory is summoned to an unreasonable act of
condescension--viz. to load itself almost as heavily for one
particular word in one particular case, as it had done by the whole
type of that declension (_i. e._ the implicit law for all words
contained under it, which are possibly some thousands). But how then
would we have such exceptions learnt, if not by an act of the memory?
Precisely, we answer, as the meanings of all the words in the language
are learned: how are _they_ learned? They are known, and they are
remembered: but how? Not by any act or effort of the memory: they are
_deposited_ in the memory from daily intercourse with them: just as
the daily occurrences of our lives are recorded in our memories: not
through any exertion on our part, or in consequence of previous
determination on our parts that we will remember them: on the
contrary, we take no pains about them, and often would willingly
forget them: but they stay there in spite of us, and are pure
_depositions_, settlings, or sediments, with or without our
concurrence, from the stream of our daily experience.--Returning from
this long excursus on arbitrary taxations of the memory suggested to
us by the mention of '_Propria quæ maribus_,' which the
Experimentalist objects to as disgusting to children before they have
had experience of the cases in which it furnishes assistance (but
which we have objected to as in any case barren of all power to
assist), we resume the course of our analysis. We left the
Experimentalist insisting on the benefit of directing the studies of
children into such channels as that the practical _uses_ of their
labours may become apprehensible to themselves--as the first mode of
producing a love of knowledge. In some cases he admits that the pupil
must pass through 'dark defiles,' confiding blindly in his tutor's
'assurance that he will at last emerge into light:' but still contends
that in many cases it is possible, and where possible--right, that he
should 'catch a glimpse of the promised land.' Thus, for example, to
construe the language he is learning--is an act of 'some
respectability in his eyes' and its uses apparent: meantime the uses
of the grammar are not so apparent until experience has brought him
acquainted with the real cases to which it applies. On this
account,--without laying aside the grammar, let him be advanced to the
dignity of actual translation upon the very _minimum_ of grammatical
knowledge which will admit of it. Again, in arithmetic, it is the
received practice to commence with 'abstract numbers:' but, instead of
risking injury to the child's intellect and to his temper by thus
calling upon him to add together 'long rows of figures' to which no
meaning is attached, he is taught 'to calculate all the various little
problems which may be constructed respecting his tops and marbles,
their price, and their comparative value.' Here the Experimentalist
turns aside for about a page (from 'while,' p. 101--to 'practicable,'
p. 102) to 'acknowledge his obligations to what is called Mental
Arithmetic--that is, calculation without the employment of written
symbols.' Jedediah Buxton's preternatural powers in this way have been
long published to the world, and may now be found recorded in
Encyclopædias: the Experimentalist refers also to the more recent
cases of Porson and the American youth Zerah Colborn: amongst his own
pupils it appears (p. 54) that this exercise is practised in the
morning twilight, which for any other study would not furnish
sufficient light: he does not pretend to any very splendid marvels:
but the following facts, previously recited at pp. 16 and 17, he
thinks may astonish 'those who have not estimated the combined power
of youth, ardour, and practice.' The lower classes calculate, purely
by the mind without any help from pen or pencil, questions respecting
interest; determine whether a given year be bissextile or not, &c. &c.
The upper classes determine the age of the moon at any given time, the
day of the week which corresponds with any day of any month, and year,
and Easter Sunday for a given year. They will square any number not
exceeding a thousand, extract the square root of a number of not more
than five places, determine the space through which a body falls in a
given time, the circumference and areas of circles from their
diameters, and solve many problems in mensuration: they practise also
Mental Algebra, &c. In mental, no less than in written, Arithmetic,
'by assimilating the questions to those which actually occur in the
transactions of life,' the pupil is made sensible that he is rising
into the usefulness and respectability of real business. The imitative
principle of man is thus made to blend with the motive derived from
the sense of utility. The same blended feelings, combined with the
pleasurable influences of open air, are relied upon for creating the
love of knowledge in the practice of surveying. In this operation so
large an aggregate of subsidiary knowledge is demanded,--of
arithmetic, for instance--of mensuration--of trigonometry, together
with 'the manual facility of constructing maps and plans,' that a
sudden revelation is made to the pupils of the uses and
indispensableness of many previous studies which hitherto they had
imperfectly appreciated; they also 'exercise their discretion in
choosing points of observation; they learn expertness in the use, and
care in the preservation of instruments: and, above all,--from this
feeling that they are really _at work_, they acquire that sobriety and
steadiness of conduct in which the elder school-boy is so often
inferior to his less fortunate neighbour, who has been removed at an
early age to the accompting-house.'--The value of the sense of utility
the Experimentalist brings home forcibly to every reader's
recollections, by reminding him of the many cases in which a sudden
desire for self-education breaks out in a few months after the close
of an inefficient education: 'and what,' he asks, 'produces the
change? The experience, however short, of the utility of acquisitions,
which were perhaps lately despised.' Better then 'to spare the future
man many moments of painful retrospection,' by educing this sense of
utility, 'while the time and opportunity of improvement remain
unimpaired.' Finally, the sense of utility is connected with the
peculiar exercises in _composition_; 'a department of education which
we confess' (says the Experimentalist) 'has often caused us
considerable uneasiness;' an uneasiness which we, on our part, look
upon as groundless. For starting ourselves from the same point with
the Experimentalist and the authority he alleges--viz. that the
_matter_ of a good theme or essay altogether transcends the reflective
powers and the opportunities for observing of a raw school-boy,--we
yet come to a very different practical conclusion. The act of
composition cannot, it is true, create thoughts in a boy's head unless
they exist previously. On this consideration, let all questions of
general speculation be dismissed from school exercises: especially
questions of _moral_ speculation, which usually furnish the thesis of
a school-boy's essay: let us have no more themes on Justice--on
Ambition--on Benevolence--on the Love of Fame, &c.: for all theses
such as these, which treat moral qualities as pure abstractions, are
stripped of their _human_ interest: and few adults even could write
endurably upon such subjects in such a shape; though many might have
written very pleasingly and judiciously upon a moral _case_--_i. e._
on a moral question _in concreto_. Grant that a school-boy has no
independent thoughts of any value; yet every boy has thoughts
dependent upon what he has read--thoughts involved in it--thoughts
derived from it: but these he will (_cæteris paribus_) be more or less
able to express, as he has been more or less accustomed to express
them. The unevolved thoughts which pass through the youngest--the
rudest--the most inexperienced brain, are innumerable; not
detached--voluntary thoughts, but thoughts inherent in what is seen,
talked of, experienced, or read of. To evolve these, to make them
apprehensible by others, and often even to bring them within their own
consciousness, is very difficult to most people; and at times to all
people: and the power, by which this difficulty is conquered, admits
of endless culture: and, amongst the modes of culture, is that of
written composition. The true value of this exercise lies in the
necessity which it imposes of forming distinct ideas--of connecting
them--of disposing them into such an arrangement as that they can be
connected--of clothing them in words--and many more acts of the mind:
both analytic and synthetic. All that is necessary is--to determine
for the young composer his choice of matter: require him therefore to
narrate an interesting story which he has formerly read; to rehearse
the most interesting particulars of a day's excursion: in the case of
more advanced students, let them read one of the English state trials,
where the evidence is of a complex character (as the trials on Titus
Oates's plot), or a critical dissertation on some interesting
question, or anything in short which admits of analysis--of
abstraction--of expansion--or exhibition in an altered shape. Subjects
for all this are innumerable; and, according to the selection made,
more or less opportunity is given for collecting valuable knowledge:
but this purpose is collateral to the one we are speaking of: the
direct purpose is to exercise the mind in unravelling its own
thoughts, which else lie huddled and tangled together in a state unfit
for use, and but dimly developed to the possessor's own
consciousness.--The three other modes of producing a love of
knowledge, which the Experimentalist relies on, viz. the proportioning
the difficulties to the capacity of the learner, the pleasure of
success, and the communication of clear, vivid, and accurate
conceptions, are treated with good sense--but not with any great
originality: the last indeed (to speak scholastically) contains the
other three _eminenter_: for he, who has once arrived at clear
conceptions in relation to the various objects of his study, will not
fail to generate for himself the pleasure of success; and so of the
rest. But the power of communicating 'accurate conceptions' involves
so many other powers, that it is in strictness but another name for
the faculty of teaching in general. We fully agree with the
Experimentalist (at p. 118), that the tutor would do well 'to provide
himself with the various weights commonly spoken of, and the measures
of content and of length; to portion off upon his play-ground a
land-chain, a rood,' &c. to furnish 'maps' tracing 'the routes of
armies;' 'plates exhibiting the costumes' of different nations: and
more especially we agree with him (at p. 135) that in teaching the
classics the tutor should have at hand 'plates or drawings of ships,
temples, houses, altars, domestic and sacred utensils, robes, and of
every object of which they are likely to read.' 'It is,' as he says,
'impossible to calculate the injury which the minds of children suffer
from the habit of receiving imperfect ideas:' and it is discreditable
in the highest degree to the majority of good classical scholars that
they have no accurate knowledge of the Roman calendar, and no
knowledge at all of the classical coinage, &c.: not one out of every
twenty scholars can state the relation of the _sestertius_ to the
_denarius_, of the Roman _denarius_ to the Attic _drachma_, or express
any of them in English money. All such defects are weighty: but they
are not adequate illustrations of the injury which arises from
inaccurate ideas in its most important shape. It is a subject however
which we have here no room to enlarge upon.

[Footnote 40: Indeed an Etonian must in consistency condemn either the
Latin or the Greek grammar of Eton. For, where is the Greek '_Propria
quæ maribus_'--'_Quæ genus_'--and '_As in præsenti_'? Either the Greek
grammar is defective, or the Latin redundant. We are surprised that it
has never struck the patrons of these three beautiful Idylls, that all
the anomalies of the Greek language are left to be collected from

REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS.--It has already been mentioned that corporal
punishments are entirely abolished;[41] and upon the same principle
all such disgrace as 'would destroy self-respect.' 'Expulsion even has
been resorted to, rather than a boy should be submitted to treatment
which might lead himself and his school-fellows to forget that he was
a gentleman.' In this we think the Experimentalist very wise: and
precisely upon this ground it was that Mr. Coleridge in his lectures
at the Royal Institution attacked Mr. Lancaster's system, which
deviated from the Madras system chiefly in the complexity of the
details, and by pressing so cruelly in its punishments upon the
principle of shame. 'Public disgrace' (as the Experimentalist alleges,
p. 83) 'is painful exactly in proportion to the good feeling of the
offender:' and thus the good are more heavily punished than the bad.
Confinement, and certain disabilities, are the severest punishments:
but the former is 'as rare as possible; both because it is attended
with unavoidable disgrace' (but what punishment is wholly free from
this objection?) 'and because, unlike labour, it is pain without any
utility' (p. 183). The ordinary punishments therefore consist in the
forfeiture of rewards, which are certain counters obtained by various
kinds of merit. These are of two classes, _penal_ (so called from
being received as forfeits) and premial, which are obtained by a
higher degree of merit, and have higher powers attached to them.
Premial counters will purchase _holidays_, and will also purchase
_rank_ (which on this system is of great importance). A conflict is
thus created between pleasure and ambition, which generally terminates
in favour of the latter: 'a boy of fourteen, although constantly in
the possession of marks sufficient to obtain a holiday per week, has
bought but three-quarters of a day's relaxation during the whole of
the last year. The same boy purchased his place on the list by a
sacrifice of marks sufficient to have obtained for him twenty-six
half-holidays.' The purchase of rank, the reader must remember, is no
way objectionable--considering the means by which the purchase-money
is obtained. One chief means is by study during the hours of
leisure--_i. e._ by _voluntary labour_: this is treated of (rather out
of its place) in Chap. VII., which ought to be considered as belonging
to the first part of the work, viz. to the exposition of the system.
Voluntary labour took its rise from the necessity of furnishing those
boys, who had no chance of obtaining rank through their talents, with
some other means of distinguishing themselves: this is accomplished in
two modes: first, by giving rewards for industry exerted out of school
hours, and receiving these rewards as the price of rank; making no
other stipulation than one, in addition to its being 'tolerably well
executed'--viz. that it shall be in a state of completion. The
Experimentalist comments justly at p. 187, on 'the mental dissipation
in which persons of talent often indulge' as being 'destructive beyond
what can readily be imagined' and as leading to 'a life of shreds and
patches.' 'We take care' (says he) 'to reward no boy for fragments,
whatever may be their excellence. We know nothing of his exertions
until they come before us in a state of completion.' Hence, besides
gaining the 'habit of finishing' in early youth, the boy has an
interest also in gaining the habit of measuring his own powers: for he
knows 'that he can receive neither fame nor profit by instalments;'
and therefore 'undertakes nothing which he has not a rational hope of
accomplishing.'[42] A second mode of preventing rank from being
monopolised by talents is by flinging the school into various
arrangements, one of which is founded on 'propriety of manners and
general good conduct.'

[Footnote 41: On this point there is however an exception made, which
amuses us not a little. 'In a few instances,' says the Experimentalist,
'it has been found or supposed necessary to resent insolence by a blow:
but this may be rather called an assertion of private right, than an
official punishment. In these cases a single blow has _almost_ always
been found sufficient, even the rarity of the infliction rendering
severity unnecessary.' He insists therefore that this punishment (which,
we cannot but think, might have been commuted for a long imprisonment)
shall not be called a punishment, nor entered on the public records as
such: in which case however it becomes a private 'turn-up,' as the
boxers call it, between the boy and his tutor.]

[Footnote 42: The details of the system in regard to the penal and
premial counters may be found from pp. 23 to 29. We have no room to
extract them: one remark only we must make--that we do not see how it
is possible to ascribe any peculiar and incommunicable privileges to
the premial as opposed to the penal counters, when it appears that
they may be exchanged for each other 'at an established rate.']

       *       *       *       *       *

We have thus gone through a pretty full analysis, and a very accurate
one, of the new system as contained in the three first chapters. Of
the five miscellaneous chapters, the seventh or last but one (on
_voluntary labour_), has been interwoven with our analysis; and the
eighth, which contains a comparison of public and private education,
we do not purpose to notice; the question is very sensibly discussed;
but it is useless to discuss any question like this, which is a
difficult problem only because it is an unlimited problem. Let the
parent satisfy himself about the object he has in view for his child,
and let him consider the particular means which he has at his disposal
for securing a good private education, and he may then determine it
for himself. As far as the attainment of knowledge is concerned,--it
is always possible to secure a good public education, and not always
possible to secure a good private one. Where either is possible
indifferently, the comparison will proceed upon more equal grounds:
and inquiry may then be made about the child's destination in future
life: for many destinations a public education being much more
eligible than for others. Under a perfect indetermination of
everything relating to the child--the question is as indeterminable
as--whether it is better to go to the Bank through Holborn or through
the Strand: the particular case being given, it may then be possible
to answer the question; previously it is impossible.----Three chapters
therefore remain, viz.--Chap. IV. on Languages; Chap. V. on Elocution;
and Chap. VI. on Penmanship.

_Chap. IV. On the best method of acquiring Languages._--The
Experimentalist had occasion to observe 'that, in the Welsh towns
which are frequented by the English, even the children speak both
languages with fluency:' this fact, contrasted with the labour and
pain entailed upon the boy who is learning Latin (to say nothing of
the eventual disgust to literature which is too often the remote
consequence), and the drudgery entailed upon the master who teaches
Latin,--and fortified by the consideration, that in the former
instance the child learns to speak a new language, but in the latter
only to read it,--first drew his attention to the _natural_ mode of
learning languages, _i. e._ learning them from daily use. This mode
never fails with living languages: but how is it to be applied to dead
languages? The Experimentalist retorts by asking what is essential to
this mode? Partly the necessity which the pupil is laid under of using
the language daily for the common intercourse of life, and partly his
hearing it spoken by those who thoroughly understand it. 'Stimulus to
exertion then, and good models, are the great advantages of this mode
of instruction:' and these, he thinks, are secured even for a dead
language by his system: the first by the motives to exertion which
have already been unfolded; and the second by the acting of Latin
dramas (which had been previously noticed in his Exposition of the
system). But a third imitation of the _natural_ method he places in
the use of translations, 'which present the student with a dictionary
both of words and phrases arranged in the order in which he wants
them,' and in an abstinence from all use of the grammar, until the
learner himself shall come to feel the want of it; _i. e._ using it
with reference to an experience already accumulated, and not as an
anticipation of an experience yet to come. The ordinary objection to
the use of translations--that they produce indolent habits, he answers
thus: 'We teach by the process of _construing_; and therefore, even
with the translation before him, the scholar will have a task to
perform in matching the English, word by word, with the language which
he is learning.' For this _natural_ method of learning languages he
alleges the authority of Locke, of Ascham, and of Pestalozzi. The best
method, with those who have advanced to some degree of proficiency, he
considers that of double translations--_i. e._ a translation first of
all into the mother tongue of the learner, and a re-translation of
this translation back into the language of the original. These, with
the help of extemporaneous construing, _i. e._ construing any passage
at random with the assistance of a master who supplies the meaning of
the unknown words as they arise (a method practised, it seems, by Le
Febvre the father of Madame Dacier, by others before his time, and by
Condillac since)--compose the chief machinery which he employs for the
communication of dead languages.

_Chap. V. On Elocution._--In this chapter there is not much which is
very important. To read well, the Experimentalist alleges, presupposes
so much various knowledge, especially of that kind which is best
acquired by private reading, and therefore most spares the labour of
the tutor, that it ought reasonably to bestow high rank in the school.
Private reading is most favourable to the rapid collection of an
author's meaning: but for reading well--this is not sufficient: two
great constituents of that art remain to be acquired--Enunciation and
Inflection. These are best learned by Recitation. Thus far there is no
great novelty: the most interesting part of the chapter is what
relates to Stammering. This defect is held by the Experimentalist to
result from inattention to rhythmus: so much he thinks has been proved
by Mr. Thelwall. Whatsoever therefore compels the pupil to an
efficient perception of time and measure, as for example, marching
and music (p. 32), he resorts to for its correction. Stammerers, he
observes, can all sing: let them be taught to sing therefore, if not
otherwise corrigible: and from this let them descend to _recitative_:
then to the recitation of verses distinguished by the simplicity of
their rhythmus, marching at the same time and marking the accented
syllables by the tread of the foot; from this to the recitation of
more difficult verses; from that to measured prose; thence to ordinary
prose; and lastly to narrative and dialogue.

_Chap. VI. Of Penmanship._--This is a subject on which we profess no
experience which could warrant us in contradicting a writer who should
rest his innovations solely upon that ground: but the writer before us
does not rely on the practical issue of his own experiment (he does
not even tell us what that issue was), but on certain _à priori_
arguments, which we conceive to be ill-reasoned. The amount of the
chapter is this--that to write a good running hand is the main object
to be aimed at in the art of caligraphy: we will go farther, and
concede that it is the sole object, unless where the pupil is educated
for a writing-master. Thus far we are agreed; and the question is--as
to the best means of attaining this object. On which question the plan
here proposed differs from those in use by the very natural
error--that what is admitted to be the ultimate object, this plan
would make the immediate object. The author starts from a false theory
of the practice amongst writing-masters: in order that their pupils
may write small and running hands well, writing-masters (as is
well-known) begin by exacting from them a long praxis in large hands.
But the rationale of this praxis escapes the Experimentalist: the
large hand and the small hand stand related to each other, in the
estimate of the masters, as a means to an end; whereas the
Experimentalist supposes them to be viewed in the relation simply of
two co-ordinate or collateral ends: on which false presumption he
grounds what would on his own view be a very sound advice; for justly
conceiving that the small hand is of incomparably more use in life, he
argues in effect thus: let us communicate the main object, and then
(if he has leisure and taste for it) let the pupil direct his
attention to the lower object: 'when the running hand is
accomplished,' says he, 'the pupil may (if it be thought necessary)
learn to write the larger hands according to the received models.'
_When_ it is acquired! 'Aye, but in order that it _may_ be
acquired,'--the writing-master will reply, 'I must first teach the
larger hands.' As well might the professor of dancing hold out as a
tempting innovation to the public--I teach the actual dances, the true
practical synthesis of the steps and movements, as it is in fact
demanded by the usage of the ball-room: let others teach the analytic
elements of the art--the mere useless steps--to those who have time to
waste on superfluities. In either art (as in many others) that, which
is first (or rather sole) in order of importance, is last in the order
of attainment: as an object _per se_, the larger hand is not wanted at
all, either before or after the running hand: if it does really
contribute nothing to the more accurate formation of the letters, by
compelling the pupil to exhibit his aberrations from the _ideal_
letter more clearly because on a scale of greater magnitude (which
yet in the second sentence of this chapter our Experimentalist himself
admits), then let it be abandoned at once: for not doing this service,
it does nothing at all. On the other hand, if this be its specific
service, then it is clear that, being no object _per se_, but simply a
means to an object, it must have precedency in the order of
communication. And the innovation of our Experimentalist is so far (in
the literal sense of that word) a _preposterous_ inversion of the old
usage: and this being the chief principle of his 'plan' we desire to
know no more of it; and were not sorry that (p. 178) we found him
declining 'to enter into a detail of it.'--The business of the chapter
being finished however, there yet remains some little matter of
curiosity. 1. The Experimentalist affirms that 'Langford's
copper-plate copies, or indeed any other which he has seen, fail' if
tried by a certain test: what test? Why this: that 'the large hand
seen through a diminishing glass, ought to be reduced into the current
hand; and the current hand, magnified, ought to swell into a large
hand.' Whereas, on the contrary, 'the large hands reduced appear very
stiff and cramped; and the magnified running hand'--'appears little
better than a scrawl.' Now to us the result appears in a different
light. It is true that the large hands reduced do not appear good
running hands according to the standard derived from the actual
practice of the world: but why? Simply because they are too good: _i. e._
they are _ideals_ and in fact are meant to be so; and have nothing
characteristic: they are purely _generic_ hands, and therefore want
_individualisation_: they are abstractions; but to affect us
pleasurably, they should be concrete expressions of some human
qualities, moral or intellectual. Perfect features in a human face
arranged with perfect symmetry, affect us not at all, as is well
known, where there is nothing characteristic; the latency of the
individual in the generic, and of the generic in the individual, is
that which gives to each its power over our human sensibilities. And
this holds of caligraphy no less than other arts. And _that_ is the
most perfect hand-writing which unites the _minimum_ of deviation from
the ideal standard of beauty (as to the form and nexus of the letters)
with the _maximum_ of characteristic expression. It has long been
practically felt, and even expressly affirmed (in some instances even
expanded into a distinct art and professed as such), that it is
possible to determine the human _intellectual_ character as to some of
its features from the hand-writing. Books even have been written on
this art, as _e. g._ the _Ideographia_, or art of knowing the
characters of men from their hand-writings, by _Aldorisius_: and,
though this in common with all other modes of _physiognomy_, as
craniology, Lavaterianism (usually called physiognomy), &c. &c. has
laboured under the reproach of fancifulness,--yet we ought not to
attribute this wholly to the groundlessness of the art as a possible
art--but to these two causes; partly to the precipitation and
imperfect psychology of the professors; who, like the craniologists,
have been over-ready to determine the _indicantia_ before they had
settled according to any tolerable theory the _indicanda_; _i. e._
have settled what A, what B, what C, shall _indicate_, before they
have inquired what it was presumable upon any systematic development
of human nature would have a right _to be indicated_; and thus have
assigned an external characteristic to a faculty of the third
order--suppose (or perhaps a mere accidental effect of a faculty or a
mere imaginary faculty), whilst a primary faculty went without any
expression at all:--partly, I say, to this cause which is obviously
not merely a subjective but also an accidental cause; and partly also
to the following cause, which is objective (_i. e._ seated in the
inherent imperfections of the art itself, and not removeable therefore
by any future improvements to be anticipated from a more matured
psychology); viz. that the human mind transcends or overflows the
gamut or scale of the art; in other words, that the qualities--intellectual
or moral, which ought to be expressed, are far more in number than the
alphabet of signs or expressions by which they are to be enunciated.
Hence it follows as an inevitable dilemma, that many qualities must go
unrepresented; or else be represented by signs common to them with other
qualities: in the first of which cases we have an art imperfect from
defect, in the other case imperfect from equivocal language. Thus, for
example, determination of character is built in some cases upon mere
energy of the will (a moral cause); and again in other cases upon
capaciousness of judgment and freedom from all logical perplexity (an
intellectual cause). Yet it is possible that either cause will modify
the hand-writing in the same way.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the long analysis which we have thus given of the book recording
this new system of education, it is sufficiently evident that we think
very highly of it. In the hands of its founder we are convinced that
it is calculated to work wonders; and so strong is the impression
which his book conveys, that he is not only a man of very
extraordinary talents for the improvement of the science of education,
but also a very conscientious man--that, for our own parts, we should
confide a child to his care with that spirit of perfect confidence
which he has himself described at p. 74. There is an air of
gentlemanly feeling spread over the book which tends still further to
recommend the author. Meantime two questions arise on the
system,--first, is it a good system? which we have answered:--secondly,
is it a system adapted for general diffusion? This question we dare not
answer in the affirmative, unless we could ensure the talents and energy
of the original inventor in every other superintendent of this
system.--In this we may be wrong: but at all events, it ought not to be
considered as any deduction from the merits of the author--as a very
original thinker on the science of education, that his system is not
(like the Madras system) independent of the teacher's, ability, and
therefore not unconditionally applicable.--Upon some future occasion we
shall perhaps take an opportunity of stating what is in our opinion the
great desideratum which is still to be supplied in the art of education
considered simply in its _intellectual_ purposes--viz. the communication
of knowledge, and the development of the intellectual faculties:
purposes which have not been as yet treated in sufficient insulation
from the _moral_ purposes. For the present we shall conclude by
recommending to the notice of the Experimentalist the German writers on
education. Basedow, who naturalised Rousseau in Germany, was the first
author who called the attention of the German public to this important
subject. Unfortunately Basedow had a silly ambition of being reputed an
infidel, and thus created a great obstacle to his own success: he was
also in many other respects a sciolist and a trifler: but, since his
time, the subject has been much cultivated in Germany: 'Paedogogic'
journals even, have been published periodically, like literary or
philosophic journals: and, as might be anticipated from that love of
children which so honourably distinguishes the Germans as a people, not
without very considerable success.

       *       *       *       *       *


Our little Courts of Justice not unfrequently furnish cases of
considerable interest; and we are always willing to make the
resemblance between our microcosm and the world at large as close as
possible, at least in every useful point we are trying to collect a
volume of Reports. As all the boys are expected to be present during a
trial, to give importance to the proceeding, the time of such as are
capable of the task must be profitably employed in taking notes. A
useful effect may also be produced upon the parties; and these records
will be valuable acquisitions for those boys who wish to study the
laws, and enable themselves to conduct the jurisprudence of the
school. We shall detail a case which lately occurred, not because it
is the most interesting which could have been selected, but because
there will be nothing in its publication to hurt the feelings of any
person engaged in the transaction.

It would be vain to attempt any concealment of the fact that our
pupils, like all boys in the full tide of health and spirits, do not
always see the folly of an appeal to the _ultimo ratio regum_ in so
strong a light as that in which it _sometimes_ appears to older eyes;
and resort is now and then had to trial by combat, in preference to
trial by jury. The candid and experienced teacher, who knows the
difficulty and the danger of too rigorously suppressing natural
impulses, will not censure us for endeavouring to regulate this
custom, than to destroy it altogether. In the hope of lessening the
number of those _fracas_ (never very large), a law was proposed, which
the committee adopted, to render it penal for any person, except the
Magistrate and the Constables, to be present at a battle. Six hours'
notice must be given by both parties, and a tax paid in advance.
During the interval, it is the duty of the Magistrate to attempt a
reconciliation. These regulations were intended to give opportunity
for the passions to cool, and to check the inclination for display
which is often the sole cause of the disturbance.

We consider the effect on the minds of the spectators as the worst
part of the transaction. There is something dreadfully brutalising in
the shouts of incitement and triumph which generally accompany a feat
of pugilism. Neither boys nor men ought ever to witness pain without
sympathy. It is almost needless to say, that, with us, fighting is
anything rather than a source of festivity and amusement.

To return to our story.--A day-scholar, whose father's grounds adjoin
ours, was discovered by the Magistrate to have witnessed a battle from
a tree which he had climbed for that purpose. The Magistrate fined
him. He appealed, and the question of his liability was argued at some
length before the Committee.

The ground which the appellant took was, that no day-scholar could be
amenable to the laws of the school, except during the hours of
business, or while on the premises of the school, and that the alleged
offence was committed out of school hours, and on his father's land.

Public opinion ran in his favour. The plea that he was on his father's
land seemed to have great weight with his schoolfellows. To fine a boy
under such circumstances appeared to them like an attempt to invade
the paternal sanctuary, and the motion for quashing conviction of the
Magistrate, at first received the support of several members of the

The attending Teacher saw that it would be necessary to call the
attention of the Committee to general principles, and proposed as an
amendment to the general motion, the following resolution, 'That it is
desirable that the laws should be obeyed at all times, and in all
places.' In support of this amendment he argued, that as the laws had
the happiness of the school in view, a breach of those laws must
certainly be in some degree destructive of the general good. That to
allow this in certain individuals would be injurious to the great
body, but still more so to the individuals themselves; and that what
was wrong in the schoolroom or on the playground at eleven in the
morning, could not be right in the fields at six in the afternoon. In
conclusion he said, 'Whether or not we have the power to fine a person
for a breach of our laws when he is at a distance from the schools,
is a question which it is not our present business to determine; but I
firmly believe that our laws are calculated to promote in the highest
degree our welfare, and I wish the advantages to be derived from
obeying them to be as widely diffused as possible.'

The amendment was carried unanimously.

Having determined 'that it was desirable that the laws should be
obeyed at all times and in all places,' it was necessary in the next
place to ascertain whether it was not a part of our law that such
should be the case.

With this view an amendment was proposed which declared, that such was
the intention of the law, and in support of it cases were cited in
which day-boys had been punished for offences committed at a distance
from the school. It was also insisted, that in no single instance had
the laws made an exception in favour of the day-boys. They universally
begin by saying, that, if 'any one,' or 'any pupil,' or 'any boy,'
shall commit such and such an offence, etc., and not 'any boarder,' or
'any day-boy then at school.'

The second amendment was also carried without opposition.

The question was now confined within very narrow limits. The Committee
had declared that it was 'desirable that the laws should be obeyed at
all times and in all places;' and also, that by law no exception was
made in favour of day-scholars. It only remained therefore for the
Committee to consider, whether the police of the school had the power
to enforce the laws.

It was argued that in this case they had been enforced, for that the
fine had actually been paid, and that unless the Committee interfered
to prevent it, they would continue to operate as they had done, for
the welfare of the school at large, and for the ultimate advantage
even of the individuals who might at first appear to be injured.

The amended motion was now put, and the conviction was unanimously

This detail will furnish the reader with a more correct conception
than we could otherwise give him, of the opportunities with which the
sittings of our little Committees furnish the members for making some
important acquirements.

In the first place, they study the art of reasoning, and that too
under very favourable circumstances; being fully acquainted with the
facts on which they are called to exercise their judgments, and seeing
them in all their bearings. We believe that intimate acquaintance with
the facts of which we speak to be the first and most important element
in practical logic. Reasoning, strictly speaking, being no more than
the art of tracing analogies and differences. The _reality_ of the
business in which the students are engaged is very valuable, inasmuch
as it furnishes them with strong motives to exert all their powers in
the investigation. The matter at issue 'comes home to their business
and bosoms;' it may deeply affect their interests, and will not pass
unnoticed by their constituents; among whom the question will be again
discussed, and the Committee-men will in conversation have to defend
the opinions they have officially expressed. Thus every argument is
well canvassed in their minds, and the ideas remain under
consideration for a sufficient time to become permanently fixed in
their remembrance. The power of public speaking is also in some degree
acquired, and, we hope, without the countervailing evils which have
been so justly deprecated. The great defects of all artificial methods
of learning the art of debating is, that it is seldom of any real
importance to either speaker or hearer, on which side the question
under discussion is determined; consequently, the speaker is more
anxious to display his own talents, than to convince the audience;
which, on its part, wishes rather for amusement than instruction, or
seeks the latter only by watching the conduct of this mental
fencing-match, in order to learn the most skilful manner of handling
the foils. Every one who addresses the company assembled, feels that
he shall be more applauded for agreeably wandering, than for pointing
out and following the best and straightest road. In short, discussion,
instead of being a means employed to gain an object, is the end

The orator, if such a name is to be so degraded, rises not to gain the
votes of his hearers, but to make them laugh and clap their hands;
and, this is most easily done by advancing smart sophisms, and
uttering well-delivered absurdities with mock solemnity, we may
readily conceive how little the powers of investigation can be
exercised and improved by such practice as that of spouting clubs and
debating societies. No doubt there are many exceptions to these
remarks, but the vice we complain of is, we fear, inherent in some
degree in the nature of the institutions, although by care in the
choice of members, and the selection of an audience, it may, in a
great measure, be counteracted.

We must not forget to state the advantages enjoyed by the Teacher's
attendance on the sittings of our Committees. He becomes most
intimately acquainted with the minds of his pupils. He sees their
difficulties and their errors in a strong light, and is placed in a
situation for addressing himself more completely to the state of their
wants than he could be, unless they were thus induced, and almost
compelled, to disclose all the workings of the mental machine. In
general, nearly every person who knows a boy at all, has an
opportunity of becoming better acquainted with him than his
instructor. No wonder, considering the many painful sensations which
the latter, in his various offices of accuser, witness, judge and
executioner, is compelled to exite. We are happily relieved from these
difficulties, but we still seize with avidity every means by which our
pupils may be induced to develop their minds to our view, feeling that
our acquaintance with their springs of thought and action can never be
too accurate and complete. The votes at the conclusion of the debate
show us the measure of our success. Every influence except that of
mind, is, we trust, out of the question: we do not always carry a
majority with us; and this fact gives us hope, that when we do, a
sincere effect has been wrought on the convictions of the boys.

To conclude, we must in candour acknowledge, that we search more
industriously for arguments and illustrations to support our opinions,
than we should or _could_ do, under other circumstances. The effect on
the mind of the Master is not a bad test of any method of education.



(_May, 1824._)

----But now to my hero. If many a forgotten writer, or writer destined
to be forgotten, is on that account the more deserving of applause for
having spared no cost of toil and intellectual exertion upon his
works, certainly Swedenborg of all such writers is deserving of the
most. Without doubt his flask in the moon is full; and not at all less
than any of those which Ariosto saw in that planet filled with the
lost wits of men, so thoroughly is his great work emptied of every
drop of common sense. Nevertheless there prevails in every part so
wonderful an agreement with all that the most refined and consistent
sense under the same fantastic delusions could produce on the same
subject, that the reader will pardon me if I here detect the same
curiosities in the caprices of fancy which many other virtuosi have
detected in the caprices of nature; for instance, in variegated
marble, where some have discovered a holy family; or in stalactites
and petrifactions, where others have discovered monks, baptismal
fonts, and organs; or even in frozen window-panes, where our
countryman Liscow, the humourist, discovered the number of the beast
and the triple crown; things which he only is apt to descry, whose
head is preoccupied with thoughts about them.

The main work of this writer is composed of eight quarto volumes full
of nonsense, which he presented to the world as a new revelation under
the title of _Arcana Coelestia_. In this work his visions are
chiefly directed to the discovery of the secret sense in the two first
books of Moses, and to a similar way of interpreting the whole of the
Scripture. All these fantastic interpretations are nothing to my
present purpose: those who have any curiosity may find some account of
them in the _Bibliotheca Theologica_ of Dr. Ernesti. All that I design
to extract are his _audita et visa_, from the supplements to his
chapters--that which he saw with his own eyes, and heard with his own
ears: for these parts of his dreams it is which are to be considered
as the foundation of all the rest. Swedenborg's style is dull and
mean. His narrations and their whole contexture appear in fact to have
originated in a disorder of his sensitive faculty, and suggest no
reason for suspecting that the speculative delusions of a depraved
intellect have moved him to invent them. Viewed in this light, they
are really of some importance--and deserve to be exhibited in a short
abstract; much more indeed than many a brainless product of fantastic
philosophers who swell our journals with false subtilties; for a
coherent delusion of the senses is always a more remarkable phenomenon
than a delusion of the intellect; inasmuch as the grounds of this
latter delusion are well known, and the delusion itself corrigible
enough by self-exertion and by putting more check upon the rash
precipitation of the judgment; whereas a delusion of the senses
touches the original foundation of all judgment, and where it exists
is radically incapable of all cure from logic. I distinguish therefore
in our author his craziness of sense from his crazy wits; and I pass
over his absurd and distorted reasonings in those parts where he
abandons his visions, for the same reason that in reading a
philosopher we are often obliged to separate his observations from his
arguments: and generally, delusive experiences are more instructive
than delusive grounds of experience in the reason. Whilst I thus rob
the reader of some few moments, which otherwise perhaps he would have
spent with no greater profit in reading works of abstract philosophy
that are often of not less trivial import,--I have at the same time
provided for the delicacy of his taste by the omission of many
chimæras, and by concentrating the essence of the book into a few
drops; and for this I anticipate no less gratitude from him than
(according to the old story) a patient expressed towards his
physicians--who had contented themselves with ordering him to eat the
bark of the quinquina, when it was clearly in their power to have
insisted on his eating up the whole tree.

Mr. Swedenborg divides his visions into three kinds, of which the
first consists in being liberated from the body--an intermediate state
between waking and sleeping, in which he saw--heard--and felt spirits.
This kind he has experienced three or four times. The second consists
in being carried away by spirits, whilst he continues to walk the
streets (suppose) without losing his way; meantime in spirit he is in
quite other regions, and sees distinctly houses, men, forests, &c.;
and all this for some hours long, until he suddenly finds himself
again in his true place. This has happened to him two or three times.
The third or ordinary kind of visions is that which he has daily when
wide awake; and from this class his narrations are chiefly taken. All
men, according to Swedenborg, stand in an intimate connection with the
spiritual world; only they are not aware of it; and the difference
between himself and others consists simply in this--that his innermost
nature is laid open, of which gift he always speaks with the most
devout spirit of gratitude (Datum mihi est ex divinâ Domini
misericordiâ). From the context it is apparent that this gift consists
in the consciousness of those obscure representations which the soul
receives through its continual connection with the spiritual world.
Accordingly he distinguishes in men between the external and the
internal memory. The former he enjoys as a person who belongs to the
visible world, but the latter in virtue of his intercourse with the
spiritual world. Upon this distinction is grounded also the
distinction between the outer and inner man; and Swedenborg's
prerogative consists in this--that he stands already in this life in
the society of spirits, and is recognised by them as possessing such a
prerogative. In the inner memory is retained whatsoever has vanished
from the outer; and of all which is presented to the consciousness of
man nothing is ever lost. After death the remembrance of all which
ever entered his soul, and even all that had perished to himself,
constitutes the entire book of his life. The presence of spirits, it
is true, strikes only upon his inner sense. Nevertheless this is able
to excite an apparition of these spirits external to himself, and even
to invest them with a human figure. The language of spirits is an
_immediate_ and unsymbolic communication of ideas; notwithstanding
which it is always clothed in the semblance of that language which
Swedenborg himself speaks, and is represented as external to him. One
spirit reads in the memory of another spirit all the representations,
whether images or ideas, which it contains. Thus the spirits see in
Swedenborg all the representations which he has of this world; and
with so clear an intuition that they often deceive themselves and
fancy that they see the objects themselves immediately--which however
is impossible, since no pure spirit has the slightest perception of
the material universe: nay they cannot gain any idea of it through
intercourse with the souls of other living men, because their inner
nature is not opened--_i. e._ their inner sense contains none but
obscure representations. Hence it arises that Mr. Swedenborg is the
true oracle of spirits, which are not at all less curious to read in
him the present condition of the world, than he is to view in their
memory, as in a mirror, the marvels of the spiritual world. Although
these spirits stand in like manner closely connected with all other
souls of living men, by a reciprocal commerce of action and passion,
yet they are as little aware of this as men are aware of it. Spirits
therefore ascribe to themselves as the product of their own minds what
in fact results from the action of human souls upon them; just as men
during their lives imagine that all their thoughts, and the motions of
the will which take place within them, arise from themselves,
although in fact they oftentimes take their origin in the spiritual
world. Meantime every human soul, even in this life, has its place and
station in this spiritual world, and belongs to a certain society
which is always adapted to its inner condition of truth and
goodness,--that is, to the condition of the understanding and the
will. But the places of souls in relation to each other have nothing
in common with the material world; and therefore the soul of a man in
India is often in respect to spiritual situation next neighbour to the
soul of another man in Europe; as on the contrary very often those,
who dwell corporeally under the same roof, are with respect to their
spiritual relations far enough asunder. If a man dies, his soul does
not on that account change its place; but simply feels itself in that
place which in regard to other spirits it already held in this life.
For the rest, although the relation of spirits to each other is no
true relation of space, yet has it to them the appearance of space;
and their affinities or attractions for each other assume the
semblance of proximities, as their repulsions do of distances; just as
spirits themselves are not actually extended, but yet present the
appearance to each other of a human figure. In this imaginary space
there is an undisturbed intercourse of spiritual natures. Mr.
Swedenborg converses with departed souls whenever he chooses, and
reads in their memory (he means to say in their representative
faculty) that very condition in which they contemplate themselves; and
this he sees as clearly as with his bodily eyes. Moreover the enormous
distance of the rational inhabitants of the world is to be accounted
as nothing in relation to the spiritual universe; and to talk with an
inhabitant of Saturn is just as easy to him as to speak with a
departed human soul. All depends upon the relation of their inner
condition in reference to their agreement in truth and goodness: but
those spirits, which have weak affinities for each other, can readily
come into intercourse through the inter-agency of others. On this
account it is not necessary that a man should actually have dwelt on
all the other heavenly bodies in order to know them together with all
their wonders.

One presiding doctrine in Swedenborg's ravings is this: corporeal
beings have no subsistence of their own, but exist merely by and
through the spiritual world; although each body not by means of one
spirit alone, but of all taken together. Hence the knowledge of
material things has two meanings; an external meaning referring to the
inter-dependencies of the matter upon itself, and an internal meaning
in so far as they denote the powers of the spiritual world which are
their causes. Thus the body of man has a system of parts related to
each other agreeably to material laws: but, in so far as it is
supported by the spirit which lives, its limbs and their functions
have a symbolic value as expressions of those faculties in the soul
from which they derive their form, mode of activity, and power of
enduring. The same law holds with regard to all other things in the
visible universe: they have (as has been said) one meaning as
things--which is trivial, and another as signs--which is far
weightier. Hence by the way arises the source of those new
interpretations of Scripture which Swedenborg has introduced. For the
inner sense,--that is, the symbolic relation of all things there
recorded to the spiritual world,--is, as he conceits, the kernel of
its value; all the rest being only its shell. All spirits represent
themselves to one another under the appearance of extended forms; and
the influences of all these spiritual beings amongst one another raise
to them at the same time appearances of other extended beings, and as
it were of a material world. Swedenborg therefore speaks of
gardens--spacious regions--mansions--galleries--and arcades of
spirits--as of things seen by himself in the clearest light; and he
assures us--that, having many times conversed with all his friends
after their death, he had almost always found in those who had but
lately died--that they could scarcely convince themselves that they
had died, because they saw round about them a world similar to the one
they had quitted. He found also that spiritual societies, which had
the same inner condition, had the same apparition of space and of all
things in space; and that the change of their internal state was
always accompanied by the appearance of a change of place.

I have already noticed that, according to our author, the various
powers and properties of the soul stand in sympathy with the organs of
the body entrusted to its government. The outer man therefore
corresponds to the whole inner man; and hence, whenever any remarkable
spiritual influence from the invisible world reaches one of these
faculties of the soul, he is sensible also harmonically of the
apparent presence of it in the corresponding members of his outer man.
To this head now he refers a vast variety of sensations in his body
which are uniformly connected with spiritual intuition; but the
absurdity of them is so enormous that I shall not attempt to adduce
even a single instance.----By all this a preparation is made for the
strangest and most fantastic of his notions in which all his ravings
are blended. As different powers and faculties constitute that unity
which is the soul or inner man, so also different spirits (whose
leading characteristics bear the same relation to each other as the
various faculties of a spirit) constitute one society which exhibits
the appearance of one great man; and in this shadowy image every
spirit is seen in that place and in those visible members which are
agreeable to its proper function in such a spiritual body. And all
spiritual societies taken together, and the entire universe of all
these invisible beings, appears again in the form of a hugest and
ultra-enormous man mountain: a monstrous and gigantic fancy, which
perhaps has grown out of the school mode of representing a whole
quarter of the world under the image of a virgin sitting. In this
immeasurable man is an entire and inner commerce of each spirit with
all, and of all with each; and, let the position of men in reference
to each other be what it may, they take quite another position in this
enormous man--a position which they never change, and which is only in
appearance a local position in an immeasurable space, but in fact a
determinate kind of relation and influence.

But I am weary of transcribing the delirious ravings of a poor
visionary, the craziest that has ever existed, or of pursuing them to
his descriptions of the state after death. I am checked also by other
considerations. For, although in forming a medical museum it is right
to collect specimens not only of natural but also of unnatural
productions and abortions, yet it is necessary to be cautious before
whom you show them: and amongst my readers there may happen to be some
in a crazy condition of nerves; and it would give me pain to think
that I had been the occasion of any mischief to them. Having warned
them however from the beginning, I am not responsible for anything
that may happen; and must desire that no person will lay at my door
the moon-calves which may chance to arise from any teeming fancy
impregnated by Mr. Swedenborg's revelations.

In conclusion I have to say that I have not interpolated my author's
dreams with any surreptitious ones of my own; but have laid a faithful
abstract before the economic reader, who might not be well pleased to
pay seven pounds sterling for a body of raving. I have indeed omitted
many circumstantial pictures of his intuitions, because they could
only have served to disturb the reader's slumber; and the confused
sense of his revelations I have now and then clothed in a more current
diction. But all the important features of the sketch I have preserved
in their native integrity.--And thus I return with some little shame
from my foolish labours, from which I shall draw this moral: That it
is often a very easy thing to act prudentially; but alas! too often
only after we have toiled to our prudence through a forest of


[_In a Letter to an American Gentleman._]

My dear L,--Among the _lions_ whom you missed by one accident or
another on your late travels in Europe, I observe that you recur to
none with so much regret as Professor Wilson; you dwell upon this one
disappointment as a personal misfortune; and perhaps with reason; for,
in the course of my life, I have met with no man of equally varied
accomplishments, or, upon the whole, so well entitled to be ranked
with that order of men distinguished by brilliant versatility and
ambidexterity--of which order we find such eminent models in
Alcibiades, in Cæsar, in Crichton, in that of Servan recorded by
Sully, and in one or two Italians. Pity that you had not earlier
communicated to me the exact route you were bound to, and the
particular succession of your engagements when you visited the English
Lakes; since, in that case, my interest with Professor Wilson
(supposing always that you had declined to rely upon the better
passport of your own merits as a naturalist) would have availed for a
greater thing than at that time stood between you and the introduction
which you coveted. On the day, or the night rather, when you were at
Bowness and Ambleside, I happen to know that Professor Wilson's
business was one which might have been executed by proxy, though it
could not be delayed; and I also know that, apart from the _general_
courtesy of his nature, he would, at all times, have an especial
pleasure in waiving a claim of business for one of science or letters,
in the person of a foreigner coming from a great distance; and that in
no other instance would he make such a sacrifice so cordially as on
behalf of an able naturalist. Perhaps you already know from your
countryman, Audubon, that the Professor is himself a naturalist, and
of original merit; in fact, worth a score of such meagre bookish
naturalists as are formed in museums and by second-hand acts of
memory; having (like Audubon) built much of his knowledge upon
personal observation. Hence he has two great advantages: one, that his
knowledge is accurate in a very unusual degree; and another, that this
knowledge, having grown up under the inspiration of a real interest
and an unaffected love for its objects,--commencing, indeed, at an age
when no affectation in matters of that nature could exist,--has
settled upon those facts and circumstances which have a true
philosophical value: habits, predominant affections, the direction of
instincts, and the compensatory processes where these happen to be
thwarted,--on all such topics he is learned and full; whilst, on the
science of measurements and proportions, applied to dorsal-fins and
tail-feathers, and on the exact arrangement of colours, &c.--that
petty upholstery of nature, on which books are so tedious and
elaborate,--not uncommonly he is negligent or forgetful. What may have
served in later years to quicken and stimulate his knowledge in this
field, and, at any rate, greatly to extend it, is the conversation of
his youngest brother, Mr. James Wilson, who (as _you_ know much better
than I) is a naturalist _majorum gentium_. He, indeed, whilst a boy of
not more than sixteen or seventeen, was in correspondence (I believe)
with Montague the Ornithologist; and about the same time had skill
enough to pick holes in the coat of Mr. Hüber, the German reformer of
our then erroneous science of bees.

[Footnote 43: This was written for _The Edinburgh Literary Gazette_,
of which sixty-one numbers appear to have been issued in 1829-30. The
paper is now so scarce, that the American publishers of DE QUINCEY'S
works photographed their 'copy' from that contained in the Advocates'
Library, Edinburgh. There is a file in the British Museum. I have not
been able to authenticate any other contribution from the pen of DE
QUINCEY. This letter deserves attention in various ways, but
particularly for the passage on Elleray--CHRISTOPHER NORTH'S home on
the banks of Windermere. MRS. GORDON in the life of her Father,
PROFESSOR WILSON, remarks:--'For a description of this beautiful spot
I gladly avail myself of the striking picture by Mr. DE QUINCEY.'--H.]

You see, therefore, that no possible introduction could have stood you
more in stead than your own extensive knowledge of transatlantic
ornithology. Swammerdam passed his life, it is said, in a ditch.
_That_ was a base, earthy solitude,--and a prison. But you and Audubon
have passed _your_ lives in the heavenly solitudes of forests and
savannahs; and such solitude as this is no prison, but infinite
liberty. The knowledge which you have gathered has been answerable to
the character of your school: and no sort of knowledge could have
secured you a better welcome with Professor Wilson. Yet, had it been
otherwise, I repeat that my interest (as I flatter myself) would have
opened the gates of Elleray to you even at midnight; for I am so old
a friend of Mr. Wilson that I take a pride in supposing myself the
oldest; and, barring relations by blood, arrogate the rights of dean
in the chapter of his associates: or at least I know of but one person
whose title can probably date earlier than mine. About this very month
when I am writing, I have known Professor Wilson for a cycle of twenty
years and more, which is just half of his life--and also half of mine;
for we are almost _ad apicem_ of the same age; Wilson being born in
May, and I in August, of the same memorable year.

My introduction to him--setting apart the introduc_ee_ himself--was
memorable from one sole circumstance, viz. the person of the
introducer. _William Wordsworth_ it was, who in the vale of Grasmere,
if it can interest you to know the place, and in the latter end of
1808, if you can be supposed to care about the time, did me the favour
of making me known to John Wilson, or as I might say (upon the
Scottish fashion of designating men from their territorial
pretensions) to Elleray. I remember the whole scene as circumstantially
as if it belonged to but yesterday. In the vale of Grasmere,--that
peerless little vale which you and Gray the poet and so many others have
joined in admiring as the very Eden of English beauty, peace, and
pastoral solitude,--you may possibly recall, even from that flying
glimpse you had of it, a modern house called Allan Bank, standing under
a low screen of woody rocks which descend from the hill of Silver How,
on the western side of the lake. This house had been then recently built
by a worthy merchant of Liverpool; but for some reason of no importance
to you and me, not being immediately wanted for the family of the
owner, had been let for a term of three years to Mr. Wordsworth. At the
time I speak of, both Mr. Coleridge and myself were on a visit to Mr.
Wordsworth; and one room on the ground floor, designed for a
breakfasting-room, which commands a sublime view of the three
mountains,--Fairfield, Arthur's Chair, and Seat Sandal (the first of
them within about four hundred feet of the highest mountains in Great
Britain), was then occupied by Mr. Coleridge as a study. On this
particular day, the sun having only just set, it naturally happened that
Mr. Coleridge--whose nightly vigils were long--had not yet come down to
breakfast: meantime, and until the epoch of the Coleridgian breakfast
should arrive, his study was lawfully disposable to profaner uses. Here,
therefore, it was, that, opening the door hastily in quest of a book, I
found seated, and in earnest conversation, two gentlemen--one of them my
host, Mr. Wordsworth, at that time about thirty-seven or thirty-eight
years old; the other was a younger man by good sixteen or seventeen
years, in a sailor's dress, manifestly in robust health--_fervidus
juventâ_, and wearing upon his countenance a powerful expression of
ardour and animated intelligence, mixed with much good nature. _'Mr.
Wilson of Elleray'_--delivered, as the formula of introduction, in the
deep tones of Mr. Wordsworth--at once banished the momentary surprise I
felt on finding an unknown stranger where I had expected nobody, and
substituted a surprise of another kind: I now well understood who it was
that I saw; and there was no wonder in his being at Allan Bank, Elleray
standing within nine miles; but (as usually happens in such cases) I
felt a shock of surprise on seeing a person so little corresponding to
the one I had half unconsciously prefigured.

And here comes the place naturally, if anywhere, for a description of
Mr. Wilson's person and general appearance in carriage, manner, and
deportment; and a word or two I shall certainly say on these points,
simply because I know that I _must_, else my American friends will
complain that I have left out that precise section in my whole account
which it is most impossible for them to supply for themselves by any
acquaintance with his printed works. Yet suffer me, before I comply
with this demand, to enter one word of private protest against the
childish (nay, worse than childish--the _missy_) spirit in which such
demands originate. From my very earliest years,--that is the earliest
years in which I had any sense of what belongs to true dignity of
mind,--I declare to you that I have considered the interest which men,
grown men, take in the personal appearance of each other as one of the
meanest aspects under which human curiosity commonly presents itself.
Certainly I have the same intellectual perception of differences in
such things that other men have; but I connect none of the feelings,
whether of admiration or contempt, liking or disliking, which are
obviously connected with these perceptions by human beings generally.
Such words as 'commanding appearance,' 'prepossessing countenance,'
applied to the figures or faces of the males of the human species,
have no meaning in my ears: no man commands me, no man prepossesses
me, by anything in, on, or about his carcass. What care I for any
man's legs? I laugh at his ridiculous presumption in conceiting that
I shall trouble myself to admire or to respect anything that he can
produce in his _physics_. What! shall I honour Milo for the very
qualities which he has in common with the beastly ox he carries--his
thews and sinews, his ponderous strength and weight, and the quantity
of thumping that his hide will carry? I disclaim and disdain any
participation in such green-girl feelings. I admit that the baby
feelings I am here condemning are found in connection with the highest
intellects: in particular, Mr. Coleridge for instance once said to me,
as a justifying reason for his dislike of a certain celebrated
Scotsman, with an air of infinite disgust,--'that ugh!' (making a
guttural sound as if of execration) 'he (viz. the said Scotsman) was
so chicken-breasted.' I have been assured by the way, that Mr.
Coleridge was mistaken in the mere matter of fact: but supposing that
he were not, what a reason for a philosopher to build a disgust upon!
And Mr. Wordsworth, in or about the year 1820, in expressing the
extremity of his _Nil admirari_ spirit, declared that he would not go
ten yards out of his road to see the finest specimen of man
(intellectually speaking) that Europe had to show: and so far indeed I
do not quarrel with his opinion; but Mr. Wordsworth went on to say
that this indifference did _not_ extend itself to man considered
physically; and that he would still exert himself to a small extent
(suppose a mile or so) for the sake of seeing Belzoni. _That_ was the
case he instanced: and, as I understood him, not by way of a general
illustration for his meaning, but that he really felt an exclusive
interest in this particular man's _physics_. Now Belzoni was certainly
a good tumbler, as I have heard; and hopped well upon one leg, when
surmounted and crested by a pyramid of men and boys; and jumped
capitally through a hoop; and did all sorts of tricks in all sorts of
styles, not at all worse than any monkey, bear, or learned pig, that
ever exhibited in Great Britain. And I would myself have given a
shilling to have seen him fight with that cursed Turk that assaulted
him in the streets of Cairo; and would have given him a crown for
catching the circumcised dog by the throat and effectually taking the
conceit out of his Mahometan carcass: but then _that_ would have been
for the spectacle of the passions, which, in such a case, would have
been let loose: as to the mere animal Belzoni,--who after all was not
to be compared to Topham the Warwickshire man, that drew back by main
force a cart, and its driver, and a strong horse,--as to the mere
animal Belzoni, I say, and his bull neck, I would have much preferred
to see a real bull or the Darlington ox. The sum of the matter is
this: all men, even those who are most manly in their style of
thinking and feeling, in many things retain the childishness of their
childish years: no man thoroughly weeds himself of all. And this
particular mode of childishness is one of the commonest, into which
they fall the more readily from the force of sympathy, and because
they apprehend no reason for directing any vigilance against it. But I
contend that reasonably no feelings of deep interest are justifiable
as applied to any point of external form or feature in human beings,
unless under two reservations: first, that they shall have reference
to women; because women, being lawfully the objects of passions and
tender affections, which can have no existence as applied to men, are
objects also, rationally and consistently, of all other secondary
feelings (such as those derived from their personal appearance) which
have any tendency to promote and support the first. Whereas between
men the highest mode of intercourse is merely intellectual, which is
not of a nature to receive support or strength from any feelings of
pleasure or disgust connected with the accidents of external
appearance: but exactly in the degree in which these have any
influence at all they must warp and disturb by improper biases; and
the single case of exception, where such feelings can be honourable
and laudable amongst the males of the human species, is where they
regard such deformities as are the known products and expressions of
criminal or degrading propensities. All beyond this, I care not by
whom countenanced, is infirmity of mind, and would be baseness if it
were not excused by imbecility.

Excuse this digression, for which I have a double reason: chiefly I
was anxious to put on record my own opinions, and my contempt for men
generally in this particular; and here I seemed to have a conspicuous
situation for that purpose. Secondly, apart from this purpose of
offence, I was at any rate anxious, merely on a defensive principle,
to screen myself from the obvious misinterpretation incident to the
case: saying anything minute or in detail upon a man's person, I
should necessarily be supposed to do so under the ordinary blind
feelings of interest in that subject which govern most people;
feelings which I disdain. Now, having said all this, and made my
formal protest, _liberavi animam meam_; and I revert to my subject,
and shall say that word or two which I was obliged to promise you on
Professor Wilson's personal appearance.

Figure to yourself, then, a tall man, about six feet high, within half
an inch or so, built with tolerable appearance of strength; but at the
date of my description (that is, in the very spring-tide and blossom
of youth) wearing, for the predominant character of his person,
lightness and agility, or (in our Westmoreland phrase), _lishness_: he
seemed framed with an express view to gymnastic exercises of every

    "[Greek: Alma, podôkeiên, diskon, akonta, palên]"

In the first of these exercises, indeed, and possibly (but of that I
am not equally certain) in the second, I afterwards came to know that
he was absolutely unrivalled: and the best leapers at that time in the
ring, Richmond the Black and others, on getting 'a taste of his
quality,' under circumstances of considerable disadvantage [viz. after
a walk from Oxford to Moulsey Hurst, which I believe is fifty miles],
declined to undertake him. For this exercise he had two remarkable
advantages: it is recorded of Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, that,
though otherwise a handsome man, he offended the connoisseurs in
statuesque proportions by one eminent defect--perhaps the most
obtrusive to which the human figure is liable--viz. a body of length
disproportioned to his legs. In Mr. Wilson the proportions were
fortunately reversed: a short trunk, and remarkably long legs, gave
him one half of his advantages in the noble science of leaping; the
other half was afterwards pointed out to me by an accurate critic in
these matters as lying in the particular conformation of his foot,
the instep of which is arched, and the back of the heel strengthened
in so remarkable a way that it would be worth paying a penny or so for
a sight of them. It is really laughable to think of the coxcombry
which eminent men of letters have displayed in connection with their
powers--real or fancied--in this art. Cardinal du Perron vapoured to
the end of his life upon some remarkable leap that he either _had_
accomplished, or conceived himself to have accomplished (not, I
presume, in red stockings). Every tenth page of the _Perroniana_ rings
with the echo of this stupendous leap--the length of which, if I
remember rightly, is as obviously fabulous as any feat of Don Belianis
of Greece. Des Cartes also had a lurking conceit that, in some unknown
place, he had perpetrated a leap that ought to immortalise him; and in
one of his letters he repeats and accredits a story of some obscure
person's leap, which

    'At one light bound high overleaped all bound'

of reasonable credulity. Many other eminent leapers might be cited,
Pagan and Christian: but the Cardinal, by his own account, appears to
have been the flower of Popish leapers; and, with all deference to his
Eminence, upon a better assurance than that, Professor Wilson may be
rated, at the time I speak of, as the flower of all Protestant
leapers. Not having the Cardinal's foible of connecting any vanity
with this little accomplishment, knowing exactly what could and what
could _not_ be effected in this department of gymnastics, and speaking
with the utmost simplicity and candour of his failures and his
successes alike, he might always be relied upon, and his statements
were constantly in harmony with any collateral testimony that chance
happened to turn up.

Viewed, therefore, by an eye learned in gymnastic proportions, Mr.
Wilson presented a somewhat striking figure: and by some people he was
pronounced with emphasis a fine looking young man; but others, who
less understood, or less valued these advantages, spoke of him as
nothing extraordinary. Still greater division of voices I have heard
on his pretensions to be thought handsome. In my opinion, and most
certainly in his own, these pretensions were but slender. His
complexion was too florid; hair of a hue quite unsuited to that
complexion; eyes not good, having no apparent depth, but seeming mere
surfaces; and in fine, no one feature that could be called fine,
except the lower region of his face, mouth, chin, and the parts
adjacent, which were then (and perhaps are now) truly elegant and
Ciceronian. Ask in one of your public libraries for that little 4to
edition of the _Rhetorical Works of Cicero_, edited by Schütz (the
same who edited _Æschylus_), and you will there see (as a frontispiece
to the 1st vol.) a reduced whole length of Cicero from the antique;
which in the mouth and chin, and indeed generally, if I do not greatly
forget, will give you a lively representation of the contour and
expression of Professor Wilson's face. Taken as a whole, though not
handsome (as I have already said), when viewed in a quiescent state,
the head and countenance are massy, dignified, and expressive of
tranquil sagacity.

Thus far of Professor Wilson in his outward man, whom (to gratify you
and yours, and upon the consideration that my letter is to cross the
Atlantic), I have described with an effort and a circumstantiation
that are truly terrific to look back upon. And now, returning to the
course of my narrative, such in personal appearance was the young man
upon whom my eyes suddenly rested, for the first time, upwards of
twenty years ago, in the study of S. T. Coleridge--looking, as I said
before, light as a Mercury to eyes familiar with the British build;
but, with reference to the lengthy model of you Yankees, who spindle
up so tall and narrow, already rather bulky and columnar. Note,
however, that of all this array of personal features, as I have here
described them, I then saw nothing at all, my attention being
altogether occupied with Mr. Wilson's conversation and demeanour,
which were in the highest degree agreeable: the points which chiefly
struck me being the humility and gravity with which he spoke of
himself, his large expansion of heart, and a certain air of noble
frankness which overspread everything he said; he seemed to have an
intense enjoyment of life; indeed, being young, rich, healthy, and
full of intellectual activity, it could not be very wonderful that he
should feel happy and pleased with himself and others; but it was
somewhat unusual to find that so rare an assemblage of endowments had
communicated no tinge of arrogance to his manner, or at all disturbed
the general temperance of his mind.

Turn we now suddenly, and without preparation,--simply by way of
illustrating the versatile humour of the man,--from this grave and (as
in reality it was) philosophic scene, to another first introduction,
under most different circumstances, to the same Mr. Wilson. Represent
to yourself the earliest dawn of a fine summer morning, time about
half-past two o'clock. A young man, anxious for an introduction to Mr.
Wilson, and as yet pretty nearly a stranger to the country, has taken
up his abode in Grasmere, and has strolled out at this early hour to
that rocky and moorish common (called the White Moss) which overhangs
the Vale of Rydal, dividing it from Grasmere. Looking southwards in
the direction of Rydal, suddenly he becomes aware of a huge beast
advancing at a long trot with the heavy and thundering tread of a
hippopotamus along the public road. The creature is soon arrived
within half a mile of his station; and by the gray light of morning is
at length made out to be a bull apparently flying from some unseen
enemy in his rear. As yet, however, all is mystery; but suddenly three
horsemen double a turn in the road, and come flying into sight with
the speed of a hurricane, manifestly in pursuit of the fugitive bull;
the bull labours to navigate his huge bulk to the moor, which he
reaches, and then pauses, panting and blowing out clouds of smoke from
his nostrils, to look back from his station amongst rocks and slippery
crags upon his hunters. If he had conceited that the rockiness of the
ground had secured his repose, the foolish bull is soon undeceived;
the horsemen, scarcely relaxing their speed, charge up the hill, and
speedily gaining the rear of the bull, drive him at a gallop over the
worst part of that impracticable ground down into the level ground
below. At this point of time the stranger perceives by the increasing
light of the morning that the hunters are armed with immense spears
fourteen feet long. With these the bull is soon dislodged, and
scouring down to the plain below, he and the hunters at his tail take
to the common at the head of the lake, and all, in the madness of the
chase, are soon half engulfed in the swamps of the morass. After
plunging together for ten or fifteen minutes, all suddenly regain the
_terra firma_, and the bull again makes for the rocks. Up to this
moment there had been the silence of ghosts; and the stranger had
doubted whether the spectacle were not a pageant of aërial spectres,
ghostly huntsmen; ghostly lances, and a ghostly bull. But just at this
crisis--a voice (it was the voice of Mr. Wilson) shouted aloud, 'Turn
the villain; turn that villain; or he will take to Cumberland.' The
young stranger did the service required of him; the villain was turned
and fled southwards; the hunters, lance in rest, rushed after him; all
bowed their thanks as they fled past him; the fleet cavalcade again
took the high road; they doubled the cape which shut them out of
sight; and in a moment all had disappeared and left the quiet valley
to its original silence, whilst the young stranger and two grave
Westmoreland statesmen (who by this time had come into sight upon some
accident or other) stood wondering in silence, and saying to
themselves, perhaps,--

    'The earth hath bubbles as the water hath;
    And these are of them!'

But they were no bubbles; the bull was a substantial bull; and took no
harm at all from being turned out occasionally at midnight for a chase
of fifteen or eighteen miles. The bull, no doubt, used to wonder at
this nightly visitation; and the owner of the bull must sometimes have
pondered a little on the draggled state in which the swamps would now
and then leave his beast; but no other harm came of it. And so it
happened, and in the very hurly burly of such an unheard-of chase,
that my friend was fortunate enough, by a little service, to recommend
himself to the notice of Mr. Wilson; and so passed the scene of his
_first introduction_.

       *       *       *       *       *

In reading the anecdote of the bull hunt, you must bear in mind the
period of Mr. Wilson's life to which it belongs, else I should here be
unintentionally adding one more to the thousand misrepresentations of
his character, which are already extant in different repositories of
scandal: most of which I presume, unless in the rarer cases where they
have been the pure creations of malice, owe their origin to a little
exaggeration, and a great deal of confusion in dates. Levities and
extravagances, which find a ready excuse at twenty, ten or fifteen
years later are fatal to a man's character for good sense. In such a
case, therefore, to be careless or inaccurate in dates, is a moral
dishonesty. Understand then that the bull-hunting scenes belong to the
time which immediately succeeded my first knowledge of Mr. Wilson.
This particular frolic happened to fall within the earliest period of
my own personal acquaintance with him. Else, and with this one
exception, the era of his wildest (and according to the common
estimate, of his insane) extravagances was already past. All those
stories, therefore, which you question me about with so much
curiosity, of his having joined a company of strolling players, and
himself taken the leading parts both in Tragedy and Comedy--of his
having assumed the garb of a Gipsy, and settled for some time in a
Gipsy encampment, out of admiration for a young Egyptian beauty; with
fifty others of the same class, belong undoubtedly (as many of them as
are not wholly fabulous), to the four years immediately preceding the
time at which my personal knowledge of Mr. Wilson commenced.

From the latter end of 1803 to the spring of 1808, Mr. Wilson had
studied at the University of Oxford; and it was within that period
that most of his _escapades_ were crowded. He had previously studied
as a mere boy, according to the Scotch fashion, at the University of
Glasgow, chiefly under the tuition of the late Mr. Jardine (the
Professor, I believe, of Logic), and Dr. or Mr. Young (the Professor
of Greek). At both Universities he had greatly distinguished himself;
but at Oxford, where the distribution of prizes and honours of every
kind is to the last degree parsimonious and select, naturally it
follows that such academical distinctions are really _significant_
distinctions, and proclaim an unequivocal merit in him who has carried
them off from a crowd of 1600 or 2000 co-rivals, to whom the contest
was open; whereas, in the Scotch Universities, as I am told by
Scotchmen, the multiplication of prizes and medals, and the almost
indiscriminate profusion with which they are showered abroad,
neutralises their whole effect and value. At least this was the case
in Mr. Wilson's time; but lately some conspicuous changes have been
introduced by a Royal Commission (not yet, I believe, dissolved) into
one at least of the Scotch Universities, which have greatly improved
it in this respect, by bringing it much nearer to the English model.
When Mr. Wilson gained a prize of fifty guineas for fifty lines of
English verse, without further inquiry it becomes evident, from the
mere rarity of the distinction which, for a university _now_ nearly of
five thousand members, occurs but once a year, and from the great
over-proportion of that peculiar class (the Undergraduates) to whom
the contest is open,--that such a victory was an indisputable
criterion of very conspicuous merit. In fact, never in any place did
Mr. Wilson play off his Proteus variety of character and talent with
so much brilliant effect as at Oxford. In this great University, the
most ancient, and by many degrees the most magnificent in the world,
he found a stage for display, perfectly congenial with the native
elevation of his own character. Perhaps you are not fully aware of the
characteristic differences which separate our two English Universities
of Oxford and Cambridge from those of Scotland and the Continent: for
I have always observed that the best informed foreigners, even after a
week's personal acquaintance with the Oxford system, still adhere to
the inveterate preconceptions which they had brought with them from
the Continent. For instance, they continue obstinately to speak of the
_Professors_ as the persons to whom the students are indebted for
tuition; whereas the majority of these hold their offices as the most
absolute sinecures, and the task of tuition devolves upon the tutors
appointed in each particular college. These tutors are called public
tutors; meaning that they do not confine their instructions to any one
individual; but distribute them amongst all the Undergraduates of the
college to which they belong; and, in addition to these, _private_
tutors are allowed to any student who chooses to increase his
expenditure in that particular. But the main distinction, which
applies to our immediate subject, is the more than regal provision for
the lodging and accommodation of the students by the system of
_Colleges_. Of these there are in Oxford, neglecting the technical
subdivision of _Halls_, five-and-twenty; and the main use of all, both
colleges and halls, is, not as in Scotland and on the Continent, to
lodge the head of the University with suitable dignity, and to provide
rooms for the library and public business of the University. These
purposes are met by a separate provision, distinct from the colleges;
and the colleges are applied as follows: 1st, and mainly to the
reception of the Fellows, and of the Undergraduate Students; 2ndly, to
the accommodation of the head (known in different colleges by the
several designations of provost, principal, dean, rector, warden,
&c.); 3rdly to the accommodation of the private library attached to
that college, and to the chapel, which is used at least twice every
day for public prayers; 4thly, to the Hall, and the whole
establishment of kitchen, wine vaults, buttery, &c., &c., which may be
supposed necessary for the liberal accommodation, at the public meals
of dinner [and in some colleges supper] of gentlemen and visitors from
the country, or from the Continent; varying (we will suppose) from 25
to 500 heads. Everywhere else the great mass of the students are
lodged in obscure nooks and corners, which may or may not be
respectable, but are at all events withdrawn from the _surveillance_
of the University. I shall state both the ground and the effect (or
tendency rather) of this difference. Out of England, universities are
not meant exclusively for professional men; the sons of great
landholders, and a large proportion of the sons of noblemen, either go
through the same academic course as others--or a shorter course
adapted to their particular circumstances. In England, again, the
church is supplied from the rank of gentry--not exclusively, it is
true, but in a much larger proportion than anywhere else, except in
Ireland. The corresponding ranks in Scotland, from their old
connection with France, have adopted (I believe) much more of the
Continental plan for disposing of their sons at this period. At any
rate, it will not be contended by any man, that Scotland throws
anything like the same proportion with England, of her gentry and her
peerage into her universities. Hence, a higher standard of manners and
of habits presides at Oxford and Cambridge; and, consequently, a
demand for much higher accommodations would even _otherwise_ have
arisen, had not such a demand already been supplied by the munificence
of our English princes and peers, both male and female; and, in one
instance at least, of a _Scottish_ Prince (Baliol). The extent of
these vast Caravanseras enables the governors of the various colleges
to furnish every student with a set of two rooms at the least, often
with a _suite_ of three--[I, who lived at Oxford on no more than my
school allowance, had that number]--or in many cases with far more. In
the superior colleges, indeed (superior, I mean, as to their purse and
landed endowments), all these accommodations keep pace with the
refinements of the age; and thus a connection is maintained between
the University and the landed _Noblesse_--upper and lower--of
England, which must be reciprocally beneficial, and which, under other
circumstances, could scarcely have taken place.

Of these advantages, you may be sure, that Mr. Wilson availed himself
to the utmost extent. Instead of going to _Baliol_ College, he entered
himself at _Magdalen_, in the class of what are called, 'Gentlemen
Commoners.' All of us (you know) in Oxford and Cambridge wear an
Academic dress, which tells at once our Academic rank with all its
modifications. And the term '_Gentlemen Commoner_' implies that he has
more splendid costumes, and more in number; that he is expected to
spend a good deal more money, that he enjoys a few trifling
immunities; and that he has, in particular instances, something like a
King's right of pre-emption, as in the choice of rooms, &c.

Once launched in this orbit, Mr. Wilson continued to blaze away for
the four successive years, 1804, 1805, 1806, 1807, I believe without
any intermission. Possibly I myself was the one sole gownsman who had
not then found my attention fixed by his most heterogeneous
reputation. In a similar case, Cicero tells a man that ignorance so
unaccountable of another man's pretensions argued himself to be a
_homo ignorabilis_; or, in the language of the Miltonic Satan, 'Not to
know me, argues thyself unknown.' And _that_ is true; a _homo
ignorabilis_ most certainly I was. And even with that admission it is
still difficult to account for the extent and the duration of my
ignorance. The fact is, that the case well expresses _both_ our
positions; that _he_ should be so conspicuous as to challenge
knowledge from the most sequestered of anchorites expresses _his_
life; that I should have right to absolute ignorance of him who was
familiar as daylight to all the rest of Oxford--expresses _mine_.
Never indeed before, to judge from what I have since heard upon
inquiry, did a man, by variety of talents and variety of humours,
contrive to place himself as the connecting link between orders of men
so essentially repulsive of each other--as Mr. Wilson in this

    'Omnis Aristippum decuit color et status, et res.'

From the learned president of his college, Dr. Routh, the editor of
parts of _Plato_, and of some _Theological Selections_, with whom
Wilson enjoyed an unlimited favour--from this learned Academic Doctor,
and many others of the same class, Wilson had an infinite gamut of
friends and associates, running through every key; and the diapason
closing full in groom, cobbler, stable-boy, barber's apprentice, with
every shade and hue of blackguard and ruffian. In particular, amongst
this latter kind of worshipful society, there was no man who had any
talents--real or fancied--for thumping or being thumped, but had
experienced some _preeing_ of his merits from Mr. Wilson. All other
pretensions in the gymnastic arts he took a pride in humbling or in
honouring; but chiefly his examinations fell upon pugilism; and not a
man, who could either 'give' or 'take,' but boasted to have punished,
or to have been punished by, _Wilson of Mallens_.[44]

[Footnote 44: The usual colloquial corruption of _Magdalen_ in Ox. is
_Maudlin_; but amongst the very _lie dupeuple_, it is called

       *       *       *       *       *

A little before the time at which my acquaintance with Mr. Wilson
commenced, he had purchased a beautiful estate on the lake of
Windermere, which bore the ancient name of _Elleray_--a name which,
with his customary good taste, Mr. Wilson has never disturbed. With
the usual latitude of language in such cases, I say _on_ Windermere;
but in fact this charming estate lies far above the lake; and one of
the most interesting of its domestic features is the foreground of the
rich landscape which connects, by the most gentle scale of
declivities, this almost aërial altitude [as, for _habitable_ ground,
it really is] with the sylvan margin of the deep water which rolls a
mile and a half below. When I say a mile and a half, you will
understand me to compute the descent according to the undulations of
the ground; because else the perpendicular elevation above the level
of the lake cannot be above one half of that extent. Seated on such an
eminence, but yet surrounded by foregrounds of such quiet beauty, and
settling downwards towards the lake by such tranquil steps as to take
away every feeling of precipitous or dangerous elevation, Elleray
possesses a double character of beauty, rarely found in connection;
and yet each, by singular good fortune, in this case absolute and
unrivalled in its kind. Within a bow-shot of each other may be found
stations of the deepest seclusion, fenced in by verdurous walls of
insuperable forest heights, and presenting a limited scene of
beauty--deep, solemn, noiseless, severely sequestered--and other
stations of a magnificence so gorgeous as few estates in this island
can boast, and of those few perhaps none in such close connection with
a dwelling-house. Stepping out from the very windows of the
drawing-room, you find yourself on a terrace which gives you the
feeling of a 'specular height,' such as you might expect on Ararat, or
might appropriately conceive on 'Athos seen from Samothrace.' The
whole course of a noble lake, about eleven miles long, lies subject to
your view, with many of its islands, and its two opposite shores so
different in character--the one stern, precipitous, and gloomy; the
other (and luckily the hither one) by the mere bounty of nature and of
accident--by the happy disposition of the ground originally, and by
the fortunate equilibrium between the sylvan tracts, meandering
irregularly through the whole district, and the proportion left to
verdant fields and meadows,--wearing the character of the richest park
scenery; except indeed that this character is here and there a little
modified by a quiet hedge-row or the stealing smoke which betrays the
embowered cottage of a labourer. But the sublime, peculiar, and
not-to-be-forgotten feature of the scene is the great system of
mountains which unite about five miles off at the head of the lake to
lock in and inclose this noble landscape. The several ranges of
mountains which stand at various distances within six or seven miles
of the little town of Ambleside, all separately various in their forms
and all eminently picturesque, when seen from Elleray appear to blend
and group as parts of one connected whole; and when their usual
drapery of clouds happens to take a fortunate arrangement, and the
sunlights are properly broken and thrown from the most suitable
quarter of the heavens,--I cannot recollect any spectacle in England
or Wales, of the many hundreds I have seen, bearing a local, if not a
national reputation for magnificence of prospect, which so much
dilates the heart with a sense of power and aërial sublimity as this
terrace view from Elleray. It is possible that I may have stood on
other mountain terraces commanding as ample a view and as happily
combined; but the difference of effect must always be immense between
a spectacle to which you ascend by half a day's labour, and that upon
which you are launched in a second of time from the breakfast table.
It is of great importance, for the enjoyment of any natural scene, to
be liberated from the necessity of viewing it under circumstances of
haste and anxiety, to have it in one's power to surrender oneself
passively and tranquilly to the influences of the objects as they
gradually reveal themselves, and to be under no summons to crowd one's
whole visual energy and task of examination within a single quarter of
an hour. Having seen Elleray at all times under these favourable
circumstances, it is certainly not impossible that I may unconsciously
have overrated in some degree its pretensions in comparison with some
rival scenes. I may have committed the common error of attributing to
the _objects_ the whole sum of an impression which in part belonged to
the _subjective_ advantages of the contemplator and the benefits of
his station. But, making every allowance in this direction, I am still
of opinion that Elleray has, in connection with the merits common to
all scenes of its class, others peculiar to itself--and such as are
indispensable conditions for the full effect of all the rest. In
particular, I would instance this: To bring any scene upon a level of
competition with Elleray as to range and majesty of prospect, it is
absolutely essential that it should occupy an equal elevation, or one
not conspicuously inferior. Now, it is seldom indeed that eminences so
commanding are not, by that very circumstance, unfitted to the
picturesque aspects of things: in fact I remember no tract of ground
so elevated as Elleray from which the lowest level of the adjacent
country does not take a petty, dotted, and map-like appearance. But
this effect, which is so heavy a price for the sublimities of the
upper regions, at Elleray is entirely intercepted by the exquisite
gradations of descent by which the contiguous grounds begin their fall
to the level of the lake: the moment that this fall in any quarter
becomes accelerated and precipitous, it is concealed by the brows of
this beautiful hanging foreground; and so happily is this remedy
applied, that in every instance where the lowest grounds would, if
seen at all, from their immediate proximity, be seen by the spectator
looking down perpendicularly as into a well, there they are uniformly
hidden; and these lowest levels first emerge to view at a remote
distance--where, being necessarily viewed obliquely, they suffer no
peculiar disadvantage by being viewed from an eminence. In short, to
sum up the whole in one word, the splendours of Elleray, which could
not have been had but at an unusual elevation, are by a rare bounty of
nature obtained without one of those sacrifices for the learned eye
which are usually entailed upon that one single advantage of unusual

The beautiful estate, which I have thus described to you, was
ornamented by no suitable dwelling-house at the time when it was
purchased by Mr. Wilson: there was indeed a rustic cottage, most
picturesquely situated, which, with the addition of a drawing-room
thrown out at one end, was made for the present (and, as it turned
out, for many a year to come) capable of meeting the hospitable system
of life adopted by its owner. But, with a view to more ample and
luxurious accommodations, even at that early period of his possession
(1808), Mr. Wilson began to build a mansion of larger and more elegant
proportions. The shell, and perhaps the greater part of the internal
work, was soon finished; but for some reason, which I never remember
to have inquired into, was not rendered thoroughly habitable (and
consequently not inhabited) till the year 1825. I think it worth while
to mention this house particularly, because it has always appeared to
me a silent commentary on its master's state of mind, and an
exemplification of his character both as it was and as it appeared. At
first sight there was an air of adventurousness, or even of
extravagance about the plan and situation of the building; and yet
upon a considerate examination (and latterly upon a practical trial)
of it, I cannot see that within the same dimensions it would have been
possible to have contrived a more judicious or commodious house. Thus,
for instance, the house is planted upon the boldest and most exposed
point of ground that can be found on the whole estate, consequently
upon that which might have presumed (and I believe was really reputed)
to be the very stormiest: yet, whether from counteracting screens of
wood that have since been reared in fortunate situations, or from what
other cause I know not, but undoubtedly at this day no practical
inconvenience is suffered; though it is true, I believe, that in the
earlier years of its history, the house bore witness occasionally, by
dismal wrecks of roof and windows, to the strength and fury of the
wind on one particular quarter. Again, in the internal arrangements
one room was constructed of such ample proportions, with a view to
dancing, that the length (as I remember) was about seventy feet; the
other dimensions I have forgotten. Now, in this instance most people
saw an evidence of nothing but youthful extravagance, and a most
disproportionate attention directed to one single purpose, which upon
that scale could not probably be of very frequent occurrence in _any_
family. This by the way was at any rate a sensible extravagance in my
judgment; for our English mode of building tends violently to the
opposite and most unwholesome extravagance of giving to the very
principal room of a house the beggarly proportions of closets.
However, the sequel showed that in providing for one end, Mr. Wilson
had not lost sight of others: for the seventy-feet room was so divided
by strong folding-doors, or temporary partitions, as in its customary
state to exhibit three rooms of ordinary proportions, and unfolded its
full extent only by special and extraordinary mechanism. Other
instances I might give in which the plan seemed to be extravagant or
inconsiderate, and yet really turned out to have been calculated with
the coolest judgment and the nicest foresight of domestic needs. It is
sufficient to say that I do not know a house apparently more
commodiously arranged than this, which was planned and built with
utmost precipitation, and in the very heyday of a most tempestuous
youth. In one thing only, upon a retrospect at this day of the whole
case, there may appear to have been some imprudence, viz. that timber
being then at a most unprecedented high price, it is probable that the
building cost seven or eight hundred pounds more than it would have
done a few years later. Allowing for this one oversight, the principal
house on the Elleray estate, which at the time was looked upon as an
evidence of Mr. Wilson's flightiness of mind, remains at this day a
lasting monument of his good sense and judgment.

Whilst I justify him, however, on this head, I am obliged to admit
that on another field, at that very time, Mr. Wilson was displaying
the most reckless profusion. A sailing club had been established on
Windermere, by whom I never heard; very probably by Mr. Wilson
himself; at all events, he was the leader and the soul of the
confederation; and he applied annually nothing less than a little
fortune to the maintenance of the many expenses which arose out of it.
Amongst the members of the club there were more than one who had far
larger fortunes than Mr. Wilson could ever have possessed; but he
would permit no one to outshine him on this arena. The number of his
boats was so great as to compose a little fleet; and some of them, of
unusually large dimensions for this lake, had been built at an
enormous expense by regular builders brought over expressly from the
port of Whitehaven (distant from Elleray about forty-five miles), and
kept during the whole progress of their labour at a most expensive
Lakers' hotel. One of these boats in particular, a ten-oared barge,
which you will find specially introduced by name in Professor Wilson's
tale of _The Foresters_ (_vide_ p. 215), was generally believed at
the time to have cost him at the least five hundred pounds. And as the
number of sailors which it required to man these boats was necessarily
very great at particular seasons, and as the majority of these sailors
lived, during the period of their services, with little or no
restraint upon their expenses at the most costly inn in the
neighbourhood,--it may be supposed very readily that about this time
Mr. Wilson's lavish expenditure, added to the demands of architects
and builders, and the recent purchase of Elleray, must have seriously
injured his patrimonial property,--though generally believed to have
been originally considerably more than thirty thousand (many asserted
forty thousand) pounds. In fact, he had never less than three
establishments going on concurrently for some years; one at the town
or village of Bowness (the little port of the lake of Windermere), for
his boatmen; one at the Ambleside Hotel, about five miles distant, for
himself; and a third at Elleray, for his servants, and the occasional
resort of himself and his friends. It is the opinion of some people
that about this time, and during the succeeding two years, Mr. Wilson
dissipated the main bulk of his patrimony in profuse expenditure. But
more considerate people see no ground for that opinion: his expenses,
though great, were never adequate to the dilapidation of so large an
estate as he was reputed to have inherited: and the prevailing opinion
is that some great loss of £20,000 at a blow, by the failure of some
trustee or other, was the true cause of that diminution in his
property which, within a year or two from this time, he is generally
supposed to have suffered. However, as Mr. Wilson himself has always
maintained an obstinate silence on the subject, and as the mere fact
of the loss (however probable) is not more accurately known to me than
its extent, or its particular mode, or its cause,--I shall not allow
myself to make any conjectural speculations on the subject. It can be
interesting to you and me only from one of its consequences, viz. its
leading him afterwards to seek a professorship: for most certain it
is, that, if the splendour of Mr. Wilson's youthful condition as to
pecuniary matters had not been in some remarkable degree overcast, and
suffered some signal eclipse, he would never have surrendered any part
of that perfect liberty which was so dear to him, for all the honours
and rewards that could have been offered by the foremost universities
of Europe.

You will have heard, no doubt, from some of those with whom you
conversed about Professor Wilson when you were in Europe, or you may
have read it in Peter's Letters, that in very early life (probably
about the age of eighteen) he had formed a scheme for penetrating into
central Africa, visiting the city of Tombuctoo, and solving (if it
were possible) the great outstanding problem of the course of the
Niger. To this scheme he was attracted probably not so much by any
particular interest in the improvement of geographical knowledge, as
by the youthful spirit of romantic adventure, and a very uncommon
craving for whatever was grand--indefinite--and gigantic in
conception, supposing that it required at the same time great physical
powers in the execution. There cannot be a doubt for us at this day,
who look back upon the melancholy list of victims in this perilous
field of discovery which has been furnished by the two or three and
twenty years elapsed since Mr. Wilson's plan was in agitation, that in
that enterprise--had he ever irretrievably embarked himself upon
it--he would infallibly have perished; for, though reasonably strong,
he was not strong upon that heroic scale which an expedition so
Titanic demands; and what was perhaps still more important, if strong
enough--he was not _hardy_ enough, as a gentleman rarely is, more
especially where he has literary habits; because the exposure to open
air, which is the indispensable condition of hardiness, is at any rate
interrupted--even if it were not counteracted--by the luxurious habits
and the relaxing atmosphere of the library and the drawing-room.
Moreover, Mr. Wilson's constitution was irritable and disposed to
fever; his temperament was too much that of a man of genius not to
have furnished a mine of inflammable materials for any tropical
climate; his prudence, as regarded his health, was not remarkable; and
if to all these internal and personal grounds of danger you add the
incalculable hazards of the road itself, every friend of Mr. Wilson's
must have rejoiced on hearing that in 1808, when I first met him, this
Tim-(or Tom-) buctoo scheme was already laid aside.

Yet, as the stimulus of danger, in one shape or other, was at that
time of life perhaps essential to his comfort, he soon substituted
another scheme, which at this day might be accomplished with ease and
safety enough, but in the year 1809 (under the rancorous system of
Bonaparte) was full of hazard. In this scheme he was so good as to
associate myself as one of his travelling companions, together with an
earlier friend of his own--an Englishman, of a philosophical turn of
mind, with whom he had been a fellow-student at Glasgow; and we were
certainly all three of an age and character to have enjoyed the
expedition in the very highest degree, had the events of the war
allowed us to realise our plan. The plan was as follows: from
Falmouth, by one of the regular packets, we were to have sailed to the
Tagus; and, landing wherever accident should allow us, to purchase
mules--hire Spanish servants--and travel extensively in Spain and
Portugal for eight or nine months; thence, by such of the islands in
the Mediterranean as particularly interested us, we were gradually to
have passed into Greece, and thence to Constantinople. Finally, we
were to have visited the Troad, Syria, Egypt, and perhaps Nubia. I
feel it almost ludicrous to sketch the outline of so extensive a tour,
no part of which was ever executed; such a Barmacide feast is
laughable in the very rehearsal. Yet it is bare justice to ourselves
to say that on our parts there was no slackness or _make-believe_:
what put an extinguisher upon our project was the entrance of Napoleon
into Spain, his immediate advance upon Madrid, and the wretched
catastrophe of the expedition so miserably misconducted under Sir John
Moore. The _prestige_ of French generalship was at that time a
nightmare upon the courage and spirit of hopeful exertion throughout
Europe; and the earliest dawn was only then beginning to arise of that
glorious experience which was for ever to dissolve it. Sir J. Moore,
and through him his gallant but unfortunate army, was the last
conspicuous victim to the mere sound and _humbug_ (if you will excuse
a coarse expression) of the words _Napoleon Bonaparte_. What he fled
from was precisely those two words. And the timid policy, adopted by
Sir John on that memorable occasion, would--among other greater and
national consequences--have had this little collateral interest to us
unfortunate travellers, had our movements been as speedy as we had
anticipated, that it would have cost us our heads. A certain bulletin,
issued by Bonaparte at that time, sufficiently apprised us of that
little truth. In this bulletin Bonaparte proclaimed with a careless
air, but making at the same time somewhat of a boast of it, that
having happened to meet a party of sixteen British travellers--persons
of whom he had ascertained nothing at all but that they did not bear a
military character--he had issued a summary order that they should all
be strung up without loss of time by the neck. In this little
facetious anecdote, as Bonaparte seemed to think it, we read the fate
that we had escaped. Had nothing occurred to retard our departure from
this country, we calculated that the route we had laid down for our
daily motions would have brought us to Guadarama (or what was the name
of the pass?) just in time to be hanged. Having a British general at
our backs with an army of more than thirty thousand effective men, we
should certainly have roamed in advance with perfect reliance upon the
old British policy of fighting, for which we could never have allowed
ourselves to dream of such a substitute as a flight through all the
passes of Gallicia on the principle of '_the D---- take the
hindmost_.' Infallibly also we should have been surprised by the
extraordinary rapidity at that time of the French movements; our
miserable shambling mules, with their accursed tempers, would have
made but a shabby attempt at flight before a squadron of light
cavalry; and in short, as I said before, we should have come just in
time to be hanged. And hanged we should all have been: though _why_,
and upon what principle, it would be difficult to say; and probably
that question would have been left to after consideration in some more
philosophical age. You will suppose naturally that we rejoiced at our
escape; and so undoubtedly we did. Yet for my part I had, among
nineteen-twentieths of joy, just one-twentieth of a lingering regret
that we had missed the picturesque fate that awaited us. The reason
was this: it has been through life an infirmity of Mr. Wilson's (at
least in my judgment an infirmity) to think too indulgently of
Bonaparte, not merely in an intellectual point of view, but even with
reference to his pretensions--hollower, one would think, than the
wind--to moral elevation and magnanimity. Such a mistake, about a man
who could never in any one instance bring himself to speak generously,
or even forbearingly of an enemy, rouses my indignation as often as I
recur to it; and in Professor Wilson, I have long satisfied myself
that it takes its rise from a more comprehensive weakness, the
greatest in fact which besets his mind, viz. a general tendency to
bend to the prevailing opinion of the world, and a constitutional
predisposition, to sympathise with power and whatsoever is triumphant.
Hence, I could not but regret most poignantly the capital opportunity
I had forfeited of throwing in a deep and stinging sarcasm at his
idol, just at the moment when we should have been waiting to be
turned off. I know Professor Wilson well: though a brave man, at
twenty-two he enjoyed life with a rapture that few men have ever
known, and he would have clung to it with awful tenacity. Horribly he
would have abominated the sight of the rope, and ruefully he would
have sighed if I had suggested to him on the gallows any thoughts of
that beautiful and quiet Elleray which he had left behind in England.
Just at that moment I acknowledge that it would have been fiendish,
but yet what a heaven of a luxury it would have been in the way of
revenge--to have stung him with some neat epigram, that I might have
composed in our walk to the gallows, or while the ropes were getting
into tune, on the generosity and magnanimity of Bonaparte! Perhaps, in
a sober estimate, hanging might be too heavy a price for the
refutation of a single error; yet still, at times, when my moral sense
is roused and provoked by the obstinate blindness of Professor Wilson
to the meanness and _parvanimity_[45] of Bonaparte (a blindness which
in him, as in all other worshippers of false idols, is connected at
the moment with intense hatred for those who refuse to partake in it),
a wandering regret comes over me that we should have missed so fine an
opportunity for gathering in our own persons some of those redundant
bounties which the Corsican's 'magnanimity' at that time scattered
from his cornucopia of malice to the English name upon all his
unfortunate prisoners of that nation.

[Footnote 45: I coin this word _parvanimity_ as an adequate antithesis
to _magnanimity_; for the word _pusillanimity_ has received from usage
such a confined determination to one single idea, viz. the defect of
spirit and courage, that it is wholly unfitted to tie the antipode to
the complex idea of magnanimity.]

But enough of this; an event soon occurred in Mr. Wilson's life which
made it a duty to dismiss for ever all travelling schemes that were
connected with so much hazard as this. The fierce _acharnement_ of
Bonaparte so pointedly directed to everything English, and the
prostration of the Continent, which had enabled him absolutely to seal
every port of Europe against an Englishman, who could now no longer
venture to stray a mile beyond the range of the ship's guns, which had
brought him to the shore, without the certainty of being arrested as a
spy,--this unheard-of condition of things had at length compelled all
English gentlemen to reconcile themselves for the present to the
bounds of their own island; and, accordingly, in the spring of 1809,
we three unhanged friends had entirely weaned our minds from the
travelling scheme which had so completely occupied our thoughts in
1808. Mr. Wilson in particular gave himself up to the pleasures and
occupations furnished by the neighbourhood of Windermere, which at
that time were many and various; living myself at a distance of nine
miles from Elleray, I did not see much of him through this year 1809;
in 1810 he married a young English lady, greatly admired for her
beauty and the elegance of her manners, who was generally supposed to
have brought him a fortune of about ten thousand pounds. In saying
_that_, I violate no confidence at any time reposed in me, for I rely
only on the public voice--which, in this instance, I have been told by
well-informed persons, was tolerably correct. Be that as it may,
however, in other respects I have the best reasons for believing that
this marriage connection has proved the happiest event of Mr.
Wilson's life; and that the delightful temper and disposition of his
wife have continued to shed a sunshine of peace and quiet happiness
over his domestic establishment, which were well worth all the
fortunes in the world. This lady has brought him a family of two sons
and three daughters, all interesting by their personal appearance and
their manners, and at this time rapidly growing up into young men and

Here I should close all further notice of Mr. Wilson's life, and
confine myself, through what remains of the space which I have allowed
myself, to a short critical notice (such as it may be proper for a
friend to write) of his literary character and merits; but one single
event remains of a magnitude too conspicuous in any man's life to be
dismissed wholly without mention. I should add, therefore, that, about
eight or nine years after his marriage (for I forget the precise
year[46]), Mr. Wilson offered himself a candidate for the chair of
Moral Philosophy in the University in Edinburgh, which had recently
become vacant by the death of Dr. Thomas Brown, the immediate
successor of Mr. Dugald Stewart. The Scotch, who know just as much
about what they call 'Moral[47] Philosophy' and Metaphysics as the
English do, viz. exactly nothing at all, pride themselves
prodigiously upon these two names of Dugald Stewart and Dr. Brown, and
imagine that they filled the chair with some peculiar brilliance. Upon
that subject a word or two farther on. Meantime this notion made the
contest peculiarly painful and invidious, amongst ungenerous enemies,
for any untried man--no matter though his real merits had been a
thousand times greater than those of his predecessors. This Mr. Wilson
found; he had made himself enemies; whether by any unjustifiable
violences, and wanton provocations on his own part, I have no means of
knowing. In whatever way created, however, these enemies now used the
advantages of the occasion with rancorous malignity, and persecuted
him at every step with unrelenting fury. Very different was the
treatment he met with from his competitor in the contest; in that one
circumstance of the case, the person of his competitor, he had reason
to think himself equally fortunate and unfortunate; fortunate, that he
should be met by the opposition of a man whose opposition was
honour--a man of birth, talents, and high breeding, a good scholar,
and for extensive reading and universal knowledge of books (and
especially of philosophic literature) the Magliabecchi of Scotland;
unfortunate on the other hand that this accomplished opponent, adorned
by so many brilliant gifts that recommended him to the contested
office, should happen to be his early and highly valued friend. The
particular progress of the contest, and its circumstances, I am not
able to state; in general I have heard in Edinburgh that, from
political influences which chiefly governed the course of the
election, the conduct of the partisans (perhaps on both sides) was
intemperate, personal, and unjust; whilst that of the principals and
their immediate friends was full of forbearance and generosity. The
issue was, that Mr. Wilson carried the Professorship,--by what
majority of votes, I am unable to say; and you will be pleased to hear
that any little coolness, which must naturally have succeeded to so
warm a contest, has long since passed away; and the two rival
candidates have been for many years restored to their early feelings
of mutual esteem and regard.

[Footnote 46: [In July, 1820.]]

[Footnote 47: Everywhere in the world, except in Scotland, by _moral_
philosophy is meant the philosophy of the will, as opposed to the
philosophy of the intellect; in Scotland only the word _moral_ is
used, by the strongest abuse, as a comprehensive designation of
whatsoever is not _physical_; so that in the cycle of knowledge,
undertaken by the Edinburgh Professor of Moral Philosophy, are
included logic, metaphysics, ethics, psychology, anthropology,--and,
in one word, almost all human knowledge, with the exception of physics
and mathematics.]

Here I pause for everything that concerns in the remotest way the
incidents of Professor Wilson's life; one letter I mean to add, as I
have already promised, on the particular position which he occupies in
relation to modern literature; and then I have done. Meantime, let me
hope that you have not so far miscalculated my purpose as to have been
looking out for anecdotes (_i. e._ scandal) about Professor Wilson
throughout the course of this letter; since, if in any case I could
descend to cater for tastes of that description (which I am persuaded,
are naturally no tastes of _your_ family),--you must feel, on
reflection, how peculiarly impossible it is to take that course in
sketching the character of a friend, because the very means, by which
in almost every case one becomes possessed of such private anecdotes,
are the opportunities thrown in one's way by the confiding negligence
of affectionate friendship; opportunities therefore which must be for
ever sacred to every man of honour.

Yours most faithfully,



_To the Editor of 'Titan.'_

My Dear Sir,--I send you a few hasty notes upon Mr. Robert Ferguson's
little work (relating to the dialect current at the English
Lakes).[48] Mr. Ferguson's book is learned and seasonable, adapted to
the stage at which such studies have now arrived among us, and adapted
also to a popular use. I am sure that Mr. Ferguson knows a great deal
more about his very interesting theme than _I_ do. Nevertheless, I
presume to sit in judgment upon him; or so it will be inferred from my
assuming the office of his reviewer. But in reality I pretend to no
such ambitious and invidious functions. What I propose to do, in this
hasty and _extempore_ fashion, is--simply to take a seat in Mr.
Ferguson's court as an _amicus curiæ_, and occasionally to suggest a
doubt, by possibility an amendment; but more often to lead astray
judge, jury, and docile audience into matter growing out of the
subject, but very seldom leading back into it, too often, perhaps,
having little to do with it; pleasant by possibility, according to
Foote's judgment in a parallel case, 'pleasant, but wrong.' No great
matter if it should be so. It will be read within the privileged term
of Christmas;[49] during which licensed saturnalia it can be no blame
to any paper, that it is 'pleasant, but wrong.'

[Footnote 48: _The Northmen in Cumberland and Westmoreland._ By Robert
Ferguson. Carlisle: Steel & Brother. London: Longmans & Co.]

[Footnote 49: Writing at the moment in Scotland, where Christmas is as
little heard of, or popularly understood or regarded, as the Mahometan
festival of Beyram or the fast of Ramadan, I ought to explain that, as
Christmas Day, by adjournment from Lady Day--namely, March 25--falls
uniformly on December 25, it happens necessarily that _Twelfth_ Day
(the adoration of the Magi at Bethlehem), which is the ceremonial
close of Christmas, falls upon the 5th day of January; seven days in
the old, five in the new, year.]

I begin with lodging a complaint against Mr. Ferguson, namely, that he
has ignored me--me, that in some measure may be described as having
broken ground originally in this interesting field of research. Me,
the undoubted parent of such studies--_i. e._ the person who first
solemnly proclaimed the Danish language to be the master-key for
unlocking the peculiarities of the Lake dialect--me, has this
undutiful son never noticed, except incidentally, and then only with
some reserve, or even with a distinct scruple, as regards the
particular point of information for which I am cited. Seriously,
however, this very passage, which offers me the affront of utter
exclusion from what I had regarded as my own peculiar territory, my
own Danish ring-fence, shows clearly that no affront had been
designed. Mr. Ferguson had found occasion, at p. 80, to mention that
_Fairfield_, the most distinguished[50] of the Grasmere boundaries,
and 'next neighbour to Helvellyn' (next also in magnitude, being
above three thousand feet high), had, as regarded its name, 'been
derived from the Scandinavian _faar_, sheep, in allusion to the
peculiar fertility of its pastures.' He goes on thus--'This mountain'
(says De Quincey) 'has large, smooth pastoral savannahs, to which the
sheep resort when all its rocky or barren neighbours are left
desolate.' In thus referring to myself for the character of the
mountain, he does not at all suppose that he is referring to the
author of the etymology. On the contrary, the very next sentence
says--'I do not know who is the author of this etymology, which has
been quoted by several writers; but it appears to me to be open to
considerable doubt'; and this for two separate reasons, which he
assigns, and which I will notice a little further on.

[Footnote 50:

    'And mighty Fairfield, with its chime
    Of echoes, still was keeping time.'

    WORDSWORTH--_The Waggoner_.]

Meantime I pause, for the sake of saying that the derivation is mine.
Thirty-seven, or it may be thirty-eight, years ago, I first brought
forward my Danish views in a local newspaper--namely, _The Kendal
Gazette_, published every Saturday. The rival (I may truly say--the
hostile) newspaper, published also on Saturday, was called _The
Westmoreland Chronicle_. The exact date of my own communication upon
the dialect of the Lake district I cannot at this moment assign.
Earlier than 1818 it could not have been, nor later than 1820. What
first threw me upon this vein of exploring industry was, the
accidental stumbling suddenly upon an interesting little incident of
Westmoreland rustic life. From a roadside cottage, just as I came
nearly abreast of its door, issued a little child; not old enough to
walk with particular firmness, but old enough for mischief; a laughing
expression of which it bore upon its features. It was clearly in the
act of absconding from home, and was hurrying earnestly to a turn of
the road which it counted upon making available for concealment. But,
before it could reach this point, a young woman, of remarkable beauty,
perhaps twenty years old, ran out in some alarm, which was not
diminished by hearing the sound of carriage-wheels rapidly coming up
from a distance of probably two furlongs. The little rosy thing
stopped and turned on hearing its mother's voice, but hesitated a
little, until she made a gesture of withdrawing her handkerchief from
her bosom, and said, coaxingly, 'Come its ways, then, and get its
_patten_.' Until that reconciling word was uttered, there had been a
shadow of distrust on the baby's face, as if treachery might be in the
wind. But the magic of that one word _patten_ wrought an instant
revolution. Back the little truant ran, and the young mother's manner
made it evident that she would not on _her_ part forget what had
passed between the high contracting parties.[51] What, then, could be
the meaning of this talismanic word _patten_? Accidentally, having
had a naval brother confined amongst the Danes, as a prisoner of war,
for eighteen months, I knew that it meant the female bosom. Soon after
I stumbled upon the meaning of the Danish word _Skyandren_--namely,
what in street phrase amongst ourselves is called giving to any person
a _blowing-up_. This was too remarkable a word, too bristling with
harsh blustering consonants, to baffle the detecting ear, as it might
have done under any masquerading _aura-textilis_, or woven air of
vowels and diphthongs.

[Footnote 51: It might seem odd to many people that a child able to
run alone should not have been already weaned, a process of early
misery that, in modern improved practice, takes place amongst opulent
families at the age of six months; and, secondly, it might seem
equally odd that, until weaned, any infant could be truly described as
'rosy.' I wish, however, always to be punctiliously accurate; and I
can assure my readers that, generally speaking, the wives of labouring
men (for more reasons than one) suckle their infants for three years,
to the great indignation of medical practitioners, who denounce the
practice as six times too long. Secondly, although unweaned infants
are ordinarily pale, yet, amongst those approaching their eighteenth
or twentieth month, there are often found children as rosy as any one
can meet with.]

Many scores of times I had heard men threatening to _skiander_ this
person or that when next they should meet. Not by possibility could it
indicate any mode of personal violence; for no race of men could be
more mild and honourably forbearing in their intercourse with each
other than the manly dalesmen of the Lakes. From the context, it had
long been evident that it implied expostulation and _verbal_ reproach.
And now at length I learned that this was its Danish import. The very
mountain at the foot of which my Grasmere cottage stood, and the
little orchard attached to which formed 'the lowest step in that
magnificent staircase' (such was Wordsworth's description of it),
leading upwards to the summits of Helvellyn, reminded me daily of that
Danish language which all around me suggested as being the secret
writing--the seal--the lock that imprisoned ancient records as to
thing or person, and yet again as being the key that should open this
lock; as that which had hidden through many centuries, and yet also as
that which should finally reveal.

I have thus come round to the name of Fairfield, which seemed to me
some forty years ago as beyond all reasonable doubt the Danish mask
for _Sheep-fell_. But, in using the phrase '_reasonable_ doubt,' I am
far from insinuating that Mr. Ferguson's deliberate doubt is _not_
reasonable. I will state both sides of the question, for neither is
without some show of argument. To me it seemed next to impossible that
the early Danish settlers could, under the natural pressure of
prominent differences among that circuit of hills which formed the
barriers of Grasmere, have failed to distinguish as the sheep mountain
that sole eminence which offered a pasture ground to their sheep all
the year round. In summer and autumn _all_ the neighbouring fells,
that were not mere rocks, yielded pasture more or less scanty. But
Fairfield showed herself the _alma mater_ of their flocks even in
winter and early spring. So, at least, my local informants asserted.
Mr. Ferguson, however, objects, as an unaccountable singularity, that
on this hypothesis we shall have one mountain, and one only, classed
under the _modern_ Scandinavian term of _field_; all others being
known by the elder name of _fell_. I acknowledge that this anomaly is
perplexing. But, on the other hand, what Mr. Ferguson suggests is
still more perplexing. He supposes that, 'because' the summit of this
mountain is such a peculiarly green and level plain, it might not
inappropriately be called _a fair field_.' Certainly it might; but by
Englishmen of recent generations, and not by Danish immigrants of the
ninth century. To balance the anomaly of what certainly wears a faint
_soupçon_ of anachronism--namely, the _apparent_ anticipation of the
modern Norse word _field_, Mr. Ferguson's conjecture would take a
headlong plunge into good classical English. Now of this there is no
other instance. Even the little swells of ground, that hardly rise to
the dignity of hills, which might be expected to submit readily to
changing appellations, under the changing accidents of ownership, yet
still retain their primitive Scandinavian names--as _Butterlip Howe_,
for example. Nor do I recollect any exceptions to this tendency,
unless in the case of jocose names, such as _Skiddaw's Cub_, for
Lattrig; and into this class, perhaps, falls even the dignified
mountain of _The Old Man_, at the head of Coniston. Mr. Ferguson will
allow that it would be as startling to the dense old Danes of King
Alfred's time, if they had found a mountain of extra pretensions
wearing a modern English name, as it would to the Macedonian
_argyraspides_, if suspecting that, in some coming century, their
mighty leader, 'the great Emathian conqueror,' could by any possible
Dean of St. Patrick, and by any conceivable audacity of legerdemain,
be traced back to _All-eggs-under-the-grate_. If the name really _is_
good English, in that case a separate and _extra_ labour arises for us
all; there must have been some old Danish name for this most
serviceable of fells; and then we have not merely to explain the
present English name, but also to account for the disappearance of
this archæological Danish name. What I would throw out conjecturally
as a bare possibility is this:--When an ancient dialect (A) is
gradually superseded by a more modern one (E), the flood of innovation
which steals over the old reign, and gradually dispossesses it, does
not rush in simultaneously as a torrent, but supervenes stealthily and
unequally, according to the humouring or thwarting of local
circumstances. Nobody, I am sure, is better aware of this accident, as
besetting the transit of dialects, than Mr. Ferguson. For instance,
many of those words which are imported to us from the American United
States, and often amuse us by their picturesqueness, have originally
been carried to America by our own people; in England they lurked for
ages as provincialisms, localised within some narrow circuit, and to
which some trifling barrier (as a river--rivulet--or even a brook)
offered a retarding force. In supercivilised England, a river, it may
be thought, cannot offer much obstruction to the free current of
words; ages ago it must have been bridged over. Sometimes, however, a
bridge is impossible under the transcendent importance of a free
navigation. For instance, at the Bristol Hotwells, the ready and
fluent intercourse with Long Ashton, and a long line of adjacencies,
is effectually obstructed by the necessity of an open water
communication with the Bristol Channel. At one period (_i. e._ when as
yet Liverpool and Glasgow were fifth-rate ports), all the wealth of
the West Indies flowed into England through this little muddy ditch of
the Bristol Avon, and Rownham Ferry became the exponent and measure of
English intercourse with the northern nook of Somersetshire. A river
is bad; but when a mountain of very toilsome ascent happens to be
interposed, the interruption offered to the popular intercourse, and
the results of this interruption, become much more memorable. An
illustration which I can offer on this point, and which, in fact, I
_did_ offer (as, upon inquiry, Mr. Ferguson will find), thirty-eight
years ago, happens to bear with peculiar force upon our immediate
difficulty of Fairfield. The valleys on the northern side of
Kirkstone--namely, in particular, the three valleys of Patterdale,
Matterdale, and Martindale--are as effectually cut off from
intercourse with the valleys on the southern side--namely, the
Windermere valley, Ryedale, and Grasmere, with all their tributary
nooks and attachments--as though an arm of the sea had rolled between
them. It costs a foot traveller half of a summer's day to effect the
passage to and fro over Kirkstone (what the Greeks so tersely
expressed in the case of a race-course[52] by the one word _diaulos_).
And in _my_ time no innkeeper from the Windermere side of Kirkstone
would carry even a solitary individual across with fewer than four
horses. What has been the result? Why, that the dialect on the
northern side of Kirkstone bears the impress of a more ultra-Danish
influence than that upon the Windermere side. In particular this
remarkable difference occurs: not the nouns and verbs merely are
Danish amongst the trans-Kirkstonians (I speak as a Grasmerian), but
even the particles--the very joints and articulations of language. The
Danish _at_, for instance, is used for _to_; I do not mean for _to_
the preposition: they do not say, 'Carry this letter at Mr. 'W.'; but
as the sign of the infinitive mood. 'Tell him _at_ put his spurs on,
and _at_ ride off for a surgeon?' Now this illustration carries along
with it a proof that a stronger and a weaker infusion of the Danish
element, possibly an older and a younger infusion, may prevail even in
close adjacencies, provided they are powerfully divided by walls of
rock that happen to be eight miles thick.

[Footnote 52: I mean that they included the progressive or
outward-bound course, and equally the regressive or homeward-bound
course, within the compass of this one word [Greek: diaulos]. We in
England have a phrase which conventionally has been made to supply the
want of such an idea, but unfortunately with a limitation to the
service of the Post-office. It is the phrase _course of post_. When a
Newcastle man is asked, 'What is the course of post between you and
Liverpool?' he understands, and by a legal decision it has been
settled that he is under an obligation to understand--What is the
_diaulos_, what is the flux and reflux--the to and the fro--the
systole and diastole of the respiration--between you and Liverpool.
What is the number of hours and minutes required for the transit of a
letter from Newcastle to Liverpool, but coupled with the return
transit of the answer? This forward and backward movement constitutes
the _diaulos_: less than this will not satisfy the law as the complex
process understood by the _course of post_. Less than this is only the
half section of a _diaulos_.]

But the inexorable Press, that waits for few men under the rank of a
king, and not always for _him_ (as I happen to know, by having once
seen a proof-sheet corrected by the royal hand of George IV., which
proof exhibited some disloyal signs of impatience), forces me to
adjourn all the rest to next month.--Yours ever,




What two works are those for which at this moment our national
intellect (or, more rigorously speaking, our _popular_ intellect) is
beginning clamorously to call? They are these: first, a
_Conversations-Lexicon_, obeying (as regards plan and purpose) the
general outline of the German work bearing that title; ministering to
the same elementary necessities; implying, therefore, a somewhat
corresponding stage of progress in our own populace and that of
Germany; but otherwise (as regards the executive details in adapting
such a work to the special service of an English public) moving under
moral restraints sterner by much, and more faithfully upheld, than
could rationally be looked for in any great literary enterprise
resigned to purely German impulses. For over the atmosphere of thought
and feeling in Germany there broods no _public_ conscience. Such a
_Conversations-Lexicon_ is one of the two great works for which the
popular mind of England is waiting and watching in silence. The other
(and not less important) work is--a faithful _History of England_. We
will offer, at some future time, a few words upon the first; but upon
the second--here brought before us so advantageously in the earnest,
thoughtful, and oftentimes eloquent volumes of Mr. Froude--we will
venture to offer three or four pages of critical comment.

[Footnote 53: _History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death
of Elizabeth._ By James Anthony Froude, M.A., late Fellow of Exeter
College, Oxford. Vols. I. and II. London: Parker & Son, West Strand.

Could the England of the sixteenth century have escaped that great
convulsion which accompanied the dissolution of the monasteries? It is
barely possible that a gentle system of periodic decimations,
distributing this inevitable ruin over an entire century, might have
blunted the edge of the fierce ploughshare: but there were
difficulties in the way of such arrangements, that would too probably
have thwarted the benign purpose.

Meantime, what was it that had stolen like a canker-worm into the
machinery of these monastic bodies, and insensibly had corroded a
principle originally of admitted purity? The malice of Protestantism
has too readily assumed that Popery was answerable for this corrosion.
But it would be hard to show that Popery in any one of its features,
good or bad, manifested itself conspicuously and operatively: nay, to
say the simple truth, it was through the very opposite agency that the
monastic institutions came to ruin: it was because Popery, that
supreme control to which these monasteries had been confided, shrank
from its responsibilities--weakly, lazily, or even perfidiously,
abandoned that supervisorship in default of which neither right of
inspection, nor duty of inspection, nor power of inspection, was found
to be lodged in any quarter--_there_ it was, precisely in that
dereliction of censorial authority, that all went to ruin. All
corporations grow corrupt, unless habitually kept under the eye of
public inspection, or else officially liable to searching visitations.
Now, who were the regular and official visitors of the English
monasteries? Not the local bishops; for in that case the public
clamour, the very notoriety of the scandals (as we see them reported
by Wicliffe and Chaucer), would have guided the general wrath to some
effectual surgery for the wounds and ulcers of the institutions.
Unhappily the official visitors were the heads of the monastic orders;
these, and these only. A Franciscan body, for example, owed no
obedience except to the representative of St. Francis; and this
representative too uniformly resided somewhere on the Continent. And
thus it was that effectually and virtually English monasteries were
subject to no control. Nay, the very corrections of old abuses by
English parliamentary statutes had greatly strengthened the evil.
Formerly, the monastic funds were drawn upon to excess in defraying
the costs of a transmarine visitation. But that evil, rising into
enormous proportions, was at length radically extirpated by
parliamentary statutes that cut down the costs; so that continental
devotees, finding their visitations no longer profitable in a
pecuniary sense, sometimes even costly to themselves, and costly upon
a scale but dimly intelligible to any continental experience, rapidly
cooled down in their pious enthusiasm against monastic delinquencies.
Hatred, at any rate, and malignant anger the visitor had to face, not
impossibly some risk of assassination, in prosecuting his inquiries
into the secret crimes of monks that were often confederated in a
common interest of resistance to all honest or searching inquiry.
But, if to these evils were superadded others of a pecuniary class, it
was easy to anticipate, under this failure of all regular
inspectorship, a period of plenary indulgence to the excesses of these
potent corporations. Such a period came: no man being charged with the
duty of inspection, no man inspected; but never was the danger more
surely at hand, than when it seemed by all ordinary signs to have
absolutely died out. Already, in the days of Richard II., the doom of
the monasteries might be heard muttering in the chambers of the upper
air. In the angry denunciations of Wicliffe, in the popular merriment
of Chaucer, might be read the same sentence of condemnation awarded
against them. Fierce warnings were given to them at intervals. A
petition against them was addressed by the House of Commons to Henry
IV. The son of this prince, the man of Agincourt, though superstitious
enough, if superstition could have availed them, had in _his_ short
reign (so occupied, one might have thought, with war and foreign
affairs) found time to read them a dreadful warning: more than five
scores of these offending bodies (Priories Alien) were suppressed by
that single monarch, the laughing _Hal_ of Jack Falstaff. One whole
century slipped away between this penal suppression and the ministry
of Wolsey. What effect can we ascribe to this admonitory chastisement
upon the general temper and conduct of the monastic interest? It would
be difficult beyond measure at this day to draw up any adequate report
of the foul abuses prevailing in the majority of religious houses, for
the three following reasons:--First, because the main record of such
abuses, after it had been elaborately compiled under the commission of
Henry VIII., was (at the instigation of his eldest daughter Mary) most
industriously destroyed by Bishop Bonner; secondly, because too
generally the original oath of religious fidelity and secrecy, in
matters interesting to the founder and the foundation, was held to
interfere with frank disclosures; thirdly, because, as to much of the
most crying licentiousness, its full and satisfactory detection too
often depended upon a surprise. Steal upon the delinquents suddenly,
and ten to one they were caught _flagrante delicto_: but upon any
notice transpiring of the hostile approach, all was arranged so as to
evade for the moment--or in the end to baffle finally--search alike
and suspicion.

The following report, which Mr. Froude views as the liveliest of all
that Bishop Bonner's zeal has spared, offers a picturesque sketch of
such cases, according to the shape which they often assumed. In
Chaucer's tale, told with such unrivalled _vis comica_, of the
_Trompington Miller and the Two Cambridge Scholars_, we have a most
life-like picture of the miller with his 'big bones,' as a 'dangerous'
man for the nonce. Just such a man, just as dangerous, and just as
big-boned, we find in the person of an abbot--defending his abbey, not
by any reputation for sanctity or learning, but solely by his
_dangerousness_ as the wielder of quarter-staff and cudgel. With no
bull-dog or mastiff, and taken by surprise, such an abbot naturally
lost the stakes for which he played. The letter is addressed to the
Secretary of State:--'Please it your goodness to understand, that on
Friday the 22nd of October (1535), I rode back with speed to take an
inventory of Folkstone; and thence I went to Langden. Whereat
immediately descending from my horse, I sent Bartlett, your servant,
with all _my_ servants, to circumsept the abbey [_i. e._ to form a
hedge round about], and surely to keep [guard] all back-doors and
starting holes. I myself went alone to the abbot's lodging--joining
upon the fields and wood.' [This position, the reporter goes on to
insinuate, was no matter of chance: but, like a rabbit-warren, had
been so placed with a view to the advantages for retreat and for cover
in the adjacent woodlands.] 'I was a good space knocking at the
abbot's door; neither did any sound or sensible manifestation of life
betray itself, saving the abbot's little dog, that within his door,
fast locked, bayed and barked. I found a short pole-axe standing
behind the door; and with it I dashed the abbot's door in pieces _ictu
oculi_ [in the twinkling of an eye]; and set one of my men to keep
that door; and about the house I go with that pole-axe in my hand--_ne
forte_ ["_lest by any chance_"[54]--holding in suspense such words as
"_some violence should be offered_"]--for the abbot is a dangerous,
desperate knave, and a hardy. But, for a conclusion, his gentlewoman
bestirred her stumps towards her starting holes; and then Bartlett,
watching the pursuit, took the tender _demoisel_; and, after I had
examined her, to Dover--to the mayor, to set her in some cage or
prison for eight days. And I brought holy father abbot to Canterbury;
and here, in Christ Church, I will leave him in prison.'

[Footnote 54: '_Ne forte_' is a case of what is learnedly called
_aposiopesis_ or _reticentia_; that is, where (for the sake of effect)
some emphatic words are left to be guessed at: as Virgil's _Quos
ego_----(Whom if I catch, I'll----)]

This little interlude, offering its several figures in such life-like
attitudes--its big-boned abbot prowling up and down the precincts of
the abbey for the chance of a 'shy' at the intruding commissioner--the
little faithful bow-wow doing its _petit possible_ to warn big-bones
of his danger, thus ending his faithful services by an act of farewell
loyalty--and the unlucky _demoisel_ scuttling away to her
rabbit-warren, only to find all the spiracles and peeping-holes
preoccupied or stopped, and her own 'apparel' unhappily locked up '_in
the abbot his coffer_,' so as to render hopeless all evasion or
subsequent denial of the fact, that ten big-boned 'indusia' (or
shirts) lay interleaved in one and the same 'coffer,' _inter totidem
niveas camisas_[55] (or chemises)--all this framed itself as a little
amusing parenthesis, a sort of family picture amongst the dreadful
reports of ecclesiastical commissioners.

[Footnote 55: '_Camisas_:' _i. e._ chemises; but at one time the word
_camisa_ was taken indifferently for shirt or chemise. And hence arose
the term _camisado_ for a night-attack, in which the assailants
recognised each other in the dark by their white shirt-sleeves,
sometimes further distinguished by a tight cincture of broad black
riband. The last literal camisado, that I remember, was a nautical
one--a cutting-out enterprise somewhere about 1807-8.]

No _suppression_ of the religious houses had originally been designed;
nothing more than a searching _visitation_. And at this moment, yes,
at this present midsummer of 1856, waiting and looking forward to the
self-same joyful renewal of leases that then was looked for in
England, but not improbably, alas! summoned to the same ineffable
disappointment as fell more than three centuries back upon our own
England--lies, waiting for her doom, a great kingdom in central
Europe. She, and under the same causes, may chance to be disappointed.
What was it that caused the tragic convulsion in England? Simply this:
regular and healthy visitation having ceased, infinite abuses had
arisen; and these abuses, it was found at last, could not be healed by
any measure less searching than absolute suppression. Austria, as
regards some of her provinces, stands in the same circumstances at
this very moment. Imperfect visitations, that cleansed nothing, should
naturally have left her religious establishments languishing for the
one sole remedy that was found applicable to the England of 1540. And
what was _that_? It was a remedy that carried along with it
revolution. England was found able in those days to stand that fierce
medicine: a more profound revolution has not often been witnessed than
that of our mighty Reformation. Can Austria, considering the awful
contagions amongst which her political relations have entangled her,
hope for the same happy solution of her case? Perhaps a revolution,
that once unlocks the fountains of blood in central Germany, will be
the bloodiest of all revolutions: whereas, in our own chapters of
revolution even the stormiest, those of the Marian Persecution and of
the Parliamentary War, both alike moved under restraints of law and
legislative policy. The very bloodiest promises of English history
have replied but feebly to the clamour and expectations of cruel or
fiery partisans. Different is the prospect for Austria. From her, and
from the auguries of evil which becloud her else smiling atmosphere,
let us turn back to our own history in this sixteenth century, and
for a moment make a brief inquest into the blood that really was
shed--whether justly or not justly. Bloodshed, as an instinct--bloodshed,
as an appetite--raged like a monsoon in the French Revolution, and many
centuries before in the Rome of Sylla and Marius--in the Rome of the
Triumvirate, and generally in the period of Proscriptions. Too fearfully
it is evident that these fits of _acharnement_ were underlaid and fed by
paroxysms of personal cruelty. In England, on the other hand, foul and
hateful as was the Marian butchery, nevertheless it cannot be denied
that this butchery rested entirely upon principle. Homage offered to
anti-Lutheran principles, in a moment disarmed the Popish executioner.
Or if (will be the objection of the reflecting reader)--if there are
exceptions to this rule, these must be looked for amongst the king's
enemies. And the term 'enemies' will fail to represent adequately those
who, not content with ranking themselves wilfully amongst persons
courting objects irreconcilable to the king's interests, sought to
exasperate the displeasure of Henry by special insults, by peculiar
mortifications, and by complex ingratitude. Foremost amongst such cases
stands forward the separate treason of Anne Boleyn, mysterious to this
hour in some of its features, rank with pollutions such as European
prejudice would class with Italian enormities, and by these very
pollutions--literally by and through the very excess of the
guilt--claiming to be incredible. Neither less nor more than this which
follows is the logic put into the mouth of the Lady Anne Boleyn:--From
the mere enormity of the guilt imputed to me, from that very abysmal
stye of incestuous adultery in which now I wallow, I challenge as of
right the presumption that I am innocent; for the very reason that I am
loaded in my impeachment with crimes that are inhuman, I claim to be no
criminal at all. Because my indictment is revolting and monstrous,
therefore is it incredible. The case, taken apart from the person, would
not (unless through its mysteriousness and imperfect circumstantiation)
have attracted the interest which _has_ given it, and _will_ in all time
coming continue to give it, a root in history amongst insoluble or
doubtfully soluble historical problems. The _case_, being painful and
shocking, would by readers generally have long since been dismissed to
darkness. But the _person_, too critically connected with a vast and
immortal revolution, will for ever call back the case before the
tribunals of earth. The mother of Queen Elizabeth, the mother of
Protestantism in England, cannot be suffered--never _will_ be
suffered--to benefit by that shelter of merciful darkness which, upon
any humbler person, or even upon this person in any humbler case, might
be suffered to settle quietly as regards the memory of her acts. Mr.
Froude, a pure-minded man, is the last man to call back into the glare
of a judicial inquest deeds of horror, over which eternal silence should
have brooded, had such an issue been possible. But three centuries of
discussion have made _that_ more and more impossible. And now,
therefore, with a view to the improvement of the dispute, and, perhaps,
in one or two instances, with a chance for the rectification of the
'_issues_' (speaking juridically) into which the question has been
allowed to lapse, Mr. Froude has in some degree re-opened the
discussion. 'The guilt,' he says, 'must rest where it is due. But under
any hypothesis guilt there _was_--dark, mysterious, and most miserable.'

Tell this story how you may, and the evidence remains of guilt under
_any_ hypothesis--guilt such as in Grecian tragedy was seen thousands
of years ago hanging in clouds of destiny over princely houses, and
reading to them a doom of utter ruin, root and branch, in which, as in
the anarchy of hurricanes, no form or feature was descried
distinctly--nothing but some dim fluctuating phantom, pointing with
recording finger to that one ancestral crime through which the
desolation had been wrought.

Mr. Froude, through his natural sense of justice, and his deep study
of the case, is unfavourably disposed towards the Lady Anne Boleyn:
nevertheless he retains lingering doubts on her behalf, all of which,
small and great, we have found reason to dismiss. We, for our parts,
are thoroughly convinced of her guilt. Our faith is, that no shadow of
any ground exists for suspending the verdict of the sentence; but at
the same time for mitigating that sentence there arose this strong
argument--namely, that amongst women not formally pronounced idiots,
there never can have been one more pitiably imbecile.

There is a mystery hanging over her connection with the king which
nobody has attempted to disperse. We will ourselves suggest a few
considerations that may bring a little coherency amongst the scattered
glimpses of her fugitive court life. The very first thought that
presents itself, is a sentiment, that would be pathetic in the case of
a person entitled to more respect, upon the brevity of her public
career. Apparently she lost the king's favour almost in the very
opening of her married life. But in what way? Not, we are persuaded,
through the king's caprice. There was hardly time for caprice to have
operated; and her declension in favour from that cause would have been
gradual. Time there was none for her beauty to decay--neither _had_ it
decayed. We are disposed to think that in a very early stage of her
intercourse with the king, she had irritated the king by one
indication of mental imbecility rarely understood even amongst medical
men--namely, the offensive habit of laughing profusely without the
least sense of anything ludicrous or comic. Oxford, or at least one of
those who shot at the Queen, was signally distinguished by this habit.
Without reason or pretext, he would break out into causeless laughter,
not connected with any impulse that he could explain. With this
infirmity Anne Boleyn was plagued in excess. On the 2nd of May, 1536,
the very first day on which she was made aware of the dreadful
accusations hanging over her good name and her life, on being
committed to the Tower, and taken by Sir William Kingston, the
governor, to the very same chambers in which she had lain at the
period of her coronation, she said, 'It' (meaning the suite of rooms)
'is too good for me; Jesu, have mercy on me;' next she kneeled down,
'weeping a great space.' Such are Sir William's words; immediately
after which he adds, 'and in the same sorrow fell into a great
laughing.' A day or two later than this, she said, 'Master Kingston,
shall I die without justice?'--meaning, it seems, would she be put to
death without any judicial examination of her case; upon which Sir
William replied, 'The poorest subject the king hath, had
justice'--meaning, that previously to such an examination of his case,
he could not by regular course of justice be put to death. Such was
the question of the prisoner--such was the answer of the king's
representative. What occasion was here suggested for rational
laughter? And yet laughter was her sole comment. 'Therewith,' says Sir
William, 'she laughed.' On May 18th, being the day next before that of
her execution, she said, 'Master Kingston, I hear say I shall not die
afore noon; and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by
this time, and past my pain.' Upon this Sir William assured her 'it
should be no pain, it was so subtle;' meaning that the stroke of a
sword by a powerful arm, applied to a slender neck, could not meet
resistance enough to cause any serious pain. She replied, 'I heard say
the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck;' after which
she laughed heartily. Sir William so much misunderstood this laughter,
which was doubtless of the same morbid and idiotic character as all
the previous cases, that he supposes her to have had 'much joy and
pleasure in death,' which is a mere misconstruction of the case. Even
in the very act of dying she could not check her smiling, which
assuredly was as morbid in its quality and origin as what of old was
known as '_risus sardonicus_.'

Carrying along with us, therefore, a remembrance of this repulsive
habit, which argues a silliness so constitutional, and noting also the
obstinate (almost it might be called the brutal) folly with which,
during the last seventeen days of her life, she persisted in
criminating herself, volunteering a continued rehearsal of
conversations the most profligate, under a mere instinct of gossiping,
we shall begin to comprehend the levity which no doubt must have
presided in her conversations with the king. Too evidently in a court
but recently emerging from barbarism, there was a shocking defect of
rules or fixed ceremonial for protecting the dignity of the queen and
of her female attendants. The settlement of any such rules devolved
upon the queen herself, in default of any traditional system; and
unhappily here was a queen without sense, without prudence, without
native and sexual dignity for suggesting or upholding such restraints,
and whose own breeding and experience had been purely French. Strange
it was that the king's good sense, or even his jealousy, had not
peremptorily enjoined, as a caution of mere decency, the constant
presence of some elderly matrons, uniting rank and station with
experience and good sense. But not the simplest guarantees for
ordinary decorum were apparently established in the royal household.
And the shocking spectacle was daily to be seen, of a young woman,
singularly beautiful, atrociously silly, and without common
self-respect, styling herself Queen of England, yet exacting no more
respect or homage than a housemaid, suffering young men, the most
licentious in all England, openly to speculate on the contingency of
her husband's death, to talk of it in language the coarsest, as
'waiting for dead men's shoes,' and bandying to and fro the chances
that this man or that man, according to the whim of the morning,
should 'have her,' or should _not_ 'have her'--that is, have the
reversion of the queen's person as a derelict of the king. All this,
though most injurious to her prospects, was made known by Anne Boleyn
herself to the female companions who were appointed to watch her
revelations in prison. And certainly no chambermaid ever rehearsed her
own colloquies with these vile profligates in a style of thinking more
abject than did at this period the female majesty of England.
Listening to no accuser, but simply to the unsolicited revelations of
the queen herself, as she lay in bed amongst her female attendants in
the Tower, every man of sense becomes aware, that if these
presumptuous young libertines abstained from daily proposals to the
queen of the most criminal nature, _that_ could arise only from the
reserve and suspicion incident to a state of rivalship, and not from
any deference paid to the queen's personal pretensions, or to her
public character.

Three years, probably one-half of that term, had seen the beginning,
the decay, and the utter extinction of the king's affection for Anne.
It is known now, and at the time it had furnished a theme for
conjecture, that very soon after his marriage the king manifested
uneasiness, and not long after angry suspicions, upon matters
connected with the queen. We have no doubt that she herself, whilst
seeking to amuse the king with fragments of her French experiences,
had, through mere oversight and want of tact, unintentionally betrayed
the risks to which her honour had been at times exposed. Without
presence of mind, without inventive talent or rapidity of artifice,
she would often compromise herself, and overshoot her momentary
purposes of furnishing amusement to the king. He had heard too much.
He believed no longer in her purity. And very soon, as a natural
consequence, she ceased to interest him. The vague wish to get rid of
her would for some time suggest no hopeful devices towards such a
purpose. For some months, apparently, he simply neglected her. This
neglect unhappily it was that threw her unprotected upon the vile
society of young libertines. Two of these--Sir Henry Norris and Sir
Francis Weston--had been privileged friends of the king. But no
restraints of friendship or of duty had checked their designs upon the
queen. Either special words, or special acts, had been noticed and
reported to the king. Thenceforward a systematic watch had been
maintained upon all parties. Discoveries more shocking than anybody
looked for had been made. The guilty parties had been careless: blind
themselves, they thought all others blind; but, during the April of
1536, the Privy Council had been actively engaged in digesting and
arranging the information received.

On May-day, the most gladsome day in the whole year, according to the
usages of that generation, the dreadful news transpired of the awful
accusations and the impending trials. Smeton, a musician, was the only
person not of gentlemanly rank amongst the accused. He was accused of
adultery with the queen; and he confessed the offence; never
retracting that part of his confession. In discussing the
probabilities of the case, it is necessary to use special and
extraordinary caution. The confession, for instance, of Anne herself
has been treated as hollow and unmeaning; because, it is alleged, the
king's promise of indulgence and favour to her infant daughter was
purchased under the condition of confession. It is clear that such a
traffic would not have been available except in special and
exceptional cases. As to Smeton, he did not at all meet the king's
expectations, except as to the one point of confessing the adultery.
Consequently, as he was quite disinterested, had nothing at all to
gain, and did gain nothing by his confession, _him_ we are obliged to
believe. On the other hand, the _non_-confession of some amongst the
gentlemen, if any there were that steadfastly adhered to this
non-confession, proves nothing at all; since _they_ thought it perfidy
to confess such a case against a woman. Meantime, Constantyne, a known
friend of Sir H. Norris and of Sir W. Brereton, two of the four
gentlemen accused, declares that, for himself, being a Protestant, and
knowing the queen's secret leaning to that party, he and all other
'friends of the gospel' could not bring themselves to believe that the
queen had behaved so abominably. 'As I may be saved before God,' he
says, 'I could not believe it, afore I heard them speak at their
death. But on the scaffold, in a manner _all_ confessed, unless
Norris; and as to _him_, what he said amounted to nothing.' The truth
is, there occurred in the cases of these gentlemen a dreadful
struggle. The dilemma for _them_ was perhaps the most trying upon
record. Gallantry and manly tenderness forbade any man's confessing,
for a certain result of ruin to a woman, any treasonable instances of
love which she had shown to him. Yet, on the other hand, to deny was
to rush into the presence of God with a lie upon their lips. Hence the
unintelligible character of their final declarations. Smeton, as no
gentleman, was hanged. All the other four--Norris, Brereton, Weston,
and Rochford--were beheaded. The four gentlemen and Smeton suffered
all on the same day--namely, Wednesday, the 17th of May. Of all the
five, Sir W. Brereton was the only one whose guilt was doubted. Yet he
was the most emphatic in declaring his own guilt. If he could die a
thousand deaths, he said, all would be deserved.

But the crime of all the rest seemed pale by the side of Rochford's.
He had been raised to the peerage by Henry, as an expression of his
kindness to the Boleyn family. He was the brother of Anne; and whilst
the others had offended by simple adultery with Anne, _his_ crime was
incestuous adultery; and his dying words appeared (to the _auditors_),
'if not,' says Mr. Froude, 'a confession, yet something too nearly
resembling it.'

From such dreadful offences, all readers are glad to hurry away; yet
in one respect this awful impeachment has a reconciling effect. No
reader after this wishes for further life to Anne. For her own sake it
is plain that through death must lie the one sole peaceful solution of
her unhappy and erring life. Some people have most falsely supposed
that the case against the brother and sister, whatever might be
pronounced upon the four other cases, laboured under antecedent
improbabilities so great as to vitiate, or to load with suspicion, the
entire case of the Privy Council. But, on the contrary, the shocking
monstrosity of the charge strengthens the anti-Boleyn impeachment. As
a means for getting rid of Anne, the Rochford case was not at all
needed. If it could even in dreams be represented as false, the injury
offered to the Boleyns, whilst quite superfluous for any purpose of
Henry's, would be too atrocious an outrage upon truth and natural
justice for human nature to tolerate. The very stones would mutiny
against such a calumny coming as a crown or crest to other injuries
separately unendurable, if they could once be regarded as injuries at
all. Under these circumstances, what should we think of a call upon
Lord Berkshire, the very father of Anne Boleyn, to sit as one of the
judges upon the cases. Not, indeed, upon the cases of his son and his
daughter; from such Roman trials of fortitude he was excused; but on
the other cases he was required to officiate as one of the judges.
And, in fact, the array of rank and splendour, as exhibited in the
persons of those who composed the court, surpassed anything previously
known in England. On the part of the crown, it was too keenly felt
that the deep personal interest of the king, in obtaining liberty to
form a new marriage connection with Jane Seymour, would triumphantly
outweigh all the justice that ever could be arrayed against the two
Boleyns. Nothing could win a moment's audience for the royal cause,
except an unparalleled and matchless splendour in the composition of
the court. This, therefore, was secured. Pretty nearly the whole
peerage of that period was embattled upon the bench of judges.

Meantime, the tragedy, so far as the queen is concerned, took a turn
which convicts all parties of a blunder; of a blunder the most
needless and superfluous. This blunder was exposed by Bishop Burnet
about a hundred and fifty years later, but most insufficiently
exposed; and to this hour it has not been satisfactorily cleared up.
Let us pursue the arrears of the case. The four gentlemen, together
with Mark Smeton, were executed (as we have seen) on Wednesday, the
17th of May, 1536. Two days later Queen Anne Boleyn was brought out at
noonday upon the verdant lawn within the Tower, and with very slight
ceremonies she suffered decapitation. A single cannon-shot proclaimed
to London and Westminster the final catastrophe of this unhappy
romance. Anne had offered not one word of self-vindication on this
memorable occasion; and, if her motive to so signal a forbearance were
really consideration for the interests of her infant daughter, it must
be granted that she exhibited, in the farewell act of her life, a
grandeur of self-conquest which no man could have anticipated. For
this act she has never received the homage which she deserved; whilst,
on the other hand, praise most unmerited has been given for three
centuries to the famous letter of self-defence which she is reputed to
have addressed to the king at the opening of her trial. This letter,
beyond all doubt a forgery, was first brought into effectual notice by
the _Spectator_ somewhere about 1710; and, whether authentic or not,
is most injudiciously composed. It consists of five paragraphs, each
one of which is pulling distractedly in contradictory directions.

Meantime, that or any other act of Anne Boleyn's was superseded by a
fatal discovery, which changed utterly the relations of all parties,
which in effect acquitted Anne of treason, and which summarily
rehabilitated as untainted subjects of the king those five men who had
suffered death in the character of traitors. The marriage of Anne to
the king, it was suddenly discovered, had from the beginning been
void. It is true that we have long ceased to accredit those objections
from precontracts, &c., which in the papal courts would be held to
establish a nullity. But we are to proceed by the laws as then
settled. Grounds of scruple, which would now raise at most a mere case
of irregularity, at that time, unless met _ab initio_ by a papal
dispensation, did legally constitute a flaw such as even a friendly
pope could not effectually cure; far less that angry priest, blazing
up with wrath, and at intervals meditating an interdict, who at
present occupied the chair of St. Peter. Here was a discovery to make,
after so much irreparable injustice had been already perpetrated! If
(which is too certain), under the marriage laws then valid, Anne
Boleyn never had been the lawful wife of Henry, then, as Bishop Burnet
suddenly objected when too late by one hundred and fifty years, what
became of the adultery imputed to Anne, and the five young courtiers?
Not being the king's wife, both _she_ was incapable in law of
committing adultery as against the king, and by an inevitable
consequence _they_ were incapable of participating in a crime which
she was incapable of committing.

When was this fatal blunder detected? Evidently before any of the
victims had become cold in their graves. And the probability is--that,
when the blunder was first perceived, the dreadful consequences of
that blunder, and the legal relations of those consequences, were not
immediately discerned. What convinces us of this is, that the first
impulse of the king and his advisers, upon discovering through a
secret communication made by Anne the existence of a precontract, and
the consequent vitiation of her marriage with the king, had been, to
charge upon Anne a new and scandalous offence. Not until they had
taken time to review the case, did they become aware of the injustice
that had been perpetrated by their own precipitance: and as this was
past all reparation, probably it was agreed amongst the few who were
parties to the fatal oversight, that the safest course was to lock up
the secret in darkness. But it is singular to watch the fatality of
error which pursued this ill-starred marriage. Every successive
critic, in exposing the errors of his predecessor, has himself
committed some fresh blunder. Bishop Burnet, for instance, first of
all in a Protestant age indicated the bloody mistakes of papal lawyers
in 1536; not meaning at all to describe these mistakes as undetected
by those who were answerable for them. Though hushed up, they were
evidently known to their unhappy authors. Next upon Burnet, down comes
Mr. Froude. Burnet had shaped his criticism thus: 'If,' he says, 'the
queen was not married to the king, there was no adultery.' Certainly
not. But, says Mr. Froude, Burnet forgets that she was condemned for
conspiracy and incest, as well as for adultery. Then thirdly come we,
and reverting to this charge of forgetfulness upon Burnet, we say,
Forgets! but how was he bound to remember? The conspiracy, the incest,
the adultery, all alike vanish from the record exactly as the
character of wife vanishes from Anne. With any or all of these crimes
Henry had no right to intermeddle. They were the crimes of one who
never had borne any legal relation to him; crimes, therefore, against
her own conscience, but not against the king in any character that he
was himself willing permanently to assume.

On this particular section of Henry's reign, the unhappy episode of
his second wife, Mr. Froude has erred by insufficient rigour of
justice. Inclined to do more justice than is usually done to the king,
and not blind to the dissolute character of Anne, he has yet been
carried, by the pity inalienable from the situation, to concede more
to the pretences of doubt and suspense than is warranted by the
circumstances of the case. Anne Boleyn was too surely guilty up to the
height of Messalina's guilt, and far beyond that height in one
atrocious instance.

Passing from _that_ to the general pretensions of this very eloquent
and philosophic book, we desire to say--that Mr. Froude is the first
writer (first and sole) who has opened his eyes to comprehend the
grandeur of this tremendous reign.


In now reproducing the three series of notes on the Indian Mutiny
written by DE QUINCEY for me in _Titan_, I must advert briefly to the
agony of apprehension under which the two earlier chapters were
written. I can never forget the intense anxiety with which he studied
daily the columns of _The Scotsman_ and _The Times_, looking wistfully
for tidings from Roorkhee where his daughter FLORENCE was shut up. The
father's heart was on the rack until news arrived that the little
garrison was saved.

The following paragraph from a letter written to his daughter EMILY on
Sunday, December 1st, 1857, will give some idea of the tension of that
terrible suspense:--

'INDIA.--Up to the last mail but one (or briefly in its Latin form, up
to the penultimate mail), I suffered in my nervous system to an extent
that (except once, in 1812) had not experimentally been made known to
me as a possibility. Every night, oftentimes all night long, I had the
same dream--a vision of children, most of them infants, but not all,
the _first_ rank being girls of five and six years old, who were
standing in the air outside, but so as to touch the window; and I
heard, or perhaps fancied that I heard, always the same dreadful word
_Delhi_, not then knowing that a word even more dreadful---
Cawnpore--was still in arrear. This fierce shake to my nerves caused
almost from the beginning a new symptom to expose itself (of which
previously I never had the faintest outline), viz. somnambulism; and
now every night, to my great alarm, I wake up to find myself at the
window, which is sixteen feet from the nearest side of the bed. The
horror was unspeakable from the hell-dog Nena or Nana; how if this
fiend should get hold of FLORENCE or her baby (now within seventeen
days of completing her half year)? What first gave me any relief was a
good firm-toned letter, dated _Rourkee_,[56] in the public journals,
from which it was plain that _Rourkee_ had found itself able to act

[Footnote 56: Anglo-Indian authorities seem to spell this word in four
different ways.--H.]

DE QUINCEY had reason to be proud of his son-in-law, COLONEL BAIRD
SMITH, whose varied and brilliant services, culminating at the siege
of Delhi, are written in the pages of SIR JOHN KAYE'S and COLONEL
MALLESON'S _History of the Sepoy War_.

On that fateful day at Delhi, when so much hung upon the decision as
to whether the British should hold the ground they had won in the
first assault, it is not too much to say that 'the splendid obstinacy'
of BAIRD SMITH practically saved India.

I throw together a few passages from the thrilling pages where the
story is told--sufficient to enable the reader who comes fresh to the
subject, to understand what manner of man this gallant engineer was
who made his mark on British India.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rúrki (or Roorkhee) was the head-quarters of the Engineering Science
of the country. When the news came of the Delhi massacre, BAIRD SMITH
instantly made 'admirable arrangements for the defence of the great
engineering depot, in which he took such earnest and loving interest.
Officially, he was superintendent of irrigation in the north-western
provinces--a most useful functionary, great in all the arts of peace,
and with a reputation which any man might be proud to possess. But the
man of much science now grew at once into the man of war, and Rúrki
became a garrison under his command. Not an hour was lost.'

       *       *       *       *       *

His timely express to MAJOR CHARLES REID to bring his men on by the
Ganges Canal route instead of by forced marches was an early evidence
of his combination of dash and sound judgment. REID said, that it
saved the place and the lives of the ladies and children.

From the hour that he made his appearance before Delhi as Chief
Engineer, a succession of incidents stand on record which show his
skill and courage. On the first occasion of BRIGADIER-GENERAL WILSON
consulting him professionally, 'he threw all the earnestness of his
nature into a great remonstrance against the project of withdrawal. He
told the General that to raise the siege would be fatal to our
national interests. 'It is our duty,' he said, 'to retain the grip
which we now have upon Delhi, and to hold on like Grim Death until the
place is our own.' He argued it ably. WILSON listened, and was

In that supreme moment at the storming of Delhi, when the repulse of
two columns, the heavy losses, and the great strength of the place
caused the General to hesitate whether to continue the operations,
England had cause to feel thankful for the tenacity and daring of two
of her sons:--

'From this fatal determination GENERAL WILSON was saved by the
splendid obstinacy of BAIRD SMITH, aided by the soldier-like instincts
of NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN.... The General undoubtedly believed that the
safety of the army would be compromised by the retention of the
positions they had gained. Fortunately, BAIRD SMITH was at his elbow.
Appealed to by GENERAL WILSON as to whether he thought it possible for
the army to retain the ground they had won, his answer was short and
decisive, "We _must_ do so!" That was all. But the uncompromising
tone, the resolute manner, the authority of the speaker, combined to
make it a decision against which there was no appeal. GENERAL WILSON
accepted it.... It is not too much to affirm, that a retrograde
movement would, for the time, have lost India.'

       *       *       *       *       *

In spite of the sufferings attendant on a severe wound, the
indomitable spirit of this brave soldier carried him through all
trials until India was practically saved. Then, shattered by his many
exertions, the breathing time came too late. His career is thus summed
up in the following inscription on his tomb in Calcutta Cathedral:--

'COLONEL RICHARD BAIRD SMITH of the Bengal Engineers, Master of the
Calcutta Mint, C.B. and A.D.C. to the Queen, whose career, crowded
with brilliant service, cut short at its brightest, was born at
Lasswade on the 31st of December, 1818. He went to India in 1836.
Already distinguished in the two Sikh wars, his conduct on the
outbreak of revolt in 1857 showed what a clear apprehension, a stout
heart, and a hopeful spirit could effect with scanty means in crushing
disorder. Called to Delhi as chief engineer, his bold and ready
judgment, his weighty and tenacious counsels, played a foremost part
in securing the success of the siege and England's supremacy. The
gathered wisdom of many years spent in administering the irrigation of
Upper India, trained him for his crowning service--the survey of the
great famine of 1861, the provision of relief, and the suggestions of
safeguards against such calamities. Broken by accumulated labours, he
died at sea, Dec. 13, 1861, aged scarcely 43 years. At Madras, where
his Indian career began, his body awaits the resurrection.'

His great work, the _Report on Italian Irrigation_, published with
maps and plans in 1852, remains a monument of his engineering ability.
COLONEL BAIRD SMITH also published:--

(1) _Agricultural Resources of the Punjab._ London:
1849. 8vo.

(2) _The Cauvery, Kistnah, and Godavery; being a
report on the works constructed on these rivers for the
Irrigation of the provinces of Tanjore, Guntoor,
Masulipatam, and Rajahmundry, in the Presidency of
Madras._ London: 1856. 8vo.

(3) _A Short Account of the Ganges Canal, with a
description of some of the Principal Works._ 40 pp.
Thomason College Press, Roorkee: 1870. 8vo.--H.



(_September, 1857._)

From the foundations of the earth, no case in human action or
suffering has occurred which could less need or less tolerate the aid
of artificial rhetoric than that tremendous tragedy which now for
three months long has been moving over the plains of Hindostan. What
in Grecian days were called _aporreta_ ([Greek: aporrhêta]), things
not utterable in human language or to human ears--things
ineffable--things to be whispered--things to dream of, not to
tell[57]--these things amongst high-caste Brahmims, and amongst the
Rajapoots, or martial race of heroes; have been the common product of
the passing hour.[58] Is this well? Is this a fitting end for the
mighty religious system that through countless generations has
overshadowed India? Yes, it _is_ well: it _is_ a fitting end for that
man-destroying system, more cruel than the bloody religions of Mexico,
which, for the deification of the individual, made hopeless Helots of
the multitude. Henceforward CASTE _must_ virtually be at an end. Upon
_caste_ has our Bengal army founded a final treason bloodier and
larger than any known to human annals. Now, therefore, mere instincts
of self-preservation--mere shame--mere fiery stress of necessity, will
compel our East India Directory (or whatsoever power may now under
parliamentary appointment inherit their responsibilities) to
proscribe, once and for ever, by steadfast exclusion from all
possibility of a martial career--to ruin by _legal_ degradation and
incapacities, all Hindoo pretensions to places of trust, profit, or
public dignity which found themselves upon high caste, as Brahmins or
Rajapoots. Yes, it _is_ well that the high-_caste_ men, who existed
only for the general degradation of their own Hindoo race in humbler
stations, have themselves severed the links which connected them with
the glory (so unmerited for _them_) of a nobler Western nationality.
Bought though it is by earthly ruin, by torment, many times by
indignities past utterance inflicted upon our dear massacred sisters,
and upon their unoffending infants, yet for that very reason we must
now maintain the great conquest so obtained. There is no man living so
base--no, there is not a felon living amongst us, who could be
persuaded to repeat the act of the Grecian leader Agamemnon--namely,
to sacrifice his innocent daughter, just entering the portals of life
in its most golden stage, on the miserable pretence of winning a
_public_ benefit; masking a diabolical selfishness by the ostentation
of public spirit. Yet if some calamity, or even some atrocity, _had_
carried off the innocent creature under circumstances which involved
an advantage to her country, or to coming generations, the most loving
father might gradually allow himself to draw consolation from the
happy consequences of a crime which he would have died to prevent.
Even such a mixed necessity of feeling presses upon ourselves at
present. From the bloody graves of our dear martyred sisters,
scattered over the vast plains of India, rises a solemn adjuration to
the spiritual ear of Him that listens with understanding. Audibly this
spiritual voice says: O dear distant England! mighty to save, were it
not that in the dreadful hour of our trial thou wert far away, and
heardest not the screams of thy dying daughters and of their perishing
infants. Behold! for us all is finished! We from our bloody graves, in
which all of us are sleeping to the resurrection, send up united
prayers to thee, that upon the everlasting memory of our hell-born
wrongs, thou, beloved mother, wouldst engraft a counter-memory of
everlasting retribution, inflicted upon the Moloch idolatries of
India. Upon the pride of _caste_ rests for its ultimate root all this
towering tragedy, which now hides the very heavens from India. Grant,
therefore, O distant, avenging England--grant the sole commensurate
return which to us _can_ be granted--us women and children that trod
the fields of carnage alone--grant to our sufferings the virtue and
lasting efficacy of a _lutron_ ([Greek: lutron]), or ransom paid down
on behalf of every creature groaning under the foul idol of caste.
Only by the sufferance of England can that idolatry prosper. Thou,
therefore, England, when Delhi is swept by the ploughshare and sown
with salt, build a solitary monument to us; and on its base inscribe
that the last and worst of the murderous idolatries which plagued and
persecuted the generations of men was by us abolished; and that by
women and children was the pollution of caste cleansed from the earth
for ever!

[Footnote 57: 'A sight to dream of, not to tell.'--_Coleridge._]

[Footnote 58: Twenty-three and twenty-eight thousand of these two
orders we have in our Bengal army.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Now let us descend into the circumstantialities of the case,
explaining what may have been obscure to the general reader. By which
term _general reader_ is meant, that reader who has had no reason for
cultivating any acquaintance whatever with India; to whom, therefore,
the whole subject is unbroken ground; and who neither knows, nor
pretends to know, the merest outline of our British connection with
India; what first carried us thither; what accidents of good luck and
of imminent peril raised us from a mere commercial to a political
standing; how we improved this standing by prodigious energy into the
position of a conquering state; prospered rapidly by the opposition
which we met; overthrew even our European competitors, of whom the
deadliest were the French; pursued a difficult war with an able
Mahometan upstart, Hyder Ali--a treacherous and cruel prince; next
with his son, Tippoo Sahib, a still more ferocious scoundrel, who, in
his second war with us, was settled effectually by one thrust of a
bayonet in the hands of an English soldier. This war, and the
consequent division of Tippoo's dominions, closed the eighteenth
century. About 1817 we undertook the great Mahratta war; the
victorious termination of which placed us, after sixty years of
struggle, in the supreme rank amongst Indian potentates. All the rest
of our power and greatness accrued to us by a natural and spontaneous
evolution of consequences, most of which would have followed us as if
by some magnetic attraction, had we ourselves been passive. No
conquering state was ever yet so mild and beneficent in the spirit of
its government, or so free from arrogance in its demeanour. An
impression thoroughly false prevails even amongst ourselves, that we
have pursued a systematic course of usurpations, and have displaced
all the _ancient_ thrones of Hindostan. Unfortunately for this
representation, it happens that all the leading princes of India whose
power and rank brought them naturally into collision with ourselves,
could not be ancient, having been originally official dependants upon
the great Tartar prince, whose throne was usually at Agra or Delhi,
and whom we called sometimes the Emperor, or the Shah, or more often
the _Great Mogul_. During the decay of the Mogul throne throughout the
eighteenth century, these dependent princes had, by continual
encroachments on the weakness of their sovereign, made themselves
independent rulers; but they could not be older than the great Mogul
Shah himself, who had first created them. Now the Mogul throne was
itself a mere modern creation, owing its birth to Baber, the
great-grandson of Tamerlane. But Baber, the eldest of these Tartar
princes, synchronised with our English Henry VIII. In reality, there
was nothing old in India that could be displaced by us; at least
amongst the Mahometan princes. Some ancient Hindoo Rajahs there were
in obscure corners, but without splendour of wealth or military
distinction; and the charge of usurpation was specially absurd, since
we pre-eminently were the king-makers, the king-supporters, the
king-pensioners, in Hindostan; and excepting the obscure princes just
mentioned, almost every Indian prince, at the time of our opening
business in the political line, happened to be a usurper. We ourselves
made the Rajah of Oude into a king; we ourselves more than once saved
the supreme Shah (_i. e._ the Great Mogul) from military ruin, and for
many a year saved _him_ and _his_ from the painful condition of
insolvency. But all this is said in the way of parenthesis. In another
number, a sketch of our Indian Empire, in its growth and early
oscillations, may be presented to the reader, specially adapted to the
use of those whose reading has not lain in that direction. Now let us
return to the great domineering question of the hour--the present
tremendous revolt on the part of seventy or eighty thousand men in our
Bengal Presidency.

This mutiny we propose to notice briefly but searchingly under three
heads--first, in its relation to the mutineers themselves; next, in
its relation to ourselves; but, subdividing that question, we will
assign the second head to the consideration of its probable bearing on
our political credit and reputation; whilst the third head may be
usefully given to the consideration of its bearing on our pecuniary
interests, and our means of effectual reparation for the ruins left
behind by rebellion, and by the frantic spasms of blind destruction.

First, then, let us look for a moment at this great tumultuary
movement, as it points more or less obscurely to the ulterior purposes
of the mutineers, and the temper in which they pursue those purposes.
In a newspaper of Saturday, August 15, we observe the following
sentence introductory to a most unsatisfactory discussion of the
Indian revolt:--'The mutiny in India, from the uninterrupted nature of
its progress, and its rapid spread through every considerable station,
shows a power of combination and determination which has never before
been given credit for to the native Indian mind.' This passage is
cited by us, not for anything plausible in its views, but for the
singular felicity of contradiction which fortunately it offers to
every indication of the true disposable ability that is now, or ever
has been, at the service of the insurgents. This, indeed, is rapidly
becoming of very subordinate importance; since the ablest rebel,
without an army, must be contemptible enough. But with a view to the
larger question--What quality of opposition is ever likely to be
brought into play against us, not in merely military displays, but in
the secret organisation of plots and local tumults, propagated over
extensive provinces? Some degree of anxiety is reasonable under any
possible condition of the army; and this being so, it is satisfactory
to observe, now in 1857, the same childishness and defect of plan and
coherent purpose as have ever characterised the oriental mind. No
foresight has been exhibited; no concert between remote points; no
preparation; no tendency towards combined action. And, on the other
hand, it is most justly noticed by a new London paper, of the same
date--namely, the _People_--that it is perfectly dazzling to the mind
to review over the whole face of India, under almost universal
desertion, the attitude of erectness and preparation assumed by the
scattered parties of our noble countrymen--'everywhere' (says the
_People_) 'driven to bay, and everywhere turning upon and scattering
all assailants. From all parts is the same tale. No matter how small
the amount of the British force may be, if it were but a captain's
company, it holds its own.' On the other hand, what single success
have the rebels achieved? Most valiant, no doubt, they have shown
themselves in hacking to pieces poor fugitive women, most intrepid in
charging a column of infants. Else, what have they to show? Delhi is
the solitary post which they have for the moment secured; but even
that through the incomprehensible failure of the authorities at
Meerut, and not through any vigour manifested by themselves. Any
uneasiness which still possesses the minds of close observers fastens
upon these two points--first, upon the disarmings, as distinguished
from the desertions; secondly, upon the amount, and probable
equipment, and supposed route of stragglers. It is now said that the
mutiny has burned itself out from mere defect of fuel; there _can_ be
no more revolts of sepoys, seeing that no sepoys now remain to revolt;
that is, of the Bengal force. But in this general statement a great
distinction is neglected. Regiments once disarmed, if also _stripped
of their private arms_, whether deserters or not, are of slight
account; but the grave question is this--how many of (say seventy)
regiments have gone off _previously_ to the disarming. Even in that
case, the most favourable for _them_ where arms are secured, it is
true that ammunition will very soon fail them; but still their
bayonets will be available; and we believe that the East India
infantry carry swords. A second anxiety connects itself with the vast
number of vagrant marauding soldiers, having power to unite, and to
assail small detached stations or private bungalows. Yet, again, in
cases known specially to ourselves, the inhabitants of such small
insulated stations had rapidly fortified the buildings best fitted for
defence. Already, by the 18th of May, in a station not far from Delhi,
this had been effected; every native servant, male or female, had been
discharged instantly; and perhaps they would be able to strengthen
themselves with artillery. The horrors also of the early murders at
Delhi would be likely to operate beneficially, by preventing what
otherwise is sure to happen--namely, the disposition to relax in
vigilance as first impressions wear off. Considering, upon the whole,
the amount of regiments that may be assumed as absolutely disarmed and
neutralised; and, on the other hand, counting the 5000 and upwards of
troops intercepted on their route to Hong-Kong, and adding these to at
least 25,000 of Queen's troops previously in the country, counting
also the faithful section of the Sikhs, the Ghoorkas, and others that
could be relied on, the upshot must be, that at least 40,000 troops of
the best quality are scattered between the Hoogly and the Sutlege (or,
in other words, between Calcutta and Loodiana[59]). Beyond a few
casual outrages on some small scale, we hope that no more of bloody
tragedies can be _now_ (August 25) apprehended. But we, that have dear
friends in Bengal, must, for weeks to come, feel restless and anxious.
Still, this is a great mitigation of the horror that besieged our
anticipations six weeks ago.

[Footnote 59: '_Loodiana_:'--The very last station in Bengal, on going
westwards to the Indus. In Runjeet Singh's time this was for many
years the station at which we lodged our Affghan pensioner, the Shah
Soojah--too happy, had he never left his Loodiana lodgings.]

But, having thrown a glance at the shifting aspects of the danger, now
let us alight for a moment on the cause of this dreadful outbreak. We
have no separate information upon this part of the subject, but we
have the results of our own vigilant observations upon laying this
and that together; and so much we will communicate. From the first, we
have rejected incredulously the immoderate effects ascribed to the
greased cartridges; and not one rational syllable is there in the
pretended rumours about Christianising the army. Not only is it
impossible that folly so gross should maintain itself against the
unremitting evidence of facts, all tending in the opposite direction;
but, moreover, under any such idle solution as this, there would still
remain another point unaccounted for, and _that_ is the frantic hatred
borne towards ourselves by many of the rebellious troops. Some of our
hollow friends in France, Belgium, &c., profess to read in this hatred
an undeniable inference that we must have treated the sepoys harshly,
else how explain an animosity so deadly. To that argument we have a
very brief answer, such as seems decisive. The Bengalese sepoy,[60]
when most of all pressed for some rational explanation of his fury,
never once thought of _this_ complaint; besides which, it is too
notorious that our fault has always lain the other way. Heavily
criminal, in fact, we had been by our lax discipline; and in
particular, the following most scandalous breach of discipline must
have been silently connived at for years by British authorities.
Amongst the outward forms of respect between man and man, there is
none that has so indifferently belonged to all nations, as the act of
rising from a sedentary posture for the purpose of expressing respect.
Most other forms of respect have varied with time and with place. The
ancient Romans, for instance, never bowed; and amongst orientals, you
are thought to offer an insult if you uncover your head. In this
little England of ours, who could fancy two stout men curtseying to
each other? Yet this they did, and so recently as in Shakspere's days.
To use his words, they 'crook'd the pregnant hinges of the knee.'
Sometimes they curtseyed with the right knee singly, sometimes with
both, as did Romeo to the fiery Tybalt. Many and rapid, therefore,
were the changes in ceremonial forms, at least with us, the changeable
men of Christendom; else how could it happen that, two hundred and
fifty years back, men of rank in England should have saluted each
other by forms that now would be thought to indicate lunacy? And yet,
violent as the spirit of change might otherwise be, one thing never
changed--the expression of respect between man and man by rising from
their seats.

    'Utque viro sancto _chorus assurrexerit_ omnis'

is a record belonging to the eldest of days; and that it belonged not
to the eldest times only, but also to the highest rank, is involved in
a memorable anecdote from the last days of Julius Cæsar. He, the
mighty dictator--

    'Yes, he, the foremost man of all this world'--

actually owed his assassination, under one representation, to the
burning resentment of his supposed aristocratic hauteur in a public
neglect of this very form. A deputation of citizens, on a matter of
business, had found him seated, and to their immeasurable disgust, he
had made no effort even to rise. His friends excused him on the
allegation, whether true or not, that at the moment he was physically
incapacitated from rising by a distressing infirmity. It might be so:
as Shakspere elsewhere observes, the black silk patch knows best
whether there is a wound underneath it. But, if it were _not_ so, then
the imperial man paid the full penalty of his offence, supposing the
rancorous remembrance of that one neglect were truly and indeed what
armed the Ides of March against his life. But, were this story as
apocryphal as the legends of our nurseries, still the bare possibility
that 'the laurelled majesty'[61] of that mighty brow should have been
laid low by one frailty of this particular description--this
possibility recalls us clamorously to the treasonable character of
such an insolence, when practised systematically for the last eighteen
months by a Pagan hound, by a sepoy from Lucknow or Benares, towards
his British commanding officer. Shall it have been possible that the
founder of the Roman empire died for having ignored the decencies of
human courtesy, perhaps through momentary inattention, by wandering of
thoughts, or by that collapse of energy which sometimes steps between
our earnest intentions and their fulfilment--this man, so august,
shall he have expiated by a bloody death one fleeting moment of
forgetfulness? and yet, on the other hand, under our Indian
government, the lowest of our servants, a mass of carrion from a
brotherhood of Thugs, shall have had free license to insult the
leaders of the army which finds bread for him and his kindred? That
the reader may understand what it is that we are talking of--not very
long ago, in one of the courts-martial occasioned by some explosions
of tentative insubordination preliminary to the grand revolt, a
British officer, holding the rank of lieutenant, made known to the
court, that through the last twelve or eighteen months he had been
struck and shocked by one alarming phenomenon within the cantonments
of the sepoys: formerly, on his entering the lines, the men had risen
respectfully from their seats as he walked along; but since 1854, or
thereabouts, they had insolently looked him in the face, whilst
doggedly retaining their seats. Now this was a punishable breach of
discipline, which in our navy _would_ be punished without fail. Even a
little middy, fresh from the arms of his sisters or his nurse, and who
does not bear any royal commission, as an ensign or cornet in the
army, is thus supported in the performance of his duty, and made
respectable in the eyes of his men, though checked in all explosions
of childish petulance--even to this child, as an officer in command,
respect is exacted; and on the finest arena of discipline ever
exhibited to the world, it is habitually felt that from open
disrespect to the ruin of all discipline the steps of descent are
rapid. This important fact in evidence as to the demeanour of the
sepoy, throws a new light upon the whole revolt. Manifestly it had
been moulding and preparing itself for the last two years, or more.
And those authorities who had tolerated Colonel Wheler for months,
might consistently tolerate this presumption in the sepoy for a year.

[Footnote 60: For the sake of readers totally unacquainted with the
subject, it may be as well to make an explanation or two. The East
India regiments generally run to pretty high numbers--1000 or 1200.
The _high_ commissioned officers, as the captain, lieutenant, &c., are
always British; but the _non-commissioned_ officers are always native
Hindoos--that is, sepoys. For instance, the _naïk_, or corporal; the
_havildar_, or serjeant:--even of the _commissioned_ officers, the
_lowest_ are unavoidably native, on account of the native private.
Note that _sepoy_, as colloquially it is called, but _sipahee_, as in
books it is often written, does not mean Hindoo or Hindoo soldier, but
is simply the Hindoo word for _soldier_.]

[Footnote 61: '_The laurelled majesty_,' &c.:--A flying reference to a
grand expression--_majestas laurea frontis_--which occurs in a Latin
supplement to the _Pharsalia_ by May, an English poet, contemporary
with the latter days of Shakspere.]

       *       *       *       *       *

We had, in reliance upon receiving fuller materials for discussion by
the Eastern mail _arriving_ in the middle of August, promised by
anticipation two heads for our review, which, under the imperfect
explanations received, we are compelled to defer. Meantime, upon each
of these two heads we shall point the attention of our readers to one
or two important facts, First, as regards the sepoy revolt considered
in relation to the future pecuniary burdens on the Bengal exchequer,
it ought to be remembered, that, if (according to a very loose report)
the Company shall finally be found to have lost twenty millions of
rupees, or two millions sterling, by the looting of many local
treasuries, it will, on the other hand, have saved, upon forfeited
pay, and (which is much more important) upon, forfeited pensions, in
coming years, a sum nearly corresponding. Secondly, this _loot_ or
plunder must have served the public interest in a variety of ways. It
must have cramped the otherwise free motions of the rebels; must have
given multiplied temptations to desertion; must have instilled
jealousies of each other, and want of cordial co-operation in regard
to the current plans, and oftentimes murderous animosities in regard
to past transactions--divisions of spoil, or personal competitions.
Thus far, if nothing had been concerned more precious than money, it
is by no means clear that the _public_ service (as distinct from the
interest of private individuals, whose property has been destroyed)
will be found to have very seriously suffered.

The other head, which concerns the probable relation of this
astonishing revolt to the wisdom of our late Indian administration,
finds us, for the present, enveloped in a mystery the most
impenetrable that history, in any of its darkest chapters, has
offered. We have a war on foot with Southern China, or rather with
Canton; and what may be the Chinese object in that war, is hitherto an
impenetrable mystery. But darker and more unfathomable is the mystery
which invests the sepoy insurrection. Besides the notorious fact that
no grievances, the very slightest, have been alleged, it must also be
remembered that we first and solely made a provision for the invalided
and for the superannuated soldier--a thing unheard of throughout Asia.
And this golden reversion, the poor infatuated savages have _wilfully_
renounced! The sole _sure_ result, from this most suicidal of revolts,
is--that unpitied myriads of sepoys will be bayonetted, thousands will
be hanged, and nearly all will lose their pensions.



(_October, 1857._)

An English historian--one amongst many--of our British India, having
never happened to visit any part of that vast region, nor, indeed, any
part of the East, founded upon that accident a claim to a very
favourable distinction. It was, Mr. Mill argued, desirable--it was a
splendid advantage--NOT to have seen India. This advantage he singly,
amongst a crowd of coming rivals and precursors, might modestly plead;
and to that extent he pretended to a precedency amongst all his

The whole claim, and the arguments which supported it, wore the aspect
of a paradox; and a paradox it certainly was--but not, therefore, a
falsehood. A paradox, as I have many times explained, or proposition
contradicting the _doxa_ or public opinion, not only may be true, but
often has been the leading truth in capital struggles of opinion. Not
only the true doctrine, but also, in some branches of science, the
very fundamental doctrine, that which at this day furnishes a
foundation to all the rest, originally came forward as a violent and
revolting, paradox.[62] It is possible enough, therefore, that the
Indian historiographer may have been right, and not merely speciously
ingenious. It is something of a parallel case, which we may all have
known through the candid admissions of the Duke of Wellington, that
the battle of Waterloo might by possibility have been reported as
satisfactorily, on the 18th of June, 1815, from the centre of London
smoke, as from the centre of that Belgian smoke which sat in heavy
clouds throughout the day upon the field of battle. Now and then, it
is true, these Belgian clouds drew up in solemn draperies, and
revealed the great tragic spectacle lying behind them for a brief
interval. But they closed up again, and what the spectator saw through
these fugitive openings would have availed him little indeed, unless
in so far as it was extended and interpreted by _information_ issuing
from the British staff. But this information would have been not less
material and effectual towards a history of the mighty battle, if
furnished to a man sitting in a London drawing-room, than if furnished
to a reporter watching as an eye-witness at Hougoumont.

[Footnote 62: This truth, for the sake of making it more impressive, I
threw long ago into this antithetic form; and I will not scruple, out
of any fear that I may be reproached with repeating myself, to place
it once again on record:--'Not _that_ only is strictly a paradox,
which, being false, is popularly regarded as true;' but that also, and
in a prodigiously greater extent, which, being true, is popularly
regarded as false.]

This one Waterloo illustration, if thoughtfully applied, might yield a
justification for the paradoxical historian. Much more, therefore,
might it yield a justification for us at home, who, sitting at ten
thousand miles' distance, take upon us to better the Indian reports
written on the spot, to correct their errors of haste, or to improve
them by showing the inferences which they authorise. We, who write
upon the awful scenes of India at far-distant stations, do not so
truly enjoy _unequal_ advantages, as we enjoy varying and _dissimilar_

According to the old proverb, the bystander sees more of the game than
those who share too closely in its passions. And assuredly, if it were
asked, what it is that we who write upon Indian news aspire to effect,
I may reply frankly, that, if but by a single suggestion any one of us
should add something to the illumination of the great sepoy
conspiracy--whether as to its ultimate purpose, or as to its
machinery, or as to its wailing hopes, or if but by the merest trifle
any one of us should take away something from the load of anxious
terrors haunting the minds of all who have relations in India--that
man will have earned his right to occupy the public ear. For my own
part, I will not lose myself at present, when so much darkness
prevails on many leading questions, in any views too large and
theoretic for our present condition of light. And that I may not be
tempted into doing so, I will proceed without regard to any systematic
order, taking up, exactly as chance or preponderant interest may offer
them, any urgent questions of the hour, before the progress of events
may antiquate them, or time may exhale their flavour. This desultory
and moody want of order has its attractions for many a state of
nervous distraction. Every tenth reader may happen to share in the
distraction, so far as it has an Indian origin. The same deadly
anxiety on behalf of female relatives, separated from their male
protectors in the centre of a howling wilderness, now dedicated as an
altar to the dark Hindoo goddess of murder, may, in the reader also,
as well as in the writer on Indian news, periodically be called on to
submit to the insurmountable aggravation of delay. In such a case,
what is good for one may be good for another. The same inexpressible
terrors, so long as Nena Sahibs and other miscreant sons of hell are
roaming through the infinite darkness, may prompt the same fretfulness
of spirit; the same deadly irritation and restlessness, which cannot
but sharpen the vision of fear, will sharpen also that of watching
hope, and will continually read elements of consolation or trust in
that which to the uninterested eye offers only a barren blank.


I am not sorry that the first topic, which chance brings uppermost, is
one which overflows with the wrath of inexhaustible disgust. What
fiend of foolishness has suggested to our absurd kinsmen in the East,
through the last sixty years, to generalise themselves under the name
of _Europeans_? As if they were ashamed of their British connections,
and precisely at that moment when they are leaving England, they begin
to assume continental airs; when bidding farewell to Europe, they
begin to style themselves _Europeans_, as if it were a greater thing
to take up a visionary connection with the Continent, than to found a
true and indestructible nobility upon their relationship to the one
immortal island of this planet. There is no known spot of earth which
has exerted upon the rest of the planet one-thousandth part of the
influence which this noble island has exercised over the human
race--exercised through the noblest organs; and yet, behold! these
coxcombs of our own blood have no sooner landed on Indian soil, than
they are anxious to disclaim the connection. Such at least is the
_apparent_ construction of their usage. But mark the illogical
consequences which follow. A noble British regiment suddenly, and for
no rational purpose, receives a new baptism, and becomes a European
regiment. The apologist for this folly will say, that a British
regiment does not necessarily exclude Germans, for instance. But I
answer that it _does_. The British Government have, during this very
month of September, 1857, declared at Frankfort (in answer to
obstinate applications from puppies who fancy that we cannot tame our
rebels without _their_ assistance), '_that the British army, by its
constitution, does not admit foreigners_.' But suppose that accidents
of aristocratic patronage have now and then privately introduced a few
Germans or Swedes into a very few regiments, surely this accident,
improbable already, was not _more_ probable when the regiment was
going away for twenty years (the old term of expatriation) to a
half-year's distance from the Rhine and the Danube. The Germanism of
the regiment might altogether evaporate in the East, but could not
possibly increase. Next, observe this; if we must lose our
nationality, and transmute ourselves into Europeans, for the very
admirable reason that we were going away to climates far remote from
Germany, then, at least, we ought not to call our native troops
_sepoys_, but _Asiatics_. In this way only will there be any logical
parity of antithesis. Scripturally, we are the children of Japheth;
and, as all Asiatics are the sons of Shem, then we shall be able to
mortify their conceit, by calling to their knowledge our biblical
prophecy, that the sons of Japheth shall sit down in the tents of
Shem. But, thirdly, even thus we should find ourselves in a dismal
chaos of incoherences; for what is to become of 'Jack'? Must our
sailors be re-baptised? Must Jack also be a _European_? Think of
Admiral Seymour reporting to the Admiralty as a leader of Europeans!
and exulting in having circumvented Yeh by Her Majesty's European
crews! And then, lastly, come the Marines: must they also qualify for
children of Europe? Was there ever such outrageous folly? One is sure,
in the fine picturesque words of Chaucer, that, 'for very filth and
shame,' neither admiral nor the youngest middy would disgrace himself
by such ridiculous finery from the rag-fair of cosmopolitan swindling.
The real origin of so savage an absurdity is this:--Amongst the
commercial bodies of the three presidencies in all the leading cities,
it became a matter of difficulty often to describe special individuals
in any way legally operative. Your wish was to distinguish him from
the native merchant or banker; but to do this by calling him a British
merchant, &c., was possibly not true, and legally, therefore, not
safe. He might be a Dane, a Russian, or a Frenchman; he was described,
therefore, in a more generalising way, as a European. But a case so
narrow as _that_--a case for pawnbrokers and old clothesmen--ought not
to regulate the usage of great nations. Grand and spirit-stirring
(especially in a land far _distant_ from home) are the recollections
of towns or provinces connected with men's nativities. And poisonous
to all such ancestral inspirations are the rascally devices of shroffs
and money-changers.


That man--I suppose we are all agreed--who commanded in Meerut on
Sunday the tenth day of May, in the year of Christ one thousand eight
hundred and fifty-seven, a day which will furnish an epoch for ever to
the records of civilisation--that man who _could_ have stopped the
bloody kennel of hounds, but did _not_, racing in full cry to the
homes of our unsuspecting brothers and sisters in Delhi--it were good
for that man if he had not been born. He had notice such as might have
wakened the dead early in the afternoon (2 or 3 o'clock P.M., I
believe), and yet, at the end of a long summer day, torchlight found
him barely putting his foot into the stirrup. And why into the stirrup
at all? For what end, on what pretence, should he ever have played out
the ridiculous pantomime and mockery of causing the cavalry to mount?
Two missions there were to execute on that fatal night--first, to save
our noble brothers and sisters at Delhi from a ruin that was destined
to be total; secondly, to inflict instant and critical retribution
upon those who had already opened the carnival of outrage, before they
left Meerut. Oh, heaven and earth! heart so timid was there in all
this world, sense of wrong so callous, as not to leap with frenzy of
joy at so sublime a summons to wield the most impassioned functions of
Providence--namely, hell-born destroyers to destroy in the very
instant of their fancied triumph, and suffering innocence to raise
from the dust in the very crisis of its last despairing prostration.
Reader! it is not exaggeration--many a heart will bear witness in
silence that it is _not_--if I should say that men exist, who would
gladly pay down thirty years of life in exchange for powers so
heavenly for redressing earthly wrongs. To the infamous torpor on that
occasion, and the neglect of the fleeting hour that struck the signal
for delivery and vengeance, are due many hundreds of the piteous
outrages that have since polluted Bengal. Do I mean that, if the rebel
capture of Delhi had been prevented, no subsequent outrages would have
followed? By no means. Other horrors would have been perpetrated; but
that first and greatest (always excepting the case of Cawnpore) would
by all likelihood have been intercepted.[63]

[Footnote 63: Here observe there were 2300 admirable British troops,
and about 700 men of the mutineers, who might then have been attacked
at a great advantage, whilst dispersed on errands of devastation.
Contrast with these proportions the heroic exertions of the noble
Havelock--fighting battle after battle, with perhaps never more than
1700 or 1800 British troops; and having scarcely a gun but what he
captured from the enemy. And what were the numbers of his enemy? Five
thousand in the earlier actions, and 10,000 to 12,000 in the last.]

But perhaps his military means were inadequate to the crisis? He had
duties to Meerut, not less than duties of vengeance and of sudden
deliverance for Delhi. True: he had so; and he had means for meeting
all these duties. He had a well-mounted establishment of military
force, duly organized in all its arms. Three-and-twenty hundreds he
had of British, suitably proportioned as to infantry, cavalry, and
artillery--a little army that would have faced anything that Delhi
could at that time have put forward. Grant that Delhi could have
mustered 5000 men: these are three propositions having no doubtful
bearing upon such a fact:--

1. That cheerfully would this little British force have faced any
Asiatic force of 5000 men, which, indeed, it can hardly be necessary
to say, in the face of so large and so transcendent an experience.

2. That the Delhi force, could have reached the amount supposed of
5000 only after a junction with the Meerut mutineers; which junction
it was the main business of the Meerut commander to intercept.

3. That this computation assumes also the whole of the Delhi garrison
to be well affected to the mutineers; an assumption altogether
unwarrantable on the _outside_ of Delhi during the 10th and 11th of

Such were (1) the _motives_ of the commander at Meerut towards a noble
and energetic resolution; such were (2) his _means_.[64]

[Footnote 64: Mr. D. B. Jones comes forward to defend the commandant
of Meerut. How? The last sentence only of his letter has any sort of
reference to the public accusation; and this sentence replies, but not
with _any_ mode of argument (sound or unsound), to a charge perfectly
irrelevant, if it had ever existed--namely, an imaginary charge
against the little army assembled on May 10 at Meerut. The short and
summary answer is, that no such imaginary charge, pure and absolute
moonshine, was ever advanced against the gallant force at Meerut.

Secondly, if it had, such a charge could have no bearing whatever upon
that charge, loudly preferred against the commander of that district.

Thirdly, the charge has been (I presume) settled as regards its truth,
and any grounds of disputation, this way or that, by the
Governor-General. The newspapers have told us, and have not been
contradicted, that Lord Canning has dismissed this functionary for

Thinking of that vile _lacheté_, which surrendered, with a girl's
tameness, absolutely suffered to lapse, without effort, and as if a
bauble, this great arsenal and magazine into the hands of the
revolters, involuntarily we have regarded it all along as a deadly
misfortune; and, upon each periodic mail, the whole nation has
received the news of its non-capture as a capital disappointment.

But, on steadier consideration, apparently all this must be regarded
as a very great error. Not that it could be any error to have wished
for any course of events involving the safety of our poor slaughtered
compatriots. That event would have been cheap at _any_ price. But that
dismal catastrophe _having_ happened, to intercept that bitter wo
having been already ripened into an impossibility by the 11th and 12th
of May, seven-and-forty days before our thoughts at home began to
settle upon India, thenceforwards it became a very great advantage--a
supreme advantage--that Delhi should have been occupied by the
mutineers. Briefly, then, why?

First of all, because this movement shut up within one ring fence the
_élite_ of the rebels (according to some calculations, at least
three-and-twenty thousand of well-armed and well-disciplined men),
that would otherwise have been roaming over the whole face of Bengal
as marauders and murderers. These men, left to follow their own
vagrant instincts, would, it is true, in some not inconsiderable
proportion, have fallen victims to those fierce reactions of rustic
vengeance which their own atrocities would very soon have provoked.
But large concentrated masses would still have survived in a condition
rapidly disposable as auxiliary bodies to all those towns invested by
circumstances with a partisan interest, such as Lucknow, Benares,
Cawnpore, Agra, Gwalior, and Allahabad.

Secondly, Delhi it was that opened the horrors of retribution; mark
what chastisement it was that alighted from the very first upon all
the scoundrels who sought, and fancied they could not fail to find, an
asylum in Delhi. It is probable that hardly one in twenty of the
mutineers came to Delhi without plunder, and for strong reasons this
plunder would universally assume the shape of heavy metallic money.
For the public treasuries in almost every station were rifled; and
unhappily for the comfort of the robbers under the Bengal sun of June
and July, very much of the East Indian money lies in silver--namely,
rupees; of which, in the last generation, eight were sufficient to
make an English pound; but at present ten are required by the evil
destiny of sepoys. Everybody has read an anecdote of the painter
Correggio, that, upon finishing a picture for some monastery, the
malicious monks paid him for it in copper. The day of payment was hot,
and poor Correggio was overweighted; he lay down under his copper
affliction; and whether he died or not, is more than I remember. But
doubtless, to the curious in Correggiosity, Pilkington will tell. For
the sepoys, although _their_ affliction took the shape of silver, and
not of copper, virtually it was not less, considering the far more
blazing sun. Mephistopheles might have arranged the whole affair. One
could almost hear him whispering to each separate sepoy, as he stood
amongst the treasury burglars, the reflection that those _pensions_,
which the kind and munificent English Government granted to their old
age or their infirmities, all over India, raising up memorial trophies
of public gratitude or enlightened pity, never more would be heard of.
All had perished, the justice that gave, the humble merit that
received, the dutiful behaviour that hoped; and henceforwards of them
and of their names, as after the earliest of rebellions, in the book
of life 'was no remembrance.'

Under these miserable thoughts the vast majority of the sepoys robbed
largely, as opportunities continually opened upon them. Then, and
chiefly _through_ their robberies, commenced their chastisement in
good earnest. Every soldier by every comrade was viewed with hatred
and suspicion; by the common labourer with the scrutiny of deep
self-interest. The popular report of their sudden wealth travelled
rapidly; every road, village, house, whether ahead or on their flanks,
became a place of distrust and anxious jealousy; and Delhi seemed to
offer the only safe asylum. Thither, as to a consecrated sanctuary,
all hurried; and their first introduction to the duties of the new
home they had adopted, would be a harsh and insolent summons to the
chances of a desperate _sortie_ against men in whose presence their
very souls sank. On reviewing the circumstances which _must_ have
surrounded this Delhi life, probably no nearer resemblance to a hell
of apostate spirits has ever existed. Money, carried in weighty
parcels of coin, cannot be concealed. Swathed about the person, it
disfigures the natural symmetries of the figure. The dilemma,
therefore, in which every individual traitor stood was, that, if he
escaped a special notice from every eye, this must have been because
all his crimes had failed to bring him even a momentary gain. Having
no money, he had no swollen trousers. For ever he had forfeited the
pension that was the pledge of comfort and respectability to his
family and his own old age. This he had sacrificed, in exchange
for--nothing at all. But, on the other hand, if his robberies had been
very productive and prosperous, in that proportion he became
advertised to every eye, indicated and betrayed past all concealment
to every ruffian less fortunate as a pillager. Delhi must in several
points have ripened his troubles, and showed them on a magnifying
disk. To have no confidential friend, or adviser, or depositary of a
secret, is an inevitable evil amongst a population constitutionally
treacherous. But now in Delhi this torment takes a more fearful shape.
Every fifth or sixth day, when he is sternly ordered out upon his turn
of duty, what shall he do with his money? He has by possibility 40
lbs. weight of silver, each pound worth about three guineas. In the
very improbable case of his escaping the gallows, since the British
Government will endeavour to net the whole monstrous crew that have
one and all broken the _sacramentum militare_, for which scourging
with rods and subsequent strangulation is the inevitable penalty, what
will remain to his poor family? His cottage, that once had been his
pride, will now betray him, as soon as ever movable columns are
formed, and horse-patrols begin to inspect the roads. But, as to his
money, in nineteen cases out of twenty, he will find himself obliged
to throw it away in his flight, and will then find that through three
months of intolerable suffering he has only been acting as steward for
some British soldier.

The private letters and the local newspapers from many parts of India
having now come in, it is possible through the fearful confusion to
read some facts that would cause despair, were it not for two
remembrances: first, what nation it is that supports the struggle;
secondly, that of the six weeks immediately succeeding to the 10th of
September, no two days, no period of forty-eight hours, _can_ pass
without continued successions of reinforcements reaching Calcutta. It
should be known that even the worst sailers among the transports--namely,
exactly those which were despatched from England through the course of
_July_ (not of August)--are all under contract to perform the voyage in
seventy days; whereas many a calculation has proceeded on the old rate
of ninety days. The small detachments of two and three hundreds,
despatched on every successive day of July, are already arriving at
their destination; and the August detachments, generally much stronger
(800 or 900), all sailed in powerful steamers. Lord Elgin arrived at
Calcutta in time to be reported by this mail, with marines (300) and
others (300), most seasonably to meet the dangers and uproars of the
great Mahometan festival. The bad tidings are chiefly these:--

1. The failure of a night-attack upon the Dinapore mutineers by
detachments from two of our British regiments, with a loss of '200
_killed_'; in which, however, there _must_ be a mistake; for the total
number of our attacking party was only 300. On the other hand, there
may have been some call for a consciously desperate effort; and the
enemy, having two regiments, would muster, probably, very nearly 2000
men; for the sepoy regiments are always strong in numbers, and these
particular regiments had not suffered.

2. Much more ominous than these reports, is an estimate of our main
force before Delhi at less than 2000 men. This, unhappily, is not
intrinsically improbable. The force was, by many persons, never
reckoned at more than 6000 or 7000 men; and this, when reduced by
three-and-twenty conflicts (perhaps more), in which the enemy had the
advantage of artillery more powerful than ours, and (what is worse) of
trained artillerymen more numerous, might too naturally come down to
the small number stated.

3. The doubtful condition of Lucknow, Benares, and Agra comes in the
rear of all this to strike a frost into the heart, or would do so,
again I say, if any other nation were concerned.

4. Worse still, because reluctantly unfolding facts that had
previously been known and kept back, is the state of Bombay. When
retreats on board the shipping are contemplated, or at least talked
of, the mere insulated case of Kolapore becomes insignificant.

5. I read a depressing record in the very quarter whence all our hopes
arise. In summing up the particular transports throughout July whose
destination was Calcutta, I find that the total of troops ordered to
that port in the thirty-one days of July was just 6500, and no more.
Every place was rapidly becoming of secondary importance in comparison
of the area stretching with a radius of 150 miles in every direction
from the centre of Allahabad. And the one capital danger is too
clearly this--that, being unable to throw in _overwhelming_ succours,
those inadequate succours, matched against the countless resources of
Hindoo vagrant ruffianism, may, at the utmost, enable us to keep a
lingering hold, whilst endless successions of incomparably gallant men
fall before our own rifles, our own guns, and that discipline of a
cowardly race which we ourselves have taught. We are true to
ourselves, and ever shall be so: that is a rock to build upon. Yet, if
it should appear by January next that no deep impression has then been
made upon revolting India, it will probably appear the best course to
send no more rivulets of aid; but to _combine_ measures energetically
with every colony or outpost of the empire; to call up even the
marines and such sections of our naval forces as have often
co-operated with the land forces (in the Chinese war especially); and
to do all this with a perfect disregard of money. Lord Palmerston
explained very sufficiently why it is that any powerful squadrons of
ships, which would else have rendered such overwhelming succour
against the towns along the line of the Ganges and Jumna, were
unhappily disqualified for action, by the shallows and sand-banks on
those great rivers. But this apology does not stand good as regards
flotillas of gunboats or rafts with a very light draught of water;
still less as regards the seamen and marines.

I conclude with these notices--too painfully entitled to some
attention. Would to heaven they were _not_!

1. Calcutta itself is not by any means in a state of _security_,
either in the English sense of that word (namely, freedom from
danger), or in its old Latin sense of freedom from the _anxieties_ of
danger. All depends upon the prosperity of our affairs at Delhi,
Lucknow, Agra, Cawnpore, and Allahabad. The possibility of a
fanatical explosion, such as that which occurred recently at Patna,
shows the inefficiency of our precautions and pretended police. I
believe that the _native_ associations formed in Calcutta will be of
little use. Either the members will be sleeping at the moment of
outbreak, or will be separated from their arms. We are noble in our
carelessness; our enemy is base, but his baseness, always in alliance
with cunning and vigilance, tells cruelly against us.

2. It may be feared that the Governor-General has in the following
point lamentably neglected a great duty of his place. It must have
been remarked with astonishment, as a matter almost inexplicable, how
it has arisen that so many gallant men, at the head of every regiment,
should have suffered themselves to be slaughtered like sheep in a
butcher's shambles. Surely five-and-twenty or thirty men, in youthful
vigour, many of them capital shots, could easily have shot down 150 of
the cowardly sepoys. So much work they could have finished with their
revolvers. More than one amongst the ladies, in this hideous struggle,
have shot down their two brace of black scoundrels apiece. But the
officers, having the advantage of swords, would have accounted for a
few score more. Why, then, have they not done this?--an act of energy
so natural to our countrymen when thus roused to unforgiving
vengeance. Simply because they have held themselves most nobly, and in
defiance of their own individual interest, to be under engagements of
fidelity to the Company, and obligations of forbearance to the dogs
whom they commanded, up to the last moment of possible doubt. Now,
from these engagements of honour the Governor-General should, by one
universal act (applicable to the three Presidencies) have absolved
them. For it cannot be alleged _now_ for an instant, that perhaps the
regiments might mean to continue faithful. If they _do_ mean this, no
harm will come to any party from the official dispensing order; the
sepoys could suffer by it only in the case of treachery. And, in the
meantime, there has emerged amongst them a new policy of treason,
which requires of us to assume, in mere self-defence, that _all_
sepoys are meditating treason. It is this: they now reserve their
final treason until the critical moment of action in the very crisis
of battle. Ordered to charge the revolters, they discharge their
carbines over their heads; or, if infantry, they blaze away with blank
cartridge. This policy has been played off already eight or nine
times; and by one time, as it happens, too many; for it was tried upon
the stern Havelock, who took away both horses and carbines from the
offenders. Too late it is _now_ for Bengal to baffle this sharper's
trick. But Bombay and Madras, should _their_ turn come after all,
might profit by the experience.

3. For years it has been our nursery bugbear, to apprehend a Russian
invasion on the Indus. This, by testimony from every quarter (the last
being that of Sir Roderick Murchison, who had travelled over most of
the ground), is an infinitely impossible chimera; or at least until
the Russians have colonized Khiva and Bokhara. Meantime, to those who
have suffered anxiety from such an anticipation, let me suggest one
consolation at least amongst the many horrors of the present scenes in
Bengal--namely, that this perfidy of our troops was not displayed
first in the very agony of conflict with Russia, or some more
probable invader.

4. A dismal suggestion arises from the present condition of Bengal,
which possibly it is too late now to regard as a warning. Ravaged by
bands of marauders, no village safe from incursion, the usual culture
of the soil must have been dangerously interrupted. Next, therefore,
comes FAMINE (and note that the famines of India have been always
excessive, from want of adequate carriage), and in the train of
famine, inaudibly but surely, comes cholera; and then, perhaps, the
guiltiest of races will pay down an expiation at which centuries will
tremble. For in the grave of famishing nations treason languishes; the
murderer has no escape; and the infant with its mother sleeps at last
in peace.

       *       *       *       *       *

_P.S._--The following memoranda, more or less connected with points
noticed in the preceding paper, but received later, seem to merit

1. As to the strength of our army before Delhi, it seems, from better
accounts, to be hardly less than 5000 men, of which one-half are
British infantry; and the besieged seem, by the closest inquiries, to
reach at the least 22,000 men.

2. Colonel Edwardes, so well known in connection with Moultan, has
published an important fact--namely, that the sepoys _did_ rely, in a
very great degree, upon the whole country rising, and that their
disappointment and despair are consequently proportionable.

3. A great question arises--How it was possible for the
sepoys--unquestionably not harbouring the smallest ill-will to the
British--suddenly and almost universally to assail them with
atrocities arguing the greatest. Even their own countrymen, with all
their childish credulity, would not be made to believe that they
really hated people with whom they had never had any but the kindest
and most indulgent intercourse. I should imagine that the solution
must do sought in two facts--first, in the deadly ennui and _tædium_
of sepoy life, which disposes them to catch maniacally at any opening
for furious excitement; but, secondly, in the wish to forward the ends
of the conspiracy under Mahometan misleading. Hence, in particular,
the cruelties practised on women and children: for they argued that,
though the British _men_ would face anything in their own persons
before they would relax their hold on India, they would yet be
appalled by the miseries of their female partners and children.

4. It is most unfair, undoubtedly, to attack any man in our present
imperfect state of information. But some neglects are unsusceptible of
after excuse. One I have noticed, which cannot be denied or varnished,
in Lord Canning. Another is this:--Had he offered 10,000 rupees (£1000
sterling) for the head of Nena Sahib, he would have got it in ten
days, besides inflicting misery on the hell-kite.



(_January, 1858._)

The first question arises upon the true originators, proximate and
immediate, of the mutiny--who were they? This question ploughs deeper
than any which moves under an impulse of mere historic curiosity; and
it is practically the main question. Knowing the true, instant,
operative cause, already we know something of the remedy;--having sure
information as to the ringleaders, we are enabled at once to read
their motives in the past, to anticipate their policy in the
future;--having the _persons_ indicated, those who first incited or
encouraged the felonious agents, we can shorten the course of public
vengeance; and in so vast a field of action can give a true direction
from the first to the pursuit headed by our Indian police. For that
should never be laid out of sight--that against rebels whose _least_
offence is their rebellion, against men who have massacred by torture
women and children, the service of extermination belongs of right to
executioners armed with whips and rods, with the _lassos_ of South
America for noosing them, and, being noosed, with halters to hang
them.[65] It should be made known by proclamation to the sepoys, that
_de jure_, in strict interpretation of the principle concerned, they
are hunted by the hangman; and that the British army, whilst obliged
by the vast scale of the outrages to join in this hangman's chase,
feel themselves dishonoured, and called to a work which properly is
the inheritance of the gallows; and yet, again, become reconciled to
the work, as the purgation of an earth polluted by the blood of the

[Footnote 65: '_To hang them:_'--But with a constant notification
that, _after_ hanging, the criminals would be decapitated: otherwise
the threat loses its sting. It seems to be a superstition universal
amongst Southern Asiatics, unless possibly amongst the Malay race,
that to suffer any dismemberment of the body operates disastrously
upon the fate in the unseen world. And hence, no doubt, it has arisen
that the gallows is not viewed in the light of a degrading punishment.
Immunity from mutilation compensates any ignominy which might else
attend it. Accordingly, we see in China that the innumerable victims
of the present rebellion, captured in the vast province of Quantung by
the cruel Yeh, were all beheaded by the sword in the blood-reeking
privacies of Canton. And two centuries back, when the native dynasty
was overthrown by the last Tartar invasion, the reigning emperor
(having unlimited freedom of choice) ended his career by a halter:
retiring to his orchard, he hanged both himself and his daughter.]

Who then, again I ask--who are those that, after seven months'
watching of the revolt, appeared, by any plausible construction of
events, to have been the primal movers in this hideous convulsion?
Individual opinions on this question, and such as could plead a weight
of authority in regard to experience, to local advantages for
conjecture, and to official opportunities for overlooking intercepted
letters, there have been many; and at first (say from May 10 to the
end of June), in the absence of any strong counter-arguments, some of
these were entitled to the full benefit of their _personal_ weight
(such weight, I mean, as could be drawn from the position or from the
known character of him who announced the opinion). But now--namely,
on the 15th of December (or, looking to India, say the 10th of
November)--we are entitled to something weightier. And what _is_ there
which generally would be held weightier? First, there are the
confessions of dying criminals;--I mean, that, logically, we must
reserve such a head, as likely to offer itself sooner or later.
Tempers vary as to obduracy, and circumstances vary. All men will not
share in the obstinacy of partisan pride; or not, by many degrees,
equally. And again, some amongst the many thousands who leave families
will have favours to ask. They all know secretly the perfect
trustworthiness of the British Government. And when matters have come
to a case of choice between a wife and children, in the one scale, and
a fraternity consciously criminal, in the other, it may be judged
which is likely to prevail. What through the coercion of mere
circumstances--what through the entreaties of wife and children,
co-operating with such circumstances--or sometimes through weakness of
nature, or through relenting of compunction--it is not to be doubted
that, as the cohesion of party begins rapidly to relax under
approaching ruin, there will be confessions in abundance. For as yet,
under the timid policy of the sepoys--hardly ever venturing out of
cover, either skulking amongst bushy woodlands, or sneaking into
house-shelter, or slinking back within the range of their great
guns--it has naturally happened that our prisoners have been
exceedingly few. But the decisive battle before Lucknow will tell us
another story. There will at last be cavalry to _reap_ the harvest
when our soldiery have won it. The prisoners will begin to accumulate
by thousands; executions will proceed through week after week; and a
large variety of cases will yield us a commensurate crop of
confessions. These, when they come, will tell us, no doubt, most of
what the sepoys can be supposed to know. But, meantime, how much is
_that_? Too probably, except in the case of here and there some
specially intelligent or specially influential sepoy officer,
indispensable as a go-between to the non-military conspirators moving
in darkness behind the rebel army, nothing at all was communicated to
the bulk of the privates, beyond the mere detail of movements required
by the varying circumstantialities of each particular case. But of the
ultimate purpose, of the main strategic policy, or of the transcendent
interests over-riding the narrow counsels that fell under the
knowledge of the illiterate soldier, since no part was requisite to
the fulfilment of each man's separate duty, no part would be
communicated. It is barely possible that so much light as may be won
from confessions, combined with so much further light as may be
supposed to lurk amongst the mass of unexamined papers left behind
them by the rebels at Delhi, might tell us something important. But
any result to be expected from the Delhi papers is a doubtful
contingency. It is uncertain whether they will ever be brought under
the review of zeal united to sagacity sufficient for sustaining a
search purely disinterested. Promising no great triumph for any
literary purpose, proving as little, perhaps, one way or other, as the
mathematician in the old story complained that the _Æneid_
proved--these papers, unless worked by an enamoured bookworm (or
paperworm), will probably be confiscated to some domestic purpose, of
singeing chickens or lighting fires.

But, in any case, whether speaking by confessions or by the varied
memoranda (orders to subaltern officers, resolutions adopted by
meetings, records of military councils, petitions, or suggestions on
the public service, addressed to the king, &c.), abandoned in the
palace at Delhi, the soldier can tell no more than he knew, which,
under any theory of the case, must have been very little. Better,
therefore, than all expectations fixed on the vile soldiery, whom, in
every sense, and in all directions, I believe to have been brutally
ignorant, and through their ignorance mainly to have been used as
blind servile instruments--better and easier it would be to examine
narrowly whether, in the whole course and evolution of this stupendous
tragedy, there may not be found some characterising feature or
distinguishing incident, that may secretly report the agency, and
betray, by the style and character of the workmanship, _who_ might be
the particular class of workmen standing at the centre of this
unparalleled conspiracy. I think that we stand in this dilemma:
either, on the one hand, that the miserable sepoys, who were the sole
acting managers, were also the sole contrivers of the plot--in which
case we can look for further light only to the judicial confessions;
or, on the other hand, that an order of agents far higher in rank than
any subaltern members of our army, and who were enabled by this rank
and corresponding wealth to use these soldiers as their dupes and
tools, stood in the background, holding the springs of the machinery
in their hands, with a view to purposes transcending by far any that
could ever suggest themselves to persons of obscure station, having no
prospect of benefiting by their own fullest success. In this case, we
shall learn nothing from the confessions of those who must, upon a
principle of mere self-preservation, have been excluded from all real
knowledge of the dreadful scheme to which they were made parties,
simply as perpetrators of its murders and outrages. Here it is equally
vain to look for revelations from the mercenary workers, who know
nothing, or from the elevated leaders, who know all, but have an
interest of life and death in dissembling their knowledge. Revelations
of any value from those who cannot, and from those who will not,
reveal the ambitious schemes communicated to a very few, are alike
hopeless. In default of these, let us examine if any one incident, or
class of incidents, in the course of these horrors, may not have made
a self-revelation--a silent but significant revelation, pointing the
attention of men to the true authors, and simultaneously to the final
purposes, of this mysterious conspiracy.

Now, it has not escaped the notice of many people that two most
extraordinary classes of outrages, perpetrated or attempted, have
marked a very large majority of the mutinous explosions; outrages that
were in the last degree unnatural, as out of harmony with the whole
temper and spirit of intercourse generally prevailing between the
sepoys and their British officers. The case is peculiarly striking. No
reproach on the character of their manners was ever alleged against
their British officers by any section or subdivision of the sepoy
soldiery. Indeed, the reproach, where any existed, ran in the very
opposite channel. Too great indulgence to the sepoy, a spirit of
concession too facile to their very whims and caprices, and generally
too relaxed a state of discipline--these features it was of the
British bearing towards the native soldiery which too often, and
reasonably, provoked severe censures from the observing. The very
case[66] which I adduced some months back, where an intelligent
British officer, in the course of his evidence before some
court-martial, mentioned, in illustration of the decaying discipline,
that for some considerable space of time he had noticed a growing
disrespect on the part of the privates; in particular, that, on coming
into the cantonments of his own regiment, the men had ceased to rise
from their seats, and took no notice of his presence--this one
anecdote sufficiently exemplified the quality of the errors prevailing
in the deportment of our countrymen to their native soldiery; and that
it would be ludicrous to charge them with any harshness or severity of
manner. Such being too notoriously the case, whence could possibly
arise the bloody carnage by which, in almost every case, the sepoys
inaugurated, or tried to inaugurate, their emancipation from British
rule? Our continental neighbours at first grossly misinterpreted the
case; and more excusably than in many other misinterpretations.
Certainly it was unavoidable at first to read, in this frenzy of
bloodshed, the vindictive retaliations of men that had suffered
horrible and ineffable indignities at our hands. It was apparently the
old case of African slaves in some West Indian colony--St. Domingo,
for instance--breaking loose from the yoke, and murdering (often with
cruel torments) the whole households of their oppressors. But a month
dissipated these groundless commentaries. The most prejudiced
Frenchman could not fail to observe that no sepoy regiment ever
alluded to any rigour of treatment, or any haughtiness of demeanour.
His complaints centred in the one sole subject of religion; even as to
which he did not generally pretend to any certain knowledge, but
simply to a very strong belief or persuasion that we secretly
meditated, not that we openly avowed or deliberately pursued, a
purpose of coercing him into Christianity. This, were it even true,
though a false and most erroneous policy, could not be taxed with
ill-will. A man's own religion, if it is sincerely such, is that which
he profoundly believes to be the truth. Now, in seeking to inoculate
another with that which sincerely he believes to be eminently the
truth, though proceeding by false methods, a man acts in a spirit of
benignity. So that, on all hands, the hellish fury of the sepoy was
felt to be unnatural, artificially assumed, and, by a reasonable
inference, was held to be a mask for something else that he wished to
conceal. But what? What was that something else which he wished to
conceal? The sepoy simulated, in order that he might dissimulate. He
pretended a wrong sustained, that he might call away attention from a
wrong which he designed. At this point I (and no doubt in company with
multitudes beside that had watched the case) became sensible of an
alien presence secretly intruding into this pretended quarrel of the
native soldier. It was no sepoy that was moving at the centre of this
feud: the objects towards which it ultimately tended were not such as
could by possibility interest the poor, miserable, idolatrous native.
What was _he_ to gain by the overthrow of the British Government? The
poor simpleton, who had been decoyed into this monstrous field of
strife, opened the game by renouncing all the vast advantages which he
and his children to the hundredth generation might draw from the
system of the Company, and entered upon a career towards distant
objects that for _him_ have absolutely no meaning or intelligible
existence. At this point it was that two enigmas, previously
insoluble, suddenly received the fullest explanation:--

1. What was the meaning of that hellish fury suddenly developed
towards officers with whom previously the sepoy had lived on terms of
reciprocal amity?

2. What cause had led to that incomprehensible enmity manifested, in
the process of these ferocious scenes, towards the wives and children
of the officers? Surely, if his wish were to eliminate their families
from the Indian territory, that purpose was sufficiently secured by
the massacre of him whose exertions obtained a livelihood for the rest
of the household.

[Footnote 66: This case was entirely misapprehended by a journalist
who happened to extract the passage. He understood me to mean that
this particular mode of disrespect to their British officers had
operated as a _cause_ of evil; whereas I alleged it simply as an
evidence and exponent of evil habits criminally tolerated amongst the
very lowest orders of our mercenary troops.]

It was tolerably certain that the widows and their children would not
remain much longer in the Indian territory, when it no longer offered
them an asylum or a livelihood. Now, since personally, and viewed
apart from their husbands, these ladies could have no interest for
the murdering sepoys, it became more and more unintelligible on what
principle, steady motive, or fugitive impulse, these incarnate demons
could persist in cherishing any feeling whatever to those poor, ruined
women, who, when their anchorage should be cut away by the murder of
their husbands, would become mere waifs and derelicts stranded upon
the Indian shores.

These had seemed at first two separate mysteries not less hard to
decipher than the primal mystery of the mutiny itself. But now all
became clear; whatsoever might be the composition, or character, or
final objects of that tyranny which had decoyed the sepoys under its
yoke, one thing was certain--namely, that the childishness and levity
of the Hindoo sepoy made it difficult in excess to gain any lasting
hold over his mind, or consequently to count upon his lasting
services. But to this general difficulty there had now supervened one
signal aggravation, in a shape hateful to those who encountered
it--namely, the attractions of the British service, which service
would be no sooner abjured than it would be passionately regretted.
Here lay the rock which threatened the free movement of the
insurrection. It was evidently determined by those who meant to
appropriate the services of the sepoys, that they should have no
retreat, no opening for recovering a false step, in the well-known
mercy of the British Government. For _them_ it was resolved that there
should be no _locus penitentiæ_ left open. In order to close for ever
that avenue to all hope of forgiveness, the misleaders of the soldiery
urged them into those atrocities which every nation upon earth has
heard of with horror. The mere fact of these atrocities indicates at
once the overruling influence of such men as Nena Sahib, determined to
place a bar of everlasting separation between the native army and that
government which might else have reclaimed the erring men, had their
offences lain within the reach of lawful forgiveness. The conspirators
having thus divorced the ruling power, as they idly flattered
themselves, from all martial resources, doubtless assumed the work of
revolution already finished by midsummer-day of this present year. And
this account of the course through which that attempted revolution
travelled--according to which, not the sepoys, who could have had no
ambition such as is implied in that attempt, but Indian princes and
rajahs, standing in the background, were the true originators of the
movement--finds an indirect justification of its own accuracy in the
natural solution which it furnishes to those infernal massacres, which
else, as they must remain for ever without a parallel, will also
remain for ever without an intelligible motive. These atrocities were
exacted from the sepoys by the conclave of princes as tests of their
sincerity. Such doubtless was the argument for this exaction, the
ostensible plea put forward to the miserable reptiles who were seduced
into this treason, by the promise no doubt of sharing in the fruits of
the new and mighty revolution. Such pleas were for the sepoy. But for
himself and his own secret benefit the princely seducer needed all
that he could obtain of such accursed acts, as the means sure and
sudden of making the separation between the soldier and the government
more and more irreparable.

So much for the massacre of his officers: but a different reason
availed for the more diabolical outrages upon women and their
children. The murder of the _men_ was extorted from the sepoy as a
kind of sacrifice. With _them_ the reptile had lived upon terms of
humanising intercourse; and, vile as he was, in many cases this must
have slowly ripened into some mode of regard and involuntary esteem;
so that, in murdering the man, oftentimes a sepoy was making a real
(if trifling) sacrifice. But for females he cared nothing at all. And
in my opinion they perished on a very different principle. The male
murders were levied as pledges for the benefit of the princes, and
very distinctly understood to be levied _against_ the wishes of the
sepoy. But in the female sacrifice all parties concurred--sepoy and
prince, tempted and tempter alike. I require you to murder this
officer, as a pledge of your real hostility (which else might be a
pure pretence) to the government. But the murder of the officer's wife
and child rested on a motive totally different--namely,
this:--Throughout Hindostan no feature in the moral aspects of the
British nature could have been so conspicuous or so impressive as the
tenacity of purpose, the persistency, and the dogged resolution never
to relax a grasp once taken. Consequently, had the _men_ of our
nation, and they separately from the women, scattered themselves here
and there over the land (as they have long done in China, for
instance), then, perhaps, the natives, when finding themselves in
conflict with this well-known principle of imperishable tenacity,
would be liable to a sentiment of despair, as in a contest with fate.
And that sentiment would paralyse the Hindoos when entering upon a
struggle for unrooting the British from Hindostan. But here suddenly,
Woman steps in to aid the Hindoo. For the Briton, it is notorious,
would never loosen his hold, more than his compatriot the bull-dog.
But that scene which a man had faced steadily upon his own account, he
shrinks from as a husband or a father. Hence the sepoy attacks upon
women and children.

From hurried writing, it is to be feared that I may have done slight
justice to my own views. Let me conclude this head therefore by
briefly _resuming_.

The argument for tracing back the great conspiracy to the discontented
rajahs is--that otherwise, and supposing the mutiny raised for objects
specially affecting the sepoys, they would _not_ have massacred their
officers. _They_ must have desired to leave an opening for pardon in
the event of failure. That crime was exacted to compromise the native
army effectually with the government. But this in many ways was sure
to operate ruinously for the sepoy interests, and could therefore have
found a sufficient motive only with the native princes.

But the _female_ sacrifice was welcome to all parties. For no doubt
they represented the British officer as saying:--So long as the danger
affected only myself, I would never have relaxed my hold on India; but
now, when the war threatens our women and children, India can no
longer be a home for _us_.

Another urgent question concerns the acts of the Bengal Government.
Many unfounded charges, as in a case of infinite confusion and hourly
pressure, must be aimed at the Governor-General: the probability of
such charges, and the multiplied experience of such charges, makes
reasonable men cautious--in fact, unduly so; and the excess of
caution reacts upon Lord Canning's estimation too advantageously. Lord
Dalhousie is missed; his energy would have shown itself conspicuously
by this time. For surely in such a case as the negotiation with
Bahadoor Jung of Nepaul, as to the Ghoorkas, there can be no doubt _at
present_, though a great doubt, unfairly indulgent to Lord Canning,
was encouraged at first, that most imbecile oscillation governed the
Calcutta counsels. And it is now settled that this oscillation turned
entirely upon a petty personal motive. A subordinate officer had
accepted the Nepaul offer, and by that unauthorised acceptance had
intruded upon the prerogative of Lord Canning. The very same
cause--this jealous punctiliousness of exacting vanity, and not any
wish to enforce the severities of public justice--interfered to set
aside the proclamation of Mr. Colvin at Agra. The insufficiency again
of the steps taken as to Nena Sahib speaks the same language. In this
very journal, full six weeks earlier than in the Calcutta
proclamation, the offer of a large sum[67] for this man's head had
been suggested. That offer was never kept sufficiently before the
public eye. But a grosser neglect than this, as affecting the
condition of many thousands, and not of any single villain, was the
non-employment of the press in pursuing the steps of the mutineers.
Everywhere, as fast as they appeared in any strength, brief handbills
should have been circulated--circumstantially relating their defeats,
exposing their false pretences, and describing their prospects. Once
only the government attempted such a service; and blundered so far as
to urge against the sepoys a reproach which must have been
unintelligible both to them and to all native readers.

[Footnote 67: And imperfectly as the offer was advertised, it seems to
have had considerable effect. Apparently it has extinguished the
Nena's power to show himself, and to move about with freedom. He is
now distrustful and jealous--often no doubt with very little reason.]

Again, a question even more practical and instant arises as to the
modes of public vengeance.

1. If, when finally defeated, and in a military sense destroyed, on
some signal field of battle, the mutineers should fly to the hills in
the great ranges, or the jungle, the main fear would arise not from
_them_, but from the weak compromising government, that would show
itself eager to treat, and make what the Roman law calls a
_transactio_, or half-and-half settlement with any body of sepoys that
showed a considerable strength. But, in such a case, besides that the
rebels, having now no Delhi, will have scanty ammunition, our best
resource would be found in the Spanish bloodhounds of Cuba, which we
British used fifty years back for hunting down the poor negro Maroons
in Jamaica, who were not by a thousand degrees so criminal as the

2. That no wrong is done to the Bengal Government by this anticipation
of an eventual compromise, may be judged by the assertion (resting
apparently on adequate authority), that even at this hour that
government are making it a subject for deliberation and doubt--whether
the sepoys have forfeited their pensions! Doubtless, the Delhi and
Cawnpore exploits merit good-service pensions for life!

3. Others by millions, who come to these questions in a far nobler
spirit, fear that at any rate, and with every advantage for a
righteous judgment, too many of the worst sepoys laden with booty may
find means to escape. To these I would suggest that, after all, the
appropriate, worst, and most hellish of punishments for hellish
malefactors, is mortification and utter ruin in every one of their
schemes. What is the thrust of a bayonet or the deepest of sabre-cuts?
These are over in a few moments. And I with others rejoiced therefore
that so many escaped from Delhi for prolonged torment. That torment
will be found in the ever-rankling deadly mortification of knowing
that in all things they and their wicked comrades have failed; and
that in the coming spring, and amongst the resurrections of spring,
when all will be finished, and the mighty storm will have wheeled
away, there remains for the children of hell only this surviving
consciousness--that the total result has been the awakening of our
Indian Government, and the arming it for ever against a hideous peril,
that might else have overwhelmed it unprepared in an hour of
slumbering weakness. Such a game is played but once; and, having
failed, never again can it be repeated.


(_Two pages written in a Lady's Album._[68])

A false ridicule has settled upon Novels, and upon Young Ladies as the
readers of novels. Love, we are told authoritatively, has not that
importance in the actual practice of life--nor that extensive
influence upon human affairs--which novel-writers postulate, and which
the interest of novels presumes. Something to this effect has been
said by an eminent writer; and the law is generally laid down upon
these principles by cynical old men, and envious blue-stockings who
have outlived their personal attractions. The sentiment however is
false even for the present condition of society; and it will become
continually _more_ false as society improves. For what is the great
commanding event, the one sole revolution, in a woman's life?
Marriage. Viewing her course from the cradle to the grave in the light
of a drama, I am entitled to say that her wedding-day is its
catastrophe--or, in technical language, its _peripeteia_: whatever
else is important to her in succeeding years has its origin in that
event. So much for _that_ sex. For the other, it is admitted that Love
is not, in the same exclusive sense, the governing principle under
which their lives move: but what then are the concurrent forces, which
sometimes happen to coöperate with that agency--but more frequently
disturb it? They are two; Ambition, and Avarice. Now for the vast
majority of men--Ambition, or the passion for personal distinction,
has too narrow a stage of action, its grounds of hope are too fugitive
and unsteady, to furnish any durable or domineering influence upon the
course of life. Avarice again is so repulsive to the native nobility
of the human heart, that it rarely obtains the dignity of a passion:
great energy of character is requisite to form a consistent and
accomplished miser: and of the mass of men it may be said--that, if
the beneficence of nature has in some measure raised them _above_
avarice by the necessity of those social instincts which she has
impressed upon their hearts, in some measure also they sink _below_ it
by their deficiencies in that austerity of self-denial and that savage
strength of will which are indispensable qualifications for the _rôle_
of heroic miser. A perfect miser in fact is a great man, and therefore
a very rare one. Take away then the two forces of Ambition and
Avarice,--what remains even to the male sex as a capital and
overruling influence in life, except the much nobler force of Love?
History confirms this view: the self-devotions and the voluntary
martyrdoms of all other passions collectively have been few by
comparison with those which have been offered at the altar of Love. If
society should ever make any great advance, and man as a species grow
conspicuously nobler, Love also will grow nobler; and a passion, which
at present is possible in any elevated form for one perhaps in a
hundred, will then be coëxtensive with the human heart.

[Footnote 68: This was published in _facsimile_ from the Original MS.
in _The Archivist and Autograph Review_, edited by S. Davey,
F.R.S.L.--June, 1888. [H.]]

On this view of the grandeur which belongs to the passion of Sexual
Love in the economy of life, as it is and as it may be, Novels have an
all-sufficient justification; and Novel-readers are obeying a higher
and more philosophic impulse than they are aware of. They seek an
imaginary world where the harsh hindrances, which in the real one too
often fret and disturb the 'course of true love,' may be forced to
bend to the claims of justice and the pleadings of the heart. In
company with the agitations and the dread suspense--the anguish and
the tears, which so often wait upon the uncertainties of earthly love,
they demand at the hands of the Novelist a final event corresponding
to the natural award of celestial wisdom and benignity. What they are
striving after, in short, is--to realize an ideal; and to reproduce
the actual world under more harmonious arrangements. This is the
secret craving of the reader; and Novels are shaped to meet it. With
what success, is a separate and independent question: the execution
cannot prejudice the estimate of their aim and essential purpose.

Fair and unknown Owner of this Album, whom perhaps I have never
seen--whom perhaps I never _shall_ see, pardon me for wasting two
pages of your elegant manual upon this semi-metaphysical disquisition.
Let the subject plead my excuse. And believe that I am, Fair

Your faithful servant,

_Professor Wilson's--Glocester Place, Edinburgh._

_Friday night, December 3, 1830._


The only one which can be considered satisfactory is that of which a
copy is prefixed to these Volumes. It is from a steel engraving by
Frank Croll, taken at Edinburgh from a daguerreotype by Howie in 1850.

DE QUINCEY'S own opinion of it is expressed to me in the amusing
letter which was published in _The Instructor_ (New Series, vol. vi.
p. 145).


_September 21, 1850._

My Dear Sir,--I am much obliged to you for communicating to us (that
is, to my daughters and myself) the engraved portrait, enlarged from
the daguerreotype original. The engraver, at least, seems to have done
his part ably. As to one of the earlier artists concerned, viz. the
sun of July, I suppose it is not allowable to complain of _him_, else
my daughters are inclined to upbraid him with having made the mouth
too long. But, of old, it was held audacity to suspect the sun's
veracity:--'Solem quis dicere falsum audeat!' And I remember that,
half a century ago, the _Sun_ newspaper, in London, used to fight
under sanction of that motto. But it was at length discovered by the
learned, that Sun _junior_, viz. the newspaper, _did_ sometimes
indulge in fibbing. The ancient prejudice about the solar truth broke
down, therefore, in that instance; and who knows but Sun _senior_ may
be detected, now that our optical glasses are so much improved, in
similar practices? in which case he may have only been 'keeping his
hand in' when operating upon that one feature of the mouth. The rest
of the portrait, we all agree, does credit to his talents, showing
that he is still wide-awake, and not at all the superannuated old
artist that some speculators in philosophy had dreamed of his

As an accompaniment to this portrait, your wish is that I should
furnish a few brief chronological memoranda of my own life. _That_
would be hard for me to do, and _when_ done, might not be very
interesting for others to read. Nothing makes such dreary and
monotonous reading as the old hackneyed roll-call, chronologically
arrayed, of inevitable facts in a man's life. One is so certain of the
man's having been born, and also of his having died, that it is dismal
to lie under the necessity of reading it. That the man began by being
a boy--that he went to school--and that, by intense application to his
studies, 'which he took to be _his_ portion in this life,' he rose to
distinction as a robber of orchards, seems so probable, upon the
whole, that I am willing to accept it as a postulate. That he
married--that, in fulness of time, he was hanged, or (being a humble,
unambitious man) that he was content with deserving it--these little
circumstances are so naturally to be looked for, as sown broadcast up
and down the great fields of biography, that any one life becomes, in
this respect, but the echo of thousands. Chronologic successions of
events and dates, such as these, which, belonging to the race,
illustrate nothing in the individual, are as wearisome as they are

A better plan will be--to detach some single chapter from the
experiences of childhood, which is likely to offer, at least, this
kind of value--either that it will record some of the deep impressions
under which my childish sensibilities expanded, and the ideas which at
that time brooded continually over my mind, or else will expose the
traits of character that slumbered in those around me. This plan will
have the advantage of not being liable to the suspicion of vanity or
egotism; for, I beg the reader to understand distinctly, that I do not
offer this sketch as deriving any part of what interest it may have
from myself, as the person concerned in it. If the particular
experience selected is really interesting, in virtue of its own
circumstances, then it matters not to _whom_ it happened. Suppose that
a man should record a perilous journey, it will be no fair inference
that he records it as a journey performed by himself. Most sincerely
he may be able to say, that he records it not _for_ that relation to
himself, but _in spite of_ that relation. The incidents, being
absolutely independent, in their power to amuse, of all personal
reference, must be equally interesting [he will say] whether they
occurred to A or to B. That is _my_ case. Let the reader abstract from
_me_ as a person that by accident, or in some partial sense, may have
been previously known to himself. Let him read the sketch as
belonging to one who wishes to be profoundly anonymous. I offer it not
as owing anything to its connection with a particular individual, but
as likely to be amusing separately for itself; and if I make any
mistake in _that_, it is not a mistake of vanity exaggerating the
consequence of what relates to my own childhood, but a simple mistake
of the judgment as to the power of amusement that may attach to a
particular succession of reminiscences.

Excuse the imperfect development which in some places of the sketch
may have been given to my meaning. I suffer from a most afflicting
derangement of the nervous system, which at times makes it difficult
for me to write at all, and always makes me impatient, in a degree not
easily understood, of recasting what may seem insufficiently, or even
incoherently, expressed.--Believe me, ever yours,


This letter was a preface to 'A Sketch from Childhood,' of which the
first and second parts appeared in that Volume.

After this came a blank of six months--a whole Volume containing
nothing. In Volume VIII. (January, 1852), 'A Sketch from Childhood'
was resumed with the following whimsical apology. It then ran for five
months consecutively:--

(_January, 1852._)

I understand that several readers of my _Sketch from Childhood_ have
lodged complaints against me for not having pursued it to what they
can regard as a satisfactory close. Some may have done this in a
gentle tone, as against an irreclaimable procrastinator, amiably
inclined, perhaps, to penitence, though constitutionally incapable of
amendment; but others more clamorously, as against one faithless to
his engagements, and deliberately a defaulter. Themselves they regard
in the light of creditors, and me as a slippery debtor, who, having
been permitted to pay his debts by instalments--three, suppose, or
four:--has paid two, and then absconded in order to evade the rest.
Certainly to this extent I go along with them myself, that, in all
cases of a tale or story moving through the regular stages of a plot,
the writer, by the act of publishing the introductory parts, pledges
himself to unweave the whole tissue to the last. The knot that he has
tied, though it should prove a very Gordian knot, he is bound to
untie. And, if he fails to do so, I doubt whether a reader has not a
right of action against him for having wantonly irritated a curiosity
that was never meant to be gratified--for having trifled with his
feelings--and, possibly, for having distressed and perplexed his moral
sense; as, for instance, by entangling the hero and heroine (two young
people that can be thoroughly recommended for virtue) in an Irish bog
of misfortunes, and there leaving them to their fate--the gentleman up
to his shoulders, and the poor lady, therefore, in all probability up
to her lips. But, in a case like the present, where the whole is
offered as a _sketch_, an action would not lie. A sketch, by its very
name, is understood to be a fragmentary thing: it is a _torso_, which
may want the head, or the feet, or the arms, and still remain a
marketable piece of sculpture. In buying a horse, you may look into
his mouth, but not in buying a _torso_: for, if all his teeth have
been gone for ten centuries, which would certainly operate in the way
of discount upon the price of a horse, very possibly the loss would be
urged as a good ground for an _extra_ premium upon the torso. Besides,
it is hard to see how any proper _end_ could be devised for a paper of
this nature, reciting a few incidents, sad and gay, from the records
of a half-forgotten childhood, unless by putting the child to death;
for which dénouement, unhappily, there was no solid historical

Right or wrong, however, my accusers are entitled to my gratitude;
since in the very fact of their anger is involved a compliment. By
proclaiming their indignation against the procrastinating or
absconding sketcher, they proclaim their interest in the sketch; and,
therefore, if any fierce Peter Peebles should hang upon my skirts,
haling me back to work, and denouncing me to the world as a fugitive
from my public duties, I shall not feel myself called upon to
contradict him. As often as he nails me with the charge of being a
skulker from work _in meditatione fugæ_, I shall turn round and nail
_him_ with the charge of harbouring an intense admiration for me, and
putting a most hyperbolical value upon my services; or else why should
he give himself so much trouble, after so many months are gone by, in
pursuing and recapturing me? On this principle, I shall proceed with
others who may have joined the cry of the accusers, obediently
submitting to their pleasure, doing my best, therefore, to supply a
conclusion which in my own eyes had not seemed absolutely required,
and content to bear the utmost severity of their censure as applied to
myself, the workman, in consideration of the approbation which that
censure carries with it by implication to the work itself.


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