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´╗┐Title: Biographia Literaria
Author: Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 1772-1834
Language: English
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By Samuel Taylor Coleridge



      I  Motives to the present work--Reception of the Author's first
           publication--Discipline of his taste at school--Effect of
           contemporary writers on youthful minds--Bowles's Sonnets--
           Comparison between the poets before and since

     II   Supposed irritability of genius brought to the test of
            facts--Causes and occasions of the charge--Its injustice

    III  The Author's obligations to Critics, and the probable
           occasion--Principles of modern criticism--Mr. Southey's
           works and character

     IV  The Lyrical Ballads with the Preface--Mr. Wordsworth's
           earlier poems--On Fancy and Imagination--The investigation
           of the distinction important to the Fine Arts

      V  On the law of Association--Its history traced from Aristotle
           to Hartley

     VI  That Hartley's system, as far as it differs from that of
           Aristotle, is neither tenable in theory, nor founded
           in facts

    VII  Of the necessary consequences of the Hartleian Theory--Of
           the original mistake or equivocation which procured its
           admission--Memoria technica

   VIII  The system of Dualism introduced by Des Cartes--Refined
           first by Spinoza and afterwards by Leibnitz into the
           doctrine of Harmonia praestabilita--Hylozoism--Materialism
           --None of these systems, or any possible theory of
           Association, supplies or supersedes a theory of
           Perception, or explains the formation of the Associable

     XI  Is Philosophy possible as a science, and what are its
           conditions?--Giordano Bruno--Literary Aristocracy, or the
           existence of a tacit compact among the learned as a
           privileged order--The Author's obligations to the Mystics-
           To Immanuel Kant--The difference between the letter and
           The spirit of Kant's writings, and a vindication of
           Prudence in the teaching of Philosophy--Fichte's attempt
           to complete the Critical system-Its partial success and
           ultimate failure--Obligations to Schelling; and among
           English writers to Saumarez

      X  A Chapter of digression and anecdotes, as an interlude
          preceding that on the nature and genesis of the Imagination
          Advice to young authors respecting publication--Various
          anecdotes of the Author's literary life, and the progress
          of his opinions in Religion and Politics

     XI  An affectionate exhortation to those who in early life feel
          themselves disposed to become authors

    XII  A Chapter of requests and premonitions concerning the perusal

   XIII  On the Imagination, or Esemplastic power

    XIV  Occasion of the Lyrical Ballads, and the objects originally
          proposed--Preface to the second edition--The ensuing
          controversy, its causes and acrimony--Philosophic
          definitions of a Poem and Poetry with scholia

     XV  The specific symptoms of poetic power elucidated in a
          Critical analysis of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, and
          Rape of Lucrece

    XVI  Striking points of difference between the Poets of the
          present age and those of the fifteenth and sixteenth
          centuries--Wish expressed for the union of the
          characteristic merits of both

   XVII  Examination of the tenets peculiar to Mr. Wordsworth--
          Rustic life (above all, low and rustic life) especially
          unfavourable to the formation of a human diction-The
          best parts of language the product of philosophers, not of
          clowns or shepherds--Poetry essentially ideal and generic--
          The language of Milton as much the language of real life,
          yea, incomparably more so than that of the cottager

  XVIII  Language of metrical composition, why and wherein essentially
          different from that of prose--Origin and elements of metre
          --Its necessary consequences, and the conditions thereby
          imposed on the metrical writer in the choice of his diction

    XIX  Continuation--Concerning the real object, which, it is
          probable, Mr. Wordsworth had before him in his critical
          preface--Elucidation and application of this

     XX  The former subject continued--The neutral style, or that
         common to Prose and Poetry, exemplified by specimens from
         Chaucer, Herbert, and others

    XXI  Remarks on the present mode of conducting critical journals

   XXII  The characteristic defects of Wordsworth's poetry, with the
         principles from which the judgment, that they are defects,
         is deduced--Their proportion to the beauties--For the
         greatest part characteristic of his theory only


  XXIII  Critique on Bertram

   XXIV  Conclusion

So wenig er auch bestimmt seyn mag, andere zu belehren, so wuenscht
er doch sich denen mitzutheilen, die er sich gleichgesinnt weis, (oder
hofft,) deren Anzahl aber in der Breite der Welt zerstreut ist; er
wuenscht sein Verhaeltniss zu den aeltesten Freunden dadurch wieder
anzuknuepfen, mit neuen es fortzusetzen, und in der letzten Generation
sich wieder andere fur seine uebrige Lebenszeit zu gewinnen. Er wuenscht
der Jugend die Umwege zu ersparen, auf denen er sich selbst verirrte.
(Goethe. Einleitung in die Propylaeen.)

TRANSLATION. Little call as he may have to instruct others, he wishes
nevertheless to open out his heart to such as he either knows or hopes
to be of like mind with himself, but who are widely scattered in the
world: he wishes to knit anew his connections with his oldest friends,
to continue those recently formed, and to win other friends among the
rising generation for the remaining course of his life. He wishes to
spare the young those circuitous paths, on which he himself had lost his



Motives to the present work--Reception of the Author's first
publication--Discipline of his taste at school--Effect of contemporary
writers on youthful minds--Bowles's Sonnets--Comparison between the
poets before and since Pope.

It has been my lot to have had my name introduced both in conversation,
and in print, more frequently than I find it easy to explain, whether
I consider the fewness, unimportance, and limited circulation of my
writings, or the retirement and distance, in which I have lived, both
from the literary and political world. Most often it has been connected
with some charge which I could not acknowledge, or some principle which
I had never entertained. Nevertheless, had I had no other motive
or incitement, the reader would not have been troubled with this
exculpation. What my additional purposes were, will be seen in the
following pages. It will be found, that the least of what I have written
concerns myself personally. I have used the narration chiefly for the
purpose of giving a continuity to the work, in part for the sake of
the miscellaneous reflections suggested to me by particular events, but
still more as introductory to a statement of my principles in Politics,
Religion, and Philosophy, and an application of the rules, deduced from
philosophical principles, to poetry and criticism. But of the objects,
which I proposed to myself, it was not the least important to effect,
as far as possible, a settlement of the long continued controversy
concerning the true nature of poetic diction; and at the same time to
define with the utmost impartiality the real poetic character of the
poet, by whose writings this controversy was first kindled, and has been
since fuelled and fanned.

In the spring of 1796, when I had but little passed the verge of
manhood, I published a small volume of juvenile poems. They were
received with a degree of favour, which, young as I was, I well know
was bestowed on them not so much for any positive merit, as because they
were considered buds of hope, and promises of better works to come. The
critics of that day, the most flattering, equally with the severest,
concurred in objecting to them obscurity, a general turgidness of
diction, and a profusion of new coined double epithets [1]. The first
is the fault which a writer is the least able to detect in his own
compositions: and my mind was not then sufficiently disciplined to
receive the authority of others, as a substitute for my own conviction.
Satisfied that the thoughts, such as they were, could not have been
expressed otherwise, or at least more perspicuously, I forgot to
inquire, whether the thoughts themselves did not demand a degree of
attention unsuitable to the nature and objects of poetry. This remark
however applies chiefly, though not exclusively, to the Religious
Musings. The remainder of the charge I admitted to its full extent,
and not without sincere acknowledgments both to my private and public
censors for their friendly admonitions. In the after editions, I pruned
the double epithets with no sparing hand, and used my best efforts to
tame the swell and glitter both of thought and diction; though in truth,
these parasite plants of youthful poetry had insinuated themselves into
my longer poems with such intricacy of union, that I was often obliged
to omit disentangling the weed, from the fear of snapping the flower.
From that period to the date of the present work I have published
nothing, with my name, which could by any possibility have come before
the board of anonymous criticism. Even the three or four poems, printed
with the works of a friend [2], as far as they were censured at all,
were charged with the same or similar defects, (though I am persuaded
not with equal justice),--with an excess of ornament, in addition to
strained and elaborate diction. I must be permitted to add, that,
even at the early period of my juvenile poems, I saw and admitted the
superiority of an austerer and more natural style, with an insight not
less clear, than I at present possess. My judgment was stronger than
were my powers of realizing its dictates; and the faults of my language,
though indeed partly owing to a wrong choice of subjects, and the desire
of giving a poetic colouring to abstract and metaphysical truths,
in which a new world then seemed to open upon me, did yet, in part
likewise, originate in unfeigned diffidence of my own comparative
talent.--During several years of my youth and early manhood, I
reverenced those who had re-introduced the manly simplicity of the
Greek, and of our own elder poets, with such enthusiasm as made the hope
seem presumptuous of writing successfully in the same style. Perhaps
a similar process has happened to others; but my earliest poems were
marked by an ease and simplicity, which I have studied, perhaps with
inferior success, to impress on my later compositions.

At school, (Christ's Hospital,) I enjoyed the inestimable advantage of
a very sensible, though at the same time, a very severe master, the
Reverend James Bowyer. He early moulded my taste to the preference of
Demosthenes to Cicero, of Homer and Theocritus to Virgil, and again of
Virgil to Ovid. He habituated me to compare Lucretius, (in such extracts
as I then read,) Terence, and above all the chaster poems of Catullus,
not only with the Roman poets of the, so called, silver and brazen ages;
but with even those of the Augustan aera: and on grounds of plain sense
and universal logic to see and assert the superiority of the former in
the truth and nativeness both of their thoughts and diction. At the
same time that we were studying the Greek tragic poets, he made us read
Shakespeare and Milton as lessons: and they were the lessons too, which
required most time and trouble to bring up, so as to escape his
censure. I learned from him, that poetry, even that of the loftiest and,
seemingly, that of the wildest odes, had a logic of its own, as severe
as that of science; and more difficult, because more subtle, more
complex, and dependent on more, and more fugitive causes. In the truly
great poets, he would say, there is a reason assignable, not only for
every word, but for the position of every word; and I well remember
that, availing himself of the synonymes to the Homer of Didymus, he made
us attempt to show, with regard to each, why it would not have answered
the same purpose; and wherein consisted the peculiar fitness of the word
in the original text.

In our own English compositions, (at least for the last three years of
our school education,) he showed no mercy to phrase, metaphor, or image,
unsupported by a sound sense, or where the same sense might have been
conveyed with equal force and dignity in plainer words [3]. Lute,
harp, and lyre, Muse, Muses, and inspirations, Pegasus, Parnassus, and
Hippocrene were all an abomination to him. In fancy I can almost hear
him now, exclaiming "Harp? Harp? Lyre? Pen and ink, boy, you mean! Muse,
boy, Muse? Your nurse's daughter, you mean! Pierian spring? Oh aye!
the cloister-pump, I suppose!" Nay certain introductions, similes,
and examples, were placed by name on a list of interdiction. Among the
similes, there was, I remember, that of the manchineel fruit, as suiting
equally well with too many subjects; in which however it yielded the
palm at once to the example of Alexander and Clytus, which
was equally good and apt, whatever might be the theme. Was
it ambition? Alexander and Clytus!--Flattery? Alexander and
repentance? Still, still Alexander and Clytus! At length, the praises of
agriculture having been exemplified in the sagacious observation that,
had Alexander been holding the plough, he would not have run his friend
Clytus through with a spear, this tried, and serviceable old friend
was banished by public edict in saecula saeculorum. I have sometimes
ventured to think, that a list of this kind, or an index expurgatorius
of certain well-known and ever-returning phrases, both introductory,
and transitional, including a large assortment of modest egoisms, and
flattering illeisms, and the like, might be hung up in our Law-courts,
and both Houses of Parliament, with great advantage to the public, as
an important saving of national time, an incalculable relief to his
Majesty's ministers, but above all, as insuring the thanks of country
attornies, and their clients, who have private bills to carry through
the House.

Be this as it may, there was one custom of our master's, which I
cannot pass over in silence, because I think it imitable and worthy of
imitation. He would often permit our exercises, under some pretext of
want of time, to accumulate, till each lad had four or five to be looked
over. Then placing the whole number abreast on his desk, he would
ask the writer, why this or that sentence might not have found
as appropriate a place under this or that other thesis: and if no
satisfying answer could be returned, and two faults of the same kind
were found in one exercise, the irrevocable verdict followed, the
exercise was torn up, and another on the same subject to be produced, in
addition to the tasks of the day. The reader will, I trust, excuse this
tribute of recollection to a man, whose severities, even now, not seldom
furnish the dreams, by which the blind fancy would fain interpret to the
mind the painful sensations of distempered sleep; but neither lessen nor
dim the deep sense of my moral and intellectual obligations. He sent
us to the University excellent Latin and Greek scholars, and tolerable
Hebraists. Yet our classical knowledge was the least of the good gifts,
which we derived from his zealous and conscientious tutorage. He is now
gone to his final reward, full of years, and full of honours, even of
those honours, which were dearest to his heart, as gratefully bestowed
by that school, and still binding him to the interests of that school,
in which he had been himself educated, and to which during his whole
life he was a dedicated thing.

From causes, which this is not the place to investigate, no models
of past times, however perfect, can have the same vivid effect on
the youthful mind, as the productions of contemporary genius. The
discipline, my mind had undergone, Ne falleretur rotundo sono et versuum
cursu, cincinnis, et floribus; sed ut inspiceret quidnam subesset, quae,
sedes, quod firmamentum, quis fundus verbis; an figures essent mera
ornatura et orationis fucus; vel sanguinis e materiae ipsius corde
effluentis rubor quidam nativus et incalescentia genuina;--removed all
obstacles to the appreciation of excellence in style without diminishing
my delight. That I was thus prepared for the perusal of Mr. Bowles's
sonnets and earlier poems, at once increased their influence, and my
enthusiasm. The great works of past ages seem to a young man things of
another race, in respect to which his faculties must remain passive
and submiss, even as to the stars and mountains. But the writings of a
contemporary, perhaps not many years older than himself, surrounded by
the same circumstances, and disciplined by the same manners, possess a
reality for him, and inspire an actual friendship as of a man for a man.
His very admiration is the wind which fans and feeds his hope. The
poems themselves assume the properties of flesh and blood. To recite, to
extol, to contend for them is but the payment of a debt due to one, who
exists to receive it.

There are indeed modes of teaching which have produced, and are
producing, youths of a very different stamp; modes of teaching, in
comparison with which we have been called on to despise our great public
schools, and universities,

                     in whose halls are hung
    Armoury of the invincible knights of old--

modes, by which children are to be metamorphosed into prodigies. And
prodigies with a vengeance have I known thus produced; prodigies of
self-conceit, shallowness, arrogance, and infidelity! Instead of
storing the memory, during the period when the memory is the predominant
faculty, with facts for the after exercise of the judgment; and instead
of awakening by the noblest models the fond and unmixed love and
admiration, which is the natural and graceful temper of early youth;
these nurslings of improved pedagogy are taught to dispute and decide;
to suspect all but their own and their lecturer's wisdom; and to
hold nothing sacred from their contempt, but their own contemptible
arrogance; boy-graduates in all the technicals, and in all the dirty
passions and impudence of anonymous criticism. To such dispositions
alone can the admonition of Pliny be requisite, Neque enim debet
operibus ejus obesse, quod vivit. An si inter eos, quos nunquam vidimus,
floruisset, non solum libros ejus, verum etiam imagines conquireremus,
ejusdem nunc honor prasentis, et gratia quasi satietate languescet?
At hoc pravum, malignumque est, non admirari hominem admiratione
dignissimum, quia videre, complecti, nec laudare tantum, verum etiam
amare contingit.

I had just entered on my seventeenth year, when the sonnets of Mr.
Bowles, twenty in number, and just then published in a quarto pamphlet,
were first made known and presented to me, by a schoolfellow who had
quitted us for the University, and who, during the whole time that he
was in our first form (or in our school language a Grecian,) had been my
patron and protector. I refer to Dr. Middleton, the truly learned, and
every way excellent Bishop of Calcutta:

                            qui laudibus amplis
    Ingenium celebrare meum, calamumque solebat,
    Calcar agens animo validum. Non omnia terra
    Obruta; vivit amor, vivit dolor; ora negatur
    Dulcia conspicere; at fiere et meminisse relictum est.

It was a double pleasure to me, and still remains a tender recollection,
that I should have received from a friend so revered the first knowledge
of a poet, by whose works, year after year, I was so enthusiastically
delighted and inspired. My earliest acquaintances will not have
forgotten the undisciplined eagerness and impetuous zeal, with which I
laboured to make proselytes, not only of my companions, but of all with
whom I conversed, of whatever rank, and in whatever place. As my school
finances did not permit me to purchase copies, I made, within less than
a year and a half, more than forty transcriptions, as the best presents
I could offer to those, who had in any way won my regard. And with
almost equal delight did I receive the three or four following
publications of the same author.

Though I have seen and known enough of mankind to be well aware, that
I shall perhaps stand alone in my creed, and that it will be well, if
I subject myself to no worse charge than that of singularity; I am not
therefore deterred from avowing, that I regard, and ever have regarded
the obligations of intellect among the most sacred of the claims of
gratitude. A valuable thought, or a particular train of thoughts, gives
me additional pleasure, when I can safely refer and attribute it to the
conversation or correspondence of another. My obligations to Mr. Bowles
were indeed important, and for radical good. At a very premature age,
even before my fifteenth year, I had bewildered myself in metaphysics,
and in theological controversy. Nothing else pleased me. History, and
particular facts, lost all interest in my mind. Poetry--(though for a
school-boy of that age, I was above par in English versification, and
had already produced two or three compositions which, I may venture to
say, without reference to my age, were somewhat above mediocrity, and
which had gained me more credit than the sound, good sense of my old
master was at all pleased with,)--poetry itself, yea, novels and
romances, became insipid to me. In my friendless wanderings on our
leave-days [4], (for I was an orphan, and had scarcely any connections
in London,) highly was I delighted, if any passenger, especially if he
were dressed in black, would enter into conversation with me. For I soon
found the means of directing it to my favourite subjects

    Of providence, fore-knowledge, will, and fate,
    Fixed fate, free will, fore-knowledge absolute,
    And found no end in wandering mazes lost.

This preposterous pursuit was, beyond doubt, injurious both to my
natural powers, and to the progress of my education. It would perhaps
have been destructive, had it been continued; but from this I was
auspiciously withdrawn, partly indeed by an accidental introduction to
an amiable family, chiefly however, by the genial influence of a style
of poetry, so tender and yet so manly, so natural and real, and yet so
dignified and harmonious, as the sonnets and other early poems of Mr.
Bowles. Well would it have been for me, perhaps, had I never relapsed
into the same mental disease; if I had continued to pluck the flower and
reap the harvest from the cultivated surface, instead of delving in the
unwholesome quicksilver mines of metaphysic lore. And if in after time
I have sought a refuge from bodily pain and mismanaged sensibility in
abstruse researches, which exercised the strength and subtilty of the
understanding without awakening the feelings of the heart; still there
was a long and blessed interval, during which my natural faculties were
allowed to expand, and my original tendencies to develop themselves;--my
fancy, and the love of nature, and the sense of beauty in forms and

The second advantage, which I owe to my early perusal, and admiration
of these poems, (to which let me add,) though known to me at a somewhat
later period, the Lewesdon Hill of Mr. Crowe bears more immediately on
my present subject. Among those with whom I conversed, there were,
of course, very many who had formed their taste, and their notions of
poetry, from the writings of Pope and his followers; or to speak more
generally, in that school of French poetry, condensed and invigorated by
English understanding, which had predominated from the last century. I
was not blind to the merits of this school, yet, as from inexperience of
the world, and consequent want of sympathy with the general subjects of
these poems, they gave me little pleasure, I doubtless undervalued the
kind, and with the presumption of youth withheld from its masters
the legitimate name of poets. I saw that the excellence of this kind
consisted in just and acute observations on men and manners in an
artificial state of society, as its matter and substance; and in the
logic of wit, conveyed in smooth and strong epigrammatic couplets, as
its form: that even when the subject was addressed to the fancy, or the
intellect, as in the Rape of the Lock, or the Essay on Man; nay, when it
was a consecutive narration, as in that astonishing product of matchless
talent and ingenuity Pope's Translation of the Iliad; still a point
was looked for at the end of each second line, and the whole was, as
it were, a sorites, or, if I may exchange a logical for a grammatical
metaphor, a conjunction disjunctive, of epigrams. Meantime the matter
and diction seemed to me characterized not so much by poetic thoughts,
as by thoughts translated into the language of poetry. On this last
point, I had occasion to render my own thoughts gradually more and
more plain to myself, by frequent amicable disputes concerning Darwin's
Botanic Garden, which, for some years, was greatly extolled, not only
by the reading public in general, but even by those, whose genius and
natural robustness of understanding enabled them afterwards to act
foremost in dissipating these "painted mists" that occasionally rise
from the marshes at the foot of Parnassus. During my first Cambridge
vacation, I assisted a friend in a contribution for a literary society
in Devonshire: and in this I remember to have compared Darwin's work to
the Russian palace of ice, glittering, cold and transitory. In the same
essay too, I assigned sundry reasons, chiefly drawn from a comparison
of passages in the Latin poets with the original Greek, from which they
were borrowed, for the preference of Collins's odes to those of Gray;
and of the simile in Shakespeare

    How like a younker or a prodigal
    The scarfed bark puts from her native bay,
    Hugg'd and embraced by the strumpet wind!
    How like the prodigal doth she return,
    With over-weather'd ribs and ragged sails,
    Lean, rent, and beggar'd by the strumpet wind!
                             (Merch. of Ven. Act II. sc. 6.)

to the imitation in the Bard;

    Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows
    While proudly riding o'er the azure realm
    In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes,
    Youth at the prow and pleasure at the helm;
    Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway,
    That hush'd in grim repose, expects it's evening prey.

(in which, by the bye, the words "realm" and "sway" are rhymes dearly
purchased)--I preferred the original on the ground, that in the
imitation it depended wholly on the compositor's putting, or not
putting, a small capital, both in this, and in many other passages of
the same poet, whether the words should be personifications, or mere
abstractions. I mention this, because, in referring various lines in
Gray to their original in Shakespeare and Milton, and in the clear
perception how completely all the propriety was lost in the transfer,
I was, at that early period, led to a conjecture, which, many years
afterwards was recalled to me from the same thought having been started
in conversation, but far more ably, and developed more fully, by
Mr. Wordsworth;--namely, that this style of poetry, which I have
characterized above, as translations of prose thoughts into poetic
language, had been kept up by, if it did not wholly arise from, the
custom of writing Latin verses, and the great importance attached to
these exercises, in our public schools. Whatever might have been the
case in the fifteenth century, when the use of the Latin tongue was so
general among learned men, that Erasmus is said to have forgotten his
native language; yet in the present day it is not to be supposed, that a
youth can think in Latin, or that he can have any other reliance on the
force or fitness of his phrases, but the authority of the writer
from whom he has adopted them. Consequently he must first prepare his
thoughts, and then pick out, from Virgil, Horace, Ovid, or perhaps more
compendiously from his Gradus, halves and quarters of lines, in which to
embody them.

I never object to a certain degree of disputatiousness in a young man
from the age of seventeen to that of four or five and twenty, provided I
find him always arguing on one side of the question. The controversies,
occasioned by my unfeigned zeal for the honour of a favourite
contemporary, then known to me only by his works, were of great
advantage in the formation and establishment of my taste and critical
opinions. In my defence of the lines running into each other, instead of
closing at each couplet; and of natural language, neither bookish, nor
vulgar, neither redolent of the lamp, nor of the kennel, such as I will
remember thee; instead of the same thought tricked up in the rag-fair
finery of,

    ------thy image on her wing
    Before my fancy's eye shall memory bring,--

I had continually to adduce the metre and diction of the Greek poets,
from Homer to Theocritus inclusively; and still more of our elder
English poets, from Chaucer to Milton. Nor was this all. But as it was
my constant reply to authorities brought against me from later poets
of great name, that no authority could avail in opposition to Truth,
Nature, Logic, and the Laws of Universal Grammar; actuated too by my
former passion for metaphysical investigations; I laboured at a solid
foundation, on which permanently to ground my opinions, in the component
faculties of the human mind itself, and their comparative dignity and
importance. According to the faculty or source, from which the pleasure
given by any poem or passage was derived, I estimated the merit of
such poem or passage. As the result of all my reading and meditation,
I abstracted two critical aphorisms, deeming them to comprise the
conditions and criteria of poetic style;--first, that not the poem which
we have read, but that to which we return, with the greatest pleasure,
possesses the genuine power, and claims the name of essential
poetry;--secondly, that whatever lines can be translated into other
words of the same language, without diminution of their significance,
either in sense or association, or in any worthy feeling, are so far
vicious in their diction. Be it however observed, that I excluded from
the list of worthy feelings, the pleasure derived from mere novelty in
the reader, and the desire of exciting wonderment at his powers in the
author. Oftentimes since then, in pursuing French tragedies, I
have fancied two marks of admiration at the end of each line, as
hieroglyphics of the author's own admiration at his own cleverness.
Our genuine admiration of a great poet is a continuous undercurrent of
feeling! it is everywhere present, but seldom anywhere as a separate
excitement. I was wont boldly to affirm, that it would be scarcely more
difficult to push a stone out from the Pyramids with the bare hand, than
to alter a word, or the position of a word, in Milton or Shakespeare,
(in their most important works at least,) without making the poet
say something else, or something worse, than he does say. One great
distinction, I appeared to myself to see plainly between even the
characteristic faults of our elder poets, and the false beauty of the
moderns. In the former, from Donne to Cowley, we find the most fantastic
out-of-the-way thoughts, but in the most pure and genuine mother
English, in the latter the most obvious thoughts, in language the most
fantastic and arbitrary. Our faulty elder poets sacrificed the passion
and passionate flow of poetry to the subtleties of intellect and to the
stars of wit; the moderns to the glare and glitter of a perpetual, yet
broken and heterogeneous imagery, or rather to an amphibious something,
made up, half of image, and half of abstract [5] meaning. The one
sacrificed the heart to the head; the other both heart and head to point
and drapery.

The reader must make himself acquainted with the general style of
composition that was at that time deemed poetry, in order to understand
and account for the effect produced on me by the Sonnets, the Monody
at Matlock, and the Hope, of Mr. Bowles; for it is peculiar to original
genius to become less and less striking, in proportion to its success
in improving the taste and judgment of its contemporaries. The poems of
West, indeed, had the merit of chaste and manly diction; but they were
cold, and, if I may so express it, only dead-coloured; while in the
best of Warton's there is a stiffness, which too often gives them the
appearance of imitations from the Greek. Whatever relation, therefore,
of cause or impulse Percy's collection of Ballads may bear to the most
popular poems of the present day; yet in a more sustained and elevated
style, of the then living poets, Cowper and Bowles [6] were, to the best
of my knowledge, the first who combined natural thoughts with natural
diction; the first who reconciled the heart with the head.

It is true, as I have before mentioned, that from diffidence in my own
powers, I for a short time adopted a laborious and florid diction, which
I myself deemed, if not absolutely vicious, yet of very inferior worth.
Gradually, however, my practice conformed to my better judgment; and the
compositions of my twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth years--(for example,
the shorter blank verse poems, the lines, which now form the middle and
conclusion of the poem entitled the Destiny of Nations, and the tragedy
of Remorse)--are not more below my present ideal in respect of the
general tissue of the style than those of the latest date. Their faults
were at least a remnant of the former leaven, and among the many who
have done me the honour of putting my poems in the same class with those
of my betters, the one or two, who have pretended to bring examples of
affected simplicity from my volume, have been able to adduce but
one instance, and that out of a copy of verses half ludicrous, half
splenetic, which I intended, and had myself characterized, as sermoni

Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to an
excess, which will itself need reforming. The reader will excuse me for
noticing, that I myself was the first to expose risu honesto the three
sins of poetry, one or the other of which is the most likely to beset a
young writer. So long ago as the publication of the second number of the
Monthly Magazine, under the name of Nehemiah Higginbottom, I contributed
three sonnets, the first of which had for its object to excite a
good-natured laugh at the spirit of doleful egotism, and at the
recurrence of favourite phrases, with the double defect of being at
once trite and licentious;--the second was on low creeping language and
thoughts, under the pretence of simplicity; the third, the phrases of
which were borrowed entirely from my own poems, on the indiscriminate
use of elaborate and swelling language and imagery. The reader will find
them in the note [7] below, and will I trust regard them as reprinted
for biographical purposes alone, and not for their poetic merits. So
general at that time, and so decided was the opinion concerning the
characteristic vices of my style, that a celebrated physician (now,
alas! no more) speaking of me in other respects with his usual kindness,
to a gentleman, who was about to meet me at a dinner party, could not
however resist giving him a hint not to mention 'The house that Jack
built' in my presence, for "that I was as sore as a boil about that
sonnet;" he not knowing that I was myself the author of it.


Supposed irritability of men of genius brought to the test of
facts--Causes and occasions of the charge--Its injustice.

I have often thought, that it would be neither uninstructive nor
unamusing to analyze, and bring forward into distinct consciousness,
that complex feeling, with which readers in general take part against
the author, in favour of the critic; and the readiness with which they
apply to all poets the old sarcasm of Horace upon the scribblers of his

    ------genus irritabile vatum.

A debility and dimness of the imaginative power, and a consequent
necessity of reliance on the immediate impressions of the senses, do, we
know well, render the mind liable to superstition and fanaticism. Having
a deficient portion of internal and proper warmth, minds of this class
seek in the crowd circum fana for a warmth in common, which they do not
possess singly. Cold and phlegmatic in their own nature, like damp
hay, they heat and inflame by co-acervation; or like bees they become
restless and irritable through the increased temperature of collected
multitudes. Hence the German word for fanaticism, (such at least was
its original import,) is derived from the swarming of bees, namely,
schwaermen, schwaermerey. The passion being in an inverse proportion to
the insight,--that the more vivid, as this the less distinct--anger is
the inevitable consequence. The absense of all foundation within their
own minds for that, which they yet believe both true and indispensable
to their safety and happiness, cannot but produce an uneasy state of
feeling, an involuntary sense of fear from which nature has no means
of rescuing herself but by anger. Experience informs us that the first
defence of weak minds is to recriminate.

    There's no philosopher but sees,
    That rage and fear are one disease;
    Tho' that may burn, and this may freeze,
    They're both alike the ague.

But where the ideas are vivid, and there exists an endless power of
combining and modifying them, the feelings and affections blend more
easily and intimately with these ideal creations than with the objects
of the senses; the mind is affected by thoughts, rather than by things;
and only then feels the requisite interest even for the most important
events and accidents, when by means of meditation they have passed into
thoughts. The sanity of the mind is between superstition with fanaticism
on the one hand, and enthusiasm with indifference and a diseased
slowness to action on the other. For the conceptions of the mind may be
so vivid and adequate, as to preclude that impulse to the realizing of
them, which is strongest and most restless in those, who possess more
than mere talent, (or the faculty of appropriating and applying the
knowledge of others,)--yet still want something of the creative and
self-sufficing power of absolute genius. For this reason therefore,
they are men of commanding genius. While the former rest content between
thought and reality, as it were in an intermundium of which their
own living spirit supplies the substance, and their imagination the
ever-varying form; the latter must impress their preconceptions on the
world without, in order to present them back to their own view with the
satisfying degree of clearness, distinctness, and individuality. These
in tranquil times are formed to exhibit a perfect poem in palace, or
temple, or landscape-garden; or a tale of romance in canals that join
sea with sea, or in walls of rock, which, shouldering back the billows,
imitate the power, and supply the benevolence of nature to sheltered
navies; or in aqueducts that, arching the wide vale from mountain to
mountain, give a Palmyra to the desert. But alas! in times of tumult
they are the men destined to come forth as the shaping spirit of ruin,
to destroy the wisdom of ages in order to substitute the fancies of a
day, and to change kings and kingdoms, as the wind shifts and shapes the
clouds [8]. The records of biography seem to confirm this theory. The
men of the greatest genius, as far as we can judge from their own works
or from the accounts of their contemporaries, appear to have been of
calm and tranquil temper in all that related to themselves. In the
inward assurance of permanent fame, they seem to have been either
indifferent or resigned with regard to immediate reputation. Through all
the works of Chaucer there reigns a cheerfulness, a manly hilarity which
makes it almost impossible to doubt a correspondent habit of feeling in
the author himself. Shakespeare's evenness and sweetness of temper were
almost proverbial in his own age. That this did not arise from ignorance
of his own comparative greatness, we have abundant proof in his Sonnets,
which could scarcely have been known to Pope [9], when he asserted, that
our great bard--

    ------grew immortal in his own despite.
                                   (Epist. to Augustus.)

Speaking of one whom he had celebrated, and contrasting the duration of
his works with that of his personal existence, Shakespeare adds:

    Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
    Tho' I once gone to all the world must die;
    The earth can yield me but a common grave,
    When you entombed in men's eyes shall lie.
    Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
    Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read;
    And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
    When all the breathers of this world are dead:
    You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen,
    Where breath most breathes, e'en in the mouth of men.
                                             SONNET LXXXI.

I have taken the first that occurred; but Shakespeare's readiness to
praise his rivals, ore pleno, and the confidence of his own equality
with those whom he deemed most worthy of his praise, are alike
manifested in another Sonnet.

    Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
    Bound for the praise of all-too-precious you,
    That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
    Making their tomb, the womb wherein they grew?
    Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write
    Above a mortal pitch that struck me dead?
    No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
    Giving him aid, my verse astonished.
    He, nor that affable familiar ghost,
    Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,
    As victors of my silence cannot boast;
    I was not sick of any fear from thence!
    But when your countenance fill'd up his line,
    Then lack'd I matter, that enfeebled mine.
                                          S. LXXXVI.

In Spenser, indeed, we trace a mind constitutionally tender, delicate,
and, in comparison with his three great compeers, I had almost said,
effeminate; and this additionally saddened by the unjust persecution of
Burleigh, and the severe calamities, which overwhelmed his latter days.
These causes have diffused over all his compositions "a melancholy
grace," and have drawn forth occasional strains, the more pathetic
from their gentleness. But no where do we find the least trace of
irritability, and still less of quarrelsome or affected contempt of his

The same calmness, and even greater self-possession, may be affirmed
of Milton, as far as his poems, and poetic character are concerned.
He reserved his anger for the enemies of religion, freedom, and his
country. My mind is not capable of forming a more august conception,
than arises from the contemplation of this great man in his latter
days;--poor, sick, old, blind, slandered, persecuted,--

    Darkness before, and danger's voice behind,--

in an age in which he was as little understood by the party, for whom,
as by that against whom, he had contended; and among men before whom he
strode so far as to dwarf himself by the distance; yet still listening
to the music of his own thoughts, or if additionally cheered,
yet cheered only by the prophetic faith of two or three solitary
individuals, he did nevertheless

                                  ------argue not
    Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
    Of heart or hope; but still bore up and steer'd
    Right onward.

From others only do we derive our knowledge that Milton, in his latter
day, had his scorners and detractors; and even in his day of youth and
hope, that he had enemies would have been unknown to us, had they not
been likewise the enemies of his country.

I am well aware, that in advanced stages of literature, when there exist
many and excellent models, a high degree of talent, combined with taste
and judgment, and employed in works of imagination, will acquire for
a man the name of a great genius; though even that analogon of genius,
which, in certain states of society, may even render his writings more
popular than the absolute reality could have done, would be sought
for in vain in the mind and temper of the author himself. Yet even in
instances of this kind, a close examination will often detect, that the
irritability, which has been attributed to the author's genius as its
cause, did really originate in an ill conformation of body, obtuse pain,
or constitutional defect of pleasurable sensation. What is charged to
the author, belongs to the man, who would probably have been still more
impatient, but for the humanizing influences of the very pursuit, which
yet bears the blame of his irritability.

How then are we to explain the easy credence generally given to this
charge, if the charge itself be not, as I have endeavoured to show,
supported by experience? This seems to me of no very difficult solution.
In whatever country literature is widely diffused, there will be many
who mistake an intense desire to possess the reputation of poetic
genius, for the actual powers, and original tendencies which constitute
it. But men, whose dearest wishes are fixed on objects wholly out of
their own power, become in all cases more or less impatient and prone to
anger. Besides, though it may be paradoxical to assert, that a man can
know one thing and believe the opposite, yet assuredly a vain person may
have so habitually indulged the wish, and persevered in the attempt, to
appear what he is not, as to become himself one of his own proselytes.
Still, as this counterfeit and artificial persuasion must differ, even
in the person's own feelings, from a real sense of inward power, what
can be more natural, than that this difference should betray itself
in suspicious and jealous irritability? Even as the flowery sod, which
covers a hollow, may be often detected by its shaking and trembling.

But, alas! the multitude of books and the general diffusion of
literature, have produced other and more lamentable effects in the world
of letters, and such as are abundant to explain, though by no means to
justify, the contempt with which the best grounded complaints of injured
genius are rejected as frivolous, or entertained as matter of merriment.
In the days of Chaucer and Gower, our language might (with due allowance
for the imperfections of a simile) be compared to a wilderness of vocal
reeds, from which the favourites only of Pan or Apollo could construct
even the rude syrinx; and from this the constructors alone could elicit
strains of music. But now, partly by the labours of successive
poets, and in part by the more artificial state of society and social
intercourse, language, mechanized as it were into a barrel-organ,
supplies at once both instrument and tune. Thus even the deaf may play,
so as to delight the many. Sometimes (for it is with similes, as it
is with jests at a wine table, one is sure to suggest another) I have
attempted to illustrate the present state of our language, in its
relation to literature, by a press-room of larger and smaller stereotype
pieces, which, in the present Anglo-Gallican fashion of unconnected,
epigrammatic periods, it requires but an ordinary portion of ingenuity
to vary indefinitely, and yet still produce something, which, if not
sense, will be so like it as to do as well. Perhaps better: for it
spares the reader the trouble of thinking; prevents vacancy, while
it indulges indolence; and secures the memory from all danger of an
intellectual plethora. Hence of all trades, literature at present
demands the least talent or information; and, of all modes of
literature, the manufacturing of poems. The difference indeed between
these and the works of genius is not less than between an egg and an
egg-shell; yet at a distance they both look alike.

Now it is no less remarkable than true, with how little examination
works of polite literature are commonly perused, not only by the mass of
readers, but by men of first rate ability, till some accident or chance
[10] discussion have roused their attention, and put them on their
guard. And hence individuals below mediocrity not less in natural power
than in acquired knowledge; nay, bunglers who have failed in the lowest
mechanic crafts, and whose presumption is in due proportion to their
want of sense and sensibility; men, who being first scribblers
from idleness and ignorance, next become libellers from envy and
malevolence,--have been able to drive a successful trade in the
employment of the booksellers, nay, have raised themselves into
temporary name and reputation with the public at large, by that most
powerful of all adulation, the appeal to the bad and malignant passions
of mankind [11]. But as it is the nature of scorn, envy, and all
malignant propensities to require a quick change of objects, such
writers are sure, sooner or later, to awake from their dream of vanity
to disappointment and neglect with embittered and envenomed feelings.
Even during their short-lived success, sensible in spite of themselves
on what a shifting foundation it rests, they resent the mere refusal
of praise as a robbery, and at the justest censures kindle at once into
violent and undisciplined abuse; till the acute disease changing into
chronical, the more deadly as the less violent, they become the fit
instruments of literary detraction and moral slander. They are then no
longer to be questioned without exposing the complainant to ridicule,
because, forsooth, they are anonymous critics, and authorized, in Andrew
Marvell's phrase, as "synodical individuals" to speak of themselves
plurali majestatico! As if literature formed a caste, like that of
the Paras in Hindostan, who, however maltreated, must not dare to deem
themselves wronged! As if that, which in all other cases adds a deeper
dye to slander, the circumstance of its being anonymous, here acted
only to make the slanderer inviolable! [12] Thus, in part, from the
accidental tempers of individuals--(men of undoubted talent, but not
men of genius)--tempers rendered yet more irritable by their desire to
appear men of genius; but still more effectively by the excesses of the
mere counterfeits both of talent and genius; the number too being so
incomparably greater of those who are thought to be, than of those
who really are men of genius; and in part from the natural, but not
therefore the less partial and unjust distinction, made by the public
itself between literary and all other property; I believe the prejudice
to have arisen, which considers an unusual irascibility concerning the
reception of its products as characteristic of genius.

It might correct the moral feelings of a numerous class of readers, to
suppose a Review set on foot, the object of which should be to criticise
all the chief works presented to the public by our ribbon-weavers,
calico-printers, cabinet-makers, and china-manufacturers; which should
be conducted in the same spirit, and take the same freedom with personal
character, as our literary journals. They would scarcely, I think,
deny their belief, not only that the genus irritabile would be found
to include many other species besides that of bards; but that the
irritability of trade would soon reduce the resentments of poets into
mere shadow-fights in the comparison. Or is wealth the only rational
object of human interest? Or even if this were admitted, has the poet
no property in his works? Or is it a rare, or culpable case, that he
who serves at the altar of the Muses, should be compelled to derive
his maintenance from the altar, when too he has perhaps deliberately
abandoned the fairest prospects of rank and opulence in order to
devote himself, an entire and undistracted man, to the instruction or
refinement of his fellow-citizens? Or, should we pass by all higher
objects and motives, all disinterested benevolence, and even that
ambition of lasting praise which is at once the crutch and ornament,
which at once supports and betrays, the infirmity of human virtue,--is
the character and property of the man, who labours for our intellectual
pleasures, less entitled to a share of our fellow feeling, than that of
the wine-merchant or milliner? Sensibility indeed, both quick and deep,
is not only a characteristic feature, but may be deemed a component
part, of genius. But it is not less an essential mark of true genius,
that its sensibility is excited by any other cause more powerfully than
by its own personal interests; for this plain reason, that the man of
genius lives most in the ideal world, in which the present is still
constituted by the future or the past; and because his feelings have
been habitually associated with thoughts and images, to the number,
clearness, and vivacity of which the sensation of self is always in an
inverse proportion. And yet, should he perchance have occasion to repel
some false charge, or to rectify some erroneous censure, nothing is more
common than for the many to mistake the general liveliness of his manner
and language, whatever is the subject, for the effects of peculiar
irritation from its accidental relation to himself. [13]

For myself, if from my own feelings, or from the less suspicious test
of the observations of others, I had been made aware of any literary
testiness or jealousy; I trust, that I should have been, however,
neither silly nor arrogant enough to have burthened the imperfection on
genius. But an experience--(and I should not need documents in abundance
to prove my words, if I added)--a tried experience of twenty years, has
taught me, that the original sin of my character consists in a careless
indifference to public opinion, and to the attacks of those who
influence it; that praise and admiration have become yearly less and
less desirable, except as marks of sympathy; nay that it is difficult
and distressing to me to think with any interest even about the sale
and profit of my works, important as, in my present circumstances, such
considerations must needs be. Yet it never occurred to me to believe or
fancy, that the quantum of intellectual power bestowed on me by nature
or education was in any way connected with this habit of my feelings;
or that it needed any other parents or fosterers than constitutional
indolence, aggravated into languor by ill-health; the accumulating
embarrassments of procrastination; the mental cowardice, which is the
inseparable companion of procrastination, and which makes us anxious to
think and converse on any thing rather than on what concerns ourselves;
in fine, all those close vexations, whether chargeable on my faults
or my fortunes, which leave me but little grief to spare for evils
comparatively distant and alien.

Indignation at literary wrongs I leave to men born under happier stars.
I cannot afford it. But so far from condemning those who can, I deem
it a writer's duty, and think it creditable to his heart, to feel and
express a resentment proportioned to the grossness of the provocation,
and the importance of the object. There is no profession on earth, which
requires an attention so early, so long, or so unintermitting as that of
poetry; and indeed as that of literary composition in general, if it be
such as at all satisfies the demands both of taste and of sound logic.
How difficult and delicate a task even the mere mechanism of verse is,
may be conjectured from the failure of those, who have attempted poetry
late in life. Where then a man has, from his earliest youth, devoted
his whole being to an object, which by the admission of all civilized
nations in all ages is honourable as a pursuit, and glorious as an
attainment; what of all that relates to himself and his family, if only
we except his moral character, can have fairer claims to his protection,
or more authorize acts of self-defence, than the elaborate products of
his intellect and intellectual industry? Prudence itself would command
us to show, even if defect or diversion of natural sensibility had
prevented us from feeling, a due interest and qualified anxiety for the
offspring and representatives of our nobler being. I know it, alas! by
woful experience. I have laid too many eggs in the hot sands of this
wilderness, the world, with ostrich carelessness and ostrich oblivion.
The greater part indeed have been trod under foot, and are forgotten;
but yet no small number have crept forth into life, some to furnish
feathers for the caps of others, and still more to plume the shafts in
the quivers of my enemies, of them that unprovoked have lain in wait
against my soul.

    Sic vos, non vobis, mellificatis, apes!


The Author's obligations to critics, and the probable
occasion--Principles of modern criticism--Mr. Southey's works and

To anonymous critics in reviews, magazines, and news-journals of various
name and rank, and to satirists with or without a name in verse or
prose, or in verse-text aided by prose-comment, I do seriously believe
and profess, that I owe full two-thirds of whatever reputation and
publicity I happen to possess. For when the name of an individual has
occurred so frequently, in so many works, for so great a length of time,
the readers of these works--(which with a shelf or two of beauties,
elegant Extracts and Anas, form nine-tenths of the reading of the
reading Public [14])--cannot but be familiar with the name, without
distinctly remembering whether it was introduced for eulogy or for
censure. And this becomes the more likely, if (as I believe) the
habit of perusing periodical works may be properly added to Averroes'
catalogue of Anti-Mnemonics, or weakeners of the memory [15]. But where
this has not been the case, yet the reader will be apt to suspect that
there must be something more than usually strong and extensive in
a reputation, that could either require or stand so merciless
and long-continued a cannonading. Without any feeling of anger
therefore--(for which indeed, on my own account, I have no pretext)--I
may yet be allowed to express some degree of surprise, that, after
having run the critical gauntlet for a certain class of faults which
I had, nothing having come before the judgment-seat in the interim, I
should, year after year, quarter after quarter, month after month--(not
to mention sundry petty periodicals of still quicker revolution,
"or weekly or diurnal")--have been, for at least seventeen years
consecutively, dragged forth by them into the foremost ranks of the
proscribed, and forced to abide the brunt of abuse, for faults directly
opposite, and which I certainly had not. How shall I explain this?

Whatever may have been the case with others, I certainly cannot
attribute this persecution to personal dislike, or to envy, or to
feelings of vindictive animosity. Not to the former, for with the
exception of a very few who are my intimate friends, and were so before
they were known as authors, I have had little other acquaintance
with literary characters, than what may be implied in an accidental
introduction, or casual meeting in a mixed company. And as far as words
and looks can be trusted, I must believe that, even in these instances,
I had excited no unfriendly disposition. Neither by letter, nor in
conversation, have I ever had dispute or controversy beyond the common
social interchange of opinions. Nay, where I had reason to suppose my
convictions fundamentally different, it has been my habit, and I may
add, the impulse of my nature, to assign the grounds of my belief,
rather than the belief itself; and not to express dissent, till I could
establish some points of complete sympathy, some grounds common to both
sides, from which to commence its explanation.

Still less can I place these attacks to the charge of envy. The few
pages which I have published, are of too distant a date, and the extent
of their sale a proof too conclusive against their having been popular
at any time, to render probable, I had almost said possible, the
excitement of envy on their account; and the man who should envy me on
any other, verily he must be envy-mad!

Lastly, with as little semblance of reason, could I suspect any
animosity towards me from vindictive feelings as the cause. I have
before said, that my acquaintance with literary men has been limited and
distant; and that I have had neither dispute nor controversy. From my
first entrance into life, I have, with few and short intervals, lived
either abroad or in retirement. My different essays on subjects of
national interest, published at different times, first in the Morning
Post and then in the Courier, with my courses of Lectures on the
principles of criticism as applied to Shakespeare and Milton, constitute
my whole publicity; the only occasions on which I could offend any
member of the republic of letters. With one solitary exception in
which my words were first misstated and then wantonly applied to an
individual, I could never learn that I had excited the displeasure of
any among my literary contemporaries. Having announced my intention to
give a course of Lectures on the characteristic merits and defects of
English poetry in its different aeras; first, from Chaucer to Milton;
second, from Dryden inclusively to Thomson; and third, from Cowper to
the present day; I changed my plan, and confined my disquisition to the
former two periods, that I might furnish no possible pretext for the
unthinking to misconstrue, or the malignant to misapply my words, and
having stamped their own meaning on them, to pass them as current coin
in the marts of garrulity or detraction.

Praises of the unworthy are felt by ardent minds as robberies of the
deserving; and it is too true, and too frequent, that Bacon, Harrington,
Machiavel, and Spinoza, are not read, because Hume, Condillac, and
Voltaire are. But in promiscuous company no prudent man will oppugn
the merits of a contemporary in his own supposed department; contenting
himself with praising in his turn those whom he deems excellent. If
I should ever deem it my duty at all to oppose the pretensions of
individuals, I would oppose them in books which could be weighed and
answered, in which I could evolve the whole of my reasons and feelings,
with their requisite limits and modifications; not in irrecoverable
conversation, where however strong the reasons might be, the feelings
that prompted them would assuredly be attributed by some one or other
to envy and discontent. Besides I well know, and, I trust, have acted on
that knowledge, that it must be the ignorant and injudicious who extol
the unworthy; and the eulogies of critics without taste or judgment are
the natural reward of authors without feeling or genius. Sint unicuique
sua praemia.

How then, dismissing, as I do, these three causes, am I to account for
attacks, the long continuance and inveteracy of which it would require
all three to explain? The solution seems to be this,--I was in habits of
intimacy with Mr. Wordsworth and Mr. Southey! This, however, transfers,
rather than removes the difficulty. Be it, that, by an unconscionable
extension of the old adage, noscitur a socio, my literary friends are
never under the water-fall of criticism, but I must be wet through with
the spray; yet how came the torrent to descend upon them?

First then, with regard to Mr. Southey. I well remember the general
reception of his earlier publications; namely, the poems published with
Mr. Lovell under the names of Moschus and Bion; the two volumes of poems
under his own name, and the Joan of Arc. The censures of the critics by
profession are extant, and may be easily referred to:--careless lines,
inequality in the merit of the different poems, and (in the lighter
works) a predilection for the strange and whimsical; in short, such
faults as might have been anticipated in a young and rapid writer, were
indeed sufficiently enforced. Nor was there at that time wanting a party
spirit to aggravate the defects of a poet, who with all the courage of
uncorrupted youth had avowed his zeal for a cause, which he deemed
that of liberty, and his abhorrence of oppression by whatever name
consecrated. But it was as little objected by others, as dreamed of by
the poet himself, that he preferred careless and prosaic lines on rule
and of forethought, or indeed that he pretended to any other art or
theory of poetic diction, except that which we may all learn from
Horace, Quinctilian, the admirable dialogue, De Oratoribus, generally
attributed to Tacitus, or Strada's Prolusions; if indeed natural good
sense and the early study of the best models in his own language had
not infused the same maxims more securely, and, if I may venture the
expression, more vitally. All that could have been fairly deduced was,
that in his taste and estimation of writers Mr. Southey agreed far more
with Thomas Warton, than with Dr. Johnson. Nor do I mean to deny, that
at all times Mr. Southey was of the same mind with Sir Philip Sidney in
preferring an excellent ballad in the humblest style of poetry to twenty
indifferent poems that strutted in the highest. And by what have his
works, published since then, been characterized, each more strikingly
than the preceding, but by greater splendour, a deeper pathos,
profounder reflections, and a more sustained dignity of language and of
metre? Distant may the period be, but whenever the time shall come,
when all his works shall be collected by some editor worthy to be his
biographer, I trust that an appendix of excerpta of all the passages,
in which his writings, name, and character have been attacked, from
the pamphlets and periodical works of the last twenty years, may be an
accompaniment. Yet that it would prove medicinal in after times I dare
not hope; for as long as there are readers to be delighted with calumny,
there will be found reviewers to calumniate. And such readers will
become in all probability more numerous, in proportion as a still
greater diffusion of literature shall produce an increase of sciolists,
and sciolism bring with it petulance and presumption. In times of old,
books were as religious oracles; as literature advanced, they next
became venerable preceptors; they then descended to the rank of
instructive friends; and, as their numbers increased, they sank still
lower to that of entertaining companions; and at present they seem
degraded into culprits to hold up their hands at the bar of every
self-elected, yet not the less peremptory, judge, who chooses to write
from humour or interest, from enmity or arrogance, and to abide the
decision "of him that reads in malice, or him that reads after dinner."

The same retrograde movement may be traced, in the relation which the
authors themselves have assumed towards their readers. From the lofty
address of Bacon: "these are the meditations of Francis of Verulam,
which that posterity should be possessed of, he deemed their interest:"
or from dedication to Monarch or Pontiff, in which the honour given was
asserted in equipoise to the patronage acknowledged: from Pindar's

            ------'ep' alloi--
    si d'alloi megaloi: to d'eschaton kory-
    phoutai basilensi. Maeketi
            paptaine porsion.
    Eiae se te touton
    upsou chronon patein, eme
    te tossade nikaphorois
    omilein, prophanton sophian kath' El-
    lanas eonta panta.--OLYMP. OD. I.

there was a gradual sinking in the etiquette or allowed style of

Poets and Philosophers, rendered diffident by their very number,
addressed themselves to "learned readers;" then aimed to conciliate
the graces of "the candid reader;" till, the critic still rising as the
author sank, the amateurs of literature collectively were erected into a
municipality of judges, and addressed as the Town! And now, finally,
all men being supposed able to read, and all readers able to judge,
the multitudinous Public, shaped into personal unity by the magic of
abstraction, sits nominal despot on the throne of criticism. But, alas!
as in other despotisms, it but echoes the decisions of its invisible
ministers, whose intellectual claims to the guardianship of the Muses
seem, for the greater part, analogous to the physical qualifications
which adapt their oriental brethren for the superintendence of the
Harem. Thus it is said, that St. Nepomuc was installed the guardian of
bridges, because he had fallen over one, and sunk out of sight; thus
too St. Cecilia is said to have been first propitiated by musicians,
because, having failed in her own attempts, she had taken a dislike to
the art and all its successful professors. But I shall probably have
occasion hereafter to deliver my convictions more at large concerning
this state of things, and its influences on taste, genius and morality.

In the Thalaba, the Madoc, and still more evidently in the unique [16]
Cid, in the Kehama, and, as last, so best, the Roderick; Southey has
given abundant proof, se cogitare quam sit magnum dare aliquid in manus
hominum: nec persuadere sibi posse, non saepe tractandum quod placere
et semper et omnibus cupiat. But on the other hand, I conceive, that Mr.
Southey was quite unable to comprehend, wherein could consist the crime
or mischief of printing half a dozen or more playful poems; or to speak
more generally, compositions which would be enjoyed or passed over,
according as the taste and humour of the reader might chance to be;
provided they contained nothing immoral. In the present age periturae
parcere chartae is emphatically an unreasonable demand. The merest
trifle he ever sent abroad had tenfold better claims to its ink and
paper than all the silly criticisms on it, which proved no more than
that the critic was not one of those, for whom the trifle was written;
and than all the grave exhortations to a greater reverence for the
public--as if the passive page of a book, by having an epigram or
doggerel tale impressed on it, instantly assumed at once loco-motive
power and a sort of ubiquity, so as to flutter and buz in the ear of the
public to the sore annoyance of the said mysterious personage. But what
gives an additional and more ludicrous absurdity to these lamentations
is the curious fact, that if in a volume of poetry the critic should
find poem or passage which he deems more especially worthless, he
is sure to select and reprint it in the review; by which, on his own
grounds, he wastes as much more paper than the author, as the copies of
a fashionable review are more numerous than those of the original book;
in some, and those the most prominent instances, as ten thousand to five
hundred. I know nothing that surpasses the vileness of deciding on the
merits of a poet or painter,--(not by characteristic defects; for where
there is genius, these always point to his characteristic beauties;
but)--by accidental failures or faulty passages; except the impudence
of defending it, as the proper duty, and most instructive part, of
criticism. Omit or pass slightly over the expression, grace,
and grouping of Raffael's figures; but ridicule in detail the
knitting-needles and broom-twigs, that are to represent trees in his
back grounds; and never let him hear the last of his galli-pots! Admit
that the Allegro and Penseroso of Milton are not without merit; but
repay yourself for this concession, by reprinting at length the two
poems on the University Carrier! As a fair specimen of his Sonnets,

    "A Book was writ of late called Tetrachordon;"

and, as characteristic of his rhythm and metre, cite his literal
translation of the first and second Psalm! In order to justify yourself,
you need only assert, that had you dwelt chiefly on the beauties and
excellencies of the poet, the admiration of these might seduce the
attention of future writers from the objects of their love and wonder,
to an imitation of the few poems and passages in which the poet was most
unlike himself.

But till reviews are conducted on far other principles, and with far
other motives; till in the place of arbitrary dictation and petulant
sneers, the reviewers support their decisions by reference to fixed
canons of criticism, previously established and deduced from the nature
of man; reflecting minds will pronounce it arrogance in them thus to
announce themselves to men of letters, as the guides of their taste
and judgment. To the purchaser and mere reader it is, at all events, an
injustice. He who tells me that there are defects in a new work,
tells me nothing which I should not have taken for granted without his
information. But he, who points out and elucidates the beauties of
an original work does indeed give me interesting information, such
as experience would not have authorized me in anticipating. And as to
compositions which the authors themselves announce with

    Haec ipsi novimus esse nihil,

why should we judge by a different rule two printed works, only because
the one author is alive, and the other in his grave? What literary man
has not regretted the prudery of Spratt in refusing to let his friend
Cowley appear in his slippers and dressing gown? I am not perhaps
the only one who has derived an innocent amusement from the riddles,
conundrums, tri-syllable lines, and the like, of Swift and his
correspondents, in hours of languor, when to have read his more finished
works would have been useless to myself, and, in some sort, an act
of injustice to the author. But I am at a loss to conceive by what
perversity of judgment, these relaxations of his genius could be
employed to diminish his fame as the writer of Gulliver, or the Tale of
a Tub. Had Mr. Southey written twice as many poems of inferior merit, or
partial interest, as have enlivened the journals of the day, they
would have added to his honour with good and wise men, not merely or
principally as proving the versatility of his talents, but as evidences
of the purity of that mind, which even in its levities never dictated a
line which it need regret on any moral account.

I have in imagination transferred to the future biographer the duty of
contrasting Southey's fixed and well-earned fame, with the abuse and
indefatigable hostility of his anonymous critics from his early youth to
his ripest manhood. But I cannot think so ill of human nature as not
to believe, that these critics have already taken shame to themselves,
whether they consider the object of their abuse in his moral or his
literary character. For reflect but on the variety and extent of his
acquirements! He stands second to no man, either as an historian or as
a bibliographer; and when I regard him as a popular essayist,--(for the
articles of his compositions in the reviews are, for the greater part,
essays on subjects of deep or curious interest rather than criticisms
on particular works)--I look in vain for any writer, who has conveyed so
much information, from so many and such recondite sources, with so many
just and original reflections, in a style so lively and poignant, yet so
uniformly classical and perspicuous; no one, in short, who has combined
so much wisdom with so much wit; so much truth and knowledge with
so much life and fancy. His prose is always intelligible and always
entertaining. In poetry he has attempted almost every species of
composition known before, and he has added new ones; and if we except
the highest lyric,--(in which how few, how very few even of the greatest
minds have been fortunate)--he has attempted every species successfully;
from the political song of the day, thrown off in the playful overflow
of honest joy and patriotic exultation, to the wild ballad; from
epistolary ease and graceful narrative, to austere and impetuous moral
declamation; from the pastoral charms and wild streaming lights of the
Thalaba, in which sentiment and imagery have given permanence even to
the excitement of curiosity; and from the full blaze of the Kehama,--(a
gallery of finished pictures in one splendid fancy piece, in which,
notwithstanding, the moral grandeur rises gradually above the brilliance
of the colouring and the boldness and novelty of the machinery)--to
the more sober beauties of the Madoc; and lastly, from the Madoc to
his Roderick, in which, retaining all his former excellencies of a
poet eminently inventive and picturesque, he has surpassed himself
in language and metre, in the construction of the whole, and in the
splendour of particular passages.

Here then shall I conclude? No! The characters of the deceased, like the
encomia on tombstones, as they are described with religious tenderness,
so are they read, with allowing sympathy indeed, but yet with rational
deduction. There are men, who deserve a higher record; men with whose
characters it is the interest of their contemporaries, no less than
that of posterity, to be made acquainted; while it is yet possible for
impartial censure, and even for quick-sighted envy, to cross-examine
the tale without offence to the courtesies of humanity; and while the
eulogist, detected in exaggeration or falsehood, must pay the full
penalty of his baseness in the contempt which brands the convicted
flatterer. Publicly has Mr. Southey been reviled by men, who, as I would
fain hope for the honour of human nature, hurled fire-brands against
a figure of their own imagination; publicly have his talents been
depreciated, his principles denounced; as publicly do I therefore, who
have known him intimately, deem it my duty to leave recorded, that it
is Southey's almost unexampled felicity, to possess the best gifts of
talent and genius free from all their characteristic defects. To those
who remember the state of our public schools and universities some
twenty years past, it will appear no ordinary praise in any man to have
passed from innocence into virtue, not only free from all vicious habit,
but unstained by one act of intemperance, or the degradations akin to
intemperance. That scheme of head, heart, and habitual demeanour, which
in his early manhood, and first controversial writings, Milton, claiming
the privilege of self-defence, asserts of himself, and challenges
his calumniators to disprove; this will his school-mates, his
fellow-collegians, and his maturer friends, with a confidence
proportioned to the intimacy of their knowledge, bear witness to, as
again realized in the life of Robert Southey. But still more striking to
those, who by biography or by their own experience are familiar with the
general habits of genius, will appear the poet's matchless industry
and perseverance in his pursuits; the worthiness and dignity of those
pursuits; his generous submission to tasks of transitory interest, or
such as his genius alone could make otherwise; and that having thus more
than satisfied the claims of affection or prudence, he should yet have
made for himself time and power, to achieve more, and in more various
departments, than almost any other writer has done, though employed
wholly on subjects of his own choice and ambition. But as Southey
possesses, and is not possessed by, his genius, even so is he master
even of his virtues. The regular and methodical tenor of his daily
labours, which would be deemed rare in the most mechanical pursuits,
and might be envied by the mere man of business, loses all semblance of
formality in the dignified simplicity of his manners, in the spring and
healthful cheerfulness of his spirits. Always employed, his friends find
him always at leisure. No less punctual in trifles, than steadfast in
the performance of highest duties, he inflicts none of those small pains
and discomforts which irregular men scatter about them, and which in
the aggregate so often become formidable obstacles both to happiness
and utility; while on the contrary he bestows all the pleasures, and
inspires all that ease of mind on those around him or connected with
him, which perfect consistency, and (if such a word might be framed)
absolute reliability, equally in small as in great concerns, cannot but
inspire and bestow; when this too is softened without being weakened
by kindness and gentleness. I know few men who so well deserve the
character which an antient attributes to Marcus Cato, namely, that
he was likest virtue, in as much as he seemed to act aright, not in
obedience to any law or outward motive, but by the necessity of a happy
nature, which could not act otherwise. As son, brother, husband,
father, master, friend, he moves with firm yet light steps, alike
unostentatious, and alike exemplary. As a writer, he has uniformly made
his talents subservient to the best interests of humanity, of public
virtue, and domestic piety; his cause has ever been the cause of pure
religion and of liberty, of national independence and of national
illumination. When future critics shall weigh out his guerdon of praise
and censure, it will be Southey the poet only, that will supply them
with the scanty materials for the latter. They will likewise not fail to
record, that as no man was ever a more constant friend, never had poet
more friends and honourers among the good of all parties; and that
quacks in education, quacks in politics, and quacks in criticism were
his only enemies. [17]


The Lyrical Ballads with the Preface--Mr. Wordsworth's earlier poems--On
fancy and imagination--The investigation of the distinction important to
the Fine Arts.

I have wandered far from the object in view, but as I fancied to myself
readers who would respect the feelings that had tempted me from the main
road; so I dare calculate on not a few, who will warmly sympathize with
them. At present it will be sufficient for my purpose, if I have proved,
that Mr. Southey's writings no more than my own furnished the original
occasion to this fiction of a new school of poetry, and to the clamours
against its supposed founders and proselytes.

As little do I believe that Mr. Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads were
in themselves the cause. I speak exclusively of the two volumes so
entitled. A careful and repeated examination of these confirms me in
the belief, that the omission of less than a hundred lines would have
precluded nine-tenths of the criticism on this work. I hazard this
declaration, however, on the supposition, that the reader has taken it
up, as he would have done any other collection of poems purporting to
derive their subjects or interests from the incidents of domestic or
ordinary life, intermingled with higher strains of meditation which
the poet utters in his own person and character; with the proviso, that
these poems were perused without knowledge of, or reference to,
the author's peculiar opinions, and that the reader had not had his
attention previously directed to those peculiarities. In that case,
as actually happened with Mr. Southey's earlier works, the lines and
passages which might have offended the general taste, would have been
considered as mere inequalities, and attributed to inattention, not to
perversity of judgment. The men of business who had passed their lives
chiefly in cities, and who might therefore be expected to derive the
highest pleasure from acute notices of men and manners conveyed in easy,
yet correct and pointed language; and all those who, reading but little
poetry, are most stimulated with that species of it, which seems
most distant from prose, would probably have passed by the volumes
altogether. Others more catholic in their taste, and yet habituated to
be most pleased when most excited, would have contented themselves
with deciding, that the author had been successful in proportion to the
elevation of his style and subject. Not a few, perhaps, might, by their
admiration of the Lines written near Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the
Wye, those Left upon a Yew Tree Seat, The Old Cumberland Beggar,
and Ruth, have been gradually led to peruse with kindred feeling
The Brothers, the Hart-leap Well, and whatever other poems in that
collection may be described as holding a middle place between those
written in the highest and those in the humblest style; as for instance
between the Tintern Abbey, and The Thorn, or Simon Lee. Should their
taste submit to no further change, and still remain unreconciled to the
colloquial phrases, or the imitations of them, that are, more or less,
scattered through the class last mentioned; yet even from the small
number of the latter, they would have deemed them but an inconsiderable
subtraction from the merit of the whole work; or, what is sometimes not
unpleasing in the publication of a new writer, as serving to ascertain
the natural tendency, and consequently the proper direction of the
author's genius.

In the critical remarks, therefore, prefixed and annexed to the Lyrical
Ballads, I believe, we may safely rest, as the true origin of the
unexampled opposition which Mr. Wordsworth's writings have been since
doomed to encounter. The humbler passages in the poems themselves were
dwelt on and cited to justify the rejection of the theory. What in
and for themselves would have been either forgotten or forgiven as
imperfections, or at least comparative failures, provoked direct
hostility when announced as intentional, as the result of choice after
full deliberation. Thus the poems, admitted by all as excellent, joined
with those which had pleased the far greater number, though they formed
two-thirds of the whole work, instead of being deemed (as in all right
they should have been, even if we take for granted that the reader
judged aright) an atonement for the few exceptions, gave wind and fuel
to the animosity against both the poems and the poet. In all perplexity
there is a portion of fear, which predisposes the mind to anger. Not
able to deny that the author possessed both genius and a powerful
intellect, they felt very positive,--but yet were not quite certain
that he might not be in the right, and they themselves in the wrong; an
unquiet state of mind, which seeks alleviation by quarrelling with the
occasion of it, and by wondering at the perverseness of the man, who had
written a long and argumentative essay to persuade them, that

    Fair is foul, and foul is fair;

in other words, that they had been all their lives admiring without
judgment, and were now about to censure without reason. [18]

That this conjecture is not wide from the mark, I am induced to believe
from the noticeable fact, which I can state on my own knowledge, that
the same general censure has been grounded by almost every different
person on some different poem. Among those, whose candour and judgment
I estimate highly, I distinctly remember six who expressed their
objections to the Lyrical Ballads almost in the same words, and
altogether to the same purport, at the same time admitting, that several
of the poems had given them great pleasure; and, strange as it might
seem, the composition which one cited as execrable, another quoted as
his favourite. I am indeed convinced in my own mind, that could the same
experiment have been tried with these volumes, as was made in the well
known story of the picture, the result would have been the same; the
parts which had been covered by black spots on the one day, would be
found equally albo lapide notatae on the succeeding.

However this may be, it was assuredly hard and unjust to fix the
attention on a few separate and insulated poems with as much aversion,
as if they had been so many plague-spots on the whole work, instead of
passing them over in silence, as so much blank paper, or leaves of a
bookseller's catalogue; especially, as no one pretended to have found
in them any immorality or indelicacy; and the poems, therefore, at the
worst, could only be regarded as so many light or inferior coins in a
rouleau of gold, not as so much alloy in a weight of bullion. A friend
whose talents I hold in the highest respect, but whose judgment and
strong sound sense I have had almost continued occasion to revere,
making the usual complaints to me concerning both the style and subjects
of Mr. Wordsworth's minor poems; I admitted that there were some few of
the tales and incidents, in which I could not myself find a sufficient
cause for their having been recorded in metre. I mentioned Alice Fell as
an instance; "Nay," replied my friend with more than usual quickness of
manner, "I cannot agree with you there!--that, I own, does seem to me
a remarkably pleasing poem." In the Lyrical Ballads, (for my experience
does not enable me to extend the remark equally unqualified to the two
subsequent volumes,) I have heard at different times, and from different
individuals, every single poem extolled and reprobated, with the
exception of those of loftier kind, which as was before observed, seem
to have won universal praise. This fact of itself would have made me
diffident in my censures, had not a still stronger ground been furnished
by the strange contrast of the heat and long continuance of the
opposition, with the nature of the faults stated as justifying it. The
seductive faults, the dulcia vitia of Cowley, Marine, or Darwin might
reasonably be thought capable of corrupting the public judgment for half
a century, and require a twenty years war, campaign after campaign, in
order to dethrone the usurper and re-establish the legitimate taste.
But that a downright simpleness, under the affectation of simplicity,
prosaic words in feeble metre, silly thoughts in childish phrases, and
a preference of mean, degrading, or at best trivial associations and
characters, should succeed in forming a school of imitators, a company
of almost religious admirers, and this too among young men of ardent
minds, liberal education, and not

    ------with academic laurels unbestowed;

and that this bare and bald counterfeit of poetry, which is
characterized as below criticism, should for nearly twenty years have
well-nigh engrossed criticism, as the main, if not the only, butt of
review, magazine, pamphlet, poem, and paragraph; this is indeed matter
of wonder. Of yet greater is it, that the contest should still continue
as undecided as [19] that between Bacchus and the frogs in Aristophanes;
when the former descended to the realms of the departed to bring back
the spirit of old and genuine poesy;--

    CH.  Brekekekex, koax, koax.
    D.   All' exoloisth' auto koax.
         Ouden gar est' all', hae koax.
         Oimozet' ou gar moi melei.
    CH.  Alla maen kekraxomestha
         g', oposon hae pharynx an haemon
         chandanae di' haemeras,
         brekekekex, koax, koax!
    D.   Touto gar ou nikaesete.
    CH.  Oude men haemas su pantos.
    D.   Oude maen humeis ge dae m'
         oudepote. Kekraxomai gar,
         kan me deae, di' haemeras,
         eos an humon epikrataeso tou koax!
    CH.  Brekekekex, KO'AX, KOAX!

During the last year of my residence at Cambridge, 1794, I became
acquainted with Mr. Wordsworth's first publication entitled Descriptive
Sketches; and seldom, if ever, was the emergence of an original poetic
genius above the literary horizon more evidently announced. In the
form, style, and manner of the whole poem, and in the structure of
the particular lines and periods, there is a harshness and acerbity
connected and combined with words and images all a-glow, which might
recall those products of the vegetable world, where gorgeous blossoms
rise out of a hard and thorny rind and shell, within which the rich
fruit is elaborating. The language is not only peculiar and strong, but
at times knotty and contorted, as by its own impatient strength; while
the novelty and struggling crowd of images, acting in conjunction with
the difficulties of the style, demands always a greater closeness of
attention, than poetry,--at all events, than descriptive poetry--has
a right to claim. It not seldom therefore justified the complaint of
obscurity. In the following extract I have sometimes fancied, that I saw
an emblem of the poem itself, and of the author's genius as it was then

    'Tis storm; and hid in mist from hour to hour,
    All day the floods a deepening murmur pour;
    The sky is veiled, and every cheerful sight
    Dark is the region as with coming night;
    Yet what a sudden burst of overpowering light!
    Triumphant on the bosom of the storm,
    Glances the fire-clad eagle's wheeling form;
    Eastward, in long perspective glittering, shine
    The wood-crowned cliffs that o'er the lake recline;
    Those Eastern cliffs a hundred streams unfold,
    At once to pillars turned that flame with gold;
    Behind his sail the peasant strives to shun
    The west, that burns like one dilated sun,
    Where in a mighty crucible expire
    The mountains, glowing hot, like coals of fire.

The poetic Psyche, in its process to full development, undergoes as many
changes as its Greek namesake, the butterfly [20]. And it is remarkable
how soon genius clears and purifies itself from the faults and errors of
its earliest products; faults which, in its earliest compositions, are
the more obtrusive and confluent, because as heterogeneous elements,
which had only a temporary use, they constitute the very ferment,
by which themselves are carried off. Or we may compare them to some
diseases, which must work on the humours, and be thrown out on the
surface, in order to secure the patient from their future recurrence.
I was in my twenty-fourth year, when I had the happiness of knowing Mr.
Wordsworth personally, and while memory lasts, I shall hardly forget
the sudden effect produced on my mind, by his recitation of a manuscript
poem, which still remains unpublished, but of which the stanza and tone
of style were the same as those of The Female Vagrant, as originally
printed in the first volume of the Lyrical Ballads. There was here no
mark of strained thought, or forced diction, no crowd or turbulence of
imagery; and, as the poet hath himself well described in his Lines on
revisiting the Wye, manly reflection and human associations had given
both variety, and an additional interest to natural objects, which,
in the passion and appetite of the first love, they had seemed to him
neither to need nor permit. The occasional obscurities, which had risen
from an imperfect control over the resources of his native language, had
almost wholly disappeared, together with that worse defect of arbitrary
and illogical phrases, at once hackneyed and fantastic, which hold so
distinguished a place in the technique of ordinary poetry, and will,
more or less, alloy the earlier poems of the truest genius, unless
the attention has been specially directed to their worthlessness and
incongruity [21]. I did not perceive anything particular in the mere
style of the poem alluded to during its recitation, except indeed such
difference as was not separable from the thought and manner; and the
Spenserian stanza, which always, more or less, recalls to the reader's
mind Spenser's own style, would doubtless have authorized, in my then
opinion, a more frequent descent to the phrases of ordinary life, than
could without an ill effect have been hazarded in the heroic couplet.
It was not however the freedom from false taste, whether as to common
defects, or to those more properly his own, which made so unusual an
impression on my feelings immediately, and subsequently on my judgment.
It was the union of deep feeling with profound thought; the fine balance
of truth in observing, with the imaginative faculty in modifying, the
objects observed; and above all the original gift of spreading the tone,
the atmosphere, and with it the depth and height of the ideal world
around forms, incidents, and situations, of which, for the common view,
custom had bedimmed all the lustre, had dried up the sparkle and the dew

This excellence, which in all Mr. Wordsworth's writings is more or
less predominant, and which constitutes the character of his mind, I no
sooner felt, than I sought to understand. Repeated meditations led me
first to suspect,--(and a more intimate analysis of the human faculties,
their appropriate marks, functions, and effects matured my conjecture
into full conviction,)--that Fancy and Imagination were two distinct and
widely different faculties, instead of being, according to the general
belief, either two names with one meaning, or, at furthest, the lower
and higher degree of one and the same power. It is not, I own, easy to
conceive a more apposite translation of the Greek phantasia than the
Latin imaginatio; but it is equally true that in all societies there
exists an instinct of growth, a certain collective, unconscious good
sense working progressively to desynonymize [22] those words originally
of the same meaning, which the conflux of dialects supplied to the
more homogeneous languages, as the Greek and German: and which the
same cause, joined with accidents of translation from original works of
different countries, occasion in mixed languages like our own. The first
and most important point to be proved is, that two conceptions perfectly
distinct are confused under one and the same word, and--this done--to
appropriate that word exclusively to the one meaning, and the synonyme,
should there be one, to the other. But if,--(as will be often the case
in the arts and sciences,)--no synonyme exists, we must either invent
or borrow a word. In the present instance the appropriation has already
begun, and been legitimated in the derivative adjective: Milton had a
highly imaginative, Cowley a very fanciful mind. If therefore I should
succeed in establishing the actual existence of two faculties generally
different, the nomenclature would be at once determined. To the
faculty by which I had characterized Milton, we should confine the term
'imagination;' while the other would be contra-distinguished as 'fancy.'
Now were it once fully ascertained, that this division is no less
grounded in nature than that of delirium from mania, or Otway's

    Lutes, laurels, seas of milk, and ships of amber,

from Shakespeare's

    What! have his daughters brought him to this pass?

or from the preceding apostrophe to the elements; the theory of the fine
arts, and of poetry in particular, could not but derive some additional
and important light. It would in its immediate effects furnish a torch
of guidance to the philosophical critic; and ultimately to the poet
himself. In energetic minds, truth soon changes by domestication into
power; and from directing in the discrimination and appraisal of the
product, becomes influencive in the production. To admire on principle,
is the only way to imitate without loss of originality.

It has been already hinted, that metaphysics and psychology have long
been my hobby-horse. But to have a hobby-horse, and to be vain of it,
are so commonly found together, that they pass almost for the same. I
trust therefore, that there will be more good humour than contempt,
in the smile with which the reader chastises my self-complacency, if I
confess myself uncertain, whether the satisfaction from the perception
of a truth new to myself may not have been rendered more poignant by the
conceit, that it would be equally so to the public. There was a time,
certainly, in which I took some little credit to myself, in the belief
that I had been the first of my countrymen, who had pointed out the
diverse meaning of which the two terms were capable, and analyzed the
faculties to which they should be appropriated. Mr. W. Taylor's recent
volume of synonymes I have not yet seen [23]; but his specification of
the terms in question has been clearly shown to be both insufficient and
erroneous by Mr. Wordsworth in the Preface added to the late collection
of his Poems. The explanation which Mr. Wordsworth has himself given,
will be found to differ from mine, chiefly, perhaps as our objects are
different. It could scarcely indeed happen otherwise, from the advantage
I have enjoyed of frequent conversation with him on a subject to which
a poem of his own first directed my attention, and my conclusions
concerning which he had made more lucid to myself by many happy
instances drawn from the operation of natural objects on the mind. But
it was Mr. Wordsworth's purpose to consider the influences of fancy and
imagination as they are manifested in poetry, and from the different
effects to conclude their diversity in kind; while it is my object to
investigate the seminal principle, and then from the kind to deduce the
degree. My friend has drawn a masterly sketch of the branches with their
poetic fruitage. I wish to add the trunk, and even the roots as far as
they lift themselves above ground, and are visible to the naked eye of
our common consciousness.

Yet even in this attempt I am aware that I shall be obliged to draw more
largely on the reader's attention, than so immethodical a miscellany as
this can authorize; when in such a work (the Ecclesiasical Polity) of
such a mind as Hooker's, the judicious author, though no less admirable
for the perspicuity than for the port and dignity of his language,--and
though he wrote for men of learning in a learned age,--saw nevertheless
occasion to anticipate and guard against "complaints of obscurity," as
often as he was to trace his subject "to the highest well-spring and
fountain." Which, (continues he) "because men are not accustomed to, the
pains we take are more needful a great deal, than acceptable; and the
matters we handle, seem by reason of newness (till the mind grow better
acquainted with them) dark and intricate." I would gladly therefore
spare both myself and others this labour, if I knew how without it
to present an intelligible statement of my poetic creed,--not as my
opinions, which weigh for nothing, but as deductions from established
premises conveyed in such a form, as is calculated either to effect a
fundamental conviction, or to receive a fundamental confutation. If I
may dare once more adopt the words of Hooker, "they, unto whom we shall
seem tedious, are in no wise injured by us, because it is in their own
hands to spare that labour, which they are not willing to endure." Those
at least, let me be permitted to add, who have taken so much pains to
render me ridiculous for a perversion of taste, and have supported the
charge by attributing strange notions to me on no other authority than
their own conjectures, owe it to themselves as well as to me not to
refuse their attention to my own statement of the theory which I do
acknowledge; or shrink from the trouble of examining the grounds on
which I rest it, or the arguments which I offer in its justification.


On the law of Association--Its history traced from Aristotle to Hartley.

There have been men in all ages, who have been impelled as by an
instinct to propose their own nature as a problem, and who devote their
attempts to its solution. The first step was to construct a table of
distinctions, which they seem to have formed on the principle of the
absence or presence of the Will. Our various sensations, perceptions,
and movements were classed as active or passive, or as media partaking
of both. A still finer distinction was soon established between the
voluntary and the spontaneous. In our perceptions we seem to ourselves
merely passive to an external power, whether as a mirror reflecting the
landscape, or as a blank canvass on which some unknown hand paints it.
For it is worthy of notice, that the latter, or the system of Idealism
may be traced to sources equally remote with the former, or Materialism;
and Berkeley can boast an ancestry at least as venerable as Gassendi
or Hobbes. These conjectures, however, concerning the mode in which our
perceptions originated, could not alter the natural difference of Things
and Thoughts. In the former, the cause appeared wholly external,
while in the latter, sometimes our will interfered as the producing or
determining cause, and sometimes our nature seemed to act by a mechanism
of its own, without any conscious effort of the will, or even against
it. Our inward experiences were thus arranged in three separate classes,
the passive sense, or what the School-men call the merely receptive
quality of the mind; the voluntary; and the spontaneous, which holds the
middle place between both. But it is not in human nature to meditate on
any mode of action, without inquiring after the law that governs it;
and in the explanation of the spontaneous movements of our being, the
metaphysician took the lead of the anatomist and natural philosopher. In
Egypt, Palestine, Greece, and India the analysis of the mind had reached
its noon and manhood, while experimental research was still in its dawn
and infancy. For many, very many centuries, it has been difficult to
advance a new truth, or even a new error, in the philosophy of the
intellect or morals. With regard, however, to the laws that direct the
spontaneous movements of thought and the principle of their intellectual
mechanism there exists, it has been asserted, an important exception
most honourable to the moderns, and in the merit of which our own
country claims the largest share. Sir James Mackintosh,--(who, amid the
variety of his talents and attainments, is not of less repute for the
depth and accuracy of his philosophical inquiries than for the
eloquence with which he is said to render their most difficult results
perspicuous, and the driest attractive,)--affirmed in the Lectures,
delivered by him in Lincoln's Inn Hall, that the law of association as
established in the contemporaneity of the original impressions,
formed the basis of all true psychology; and that any ontological or
metaphysical science, not contained in such (that is, an empirical)
psychology, was but a web of abstractions and generalizations. Of this
prolific truth, of this great fundamental law, he declared Hobbes to
have been the original discoverer, while its full application to the
whole intellectual system we owed to Hartley; who stood in the same
relation to Hobbes as Newton to Kepler; the law of association being
that to the mind, which gravitation is to matter.

Of the former clause in this assertion, as it respects the comparative
merits of the ancient metaphysicians, including their commentators, the
School-men, and of the modern and British and French philosophers from
Hobbes to Hume, Hartley, and Condillac, this is not the place to speak.
So wide indeed is the chasm between Sir James Mackintosh's philosophical
creed and mine, that so far from being able to join hands, we could
scarcely make our voices intelligible to each other: and to bridge it
over would require more time, skill, and power than I believe myself
to possess. But the latter clause involves for the greater part a mere
question of fact and history, and the accuracy of the statement is to be
tried by documents rather than reasoning.

First, then, I deny Hobbes's claim in toto: for he had been anticipated
by Des Cartes, whose work De Methodo, preceded Hobbes's De Natura
Humana, by more than a year. But what is of much more importance, Hobbes
builds nothing on the principle which he had announced. He does not
even announce it, as differing in any respect from the general laws of
material motion and impact: nor was it, indeed, possible for him so
to do, compatibly with his system, which was exclusively material and
mechanical. Far otherwise is it with Des Cartes; greatly as he too
in his after writings (and still more egregiously his followers De la
Forge, and others) obscured the truth by their attempts to explain it on
the theory of nervous fluids, and material configurations. But, in his
interesting work, De Methodo, Des Cartes relates the circumstance which
first led him to meditate on this subject, and which since then has been
often noticed and employed as an instance and illustration of the law.
A child who with its eyes bandaged had lost several of his fingers by
amputation, continued to complain for many days successively of pains,
now in this joint and now in that, of the very fingers which had
been cut off. Des Cartes was led by this incident to reflect on the
uncertainty with which we attribute any particular place to any inward
pain or uneasiness, and proceeded after long consideration to establish
it as a general law: that contemporaneous impressions, whether images
or sensations, recall each other mechanically. On this principle, as
a ground work, he built up the whole system of human language, as one
continued process of association. He showed in what sense not only
general terms, but generic images,--under the name of abstract
ideas,--actually existed, and in what consist their nature and power.
As one word may become the general exponent of many, so by association
a simple image may represent a whole class. But in truth Hobbes
himself makes no claims to any discovery, and introduces this law of
association, or (in his own language) discursion of mind, as an
admitted fact, in the solution alone of which, and this by causes purely
physiological, he arrogates any originality. His system is briefly this;
whenever the senses are impinged on by external objects, whether by
the rays of light reflected from them, or by effluxes of their finer
particles, there results a correspondent motion of the innermost and
subtlest organs. This motion constitutes a representation, and there
remains an impression of the same, or a certain disposition to repeat
the same motion. Whenever we feel several objects at the same time, the
impressions that are left, (or in the language of Mr. Hume, the ideas,)
are linked together. Whenever therefore any one of the movements, which
constitute a complex impression, is renewed through the senses, the
others succeed mechanically. It follows of necessity, therefore, that
Hobbes, as well as Hartley and all others who derive association from
the connection and interdependence of the supposed matter, the movements
of which constitute our thoughts, must have reduced all its forms to
the one law of Time. But even the merit of announcing this law with
philosophic precision cannot be fairly conceded to him. For the objects
of any two ideas need not have co-existed in the same sensation in
order to become mutually associable. The same result will follow when
one only of the two ideas has been represented by the senses, and the
other by the memory.

Long however before either Hobbes or Des Cartes the law of association
had been defined, and its important functions set forth by Ludovicus
Vives. Phantasia, it is to be noticed, is employed by Vives to express
the mental power of comprehension, or the active function of the mind;
and imaginatio for the receptivity (via receptiva) of impressions, or
for the passive perception. The power of combination he appropriates
to the former: "quae singula et simpliciter acceperat imaginatio, ea
conjungit et disjungait phantasia." And the law by which the thoughts
are spontaneously presented follows thus: "quae simul sunt a phantasia
comprehensa, si alterutrum occurrat, solet secum alterum representare."
To time therefore he subordinates all the other exciting causes
of association. The soul proceeds "a causa ad effectum, ab hoc ad
instrumentum, a parte ad totum;" thence to the place, from place to
person, and from this to whatever preceded or followed, all as being
parts of a total impression, each of which may recall the other. The
apparent springs "saltus vel transitus etiam longissimos," he explains
by the same thought having been a component part of two or more total
impressions. Thus "ex Scipione venio in cogitationem potentiae Turcicae,
propter victorias ejus de Asia, in qua regnabat Antiochus."

But from Vives I pass at once to the source of his doctrines, and (as
far as we can judge from the remains yet extant of Greek philosophy)
as to the first, so to the fullest and most perfect enunciation of the
associative principle, namely, to the writings of Aristotle; and of
these in particular to the treatises De Anima, and "De Memoria," which
last belongs to the series of essays entitled in the old translations
Parva Naturalia. In as much as later writers have either deviated from,
or added to his doctrines, they appear to me to have introduced either
error or groundless supposition.

In the first place it is to be observed, that Aristotle's positions on
this subject are unmixed with fiction. The wise Stagyrite speaks of no
successive particles propagating motion like billiard balls, as Hobbes;
nor of nervous or animal spirits, where inanimate and irrational solids
are thawed down, and distilled, or filtrated by ascension, into living
and intelligent fluids, that etch and re-etch engravings on the brain,
as the followers of Des Cartes, and the humoral pathologists in general;
nor of an oscillating ether which was to effect the same service for the
nerves of the brain considered as solid fibres, as the animal
spirits perform for them under the notion of hollow tubes, as Hartley
teaches--nor finally, (with yet more recent dreamers) of chemical
compositions by elective affinity, or of an electric light at once the
immediate object and the ultimate organ of inward vision, which rises
to the brain like an Aurora Borealis, and there, disporting in various
shapes,--as the balance of plus and minus, or negative and positive,
is destroyed or re-established,--images out both past and present.
Aristotle delivers a just theory without pretending to an hypothesis;
or in other words a comprehensive survey of the different facts, and
of their relations to each other without supposition, that is, a fact
placed under a number of facts, as their common support and explanation;
though in the majority of instances these hypotheses or suppositions
better deserve the name of upopoiaeseis, or suffictions. He uses indeed
the word kinaeseis, to express what we call representations or ideas,
but he carefully distinguishes them from material motion, designating
the latter always by annexing the words en topo, or kata topon. On the
contrary, in his treatise De Anima, he excludes place and motion from
all the operations of thought, whether representations or volitions, as
attributes utterly and absurdly heterogeneous.

The general law of association, or, more accurately, the common
condition under which all exciting causes act, and in which they may
be generalized, according to Aristotle is this. Ideas by having been
together acquire a power of recalling each other; or every partial
representation awakes the total representation of which it had been
a part. In the practical determination of this common principle to
particular recollections, he admits five agents or occasioning
causes: first, connection in time, whether simultaneous, preceding,
or successive; second, vicinity or connection in space; third,
interdependence or necessary connection, as cause and effect; fourth,
likeness; and fifth, contrast. As an additional solution of the
occasional seeming chasms in the continuity of reproduction he proves,
that movements or ideas possessing one or the other of these five
characters had passed through the mind as intermediate links,
sufficiently clear to recall other parts of the same total impressions
with which they had co-existed, though not vivid enough to excite that
degree of attention which is requisite for distinct recollection, or
as we may aptly express it, after consciousness. In association then
consists the whole mechanism of the reproduction of impressions, in the
Aristotelian Psychology. It is the universal law of the passive fancy
and mechanical memory; that which supplies to all other faculties their
objects, to all thought the elements of its materials.

In consulting the excellent commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas on the
Parva Naturalia of Aristotle, I was struck at once with its close
resemblance to Hume's Essay on Association. The main thoughts were
the same in both, the order of the thoughts was the same, and even the
illustrations differed only by Hume's occasional substitution of more
modern examples. I mentioned the circumstance to several of my literary
acquaintances, who admitted the closeness of the resemblance, and
that it seemed too great to be explained by mere coincidence; but
they thought it improbable that Hume should have held the pages of the
Angelic Doctor worth turning over. But some time after Mr. Payne showed
Sir James Mackintosh some odd volumes of St. Thomas Aquinas, partly
perhaps from having heard that he had in his Lectures passed a high
encomium on this canonized philosopher; but chiefly from the fact, that
the volumes had belonged to Mr. Hume, and had here and there marginal
marks and notes of reference in his own hand writing. Among these
volumes was that which contains the Parva Naturalia, in the old Latin
version, swathed and swaddled in the commentary afore mentioned

It remains then for me, first to state wherein Hartley differs from
Aristotle; then, to exhibit the grounds of my conviction, that
he differed only to err: and next as the result, to show, by what
influences of the choice and judgment the associative power becomes
either memory or fancy; and, in conclusion, to appropriate the remaining
offices of the mind to the reason, and the imagination. With my best
efforts to be as perspicuous as the nature of language will permit
on such a subject, I earnestly solicit the good wishes and friendly
patience of my readers, while I thus go "sounding on my dim and perilous


That Hartley's system, as far as it differs from that of Aristotle, is
neither tenable in theory, nor founded in facts.

Of Hartley's hypothetical vibrations in his hypothetical oscillating
ether of the nerves, which is the first and most obvious distinction
between his system and that of Aristotle, I shall say little. This, with
all other similar attempts to render that an object of the sight which
has no relation to sight, has been already sufficiently exposed by the
younger Reimarus, Maasz, and others, as outraging the very axioms
of mechanics in a scheme, the merit of which consists in its being
mechanical. Whether any other philosophy be possible, but the
mechanical; and again, whether the mechanical system can have any
claim to be called philosophy; are questions for another place. It is,
however, certain, that as long as we deny the former, and affirm the
latter, we must bewilder ourselves, whenever we would pierce into the
adyta of causation; and all that laborious conjecture can do, is to fill
up the gaps of fancy. Under that despotism of the eye (the emancipation
from which Pythagoras by his numeral, and Plato by his musical, symbols,
and both by geometric discipline, aimed at, as the first propaideuma of
the mind)--under this strong sensuous influence, we are restless
because invisible things are not the objects of vision; and metaphysical
systems, for the most part, become popular, not for their truth, but in
proportion as they attribute to causes a susceptibility of being seen,
if only our visual organs were sufficiently powerful.

From a hundred possible confutations let one suffice. According to
this system the idea or vibration a from the external object A becomes
associable with the idea or vibration m from the external object M,
because the oscillation a propagated itself so as to re-produce the
oscillation m. But the original impression from M was essentially
different from the impression A: unless therefore different causes
may produce the same effect, the vibration a could never produce the
vibration m: and this therefore could never be the means, by which a and
m are associated. To understand this, the attentive reader need only be
reminded, that the ideas are themselves, in Hartley's system, nothing
more than their appropriate configurative vibrations. It is a mere
delusion of the fancy to conceive the pre-existence of the ideas, in any
chain of association, as so many differently coloured billiard-balls in
contact, so that when an object, the billiard-stick, strikes the first
or white ball, the same motion propagates itself through the red, green,
blue and black, and sets the whole in motion. No! we must suppose the
very same force, which constitutes the white ball, to constitute the red
or black; or the idea of a circle to constitute the idea of a triangle;
which is impossible.

But it may be said, that by the sensations from the objects A and M,
the nerves have acquired a disposition to the vibrations a and m, and
therefore a need only be repeated in order to re-produce m. Now we will
grant, for a moment, the possibility of such a disposition in a
material nerve, which yet seems scarcely less absurd than to say, that a
weather-cock had acquired a habit of turning to the east, from the wind
having been so long in that quarter: for if it be replied, that we must
take in the circumstance of life, what then becomes of the mechanical
philosophy? And what is the nerve, but the flint which the wag placed in
the pot as the first ingredient of his stone broth, requiring only
salt, turnips, and mutton, for the remainder! But if we waive this, and
pre-suppose the actual existence of such a disposition; two cases
are possible. Either, every idea has its own nerve and correspondent
oscillation, or this is not the case. If the latter be the truth, we
should gain nothing by these dispositions; for then, every nerve having
several dispositions, when the motion of any other nerve is propagated
into it, there will be no ground or cause present, why exactly the
oscillation m should arise, rather than any other to which it was
equally pre-disposed. But if we take the former, and let every idea have
a nerve of its own, then every nerve must be capable of propagating its
motion into many other nerves; and again, there is no reason assignable,
why the vibration m should arise, rather than any other ad libitum.

It is fashionable to smile at Hartley's vibrations and vibratiuncles;
and his work has been re-edited by Priestley, with the omission of the
material hypothesis. But Hartley was too great a man, too coherent a
thinker, for this to have been done, either consistently or to any wise
purpose. For all other parts of his system, as far as they are peculiar
to that system, once removed from their mechanical basis, not only lose
their main support, but the very motive which led to their adoption.
Thus the principle of contemporaneity, which Aristotle had made the
common condition of all the laws of association, Hartley was constrained
to represent as being itself the sole law. For to what law can the
action of material atoms be subject, but that of proximity in place? And
to what law can their motions be subjected but that of time? Again, from
this results inevitably, that the will, the reason, the judgment,
and the understanding, instead of being the determining causes of
association, must needs be represented as its creatures, and among its
mechanical effects. Conceive, for instance, a broad stream, winding
through a mountainous country with an indefinite number of currents,
varying and running into each other according as the gusts chance to
blow from the opening of the mountains. The temporary union of several
currents in one, so as to form the main current of the moment, would
present an accurate image of Hartley's theory of the will.

Had this been really the case, the consequence would have been, that
our whole life would be divided between the despotism of outward
impressions, and that of senseless and passive memory. Take his law in
its highest abstraction and most philosophical form, namely, that every
partial representation recalls the total representation of which it was
a part; and the law becomes nugatory, were it only for its universality.
In practice it would indeed be mere lawlessness. Consider, how immense
must be the sphere of a total impression from the top of St. Paul's
church; and how rapid and continuous the series of such total
impressions. If, therefore, we suppose the absence of all interference
of the will, reason, and judgment, one or other of two consequences must
result. Either the ideas, or reliques of such impression, will exactly
imitate the order of the impression itself, which would be absolute
delirium: or any one part of that impression might recall any other
part, and--(as from the law of continuity, there must exist in every
total impression, some one or more parts, which are components of some
other following total impression, and so on ad infinitum)--any part
of any impression might recall any part of any other, without a cause
present to determine what it should be. For to bring in the will, or
reason, as causes of their own cause, that is, as at once causes and
effects, can satisfy those only who, in their pretended evidences of a
God, having first demanded organization, as the sole cause and ground
of intellect, will then coolly demand the pre-existence of intellect,
as the cause and ground-work of organization. There is in truth but
one state to which this theory applies at all, namely, that of complete
light-headedness; and even to this it applies but partially, because the
will and reason are perhaps never wholly suspended.

A case of this kind occurred in a Roman Catholic town in Germany a year
or two before my arrival at Goettingen, and had not then ceased to be
a frequent subject of conversation. A young woman of four or five and
twenty, who could neither read, nor write, was seized with a nervous
fever; during which, according to the asseverations of all the priests
and monks of the neighbourhood, she became possessed, and, as it
appeared, by a very learned devil. She continued incessantly talking
Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, in very pompous tones and with most distinct
enunciation. This possession was rendered more probable by the known
fact that she was or had been a heretic. Voltaire humorously advises the
devil to decline all acquaintance with medical men; and it would have
been more to his reputation, if he had taken this advice in the present
instance. The case had attracted the particular attention of a
young physician, and by his statement many eminent physiologists and
psychologists visited the town, and cross-examined the case on the spot.
Sheets full of her ravings were taken down from her own mouth, and
were found to consist of sentences, coherent and intelligible each for
itself, but with little or no connection with each other. Of the Hebrew,
a small portion only could be traced to the Bible; the remainder seemed
to be in the Rabbinical dialect. All trick or conspiracy was out of
the question. Not only had the young woman ever been a harmless, simple
creature; but she was evidently labouring under a nervous fever. In
the town, in which she had been resident for many years as a servant in
different families, no solution presented itself. The young physician,
however, determined to trace her past life step by step; for the patient
herself was incapable of returning a rational answer. He at length
succeeded in discovering the place, where her parents had lived:
travelled thither, found them dead, but an uncle surviving; and from him
learned, that the patient had been charitably taken by an old Protestant
pastor at nine years old, and had remained with him some years, even
till the old man's death. Of this pastor the uncle knew nothing, but
that he was a very good man. With great difficulty, and after much
search, our young medical philosopher discovered a niece of the
pastor's, who had lived with him as his house-keeper, and had inherited
his effects. She remembered the girl; related, that her venerable uncle
had been too indulgent, and could not bear to hear the girl scolded;
that she was willing to have kept her, but that, after her patron's
death, the girl herself refused to stay. Anxious inquiries were then,
of course, made concerning the pastor's habits; and the solution of the
phenomenon was soon obtained. For it appeared, that it had been the old
man's custom, for years, to walk up and down a passage of his house into
which the kitchen door opened, and to read to himself with a loud voice,
out of his favourite books. A considerable number of these were still in
the niece's possession. She added, that he was a very learned man and
a great Hebraist. Among the books were found a collection of Rabbinical
writings, together with several of the Greek and Latin Fathers; and the
physician succeeded in identifying so many passages with those taken
down at the young woman's bedside, that no doubt could remain in any
rational mind concerning the true origin of the impressions made on her
nervous system.

This authenticated case furnishes both proof and instance, that reliques
of sensation may exist for an indefinite time in a latent state, in
the very same order in which they were originally impressed; and as we
cannot rationally suppose the feverish state of the brain to act in any
other way than as a stimulus, this fact (and it would not be difficult
to adduce several of the same kind) contributes to make it even
probable, that all thoughts are in themselves imperishable; and, that if
the intelligent faculty should be rendered more comprehensive, it
would require only a different and apportioned organization,--the body
celestial instead of the body terrestrial,--to bring before every human
soul the collective experience of its whole past existence. And this,
this, perchance, is the dread book of judgment, in the mysterious
hieroglyphics of which every idle word is recorded! Yea, in the very
nature of a living spirit, it may be more possible that heaven and earth
should pass away, than that a single act, a single thought, should be
loosened or lost from that living chain of causes, with all the links of
which, conscious or unconscious, the free-will, our only absolute Self,
is coextensive and co-present. But not now dare I longer discourse of
this, waiting for a loftier mood, and a nobler subject, warned from
within and from without, that it is profanation to speak of these
"mysteries tois maede phantasteisin, os kalon to taes dikaiosynaes kai
sophrosynaes prosopon, kai oute hesperos oute eoos outo kala. To gar
horon pros to horomenon syngenes kai homoion poiaesamenon dei epiballein
tae thea, ou gar an popote eiden ophthalmos haelion, haelioeidaes mae
gegenaemenos oude to kalon an idae psychae, mae kagae genomenae--to
those to whose imagination it has never been presented, how beautiful is
the countenance of justice and wisdom; and that neither the morning nor
the evening star are so fair. For in order to direct the view aright,
it behoves that the beholder should have made himself congenerous and
similar to the object beheld. Never could the eye have beheld the sun,
had not its own essence been soliform," (i.e. pre-configured to light
by a similarity of essence with that of light) "neither can a soul not
beautiful attain to an intuition of beauty."


Of the necessary consequences of the Hartleian Theory--Of the original
mistake or equivocation which procured its admission--Memoria technica.

We will pass by the utter incompatibility of such a law--if law it may
be called, which would itself be a slave of chances--with even that
appearance of rationality forced upon us by the outward phaenomena of
human conduct, abstracted from our own consciousness. We will agree
to forget this for the moment, in order to fix our attention on that
subordination of final to efficient causes in the human being, which
flows of necessity from the assumption, that the will and, with the
will, all acts of thought and attention are parts and products of this
blind mechanism, instead of being distinct powers, the function of
which it is to control, determine, and modify the phantasmal chaos
of association. The soul becomes a mere ens logicum; for, as a real
separable being, it would be more worthless and ludicrous than the
Grimalkins in the cat-harpsichord, described in the Spectator. For these
did form a part of the process; but, to Hartley's scheme, the soul is
present only to be pinched or stroked, while the very squeals or purring
are produced by an agency wholly independent and alien. It involves all
the difficulties, all the incomprehensibility (if it be not indeed, os
emoige dokei, the absurdity), of intercommunion between substances
that have no one property in common, without any of the convenient
consequences that bribed the judgment to the admission of the Dualistic
hypothesis. Accordingly, this caput mortuum of the Hartleian process has
been rejected by his followers, and the consciousness considered as a
result, as a tune, the common product of the breeze and the harp
though this again is the mere remotion of one absurdity to make way
for another, equally preposterous. For what is harmony but a mode of
relation, the very esse of which is percipi?--an ens rationale, which
pre-supposes the power, that by perceiving creates it? The razor's edge
becomes a saw to the armed vision; and the delicious melodies of Purcell
or Cimarosa might be disjointed stammerings to a hearer, whose partition
of time should be a thousand times subtler than ours. But this obstacle
too let us imagine ourselves to have surmounted, and "at one bound high
overleap all bound." Yet according to this hypothesis the disquisition,
to which I am at present soliciting the reader's attention, may be as
truly said to be written by Saint Paul's church, as by me: for it is the
mere motion of my muscles and nerves; and these again are set in motion
from external causes equally passive, which external causes stand
themselves in interdependent connection with every thing that exists or
has existed. Thus the whole universe co-operates to produce the minutest
stroke of every letter, save only that I myself, and I alone, have
nothing to do with it, but merely the causeless and effectless beholding
of it when it is done. Yet scarcely can it be called a beholding; for
it is neither an act nor an effect; but an impossible creation of a
something nothing out of its very contrary! It is the mere quick-silver
plating behind a looking-glass; and in this alone consists the poor
worthless I! The sum total of my moral and intellectual intercourse,
dissolved into its elements, is reduced to extension, motion, degrees
of velocity, and those diminished copies of configurative motion, which
form what we call notions, and notions of notions. Of such philosophy
well might Butler say--

    The metaphysic's but a puppet motion
    That goes with screws, the notion of a notion;
    The copy of a copy and lame draught
    Unnaturally taken from a thought
    That counterfeits all pantomimic tricks,
    And turns the eyes, like an old crucifix;
    That counterchanges whatsoe'er it calls
    By another name, and makes it true or false;
    Turns truth to falsehood, falsehood into truth,
    By virtue of the Babylonian's tooth.

The inventor of the watch, if this doctrine be true, did not in reality
invent it; he only looked on, while the blind causes, the only true
artists, were unfolding themselves. So must it have been too with my
friend Allston, when he sketched his picture of the dead man revived by
the bones of the prophet Elijah. So must it have been with Mr. Southey
and Lord Byron, when the one fancied himself composing his Roderick, and
the other his Childe Harold. The same must hold good of all systems of
philosophy; of all arts, governments, wars by sea and by land; in short,
of all things that ever have been or that ever will be produced. For,
according to this system, it is not the affections and passions that are
at work, in as far as they are sensations or thoughts. We only fancy,
that we act from rational resolves, or prudent motives, or from impulses
of anger, love, or generosity. In all these cases the real agent is a
something-nothing-everything, which does all of which we know, and knows
nothing of all that itself does.

The existence of an infinite spirit, of an intelligent and holy will,
must, on this system, be mere articulated motions of the air. For as the
function of the human understanding is no other than merely to appear to
itself to combine and to apply the phaenomena of the association; and
as these derive all their reality from the primary sensations; and the
sensations again all their reality from the impressions ab extra; a
God not visible, audible, or tangible, can exist only in the sounds and
letters that form his name and attributes. If in ourselves there be no
such faculties as those of the will, and the scientific reason, we must
either have an innate idea of them, which would overthrow the whole
system; or we can have no idea at all. The process, by which Hume
degraded the notion of cause and effect into a blind product of delusion
and habit, into the mere sensation of proceeding life (nisus vitalis)
associated with the images of the memory; this same process must be
repeated to the equal degradation of every fundamental idea in ethics or

Far, very far am I from burthening with the odium of these consequences
the moral characters of those who first formed, or have since adopted
the system! It is most noticeable of the excellent and pious Hartley,
that, in the proofs of the existence and attributes of God, with which
his second volume commences, he makes no reference to the principle or
results of the first. Nay, he assumes, as his foundations, ideas which,
if we embrace the doctrines of his first volume, can exist no where but
in the vibrations of the ethereal medium common to the nerves and to the
atmosphere. Indeed the whole of the second volume is, with the fewest
possible exceptions, independent of his peculiar system. So true is it,
that the faith, which saves and sanctifies, is a collective energy, a
total act of the whole moral being; that its living sensorium is in the
heart; and that no errors of the understanding can be morally arraigned
unless they have proceeded from the heart. But whether they be such, no
man can be certain in the case of another, scarcely perhaps even in his
own. Hence it follows by inevitable consequence, that man may perchance
determine what is a heresy; but God only can know who is a heretic. It
does not, however, by any means follow that opinions fundamentally
false are harmless. A hundred causes may co-exist to form one complex
antidote. Yet the sting of the adder remains venomous, though there
are many who have taken up the evil thing, and it hurted them not. Some
indeed there seem to have been, in an unfortunate neighbour nation at
least, who have embraced this system with a full view of all its moral
and religious consequences; some--

    ------who deem themselves most free,
    When they within this gross and visible sphere
    Chain down the winged thought, scoffing ascent,
    Proud in their meanness; and themselves they cheat
    With noisy emptiness of learned phrase,
    Their subtle fluids, impacts, essences,
    Self-working tools, uncaus'd effects, and all
    Those blind omniscients, those almighty slaves,
    Untenanting creation of its God!

Such men need discipline, not argument; they must be made better men,
before they can become wiser.

The attention will be more profitably employed in attempting to discover
and expose the paralogisms, by the magic of which such a faith could
find admission into minds framed for a nobler creed. These, it appears
to me, may be all reduced to one sophism as their common genus; the
mistaking the conditions of a thing for its causes and essence; and
the process, by which we arrive at the knowledge of a faculty, for the
faculty itself. The air I breathe is the condition of my life, not its
cause. We could never have learned that we had eyes but by the process
of seeing; yet having seen we know that the eyes must have pre-existed
in order to render the process of sight possible. Let us cross-examine
Hartley's scheme under the guidance of this distinction; and we shall
discover, that contemporaneity, (Leibnitz's Lex Continui,) is the limit
and condition of the laws of mind, itself being rather a law of matter,
at least of phaenomena considered as material. At the utmost, it is to
thought the same, as the law of gravitation is to loco-motion. In every
voluntary movement we first counteract gravitation, in order to avail
ourselves of it. It must exist, that there may be a something to be
counteracted, and which, by its re-action, may aid the force that is
exerted to resist it. Let us consider what we do when we leap. We first
resist the gravitating power by an act purely voluntary, and then by
another act, voluntary in part, we yield to it in order to alight on the
spot, which we had previously proposed to ourselves. Now let a man watch
his mind while he is composing; or, to take a still more common case,
while he is trying to recollect a name; and he will find the process
completely analogous. Most of my readers will have observed a small
water-insect on the surface of rivulets, which throws a cinque-spotted
shadow fringed with prismatic colours on the sunny bottom of the brook;
and will have noticed, how the little animal wins its way up against the
stream, by alternate pulses of active and passive motion, now resisting
the current, and now yielding to it in order to gather strength and a
momentary fulcrum for a further propulsion. This is no unapt emblem of
the mind's self-experience in the act of thinking. There are evidently
two powers at work, which relatively to each other are active and
passive; and this is not possible without an intermediate faculty, which
is at once both active and passive. In philosophical language, we
must denominate this intermediate faculty in all its degrees and
determinations, the IMAGINATION. But, in common language, and especially
on the subject of poetry, we appropriate the name to a superior degree
of the faculty, joined to a superior voluntary control over it.

Contemporaneity, then, being the common condition of all the laws of
association, and a component element in the materia subjecta, the
parts of which are to be associated, must needs be co-present with all.
Nothing, therefore, can be more easy than to pass off on an incautious
mind this constant companion of each, for the essential substance of
all. But if we appeal to our own consciousness, we shall find that
even time itself, as the cause of a particular act of association, is
distinct from contemporaneity, as the condition of all association.
Seeing a mackerel, it may happen, that I immediately think of
gooseberries, because I at the same time ate mackerel with gooseberries
as the sauce. The first syllable of the latter word, being that which
had coexisted with the image of the bird so called, I may then think
of a goose. In the next moment the image of a swan may arise before
me, though I had never seen the two birds together. In the first two
instances, I am conscious that their co-existence in time was the
circumstance, that enabled me to recollect them; and equally conscious
am I that the latter was recalled to me by the joint operation of
likeness and contrast. So it is with cause and effect: so too with
order. So I am able to distinguish whether it was proximity in time, or
continuity in space, that occasioned me to recall B on the mention of A.
They cannot be indeed separated from contemporaneity; for that would
be to separate them from the mind itself. The act of consciousness is
indeed identical with time considered in its essence. I mean time per
se, as contra-distinguished from our notion of time; for this is always
blended with the idea of space, which, as the opposite of time, is
therefore its measure. Nevertheless the accident of seeing two objects
at the same moment, and the accident of seeing them in the same place
are two distinct or distinguishable causes: and the true practical
general law of association is this; that whatever makes certain parts of
a total impression more vivid or distinct than the rest, will determine
the mind to recall these in preference to others equally linked together
by the common condition of contemporaneity, or (what I deem a more
appropriate and philosophical term) of continuity. But the will itself
by confining and intensifying [25] the attention may arbitrarily give
vividness or distinctness to any object whatsoever; and from hence we
may deduce the uselessness, if not the absurdity, of certain recent
schemes which promise an artificial memory, but which in reality can
only produce a confusion and debasement of the fancy. Sound logic, as
the habitual subordination of the individual to the species, and of
the species to the genus; philosophical knowledge of facts under the
relation of cause and effect; a cheerful and communicative temper
disposing us to notice the similarities and contrasts of things, that
we may be able to illustrate the one by the other; a quiet conscience;
a condition free from anxieties; sound health, and above all (as far as
relates to passive remembrance) a healthy digestion; these are the best,
these are the only Arts of Memory.


The system of Dualism introduced by Des Cartes--Refined first by
Spinoza and afterwards by Leibnitz into the doctrine of Harmonia
praestabilita--Hylozoism--Materialism--None of these systems, or any
possible theory of association, supplies or supersedes a theory of
perception, or explains the formation of the associable.

To the best of my knowledge Des Cartes was the first philosopher who
introduced the absolute and essential heterogenity of the soul as
intelligence, and the body as matter. The assumption, and the form of
speaking have remained, though the denial of all other properties
to matter but that of extension, on which denial the whole system of
Dualism is grounded, has been long exploded. For since impenetrability
is intelligible only as a mode of resistance; its admission places the
essence of matter in an act or power, which it possesses in common
with spirit; and body and spirit are therefore no longer absolutely
heterogeneous, but may without any absurdity be supposed to be different
modes, or degrees in perfection, of a common substratum. To this
possibility, however, it was not the fashion to advert. The soul was a
thinking substance, and body a space-filling substance. Yet the apparent
action of each on the other pressed heavy on the philosopher on the one
hand; and no less heavily on the other hand pressed the evident truth,
that the law of causality holds only between homogeneous things, that
is, things having some common property; and cannot extend from one world
into another, its contrary. A close analysis evinced it to be no less
absurd than the question whether a man's affection for his wife lay
North-east, or South-west of the love he bore towards his child.
Leibnitz's doctrine of a pre-established harmony; which he certainly
borrowed from Spinoza, who had himself taken the hint from Des Cartes's
animal machines, was in its common interpretation too strange to survive
the inventor--too repugnant to our common sense; which is not indeed
entitled to a judicial voice in the courts of scientific philosophy;
but whose whispers still exert a strong secret influence. Even Wolf,
the admirer and illustrious systematizer of the Leibnitzian doctrine,
contents himself with defending the possibility of the idea, but does
not adopt it as a part of the edifice.

The hypothesis of Hylozoism, on the other side, is the death of all
rational physiology, and indeed of all physical science; for that
requires a limitation of terms, and cannot consist with the arbitrary
power of multiplying attributes by occult qualities. Besides, it answers
no purpose; unless, indeed, a difficulty can be solved by multiplying
it, or we can acquire a clearer notion of our soul by being told that we
have a million of souls, and that every atom of our bodies has a soul
of its own. Far more prudent is it to admit the difficulty once for all,
and then let it lie at rest. There is a sediment indeed at the bottom
of the vessel, but all the water above it is clear and transparent. The
Hylozoist only shakes it up, and renders the whole turbid.

But it is not either the nature of man, or the duty of the philosopher
to despair concerning any important problem until, as in the squaring of
the circle, the impossibility of a solution has been demonstrated. How
the esse assumed as originally distinct from the scire, can ever unite
itself with it; how being can transform itself into a knowing, becomes
conceivable on one only condition; namely, if it can be shown that the
vis representativa, or the Sentient, is itself a species of being;
that is, either as a property or attribute, or as an hypostasis or self
subsistence. The former--that thinking is a property of matter under
particular conditions,--is, indeed, the assumption of materialism; a
system which could not but be patronized by the philosopher, if only it
actually performed what it promises. But how any affection from without
can metamorphose itself into perception or will, the materialist has
hitherto left, not only as incomprehensible as he found it, but has
aggravated it into a comprehensible absurdity. For, grant that an object
from without could act upon the conscious self, as on a consubstantial
object; yet such an affection could only engender something homogeneous
with itself. Motion could only propagate motion. Matter has no Inward.
We remove one surface, but to meet with another. We can but divide
a particle into particles; and each atom comprehends in itself the
properties of the material universe. Let any reflecting mind make
the experiment of explaining to itself the evidence of our sensuous
intuitions, from the hypothesis that in any given perception there is
a something which has been communicated to it by an impact, or
an impression ab extra. In the first place, by the impact on the
percipient, or ens representans, not the object itself, but only its
action or effect, will pass into the same. Not the iron tongue, but
its vibrations, pass into the metal of the bell. Now in our immediate
perception, it is not the mere power or act of the object, but the
object itself, which is immediately present. We might indeed attempt to
explain this result by a chain of deductions and conclusions; but that,
first, the very faculty of deducing and concluding would equally
demand an explanation; and secondly, that there exists in fact no such
intermediation by logical notions, such as those of cause and effect. It
is the object itself, not the product of a syllogism, which is present
to our consciousness. Or would we explain this supervention of the
object to the sensation, by a productive faculty set in motion by
an impulse; still the transition, into the percipient, of the object
itself, from which the impulse proceeded, assumes a power that can
permeate and wholly possess the soul,

    And like a God by spiritual art,
    Be all in all, and all in every part.

And how came the percipient here? And what is become of the wonder-
promising Matter, that was to perform all these marvels by force of
mere figure, weight and motion? The most consistent proceeding of the
dogmatic materialist is to fall back into the common rank of soul-and-
bodyists; to affect the mysterious, and declare the whole process a
revelation given, and not to be understood, which it would be profane
to examine too closely. Datur non intelligitur. But a revelation
unconfirmed by miracles, and a faith not commanded by the conscience,
a philosopher may venture to pass by, without suspecting himself of any
irreligious tendency.

Thus, as materialism has been generally taught, it is utterly
unintelligible, and owes all its proselytes to the propensity so common
among men, to mistake distinct images for clear conceptions; and vice
versa, to reject as inconceivable whatever from its own nature is
unimaginable. But as soon as it becomes intelligible, it ceases to be
materialism. In order to explain thinking, as a material phaenomenon, it
is necessary to refine matter into a mere modification of intelligence,
with the two-fold function of appearing and perceiving. Even so did
Priestley in his controversy with Price. He stripped matter of all its
material properties; substituted spiritual powers; and when we expected
to find a body, behold! we had nothing but its ghost--the apparition of
a defunct substance!

I shall not dilate further on this subject; because it will, (if God
grant health and permission), be treated of at large and systematically
in a work, which I have many years been preparing, on the Productive
Logos human and divine; with, and as the introduction to, a full
commentary on the Gospel of St. John. To make myself intelligible as
far as my present subject requires, it will be sufficient briefly to
observe.--1. That all association demands and presupposes the existence
of the thoughts and images to be associated.--2. That the hypothesis of
an external world exactly correspondent to those images or modifications
of our own being, which alone, according to this system, we actually
behold, is as thorough idealism as Berkeley's, inasmuch as it equally,
perhaps in a more perfect degree, removes all reality and immediateness
of perception, and places us in a dream-world of phantoms and spectres,
the inexplicable swarm and equivocal generation of motions in our own
brains.--3. That this hypothesis neither involves the explanation, nor
precludes the necessity, of a mechanism and co-adequate forces in the
percipient, which at the more than magic touch of the impulse from
without is to create anew for itself the correspondent object. The
formation of a copy is not solved by the mere pre-existence of an
original; the copyist of Raffael's Transfiguration must repeat more or
less perfectly the process of Raffael. It would be easy to explain a
thought from the image on the retina, and that from the geometry of
light, if this very light did not present the very same difficulty.
We might as rationally chant the Brahim creed of the tortoise that
supported the bear, that supported the elephant, that supported the
world, to the tune of "This is the house that Jack built." The sic
Deo placitum est we all admit as the sufficient cause, and the divine
goodness as the sufficient reason; but an answer to the Whence and Why
is no answer to the How, which alone is the physiologist's concern.
It is a sophisma pigrum, and (as Bacon hath said) the arrogance of
pusillanimity, which lifts up the idol of a mortal's fancy and commands
us to fall down and worship it, as a work of divine wisdom, an ancile or
palladium fallen from heaven. By the very same argument the supporters
of the Ptolemaic system might have rebuffed the Newtonian, and pointing
to the sky with self-complacent grin [26] have appealed to common sense,
whether the sun did not move and the earth stand still.


Is Philosophy possible as a science, and what are its
conditions?--Giordano Bruno--Literary Aristocracy, or the existence of
a tacit compact among the learned as a privileged order--The Author's
obligations to the Mystics--to Immanuel Kant--The difference between the
letter and the spirit of Kant's writings, and a vindication of prudence
in the teaching of Philosophy--Fichte's attempt to complete the Critical
system--Its partial success and ultimate failure--Obligations to
Schelling; and among English writers to Saumarez.

After I had successively studied in the schools of Locke, Berkeley,
Leibnitz, and Hartley, and could find in none of them an abiding place
for my reason, I began to ask myself; is a system of philosophy; as
different from mere history and historic classification, possible? If
possible, what are its necessary conditions? I was for a while disposed
to answer the first question in the negative, and to admit that the sole
practicable employment for the human mind was to observe, to collect,
and to classify. But I soon felt, that human nature itself fought up
against this wilful resignation of intellect; and as soon did I find,
that the scheme, taken with all its consequences and cleared of all
inconsistencies, was not less impracticable than contranatural. Assume
in its full extent the position, nihil in intellectu quod non prius
in sensu, assume it without Leibnitz's qualifying praeter ipsum
intellectum, and in the same sense, in which the position was understood
by Hartley and Condillac: and then what Hume had demonstratively deduced
from this concession concerning cause and effect, will apply with equal
and crushing force to all the other eleven categorical forms [27], and
the logical functions corresponding to them. How can we make bricks
without straw;--or build without cement? We learn all things indeed by
occasion of experience; but the very facts so learned force us inward on
the antecedents, that must be presupposed in order to render experience
itself possible. The first book of Locke's Essay, (if the supposed
error, which it labours to subvert, be not a mere thing of straw, an
absurdity which, no man ever did, or indeed ever could, believe,) is
formed on a sophisma heterozaetaeseos, and involves the old mistake of
Cum hoc: ergo, propter hoc.

The term, Philosophy, defines itself as an affectionate seeking after
the truth; but Truth is the correlative of Being. This again is no way
conceivable, but by assuming as a postulate, that both are ab initio,
identical and coinherent; that intelligence and being are reciprocally
each other's substrate. I presumed that this was a possible conception,
(i.e. that it involved no logical inconsonance,) from the length of time
during which the scholastic definition of the Supreme Being, as actus
purissimus sine ulla potentialitate, was received in the schools of
Theology, both by the Pontifician and the Reformed divines. The early
study of Plato and Plotinus, with the commentaries and the THEOLOGIA
PLATONICA of the illustrious Florentine; of Proclus, and Gemistius
Pletho; and at a later period of the De Immenso et Innumerabili and the
"De la causa, principio et uno," of the philosopher of Nola, who could
boast of a Sir Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville among his patrons, and
whom the idolaters of Rome burnt as an atheist in the year 1600; had all
contributed to prepare my mind for the reception and welcoming of the
Cogito quia Sum, et Sum quia Cogito; a philosophy of seeming hardihood,
but certainly the most ancient, and therefore presumptively the most

Why need I be afraid? Say rather how dare I be ashamed of the Teutonic
theosophist, Jacob Behmen? Many, indeed, and gross were his delusions;
and such as furnish frequent and ample occasion for the triumph of
the learned over the poor ignorant shoemaker, who had dared think for
himself. But while we remember that these delusions were such, as might
be anticipated from his utter want of all intellectual discipline, and
from his ignorance of rational psychology, let it not be forgotten that
the latter defect he had in common with the most learned theologians
of his age. Neither with books, nor with book-learned men was he
conversant. A meek and shy quietest, his intellectual powers were never
stimulated into feverous energy by crowds of proselytes, or by the
ambition of proselyting. Jacob Behmen was an enthusiast, in
the strictest sense, as not merely distinguished, but as
contra-distinguished, from a fanatic. While I in part translate the
following observations from a contemporary writer of the Continent, let
me be permitted to premise, that I might have transcribed the substance
from memoranda of my own, which were written many years before his
pamphlet was given to the world; and that I prefer another's words to my
own, partly as a tribute due to priority of publication; but still
more from the pleasure of sympathy in a case where coincidence only was

Whoever is acquainted with the history of philosophy, during the last
two or three centuries, cannot but admit that there appears to have
existed a sort of secret and tacit compact among the learned, not to
pass beyond a certain limit in speculative science. The privilege of
free thought, so highly extolled, has at no time been held valid in
actual practice, except within this limit; and not a single stride
beyond it has ever been ventured without bringing obloquy on the
transgressor. The few men of genius among the learned class, who
actually did overstep this boundary, anxiously avoided the appearance of
having so done. Therefore the true depth of science, and the penetration
to the inmost centre, from which all the lines of knowledge diverge to
their ever distant circumference, was abandoned to the illiterate and
the simple, whom unstilled yearning, and an original ebulliency of
spirit, had urged to the investigation of the indwelling and living
ground of all things. These, then, because their names had never been
enrolled in the guilds of the learned, were persecuted by the registered
livery-men as interlopers on their rights and privileges. All without
distinction were branded as fanatics and phantasts; not only those,
whose wild and exorbitant imaginations had actually engendered only
extravagant and grotesque phantasms, and whose productions were, for the
most part, poor copies and gross caricatures of genuine inspiration; but
the truly inspired likewise, the originals themselves. And this for no
other reason, but because they were the unlearned, men of humble
and obscure occupations. When, and from whom among the literati by
profession, have we ever heard the divine doxology repeated, I thank
thee, O Father! Lord of Heaven and Earth! because thou hast hid these
things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes
[28]. No; the haughty priests of learning not only banished from the
schools and marts of science all who had dared draw living waters from
the fountain, but drove them out of the very Temple, which mean time the
buyers, and sellers, and money-changers were suffered to make a den of

And yet it would not be easy to discover any substantial ground for
this contemptuous pride in those literati, who have most distinguished
themselves by their scorn of Behmen, Thaulerus, George Fox, and others;
unless it be, that they could write orthographically, make smooth
periods, and had the fashions of authorship almost literally at their
fingers' ends, while the latter, in simplicity of soul, made their words
immediate echoes of their feelings. Hence the frequency of those
phrases among them, which have been mistaken for pretences to immediate
inspiration; as for instance, "It was delivered unto me; "--"I strove
not to speak;"-"I said, I will be silent;"--"But the word was in my
heart as a burning fire;"--"and I could not forbear." Hence too the
unwillingness to give offence; hence the foresight, and the dread of the
clamours, which would be raised against them, so frequently avowed in
the writings of these men, and expressed, as was natural, in the words
of the only book, with which they were familiar [29]. "Woe is me that I
am become a man of strife, and a man of contention,--I love peace: the
souls of men are dear unto me: yet because I seek for light every one
of them doth curse me!" O! it requires deeper feeling, and a stronger
imagination, than belong to most of those, to whom reasoning and fluent
expression have been as a trade learnt in boyhood, to conceive with what
might, with what inward strivings and commotion, the perception of a
new and vital truth takes possession of an uneducated man of genius.
His meditations are almost inevitably employed on the eternal, or the
everlasting; for "the world is not his friend, nor the world's law."
Need we then be surprised, that, under an excitement at once so strong
and so unusual, the man's body should sympathize with the struggles of
his mind; or that he should at times be so far deluded, as to mistake
the tumultuous sensations of his nerves, and the co-existing spectres of
his fancy, as parts or symbols of the truths which were opening on
him? It has indeed been plausibly observed, that in order to derive any
advantage, or to collect any intelligible meaning, from the writings
of these ignorant Mystics, the reader must bring with him a spirit and
judgment superior to that of the writers themselves:

    And what he brings, what needs he elsewhere seek?

--a sophism, which I fully agree with Warburton, is unworthy of Milton;
how much more so of the awful Person, in whose mouth he has placed it?
One assertion I will venture to make, as suggested by my own experience,
that there exist folios on the human understanding, and the nature
of man, which would have a far juster claim to their high rank and
celebrity, if in the whole huge volume there could be found as much
fulness of heart and intellect, as burst forth in many a simple page of
George Fox, Jacob Behmen, and even of Behmen's commentator, the pious
and fervid William Law.

The feeling of gratitude, which I cherish toward these men, has caused
me to digress further than I had foreseen or proposed; but to have
passed them over in an historical sketch of my literary life and
opinions, would have seemed to me like the denial of a debt, the
concealment of a boon. For the writings of these Mystics acted in
no slight degree to prevent my mind from being imprisoned within the
outline of any single dogmatic system. They contributed to keep alive
the heart in the head; gave me an indistinct, yet stirring and working
presentiment, that all the products of the mere reflective faculty
partook of death, and were as the rattling twigs and sprays in winter,
into which a sap was yet to be propelled from some root to which I had
not penetrated, if they were to afford my soul either food or shelter.
If they were too often a moving cloud of smoke to me by day, yet they
were always a pillar of fire throughout the night, during my wanderings
through the wilderness of doubt, and enabled me to skirt, without
crossing, the sandy deserts of utter unbelief. That the system is
capable of being converted into an irreligious Pantheism, I well know.
The Ethics of Spinoza, may, or may not, be an instance. But at no time
could I believe, that in itself and essentially it is incompatible with
religion, natural or revealed: and now I am most thoroughly persuaded of
the contrary. The writings of the illustrious sage of Koenigsberg, the
founder of the Critical Philosophy, more than any other work, at once
invigorated and disciplined my understanding. The originality, the
depth, and the compression of the thoughts; the novelty and subtlety,
yet solidity and importance of the distinctions; the adamantine chain
of the logic; and I will venture to add--(paradox as it will appear to
those who have taken their notion of Immanuel Kant from Reviewers and
Frenchmen)--the clearness and evidence, of the Critique of the Pure
Reason; and Critique of the Judgment; of the Metaphysical Elements
of Natural Philosophy; and of his Religion within the bounds of Pure
Reason, took possession of me as with the giant's hand. After fifteen
years' familiarity with them, I still read these and all his other
productions with undiminished delight and increasing admiration. The few
passages that remained obscure to me, after due efforts of thought, (as
the chapter on original apperception,) and the apparent contradictions
which occur, I soon found were hints and insinuations referring to
ideas, which KANT either did not think it prudent to avow, or which he
considered as consistently left behind in a pure analysis, not of human
nature in toto, but of the speculative intellect alone. Here therefore
he was constrained to commence at the point of reflection, or natural
consciousness: while in his moral system he was permitted to assume a
higher ground (the autonomy of the will) as a postulate deducible from
the unconditional command, or (in the technical language of his school)
the categorical imperative, of the conscience. He had been in imminent
danger of persecution during the reign of the late king of Prussia, that
strange compound of lawless debauchery and priest-ridden superstition:
and it is probable that he had little inclination, in his old age,
to act over again the fortunes, and hair-breadth escapes of Wolf. The
expulsion of the first among Kant's disciples, who attempted to complete
his system, from the University of Jena, with the confiscation and
prohibition of the obnoxious work by the joint efforts of the courts of
Saxony and Hanover, supplied experimental proof, that the venerable
old man's caution was not groundless. In spite therefore of his own
declarations, I could never believe, that it was possible for him to
have meant no more by his Noumenon, or Thing in itself, than his mere
words express; or that in his own conception he confined the whole
plastic power to the forms of the intellect, leaving for the external
cause, for the materiale of our sensations, a matter without form, which
is doubtless inconceivable. I entertained doubts likewise, whether, in
his own mind, he even laid all the stress, which he appears to do, on
the moral postulates.

An idea, in the highest sense of that word, cannot be conveyed but by
a symbol; and, except in geometry, all symbols of necessity involve an
apparent contradiction. Phonaese synetoisin: and for those who could
not pierce through this symbolic husk, his writings were not intended.
Questions which cannot be fully answered without exposing the respondent
to personal danger, are not entitled to a fair answer; and yet to say
this openly, would in many cases furnish the very advantage which the
adversary is insidiously seeking after. Veracity does not consist
in saying, but in the intention of communicating, truth; and the
philosopher who cannot utter the whole truth without conveying
falsehood, and at the same time, perhaps, exciting the most malignant
passions, is constrained to express himself either mythically or
equivocally. When Kant therefore was importuned to settle the disputes
of his commentators himself, by declaring what he meant, how could
he decline the honours of martyrdom with less offence, than by simply
replying, "I meant what I said, and at the age of near fourscore, I have
something else, and more important to do, than to write a commentary on
my own works."

Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, or Lore of Ultimate Science, was to add the
key-stone of the arch: and by commencing with an act, instead of a thing
or substance, Fichte assuredly gave the first mortal blow to Spinozism,
as taught by Spinoza himself; and supplied the idea of a system truly
metaphysical, and of a metaphysique truly systematic: (i.e. having
its spring and principle within itself). But this fundamental idea he
overbuilt with a heavy mass of mere notions, and psychological acts
of arbitrary reflection. Thus his theory degenerated into a crude [30]
egoismus, a boastful and hyperstoic hostility to Nature, as lifeless,
godless, and altogether unholy: while his religion consisted in the
assumption of a mere Ordo ordinans, which we were permitted exoterice
to call GOD; and his ethics in an ascetic, and almost monkish,
mortification of the natural passions and desires. In Schelling's
Natur-Philosophie, and the System des transcendentalen Idealismus, I
first found a genial coincidence with much that I had toiled out for
myself, and a powerful assistance in what I had yet to do.

I have introduced this statement, as appropriate to the narrative
nature of this sketch; yet rather in reference to the work which I have
announced in a preceding page, than to my present subject. It would be
but a mere act of justice to myself, were I to warn my future readers,
than an identity of thought, or even similarity of phrase, will not be
at all times a certain proof that the passage has been borrowed from
Schelling, or that the conceptions were originally learnt from him. In
this instance, as in the dramatic lectures of Schlegel to which I have
before alluded, from the same motive of self-defence against the charge
of plagiarism, many of the most striking resemblances, indeed all the
main and fundamental ideas, were born and matured in my mind before
I had ever seen a single page of the German Philosopher; and I might
indeed affirm with truth, before the more important works of Schelling
had been written, or at least made public. Nor is this coincidence
at all to be wondered at. We had studied in the same school; been
disciplined by the same preparatory philosophy, namely, the writings
of Kant; we had both equal obligations to the polar logic and dynamic
philosophy of Giordano Bruno; and Schelling has lately, and, as of
recent acquisition, avowed that same affectionate reverence for the
labours of Behmen, and other mystics, which I had formed at a much
earlier period. The coincidence of Schelling's system with certain
general ideas of Behmen, he declares to have been mere coincidence;
while my obligations have been more direct. He needs give to Behmen only
feelings of sympathy; while I owe him a debt of gratitude. God forbid!
that I should be suspected of a wish to enter into a rivalry with
Schelling for the honours so unequivocally his right, not only as a
great and original genius, but as the founder of the Philosophy of
Nature, and as the most successful improver of the Dynamic System [31]
which, begun by Bruno, was re-introduced (in a more philosophical form,
and freed from all its impurities and visionary accompaniments) by Kant;
in whom it was the native and necessary growth of his own system. Kant's
followers, however, on whom (for the greater part) their master's cloak
had fallen without, or with a very scanty portion of, his spirit, had
adopted his dynamic ideas, only as a more refined species of mechanics.
With exception of one or two fundamental ideas, which cannot be withheld
from Fichte, to Schelling we owe the completion, and the most important
victories, of this revolution in philosophy. To me it will be happiness
and honour enough, should I succeed in rendering the system itself
intelligible to my countrymen, and in the application of it to the most
awful of subjects for the most important of purposes. Whether a work
is the offspring of a man's own spirit, and the product of original
thinking, will be discovered by those who are its sole legitimate
judges, by better tests than the mere reference to dates. For readers in
general, let whatever shall be found in this or any future work of
mine, that resembles, or coincides with, the doctrines of my German
predecessor, though contemporary, be wholly attributed to him: provided,
that the absence of distinct references to his books, which I could
not at all times make with truth as designating citations or thoughts
actually derived from him; and which, I trust, would, after this general
acknowledgment be superfluous; be not charged on me as an ungenerous
concealment or intentional plagiarism. I have not indeed (eheu! res
angusta domi!) been hitherto able to procure more than two of his
books, viz. the first volume of his collected Tracts, and his System of
Transcendental Idealism; to which, however, I must add a small pamphlet
against Fichte, the spirit of which was to my feelings painfully
incongruous with the principles, and which (with the usual allowance
afforded to an antithesis) displayed the love of wisdom rather than the
wisdom of love. I regard truth as a divine ventriloquist: I care not
from whose mouth the sounds are supposed to proceed, if only the words
are audible and intelligible. "Albeit, I must confess to be half in
doubt, whether I should bring it forth or no, it being so contrary to
the eye of the world, and the world so potent in most men's hearts, that
I shall endanger either not to be regarded or not to be understood."

And to conclude the subject of citation, with a cluster of citations,
which as taken from books, not in common use, may contribute to the
reader's amusement, as a voluntary before a sermon: "Dolet mihi quidem
deliciis literarum inescatos subito jam homines adeo esse, praesertim
qui Christianos se profitentur, et legere nisi quod ad delectationem
facit, sustineant nihil: unde et discipline severiores et philosophia
ipsa jam fere prorsus etiam a doctis negliguntur. Quod quidem propositum
studiorum, nisi mature corrigitur, tam magnum rebus incommodum dabit,
quam dedit barbaries olim. Pertinax res barbaries est, fateor: sed minus
potent tamen, quam illa mollities et persuasa prudentia literarum,
si ratione caret, sapientiae virtutisque specie mortales misere
circumducens. Succedet igitur, ut arbitror, haud ita multo post, pro
rusticana seculi nostri ruditate captatrix illa communi-loquentia robur
animi virilis omne, omnem virtutem masculam, profligatura nisi cavetur."

A too prophetic remark, which has been in fulfilment from the year
1680, to the present 1815. By persuasa prudentia, Grynaeus means self-
complacent common sense as opposed to science and philosophic reason.

Est medius ordo, et velut equestris, ingeniorum quidem sagacium, et
commodorum rebus humanis, non tamen in primam magnitudinem patentium.
Eorum hominum, ut sic dicam, major annona est. Sedulum esse, nihil
temere loqui, assuescere labori, et imagine prudentiae et modistiae
tegere angustiores partes captus, dum exercitationem ac usum, quo isti
in civilibus rebus pollent, pro natura et magnitudine ingenii plerique

"As therefore physicians are many times forced to leave such methods of
curing as themselves know to be the fittest, and being overruled by the
patient's impatiency, are fain to try the best they can: in like sort,
considering how the case doth stand with this present age, full of
tongue and weak of brain, behold we would (if our subject permitted it)
yield to the stream thereof. That way we would be contented to prove
our thesis, which being the worse in itself, is notwithstanding now by
reason of common imbecility the fitter and likelier to be brooked."

If this fear could be rationally entertained in the controversial age
of Hooker, under the then robust discipline of the scholastic logic,
pardonably may a writer of the present times anticipate a scanty
audience for abstrusest themes, and truths that can neither be
communicated nor received without effort of thought, as well as patience
of attention.

    "Che s'io non erro al calcolar de' punti,
     Par ch' Asinina Stella a noi predomini,
     E'l Somaro e'l Castron si sian congiunti.
     Il tempo d'Apuleio piu non si nomini:
     Che se allora un sol huom sembrava un Asino,
     Mille Asini a' miei di rassembran huomini!"


A chapter of digression and anecdotes, as an interlude preceding that on
the nature and genesis of the Imagination or Plastic Power--On
pedantry and pedantic expressions--Advice to young authors respecting
publication--Various anecdotes of the Author's literary life, and the
progress of his opinions in Religion and Politics.

"Esemplastic. The word is not in Johnson, nor have I met with it
elsewhere." Neither have, I. I constructed it myself from the Greek
words, eis en plattein, to shape into one; because, having to convey a
new sense, I thought that a new term would both aid the recollection of
my meaning, and prevent its being confounded with the usual import of
the word, imagination. "But this is pedantry!" Not necessarily so, I
hope. If I am not misinformed, pedantry consists in the use of words
unsuitable to the time, place, and company. The language of the market
would be in the schools as pedantic, though it might not be reprobated
by that name, as the language of the schools in the market. The mere
man of the world, who insists that no other terms but such as occur in
common conversation should be employed in a scientific disquisition, and
with no greater precision, is as truly a pedant as the man of letters,
who either over-rating the acquirements of his auditors, or misled by
his own familiarity with technical or scholastic terms, converses at the
wine-table with his mind fixed on his museum or laboratory; even though
the latter pedant instead of desiring his wife to make the tea should
bid her add to the quant. suff. of thea Sinensis the oxyd of hydrogen
saturated with caloric. To use the colloquial (and in truth somewhat
vulgar) metaphor, if the pedant of the cloister, and the pedant of the
lobby, both smell equally of the shop, yet the odour from the Russian
binding of good old authentic-looking folios and quartos is less
annoying than the steams from the tavern or bagnio. Nay, though the
pedantry of the scholar should betray a little ostentation, yet a
well-conditioned mind would more easily, methinks, tolerate the fox
brush of learned vanity, than the sans culotterie of a contemptuous
ignorance, that assumes a merit from mutilation in the self-consoling
sneer at the pompous incumbrance of tails.

The first lesson of philosophic discipline is to wean the student's
attention from the degrees of things, which alone form the vocabulary of
common life, and to direct it to the kind abstracted from degree. Thus
the chemical student is taught not to be startled at disquisitions on
the heat in ice, or on latent and fixible light. In such discourse the
instructor has no other alternative than either to use old words
with new meanings (the plan adopted by Darwin in his Zoonomia;) or to
introduce new terms, after the example of Linnaeus, and the framers
of the present chemical nomenclature. The latter mode is evidently
preferable, were it only that the former demands a twofold exertion of
thought in one and the same act. For the reader, or hearer, is required
not only to learn and bear in mind the new definition; but to unlearn,
and keep out of his view, the old and habitual meaning; a far more
difficult and perplexing task, and for which the mere semblance of
eschewing pedantry seems to me an inadequate compensation. Where,
indeed, it is in our power to recall an unappropriate term that had
without sufficient reason become obsolete, it is doubtless a less evil
to restore than to coin anew. Thus to express in one word all that
appertains to the perception, considered as passive and merely
recipient, I have adopted from our elder classics the word sensuous;
because sensual is not at present used, except in a bad sense, or at
least as a moral distinction; while sensitive and sensible would each
convey a different meaning. Thus too have I followed Hooker, Sanderson,
Milton and others, in designating the immediateness of any act or
object of knowledge by the word intuition, used sometimes subjectively,
sometimes objectively, even as we use the word, thought; now as the
thought, or act of thinking, and now as a thought, or the object of
our reflection; and we do this without confusion or obscurity. The very
words, objective and subjective, of such constant recurrence in the
schools of yore, I have ventured to re-introduce, because I could not
so briefly or conveniently by any more familiar terms distinguish the
percipere from the percipi. Lastly, I have cautiously discriminated the
terms, the reason, and the understanding, encouraged and confirmed
by the authority of our genuine divines and philosophers, before the

    ------both life, and sense,
    Fancy and understanding; whence the soul
    Reason receives, and reason is her bring,
    Discursive or intuitive: discourse [32]
    Is oftest yours, the latter most is ours,
    Differing but in degree, in kind the same.

I say, that I was confirmed by authority so venerable: for I had
previous and higher motives in my own conviction of the importance, nay,
of the necessity of the distinction, as both an indispensable condition
and a vital part of all sound speculation in metaphysics, ethical or
theological. To establish this distinction was one main object of
The Friend; if even in a biography of my own literary life I can with
propriety refer to a work, which was printed rather than published, or
so published that it had been well for the unfortunate author, if it
had remained in manuscript. I have even at this time bitter cause for
remembering that, which a number of my subscribers have but a trifling
motive for forgetting. This effusion might have been spared; but I
would fain flatter myself, that the reader will be less austere than an
oriental professor of the bastinado, who during an attempt to extort per
argumentum baculinum a full confession from a culprit, interrupted his
outcry of pain by reminding him, that it was "a mere digression!" "All
this noise, Sir! is nothing to the point, and no sort of answer to my
questions!" "Ah! but," (replied the sufferer,) "it is the most pertinent
reply in nature to your blows."

An imprudent man of common goodness of heart cannot but wish to turn
even his imprudences to the benefit of others, as far as this is
possible. If therefore any one of the readers of this semi-narrative
should be preparing or intending a periodical work, I warn him, in the
first place, against trusting in the number of names on his subscription
list. For he cannot be certain that the names were put down by
sufficient authority; or, should that be ascertained, it still remains
to be known, whether they were not extorted by some over zealous
friend's importunity; whether the subscriber had not yielded his name,
merely from want of courage to answer, no; and with the intention of
dropping the work as soon as possible. One gentleman procured me nearly
a hundred names for THE FRIEND, and not only took frequent opportunity
to remind me of his success in his canvass, but laboured to impress my
mind with the sense of the obligation, I was under to the subscribers;
for, (as he very pertinently admonished me,) "fifty-two shillings a year
was a large sum to be bestowed on one individual, where there were so
many objects of charity with strong claims to the assistance of the
benevolent." Of these hundred patrons ninety threw up the publication
before the fourth number, without any notice; though it was well known
to them, that in consequence of the distance, and the slowness and
irregularity of the conveyance, I was compelled to lay in a stock of
stamped paper for at least eight weeks beforehand; each sheet of which
stood me in five pence previously to its arrival at my printer's; though
the subscription money was not to be received till the twenty-first week
after the commencement of the work; and lastly, though it was in nine
cases out of ten impracticable for me to receive the money for two or
three numbers without paying an equal sum for the postage.

In confirmation of my first caveat, I will select one fact among many.
On my list of subscribers, among a considerable number of names equally
flattering, was that of an Earl of Cork, with his address. He might as
well have been an Earl of Bottle, for aught I knew of him, who had been
content to reverence the peerage in abstracto, rather than in concretis.
Of course THE FRIEND was regularly sent as far, if I remember right, as
the eighteenth number; that is, till a fortnight before the subscription
was to be paid. And lo! just at this time I received a letter from his
Lordship, reproving me in language far more lordly than courteous for my
impudence in directing my pamphlets to him, who knew nothing of me or my
work! Seventeen or eighteen numbers of which, however, his Lordship
was pleased to retain, probably for the culinary or post-culinary
conveniences of his servants.

Secondly, I warn all others from the attempt to deviate from the
ordinary mode of publishing a work by the trade. I thought indeed, that
to the purchaser it was indifferent, whether thirty per cent of the
purchase-money went to the booksellers or to the government; and that
the convenience of receiving the work by the post at his own door would
give the preference to the latter. It is hard, I own, to have been
labouring for years, in collecting and arranging the materials; to have
spent every shilling that could be spared after the necessaries of life
had been furnished, in buying books, or in journeys for the purpose of
consulting them or of acquiring facts at the fountain head; then to buy
the paper, pay for the printing, and the like, all at least fifteen per
cent beyond what the trade would have paid; and then after all to give
thirty per cent not of the net profits, but of the gross results of the
sale, to a man who has merely to give the books shelf or warehouse room,
and permit his apprentice to hand them over the counter to those who may
ask for them; and this too copy by copy, although, if the work be on any
philosophical or scientific subject, it may be years before the edition
is sold off. All this, I confess, must seem a hardship, and one, to
which the products of industry in no other mode of exertion are subject.
Yet even this is better, far better, than to attempt in any way to unite
the functions of author and publisher. But the most prudent mode is to
sell the copy-right, at least of one or more editions, for the most that
the trade will offer. By few only can a large remuneration be expected;
but fifty pounds and ease of mind are of more real advantage to a
literary man, than the chance of five hundred with the certainty
of insult and degrading anxieties. I shall have been grievously
misunderstood, if this statement should be interpreted as written
with the desire of detracting from the character of booksellers or
publishers. The individuals did not make the laws and customs of their
trade, but, as in every other trade, take them as they find them. Till
the evil can be proved to be removable, and without the substitution of
an equal or greater inconvenience, it were neither wise nor manly even
to complain of it. But to use it as a pretext for speaking, or even for
thinking, or feeling, unkindly or opprobriously of the tradesmen, as
individuals, would be something worse than unwise or even than unmanly;
it would be immoral and calumnious. My motives point in a far different
direction and to far other objects, as will be seen in the conclusion of
the chapter.

A learned and exemplary old clergyman, who many years ago went to his
reward followed by the regrets and blessings of his flock, published
at his own expense two volumes octavo, entitled, A NEW THEORY OF
REDEMPTION. The work was most severely handled in THE MONTHLY or
CRITICAL REVIEW, I forget which; and this unprovoked hostility became
the good old man's favourite topic of conversation among his friends.
"Well!" (he used to exclaim,) "in the second edition, I shall have an
opportunity of exposing both the ignorance and the malignity of the
anonymous critic." Two or three years however passed by without any
tidings from the bookseller, who had undertaken the printing and
publication of the work, and who was perfectly at his ease, as the
author was known to be a man of large property. At length the accounts
were written for; and in the course of a few weeks they were presented
by the rider for the house, in person. My old friend put on
his spectacles, and holding the scroll with no very firm hand,
began--"Paper, so much: O moderate enough--not at all beyond my
expectation! Printing, so much: well! moderate enough! Stitching,
covers, advertisements, carriage, and so forth, so much."--Still
nothing amiss. Selleridge (for orthography is no necessary part of
a bookseller's literary acquirements) L3. 3s. "Bless me! only three
guineas for the what d'ye call it--the selleridge?" "No more, Sir!"
replied the rider. "Nay, but that is too moderate!" rejoined my old
friend. "Only three guineas for selling a thousand copies of a work in
two volumes?" "O Sir!" (cries the young traveller) "you have mistaken
the word. There have been none of them sold; they have been sent
back from London long ago; and this L3. 3s. is for the cellaridge,
or warehouse-room in our book cellar." The work was in consequence
preferred from the ominous cellar of the publisher's to the author's
garret; and, on presenting a copy to an acquaintance, the old gentleman
used to tell the anecdote with great humour and still greater good

With equal lack of worldly knowledge, I was a far more than equal
sufferer for it, at the very outset of my authorship. Toward the close
of the first year from the time, that in an inauspicious hour I left the
friendly cloisters, and the happy grove of quiet, ever honoured Jesus
College, Cambridge, I was persuaded by sundry philanthropists and
Anti-polemists to set on foot a periodical work, entitled THE WATCHMAN,
that, according to the general motto of the work, all might know the
truth, and that the truth might make us free! In order to exempt it from
the stamp-tax, and likewise to contribute as little as possible to the
supposed guilt of a war against freedom, it was to be published on every
eighth day, thirty-two pages, large octavo, closely printed, and price
only four-pence. Accordingly with a flaming prospectus,--"Knowledge is
Power," "To cry the state of the political atmosphere,"--and so forth,
I set off on a tour to the North, from Bristol to Sheffield, for the
purpose of procuring customers, preaching by the way in most of
the great towns, as an hireless volunteer, in a blue coat and white
waistcoat, that not a rag of the woman of Babylon might be seen on me.
For I was at that time and long after, though a Trinitarian (that is
ad normam Platonis) in philosophy, yet a zealous Unitarian in religion;
more accurately, I was a Psilanthropist, one of those who believe our
Lord to have been the real son of Joseph, and who lay the main stress on
the resurrection rather than on the crucifixion. O! never can I remember
those days with either shame or regret. For I was most sincere, most
disinterested. My opinions were indeed in many and most important points
erroneous; but my heart was single. Wealth, rank, life itself then
seemed cheap to me, compared with the interests of what I believed to
be the truth, and the will of my Maker. I cannot even accuse myself of
having been actuated by vanity; for in the expansion of my enthusiasm I
did not think of myself at all.

My campaign commenced at Birmingham; and my first attack was on a rigid
Calvinist, a tallow-chandler by trade. He was a tall dingy man, in whom
length was so predominant over breadth, that he might almost have been
borrowed for a foundery poker. O that face! a face kat' emphasin! I
have it before me at this moment. The lank, black, twine-like hair,
pingui-nitescent, cut in a straight line along the black stubble of his
thin gunpowder eye-brows, that looked like a scorched after-math from a
last week's shaving. His coat collar behind in perfect unison, both of
colour and lustre, with the coarse yet glib cordage, which I suppose
he called his hair, and which with a bend inward at the nape of the
neck,--the only approach to flexure in his whole figure,--slunk in
behind his waistcoat; while the countenance lank, dark, very hard, and
with strong perpendicular furrows, gave me a dim notion of some one
looking at me through a used gridiron, all soot, grease, and iron! But
he was one of the thorough-bred, a true lover of liberty, and, as I was
informed, had proved to the satisfaction of many, that Mr. Pitt was one
of the horns of the second beast in THE REVELATIONS, that spake as a
dragon. A person, to whom one of my letters of recommendation had been
addressed, was my introducer. It was a new event in my life, my first
stroke in the new business I had undertaken of an author, yea, and of
an author trading on his own account. My companion after some imperfect
sentences and a multitude of hums and has abandoned the cause to his
client; and I commenced an harangue of half an hour to Phileleutheros,
the tallow-chandler, varying my notes, through the whole gamut of
eloquence, from the ratiocinative to the declamatory, and in the latter
from the pathetic to the indignant. I argued, I described, I promised, I
prophesied; and beginning with the captivity of nations I ended with the
near approach of the millennium, finishing the whole with some of my own
verses describing that glorious state out of the Religious Musings:

    ------Such delights
    As float to earth, permitted visitants!
    When in some hour of solemn jubilee
    The massive gates of Paradise are thrown
    Wide open, and forth come in fragments wild
    Sweet echoes of unearthly melodies,
    And odours snatched from beds of amaranth,
    And they, that from the crystal river of life
    Spring up on freshened wing, ambrosial gales!

My taper man of lights listened with perseverant and praiseworthy
patience, though, as I was afterwards told, on complaining of certain
gales that were not altogether ambrosial, it was a melting day with
him. "And what, Sir," he said, after a short pause, "might the cost be?"
"Only four-pence,"--(O! how I felt the anti-climax, the abysmal
bathos of that four-pence!)--"only four-pence, Sir, each number, to be
published on every eighth day."--"That comes to a deal of money at
the end of a year. And how much, did you say, there was to be for
the money?"--"Thirty-two pages, Sir, large octavo, closely
printed."--"Thirty and two pages? Bless me! why except what I does in a
family way on the Sabbath, that's more than I ever reads, Sir! all
the year round. I am as great a one, as any man in Brummagem, Sir!
for liberty and truth and all them sort of things, but as to this,--no
offence, I hope, Sir,--I must beg to be excused."

So ended my first canvass: from causes that I shall presently mention, I
made but one other application in person. This took place at Manchester
to a stately and opulent wholesale dealer in cottons. He took my letter
of introduction, and, having perused it, measured me from head to foot
and again from foot to head, and then asked if I had any bill or invoice
of the thing. I presented my prospectus to him. He rapidly skimmed
and hummed over the first side, and still more rapidly the second and
concluding page; crushed it within his fingers and the palm of his hand;
then most deliberately and significantly rubbed and smoothed one part
against the other; and lastly putting it into his pocket turned his back
on me with an "over-run with these articles!" and so without another
syllable retired into his counting house. And, I can truly say, to my
unspeakable amusement.

This, I have said, was my second and last attempt. On returning baffled
from the first, in which I had vainly essayed to repeat the miracle of
Orpheus with the Brummagem patriot, I dined with the tradesman who had
introduced me to him. After dinner he importuned me to smoke a pipe with
him, and two or three other illuminati of the same rank. I objected,
both because I was engaged to spend the evening with a minister and
his friends, and because I had never smoked except once or twice in
my lifetime, and then it was herb tobacco mixed with Oronooko. On the
assurance, however, that the tobacco was equally mild, and seeing
too that it was of a yellow colour; not forgetting the lamentable
difficulty, I have always experienced, in saying, "No," and in
abstaining from what the people about me were doing,--I took half a
pipe, filling the lower half of the bowl with salt. I was soon however
compelled to resign it, in consequence of a giddiness and distressful
feeling in my eyes, which, as I had drunk but a single glass of ale,
must, I knew, have been the effect of the tobacco. Soon after, deeming
myself recovered, I sallied forth to my engagement; but the walk and the
fresh air brought on all the symptoms again, and, I had scarcely entered
the minister's drawing-room, and opened a small pacquet of letters,
which he had received from Bristol for me; ere I sank back on the sofa
in a sort of swoon rather than sleep. Fortunately I had found just time
enough to inform him of the confused state of my feelings, and of
the occasion. For here and thus I lay, my face like a wall that is
white-washing, deathly pale and with the cold drops of perspiration
running down it from my forehead, while one after another there dropped
in the different gentlemen, who had been invited to meet, and spend the
evening with me, to the number of from fifteen to twenty. As the
poison of tobacco acts but for a short time, I at length awoke from
insensibility, and looked round on the party, my eyes dazzled by the
candles which had been lighted in the interim. By way of relieving my
embarrassment one of the gentlemen began the conversation, with "Have
you seen a paper to-day, Mr. Coleridge?" "Sir!" I replied, rubbing my
eyes, "I am far from convinced, that a Christian is permitted to read
either newspapers or any other works of merely political and temporary
interest." This remark, so ludicrously inapposite to, or rather,
incongruous with, the purpose, for which I was known to have visited
Birmingham, and to assist me in which they were all then met, produced
an involuntary and general burst of laughter; and seldom indeed have
I passed so many delightful hours, as I enjoyed in that room from
the moment of that laugh till an early hour the next morning.
Never, perhaps, in so mixed and numerous a party have I since heard
conversation, sustained with such animation, enriched with such variety
of information and enlivened with such a flow of anecdote. Both then
and afterwards they all joined in dissuading me from proceeding with
my scheme; assured me in the most friendly and yet most flattering
expressions, that neither was the employment fit for me, nor I fit for
the employment. Yet, if I determined on persevering in it, they promised
to exert themselves to the utmost to procure subscribers, and insisted
that I should make no more applications in person, but carry on the
canvass by proxy. The same hospitable reception, the same dissuasion,
and, that failing, the same kind exertions in my behalf, I met with at
Manchester, Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield,--indeed, at every place in
which I took up my sojourn. I often recall with affectionate pleasure
the many respectable men who interested themselves for me, a perfect
stranger to them, not a few of whom I can still name among my friends.
They will bear witness for me how opposite even then my principles were
to those of Jacobinism or even of democracy, and can attest the strict
accuracy of the statement which I have left on record in the tenth and
eleventh numbers of THE FRIEND.

From this rememberable tour I returned with nearly a thousand names on
the subscription list of THE WATCHMAN; yet more than half convinced,
that prudence dictated the abandonment of the scheme. But for this
very reason I persevered in it; for I was at that period of my life
so completely hag-ridden by the fear of being influenced by selfish
motives, that to know a mode of conduct to be the dictate of prudence
was a sort of presumptive proof to my feelings, that the contrary
was the dictate of duty. Accordingly, I commenced the work, which was
announced in London by long bills in letters larger than had ever been
seen before, and which, I have been informed, for I did not see them
myself, eclipsed the glories even of the lottery puffs. But alas!
the publication of the very first number was delayed beyond the day
announced for its appearance. In the second number an essay against fast
days, with a most censurable application of a text from Isaiah for its
motto, lost me near five hundred of my subscribers at one blow. In the
two following numbers I made enemies of all my Jacobin and democratic
patrons; for, disgusted by their infidelity, and their adoption of
French morals with French psilosophy; and perhaps thinking, that charity
ought to begin nearest home; Instead of abusing the government and the
Aristocrats chiefly or entirely, as had been expected of me, I levelled
my attacks at "modern patriotism," and even ventured to declare my
belief, that whatever the motives of ministers might have been for the
sedition, or as it was then the fashion to call them, the gagging bills,
yet the bills themselves would produce an effect to be desired by all
the true friends of freedom, as far as they should contribute to deter
men from openly declaiming on subjects, the principles of which they had
never bottomed and from "pleading to the poor and ignorant, instead
of pleading for them." At the same time I avowed my conviction, that
national education and a concurring spread of the Gospel were the
indispensable condition of any true political melioration. Thus by the
time the seventh number was published, I had the mortification--(but why
should I say this, when in truth I cared too little for any thing that
concerned my worldly interests to be at all mortified about it?)--of
seeing the preceding numbers exposed in sundry old iron shops for a
penny a piece. At the ninth number I dropt the work. But from the London
publisher I could not obtain a shilling; he was a ------ and set me at
defiance. From other places I procured but little, and after such delays
as rendered that little worth nothing; and I should have been inevitably
thrown into jail by my Bristol printer, who refused to wait even for a
month, for a sum between eighty and ninety pounds, if the money had
not been paid for me by a man by no means affluent, a dear friend,
who attached himself to me from my first arrival at Bristol, who has
continued my friend with a fidelity unconquered by time or even by my
own apparent neglect; a friend from whom I never received an advice that
was not wise, nor a remonstrance that was not gentle and affectionate.

Conscientiously an opponent of the first revolutionary war, yet with
my eyes thoroughly opened to the true character and impotence of the
favourers of revolutionary principles in England, principles which
I held in abhorrence,--(for it was part of my political creed, that
whoever ceased to act as an individual by making himself a member of
any society not sanctioned by his Government, forfeited the rights of
a citizen)--a vehement Anti-Ministerialist, but after the invasion of
Switzerland, a more vehement Anti-Gallican, and still more intensely
an Anti-Jacobin, I retired to a cottage at Stowey, and provided for my
scanty maintenance by writing verses for a London Morning Paper. I saw
plainly, that literature was not a profession, by which I could expect
to live; for I could not disguise from myself, that, whatever my talents
might or might not be in other respects, yet they were not of the sort
that could enable me to become a popular writer; and that whatever my
opinions might be in themselves, they were almost equi-distant from
all the three prominent parties, the Pittites, the Foxites, and the
Democrats. Of the unsaleable nature of my writings I had an amusing
memento one morning from our own servant girl. For happening to rise
at an earlier hour than usual, I observed her putting an extravagant
quantity of paper into the grate in order to light the fire, and mildly
checked her for her wastefulness; "La, Sir!" (replied poor Nanny) "why,
it is only Watchmen."

I now devoted myself to poetry and to the study of ethics and
psychology; and so profound was my admiration at this time of Hartley's
ESSAY ON MAN, that I gave his name to my first-born. In addition to the
gentleman, my neighbour, whose garden joined on to my little orchard,
and the cultivation of whose friendship had been my sole motive in
choosing Stowey for my residence, I was so fortunate as to acquire,
shortly after my settlement there, an invaluable blessing in the society
and neighbourhood of one, to whom I could look up with equal reverence,
whether I regarded him as a poet, a philosopher, or a man. His
conversation extended to almost all subjects, except physics and
politics; with the latter he never troubled himself. Yet neither my
retirement nor my utter abstraction from all the disputes of the day
could secure me in those jealous times from suspicion and obloquy, which
did not stop at me, but extended to my excellent friend, whose perfect
innocence was even adduced as a proof of his guilt. One of the many busy
sycophants of that day,--(I here use the word sycophant in its original
sense, as a wretch who flatters the prevailing party by informing
against his neighbours, under pretence that they are exporters of
prohibited figs or fancies,--for the moral application of the term it
matters not which)--one of these sycophantic law-mongrels, discoursing
on the politics of the neighbourhood, uttered the following deep
remark: "As to Coleridge, there is not so much harm in him, for he is a
whirl-brain that talks whatever comes uppermost; but that ------! he is
the dark traitor. You never hear HIM say a syllable on the subject."

Now that the hand of Providence has disciplined all Europe into
sobriety, as men tame wild elephants, by alternate blows and caresses;
now that Englishmen of all classes are restored to their old English
notions and feelings; it will with difficulty be credited, how great an
influence was at that time possessed and exerted by the spirit of secret
defamation,--(the too constant attendant on party-zeal)--during
the restless interim from 1793 to the commencement of the Addington
administration, or the year before the truce of Amiens. For by the
latter period the minds of the partizans, exhausted by excess of
stimulation and humbled by mutual disappointment, had become languid.
The same causes, that inclined the nation to peace, disposed the
individuals to reconciliation. Both parties had found themselves in
the wrong. The one had confessedly mistaken the moral character of
the revolution, and the other had miscalculated both its moral and
its physical resources. The experiment was made at the price of great,
almost, we may say, of humiliating sacrifices; and wise men foresaw that
it would fail, at least in its direct and ostensible object. Yet it
was purchased cheaply, and realized an object of equal value, and,
if possible, of still more vital importance. For it brought about
a national unanimity unexampled in our history since the reign of
Elizabeth; and Providence, never wanting to a good work when men have
done their parts, soon provided a common focus in the cause of Spain,
which made us all once more Englishmen by at once gratifying and
correcting the predilections of both parties. The sincere reverers of
the throne felt the cause of loyalty ennobled by its alliance with that
of freedom; while the honest zealots of the people could not but admit,
that freedom itself assumed a more winning form, humanized by loyalty
and consecrated by religious principle. The youthful enthusiasts who,
flattered by the morning rainbow of the French revolution, had made a
boast of expatriating their hopes and fears, now, disciplined by the
succeeding storms and sobered by increase of years, had been taught
to prize and honour the spirit of nationality as the best safeguard of
national independence, and this again as the absolute pre-requisite and
necessary basis of popular rights.

If in Spain too disappointment has nipped our too forward expectations,
yet all is not destroyed that is checked. The crop was perhaps springing
up too rank in the stalk to kern well; and there were, doubtless,
symptoms of the Gallican blight on it. If superstition and despotism
have been suffered to let in their wolvish sheep to trample and eat it
down even to the surface, yet the roots remain alive, and the
second growth may prove the stronger and healthier for the temporary
interruption. At all events, to us heaven has been just and gracious.
The people of England did their best, and have received their rewards.
Long may we continue to deserve it! Causes, which it had been too
generally the habit of former statesmen to regard as belonging to
another world, are now admitted by all ranks to have been the main
agents of our success. "We fought from heaven; the stars in their
courses fought against Sisera." If then unanimity grounded on moral
feelings has been among the least equivocal sources of our national
glory, that man deserves the esteem of his countrymen, even as patriots,
who devotes his life and the utmost efforts of his intellect to the
preservation and continuance of that unanimity by the disclosure
and establishment of principles. For by these all opinions must be
ultimately tried; and, (as the feelings of men are worthy of regard only
as far as they are the representatives of their fixed opinions,) on the
knowledge of these all unanimity, not accidental and fleeting, must be
grounded. Let the scholar, who doubts this assertion, refer only to
the speeches and writings of Edmund Burke at the commencement of the
American war and compare them with his speeches and writings at the
commencement of the French revolution. He will find the principles
exactly the same and the deductions the same; but the practical
inferences almost opposite in the one case from those drawn in the
other; yet in both equally legitimate and in both equally confirmed by
the results. Whence gained he the superiority of foresight? Whence arose
the striking difference, and in most instances even, the discrepancy
between the grounds assigned by him and by those who voted with him, on
the same questions? How are we to explain the notorious fact, that
the speeches and writings of Edmund Burke are more interesting at the
present day than they were found at the time of their first publication;
while those of his illustrious confederates are either forgotten, or
exist only to furnish proofs, that the same conclusion, which one man
had deduced scientifically, may be brought out by another in consequence
of errors that luckily chanced to neutralize each other. It would be
unhandsome as a conjecture, even were it not, as it actually is, false
in point of fact to attribute this difference to the deficiency
of talent on the part of Burke's friends, or of experience, or of
historical knowledge. The satisfactory solution is, that Edmund Burke
possessed and had sedulously sharpened that eye, which sees all things,
actions, and events, in relation to the laws that determine their
existence and circumscribe their possibility. He referred habitually
to principles. He was a scientific statesman; and therefore a seer. For
every principle contains in itself the germs of a prophecy; and, as the
prophetic power is the essential privilege of science, so the fulfilment
of its oracles supplies the outward and, (to men in general,) the
only test of its claim to the title. Wearisome as Burke's refinements
appeared to his parliamentary auditors, yet the cultivated classes
throughout Europe have reason to be thankful, that he

                                     ------went on refining,
    And thought of convincing, while they thought of dining.

Our very sign-boards, (said an illustrious friend to me,) give evidence,
that there has been a Titian in the world. In like manner, not only the
debates in parliament, not only our proclamations and state papers,
but the essays and leading paragraphs of our journals are so many
remembrancers of Edmund Burke. Of this the reader may easily convince
himself, if either by recollection or reference he will compare the
opposition newspapers at the commencement and during the five or six
following years of the French revolution with the sentiments, and
grounds of argument assumed in the same class of journals at present,
and for some years past.

Whether the spirit of jacobinism, which the writings of Burke exorcised
from the higher and from the literary classes, may not, like the ghost
in Hamlet, be heard moving and mining in the underground chambers
with an activity the more dangerous because less noisy, may admit of
a question. I have given my opinions on this point, and the grounds of
them, in my letters to judge Fletcher occasioned by his charge to the
Wexford grand jury, and published in the Courier. Be this as it may, the
evil spirit of jealousy, and with it the Cerberean whelps of feud and
slander, no longer walk their rounds, in cultivated society.

Far different were the days to which these anecdotes have carried me
back. The dark guesses of some zealous Quidnunc met with so congenial a
soil in the grave alarm of a titled Dogberry of our neighbourhood, that
a spy was actually sent down from the government pour surveillance of
myself and friend. There must have been not only abundance, but variety
of these "honourable men" at the disposal of Ministers: for this proved
a very honest fellow. After three weeks' truly Indian perseverance in
tracking us, (for we were commonly together,) during all which
time seldom were we out of doors, but he contrived to be within
hearing,--(and all the while utterly unsuspected; how indeed could such
a suspicion enter our fancies?)--he not only rejected Sir Dogberry's
request that he would try yet a little longer, but declared to him his
belief, that both my friend and myself were as good subjects, for aught
he could discover to the contrary, as any in His Majesty's dominions. He
had repeatedly hid himself, he said, for hours together behind a bank at
the sea-side, (our favourite seat,) and overheard our conversation. At
first he fancied, that we were aware of our danger; for he often heard
me talk of one Spy Nozy, which he was inclined to interpret of himself,
and of a remarkable feature belonging to him; but he was speedily
convinced that it was the name of a man who had made a book and lived
long ago. Our talk ran most upon books, and we were perpetually desiring
each other to look at this, and to listen to that; but he could not
catch a word about politics. Once he had joined me on the road; (this
occurred, as I was returning home alone from my friend's house, which
was about three miles from my own cottage,) and, passing himself off
as a traveller, he had entered into conversation with me, and talked
of purpose in a democrat way in order to draw me out. The result, it
appears, not only convinced him that I was no friend of jacobinism; but,
(he added,) I had "plainly made it out to be such a silly as well as
wicked thing, that he felt ashamed though he had only put it on." I
distinctly remembered the occurrence, and had mentioned it immediately
on my return, repeating what the traveller with his Bardolph nose had
said, with my own answer; and so little did I suspect the true object
of my "tempter ere accuser," that I expressed with no small pleasure my
hope and belief, that the conversation had been of some service to the
poor misled malcontent. This incident therefore prevented all doubt as
to the truth of the report, which through a friendly medium came to me
from the master of the village inn, who had been ordered to entertain
the Government gentleman in his best manner, but above all to be silent
concerning such a person being in his house. At length he received Sir
Dogberry's commands to accompany his guest at the final interview;
and, after the absolving suffrage of the gentleman honoured with the
confidence of Ministers, answered, as follows, to the following queries:
D. "Well, landlord! and what do you know of the person in question? L.
I see him often pass by with maister ----, my landlord, (that is, the
owner of the house,) and sometimes with the new-comers at Holford; but
I never said a word to him or he to me. D. But do you not know, that he
has distributed papers and hand-bills of a seditious nature among the
common people? L. No, your Honour! I never heard of such a thing. D.
Have you not seen this Mr. Coleridge, or heard of, his haranguing and
talking to knots and clusters of the inhabitants?--What are you grinning
at, Sir? L. Beg your Honour's pardon! but I was only thinking, how
they'd have stared at him. If what I have heard be true, your Honour!
they would not have understood a word he said. When our Vicar was here,
Dr. L. the master of the great school and Canon of Windsor, there was a
great dinner party at maister's; and one of the farmers, that was there,
told us that he and the Doctor talked real Hebrew Greek at each other
for an hour together after dinner. D. Answer the question, Sir! does he
ever harangue the people? L. I hope your Honour an't angry with me. I
can say no more than I know. I never saw him talking with any one, but
my landlord, and our curate, and the strange gentleman. D. Has he not
been seen wandering on the hills towards the Channel, and along the
shore, with books and papers in his hand, taking charts and maps of
the country? L. Why, as to that, your Honour! I own, I have heard; I am
sure, I would not wish to say ill of any body; but it is certain, that I
have heard--D. Speak out, man! don't be afraid, you are doing your duty
to your King and Government. What have you heard? L. Why, folks do
say, your Honour! as how that he is a Poet, and that he is going to put
Quantock and all about here in print; and as they be so much together,
I suppose that the strange gentleman has some consarn in the
business."--So ended this formidable inquisition, the latter part of
which alone requires explanation, and at the same time entitles the
anecdote to a place in my literary life. I had considered it as a defect
in the admirable poem of THE TASK, that the subject, which gives the
title to the work, was not, and indeed could not be, carried on beyond
the three or four first pages, and that, throughout the poem, the
connections are frequently awkward, and the transitions abrupt and
arbitrary. I sought for a subject, that should give equal room and
freedom for description, incident, and impassioned reflections on men,
nature, and society, yet supply in itself a natural connection to the
parts, and unity to the whole. Such a subject I conceived myself to
have found in a stream, traced from its source in the hills among the
yellow-red moss and conical glass-shaped tufts of bent, to the first
break or fall, where its drops become audible, and it begins to form a
channel; thence to the peat and turf barn, itself built of the same dark
squares as it sheltered; to the sheepfold; to the first cultivated
plot of ground; to the lonely cottage and its bleak garden won from the
heath; to the hamlet, the villages, the market-town, the manufactories,
and the seaport. My walks therefore were almost daily on the top
of Quantock, and among its sloping coombes. With my pencil and
memorandum-book in my hand, I was making studies, as the artists call
them, and often moulding my thoughts into verse, with the objects and
imagery immediately before my senses. Many circumstances, evil and good,
intervened to prevent the completion of the poem, which was to have been
entitled THE BROOK. Had I finished the work, it was my purpose in the
heat of the moment to have dedicated it to our then committee of public
safety as containing the charts and maps, with which I was to have
supplied the French Government in aid of their plans of invasion. And
these too for a tract of coast that, from Clevedon to Minehead, scarcely
permits the approach of a fishing-boat!

All my experience from my first entrance into life to the present hour
is in favour of the warning maxim, that the man, who opposes in toto the
political or religious zealots of his age, is safer from their obloquy
than he who differs from them but in one or two points, or perhaps only
in degree. By that transfer of the feelings of private life into the
discussion of public questions, which is the queen bee in the hive of
party fanaticism, the partisan has more sympathy with an intemperate
opposite than with a moderate friend. We now enjoy an intermission,
and long may it continue! In addition to far higher and more important
merits, our present Bible societies and other numerous associations
for national or charitable objects, may serve perhaps to carry off
the superfluous activity and fervour of stirring minds in innocent
hyperboles and the bustle of management. But the poison-tree is not
dead, though the sap may for a season have subsided to its roots. At
least let us not be lulled into such a notion of our entire security, as
not to keep watch and ward, even on our best feelings. I have seen gross
intolerance shown in support of toleration; sectarian antipathy
most obtrusively displayed in the promotion of an undistinguishing
comprehension of sects: and acts of cruelty, (I had almost said,) of
treachery, committed in furtherance of an object vitally important
to the cause of humanity; and all this by men too of naturally kind
dispositions and exemplary conduct.

The magic rod of fanaticism is preserved in the very adyta of human
nature; and needs only the re-exciting warmth of a master hand to bud
forth afresh and produce the old fruits. The horror of the Peasants' war
in Germany, and the direful effects of the Anabaptists' tenets,
(which differed only from those of jacobinism by the substitution of
theological for philosophical jargon,) struck all Europe for a time with
affright. Yet little more than a century was sufficient to obliterate
all effective memory of these events. The same principles with
similar though less dreadful consequences were again at work from the
imprisonment of the first Charles to the restoration of his son. The
fanatic maxim of extirpating fanaticism by persecution produced a civil
war. The war ended in the victory of the insurgents; but the temper
survived, and Milton had abundant grounds for asserting, that "Presbyter
was but OLD PRIEST writ large!" One good result, thank heaven! of this
zealotry was the re-establishment of the church. And now it might have
been hoped, that the mischievous spirit would have been bound for a
season, "and a seal set upon him, that he should deceive the nation
no more." [33] But no! The ball of persecution was taken up with
undiminished vigour by the persecuted. The same fanatic principle that,
under the solemn oath and covenant, had turned cathedrals into stables,
destroyed the rarest trophies of art and ancestral piety, and hunted the
brightest ornaments of learning and religion into holes and corners, now
marched under episcopal banners, and, having first crowded the prisons
of England, emptied its whole vial of wrath on the miserable Covenanters
of Scotland [34]. A merciful providence at length constrained both
parties to join against a common enemy. A wise government followed;
and the established church became, and now is, not only the brightest
example, but our best and only sure bulwark, of toleration!--the
true and indispensable bank against a new inundation of persecuting
zeal--Esto perpetua!

A long interval of quiet succeeded; or rather, the exhaustion had
produced a cold fit of the ague which was symptomatized by indifference
among the many, and a tendency to infidelity or scepticism in the
educated classes. At length those feelings of disgust and hatred,
which for a brief while the multitude had attached to the crimes and
absurdities of sectarian and democratic fanaticism, were transferred to
the oppressive privileges of the noblesse, and the luxury; intrigues and
favouritism of the continental courts. The same principles, dressed
in the ostentatious garb of a fashionable philosophy, once more rose
triumphant and effected the French revolution. And have we not
within the last three or four years had reason to apprehend, that
the detestable maxims and correspondent measures of the late French
despotism had already bedimmed the public recollections of democratic
phrensy; had drawn off to other objects the electric force of the
feelings which had massed and upheld those recollections; and that a
favourable concurrence of occasions was alone wanting to awaken the
thunder and precipitate the lightning from the opposite quarter of the
political heaven?

In part from constitutional indolence, which in the very hey-day of
hope had kept my enthusiasm in check, but still more from the habits and
influences of a classical education and academic pursuits, scarcely
had a year elapsed from the commencement of my literary and political
adventures before my mind sank into a state of thorough disgust and
despondency, both with regard to the disputes and the parties disputant.
With more than poetic feeling I exclaimed:

    The sensual and the dark rebel in vain,
    Slaves by their own compulsion! In mad game
    They break their manacles, to wear the name
    Of freedom, graven on a heavier chain.
    O Liberty! with profitless endeavour
    Have I pursued thee many a weary hour;
    But thou nor swell'st the victor's pomp, nor ever
    Didst breathe thy soul in forms of human power!
        Alike from all, howe'er they praise thee,
        (Nor prayer nor boastful name delays thee)
        From Superstition's harpy minions
        And factious Blasphemy's obscener slaves,
        Thou speedest on thy cherub pinions,
    The guide of homeless winds and playmate of the waves!

I retired to a cottage in Somersetshire at the foot of Quantock, and
devoted my thoughts and studies to the foundations of religion and
morals. Here I found myself all afloat. Doubts rushed in; broke upon me
"from the fountains of the great deep," and fell "from the windows
of heaven." The fontal truths of natural religion and the books of
Revelation alike contributed to the flood; and it was long ere my ark
touched on an Ararat, and rested. The idea of the Supreme Being appeared
to me to be as necessarily implied in all particular modes of being as
the idea of infinite space in all the geometrical figures by which space
is limited. I was pleased with the Cartesian opinion, that the idea of
God is distinguished from all other ideas by involving its reality; but
I was not wholly satisfied. I began then to ask myself, what proof I
had of the outward existence of anything? Of this sheet of paper for
instance, as a thing in itself, separate from the phaenomenon or image
in my perception. I saw, that in the nature of things such proof is
impossible; and that of all modes of being, that are not objects of the
senses, the existence is assumed by a logical necessity arising from the
constitution of the mind itself,--by the absence of all motive to
doubt it, not from any absolute contradiction in the supposition of the
contrary. Still the existence of a Being, the ground of all existence,
was not yet the existence of a moral creator, and governour. "In the
position, that all reality is either contained in the necessary being as
an attribute, or exists through him, as its ground, it remains undecided
whether the properties of intelligence and will are to be referred to
the Supreme Being in the former or only in the latter sense; as inherent
attributes, or only as consequences that have existence in other things
through him [35]. Were the latter the truth, then notwithstanding all
the pre-eminence which must be assigned to the Eternal First from the
sufficiency, unity, and independence of his being, as the dread ground
of the universe, his nature would yet fall far short of that, which we
are bound to comprehend in the idea of GOD. For, without any knowledge
or determining resolve of its own, it would only be a blind
necessary ground of other things and other spirits; and thus would
be distinguished from the FATE of certain ancient philosophers in no
respect, but that of being more definitely and intelligibly described."

For a very long time, indeed, I could not reconcile personality with
infinity; and my head was with Spinoza, though my whole heart remained
with Paul and John. Yet there had dawned upon me, even before I had met
with the CRITIQUE OF THE PURE REASON, a certain guiding light. If the
mere intellect could make no certain discovery of a holy and intelligent
first cause, it might yet supply a demonstration, that no legitimate
argument could be drawn from the intellect against its truth. And what
is this more than St. Paul's assertion, that by wisdom,--(more properly
translated by the powers of reasoning)--no man ever arrived at the
knowledge of God? What more than the sublimest, and probably the oldest,
book on earth has taught us,

    Silver and gold man searcheth out:
    Bringeth the ore out of the earth, and darkness into light.

    But where findeth he wisdom?
    Where is the place of understanding?

    The abyss crieth; it is not in me!
    Ocean echoeth back; not in me!

    Whence then cometh wisdom?
    Where dwelleth understanding?

    Hidden from the eyes of the living
    Kept secret from the fowls of heaven!

    Hell and death answer;
    We have heard the rumour thereof from afar!

    GOD marketh out the road to it;
    GOD knoweth its abiding place!

    He beholdeth the ends of the earth;
    He surveyeth what is beneath the heavens!

    And as he weighed out the winds, and measured the sea,
    And appointed laws to the rain,
    And a path to the thunder,
    A path to the flashes of the lightning!

    Then did he see it,
    And he counted it;
    He searched into the depth thereof,
    And with a line did he compass it round!

    But to man he said,
    The fear of the Lord is wisdom for thee!
    And to avoid evil,
    That is thy understanding. [36]

I become convinced, that religion, as both the cornerstone and the
key-stone of morality, must have a moral origin; so far at least, that
the evidence of its doctrines could not, like the truths of abstract
science, be wholly independent of the will. It were therefore to be
expected, that its fundamental truth would be such as might be denied;
though only, by the fool, and even by the fool from the madness of the
heart alone!

The question then concerning our faith in the existence of a God, not
only as the ground of the universe by his essence, but as its maker and
judge by his wisdom and holy will, appeared to stand thus. The sciential
reason, the objects of which are purely theoretical, remains neutral, as
long as its name and semblance are not usurped by the opponents of the
doctrine. But it then becomes an effective ally by exposing the false
show of demonstration, or by evincing the equal demonstrability of the
contrary from premises equally logical [37]. The understanding meantime
suggests, the analogy of experience facilitates, the belief. Nature
excites and recalls it, as by a perpetual revelation. Our feelings
almost necessitate it; and the law of conscience peremptorily commands
it. The arguments, that at all apply to it, are in its favour; and
there is nothing against it, but its own sublimity. It could not be
intellectually more evident without becoming morally less effective;
without counteracting its own end by sacrificing the life of faith to
the cold mechanism of a worth less because compulsory assent. The belief
of a God and a future state, (if a passive acquiescence may be flattered
with the name of belief,) does not indeed always beget a good heart;
but a good heart so naturally begets the belief, that the very few
exceptions must be regarded as strange anomalies from strange and
unfortunate circumstances.

From these premises I proceeded to draw the following conclusions.
First, that having once fully admitted the existence of an infinite yet
self-conscious Creator, we are not allowed to ground the irrationality
of any other article of faith on arguments which would equally prove
that to be irrational, which we had allowed to be real. Secondly, that
whatever is deducible from the admission of a self-comprehending and
creative spirit may be legitimately used in proof of the possibility
of any further mystery concerning the divine nature. Possibilitatem
mysteriorum, (Trinitatis, etc.) contra insultus Infidelium et
Haereticorum a contradictionibus vindico; haud quidem veritatem, quae
revelatione sola stabiliri possit; says Leibnitz in a letter to his
Duke. He then adds the following just and important remark. "In
vain will tradition or texts of scripture be adduced in support of a
doctrine, donec clava impossibilitatis et contradictionis e manibus
horum Herculum extorta fuerit. For the heretic will still reply, that
texts, the literal sense of which is not so much above as directly
against all reason, must be understood figuratively, as Herod is a fox,
and so forth."

These principles I held, philosophically, while in respect of revealed
religion I remained a zealous Unitarian. I considered the idea of the
Trinity a fair scholastic inference from the being of God, as a creative
intelligence; and that it was therefore entitled to the rank of an
esoteric doctrine of natural religion. But seeing in the same no
practical or moral bearing, I confined it to the schools of philosophy.
The admission of the Logos, as hypostasized (that is, neither a mere
attribute, nor a personification) in no respect removed my doubts
concerning the Incarnation and the Redemption by the cross; which I
could neither reconcile in reason with the impassiveness of the Divine
Being, nor in my moral feelings with the sacred distinction between
things and persons, the vicarious payment of a debt and the vicarious
expiation of guilt. A more thorough revolution in my philosophic
principles, and a deeper insight into my own heart, were yet wanting.
Nevertheless, I cannot doubt, that the difference of my metaphysical
notions from those of Unitarians in general contributed to my final
re-conversion to the whole truth in Christ; even as according to his own
confession the books of certain Platonic philosophers (libri quorundam
Platonicorum) commenced the rescue of St. Augustine's faith from the
same error aggravated by the far darker accompaniment of the Manichaean

While my mind was thus perplexed, by a gracious providence for which
I can never be sufficiently grateful, the generous and munificent
patronage of Mr. Josiah, and Mr. Thomas Wedgwood enabled me to finish
my education in Germany. Instead of troubling others with my own crude
notions and juvenile compositions, I was thenceforward better employed
in attempting to store my own head with the wisdom of others. I made the
best use of my time and means; and there is therefore no period of my
life on which I can look back with such unmingled satisfaction. After
acquiring a tolerable sufficiency in the German language [38] at
Ratzeburg, which with my voyage and journey thither I have described in
The Friend, I proceeded through Hanover to Goettingen.

Here I regularly attended the lectures on physiology in the morning, and
on natural history in the evening, under Blumenbach, a name as dear to
every Englishman who has studied at that university, as it is venerable
to men of science throughout Europe! Eichhorn's lectures on the New
Testament were repeated to me from notes by a student from Ratzeburg,
a young man of sound learning and indefatigable industry, who is now,
I believe, a professor of the oriental languages at Heidelberg. But my
chief efforts were directed towards a grounded knowledge of the German
language and literature. From professor Tychsen I received as many
lessons in the Gothic of Ulphilas as sufficed to make me acquainted with
its grammar, and the radical words of most frequent occurrence; and with
the occasional assistance of the same philosophical linguist, I read
through [39] Ottfried's metrical paraphrase of the gospel, and the most
important remains of the Theotiscan, or the transitional state of the
Teutonic language from the Gothic to the old German of the Swabian
period. Of this period--(the polished dialect of which is analogous to
that of our Chaucer, and which leaves the philosophic student in doubt,
whether the language has not since then lost more in sweetness and
flexibility, than it has gained in condensation and copiousness)--I
read with sedulous accuracy the Minnesinger (or singers of love, the
Provencal poets of the Swabian court) and the metrical romances; and
then laboured through sufficient specimens of the master singers, their
degenerate successors; not however without occasional pleasure from the
rude, yet interesting strains of Hans Sachs, the cobbler of Nuremberg.
Of this man's genius five folio volumes with double columns are
extant in print, and nearly an equal number in manuscript; yet the
indefatigable bard takes care to inform his readers, that he never made
a shoe the less, but had virtuously reared a large family by the labour
of his hands.

In Pindar, Chaucer, Dante, Milton, and many more, we have instances of
the close connection of poetic genius with the love of liberty and of
genuine reformation. The moral sense at least will not be outraged, if
I add to the list the name of this honest shoemaker, (a trade by the by
remarkable for the production of philosophers and poets).

His poem entitled THE MORNING STAR, was the very first publication that
appeared in praise and support of Luther; and an excellent hymn of Hans
Sachs, which has been deservedly translated into almost all the European
languages, was commonly sung in the Protestant churches, whenever the
heroic reformer visited them.

In Luther's own German writings, and eminently in his translation of the
Bible, the German language commenced. I mean the language as it is
at present written; that which is called the High-German, as contra-
distinguished from the Platt-Teutsch, the dialect on the flat or
northern countries, and from the Ober-Teutsch, the language of the
middle and Southern Germany. The High German is indeed a lingua
communis, not actually the native language of any province, but the
choice and fragrancy of all the dialects. From this cause it is at once
the most copious and the most grammatical of all the European tongues.

Within less than a century after Luther's death the German was inundated
with pedantic barbarisms. A few volumes of this period I read through
from motives of curiosity; for it is not easy to imagine any thing more
fantastic, than the very appearance of their pages. Almost every third
word is a Latin word with a Germanized ending, the Latin portion being
always printed in Roman letters, while in the last syllable the German
character is retained.

At length, about the year 1620, Opitz arose, whose genius more nearly
resembled that of Dryden than any other poet, who at present occurs to
my recollection. In the opinion of Lessing, the most acute of critics,
and of Adelung, the first of Lexicographers, Opitz, and the Silesian
poets, his followers, not only restored the language, but still remain
the models of pure diction. A stranger has no vote on such a question;
but after repeated perusal of the works of Opitz my feelings justified
the verdict, and I seemed to have acquired from them a sort of tact for
what is genuine in the style of later writers.

Of the splendid aera, which commenced with Gellert, Klopstock, Ramler,
Lessing, and their compeers, I need not speak. With the opportunities
which I enjoyed, it would have been disgraceful not to have been
familiar with their writings; and I have already said as much as the
present biographical sketch requires concerning the German philosophers,
whose works, for the greater part, I became acquainted with at a far
later period.

Soon after my return from Germany I was solicited to undertake the
literary and political department in the Morning Post; and I acceded to
the proposal on the condition that the paper should thenceforwards be
conducted on certain fixed and announced principles, and that I should
neither be obliged nor requested to deviate from them in favour of any
party or any event. In consequence, that journal became and for many
years continued anti-ministerial indeed, yet with a very qualified
approbation of the opposition, and with far greater earnestness and zeal
both anti-Jacobin and anti-Gallican. To this hour I cannot find reason
to approve of the first war either in its commencement or its conduct.
Nor can I understand, with what reason either Mr. Perceval, (whom I
am singular enough to regard as the best and wisest minister of this
reign,) nor the present Administration, can be said to have pursued the
plans of Mr. Pitt. The love of their country, and perseverant hostility
to French principles and French ambition are indeed honourable qualities
common to them and to their predecessor. But it appears to me as clear
as the evidence of the facts can render any question of history, that
the successes of the Perceval and of the existing ministry have been
owing to their having pursued measures the direct contrary to Mr.
Pitt's. Such for instance are the concentration of the national force to
one object; the abandonment of the subsidizing policy, so far at least
as neither to goad nor bribe the continental courts into war, till
the convictions of their subjects had rendered it a war of their own
seeking; and above all, in their manly and generous reliance on the good
sense of the English people, and on that loyalty which is linked to
the very [40] heart of the nation by the system of credit and the
interdependence of property.

Be this as it may, I am persuaded that the Morning Post proved a far
more useful ally to the Government in its most important objects,
in consequence of its being generally considered as moderately anti-
ministerial, than if it had been the avowed eulogist of Mr. Pitt. The
few, whose curiosity or fancy should lead them to turn over the journals
of that date, may find a small proof of this in the frequent charges
made by the Morning Chronicle, that such and such essays or leading
paragraphs had been sent from the Treasury. The rapid and unusual
increase in the sale of the Morning Post is a sufficient pledge, that
genuine impartiality with a respectable portion of literary talent
will secure the success of a newspaper without the aid of party
or ministerial patronage. But by impartiality I mean an honest and
enlightened adherence to a code of intelligible principles previously
announced, and faithfully referred to in support of every judgment
on men and events; not indiscriminate abuse, not the indulgence of an
editor's own malignant passions, and still less, if that be possible,
a determination to make money by flattering the envy and cupidity, the
vindictive restlessness and self-conceit of the half-witted vulgar; a
determination almost fiendish, but which, I have been informed, has
been boastfully avowed by one man, the most notorious of these
mob-sycophants! From the commencement of the Addington administration to
the present day, whatever I have written in THE MORNING POST, or (after
that paper was transferred to other proprietors) in THE COURIER, has
been in defence or furtherance of the measures of Government.

    Things of this nature scarce survive that night
    That gives them birth; they perish in the sight;
    Cast by so far from after-life, that there
    Can scarcely aught be said, but that they were!

Yet in these labours I employed, and, in the belief of partial friends
wasted, the prime and manhood of my intellect. Most assuredly, they
added nothing to my fortune or my reputation. The industry of the week
supplied the necessities of the week. From government or the friends of
government I not only never received remuneration, nor ever expected it;
but I was never honoured with a single acknowledgment, or expression
of satisfaction. Yet the retrospect is far from painful or matter of
regret. I am not indeed silly enough to take as any thing more than a
violent hyperbole of party debate, Mr. Fox's assertion that the late war
(I trust that the epithet is not prematurely applied) was a war produced
by the Morning Post; or I should be proud to have the words inscribed on
my tomb. As little do I regard the circumstance, that I was a specified
object of Buonaparte's resentment during my residence in Italy in
consequence of those essays in the Morning Post during the peace of
Amiens. Of this I was warned, directly, by Baron Von Humboldt, the
Prussian Plenipotentiary, who at that time was the minister of the
Prussian court at Rome; and indirectly, through his secretary,
by Cardinal Fesch himself. Nor do I lay any greater weight on the
confirming fact, that an order for my arrest was sent from Paris, from
which danger I was rescued by the kindness of a noble Benedictine, and
the gracious connivance of that good old man, the present Pope. For the
late tyrant's vindictive appetite was omnivorous, and preyed equally on
a Duc d'Enghien [41], and the writer of a newspaper paragraph. Like a
true vulture [42], Napoleon with an eye not less telescopic, and with a
taste equally coarse in his ravin, could descend from the most dazzling
heights to pounce on the leveret in the brake, or even on the field
mouse amid the grass. But I do derive a gratification from the
knowledge, that my essays contributed to introduce the practice of
placing the questions and events of the day in a moral point of view;
in giving a dignity to particular measures by tracing their policy or
impolicy to permanent principles, and an interest to principles by the
application of them to individual measures. In Mr. Burke's writings
indeed the germs of almost all political truths may be found. But I
dare assume to myself the merit of having first explicitly defined
and analyzed the nature of Jacobinism; and that in distinguishing the
Jacobin from the republican, the democrat, and the mere demagogue, I
both rescued the word from remaining a mere term of abuse, and put on
their guard many honest minds, who even in their heat of zeal against
Jacobinism, admitted or supported principles from which the worst parts
of that system may be legitimately deduced. That these are not
necessary practical results of such principles, we owe to that fortunate
inconsequence of our nature, which permits the heart to rectify the
errors of the understanding. The detailed examination of the consular
Government and its pretended constitution, and the proof given by me,
that it was a consummate despotism in masquerade, extorted a recantation
even from the Morning Chronicle, which had previously extolled this
constitution as the perfection of a wise and regulated liberty. On every
great occurrence I endeavoured to discover in past history the event,
that most nearly resembled it. I procured, wherever it was possible,
the contemporary historians, memorialists, and pamphleteers. Then fairly
subtracting the points of difference from those of likeness, as the
balance favoured the former or the latter, I conjectured that the result
would be the same or different. In the series of essays entitled "A
comparison of France under Napoleon with Rome under the first Caesars,"
and in those which followed "On the probable final restoration of the
Bourbons," I feel myself authorized to affirm, by the effect produced on
many intelligent men, that, were the dates wanting, it might have
been suspected that the essays had been written within the last twelve
months. The same plan I pursued at the commencement of the Spanish
revolution, and with the same success, taking the war of the United
Provinces with Philip II as the ground work of the comparison. I have
mentioned this from no motives of vanity, nor even from motives of self
defence, which would justify a certain degree of egotism, especially
if it be considered, how often and grossly I have been attacked for
sentiments, which I have exerted my best powers to confute and expose,
and how grievously these charges acted to my disadvantage while I was
in Malta. Or rather they would have done so, if my own feelings had not
precluded the wish of a settled establishment in that island. But I
have mentioned it from the full persuasion that, armed with the two-fold
knowledge of history and the human mind, a man will scarcely err in his
judgment concerning the sum total of any future national event, if he
have been able to procure the original documents of the past, together
with authentic accounts of the present, and if he have a philosophic
tact for what is truly important in facts, and in most instances
therefore for such facts as the dignity of history has excluded from
the volumes of our modern compilers, by the courtesy of the age entitled

To have lived in vain must be a painful thought to any man, and
especially so to him who has made literature his profession. I should
therefore rather condole than be angry with the mind, which could
attribute to no worthier feelings than those of vanity or self-love,
the satisfaction which I acknowledged myself to have enjoyed from the
republication of my political essays (either whole or as extracts) not
only in many of our own provincial papers, but in the federal journals
throughout America. I regarded it as some proof of my not having
laboured altogether in vain, that from the articles written by me
shortly before and at the commencement of the late unhappy war with
America, not only the sentiments were adopted, but in some instances the
very language, in several of the Massachusetts state papers.

But no one of these motives nor all conjointly would have impelled me
to a statement so uncomfortable to my own feelings, had not my character
been repeatedly attacked, by an unjustifiable intrusion on private life,
as of a man incorrigibly idle, and who intrusted not only with ample
talents, but favoured with unusual opportunities of improving them, had
nevertheless suffered them to rust away without any efficient exertion,
either for his own good or that of his fellow creatures. Even if the
compositions, which I have made public, and that too in a form the most
certain of an extensive circulation, though the least flattering to an
author's self-love, had been published in books, they would have
filled a respectable number of volumes, though every passage of merely
temporary interest were omitted. My prose writings have been charged
with a disproportionate demand on the attention; with an excess of
refinement in the mode of arriving at truths; with beating the ground
for that which might have been run down by the eye; with the length and
laborious construction of my periods; in short with obscurity and the
love of paradox. But my severest critics have not pretended to have
found in my compositions triviality, or traces of a mind that shrunk
from the toil of thinking. No one has charged me with tricking out in
other words the thoughts of others, or with hashing up anew the cramben
jam decies coctam of English literature or philosophy. Seldom have I
written that in a day, the acquisition or investigation of which had not
cost me the previous labour of a month.

But are books the only channel through which the stream of intellectual
usefulness can flow? Is the diffusion of truth to be estimated by
publications; or publications by the truth, which they diffuse or at
least contain? I speak it in the excusable warmth of a mind stung by an
accusation, which has not only been advanced in reviews of the widest
circulation, not only registered in the bulkiest works of periodical
literature, but by frequency of repetition has become an admitted fact
in private literary circles, and thoughtlessly repeated by too many who
call themselves my friends, and whose own recollections ought to have
suggested a contrary testimony. Would that the criterion of a scholar's
utility were the number and moral value of the truths, which he has been
the means of throwing into the general circulation; or the number and
value of the minds, whom by his conversation or letters, he has excited
into activity, and supplied with the germs of their after-growth!
A distinguished rank might not indeed, even then, be awarded to
my exertions; but I should dare look forward with confidence to
an honourable acquittal. I should dare appeal to the numerous and
respectable audiences, which at different times and in different places
honoured my lecture rooms with their attendance, whether the points
of view from which the subjects treated of were surveyed,--whether the
grounds of my reasoning were such, as they had heard or read elsewhere,
or have since found in previous publications. I can conscientiously
declare, that the complete success of the REMORSE on the first night of
its representation did not give me as great or as heart-felt a pleasure,
as the observation that the pit and boxes were crowded with faces
familiar to me, though of individuals whose names I did not know, and
of whom I knew nothing, but that they had attended one or other of my
courses of lectures. It is an excellent though perhaps somewhat vulgar
proverb, that there are cases where a man may be as well "in for a pound
as for a penny." To those, who from ignorance of the serious injury
I have received from this rumour of having dreamed away my life to no
purpose, injuries which I unwillingly remember at all, much less am
disposed to record in a sketch of my literary life; or to those, who
from their own feelings, or the gratification they derive from thinking
contemptuously of others, would like job's comforters attribute these
complaints, extorted from me by the sense of wrong, to self conceit or
presumptuous vanity, I have already furnished such ample materials, that
I shall gain nothing by withholding the remainder. I will not
therefore hesitate to ask the consciences of those, who from their long
acquaintance with me and with the circumstances are best qualified to
decide or be my judges, whether the restitution of the suum cuique would
increase or detract from my literary reputation. In this exculpation
I hope to be understood as speaking of myself comparatively, and in
proportion to the claims, which others are entitled to make on my time
or my talents. By what I have effected, am I to be judged by my fellow
men; what I could have done, is a question for my own conscience. On
my own account I may perhaps have had sufficient reason to lament my
deficiency in self-control, and the neglect of concentering my powers
to the realization of some permanent work. But to verse rather than to
prose, if to either, belongs the voice of mourning for

    Keen pangs of Love, awakening as a babe
    Turbulent, with an outcry in the heart;
    And fears self-willed that shunned the eye of hope;
    And hope that scarce would know itself from fear;
    Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain,
    And genius given and knowledge won in vain;
    And all which I had culled in wood-walks wild,
    And all which patient toil had reared, and all,
    Commune with thee had opened out--but flowers
    Strewed on my corpse, and borne upon my bier,
    In the same coffin, for the self-same grave!

These will exist, for the future, I trust, only in the poetic strains,
which the feelings at the time called forth. In those only, gentle

    Affectus animi varios, bellumque sequacis
    Perlegis invidiae, curasque revolvis inanes,
    Quas humilis tenero stylus olim effudit in aevo.
    Perlegis et lacrymas, et quod pharetratus acuta
    Ille puer puero fecit mihi cuspide vulnus.
    Omnia paulatim consumit longior aetas,
    Vivendoque simul morimur, rapimurque manendo.
    Ipse mihi collatus enim non ille videbor;
    Frons alia est, moresque alii, nova mentis imago,
    Vox aliudque sonat--Jamque observatio vitae
    Multa dedit--lugere nihil, ferre omnia; jamque
    Paulatim lacrymas rerum experientia tersit.


An affectionate exhortation to those who in early life feel themselves
disposed to become authors.

It was a favourite remark of the late Mr. Whitbread's, that no man does
any thing from a single motive. The separate motives, or rather moods of
mind, which produced the preceding reflections and anecdotes have been
laid open to the reader in each separate instance. But an interest in
the welfare of those, who at the present time may be in circumstances
not dissimilar to my own at my first entrance into life, has been
the constant accompaniment, and (as it were) the under-song of all
my feelings. Whitehead exerting the prerogative of his laureateship
addressed to youthful poets a poetic Charge, which is perhaps the
best, and certainly the most interesting, of his works. With no other
privilege than that of sympathy and sincere good wishes, I would address
an affectionate exhortation to the youthful literati, grounded on my
own experience. It will be but short; for the beginning, middle, and
end converge to one charge: never pursue literature as a trade. With the
exception of one extraordinary man, I have never known an individual,
least of all an individual of genius, healthy or happy without a
profession, that is, some regular employment, which does not depend on
the will of the moment, and which can be carried on so far mechanically
that an average quantum only of health, spirits, and intellectual
exertion are requisite to its faithful discharge. Three hours of
leisure, unannoyed by any alien anxiety, and looked forward to
with delight as a change and recreation, will suffice to realize in
literature a larger product of what is truly genial, than weeks of
compulsion. Money, and immediate reputation form only an arbitrary and
accidental end of literary labour. The hope of increasing them by
any given exertion will often prove a stimulant to industry; but the
necessity of acquiring them will in all works of genius convert the
stimulant into a narcotic. Motives by excess reverse their very nature,
and instead of exciting, stun and stupify the mind. For it is one
contradistinction of genius from talent, that its predominant end is
always comprised in the means; and this is one of the many points, which
establish an analogy between genius and virtue. Now though talents may
exist without genius, yet as genius cannot exist, certainly not manifest
itself, without talents, I would advise every scholar, who feels the
genial power working within him, so far to make a division between
the two, as that he should devote his talents to the acquirement of
competence in some known trade or profession, and his genius to objects
of his tranquil and unbiassed choice; while the consciousness of being
actuated in both alike by the sincere desire to perform his duty, will
alike ennoble both. "My dear young friend," (I would say) "suppose
yourself established in any honourable occupation. From the manufactory
or counting house, from the law-court, or from having visited your last
patient, you return at evening,

    Dear tranquil time, when the sweet sense of Home
    Is sweetest------

to your family, prepared for its social enjoyments, with the very
countenances of your wife and children brightened, and their voice of
welcome made doubly welcome, by the knowledge that, as far as they are
concerned, you have satisfied the demands of the day by the labour of
the day. Then, when you retire into your study, in the books on
your shelves you revisit so many venerable friends with whom you can
converse. Your own spirit scarcely less free from personal anxieties
than the great minds, that in those books are still living for you! Even
your writing desk with its blank paper and all its other implements will
appear as a chain of flowers, capable of linking your feelings as well
as thoughts to events and characters past or to come; not a chain of
iron, which binds you down to think of the future and the remote by
recalling the claims and feelings of the peremptory present. But why
should I say retire? The habits of active life and daily intercourse
with the stir of the world will tend to give you such self-command, that
the presence of your family will be no interruption. Nay, the social
silence, or undisturbing voices of a wife or sister will be like a
restorative atmosphere, or soft music which moulds a dream without
becoming its object. If facts are required to prove the possibility of
combining weighty performances in literature with full and independent
employment, the works of Cicero and Xenophon among the ancients; of
Sir Thomas More, Bacon, Baxter, or to refer at once to later and
contemporary instances, Darwin and Roscoe, are at once decisive of the

But all men may not dare promise themselves a sufficiency of self-
control for the imitation of those examples: though strict scrutiny
should always be made, whether indolence, restlessness, or a vanity
impatient for immediate gratification, have not tampered with the
judgment and assumed the vizard of humility for the purposes of self-
delusion. Still the Church presents to every man of learning and genius
a profession, in which he may cherish a rational hope of being able
to unite the widest schemes of literary utility with the strictest
performance of professional duties. Among the numerous blessings
of Christianity, the introduction of an established Church makes
an especial claim on the gratitude of scholars and philosophers; in
England, at least, where the principles of Protestantism have conspired
with the freedom of the government to double all its salutary powers by
the removal of its abuses.

That not only the maxims, but the grounds of a pure morality, the mere
fragments of which

    ------the lofty grave tragedians taught
    In chorus or iambic, teachers best
    Of moral prudence, with delight received
    In brief sententious precepts; [43]

and that the sublime truths of the divine unity and attributes, which
a Plato found most hard to learn and deemed it still more difficult to
reveal; that these should have become the almost hereditary property of
childhood and poverty, of the hovel and the workshop; that even to the
unlettered they sound as common place, is a phaenomenon, which must
withhold all but minds of the most vulgar cast from undervaluing the
services even of the pulpit and the reading desk. Yet those, who confine
the efficiency of an established Church to its public offices, can
hardly be placed in a much higher rank of intellect. That to every
parish throughout the kingdom there is transplanted a germ of
civilization; that in the remotest villages there is a nucleus, round
which the capabilities of the place may crystallize and brighten;
a model sufficiently superior to excite, yet sufficiently near to
encourage and facilitate, imitation; this, the unobtrusive, continuous
agency of a protestant church establishment, this it is, which the
patriot, and the philanthropist, who would fain unite the love of
peace with the faith in the progressive melioration of mankind, cannot
estimate at too high a price. It cannot be valued with the gold of
Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. No mention shall be made
of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The
clergyman is with his parishioners and among them; he is neither in
the cloistered cell, nor in the wilderness, but a neighbour and a
family-man, whose education and rank admit him to the mansion of the
rich landholder, while his duties make him the frequent visitor of the
farmhouse and the cottage. He is, or he may become, connected, with
the families of his parish or its vicinity by marriage. And among the
instances of the blindness, or at best of the short-sightedness, which
it is the nature of cupidity to inflict, I know few more striking than
the clamours of the farmers against Church property. Whatever was not
paid to the clergyman would inevitably at the next lease be paid to the
landholder, while, as the case at present stands, the revenues of the
Church are in some sort the reversionary property of every family, that
may have a member educated for the Church, or a daughter that may marry
a clergyman. Instead of being foreclosed and immovable, it is in fact
the only species of landed property, that is essentially moving and
circulative. That there exist no inconveniences, who will pretend to
assert? But I have yet to expect the proof, that the inconveniences are
greater in this than in any other species; or that either the farmers
or the clergy would be benefited by forcing the latter to become either
Trullibers or salaried placemen. Nay, I do not hesitate to declare my
firm persuasion, that whatever reason of discontent the farmers may
assign, the true cause is this; that they may cheat the parson, but
cannot cheat the steward; and that they are disappointed, if they should
have been able to withhold only two pounds less than the legal claim,
having expected to withhold five. At all events, considered relatively
to the encouragement of learning and genius, the establishment presents
a patronage at once so effective and unburdensome, that it would be
impossible to afford the like or equal in any but a Christian and
Protestant country. There is scarce a department of human knowledge
without some bearing on the various critical, historical, philosophical
and moral truths, in which the scholar must be interested as a
clergyman; no one pursuit worthy of a man of genius, which may not be
followed without incongruity. To give the history of the Bible as a
book, would be little less than to relate the origin or first excitement
of all the literature and science, that we now possess. The very
decorum, which the profession imposes, is favourable to the best
purposes of genius, and tends to counteract its most frequent defects.
Finally, that man must be deficient in sensibility, who would not find
an incentive to emulation in the great and burning lights, which in a
long series have illustrated the church of England; who would not hear
from within an echo to the voice from their sacred shrines,

    Et Pater Aeneas et avunculus excitat Hector.

But, whatever be the profession or trade chosen, the advantages are many
and important, compared with the state of a mere literary man, who in
any degree depends on the sale of his works for the necessaries and
comforts of life. In the former a man lives in sympathy with the world,
in which he lives. At least he acquires a better and quicker tact for
the knowledge of that, with which men in general can sympathize. He
learns to manage his genius more prudently and efficaciously. His
powers and acquirements gain him likewise more real admiration; for they
surpass the legitimate expectations of others. He is something besides
an author, and is not therefore considered merely as an author. The
hearts of men are open to him, as to one of their own class; and
whether he exerts himself or not in the conversational circles of
his acquaintance, his silence is not attributed to pride, nor his
communicativeness to vanity. To these advantages I will venture to add
a superior chance of happiness in domestic life, were it only that it is
as natural for the man to be out of the circle of his household during
the day, as it is meritorious for the woman to remain for the most part
within it. But this subject involves points of consideration so numerous
and so delicate, and would not only permit, but require such ample
documents from the biography of literary men, that I now merely allude
to it in transitu. When the same circumstance has occurred at very
different times to very different persons, all of whom have some one
thing in common; there is reason to suppose that such circumstance is
not merely attributable to the persons concerned, but is in some measure
occasioned by the one point in common to them all. Instead of the
vehement and almost slanderous dehortation from marriage, which the
Misogyne, Boccaccio [44] addresses to literary men, I would substitute
the simple advice: be not merely a man of letters! Let literature be an
honourable augmentation to your arms; but not constitute the coat, or
fill the escutcheon!

To objections from conscience I can of course answer in no other way,
than by requesting the youthful objector (as I have already done on
a former occasion) to ascertain with strict self-examination, whether
other influences may not be at work; whether spirits, "not of health,"
and with whispers "not from heaven," may not be walking in the twilight
of his consciousness. Let him catalogue his scruples, and reduce them to
a distinct intelligible form; let him be certain, that he has read with
a docile mind and favourable dispositions the best and most fundamental
works on the subject; that he has had both mind and heart opened to the
great and illustrious qualities of the many renowned characters, who
had doubted like himself, and whose researches had ended in the clear
conviction, that their doubts had been groundless, or at least in no
proportion to the counter-weight. Happy will it be for such a man, if
among his contemporaries elder than himself he should meet with
one, who, with similar powers and feelings as acute as his own,
had entertained the same scruples; had acted upon them; and who by
after-research (when the step was, alas! irretrievable, but for that
very reason his research undeniably disinterested) had discovered
himself to have quarrelled with received opinions only to embrace
errors, to have left the direction tracked out for him on the high road
of honourable exertion, only to deviate into a labyrinth, where when he
had wandered till his head was giddy, his best good fortune was finally
to have found his way out again, too late for prudence though not too
late for conscience or for truth! Time spent in such delay is time
won: for manhood in the meantime is advancing, and with it increase of
knowledge, strength of judgment, and above all, temperance of feelings.
And even if these should effect no change, yet the delay will at least
prevent the final approval of the decision from being alloyed by
the inward censure of the rashness and vanity, by which it had been
precipitated. It would be a sort of irreligion, and scarcely less than
a libel on human nature to believe, that there is any established and
reputable profession or employment, in which a man may not continue to
act with honesty and honour; and doubtless there is likewise none, which
may not at times present temptations to the contrary. But wofully will
that man find himself mistaken, who imagines that the profession of
literature, or (to speak more plainly) the trade of authorship, besets
its members with fewer or with less insidious temptations, than the
Church, the law, or the different branches of commerce. But I have
treated sufficiently on this unpleasant subject in an early chapter of
this volume. I will conclude the present therefore with a short extract
from Herder, whose name I might have added to the illustrious list of
those, who have combined the successful pursuit of the Muses, not only
with the faithful discharge, but with the highest honours and honourable
emoluments of an established profession. The translation the reader
will find in a note below [45]. "Am sorgfaeltigsten, meiden sie die
Autorschaft. Zu frueh oder unmaessig gebraucht, macht sie den Kopf
wueste and das Herz leer; wenn sie auch sonst keine ueble Folgen gaebe.
Ein Mensch, der nur lieset um zu druecken, lieset wahrscheinlich uebel;
und wer jeden Gedanken, der ihm aufstosst, durch Feder and Presse
versendet, hat sie in kurzer Zeit alle versandt, und wird bald ein
blosser Diener der Druckerey, ein Buchstabensetzer werden."


A chapter of requests and premonitions concerning the perusal or
omission of the chapter that follows.

In the perusal of philosophical works I have been greatly benefited by
a resolve, which, in the antithetic form and with the allowed quaintness
of an adage or maxim, I have been accustomed to word thus: until you
understand a writer's ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his
understanding. This golden rule of mine does, I own, resemble those of
Pythagoras in its obscurity rather than in its depth. If however the
reader will permit me to be my own Hierocles, I trust, that he will
find its meaning fully explained by the following instances. I have
now before me a treatise of a religious fanatic, full of dreams and
supernatural experiences. I see clearly the writer's grounds, and their
hollowness. I have a complete insight into the causes, which through the
medium of his body has acted on his mind; and by application of received
and ascertained laws I can satisfactorily explain to my own reason all
the strange incidents, which the writer records of himself. And this I
can do without suspecting him of any intentional falsehood. As when in
broad day-light a man tracks the steps of a traveller, who had lost his
way in a fog or by a treacherous moonshine, even so, and with the same
tranquil sense of certainty, can I follow the traces of this bewildered
visionary. I understand his ignorance.

On the other hand, I have been re-perusing with the best energies of my
mind the TIMAEUS of Plato. Whatever I comprehend, impresses me with a
reverential sense of the author's genius; but there is a considerable
portion of the work, to which I can attach no consistent meaning.
In other treatises of the same philosopher, intended for the average
comprehensions of men, I have been delighted with the masterly good
sense, with the perspicuity of the language, and the aptness of the
inductions. I recollect likewise, that numerous passages in this author,
which I thoroughly comprehend, were formerly no less unintelligible to
me, than the passages now in question. It would, I am aware, be quite
fashionable to dismiss them at once as Platonic jargon. But this I
cannot do with satisfaction to my own mind, because I have sought in
vain for causes adequate to the solution of the assumed inconsistency.
I have no insight into the possibility of a man so eminently wise, using
words with such half-meanings to himself, as must perforce pass into no
meaning to his readers. When in addition to the motives thus suggested
by my own reason, I bring into distinct remembrance the number and the
series of great men, who, after long and zealous study of these works
had joined in honouring the name of Plato with epithets, that almost
transcend humanity, I feel, that a contemptuous verdict on my part might
argue want of modesty, but would hardly be received by the judicious, as
evidence of superior penetration. Therefore, utterly baffled in all
my attempts to understand the ignorance of Plato, I conclude myself
ignorant of his understanding.

In lieu of the various requests which the anxiety of authorship
addresses to the unknown reader, I advance but this one; that he will
either pass over the following chapter altogether, or read the whole
connectedly. The fairest part of the most beautiful body will appear
deformed and monstrous, if dissevered from its place in the organic
whole. Nay, on delicate subjects, where a seemingly trifling difference
of more or less may constitute a difference in kind, even a faithful
display of the main and supporting ideas, if yet they are separated from
the forms by which they are at once clothed and modified, may perchance
present a skeleton indeed; but a skeleton to alarm and deter. Though I
might find numerous precedents, I shall not desire the reader to strip
his mind of all prejudices, nor to keep all prior systems out of view
during his examination of the present. For in truth, such requests
appear to me not much unlike the advice given to hypochondriacal
patients in Dr. Buchan's domestic medicine; videlicet, to preserve
themselves uniformly tranquil and in good spirits. Till I had discovered
the art of destroying the memory a parte post, without injury to its
future operations, and without detriment to the judgment, I should
suppress the request as premature; and therefore, however much I may
wish to be read with an unprejudiced mind, I do not presume to state it
as a necessary condition.

The extent of my daring is to suggest one criterion, by which it may be
rationally conjectured beforehand, whether or no a reader would lose
his time, and perhaps his temper, in the perusal of this, or any other
treatise constructed on similar principles. But it would be cruelly
misinterpreted, as implying the least disrespect either for the moral
or intellectual qualities of the individuals thereby precluded. The
criterion is this: if a man receives as fundamental facts, and therefore
of course indemonstrable and incapable of further analysis, the general
notions of matter, spirit, soul, body, action, passiveness, time, space,
cause and effect, consciousness, perception, memory and habit; if
he feels his mind completely at rest concerning all these, and is
satisfied, if only he can analyse all other notions into some one or
more of these supposed elements with plausible subordination and apt
arrangement: to such a mind I would as courteously as possible convey
the hint, that for him the chapter was not written.

    Vir bonus es, doctus, prudens; ast haud tibi spiro.

For these terms do in truth include all the difficulties, which the
human mind can propose for solution. Taking them therefore in mass, and
unexamined, it required only a decent apprenticeship in logic, to draw
forth their contents in all forms and colours, as the professors of
legerdemain at our village fairs pull out ribbon after ribbon from their
mouths. And not more difficult is it to reduce them back again to their
different genera. But though this analysis is highly useful in rendering
our knowledge more distinct, it does not really add to it. It does not
increase, though it gives us a greater mastery over, the wealth which
we before possessed. For forensic purposes, for all the established
professions of society, this is sufficient. But for philosophy in its
highest sense as the science of ultimate truths, and therefore scientia
scientiarum, this mere analysis of terms is preparative only, though as
a preparative discipline indispensable.

Still less dare a favourable perusal be anticipated from the proselytes
of that compendious philosophy, which talking of mind but thinking
of brick and mortar, or other images equally abstracted from body,
contrives a theory of spirit by nicknaming matter, and in a few hours
can qualify its dullest disciples to explain the omne scibile by
reducing all things to impressions, ideas, and sensations.

But it is time to tell the truth; though it requires some courage to
avow it in an age and country, in which disquisitions on all subjects,
not privileged to adopt technical terms or scientific symbols, must be
addressed to the Public. I say then, that it is neither possible nor
necessary for all men, nor for many, to be philosophers. There is a
philosophic (and inasmuch as it is actualized by an effort of freedom,
an artificial) consciousness, which lies beneath or (as it were) behind
the spontaneous consciousness natural to all reflecting beings. As the
elder Romans distinguished their northern provinces into Cis-Alpine and
Trans-Alpine, so may we divide all the objects of human knowledge into
those on this side, and those on the other side of the spontaneous
consciousness; citra et trans conscientiam communem. The latter is
exclusively the domain of pure philosophy, which is therefore properly
entitled transcendental, in order to discriminate it at once, both from
mere reflection and representation on the one hand, and on the other
from those flights of lawless speculation which, abandoned by all
distinct consciousness, because transgressing the bounds and purposes of
our intellectual faculties, are justly condemned, as transcendent [46].
The first range of hills, that encircles the scanty vale of human life,
is the horizon for the majority of its inhabitants. On its ridges the
common sun is born and departs. From them the stars rise, and touching
them they vanish. By the many, even this range, the natural limit and
bulwark of the vale, is but imperfectly known. Its higher ascents are
too often hidden by mists and clouds from uncultivated swamps, which
few have courage or curiosity to penetrate. To the multitude below these
vapours appear, now as the dark haunts of terrific agents, on which none
may intrude with impunity; and now all aglow, with colours not their
own, they are gazed at as the splendid palaces of happiness and power.
But in all ages there have been a few, who measuring and sounding the
rivers of the vale at the feet of their furthest inaccessible falls have
learned, that the sources must be far higher and far inward; a few, who
even in the level streams have detected elements, which neither the vale
itself nor the surrounding mountains contained or could supply [47].
How and whence to these thoughts, these strong probabilities, the
ascertaining vision, the intuitive knowledge may finally supervene, can
be learnt only by the fact. I might oppose to the question the words
with which [48] Plotinus supposes Nature to answer a similar difficulty.
"Should any one interrogate her, how she works, if graciously she
vouchsafe to listen and speak, she will reply, it behoves thee not to
disquiet me with interrogatories, but to understand in silence, even as
I am silent, and work without words."

Likewise in the fifth book of the fifth Ennead, speaking of the highest
and intuitive knowledge as distinguished from the discursive, or in the
language of Wordsworth,

    "The vision and the faculty divine;"

he says: "it is not lawful to inquire from whence it sprang, as if it
were a thing subject to place and motion, for it neither approached
hither, nor again departs from hence to some other place; but it either
appears to us or it does not appear. So that we ought not to pursue it
with a view of detecting its secret source, but to watch in quiet
till it suddenly shines upon us; preparing ourselves for the blessed
spectacle as the eye waits patiently for the rising sun." They and
they only can acquire the philosophic imagination, the sacred power of
self-intuition, who within themselves can interpret and understand the
symbol, that the wings of the air-sylph are forming within the skin
of the caterpillar; those only, who feel in their own spirits the same
instinct, which impels the chrysalis of the horned fly to leave room in
its involucrum for antenna, yet to come. They know and feel, that the
potential works in them, even as the actual works on them! In short, all
the organs of sense are framed for a corresponding world of sense; and
we have it. All the organs of spirit are framed for a correspondent
world of spirit: though the latter organs are not developed in all
alike. But they exist in all, and their first appearance discloses
itself in the moral being. How else could it be, that even worldlings,
not wholly debased, will contemplate the man of simple and disinterested
goodness with contradictory feelings of pity and respect? "Poor man!
he is not made for this world." Oh! herein they utter a prophecy of
universal fulfilment; for man must either rise or sink.

It is the essential mark of the true philosopher to rest satisfied with
no imperfect light, as long as the impossibility of attaining a fuller
knowledge has not been demonstrated. That the common consciousness
itself will furnish proofs by its own direction, that it is connected
with master-currents below the surface, I shall merely assume as
a postulate pro tempore. This having been granted, though but in
expectation of the argument, I can safely deduce from it the equal truth
of my former assertion, that philosophy cannot be intelligible to all,
even of the most learned and cultivated classes. A system, the first
principle of which it is to render the mind intuitive of the spiritual
in man (i.e. of that which lies on the other side of our natural
consciousness) must needs have a great obscurity for those, who have
never disciplined and strengthened this ulterior consciousness. It must
in truth be a land of darkness, a perfect Anti-Goshen, for men to whom
the noblest treasures of their own being are reported only through the
imperfect translation of lifeless and sightless motions. Perhaps, in
great part, through words which are but the shadows of notions; even
as the notional understanding itself is but the shadowy abstraction of
living and actual truth. On the IMMEDIATE, which dwells in every man,
and on the original intuition, or absolute affirmation of it, (which
is likewise in every man, but does not in every man rise into
consciousness) all the certainty of our knowledge depends; and this
becomes intelligible to no man by the ministry of mere words from
without. The medium, by which spirits understand each other, is not the
surrounding air; but the freedom which they possess in common, as the
common ethereal element of their being, the tremulous reciprocations
of which propagate themselves even to the inmost of the soul. Where the
spirit of a man is not filled with the consciousness of freedom (were it
only from its restlessness, as of one still struggling in bondage) all
spiritual intercourse is interrupted, not only with others, but even
with himself. No wonder then, that he remains incomprehensible to
himself as well as to others. No wonder, that, in the fearful desert of
his consciousness, he wearies himself out with empty words, to which
no friendly echo answers, either from his own heart, or the heart of a
fellow being; or bewilders himself in the pursuit of notional phantoms,
the mere refractions from unseen and distant truths through the
distorting medium of his own unenlivened and stagnant understanding!
To remain unintelligible to such a mind, exclaims Schelling on a like
occasion, is honour and a good name before God and man.

The history of philosophy (the same writer observes) contains instances
of systems, which for successive generations have remained enigmatic.
Such he deems the system of Leibnitz, whom another writer (rashly I
think, and invidiously) extols as the only philosopher, who was himself
deeply convinced of his own doctrines. As hitherto interpreted, however,
they have not produced the effect, which Leibnitz himself, in a most
instructive passage, describes as the criterion of a true philosophy;
namely, that it would at once explain and collect the fragments of truth
scattered through systems apparently the most incongruous. The truth,
says he, is diffused more widely than is commonly believed; but it
is often painted, yet oftener masked, and is sometimes mutilated and
sometimes, alas! in close alliance with mischievous errors. The deeper,
however, we penetrate into the ground of things, the more truth we
discover in the doctrines of the greater number of the philosophical
sects. The want of substantial reality in the objects of the senses,
according to the sceptics; the harmonies or numbers, the prototypes and
ideas, to which the Pythagoreans and Platonists reduced all things:
the ONE and ALL of Parmenides and Plotinus, without [49] Spinozism; the
necessary connection of things according to the Stoics, reconcilable
with the spontaneity of the other schools; the vital-philosophy of the
Cabalists and Hermetists, who assumed the universality of sensation;
the substantial forms and entelechies of Aristotle and the schoolmen,
together with the mechanical solution of all particular phaenomena
according to Democritus and the recent philosophers--all these we shall
find united in one perspective central point, which shows regularity
and a coincidence of all the parts in the very object, which from every
other point of view must appear confused and distorted. The spirit of
sectarianism has been hitherto our fault, and the cause of our failures.
We have imprisoned our own conceptions by the lines, which we have
drawn, in order to exclude the conceptions of others. J'ai trouve que
la plupart des Sectes ont raison dans une bonne partie de ce qu'elles
avancent, mais non pas tant en ce qu'elles nient.

A system, which aims to deduce the memory with all the other functions
of intelligence, must of course place its first position from beyond the
memory, and anterior to it, otherwise the principle of solution would
be itself a part of the problem to be solved. Such a position therefore
must, in the first instance be demanded, and the first question will be,
by what right is it demanded? On this account I think it expedient
to make some preliminary remarks on the introduction of Postulates
in philosophy. The word postulate is borrowed from the science
of mathematics [50]. In geometry the primary construction is not
demonstrated, but postulated. This first and most simple construction in
space is the point in motion, or the line. Whether the point is moved
in one and the same direction, or whether its direction is continually
changed, remains as yet undetermined. But if the direction of the point
have been determined, it is either by a point without it, and then there
arises the straight line which incloses no space; or the direction of
the point is not determined by a point without it, and then it must flow
back again on itself, that is, there arises a cyclical line, which does
enclose a space. If the straight line be assumed as the positive, the
cyclical is then the negation of the straight. It is a line, which at
no point strikes out into the straight, but changes its direction
continuously. But if the primary line be conceived as undetermined, and
the straight line as determined throughout, then the cyclical is the
third compounded of both. It is at once undetermined and determined;
undetermined through any point without, and determined through itself.
Geometry therefore supplies philosophy with the example of a primary
intuition, from which every science that lays claim to evidence
must take its commencement. The mathematician does not begin with a
demonstrable proposition, but with an intuition, a practical idea.

But here an important distinction presents itself. Philosophy is
employed on objects of the inner SENSE, and cannot, like geometry,
appropriate to every construction a correspondent outward intuition.
Nevertheless, philosophy, if it is to arrive at evidence, must proceed
from the most original construction, and the question then is, what is
the most original construction or first productive act for the inner
sense. The answer to this question depends on the direction which is
given to the inner sense. But in philosophy the inner sense cannot
have its direction determined by an outward object. To the original
construction of the line I can be compelled by a line drawn before me
on the slate or on sand. The stroke thus drawn is indeed not the line
itself, but only the image or picture of the line. It is not from it,
that we first learn to know the line; but, on the contrary, we
bring this stroke to the original line generated by the act of the
imagination; otherwise we could not define it as without breadth or
thickness. Still however this stroke is the sensuous image of
the original or ideal line, and an efficient mean to excite every
imagination to the intuition of it.

It is demanded then, whether there be found any means in philosophy
to determine the direction of the inner sense, as in mathematics it is
determinable by its specific image or outward picture. Now the inner
sense has its direction determined for the greater part only by an act
of freedom. One man's consciousness extends only to the pleasant or
unpleasant sensations caused in him by external impressions; another
enlarges his inner sense to a consciousness of forms and quantity; a
third in addition to the image is conscious of the conception or notion
of the thing; a fourth attains to a notion of his notions--he reflects
on his own reflections; and thus we may say without impropriety, that
the one possesses more or less inner sense, than the other. This more or
less betrays already, that philosophy in its first principles must have
a practical or moral, as well as a theoretical or speculative side.
This difference in degree does not exist in the mathematics. Socrates in
Plato shows, that an ignorant slave may be brought to understand and of
himself to solve the most difficult geometrical problem. Socrates drew
the figures for the slave in the sand. The disciples of the critical
philosophy could likewise (as was indeed actually done by La Forge
and some other followers of Des Cartes) represent the origin of our
representations in copper-plates; but no one has yet attempted it, and
it would be utterly useless. To an Esquimaux or New Zealander our most
popular philosophy would be wholly unintelligible. The sense, the inward
organ, for it is not yet born in him. So is there many a one among
us, yes, and some who think themselves philosophers too, to whom the
philosophic organ is entirely wanting. To such a man philosophy is a
mere play of words and notions, like a theory of music to the deaf, or
like the geometry of light to the blind. The connection of the parts and
their logical dependencies may be seen and remembered; but the whole is
groundless and hollow, unsustained by living contact, unaccompanied with
any realizing intuition which exists by and in the act that affirms its
existence, which is known, because it is, and is, because it is known.
The words of Plotinus, in the assumed person of Nature, hold true of the
philosophic energy. To theoroun mou, theoraema poiei, osper oi geometrai
theorountes graphousin; all' emon mae graphousaes, theorousaes de,
uphistantai ai ton somaton grammai. With me the act of contemplation
makes the thing contemplated, as the geometricians contemplating
describe lines correspondent; but I not describing lines, but simply
contemplating, the representative forms of things rise up into

The postulate of philosophy and at the same time the test of philosophic
capacity, is no other than the heaven-descended KNOW THYSELF! (E
coelo descendit, Gnothi seauton). And this at once practically and
speculatively. For as philosophy is neither a science of the reason or
understanding only, nor merely a science of morals, but the science of
BEING altogether, its primary ground can be neither merely speculative
nor merely practical, but both in one. All knowledge rests on the
coincidence of an object with a subject. (My readers have been warned
in a former chapter that, for their convenience as well as the writer's,
the term, subject, is used by me in its scholastic sense as equivalent
to mind or sentient being, and as the necessary correlative of object or
quicquid objicitur menti.) For we can know that only which is true: and
the truth is universally placed in the coincidence of the thought with
the thing, of the representation with the object represented.

Now the sum of all that is merely OBJECTIVE, we will henceforth call
NATURE, confining the term to its passive and material sense, as
comprising all the phaenomena by which its existence is made known
to us. On the other hand the sum of all that is SUBJECTIVE, we may
comprehend in the name of the SELF or INTELLIGENCE. Both conceptions
are in necessary antithesis. Intelligence is conceived of as exclusively
representative, nature as exclusively represented; the one as conscious,
the other as without consciousness. Now in all acts of positive
knowledge there is required a reciprocal concurrence of both, namely
of the conscious being, and of that which is in itself unconscious.
Our problem is to explain this concurrence, its possibility and its

During the act of knowledge itself, the objective and subjective are
so instantly united, that we cannot determine to which of the two
the priority belongs. There is here no first, and no second; both are
coinstantaneous and one. While I am attempting to explain this intimate
coalition, I must suppose it dissolved. I must necessarily set out from
the one, to which therefore I give hypothetical antecedence, in order to
arrive at the other. But as there are but two factors or elements in the
problem, subject and object, and as it is left indeterminate from which
of them I should commence, there are two cases equally possible.


The notion of the subjective is not contained in the notion of the
objective. On the contrary they mutually exclude each other. The
subjective therefore must supervene to the objective. The conception of
nature does not apparently involve the co-presence of an intelligence
making an ideal duplicate of it, that is, representing it. This desk
for instance would (according to our natural notions) be, though there
should exist no sentient being to look at it. This then is the problem
of natural philosophy. It assumes the objective or unconscious nature as
the first, and as therefore to explain how intelligence can supervene to
it, or how itself can grow into intelligence. If it should appear, that
all enlightened naturalists, without having distinctly proposed the
problem to themselves, have yet constantly moved in the line of its
solution, it must afford a strong presumption that the problem itself
is founded in nature. For if all knowledge has, as it were, two poles
reciprocally required and presupposed, all sciences must proceed from
the one or the other, and must tend toward the opposite as far as the
equatorial point in which both are reconciled and become identical. The
necessary tendency therefore of all natural philosophy is from nature to
intelligence; and this, and no other is the true ground and occasion of
the instinctive striving to introduce theory into our views of natural
phaenomena. The highest perfection of natural philosophy would consist
in the perfect spiritualization of all the laws of nature into laws
of intuition and intellect. The phaenomena (the material) most wholly
disappear, and the laws alone (the formal) must remain. Thence it comes,
that in nature itself the more the principle of law breaks forth, the
more does the husk drop off, the phaenomena themselves become more
spiritual and at length cease altogether in our consciousness. The
optical phaenomena are but a geometry, the lines of which are drawn
by light, and the materiality of this light itself has already become
matter of doubt. In the appearances of magnetism all trace of matter is
lost, and of the phaenomena of gravitation, which not a few among the
most illustrious Newtonians have declared no otherwise comprehensible
than as an immediate spiritual influence, there remains nothing but
its law, the execution of which on a vast scale is the mechanism of
the heavenly motions. The theory of natural philosophy would then be
completed, when all nature was demonstrated to be identical in
essence with that, which in its highest known power exists in man as
intelligence and self-consciousness; when the heavens and the earth
shall declare not only the power of their maker, but the glory and the
presence of their God, even as he appeared to the great prophet during
the vision of the mount in the skirts of his divinity.

This may suffice to show, that even natural science, which commences
with the material phaenomenon as the reality and substance of things
existing, does yet by the necessity of theorizing unconsciously, and
as it were instinctively, end in nature as an intelligence; and by this
tendency the science of nature becomes finally natural philosophy, the
one of the two poles of fundamental science.


In the pursuit of these sciences, our success in each, depends on an
austere and faithful adherence to its own principles, with a careful
separation and exclusion of those, which appertain to the opposite
science. As the natural philosopher, who directs his views to the
objective, avoids above all things the intermixture of the subjective
in his knowledge, as for instance, arbitrary suppositions or rather
suflictions, occult qualities, spiritual agents, and the substitution of
final for efficient causes; so on the other hand, the transcendental
or intelligential philosopher is equally anxious to preclude all
interpellation of the objective into the subjective principles of his
science, as for instance the assumption of impresses or configurations
in the brain, correspondent to miniature pictures on the retina painted
by rays of light from supposed originals, which are not the immediate
and real objects of vision, but deductions from it for the purposes of
explanation. This purification of the mind is effected by an absolute
and scientific scepticism, to which the mind voluntarily determines
itself for the specific purpose of future certainty. Des Cartes who
(in his meditations) himself first, at least of the moderns, gave
a beautiful example of this voluntary doubt, this self-determined
indetermination, happily expresses its utter difference from the
scepticism of vanity or irreligion: Nec tamen in Scepticos imitabar,
qui dubitant tantum ut dubitent, et praeter incertitudinem ipsam nihil
quaerunt. Nam contra totus in eo eram ut aliquid certi reperirem [51].
Nor is it less distinct in its motives and final aim, than in its proper
objects, which are not as in ordinary scepticism the prejudices of
education and circumstance, but those original and innate prejudices
which nature herself has planted in all men, and which to all but the
philosopher are the first principles of knowledge, and the final test of

Now these essential prejudices are all reducible to the one fundamental
presumption, THAT THERE EXIST THINGS WITHOUT US. As this on the one hand
originates, neither in grounds nor arguments, and yet on the other hand
remains proof against all attempts to remove it by grounds or arguments
(naturam furca expellas tamen usque redibit;) on the one hand lays
claim to IMMEDIATE certainty as a position at once indemonstrable
and irresistible, and yet on the other hand, inasmuch as it refers to
something essentially different from ourselves, nay even in opposition
to ourselves, leaves it inconceivable how it could possibly become a
part of our immediate consciousness; (in other words how that, which
ex hypothesi is and continues to be extrinsic and alien to our being,
should become a modification of our being) the philosopher therefore
compels himself to treat this faith as nothing more than a prejudice,
innate indeed and connatural, but still a prejudice.

The other position, which not only claims but necessitates the admission
of its immediate certainty, equally for the scientific reason of the
philosopher as for the common sense of mankind at large, namely, I AM,
cannot so properly be entitled a prejudice. It is groundless indeed; but
then in the very idea it precludes all ground, and separated from
the immediate consciousness loses its whole sense and import. It is
groundless; but only because it is itself the ground of all other
certainty. Now the apparent contradiction, that the former position,
namely, the existence of things without us, which from its nature
cannot be immediately certain, should be received as blindly and as
independently of all grounds as the existence of our own being, the
Transcendental philosopher can solve only by the supposition, that the
former is unconsciously involved in the latter; that it is not only
coherent but identical, and one and the same thing with our own
immediate self consciousness. To demonstrate this identity is the office
and object of his philosophy.

If it be said, that this is idealism, let it be remembered that it
is only so far idealism, as it is at the same time, and on that very
account, the truest and most binding realism. For wherein does the
realism of mankind properly consist? In the assertion that there exists
a something without them, what, or how, or where they know not, which
occasions the objects of their perception? Oh no! This is neither
connatural nor universal. It is what a few have taught and learned
in the schools, and which the many repeat without asking themselves
concerning their own meaning. The realism common to all mankind is far
elder and lies infinitely deeper than this hypothetical explanation
of the origin of our perceptions, an explanation skimmed from the mere
surface of mechanical philosophy. It is the table itself, which the man
of common sense believes himself to see, not the phantom of a table,
from which he may argumentatively deduce the reality of a table, which
he does not see. If to destroy the reality of all, that we actually
behold, be idealism, what can be more egregiously so, than the system of
modern metaphysics, which banishes us to a land of shadows, surrounds
us with apparitions, and distinguishes truth from illusion only by the
majority of those who dream the same dream? "I asserted that the world
was mad," exclaimed poor Lee, "and the world said, that I was mad, and
confound them, they outvoted me."

It is to the true and original realism, that I would direct the
attention. This believes and requires neither more nor less, than the
object which it beholds or presents to itself, is the real and very
object. In this sense, however much we may strive against it, we are all
collectively born idealists, and therefore and only therefore are we at
the same time realists. But of this the philosophers of the schools know
nothing, or despise the faith as the prejudice of the ignorant vulgar,
because they live and move in a crowd of phrases and notions from which
human nature has long ago vanished. Oh, ye that reverence yourselves,
and walk humbly with the divinity in your own hearts, ye are worthy of a
better philosophy! Let the dead bury the dead, but do you preserve your
human nature, the depth of which was never yet fathomed by a philosophy
made up of notions and mere logical entities.

In the third treatise of my Logosophia, announced at the end of this
volume, I shall give (Deo volente) the demonstrations and constructions
of the Dynamic Philosophy scientifically arranged. It is, according
to my conviction, no other than the system of Pythagoras and of Plato
revived and purified from impure mixtures. Doctrina per tot manus
tradita tandem in vappam desiit! The science of arithmetic furnishes
instances, that a rule may be useful in practical application, and for
the particular purpose may be sufficiently authenticated by the result,
before it has itself been fully demonstrated. It is enough, if only it
be rendered intelligible. This will, I trust, have been effected in the
following Theses for those of my readers, who are willing to accompany
me through the following chapter, in which the results will be applied
to the deduction of the Imagination, and with it the principles of
production and of genial criticism in the fine arts.


Truth is correlative to being. Knowledge without a correspondent reality
is no knowledge; if we know, there must be somewhat known by us. To know
is in its very essence a verb active.


All truth is either mediate, that is, derived from some other truth
or truths; or immediate and original. The latter is absolute, and its
formula A. A.; the former is of dependent or conditional certainty, and
represented in the formula B. A. The certainty, which adheres in A, is
attributable to B.

SCHOLIUM. A chain without a staple, from which all the links derived
their stability, or a series without a first, has been not inaptly
allegorized, as a string of blind men, each holding the skirt of the man
before him, reaching far out of sight, but all moving without the least
deviation in one straight line. It would be naturally taken for
granted, that there was a guide at the head of the file: what if it were
answered, No! Sir, the men are without number, and infinite blindness
supplies the place of sight?

Equally inconceivable is a cycle of equal truths without a common and
central principle, which prescribes to each its proper sphere in the
system of science. That the absurdity does not so immediately strike us,
that it does not seem equally unimaginable, is owing to a surreptitious
act of the imagination, which, instinctively and without our noticing
the same, not only fills up the intervening spaces, and contemplates the
cycle (of B. C. D. E. F. etc.) as a continuous circle (A.) giving to all
collectively the unity of their common orbit; but likewise supplies,
by a sort of subintelligitur, the one central power, which renders the
movement harmonious and cyclical.


We are to seek therefore for some absolute truth capable of
communicating to other positions a certainty, which it has not itself
borrowed; a truth self-grounded, unconditional and known by its own
light. In short, we have to find a somewhat which is, simply because it
is. In order to be such, it must be one which is its own predicate,
so far at least that all other nominal predicates must be modes and
repetitions of itself. Its existence too must be such, as to preclude
the possibility of requiring a cause or antecedent without an absurdity.


That there can be but one such principle, may be proved a priori; for
were there two or more, each must refer to some other, by which its
equality is affirmed; consequently neither would be self-established,
as the hypothesis demands. And a posteriori, it will be proved by
the principle itself when it is discovered, as involving universal
antecedence in its very conception.

SCHOLIUM. If we affirm of a board that it is blue, the predicate (blue)
is accidental, and not implied in the subject, board. If we affirm of
a circle that it is equi-radial, the predicate indeed is implied in the
definition of the subject; but the existence of the subject itself
is contingent, and supposes both a cause and a percipient. The same
reasoning will apply to the indefinite number of supposed indemonstrable
truths exempted from the profane approach of philosophic investigation
by the amiable Beattie, and other less eloquent and not more profound
inaugurators of common sense on the throne of philosophy; a fruitless
attempt, were it only that it is the two-fold function of philosophy
to reconcile reason with common sense, and to elevate common sense into


Such a principle cannot be any THING or OBJECT. Each thing is what it is
in consequence of some other thing. An infinite, independent [52]
thing, is no less a contradiction, than an infinite circle or a sideless
triangle. Besides a thing is that, which is capable of being an object
which itself is not the sole percipient. But an object is inconceivable
without a subject as its antithesis. Omne perceptum percipientem

But neither can the principle be found in a subject as a subject,
contra-distinguished from an object: for unicuique percipienti aliquid
objicitur perceptum. It is to be found therefore neither in object
nor subject taken separately, and consequently, as no other third is
conceivable, it must be found in that which is neither subject nor
object exclusively, but which is the identity of both.


This principle, and so characterised manifests itself in the SUM or
I AM; which I shall hereafter indiscriminately express by the words
spirit, self, and self-consciousness. In this, and in this alone,
object and subject, being and knowing, are identical, each involving
and supposing the other. In other words, it is a subject which becomes
a subject by the act of constructing itself objectively to itself; but
which never is an object except for itself, and only so far as by the
very same act it becomes a subject. It may be described therefore as
a perpetual self-duplication of one and the same power into object and
subject, which presuppose each other, and can exist only as antitheses.

SCHOLIUM. If a man be asked how he knows that he is? he can only answer,
sum quia sum. But if (the absoluteness of this certainty having been
admitted) he be again asked, how he, the individual person, came to be,
then in relation to the ground of his existence, not to the ground of
his knowledge of that existence, he might reply, sum quia Deus est, or
still more philosophically, sum quia in Deo sum.

But if we elevate our conception to the absolute self, the great eternal
I AM, then the principle of being, and of knowledge, of idea, and of
reality; the ground of existence, and the ground of the knowledge of
existence, are absolutely identical, Sum quia sum [53]; I am, because I
affirm myself to be; I affirm myself to be, because I am.


If then I know myself only through myself, it is contradictory to
require any other predicate of self, but that of self-consciousness.
Only in the self-consciousness of a spirit is there the required
identity of object and of representation; for herein consists the
essence of a spirit, that it is self-representative. If therefore this
be the one only immediate truth, in the certainty of which the reality
of our collective knowledge is grounded, it must follow that the spirit
in all the objects which it views, views only itself. If this could
be proved, the immediate reality of all intuitive knowledge would be
assured. It has been shown, that a spirit is that, which is its own
object, yet not originally an object, but an absolute subject for which
all, itself included, may become an object. It must therefore be an ACT;
for every object is, as an object, dead, fixed, incapable in itself of
any action, and necessarily finite. Again the spirit (originally
the identity of object and subject) must in some sense dissolve this
identity, in order to be conscious of it; fit alter et idem. But
this implies an act, and it follows therefore that intelligence
or self-consciousness is impossible, except by and in a will. The
self-conscious spirit therefore is a will; and freedom must be assumed
as a ground of philosophy, and can never be deduced from it.


Whatever in its origin is objective, is likewise as such necessarily
finite. Therefore, since the spirit is not originally an object, and
as the subject exists in antithesis to an object, the spirit cannot
originally be finite. But neither can it be a subject without becoming
an object, and, as it is originally the identity of both, it can be
conceived neither as infinite nor finite exclusively, but as the most
original union of both. In the existence, in the reconciling, and the
recurrence of this contradiction consists the process and mystery of
production and life.


This principium commune essendi et cognoscendi, as subsisting in a WILL,
or primary ACT of self-duplication, is the mediate or indirect principle
of every science; but it is the immediate and direct principle of the
ultimate science alone, i.e. of transcendental philosophy alone. For it
must be remembered, that all these Theses refer solely to one of the
two Polar Sciences, namely, to that which commences with, and rigidly
confines itself within, the subjective, leaving the objective (as far
as it is exclusively objective) to natural philosophy, which is its
opposite pole. In its very idea therefore as a systematic knowledge of
our collective KNOWING, (scientia scientiae) it involves the necessity
of some one highest principle of knowing, as at once the source and
accompanying form in all particular acts of intellect and perception.
This, it has been shown, can be found only in the act and evolution of
self-consciousness. We are not investigating an absolute principium
essendi; for then, I admit, many valid objections might be started
against our theory; but an absolute principium cognoscendi. The result
of both the sciences, or their equatorial point, would be the principle
of a total and undivided philosophy, as, for prudential reasons, I
have chosen to anticipate in the Scholium to Thesis VI and the note
subjoined. In other words, philosophy would pass into religion, and
religion become inclusive of philosophy. We begin with the I KNOW
MYSELF, in order to end with the absolute I AM. We proceed from the
SELF, in order to lose and find all self in GOD.


The transcendental philosopher does not inquire, what ultimate ground of
our knowledge there may lie out of our knowing, but what is the last in
our knowing itself, beyond which we cannot pass. The principle of our
knowing is sought within the sphere of our knowing. It must be some
thing therefore, which can itself be known. It is asserted only, that
the act of self-consciousness is for us the source and principle of
all our possible knowledge. Whether abstracted from us there exists any
thing higher and beyond this primary self-knowing, which is for us the
form of all our knowing must be decided by the result.

That the self-consciousness is the fixed point, to which for us all
is mortised and annexed, needs no further proof. But that the self-
consciousness may be the modification of a higher form of being, perhaps
of a higher consciousness, and this again of a yet higher, and so on in
an infinite regressus; in short, that self-consciousness may be
itself something explicable into something, which must lie beyond
the possibility of our knowledge, because the whole synthesis of our
intelligence is first formed in and through the self-consciousness,
does not at all concern us as transcendental philosophers. For to us,
self-consciousness is not a kind of being, but a kind of knowing, and
that too the highest and farthest that exists for us. It may however be
shown, and has in part already been shown earlier, that even when the
Objective is assumed as the first, we yet can never pass beyond the
principle of self-consciousness. Should we attempt it, we must be driven
back from ground to ground, each of which would cease to be a ground the
moment we pressed on it. We must be whirled down the gulf of an infinite
series. But this would make our reason baffle the end and purpose of
all reason, namely, unity and system. Or we must break off the series
arbitrarily, and affirm an absolute something that is in and of itself
at once cause and effect (causa sui), subject and object, or rather the
absolute identity of both. But as this is inconceivable, except in a
self-consciousness, it follows, that even as natural philosophers
we must arrive at the same principle from which as transcendental
philosophers we set out; that is, in a self-consciousness in which the
principium essendi does not stand to the principlum cognoscende in
the relation of cause to effect, but both the one and the other are
co-inherent and identical. Thus the true system of natural philosophy
places the sole reality of things in an ABSOLUTE, which is at once
causa sui et effectus, pataer autopator, uios heautou--in the absolute
identity of subject and object, which it calls nature, and which in its
highest power is nothing else than self-conscious will or intelligence.
In this sense the position of Malebranche, that we see all things in
God, is a strict philosophical truth; and equally true is the assertion
of Hobbes, of Hartley, and of their masters in ancient Greece, that all
real knowledge supposes a prior sensation. For sensation itself is but
vision nascent, not the cause of intelligence, but intelligence itself
revealed as an earlier power in the process of self-construction.

    Makar, ilathi moi;
    Pater, ilathi moi
    Ei para kosmon,
    Ei para moiran
    Ton son ethigon!

Bearing then this in mind, that intelligence is a self-development, not
a quality supervening to a substance, we may abstract from all degree,
and for the purpose of philosophic construction reduce it to kind, under
the idea of an indestructible power with two opposite and counteracting
forces, which by a metaphor borrowed from astronomy, we may call the
centrifugal and centripetal forces. The intelligence in the one tends to
objectize itself, and in the other to know itself in the object. It
will be hereafter my business to construct by a series of intuitions
the progressive schemes, that must follow from such a power with such
forces, till I arrive at the fulness of the human intelligence. For
my present purpose, I assume such a power as my principle, in order to
deduce from it a faculty, the generation, agency, and application of
which form the contents of the ensuing chapter.

In a preceding page I have justified the use of technical terms in
philosophy, whenever they tend to preclude confusion of thought, and
when they assist the memory by the exclusive singleness of their meaning
more than they may, for a short time, bewilder the attention by their
strangeness. I trust, that I have not extended this privilege beyond
the grounds on which I have claimed it; namely, the conveniency of the
scholastic phrase to distinguish the kind from all degrees, or rather
to express the kind with the abstraction of degree, as for instance
multeity instead of multitude; or secondly, for the sake of
correspondence in sound in interdependent or antithetical terms, as
subject and object; or lastly, to avoid the wearying recurrence of
circumlocutions and definitions. Thus I shall venture to use potence,
in order to express a specific degree of a power, in imitation of the
Algebraists. I have even hazarded the new verb potenziate, with its
derivatives, in order to express the combination or transfer of powers.
It is with new or unusual terms, as with privileges in courts of justice
or legislature; there can be no legitimate privilege, where there
already exists a positive law adequate to the purpose; and when there is
no law in existence, the privilege is to be justified by its accordance
with the end, or final cause, of all law. Unusual and new-coined
words are doubtless an evil; but vagueness, confusion, and imperfect
conveyance of our thoughts, are a far greater. Every system, which is
under the necessity of using terms not familiarized by the metaphysics
in fashion, will be described as written in an unintelligible style, and
the author must expect the charge of having substituted learned jargon
for clear conception; while, according to the creed of our modern
philosophers, nothing is deemed a clear conception, but what is
representable by a distinct image. Thus the conceivable is reduced
within the bounds of the picturable. Hinc patet, qui fiat, ut cum
irrepraesentabile et impossibile vulgo ejusdem significatus habeantur,
conceptus tam continui, quam infiniti, a plurimis rejiciantur, quippe
quorum, secundum leges cognitionis intuitivae, repraesentatio est
impossibilis. Quanquam autem harum e non paucis scholis explosarum
notionum, praesertim prioris, causam hic non gero, maximi tamen
momendi erit monuisse. gravissimo illos errore labi, qui tam perverse
argumentandi ratione utuntur. Quicquid enim repugnat legibus intellectus
et rationis, utique est impossibile; quod autem, cum rationis purae
sit objectum, legibus cognitionis intuitivae tantummodo non subest, non
item. Nam hic dissensus inter facultatem sensitivam et intellectualem,
(quarum indolem mox exponam,) nihil indigitat, nisi, quas mens ab
intellectu acceptas fert ideas abstractas, illas in concreto exsequi
et in intuitus commutare saepenumero non posse. Haec autem reluctantia
subjectiva mentitur, ut plurimum, repugnantiam aliquam objectivam, et
incautos facile fallit, limitibus, quibus mens humana circumscribitur,
pro iis habitis, quibus ipsa rerum essentia continetur. [54]

Critics, who are most ready to bring this charge of pedantry and
unintelligibility, are the most apt to overlook the important
fact, that, besides the language of words, there is a language of
spirits--(sermo interior)--and that the former is only the vehicle of
the latter. Consequently their assurance, that they do not understand
the philosophic writer, instead of proving any thing against the
philosophy, may furnish an equal, and (caeteris paribus) even a stronger
presumption against their own philosophic talent.

Great indeed are the obstacles which an English metaphysician has to
encounter. Amongst his most respectable and intelligent judges, there
will be many who have devoted their attention exclusively to the
concerns and interests of human life, and who bring with them to
the perusal of a philosophic system an habitual aversion to all
speculations, the utility and application of which are not evident
and immediate. To these I would in the first instance merely oppose an
authority, which they themselves hold venerable, that of Lord Bacon: non
inutiles Scientiae existimandae sunt, quarum in se nullus est usus, si
ingenia acuant et ordinent.

There are others, whose prejudices are still more formidable, inasmuch
as they are grounded in their moral feelings and religious principles,
which had been alarmed and shocked by the impious and pernicious tenets
defended by Hume, Priestley, and the French fatalists or necessitarians;
some of whom had perverted metaphysical reasonings to the denial of the
mysteries and indeed of all the peculiar doctrines of Christianity;
and others even to the subversion of all distinction between right
and wrong. I would request such men to consider what an eminent and
successful defender of the Christian faith has observed, that true
metaphysics are nothing else but true divinity, and that in fact the
writers, who have given them such just offence, were sophists, who had
taken advantage of the general neglect into which the science of logic
has unhappily fallen, rather than metaphysicians, a name indeed which
those writers were the first to explode as unmeaning. Secondly, I would
remind them, that as long as there are men in the world to whom the
Gnothi seauton is an instinct and a command from their own nature, so
long will there be metaphysicians and metaphysical speculations; that
false metaphysics can be effectually counteracted by true metaphysics
alone; and that if the reasoning be clear, solid and pertinent, the
truth deduced can never be the less valuable on account of the depth
from which it may have been drawn.

A third class profess themselves friendly to metaphysics, and believe
that they are themselves metaphysicians. They have no objection to
system or terminology, provided it be the method and the nomenclature
to which they have been familiarized in the writings of Locke, Hume,
Hartley, Condillac, or perhaps Dr. Reid, and Professor Stewart. To
objections from this cause, it is a sufficient answer, that one main
object of my attempt was to demonstrate the vagueness or insufficiency
of the terms used in the metaphysical schools of France and Great
Britain since the revolution, and that the errors which I propose to
attack cannot subsist, except as they are concealed behind the mask of a
plausible and indefinite nomenclature.

But the worst and widest impediment still remains. It is the
predominance of a popular philosophy, at once the counterfeit and the
mortal enemy of all true and manly metaphysical research. It is that
corruption, introduced by certain immethodical aphorisming eclectics,
who, dismissing not only all system, but all logical connection, pick
and choose whatever is most plausible and showy; who select, whatever
words can have some semblance of sense attached to them without the
least expenditure of thought; in short whatever may enable men to talk
of what they do not understand, with a careful avoidance of every thing
that might awaken them to a moment's suspicion of their ignorance. This
alas! is an irremediable disease, for it brings with it, not so much an
indisposition to any particular system, but an utter loss of taste and
faculty for all system and for all philosophy. Like echoes that beget
each other amongst the mountains, the praise or blame of such men
rolls in volleys long after the report from the original blunderbuss.
Sequacitas est potius et coitio quam consensus: et tamen (quod pessimum
est) pusillanimitas ista non sine arrogantia et fastidio se offert. [55]

I shall now proceed to the nature and genesis of the Imagination; but I
must first take leave to notice, that after a more accurate perusal of
Mr. Wordsworth's remarks on the Imagination, in his preface to the new
edition of his poems, I find that my conclusions are not so consentient
with his as, I confess, I had taken for granted. In an article
contributed by me to Mr. Southey's Omniana, On the soul and its organs
of sense, are the following sentences. "These (the human faculties) I
would arrange under the different senses and powers: as the eye, the
ear, the touch, etc.; the imitative power, voluntary and automatic;
the imagination, or shaping and modifying power; the fancy, or the
aggregative and associative power; the understanding, or the regulative,
substantiating and realizing power; the speculative reason, vis
theoretica et scientifica, or the power by which we produce or aim to
produce unity, necessity, and universality in all our knowledge by means
of principles a priori [56]; the will, or practical reason; the faculty
of choice (Germanice, Willkuehr) and (distinct both from the moral will
and the choice,) the sensation of volition, which I have found reason to
include under the head of single and double touch." To this, as far as
it relates to the subject in question, namely the words (the aggregative
and associative power) Mr. Wordsworth's "objection is only that the
definition is too general. To aggregate and to associate, to evoke and
to combine, belong as well to the Imagination as to the Fancy." I reply,
that if, by the power of evoking and combining, Mr. Wordsworth means the
same as, and no more than, I meant by the aggregative and associative,
I continue to deny, that it belongs at all to the Imagination; and I
am disposed to conjecture, that he has mistaken the copresence of Fancy
with Imagination for the operation of the latter singly. A man may work
with two very different tools at the same moment; each has its share in
the work, but the work effected by each is distinct and different. But
it will probably appear in the next chapter, that deeming it necessary
to go back much further than Mr. Wordsworth's subject required or
permitted, I have attached a meaning to both Fancy and Imagination,
which he had not in view, at least while he was writing that preface. He
will judge. Would to Heaven, I might meet with many such readers! I will
conclude with the words of Bishop Jeremy Taylor: "He to whom all things
are one, who draweth all things to one, and seeth all things in one, may
enjoy true peace and rest of spirit." [57]


On the imagination, or esemplastic power

    O Adam, One Almighty is, from whom
    All things proceed, and up to him return,
    If not deprav'd from good, created all
    Such to perfection, one first matter all,
    Endued with various forms, various degrees
    Of substance, and, in things that live, of life;
    But more refin'd, more spiritous and pure,
    As nearer to him plac'd, or nearer tending,
    Each in their several active spheres assigu'd,
    Till body up to spirit work, in bounds
    Proportion'd to each kind. So from the root
    Springs lighter the green stalk, from thence the leaves
    More aery: last the bright consummate flower
    Spirits odorous breathes: flowers and their fruit,
    Man's nourishment, by gradual scale sublim'd,
    To vital spirits aspire: to animal:
    To intellectual!--give both life and sense,
    Fancy and understanding; whence the soul
    REASON receives, and reason is her being,
    Discursive or intuitive. [58]

"Sane dicerentur si res corporales nil nisi materiale continerent,
verissime in fluxu consistere, neque habere substantiale quicquam,
quemadmodum et Platonici olim recte agnovere."

"Hinc igitur, praeter pure mathematica et phantasiae subjecta, collegi
quaedam metaphysica solaque mente perceptibilia, esse admittenda et
massae materiali principium quoddam superius et, ut sic dicam, formale
addendum: quandoquidem omnes veritates rerum corporearum ex solis
axiomatibus logisticis et geometricis, nempe de magno et parvo, toto
et parte, figura et situ, colligi non possint; sed alia de causa et
effectu, actioneque et passione, accedere debeant, quibus ordinis
rerum rationes salventur. Id principium rerum, an entelecheian an vim
appellemus, non refert, modo meminerimus, per solam Virium notionem
intelligibiliter explicari." [59]

    Sebomai noeron
    Kruphian taxin
    Chorei TI MESON
    Ou katachuthen. [60]

Des Cartes, speaking as a naturalist, and in imitation of Archimedes,
said, give me matter and motion and I will construct you the universe.
We must of course understand him to have meant; I will render the
construction of the universe intelligible. In the same sense the
transcendental philosopher says; grant me a nature having two contrary
forces, the one of which tends to expand infinitely, while the other
strives to apprehend or find itself in this infinity, and I will
cause the world of intelllgences with the whole system of their
representations to rise up before you. Every other science presupposes
intelligence as already existing and complete: the philosopher
contemplates it in its growth, and as it were represents its history to
the mind from its birth to its maturity.

The venerable sage of Koenigsberg has preceded the march of this
master-thought as an effective pioneer in his essay on the introduction
of negative quantities into philosophy, published 1763. In this he
has shown, that instead of assailing the science of mathematics by
metaphysics, as Berkeley did in his ANALYST, or of sophisticating it,
as Wolf did, by the vain attempt of deducing the first principles
of geometry from supposed deeper grounds of ontology, it behoved the
metaphysician rather to examine whether the only province of knowledge,
which man has succeeded in erecting into a pure science, might not
furnish materials, or at least hints, for establishing and pacifying the
unsettled, warring, and embroiled domain of philosophy. An imitation of
the mathematical method had indeed been attempted with no better success
than attended the essay of David to wear the armour of Saul. Another
use however is possible and of far greater promise, namely, the actual
application of the positions which had so wonderfully enlarged the
discoveries of geometry, mutatis mutandis, to philosophical subjects.
Kant having briefly illustrated the utility of such an attempt in the
questions of space, motion, and infinitely small quantities, as employed
by the mathematician, proceeds to the idea of negative quantities and
the transfer of them to metaphysical investigation. Opposites, he
well observes, are of two kinds, either logical, that is, such as are
absolutely incompatible; or real, without being contradictory. The
former he denominates Nihil negativum irrepraesentabile, the connection
of which produces nonsense. A body in motion is something--Aliquid
cogitabile; but a body, at one and the same time in motion and not in
motion, is nothing, or, at most, air articulated into nonsense. But a
motory force of a body in one direction, and an equal force of the
same body in an opposite direction is not incompatible, and the
result, namely, rest, is real and representable. For the purposes of
mathematical calculus it is indifferent which force we term negative,
and which positive, and consequently we appropriate the latter to that,
which happens to be the principal object in our thoughts. Thus if a
man's capital be ten and his debts eight, the subtraction will be the
same, whether we call the capital negative debt, or the debt negative
capital. But in as much as the latter stands practically in reference to
the former, we of course represent the sum as 10-8. It is equally clear
that two equal forces acting in opposite directions, both being finite
and each distinguished from the other by its direction only, must
neutralize or reduce each other to inaction. Now the transcendental
philosophy demands; first, that two forces should be conceived which
counteract each other by their essential nature; not only not in
consequence of the accidental direction of each, but as prior to all
direction, nay, as the primary forces from which the conditions of all
possible directions are derivative and deducible: secondly, that
these forces should be assumed to be both alike infinite, both alike
indestructible. The problem will then be to discover the result or
product of two such forces, as distinguished from the result of those
forces which are finite, and derive their difference solely from the
circumstance of their direction. When we have formed a scheme or outline
of these two different kinds of force, and of their different results,
by the process of discursive reasoning, it will then remain for us to
elevate the thesis from notional to actual, by contemplating intuitively
this one power with its two inherent indestructible yet counteracting
forces, and the results or generations to which their inter-penetration
gives existence, in the living principle and in the process of our own
self-consciousness. By what instrument this is possible the solution
itself will discover, at the same time that it will reveal to and for
whom it is possible. Non omnia possumus omnes. There is a philosophic
no less than a poetic genius, which is differenced from the highest
perfection of talent, not by degree but by kind.

The counteraction then of the two assumed forces does not depend on
their meeting from opposite directions; the power which acts in them
is indestructible; it is therefore inexhaustibly re-ebullient; and as
something must be the result of these two forces, both alike infinite,
and both alike indestructible; and as rest or neutralization cannot be
this result; no other conception is possible, but that the product must
be a tertium aliquid, or finite generation. Consequently this conception
is necessary. Now this tertium aliquid can be no other than an
inter-penetration of the counteracting powers, partaking of both.

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thus far had the work been transcribed for the press, when I received
the following letter from a friend, whose practical judgment I have had
ample reason to estimate and revere, and whose taste and sensibility
preclude all the excuses which my self-love might possibly have prompted
me to set up in plea against the decision of advisers of equal good
sense, but with less tact and feeling.

"Dear C.

    "You ask my opinion concerning your Chapter on the Imagination,
both as to the impressions it made on myself, and as to those which I
think it will make on the Public, i.e. that part of the public, who,
from the title of the work and from its forming a sort of introduction
to a volume of poems, are likely to constitute the great majority of
your readers.

"As to myself, and stating in the first place the effect on my
understanding, your opinions and method of argument were not only so new
to me, but so directly the reverse of all I had ever been accustomed
to consider as truth, that even if I had comprehended your premises
sufficiently to have admitted them, and had seen the necessity of your
conclusions, I should still have been in that state of mind, which in
your note in Chap. IV you have so ingeniously evolved, as the antithesis
to that in which a man is, when he makes a bull. In your own words, I
should have felt as if I had been standing on my head.

"The effect on my feelings, on the other hand, I cannot better
represent, than by supposing myself to have known only our light airy
modern chapels of ease, and then for the first time to have been placed,
and left alone, in one of our largest Gothic cathedrals in a gusty
moonlight night of autumn. 'Now in glimmer, and now in gloom;' often
in palpable darkness not without a chilly sensation of terror; then
suddenly emerging into broad yet visionary lights with coloured shadows
of fantastic shapes, yet all decked with holy insignia and mystic
symbols; and ever and anon coming out full upon pictures and stone-work
images of great men, with whose names I was familiar, but which looked
upon me with countenances and an expression, the most dissimilar to all
I had been in the habit of connecting with those names. Those whom I had
been taught to venerate as almost super-human in magnitude of intellect,
I found perched in little fret-work niches, as grotesque dwarfs; while
the grotesques, in my hitherto belief, stood guarding the high altar
with all the characters of apotheosis. In short, what I had supposed
substances were thinned away into shadows, while everywhere shadows were
deepened into substances:

    If substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
    For each seem'd either!

"Yet after all, I could not but repeat the lines which you had quoted
from a MS. poem of your own in the FRIEND, and applied to a work of Mr.
Wordsworth's though with a few of the words altered:

             ------An Orphic tale indeed,
    A tale obscure of high and passionate thoughts
    To a strange music chanted!

"Be assured, however, that I look forward anxiously to your great book
on the CONSTRUCTIVE PHILOSOPHY, which you have promised and announced:
and that I will do my best to understand it. Only I will not promise to
descend into the dark cave of Trophonius with you, there to rub my
own eyes, in order to make the sparks and figured flashes, which I am
required to see.

"So much for myself. But as for the Public I do not hesitate a moment in
advising and urging you to withdraw the Chapter from the present
work, and to reserve it for your announced treatises on the Logos or
communicative intellect in Man and Deity. First, because imperfectly as
I understand the present Chapter, I see clearly that you have done too
much, and yet not enough. You have been obliged to omit so many links,
from the necessity of compression, that what remains, looks (if I may
recur to my former illustration) like the fragments of the winding steps
of an old ruined tower. Secondly, a still stronger argument (at least
one that I am sure will be more forcible with you) is, that your readers
will have both right and reason to complain of you. This Chapter, which
cannot, when it is printed, amount to so little as an hundred pages,
will of necessity greatly increase the expense of the work; and every
reader who, like myself, is neither prepared nor perhaps calculated for
the study of so abstruse a subject so abstrusely treated, will, as
I have before hinted, be almost entitled to accuse you of a sort of
imposition on him. For who, he might truly observe, could from your
title-page, to wit, "My Literary Life and Opinions," published too as
introductory to a volume of miscellaneous poems, have anticipated, or
even conjectured, a long treatise on Ideal Realism which holds the same
relation in abstruseness to Plotinus, as Plotinus does to Plato. It will
be well, if already you have not too much of metaphysical disquisition
in your work, though as the larger part of the disquisition is
historical, it will doubtless be both interesting and instructive to
many to whose unprepared minds your speculations on the esemplastic
power would be utterly unintelligible. Be assured, if you do publish
this Chapter in the present work, you will be reminded of Bishop
Berkeley's Siris, announced as an Essay on Tar-water, which beginning
with Tar ends with the Trinity, the omne scibile forming the interspace.
I say in the present work. In that greater work to which you have
devoted so many years, and study so intense and various, it will be in
its proper place. Your prospectus will have described and announced both
its contents and their nature; and if any persons purchase it, who
feel no interest in the subjects of which it treats, they will have
themselves only to blame.

"I could add to these arguments one derived from pecuniary motives,
and particularly from the probable effects on the sale of your present
publication; but they would weigh little with you compared with the
preceding. Besides, I have long observed, that arguments drawn from
your own personal interests more often act on you as narcotics than as
stimulants, and that in money concerns you have some small portion
of pig-nature in your moral idiosyncrasy, and, like these amiable
creatures, must occasionally be pulled backward from the boat in order
to make you enter it. All success attend you, for if hard thinking and
hard reading are merits, you have deserved it.

"Your affectionate, etc."

In consequence of this very judicious letter, which produced complete
conviction on my mind, I shall content myself for the present with
stating the main result of the chapter, which I have reserved for that
future publication, a detailed prospectus of which the reader will find
at the close of the second volume.

The Imagination then I consider either as primary, or secondary. The
primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all
human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal
act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary Imagination I
consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will,
yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency,
and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It
dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate: or where this
process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to
idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as
objects) are essentially fixed and dead.

FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities
and definites. The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of memory
emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is blended with,
and modified by that empirical phaenomenon of the will, which we express
by the word Choice. But equally with the ordinary memory the Fancy must
receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.


Occasion of the Lyrical Ballads, and the objects originally
proposed--Preface to the second edition--The ensuing controversy, its
causes and acrimony--Philosophic definitions of a Poem and Poetry with

During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our
conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry,
the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence
to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty
by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm, which
accidents of light and shade, which moon-light or sunset diffused over
a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability
of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The thought suggested
itself--(to which of us I do not recollect)--that a series of poems
might be composed of two sorts. In the one, the incidents and agents
were to be, in part at least, supernatural; and the excellence aimed
at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic
truth of such emotions, as would naturally accompany such situations,
supposing them real. And real in this sense they have been to every
human being who, from whatever source of delusion, has at any time
believed himself under supernatural agency. For the second class,
subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life; the characters and
incidents were to be such as will be found in every village and its
vicinity, where there is a meditative and feeling mind to seek after
them, or to notice them, when they present themselves.

In this idea originated the plan of the LYRICAL BALLADS; in which it was
agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters
supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our
inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to
procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension
of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr.
Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself as his object,
to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a
feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention
to the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the
wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible treasure, but for
which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish solicitude,
we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither
feel nor understand.

With this view I wrote THE ANCIENT MARINER, and was preparing among
other poems, THE DARK LADIE, and the CHRISTABEL, in which I should have
more nearly realized my ideal, than I had done in my first attempt. But
Mr. Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more successful, and the
number of his poems so much greater, that my compositions, instead of
forming a balance, appeared rather an interpolation of heterogeneous
matter. Mr. Wordsworth added two or three poems written in his own
character, in the impassioned, lofty, and sustained diction, which is
characteristic of his genius. In this form the LYRICAL BALLADS were
published; and were presented by him, as an experiment, whether
subjects, which from their nature rejected the usual ornaments and
extra-colloquial style of poems in general, might not be so managed in
the language of ordinary life as to produce the pleasurable interest,
which it is the peculiar business of poetry to impart. To the
second edition he added a preface of considerable length; in which,
notwithstanding some passages of apparently a contrary import, he was
understood to contend for the extension of this style to poetry of all
kinds, and to reject as vicious and indefensible all phrases and forms
of speech that were not included in what he (unfortunately, I think,
adopting an equivocal expression) called the language of real life. From
this preface, prefixed to poems in which it was impossible to deny the
presence of original genius, however mistaken its direction might
be deemed, arose the whole long-continued controversy. For from the
conjunction of perceived power with supposed heresy I explain the
inveteracy and in some instances, I grieve to say, the acrimonious
passions, with which the controversy has been conducted by the

Had Mr. Wordsworth's poems been the silly, the childish things, which
they were for a long time described as being had they been really
distinguished from the compositions of other poets merely by meanness of
language and inanity of thought; had they indeed contained nothing more
than what is found in the parodies and pretended imitations of them;
they must have sunk at once, a dead weight, into the slough of oblivion,
and have dragged the preface along with them. But year after year
increased the number of Mr. Wordsworth's admirers. They were found too
not in the lower classes of the reading public, but chiefly among young
men of strong sensibility and meditative minds; and their admiration
(inflamed perhaps in some degree by opposition) was distinguished by its
intensity, I might almost say, by its religious fervour. These facts,
and the intellectual energy of the author, which was more or less
consciously felt, where it was outwardly and even boisterously denied,
meeting with sentiments of aversion to his opinions, and of alarm at
their consequences, produced an eddy of criticism, which would of itself
have borne up the poems by the violence with which it whirled them round
and round. With many parts of this preface in the sense attributed
to them and which the words undoubtedly seem to authorize, I never
concurred; but on the contrary objected to them as erroneous in
principle, and as contradictory (in appearance at least) both to other
parts of the same preface, and to the author's own practice in the
greater part of the poems themselves. Mr. Wordsworth in his recent
collection has, I find, degraded this prefatory disquisition to the end
of his second volume, to be read or not at the reader's choice. But he
has not, as far as I can discover, announced any change in his poetic
creed. At all events, considering it as the source of a controversy,
in which I have been honoured more than I deserve by the frequent
conjunction of my name with his, I think it expedient to declare once
for all, in what points I coincide with the opinions supported in that
preface, and in what points I altogether differ. But in order to render
myself intelligible I must previously, in as few words as possible,
explain my views, first, of a Poem; and secondly, of Poetry itself, in
kind, and in essence.

The office of philosophical disquisition consists in just distinction;
while it is the privilege of the philosopher to preserve himself
constantly aware, that distinction is not division. In order to obtain
adequate notions of any truth, we must intellectually separate its
distinguishable parts; and this is the technical process of philosophy.
But having so done, we must then restore them in our conceptions to
the unity, in which they actually co-exist; and this is the result of
philosophy. A poem contains the same elements as a prose composition;
the difference therefore must consist in a different combination of
them, in consequence of a different object being proposed. According to
the difference of the object will be the difference of the combination.
It is possible, that the object may be merely to facilitate the
recollection of any given facts or observations by artificial
arrangement; and the composition will be a poem, merely because it is
distinguished from prose by metre, or by rhyme, or by both conjointly.
In this, the lowest sense, a man might attribute the name of a poem to
the well-known enumeration of the days in the several months;

    "Thirty days hath September,
     April, June, and November," etc.

and others of the same class and purpose. And as a particular pleasure
is found in anticipating the recurrence of sounds and quantities,
all compositions that have this charm super-added, whatever be their
contents, may be entitled poems.

So much for the superficial form. A difference of object and contents
supplies an additional ground of distinction. The immediate purpose
may be the communication of truths; either of truth absolute and
demonstrable, as in works of science; or of facts experienced and
recorded, as in history. Pleasure, and that of the highest and most
permanent kind, may result from the attainment of the end; but it is not
itself the immediate end. In other works the communication of pleasure
may be the immediate purpose; and though truth, either moral or
intellectual, ought to be the ultimate end, yet this will distinguish
the character of the author, not the class to which the work belongs.
Blest indeed is that state of society, in which the immediate purpose
would be baffled by the perversion of the proper ultimate end; in which
no charm of diction or imagery could exempt the BATHYLLUS even of an
Anacreon, or the ALEXIS of Virgil, from disgust and aversion!

But the communication of pleasure may be the immediate object of a work
not metrically composed; and that object may have been in a high degree
attained, as in novels and romances. Would then the mere superaddition
of metre, with or without rhyme, entitle these to the name of poems? The
answer is, that nothing can permanently please, which does not contain
in itself the reason why it is so, and not otherwise. If metre be
superadded, all other parts must be made consonant with it. They must be
such, as to justify the perpetual and distinct attention to each
part, which an exact correspondent recurrence of accent and sound are
calculated to excite. The final definition then, so deduced, may be thus
worded. A poem is that species of composition, which is opposed to works
of science, by proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth;
and from all other species--(having this object in common with it)--it
is discriminated by proposing to itself such delight from the whole, as
is compatible with a distinct gratification from each component part.

Controversy is not seldom excited in consequence of the disputants
attaching each a different meaning to the same word; and in few
instances has this been more striking, than in disputes concerning the
present subject. If a man chooses to call every composition a
poem, which is rhyme, or measure, or both, I must leave his opinion
uncontroverted. The distinction is at least competent to characterize
the writer's intention. If it were subjoined, that the whole is likewise
entertaining or affecting, as a tale, or as a series of interesting
reflections; I of course admit this as another fit ingredient of a poem,
and an additional merit. But if the definition sought for be that of a
legitimate poem, I answer, it must be one, the parts of which mutually
support and explain each other; all in their proportion harmonizing
with, and supporting the purpose and known influences of metrical
arrangement. The philosophic critics of all ages coincide with the
ultimate judgment of all countries, in equally denying the praises of a
just poem, on the one hand, to a series of striking lines or distiches,
each of which, absorbing the whole attention of the reader to itself,
becomes disjoined from its context, and forms a separate whole,
instead of a harmonizing part; and on the other hand, to an unsustained
composition, from which the reader collects rapidly the general result
unattracted by the component parts. The reader should be carried
forward, not merely or chiefly by the mechanical impulse of curiosity,
or by a restless desire to arrive at the final solution; but by the
pleasureable activity of mind excited by the attractions of the journey
itself. Like the motion of a serpent, which the Egyptians made the
emblem of intellectual power; or like the path of sound through
the air;--at every step he pauses and half recedes; and from the
retrogressive movement collects the force which again carries him
onward. Praecipitandus est liber spiritus, says Petronius most happily.
The epithet, liber, here balances the preceding verb; and it is not easy
to conceive more meaning condensed in fewer words.

But if this should be admitted as a satisfactory character of a poem,
we have still to seek for a definition of poetry. The writings of Plato,
and Jeremy Taylor, and Burnet's Theory of the Earth, furnish undeniable
proofs that poetry of the highest kind may exist without metre, and even
without the contradistringuishing objects of a poem. The first chapter
of Isaiah--(indeed a very large portion of the whole book)--is poetry
in the most emphatic sense; yet it would be not less irrational than
strange to assert, that pleasure, and not truth was the immediate object
of the prophet. In short, whatever specific import we attach to the
word, Poetry, there will be found involved in it, as a necessary
consequence, that a poem of any length neither can be, nor ought to be,
all poetry. Yet if an harmonious whole is to be produced, the remaining
parts must be preserved in keeping with the poetry; and this can be
no otherwise effected than by such a studied selection and artificial
arrangement, as will partake of one, though not a peculiar property of
poetry. And this again can be no other than the property of exciting a
more continuous and equal attention than the language of prose aims at,
whether colloquial or written.

My own conclusions on the nature of poetry, in the strictest use of the
word, have been in part anticipated in some of the remarks on the Fancy
and Imagination in the early part of this work. What is poetry?--is so
nearly the same question with, what is a poet?--that the answer to the
one is involved in the solution of the other. For it is a distinction
resulting from the poetic genius itself, which sustains and modifies the
images, thoughts, and emotions of the poet's own mind.

The poet, described in ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man
into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other
according to their relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and
spirit of unity, that blends, and (as it were) fuses, each into each,
by that synthetic and magical power, to which I would exclusively
appropriate the name of Imagination. This power, first put in action by
the will and understanding, and retained under their irremissive, though
gentle and unnoticed, control, laxis effertur habenis, reveals "itself
in the balance or reconcilement of opposite or discordant" qualities:
of sameness, with difference; of the general with the concrete; the idea
with the image; the individual with the representative; the sense of
novelty and freshness with old and familiar objects; a more than usual
state of emotion with more than usual order; judgment ever awake and
steady self-possession with enthusiasm and feeling profound or vehement;
and while it blends and harmonizes the natural and the artificial, still
subordinates art to nature; the manner to the matter; and our admiration
of the poet to our sympathy with the poetry. Doubtless, as Sir John
Davies observes of the soul--(and his words may with slight alteration
be applied, and even more appropriately, to the poetic Imagination)--

    Doubtless this could not be, but that she turns
      Bodies to spirit by sublimation strange,
    As fire converts to fire the things it burns,
      As we our food into our nature change.

    From their gross matter she abstracts their forms,
      And draws a kind of quintessence from things;
    Which to her proper nature she transforms
      To bear them light on her celestial wings.

    Thus does she, when from individual states
      She doth abstract the universal kinds;
    Which then re-clothed in divers names and fates
      Steal access through the senses to our minds.

Finally, Good Sense is the Body of poetic genius, Fancy its Drapery,
Motion its Life, and Imagination the Soul that is everywhere, and in
each; and forms all into one graceful and intelligent whole.


The specific symptoms of poetic power elucidated in a critical analysis
of Shakespeare's VENUS AND ADONIS, and RAPE of LUCRECE.

In the application of these principles to purposes of practical
criticism, as employed in the appraisement of works more or less
imperfect, I have endeavoured to discover what the qualities in a poem
are, which may be deemed promises and specific symptoms of poetic power,
as distinguished from general talent determined to poetic composition
by accidental motives, by an act of the will, rather than by the
inspiration of a genial and productive nature. In this investigation, I
could not, I thought, do better, than keep before me the earliest work
of the greatest genius, that perhaps human nature has yet produced, our
myriad-minded [61] Shakespeare. I mean the VENUS AND ADONIS, and the
LUCRECE; works which give at once strong promises of the strength,
and yet obvious proofs of the immaturity, of his genius. From these I
abstracted the following marks, as characteristics of original poetic
genius in general.

1. In the VENUS AND ADONIS, the first and most obvious excellence is the
perfect sweetness of the versification; its adaptation to the subject;
and the power displayed in varying the march of the words without
passing into a loftier and more majestic rhythm than was demanded by the
thoughts, or permitted by the propriety of preserving a sense of melody
predominant. The delight in richness and sweetness of sound, even to
a faulty excess, if it be evidently original, and not the result of an
easily imitable mechanism, I regard as a highly favourable promise in
the compositions of a young man. The man that hath not music in his soul
can indeed never be a genuine poet. Imagery,--(even taken from nature,
much more when transplanted from books, as travels, voyages, and works
of natural history),--affecting incidents, just thoughts, interesting
personal or domestic feelings, and with these the art of their
combination or intertexture in the form of a poem,--may all by incessant
effort be acquired as a trade, by a man of talent and much reading,
who, as I once before observed, has mistaken an intense desire of poetic
reputation for a natural poetic genius; the love of the arbitrary
end for a possession of the peculiar means. But the sense of musical
delight, with the power of producing it, is a gift of imagination; and
this together with the power of reducing multitude into unity of effect,
and modifying a series of thoughts by some one predominant thought or
feeling, may be cultivated and improved, but can never be learned. It is
in these that "poeta nascitur non fit."

2. A second promise of genius is the choice of subjects very remote from
the private interests and circumstances of the writer himself. At least
I have found, that where the subject is taken immediately from the
author's personal sensations and experiences, the excellence of a
particular poem is but an equivocal mark, and often a fallacious
pledge, of genuine poetic power. We may perhaps remember the tale of the
statuary, who had acquired considerable reputation for the legs of his
goddesses, though the rest of the statue accorded but indifferently with
ideal beauty; till his wife, elated by her husband's praises, modestly
acknowledged that she had been his constant model. In the VENUS
AND ADONIS this proof of poetic power exists even to excess. It is
throughout as if a superior spirit more intuitive, more intimately
conscious, even than the characters themselves, not only of every
outward look and act, but of the flux and reflux of the mind in all its
subtlest thoughts and feelings, were placing the whole before our view;
himself meanwhile unparticipating in the passions, and actuated only
by that pleasurable excitement, which had resulted from the energetic
fervour of his own spirit in so vividly exhibiting what it had
so accurately and profoundly contemplated. I think, I should have
conjectured from these poems, that even then the great instinct, which
impelled the poet to the drama, was secretly working in him, prompting
him--by a series and never broken chain of imagery, always vivid and,
because unbroken, often minute; by the highest effort of the picturesque
in words, of which words are capable, higher perhaps than was ever
realized by any other poet, even Dante not excepted; to provide a
substitute for that visual language, that constant intervention and
running comment by tone, look and gesture, which in his dramatic works
he was entitled to expect from the players. His Venus and Adonis seem
at once the characters themselves, and the whole representation of those
characters by the most consummate actors. You seem to be told nothing,
but to see and hear everything. Hence it is, from the perpetual activity
of attention required on the part of the reader; from the rapid flow,
the quick change, and the playful nature of the thoughts and images; and
above all from the alienation, and, if I may hazard such an expression,
the utter aloofness of the poet's own feelings, from those of which he
is at once the painter and the analyst; that though the very subject
cannot but detract from the pleasure of a delicate mind, yet never was
poem less dangerous on a moral account. Instead of doing as Ariosto, and
as, still more offensively, Wieland has done, instead of degrading and
deforming passion into appetite, the trials of love into the struggles
of concupiscence; Shakespeare has here represented the animal impulse
itself, so as to preclude all sympathy with it, by dissipating the
reader's notice among the thousand outward images, and now beautiful,
now fanciful circumstances, which form its dresses and its scenery; or
by diverting our attention from the main subject by those frequent witty
or profound reflections, which the poet's ever active mind has deduced
from, or connected with, the imagery and the incidents. The reader is
forced into too much action to sympathize with the merely passive of our
nature. As little can a mind thus roused and awakened be brooded on by
mean and indistinct emotion, as the low, lazy mist can creep upon the
surface of a lake, while a strong gale is driving it onward in waves and

3. It has been before observed that images, however beautiful, though
faithfully copied from nature, and as accurately represented in words,
do not of themselves characterize the poet. They become proofs of
original genius only as far as they are modified by a predominant
passion; or by associated thoughts or images awakened by that passion;
or when they have the effect of reducing multitude to unity, or
succession to an instant; or lastly, when a human and intellectual life
is transferred to them from the poet's own spirit,

    Which shoots its being through earth, sea, and air.

In the two following lines for instance, there is nothing objectionable,
nothing which would preclude them from forming, in their proper place,
part of a descriptive poem:

    Behold yon row of pines, that shorn and bow'd
    Bend from the sea-blast, seen at twilight eve.

But with a small alteration of rhythm, the same words would be equally
in their place in a book of topography, or in a descriptive tour. The
same image will rise into semblance of poetry if thus conveyed:

    Yon row of bleak and visionary pines,
    By twilight glimpse discerned, mark! how they flee
    From the fierce sea-blast, all their tresses wild
    Streaming before them.

I have given this as an illustration, by no means as an instance, of
that particular excellence which I had in view, and in which Shakespeare
even in his earliest, as in his latest, works surpasses all other
poets. It is by this, that he still gives a dignity and a passion to
the objects which he presents. Unaided by any previous excitement, they
burst upon us at once in life and in power,--

    "Full many a glorious morning have I seen
     Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye."

    "Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
     Of the wide world dreaming on things to come--

          *     *     *     *     *     *
          *     *     *     *     *     *

    The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
    And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
    Incertainties now crown themselves assur'd,
    And Peace proclaims olives of endless age.
    Now with the drops of this most balmy time
    My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
    Since spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,
    While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes.
    And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
    When tyrants' crests, and tombs of brass are spent."

As of higher worth, so doubtless still more characteristic of poetic
genius does the imagery become, when it moulds and colours itself to the
circumstances, passion, or character, present and foremost in the mind.
For unrivalled instances of this excellence, the reader's own memory
will refer him to the LEAR, OTHELLO, in short to which not of the
"great, ever living, dead man's" dramatic works? Inopem em copia
fecit. How true it is to nature, he has himself finely expressed in the
instance of love in his 98th Sonnet.

    From you have I been absent in the spring,
    When proud-pied April drest in all its trim,
    Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing;
    That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
    Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
    Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
    Could make me any summer's story tell,
    Or from their proud lap pluck them, where they grew
    Nor did I wonder at the lilies white,
    Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
    They were, tho' sweet, but figures of delight,
    Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
    Yet seem'd it winter still, and, you away,
    As with your shadow, I with these did play!"

Scarcely less sure, or if a less valuable, not less indispensable mark

    Gonimon men poiaetou------
    ------hostis rhaema gennaion lakoi,

will the imagery supply, when, with more than the power of the painter,
the poet gives us the liveliest image of succession with the feeling of

    With this, he breaketh from the sweet embrace
    Of those fair arms, which bound him to her breast,
    And homeward through the dark laund runs apace;--

         *     *     *     *     *     *

    Look! how a bright star shooteth from the sky,
    So glides he in the night from Venus' eye.

4. The last character I shall mention, which would prove indeed but
little, except as taken conjointly with the former;--yet without which
the former could scarce exist in a high degree, and (even if this were
possible) would give promises only of transitory flashes and a meteoric
power;--is depth, and energy of thought. No man was ever yet a great
poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry
is the blossom and the fragrancy of all human knowledge, human thoughts,
human passions, emotions, language. In Shakespeare's poems the creative
power and the intellectual energy wrestle as in a war embrace. Each in
its excess of strength seems to threaten the extinction of the other.
At length in the drama they were reconciled, and fought each with its
shield before the breast of the other. Or like two rapid streams, that,
at their first meeting within narrow and rocky banks, mutually strive
to repel each other and intermix reluctantly and in tumult; but soon
finding a wider channel and more yielding shores blend, and dilate, and
flow on in one current and with one voice. The VENUS AND ADONIS did
not perhaps allow the display of the deeper passions. But the story of
Lucretia seems to favour and even demand their intensest workings. And
yet we find in Shakespeare's management of the tale neither pathos,
nor any other dramatic quality. There is the same minute and faithful
imagery as in the former poem, in the same vivid colours, inspirited by
the same impetuous vigour of thought, and diverging and contracting with
the same activity of the assimilative and of the modifying faculties;
and with a yet larger display, a yet wider range of knowledge
and reflection; and lastly, with the same perfect dominion, often
domination, over the whole world of language. What then shall we say?
even this; that Shakespeare, no mere child of nature; no automaton of
genius; no passive vehicle of inspiration, possessed by the spirit, not
possessing it; first studied patiently, meditated deeply, understood
minutely, till knowledge, become habitual and intuitive, wedded itself
to his habitual feelings, and at length gave birth to that stupendous
power, by which he stands alone, with no equal or second in his own
class; to that power which seated him on one of the two glory-smitten
summits of the poetic mountain, with Milton as his compeer not rival.
While the former darts himself forth, and passes into all the forms of
human character and passion, the one Proteus of the fire and the flood;
the other attracts all forms and things to himself, into the unity of
his own ideal. All things and modes of action shape themselves anew in
the being of Milton; while Shakespeare becomes all things, yet for ever
remaining himself. O what great men hast thou not produced, England, my
country!--Truly indeed--

    We must be free or die, who speak the tongue,
    Which Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold,
    Which Milton held. In everything we are sprung
    Of earth's first blood, have titles manifold.


Striking points of difference between the Poets of the present age and
those of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries--Wish expressed for the
union of the characteristic merits of both.

Christendom, from its first settlement on feudal rights, has been so
far one great body, however imperfectly organized, that a similar spirit
will be found in each period to have been acting in all its members.
The study of Shakespeare's poems--(I do not include his dramatic works,
eminently as they too deserve that title)--led me to a more careful
examination of the contemporary poets both in England and in other
countries. But my attention was especially fixed on those of Italy, from
the birth to the death of Shakespeare; that being the country in which
the fine arts had been most sedulously, and hitherto most successfully
cultivated. Abstracted from the degrees and peculiarities of individual
genius, the properties common to the good writers of each period seem
to establish one striking point of difference between the poetry of
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and that of the present age. The
remark may perhaps be extended to the sister art of painting. At least
the latter will serve to illustrate the former. In the present age the
poet--(I would wish to be understood as speaking generally, and without
allusion to individual names)--seems to propose to himself as his main
object, and as that which is the most characteristic of his art, new and
striking images; with incidents that interest the affections or excite
the curiosity. Both his characters and his descriptions he renders,
as much as possible, specific and individual, even to a degree of
portraiture. In his diction and metre, on the other hand, he is
comparatively careless. The measure is either constructed on no previous
system, and acknowledges no justifying principle but that of the
writer's convenience; or else some mechanical movement is adopted, of
which one couplet or stanza is so far an adequate specimen, as that the
occasional differences appear evidently to arise from accident, or the
qualities of the language itself, not from meditation and an intelligent
purpose. And the language from Pope's translation of Homer, to Darwin's
Temple of Nature [62], may, notwithstanding some illustrious exceptions,
be too faithfully characterized, as claiming to be poetical for no
better reason, than that it would be intolerable in conversation or in
prose. Though alas! even our prose writings, nay even the style of our
more set discourses, strive to be in the fashion, and trick themselves
out in the soiled and over-worn finery of the meretricious muse. It is
true that of late a great improvement in this respect is observable in
our most popular writers. But it is equally true, that this recurrence
to plain sense and genuine mother English is far from being general; and
that the composition of our novels, magazines, public harangues, and the
like is commonly as trivial in thought, and yet enigmatic in expression,
as if Echo and Sphinx had laid their heads together to construct it.
Nay, even of those who have most rescued themselves from this contagion,
I should plead inwardly guilty to the charge of duplicity or cowardice,
if I withheld my conviction, that few have guarded the purity of their
native tongue with that jealous care, which the sublime Dante in his
tract De la volgare Eloquenza, declares to be the first duty of a poet.
For language is the armoury of the human mind; and at once contains
the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests.
Animadverte, says Hobbes, quam sit ab improprietate verborum pronum
hominihus prolabi in errores circa ipsas res! Sat [vero], says
Sennertus, in hac vitae brevitate et naturae obscuritate, rerum est,
quibus cognoscendis tempus impendatur, ut [confusis et multivotis]
sermonibus intelligendis illud consumere opus non sit. [Eheu! quantas
strages paravere verba nubila, quae tot dicunt ut nihil dicunt;--nubes
potius, e quibus et in rebus politicis et in ecclesia turbines et
tonitrua erumpunt!] Et proinde recte dictum putamus a Platone in Gorgia:
os an ta onomata eidei, eisetai kai ta pragmata: et ab Epicteto,
archae paideuseos hae ton onomaton episkepsis: et prudentissime Galenus
scribit, hae ton onomaton chraesis tarachtheisa kai taen ton pragmaton
epitarattei gnosin.

Egregie vero J. C. Scaliger, in Lib. I. de Plantis: Est primum, inquit,
sapientis officium, bene sentire, ut sibi vivat: proximum, bene loqui,
ut patriae vivat.

Something analogous to the materials and structure of modern poetry I
seem to have noticed--(but here I beg to be understood as speaking
with the utmost diffidence)--in our common landscape painters. Their
foregrounds and intermediate distances are comparatively unattractive:
while the main interest of the landscape is thrown into the background,
where mountains and torrents and castles forbid the eye to proceed, and
nothing tempts it to trace its way back again. But in the works of the
great Italian and Flemish masters, the front and middle objects of the
landscape are the most obvious and determinate, the interest gradually
dies away in the background, and the charm and peculiar worth of the
picture consists, not so much in the specific objects which it conveys
to the understanding in a visual language formed by the substitution of
figures for words, as in the beauty and harmony of the colours, lines,
and expression, with which the objects are represented. Hence novelty of
subject was rather avoided than sought for. Superior excellence in
the manner of treating the same subjects was the trial and test of the
artist's merit.

Not otherwise is it with the more polished poets of the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries, especially those of Italy. The imagery is almost
always general: sun, moon, flowers, breezes, murmuring streams, warbling
songsters, delicious shades, lovely damsels cruel as fair, nymphs,
naiads, and goddesses, are the materials which are common to all, and
which each shaped and arranged according to his judgment or fancy,
little solicitous to add or to particularize. If we make an honourable
exception in favour of some English poets, the thoughts too are as
little novel as the images; and the fable of their narrative poems,
for the most part drawn from mythology, or sources of equal notoriety,
derive their chief attractions from the manner of treating them; from
impassioned flow, or picturesque arrangement. In opposition to the
present age, and perhaps in as faulty an extreme, they placed the
essence of poetry in the art. The excellence, at which they aimed,
consisted in the exquisite polish of the diction, combined with perfect
simplicity. This their prime object they attained by the avoidance of
every word, which a gentleman would not use in dignified conversation,
and of every word and phrase, which none but a learned man would use;
by the studied position of words and phrases, so that not only each
part should be melodious in itself, but contribute to the harmony of
the whole, each note referring and conducting to the melody of all the
foregoing and following words of the same period or stanza; and lastly
with equal labour, the greater because unbetrayed, by the variation and
various harmonies of their metrical movement. Their measures, however,
were not indebted for their variety to the introduction of new metres,
such as have been attempted of late in the Alonzo and Imogen, and others
borrowed from the German, having in their very mechanism a specific
overpowering tune, to which the generous reader humours his voice and
emphasis, with more indulgence to the author than attention to the
meaning or quantity of the words; but which, to an ear familiar with the
numerous sounds of the Greek and Roman poets, has an effect not unlike
that of galloping over a paved road in a German stage-waggon without
springs. On the contrary, the elder bards both of Italy and England
produced a far greater as well as more charming variety by countless
modifications, and subtle balances of sound in the common metres of
their country. A lasting and enviable reputation awaits that man of
genius, who should attempt and realize a union;--who should recall the
high finish, the appropriateness, the facility, the delicate proportion,
and above all, the perfusive and omnipresent grace, which have
preserved, as in a shrine of precious amber, the Sparrow of Catullus,
the Swallow, the Grasshopper, and all the other little loves of
Anacreon; and which, with bright, though diminished glories, revisited
the youth and early manhood of Christian Europe, in the vales of [63]
Arno, and the groves of Isis and of Cam; and who with these should
combine the keener interest, deeper pathos, manlier reflection, and the
fresher and more various imagery, which give a value and a name that
will not pass away to the poets who have done honour to our own times,
and to those of our immediate predecessors.


Examination of the tenets peculiar to Mr. Wordsworth--Rustic life (above
all, low and rustic life) especially unfavourable to the formation of a
human diction--The best parts of language the product of philosophers,
not of clowns or shepherds--Poetry essentially ideal and generic--The
language of Milton as much the language of real life, yea, incomparably
more so than that of the cottager.

As far then as Mr. Wordsworth in his preface contended, and most ably
contended, for a reformation in our poetic diction, as far as he has
evinced the truth of passion, and the dramatic propriety of those
figures and metaphors in the original poets, which, stripped of their
justifying reasons, and converted into mere artifices of connection or
ornament, constitute the characteristic falsity in the poetic style of
the moderns; and as far as he has, with equal acuteness and clearness,
pointed out the process by which this change was effected, and the
resemblances between that state into which the reader's mind is thrown
by the pleasurable confusion of thought from an unaccustomed train
of words and images; and that state which is induced by the natural
language of impassioned feeling; he undertook a useful task, and
deserves all praise, both for the attempt and for the execution. The
provocations to this remonstrance in behalf of truth and nature were
still of perpetual recurrence before and after the publication of this
preface. I cannot likewise but add, that the comparison of such poems
of merit, as have been given to the public within the last ten or twelve
years, with the majority of those produced previously to the appearance
of that preface, leave no doubt on my mind, that Mr. Wordsworth is fully
justified in believing his efforts to have been by no means ineffectual.
Not only in the verses of those who have professed their admiration
of his genius, but even of those who have distinguished themselves
by hostility to his theory, and depreciation of his writings, are the
impressions of his principles plainly visible. It is possible, that with
these principles others may have been blended, which are not equally
evident; and some which are unsteady and subvertible from the narrowness
or imperfection of their basis. But it is more than possible, that
these errors of defect or exaggeration, by kindling and feeding the
controversy, may have conduced not only to the wider propagation of the
accompanying truths, but that, by their frequent presentation to the
mind in an excited state, they may have won for them a more permanent
and practical result. A man will borrow a part from his opponent the
more easily, if he feels himself justified in continuing to reject a
part. While there remain important points in which he can still feel
himself in the right, in which he still finds firm footing for continued
resistance, he will gradually adopt those opinions, which were the least
remote from his own convictions, as not less congruous with his own
theory than with that which he reprobates. In like manner with a kind of
instinctive prudence, he will abandon by little and little his weakest
posts, till at length he seems to forget that they had ever belonged
to him, or affects to consider them at most as accidental and "petty
annexments," the removal of which leaves the citadel unhurt and

My own differences from certain supposed parts of Mr. Wordsworth's
theory ground themselves on the assumption, that his words had been
rightly interpreted, as purporting that the proper diction for poetry
in general consists altogether in a language taken, with due exceptions,
from the mouths of men in real life, a language which actually
constitutes the natural conversation of men under the influence of
natural feelings. My objection is, first, that in any sense this rule
is applicable only to certain classes of poetry; secondly, that even
to these classes it is not applicable, except in such a sense, as
hath never by any one (as far as I know or have read,) been denied or
doubted; and lastly, that as far as, and in that degree in which it
is practicable, it is yet as a rule useless, if not injurious, and
therefore either need not, or ought not to be practised. The poet
informs his reader, that he had generally chosen low and rustic life;
but not as low and rustic, or in order to repeat that pleasure of
doubtful moral effect, which persons of elevated rank and of superior
refinement oftentimes derive from a happy imitation of the rude
unpolished manners and discourse of their inferiors. For the pleasure
so derived may be traced to three exciting causes. The first is the
naturalness, in fact, of the things represented. The second is the
apparent naturalness of the representation, as raised and qualified
by an imperceptible infusion of the author's own knowledge and talent,
which infusion does, indeed, constitute it an imitation as distinguished
from a mere copy. The third cause may be found in the reader's conscious
feeling of his superiority awakened by the contrast presented to
him; even as for the same purpose the kings and great barons of yore
retained, sometimes actual clowns and fools, but more frequently shrewd
and witty fellows in that character. These, however, were not Mr.
Wordsworth's objects. He chose low and rustic life, "because in that
condition the essential passions of the heart find a better soil, in
which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and
speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of
life our elementary feelings coexist in a state of greater simplicity,
and consequently may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly
communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from
those elementary feelings; and from the necessary character of rural
occupations are more easily comprehended, and are more durable; and
lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated
with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature."

Now it is clear to me, that in the most interesting of the poems, in
which the author is more or less dramatic, as THE BROTHERS, MICHAEL,
RUTH, THE MAD MOTHER, and others, the persons introduced are by no means
taken from low or rustic life in the common acceptation of those words!
and it is not less clear, that the sentiments and language, as far as
they can be conceived to have been really transferred from the minds
and conversation of such persons, are attributable to causes and
circumstances not necessarily connected with "their occupations and
abode." The thoughts, feelings, language, and manners of the shepherd-
farmers in the vales of Cumberland and Westmoreland, as far as they are
actually adopted in those poems, may be accounted for from causes, which
will and do produce the same results in every state of life, whether in
town or country. As the two principal I rank that independence, which
raises a man above servitude, or daily toil for the profit of others,
yet not above the necessity of industry and a frugal simplicity
of domestic life; and the accompanying unambitious, but solid and
religious, education, which has rendered few books familiar, but the
Bible, and the Liturgy or Hymn book. To this latter cause, indeed, which
is so far accidental, that it is the blessing of particular countries
and a particular age, not the product of particular places or
employments, the poet owes the show of probability, that his personages
might really feel, think, and talk with any tolerable resemblance to his
representation. It is an excellent remark of Dr. Henry More's, that "a
man of confined education, but of good parts, by constant reading of the
Bible will naturally form a more winning and commanding rhetoric than
those that are learned: the intermixture of tongues and of artificial
phrases debasing their style."

It is, moreover, to be considered that to the formation of healthy
feelings, and a reflecting mind, negations involve impediments not less
formidable than sophistication and vicious intermixture. I am
convinced, that for the human soul to prosper in rustic life a certain
vantage-ground is prerequisite. It is not every man that is likely to be
improved by a country life or by country labours. Education, or original
sensibility, or both, must pre-exist, if the changes, forms, and
incidents of nature are to prove a sufficient stimulant. And where
these are not sufficient, the mind contracts and hardens by want of
stimulants: and the man becomes selfish, sensual, gross, and hard-
hearted. Let the management of the Poor Laws in Liverpool, Manchester,
or Bristol be compared with the ordinary dispensation of the poor
rates in agricultural villages, where the farmers are the overseers and
guardians of the poor. If my own experience have not been particularly
unfortunate, as well as that of the many respectable country clergymen
with whom I have conversed on the subject, the result would engender
more than scepticism concerning the desirable influences of low and
rustic life in and for itself. Whatever may be concluded on the other
side, from the stronger local attachments and enterprising spirit of the
Swiss, and other mountaineers, applies to a particular mode of pastoral
life, under forms of property that permit and beget manners truly
republican, not to rustic life in general, or to the absence of
artificial cultivation. On the contrary the mountaineers, whose manners
have been so often eulogized, are in general better educated and greater
readers than men of equal rank elsewhere. But where this is not the
case, as among the peasantry of North Wales, the ancient mountains, with
all their terrors and all their glories, are pictures to the blind, and
music to the deaf.

I should not have entered so much into detail upon this passage,
but here seems to be the point, to which all the lines of difference
converge as to their source and centre;--I mean, as far as, and in
whatever respect, my poetic creed does differ from the doctrines
promulgated in this preface. I adopt with full faith, the principle of
Aristotle, that poetry, as poetry, is essentially ideal, that it avoids
and excludes all accident; that its apparent individualities of rank,
character, or occupation must be representative of a class; and that
the persons of poetry must be clothed with generic attributes, with the
common attributes of the class: not with such as one gifted individual
might possibly possess, but such as from his situation it is most
probable before-hand that he would possess. If my premises are right and
my deductions legitimate, it follows that there can be no poetic medium
between the swains of Theocritus and those of an imaginary golden age.

The characters of the vicar and the shepherd-mariner in the poem of THE
BROTHERS, and that of the shepherd of Green-head Ghyll in the MICHAEL,
have all the verisimilitude and representative quality, that the
purposes of poetry can require. They are persons of a known and
abiding class, and their manners and sentiments the natural product of
circumstances common to the class. Take Michael for instance:

    An old man stout of heart, and strong of limb.
    His bodily frame had been from youth to age
    Of an unusual strength: his mind was keen,
    Intense, and frugal, apt for all affairs,
    And in his shepherd's calling he was prompt
    And watchful more than ordinary men.
    Hence he had learned the meaning of all winds,
    Of blasts of every tone; and oftentimes
    When others heeded not, He heard the South
    Make subterraneous music, like the noise
    Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills.
    The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock
    Bethought him, and he to himself would say,
    `The winds are now devising work for me!'
    And truly, at all times, the storm, that drives
    The traveller to a shelter, summoned him
    Up to the mountains: he had been alone
    Amid the heart of many thousand mists,
    That came to him and left him on the heights.
    So lived he, until his eightieth year was past.
    And grossly that man errs, who should suppose
    That the green valleys, and the streams and rocks,
    Were things indifferent to the Shepherd's thoughts.
    Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed
    The common air; the hills, which he so oft
    Had climbed with vigorous steps; which had impressed
    So many incidents upon his mind
    Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear;
    Which, like a book, preserved the memory
    Of the dumb animals, whom he had saved,
    Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts,
    So grateful in themselves, the certainty
    Of honourable gain; these fields, these hills
    Which were his living Being, even more
    Than his own blood--what could they less? had laid
    Strong hold on his affections, were to him
    A pleasurable feeling of blind love,
    The pleasure which there is in life itself.

On the other hand, in the poems which are pitched in a lower key, as the
HARRY GILL, and THE IDIOT BOY, the feelings are those of human nature in
general; though the poet has judiciously laid the scene in the country,
in order to place himself in the vicinity of interesting images, without
the necessity of ascribing a sentimental perception of their beauty
to the persons of his drama. In THE IDIOT BOY, indeed, the mother's
character is not so much the real and native product of a "situation
where the essential passions of the heart find a better soil, in which
they can attain their maturity and speak a plainer and more emphatic
language," as it is an impersonation of an instinct abandoned by
judgment. Hence the two following charges seem to me not wholly
groundless: at least, they are the only plausible objections, which I
have heard to that fine poem. The one is, that the author has not, in
the poem itself, taken sufficient care to preclude from the reader's
fancy the disgusting images of ordinary morbid idiocy, which yet it was
by no means his intention to represent. He was even by the "burr, burr,
burr," uncounteracted by any preceding description of the boy's beauty,
assisted in recalling them. The other is, that the idiocy of the boy
is so evenly balanced by the folly of the mother, as to present to the
general reader rather a laughable burlesque on the blindness of anile
dotage, than an analytic display of maternal affection in its ordinary

In THE THORN, the poet himself acknowledges in a note the necessity of
an introductory poem, in which he should have portrayed the character
of the person from whom the words of the poem are supposed to proceed:
a superstitious man moderately imaginative, of slow faculties and deep
feelings, "a captain of a small trading vessel, for example, who, being
past the middle age of life, had retired upon an annuity, or small
independent income, to some village or country town of which he was
not a native, or in which he had not been accustomed to live. Such men
having nothing to do become credulous and talkative from indolence." But
in a poem, still more in a lyric poem--and the Nurse in ROMEO AND JULIET
alone prevents me from extending the remark even to dramatic poetry, if
indeed even the Nurse can be deemed altogether a case in point--it is
not possible to imitate truly a dull and garrulous discourser, without
repeating the effects of dullness and garrulity. However this may be, I
dare assert, that the parts--(and these form the far larger portion of
the whole)--which might as well or still better have proceeded from the
poet's own imagination, and have been spoken in his own character,
are those which have given, and which will continue to give, universal
delight; and that the passages exclusively appropriate to the supposed
narrator, such as the last couplet of the third stanza [64]; the seven
last lines of the tenth [65]; and the five following stanzas, with
the exception of the four admirable lines at the commencement of the
fourteenth, are felt by many unprejudiced and unsophisticated hearts,
as sudden and unpleasant sinkings from the height to which the poet had
previously lifted them, and to which he again re-elevates both himself
and his reader.

If then I am compelled to doubt the theory, by which the choice of
characters was to be directed, not only a priori, from grounds of
reason, but both from the few instances in which the poet himself
need be supposed to have been governed by it, and from the comparative
inferiority of those instances; still more must I hesitate in my assent
to the sentence which immediately follows the former citation; and
which I can neither admit as particular fact, nor as general rule. "The
language, too, of these men has been adopted (purified indeed from what
appear to be its real defects, from all lasting and rational causes of
dislike or disgust) because such men hourly communicate with the best
objects from which the best part of language is originally derived; and
because, from their rank in society and the sameness and narrow circle
of their intercourse, being less under the action of social vanity,
they convey their feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated
expressions." To this I reply; that a rustic's language, purified from
all provincialism and grossness, and so far reconstructed as to be made
consistent with the rules of grammar--(which are in essence no
other than the laws of universal logic, applied to psychological
materials)--will not differ from the language of any other man of
common sense, however learned or refined he may be, except as far as
the notions, which the rustic has to convey, are fewer and more
indiscriminate. This will become still clearer, if we add the
consideration--(equally important though less obvious)--that the rustic,
from the more imperfect development of his faculties, and from the
lower state of their cultivation, aims almost solely to convey insulated
facts, either those of his scanty experience or his traditional belief;
while the educated man chiefly seeks to discover and express those
connections of things, or those relative bearings of fact to fact, from
which some more or less general law is deducible. For facts are valuable
to a wise man, chiefly as they lead to the discovery of the indwelling
law, which is the true being of things, the sole solution of their modes
of existence, and in the knowledge of which consists our dignity and our

As little can I agree with the assertion, that from the objects with
which the rustic hourly communicates the best part of language is
formed. For first, if to communicate with an object implies such an
acquaintance with it, as renders it capable of being discriminately
reflected on, the distinct knowledge of an uneducated rustic would
furnish a very scanty vocabulary. The few things and modes of action
requisite for his bodily conveniences would alone be individualized;
while all the rest of nature would be expressed by a small number of
confused general terms. Secondly, I deny that the words and combinations
of words derived from the objects, with which the rustic is familiar,
whether with distinct or confused knowledge, can be justly said to form
the best part of language. It is more than probable, that many classes
of the brute creation possess discriminating sounds, by which they can
convey to each other notices of such objects as concern their food,
shelter, or safety. Yet we hesitate to call the aggregate of such
sounds a language, otherwise than metaphorically. The best part of human
language, properly so called, is derived from reflection on the acts
of the mind itself. It is formed by a voluntary appropriation of fixed
symbols to internal acts, to processes and results of imagination, the
greater part of which have no place in the consciousness of uneducated
man; though in civilized society, by imitation and passive remembrance
of what they hear from their religious instructors and other superiors,
the most uneducated share in the harvest which they neither sowed,
nor reaped. If the history of the phrases in hourly currency among our
peasants were traced, a person not previously aware of the fact would
be surprised at finding so large a number, which three or four centuries
ago were the exclusive property of the universities and the schools;
and, at the commencement of the Reformation, had been transferred from
the school to the pulpit, and thus gradually passed into common life.
The extreme difficulty, and often the impossibility, of finding words
for the simplest moral and intellectual processes of the languages of
uncivilized tribes has proved perhaps the weightiest obstacle to the
progress of our most zealous and adroit missionaries. Yet these tribes
are surrounded by the same nature as our peasants are; but in still more
impressive forms; and they are, moreover, obliged to particularize many
more of them. When, therefore, Mr. Wordsworth adds, "accordingly, such
a language"--(meaning, as before, the language of rustic life purified
from provincialism)--"arising out of repeated experience and regular
feelings, is a more permanent, and a far more philosophical language,
than that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets, who think
that they are conferring honour upon themselves and their art in
proportion as they indulge in arbitrary and capricious habits of
expression;" it may be answered, that the language, which he has in
view, can be attributed to rustics with no greater right, than the style
of Hooker or Bacon to Tom Brown or Sir Roger L'Estrange. Doubtless, if
what is peculiar to each were omitted in each, the result must needs be
the same. Further, that the poet, who uses an illogical diction, or a
style fitted to excite only the low and changeable pleasure of wonder by
means of groundless novelty, substitutes a language of folly and vanity,
not for that of the rustic, but for that of good sense and natural

Here let me be permitted to remind the reader, that the positions, which
I controvert, are contained in the sentences--"a selection of the real
language of men;"--"the language of these men" (that is, men in low and
rustic life) "has been adopted; I have proposed to myself to imitate,
and, as far as is possible, to adopt the very language of men."

"Between the language of prose and that of metrical composition, there
neither is, nor can be, any essential difference:" it is against these
exclusively that my opposition is directed.

I object, in the very first instance, to an equivocation in the use of
the word "real." Every man's language varies, according to the extent of
his knowledge, the activity of his faculties, and the depth or quickness
of his feelings. Every man's language has, first, its individualities;
secondly, the common properties of the class to which he belongs; and
thirdly, words and phrases of universal use. The language of Hooker,
Bacon, Bishop Taylor, and Burke differs from the common language of the
learned class only by the superior number and novelty of the thoughts
and relations which they had to convey. The language of Algernon Sidney
differs not at all from that, which every well-educated gentleman would
wish to write, and (with due allowances for the undeliberateness, and
less connected train, of thinking natural and proper to conversation)
such as he would wish to talk. Neither one nor the other differ half as
much from the general language of cultivated society, as the language
of Mr. Wordsworth's homeliest composition differs from that of a common
peasant. For "real" therefore, we must substitute ordinary, or lingua
communis. And this, we have proved, is no more to be found in the
phraseology of low and rustic life than in that of any other class. Omit
the peculiarities of each and the result of course must be common to
all. And assuredly the omissions and changes to be made in the language
of rustics, before it could be transferred to any species of poem,
except the drama or other professed imitation, are at least as numerous
and weighty, as would be required in adapting to the same purpose the
ordinary language of tradesmen and manufacturers. Not to mention,
that the language so highly extolled by Mr. Wordsworth varies in every
county, nay in every village, according to the accidental character
of the clergyman, the existence or non-existence of schools; or even,
perhaps, as the exciteman, publican, and barber happen to be, or not to
be, zealous politicians, and readers of the weekly newspaper pro bono
publico. Anterior to cultivation the lingua communis of every country,
as Dante has well observed, exists every where in parts, and no where as
a whole.

Neither is the case rendered at all more tenable by the addition of
the words, "in a state of excitement." For the nature of a man's words,
where he is strongly affected by joy, grief, or anger, must necessarily
depend on the number and quality of the general truths, conceptions and
images, and of the words expressing them, with which his mind had been
previously stored. For the property of passion is not to create; but
to set in increased activity. At least, whatever new connections of
thoughts or images, or--(which is equally, if not more than equally,
the appropriate effect of strong excitement)--whatever generalizations
of truth or experience the heat of passion may produce; yet the terms of
their conveyance must have pre-existed in his former conversations, and
are only collected and crowded together by the unusual stimulation. It
is indeed very possible to adopt in a poem the unmeaning repetitions,
habitual phrases, and other blank counters, which an unfurnished or
confused understanding interposes at short intervals, in order to keep
hold of his subject, which is still slipping from him, and to give him
time for recollection; or, in mere aid of vacancy, as in the scanty
companies of a country stage the same player pops backwards and
forwards, in order to prevent the appearance of empty spaces, in the
procession of Macbeth, or Henry VIII. But what assistance to the poet,
or ornament to the poem, these can supply, I am at a loss to conjecture.
Nothing assuredly can differ either in origin or in mode more widely
from the apparent tautologies of intense and turbulent feeling, in which
the passion is greater and of longer endurance than to be exhausted or
satisfied by a single representation of the image or incident exciting
it. Such repetitions I admit to be a beauty of the highest kind; as
illustrated by Mr. Wordsworth himself from the song of Deborah. At her
feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell:
where he bowed, there he fell down dead. Judges v. 27.


Language of metrical composition, why and wherein essentially different
from that of prose--Origin and elements of metre--Its necessary
consequences, and the conditions thereby imposed on the metrical writer
in the choice of his diction.

I conclude, therefore, that the attempt is impracticable; and that, were
it not impracticable, it would still be useless. For the very power of
making the selection implies the previous possession of the language
selected. Or where can the poet have lived? And by what rules could
he direct his choice, which would not have enabled him to select and
arrange his words by the light of his own judgment? We do not adopt the
language of a class by the mere adoption of such words exclusively, as
that class would use, or at least understand; but likewise by following
the order, in which the words of such men are wont to succeed each
other. Now this order, in the intercourse of uneducated men, is
distinguished from the diction of their superiors in knowledge and
power, by the greater disjunction and separation in the component parts
of that, whatever it be, which they wish to communicate. There is a want
of that prospectiveness of mind, that surview, which enables a man
to foresee the whole of what he is to convey, appertaining to any one
point; and by this means so to subordinate and arrange the different
parts according to their relative importance, as to convey it at once,
and as an organized whole.

Now I will take the first stanza, on which I have chanced to open, in
the Lyrical Ballads. It is one the most simple and the least peculiar in
its language.

    "In distant countries have I been,
     And yet I have not often seen
     A healthy man, a man full grown,
     Weep in the public roads, alone.
     But such a one, on English ground,
     And in the broad highway, I met;
     Along the broad highway he came,
     His cheeks with tears were wet
     Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad;
     And in his arms a lamb he had."

The words here are doubtless such as are current in all ranks of life;
and of course not less so in the hamlet and cottage than in the shop,
manufactory, college, or palace. But is this the order, in which the
rustic would have placed the words? I am grievously deceived, if the
following less compact mode of commencing the same tale be not a far
more faithful copy. "I have been in a many parts, far and near, and I
don't know that I ever saw before a man crying by himself in the public
road; a grown man I mean, that was neither sick nor hurt," etc., etc.
But when I turn to the following stanza in The Thorn:

    "At all times of the day and night
     This wretched woman thither goes;
     And she is known to every star,
     And every wind that blows
     And there, beside the Thorn, she sits,
     When the blue day-light's in the skies,
     And when the whirlwind's on the hill,
     Or frosty air is keen and still,
     And to herself she cries,
     Oh misery! Oh misery!
     Oh woe is me! Oh misery!"

and compare this with the language of ordinary men; or with that which
I can conceive at all likely to proceed, in real life, from such a
narrator, as is supposed in the note to the poem; compare it either in
the succession of the images or of the sentences; I am reminded of the
sublime prayer and hymn of praise, which Milton, in opposition to an
established liturgy, presents as a fair specimen of common extemporary
devotion, and such as we might expect to hear from every self-inspired
minister of a conventicle! And I reflect with delight, how little a mere
theory, though of his own workmanship, interferes with the processes of
genuine imagination in a man of true poetic genius, who possesses, as
Mr. Wordsworth, if ever man did, most assuredly does possess,

    "The Vision and the Faculty divine."

One point then alone remains, but that the most important; its
examination having been, indeed, my chief inducement for the preceding
inquisition. "There neither is nor can be any essential difference
between the language of prose and metrical composition." Such is Mr.
Wordsworth's assertion. Now prose itself, at least in all argumentative
and consecutive works, differs, and ought to differ, from the language
of conversation; even as [66] reading ought to differ from talking.
Unless therefore the difference denied be that of the mere words, as
materials common to all styles of writing, and not of the style itself
in the universally admitted sense of the term, it might be naturally
presumed that there must exist a still greater between the ordonnance
of poetic composition and that of prose, than is expected to distinguish
prose from ordinary conversation.

There are not, indeed, examples wanting in the history of literature,
of apparent paradoxes that have summoned the public wonder as new and
startling truths, but which, on examination, have shrunk into tame and
harmless truisms; as the eyes of a cat, seen in the dark, have been
mistaken for flames of fire. But Mr. Wordsworth is among the last men,
to whom a delusion of this kind would be attributed by anyone, who
had enjoyed the slightest opportunity of understanding his mind and
character. Where an objection has been anticipated by such an author as
natural, his answer to it must needs be interpreted in some sense which
either is, or has been, or is capable of being controverted. My object
then must be to discover some other meaning for the term "essential
difference" in this place, exclusive of the indistinction and community
of the words themselves. For whether there ought to exist a class of
words in the English, in any degree resembling the poetic dialect of
the Greek and Italian, is a question of very subordinate importance. The
number of such words would be small indeed, in our language; and even in
the Italian and Greek, they consist not so much of different words, as
of slight differences in the forms of declining and conjugating the same
words; forms, doubtless, which having been, at some period more or less
remote, the common grammatic flexions of some tribe or province, had
been accidentally appropriated to poetry by the general admiration of
certain master intellects, the first established lights of inspiration,
to whom that dialect happened to be native.

Essence, in its primary signification, means the principle of
individuation, the inmost principle of the possibility of any thing, as
that particular thing. It is equivalent to the idea of a thing, whenever
we use the word, idea, with philosophic precision. Existence, on the
other hand, is distinguished from essence, by the superinduction of
reality. Thus we speak of the essence, and essential properties of a
circle; but we do not therefore assert, that any thing, which really
exists, is mathematically circular. Thus too, without any tautology we
contend for the existence of the Supreme Being; that is, for a reality
correspondent to the idea. There is, next, a secondary use of the word
essence, in which it signifies the point or ground of contra-distinction
between two modifications of the same substance or subject. Thus we
should be allowed to say, that the style of architecture of Westminster
Abbey is essentially different from that of St. Paul, even though both
had been built with blocks cut into the same form, and from the same
quarry. Only in this latter sense of the term must it have been denied
by Mr. Wordsworth (for in this sense alone is it affirmed by the general
opinion) that the language of poetry (that is the formal construction,
or architecture, of the words and phrases) is essentially different from
that of prose. Now the burden of the proof lies with the oppugner,
not with the supporters of the common belief. Mr. Wordsworth, in
consequence, assigns as the proof of his position, "that not only
the language of a large portion of every good poem, even of the most
elevated character, must necessarily, except with reference to the
metre, in no respect differ from that of good prose, but likewise that
some of the most interesting parts of the best poems will be found to be
strictly the language of prose, when prose is well written. The truth of
this assertion might be demonstrated by innumerable passages from almost
all the poetical writings, even of Milton himself." He then quotes
Gray's sonnet--

    "In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
     And reddening Phoebus lifts his golden fire;
     The birds in vain their amorous descant join,
     Or cheerful fields resume their green attire.
     These ears, alas! for other notes repine;
     _A different object do these eyes require;
     My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;
     And in my breast the imperfect joys expire._
     Yet morning smiles the busy race to cheer,
     And new-born pleasure brings to happier men;
     The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;
     To warm their little loves the birds complain:
     _I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear,
     And weep the more, because I weep in vain."_

and adds the following remark:--"It will easily be perceived, that the
only part of this Sonnet which is of any value, is the lines printed in
italics; it is equally obvious, that, except in the rhyme, and in the
use of the single word `fruitless' for fruitlessly, which is so far a
defect, the language of these lines does in no respect differ from that
of prose."

An idealist defending his system by the fact, that when asleep we often
believe ourselves awake, was well answered by his plain neighbour, "Ah,
but when awake do we ever believe ourselves asleep?" Things identical
must be convertible. The preceding passage seems to rest on a similar
sophism. For the question is not, whether there may not occur in prose
an order of words, which would be equally proper in a poem; nor whether
there are not beautiful lines and sentences of frequent occurrence in
good poems, which would be equally becoming as well as beautiful in good
prose; for neither the one nor the other has ever been either denied
or doubted by any one. The true question must be, whether there are not
modes of expression, a construction, and an order of sentences, which
are in their fit and natural place in a serious prose composition, but
would be disproportionate and heterogeneous in metrical poetry; and,
vice versa, whether in the language of a serious poem there may not be
an arrangement both of words and sentences, and a use and selection
of (what are called) figures of speech, both as to their kind, their
frequency, and their occasions, which on a subject of equal weight would
be vicious and alien in correct and manly prose. I contend, that in both
cases this unfitness of each for the place of the other frequently will
and ought to exist.

And first from the origin of metre. This I would trace to the balance
in the mind effected by that spontaneous effort which strives to hold in
check the workings of passion. It might be easily explained likewise
in what manner this salutary antagonism is assisted by the very state,
which it counteracts; and how this balance of antagonists became
organized into metre (in the usual acceptation of that term), by a
supervening act of the will and judgment, consciously and for the
foreseen purpose of pleasure. Assuming these principles, as the data of
our argument, we deduce from them two legitimate conditions, which the
critic is entitled to expect in every metrical work. First, that, as
the elements of metre owe their existence to a state of increased
excitement, so the metre itself should be accompanied by the natural
language of excitement. Secondly, that as these elements are formed
into metre artificially, by a voluntary act, with the design and for
the purpose of blending delight with emotion, so the traces of present
volition should throughout the metrical language be proportionately
discernible. Now these two conditions must be reconciled and co-
present. There must be not only a partnership, but a union; an
interpenetration of passion and of will, of spontaneous impulse and
of voluntary purpose. Again, this union can be manifested only in a
frequency of forms and figures of speech, (originally the offspring of
passion, but now the adopted children of power), greater than would be
desired or endured, where the emotion is not voluntarily encouraged and
kept up for the sake of that pleasure, which such emotion, so tempered
and mastered by the will, is found capable of communicating. It not only
dictates, but of itself tends to produce a more frequent employment of
picturesque and vivifying language, than would be natural in any other
case, in which there did not exist, as there does in the present, a
previous and well understood, though tacit, compact between the poet and
his reader, that the latter is entitled to expect, and the former bound
to supply this species and degree of pleasurable excitement. We may
in some measure apply to this union the answer of Polixenes, in the
Winter's Tale, to Perdita's neglect of the streaked gilliflowers,
because she had heard it said,

    "There is an art, which, in their piedness, shares
     With great creating nature.
     POL.                      Say there be;
     Yet nature is made better by no mean,
     But nature makes that mean; so, o'er that art,
     Which, you say, adds to nature, is an art,
     That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry
     A gentler scion to the wildest stock;
     And make conceive a bark of baser kind
     By bud of nobler race. This is an art,
     Which does mend nature,--change it rather; but
     The art itself is nature."

Secondly, I argue from the effects of metre. As far as metre acts in and
for itself, it tends to increase the vivacity and susceptibility both
of the general feelings and of the attention. This effect it produces by
the continued excitement of surprise, and by the quick reciprocations
of curiosity still gratified and still re-excited, which are too slight
indeed to be at any one moment objects of distinct consciousness,
yet become considerable in their aggregate influence. As a medicated
atmosphere, or as wine during animated conversation, they act
powerfully, though themselves unnoticed. Where, therefore, correspondent
food and appropriate matter are not provided for the attention and
feelings thus roused there must needs be a disappointment felt; like
that of leaping in the dark from the last step of a stair-case, when we
had prepared our muscles for a leap of three or four.

The discussion on the powers of metre in the preface is highly ingenious
and touches at all points on truth. But I cannot find any statement of
its powers considered abstractly and separately. On the contrary Mr.
Wordsworth seems always to estimate metre by the powers, which it exerts
during, (and, as I think, in consequence of) its combination with other
elements of poetry. Thus the previous difficulty is left unanswered,
what the elements are, with which it must be combined, in order
to produce its own effects to any pleasurable purpose. Double and
tri-syllable rhymes, indeed, form a lower species of wit, and, attended
to exclusively for their own sake, may become a source of momentary
amusement; as in poor Smart's distich to the Welsh Squire who had
promised him a hare:

    "Tell me, thou son of great Cadwallader!
     Hast sent the hare? or hast thou swallow'd her?"

But for any poetic purposes, metre resembles, (if the aptness of the
simile may excuse its meanness), yeast, worthless or disagreeable by
itself, but giving vivacity and spirit to the liquor with which it is
proportionally combined.

The reference to THE CHILDREN IN THE WOOD by no means satisfies my
judgment. We all willingly throw ourselves back for awhile into the
feelings of our childhood. This ballad, therefore, we read under such
recollections of our own childish feelings, as would equally endear to
us poems, which Mr. Wordsworth himself would regard as faulty in the
opposite extreme of gaudy and technical ornament. Before the invention
of printing, and in a still greater degree, before the introduction of
writing, metre, especially alliterative metre, (whether alliterative at
the beginning of the words, as in PIERCE PLOUMAN, or at the end, as in
rhymes) possessed an independent value as assisting the recollection,
and consequently the preservation, of any series of truths or incidents.
But I am not convinced by the collation of facts, that THE CHILDREN
IN THE WOOD owes either its preservation, or its popularity, to its
metrical form. Mr. Marshal's repository affords a number of tales in
prose inferior in pathos and general merit, some of as old a date, and
TWO-SHOES, and LITTLE RED RIDING-HOOD are formidable rivals. And
that they have continued in prose, cannot be fairly explained by the
assumption, that the comparative meanness of their thoughts and images
precluded even the humblest forms of metre. The scene of GOODY TWO-SHOES
in the church is perfectly susceptible of metrical narration; and, among
the thaumata thaumastotata even of the present age, I do not recollect a
more astonishing image than that of the "whole rookery, that flew out
of the giant's beard," scared by the tremendous voice, with which this
monster answered the challenge of the heroic TOM HICKATHRIFT!

If from these we turn to compositions universally, and independently of
all early associations, beloved and admired; would the MARIA, THE MONK,
or THE POOR MAN'S ASS of Sterne, be read with more delight, or have a
better chance of immortality, had they without any change in the diction
been composed in rhyme, than in their present state? If I am not grossly
mistaken, the general reply would be in the negative. Nay, I will
confess, that, in Mr. Wordsworth's own volumes, the ANECDOTE FOR
notwithstanding the beauties which are to be found in each of them where
the poet interposes the music of his own thoughts, would have been more
delightful to me in prose, told and managed, as by Mr. Wordsworth they
would have been, in a moral essay or pedestrian tour.

Metre in itself is simply a stimulant of the attention, and therefore
excites the question: Why is the attention to be thus stimulated? Now
the question cannot be answered by the pleasure of the metre itself;
for this we have shown to be conditional, and dependent on the
appropriateness of the thoughts and expressions, to which the metrical
form is superadded. Neither can I conceive any other answer that can be
rationally given, short of this: I write in metre, because I am about to
use a language different from that of prose. Besides, where the language
is not such, how interesting soever the reflections are, that are
capable of being drawn by a philosophic mind from the thoughts or
incidents of the poem, the metre itself must often become feeble. Take
the last three stanzas of THE SAILOR'S MOTHER, for instance. If I could
for a moment abstract from the effect produced on the author's feelings,
as a man, by the incident at the time of its real occurrence, I would
dare appeal to his own judgment, whether in the metre itself he found a
sufficient reason for their being written metrically?

    And, thus continuing, she said,
    "I had a Son, who many a day
    Sailed on the seas; but he is dead;
    In Denmark he was cast away;
    And I have travelled far as Hull to see
    What clothes he might have left, or other property.

    The Bird and Cage they both were his
    'Twas my Son's Bird; and neat and trim
    He kept it: many voyages
    This Singing-bird hath gone with him;
    When last he sailed he left the Bird behind;
    As it might be, perhaps, from bodings of his mind.

    He to a Fellow-lodger's care
    Had left it, to be watched and fed,
    Till he came back again; and there
    I found it when my Son was dead;
    And now, God help me for my little wit!
    I trail it with me, Sir! he took so much delight in it."

If disproportioning the emphasis we read these stanzas so as to make the
rhymes perceptible, even tri-syllable rhymes could scarcely produce an
equal sense of oddity and strangeness, as we feel here in finding rhymes
at all in sentences so exclusively colloquial. I would further ask
whether, but for that visionary state, into which the figure of the
woman and the susceptibility of his own genius had placed the poet's
imagination,--(a state, which spreads its influence and colouring over
all, that co-exists with the exciting cause, and in which

    "The simplest, and the most familiar things
     Gain a strange power of spreading awe around them,") [67]

I would ask the poet whether he would not have felt an abrupt downfall
in these verses from the preceding stanza?

    "The ancient spirit is not dead;
     Old times, thought I, are breathing there;
     Proud was I that my country bred
     Such strength, a dignity so fair:
     She begged an alms, like one in poor estate;
     I looked at her again, nor did my pride abate."

It must not be omitted, and is besides worthy of notice, that those
stanzas furnish the only fair instance that I have been able to discover
in all Mr. Wordsworth's writings, of an actual adoption, or true
imitation, of the real and very language of low and rustic life, freed
from provincialisms.

Thirdly, I deduce the position from all the causes elsewhere assigned,
which render metre the proper form of poetry, and poetry imperfect and
defective without metre. Metre, therefore, having been connected with
poetry most often and by a peculiar fitness, whatever else is combined
with metre must, though it be not itself essentially poetic, have
nevertheless some property in common with poetry, as an intermedium
of affinity, a sort, (if I may dare borrow a well-known phrase from
technical chemistry), of mordaunt between it and the super-added metre.
Now poetry, Mr. Wordsworth truly affirms, does always imply passion:
which word must be here understood in its most general sense, as an
excited state of the feelings and faculties. And as every passion has
its proper pulse, so will it likewise have its characteristic modes
of expression. But where there exists that degree of genius and talent
which entitles a writer to aim at the honours of a poet, the very act of
poetic composition itself is, and is allowed to imply and to produce,
an unusual state of excitement, which of course justifies and demands a
correspondent difference of language, as truly, though not perhaps in as
marked a degree, as the excitement of love, fear, rage, or jealousy. The
vividness of the descriptions or declamations in Donne or Dryden, is as
much and as often derived from the force and fervour of the describer,
as from the reflections, forms or incidents, which constitute their
subject and materials. The wheels take fire from the mere rapidity of
their motion. To what extent, and under what modifications, this may
be admitted to act, I shall attempt to define in an after remark on Mr.
Wordsworth's reply to this objection, or rather on his objection to this
reply, as already anticipated in his preface.

Fourthly, and as intimately connected with this, if not the same
argument in a more general form, I adduce the high spiritual instinct of
the human being impelling us to seek unity by harmonious adjustment, and
thus establishing the principle that all the parts of an organized whole
must be assimilated to the more important and essential parts. This and
the preceding arguments may be strengthened by the reflection, that the
composition of a poem is among the imitative arts; and that imitation,
as opposed to copying, consists either in the interfusion of the same
throughout the radically different, or of the different throughout a
base radically the same.

Lastly, I appeal to the practice of the best poets, of all countries
and in all ages, as authorizing the opinion, (deduced from all the
foregoing,) that in every import of the word essential, which would
not here involve a mere truism, there may be, is, and ought to be an
essential difference between the language of prose and of metrical

In Mr. Wordsworth's criticism of Gray's Sonnet, the reader's sympathy
with his praise or blame of the different parts is taken for granted
rather perhaps too easily. He has not, at least, attempted to win or
compel it by argumentative analysis. In my conception at least, the
lines rejected as of no value do, with the exception of the two first,
differ as much and as little from the language of common life, as those
which he has printed in italics as possessing genuine excellence. Of the
five lines thus honourably distinguished, two of them differ from prose
even more widely, than the lines which either precede or follow, in the
position of the words.

    "A different object do these eyes require;
     My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;
     And in my breast the imperfect joys expire."

But were it otherwise, what would this prove, but a truth, of which no
man ever doubted?--videlicet, that there are sentences, which would be
equally in their place both in verse and prose. Assuredly it does not
prove the point, which alone requires proof; namely, that there are not
passages, which would suit the one and not suit the other. The first
line of this sonnet is distinguished from the ordinary language of
men by the epithet to morning. For we will set aside, at present, the
consideration, that the particular word "smiling" is hackneyed, and,
as it involves a sort of personification, not quite congruous with
the common and material attribute of "shining." And, doubtless, this
adjunction of epithets for the purpose of additional description, where
no particular attention is demanded for the quality of the thing, would
be noticed as giving a poetic cast to a man's conversation. Should the
sportsman exclaim, "Come boys! the rosy morning calls you up:" he will
be supposed to have some song in his head. But no one suspects this,
when he says, "A wet morning shall not confine us to our beds." This
then is either a defect in poetry, or it is not. Whoever should decide
in the affirmative, I would request him to re-peruse any one poem, of
any confessedly great poet from Homer to Milton, or from Aeschylus to
Shakespeare; and to strike out, (in thought I mean), every instance of
this kind. If the number of these fancied erasures did not startle him;
or if he continued to deem the work improved by their total omission;
he must advance reasons of no ordinary strength and evidence, reasons
grounded in the essence of human nature. Otherwise, I should not
hesitate to consider him as a man not so much proof against all
authority, as dead to it.

The second line,

    "And reddening Phoebus lifts his golden fire;--"

has indeed almost as many faults as words. But then it is a bad line,
not because the language is distinct from that of prose; but because
it conveys incongruous images; because it confounds the cause and the
effect; the real thing with the personified representative of the thing;
in short, because it differs from the language of good sense! That the
"Phoebus" is hackneyed, and a school-boy image, is an accidental fault,
dependent on the age in which the author wrote, and not deduced from
the nature of the thing. That it is part of an exploded mythology, is an
objection more deeply grounded. Yet when the torch of ancient learning
was re-kindled, so cheering were its beams, that our eldest poets, cut
off by Christianity from all accredited machinery, and deprived of all
acknowledged guardians and symbols of the great objects of nature,
were naturally induced to adopt, as a poetic language, those fabulous
personages, those forms of the [68]supernatural in nature, which had
given them such dear delight in the poems of their great masters. Nay,
even at this day what scholar of genial taste will not so far sympathize
with them, as to read with pleasure in Petrarch, Chaucer, or Spenser,
what he would perhaps condemn as puerile in a modern poet?

I remember no poet, whose writings would safelier stand the test of Mr.
Wordsworth's theory, than Spenser. Yet will Mr. Wordsworth say, that the
style of the following stanza is either undistinguished from prose,
and the language of ordinary life? Or that it is vicious, and that the
stanzas are blots in THE FAERY QUEEN?

    "By this the northern wagoner had set
     His sevenfold teme behind the stedfast starre,
     That was in ocean waves yet never wet,
     But firme is fixt and sendeth light from farre
     To all that in the wild deep wandering arre
     And chearfull chaunticlere with his note shrill
     Had warned once that Phoebus' fiery carre
     In hast was climbing up the easterne hill,
     Full envious that night so long his roome did fill."

    "At last the golden orientall gate
     Of greatest heaven gan to open fayre,
     And Phoebus fresh, as brydegrome to his mate,
     Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie hayre,
     And hurl'd his glist'ring beams through gloomy ayre:
     Which when the wakeful elfe perceived, streightway
     He started up, and did him selfe prepayre
     In sun-bright armes and battailous array;
     For with that pagan proud he combat will that day."

On the contrary to how many passages, both in hymn books and in blank
verse poems, could I, (were it not invidious), direct the reader's
attention, the style of which is most unpoetic, because, and only
because, it is the style of prose? He will not suppose me capable of
having in my mind such verses, as

    "I put my hat upon my head
     And walk'd into the Strand;
     And there I met another man,
     Whose hat was in his hand."

To such specimens it would indeed be a fair and full reply, that these
lines are not bad, because they are unpoetic; but because they are empty
of all sense and feeling; and that it were an idle attempt to prove that
"an ape is not a Newton, when it is self-evident that he is not a
man." But the sense shall be good and weighty, the language correct and
dignified, the subject interesting and treated with feeling; and yet
the style shall, notwithstanding all these merits, be justly blamable as
prosaic, and solely because the words and the order of the words would
find their appropriate place in prose, but are not suitable to metrical
composition. The CIVIL WARS of Daniel is an instructive, and even
interesting work; but take the following stanzas, (and from the hundred
instances which abound I might probably have selected others far more

    "And to the end we may with better ease
     Discern the true discourse, vouchsafe to shew
     What were the times foregoing near to these,
     That these we may with better profit know.
     Tell how the world fell into this disease;
     And how so great distemperature did grow;
     So shall we see with what degrees it came;
     How things at full do soon wax out of frame."

    "Ten kings had from the Norman Conqu'ror reign'd
     With intermix'd and variable fate,
     When England to her greatest height attain'd
     Of power, dominion, glory, wealth, and state;
     After it had with much ado sustain'd
     The violence of princes, with debate
     For titles and the often mutinies
     Of nobles for their ancient liberties."

    "For first, the Norman, conqu'ring all by might,
     By might was forc'd to keep what he had got;
     Mixing our customs and the form of right
     With foreign constitutions, he had brought;
     Mast'ring the mighty, humbling the poorer wight,
     By all severest means that could be wrought;
     And, making the succession doubtful, rent
     His new-got state, and left it turbulent."

Will it be contended on the one side, that these lines are mean and
senseless? Or on the other, that they are not prosaic, and for that
reason unpoetic? This poet's well-merited epithet is that of the
"well-languaged Daniel;" but likewise, and by the consent of his
contemporaries no less than of all succeeding critics, "the prosaic
Daniel." Yet those, who thus designate this wise and amiable writer
from the frequent incorrespondency of his diction to his metre in
the majority of his compositions, not only deem them valuable and
interesting on other accounts; but willingly admit, that there are to
be found throughout his poems, and especially in his EPISTLES and in his
HYMEN'S TRIUMPH, many and exquisite specimens of that style which, as
the neutral ground of prose and verse, is common to both. A fine and
almost faultless extract, eminent as for other beauties, so for its
perfection in this species of diction, may be seen in Lamb's DRAMATIC
SPECIMENS, a work of various interest from the nature of the selections
themselves, (all from the plays of Shakespeare's contemporaries),--and
deriving a high additional value from the notes, which are full of just
and original criticism, expressed with all the freshness of originality.

Among the possible effects of practical adherence to a theory, that aims
to identify the style of prose and verse,--(if it does not indeed claim
for the latter a yet nearer resemblance to the average style of men
in the viva voce intercourse of real life)--we might anticipate the
following as not the least likely to occur. It will happen, as I have
indeed before observed, that the metre itself, the sole acknowledged
difference, will occasionally become metre to the eye only. The
existence of prosaisms, and that they detract from the merit of a poem,
must at length be conceded, when a number of successive lines can be
rendered, even to the most delicate ear, unrecognizable as verse, or
as having even been intended for verse, by simply transcribing them as
prose; when if the poem be in blank verse, this can be effected without
any alteration, or at most by merely restoring one or two words to
their proper places, from which they have been transplanted [69] for no
assignable cause or reason but that of the author's convenience; but if
it be in rhyme, by the mere exchange of the final word of each line
for some other of the same meaning, equally appropriate, dignified and

The answer or objection in the preface to the anticipated remark
"that metre paves the way to other distinctions," is contained in the
following words. "The distinction of rhyme and metre is regular and
uniform, and not, like that produced by (what is usually called) poetic
diction, arbitrary, and subject to infinite caprices, upon which no
calculation whatever can be made. In the one case the reader is utterly
at the mercy of the poet respecting what imagery or diction he may
choose to connect with the passion." But is this a poet, of whom a poet
is speaking? No surely! rather of a fool or madman: or at best of a vain
or ignorant phantast! And might not brains so wild and so deficient
make just the same havoc with rhymes and metres, as they are supposed to
effect with modes and figures of speech? How is the reader at the mercy
of such men? If he continue to read their nonsense, is it not his own
fault? The ultimate end of criticism is much more to establish the
principles of writing, than to furnish rules how to pass judgment on
what has been written by others; if indeed it were possible that the two
could be separated. But if it be asked, by what principles the poet is
to regulate his own style, if he do not adhere closely to the sort
and order of words which he hears in the market, wake, high-road, or
plough-field? I reply; by principles, the ignorance or neglect of which
would convict him of being no poet, but a silly or presumptuous usurper
of the name. By the principles of grammar, logic, psychology. In one
word by such a knowledge of the facts, material and spiritual, that most
appertain to his art, as, if it have been governed and applied by good
sense, and rendered instinctive by habit, becomes the representative and
reward of our past conscious reasonings, insights, and conclusions, and
acquires the name of Taste. By what rule that does not leave the
reader at the poet's mercy, and the poet at his own, is the latter
to distinguish between the language suitable to suppressed, and the
language, which is characteristic of indulged, anger? Or between that of
rage and that of jealousy? Is it obtained by wandering about in search
of angry or jealous people in uncultivated society, in order to copy
their words? Or not far rather by the power of imagination proceeding
upon the all in each of human nature? By meditation, rather than by
observation? And by the latter in consequence only of the former? As
eyes, for which the former has pre-determined their field of vision, and
to which, as to its organ, it communicates a microscopic power? There
is not, I firmly believe, a man now living, who has, from his own inward
experience, a clearer intuition, than Mr. Wordsworth himself, that the
last mentioned are the true sources of genial discrimination. Through
the same process and by the same creative agency will the poet
distinguish the degree and kind of the excitement produced by the very
act of poetic composition. As intuitively will he know, what differences
of style it at once inspires and justifies; what intermixture of
conscious volition is natural to that state; and in what instances
such figures and colours of speech degenerate into mere creatures of an
arbitrary purpose, cold technical artifices of ornament or connection.
For, even as truth is its own light and evidence, discovering at once
itself and falsehood, so is it the prerogative of poetic genius
to distinguish by parental instinct its proper offspring from the
changelings, which the gnomes of vanity or the fairies of fashion may
have laid in its cradle or called by its names. Could a rule be
given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a
mechanical art. It would be morphosis, not poiaesis. The rules of the
Imagination are themselves the very powers of growth and production.
The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines
and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the
superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach
feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths. We find
no difficulty in admitting as excellent, and the legitimate language of
poetic fervour self-impassioned, Donne's apostrophe to the Sun in the
second stanza of his PROGRESS OF THE SOUL.

    "Thee, eye of heaven! this great Soul envies not;
     By thy male force is all, we have, begot.
     In the first East thou now beginn'st to shine,
     Suck'st early balm and island spices there,
     And wilt anon in thy loose-rein'd career
     At Tagus, Po, Seine, Thames, and Danow dine,
     And see at night this western world of mine:
     Yet hast thou not more nations seen than she,
     Who before thee one day began to be,
     And, thy frail light being quench'd, shall long, long outlive

Or the next stanza but one:

    "Great Destiny, the commissary of God,
     That hast mark'd out a path and period
     For every thing! Who, where we offspring took,
     Our ways and ends see'st at one instant: thou
     Knot of all causes! Thou, whose changeless brow
     Ne'er smiles nor frowns! O! vouchsafe thou to look,
     And shew my story in thy eternal book," etc.

As little difficulty do we find in excluding from the honours of
unaffected warmth and elevation the madness prepense of pseudopoesy, or
the startling hysteric of weakness over-exerting itself, which bursts on
the unprepared reader in sundry odes and apostrophes to abstract terms.
Such are the Odes to jealousy, to Hope, to Oblivion, and the like, in
Dodsley's collection and the magazines of that day, which seldom fail
to remind me of an Oxford copy of verses on the two SUTTONS, commencing

    "Inoculation, heavenly maid! descend!"

It is not to be denied that men of undoubted talents, and even poets
of true, though not of first-rate, genius, have from a mistaken theory
deluded both themselves and others in the opposite extreme. I once read
to a company of sensible and well-educated women the introductory period
of Cowley's preface to his "Pindaric Odes," written in imitation of
the style and manner of the odes of Pindar. "If," (says Cowley), "a man
should undertake to translate Pindar, word for word, it would be thought
that one madman had translated another as may appear, when he, that
understands not the original, reads the verbal traduction of him into
Latin prose, than which nothing seems more raving." I then proceeded
with his own free version of the second Olympic, composed for the
charitable purpose of rationalizing the Theban Eagle.

    "Queen of all harmonious things,
     Dancing words and speaking strings,
     What god, what hero, wilt thou sing?
     What happy man to equal glories bring?
     Begin, begin thy noble choice,
     And let the hills around reflect the image of thy voice.
     Pisa does to Jove belong,
     Jove and Pisa claim thy song.
     The fair first-fruits of war, th' Olympic games,
     Alcides, offer'd up to Jove;
     Alcides, too, thy strings may move,
     But, oh! what man to join with these can worthy prove?
     Join Theron boldly to their sacred names;
     Theron the next honour claims;
     Theron to no man gives place,
     Is first in Pisa's and in Virtue's race;
     Theron there, and he alone,
     Ev'n his own swift forefathers has outgone."

One of the company exclaimed, with the full assent of the rest, that
if the original were madder than this, it must be incurably mad. I then
translated the ode from the Greek, and as nearly as possible, word
for word; and the impression was, that in the general movement of the
periods, in the form of the connections and transitions, and in the
sober majesty of lofty sense, it appeared to them to approach more
nearly, than any other poetry they had heard, to the style of our Bible,
in the prophetic books. The first strophe will suffice as a specimen:

    "Ye harp-controlling hymns! (or) ye hymns the sovereigns of harps!
     What God? what Hero?
     What Man shall we celebrate?
     Truly Pisa indeed is of Jove,
     But the Olympiad (or the Olympic games) did Hercules establish,
     The first-fruits of the spoils of war.
     But Theron for the four-horsed car,
     That bore victory to him,
     It behoves us now to voice aloud:
     The Just, the Hospitable,
     The Bulwark of Agrigentum,
     Of renowned fathers
     The Flower, even him
     Who preserves his native city erect and safe."

But are such rhetorical caprices condemnable only for their deviation
from the language of real life? and are they by no other means to be
precluded, but by the rejection of all distinctions between prose and
verse, save that of metre? Surely good sense, and a moderate insight
into the constitution of the human mind, would be amply sufficient to
prove, that such language and such combinations are the native product
neither of the fancy nor of the imagination; that their operation
consists in the excitement of surprise by the juxta-position and
apparent reconciliation of widely different or incompatible things. As
when, for instance, the hills are made to reflect the image of a
voice. Surely, no unusual taste is requisite to see clearly, that
this compulsory juxtaposition is not produced by the presentation of
impressive or delightful forms to the inward vision, nor by any sympathy
with the modifying powers with which the genius of the poet had united
and inspirited all the objects of his thought; that it is therefore
a species of wit, a pure work of the will, and implies a leisure and
self-possession both of thought and of feeling, incompatible with the
steady fervour of a mind possessed and filled with the grandeur of its
subject. To sum up the whole in one sentence. When a poem, or a part of
a poem, shall be adduced, which is evidently vicious in the figures and
centexture of its style, yet for the condemnation of which no reason can
be assigned, except that it differs from the style in which men actually
converse, then, and not till then, can I hold this theory to be either
plausible, or practicable, or capable of furnishing either rule,
guidance, or precaution, that might not, more easily and more safely, as
well as more naturally, have been deduced in the author's own mind from
considerations of grammar, logic, and the truth and nature of things,
confirmed by the authority of works, whose fame is not of one country
nor of one age.


Continuation--Concerning the real object which, it is probable, Mr.
Wordsworth had before him in his critical preface--Elucidation and
application of this.

It might appear from some passages in the former part of Mr.
Wordsworth's preface, that he meant to confine his theory of style, and
the necessity of a close accordance with the actual language of men,
to those particular subjects from low and rustic life, which by way of
experiment he had purposed to naturalize as a new species in our English
poetry. But from the train of argument that follows; from the reference
to Milton; and from the spirit of his critique on Gray's sonnet; those
sentences appear to have been rather courtesies of modesty, than actual
limitations of his system. Yet so groundless does this system appear
on a close examination; and so strange and overwhelming [70] in its
consequences, that I cannot, and I do not, believe that the poet did
ever himself adopt it in the unqualified sense, in which his expressions
have been understood by others, and which, indeed, according to all the
common laws of interpretation they seem to bear. What then did he
mean? I apprehend, that in the clear perception, not unaccompanied with
disgust or contempt, of the gaudy affectations of a style which passed
current with too many for poetic diction, (though in truth it had as
little pretensions to poetry, as to logic or common sense,) he narrowed
his view for the time; and feeling a justifiable preference for the
language of nature and of good sense, even in its humblest and least
ornamented forms, he suffered himself to express, in terms at once too
large and too exclusive, his predilection for a style the most remote
possible from the false and showy splendour which he wished to explode.
It is possible, that this predilection, at first merely comparative,
deviated for a time into direct partiality. But the real object which
he had in view, was, I doubt not, a species of excellence which had
been long before most happily characterized by the judicious and amiable
Garve, whose works are so justly beloved and esteemed by the Germans,
in his remarks on Gellert, from which the following is literally
translated. "The talent, that is required in order to make, excellent
verses, is perhaps greater than the philosopher is ready to admit, or
would find it in his power to acquire: the talent to seek only the apt
expression of the thought, and yet to find at the same time with it the
rhyme and the metre. Gellert possessed this happy gift, if ever any one
of our poets possessed it; and nothing perhaps contributed more to the
great and universal impression which his fables made on their first
publication, or conduces more to their continued popularity. It was
a strange and curious phaenomenon, and such as in Germany had been
previously unheard of, to read verses in which everything was expressed
just as one would wish to talk, and yet all dignified, attractive,
and interesting; and all at the same time perfectly correct as to the
measure of the syllables and the rhyme. It is certain, that poetry when
it has attained this excellence makes a far greater impression than
prose. So much so indeed, that even the gratification which the very
rhymes afford, becomes then no longer a contemptible or trifling
gratification." [71]

However novel this phaenomenon may have been in Germany at the time
of Gellert, it is by no means new, nor yet of recent existence in our
language. Spite of the licentiousness with which Spenser occasionally
compels the orthography of his words into a subservience to his rhymes,
the whole FAIRY QUEEN is an almost continued instance of this beauty.
Waller's song GO, LOVELY ROSE, is doubtless familiar to most of my
readers; but if I had happened to have had by me the Poems of Cotton,
more but far less deservedly celebrated as the author of the VIRGIL
TRAVESTIED, I should have indulged myself, and I think have gratified
many, who are not acquainted with his serious works, by selecting some
admirable specimens of this style. There are not a few poems in that
volume, replete with every excellence of thought, image, and passion,
which we expect or desire in the poetry of the milder muse; and yet so
worded, that the reader sees no one reason either in the selection or
the order of the words, why he might not have said the very same in an
appropriate conversation, and cannot conceive how indeed he could have
expressed such thoughts otherwise without loss or injury to his meaning.

But in truth our language is, and from the first dawn of poetry ever
has been, particularly rich in compositions distinguished by this
excellence. The final e, which is now mute, in Chaucer's age was either
sounded or dropt indifferently. We ourselves still use either "beloved"
or "belov'd" according as the rhyme, or measure, or the purpose of
more or less solemnity may require. Let the reader then only adopt the
pronunciation of the poet and of the court, at which he lived, both with
respect to the final e and to the accentuation of the last syllable;
I would then venture to ask, what even in the colloquial language of
elegant and unaffected women, (who are the peculiar mistresses of "pure
English and undefiled,") what could we hear more natural, or seemingly
more unstudied, than the following stanzas from Chaucer's TROILUS AND

    "And after this forth to the gate he wente,
     Ther as Creseide out rode a ful gode pass,
     And up and doun there made he many' a wente,
     And to himselfe ful oft he said, Alas!
     Fro hennis rode my blisse and my solas
     As woulde blisful God now for his joie,
     I might her sene agen come in to Troie!
       And to the yondir hil I gan her Bide,
     Alas! and there I toke of her my leve
     And yond I saw her to her fathir ride;
     For sorow of whiche mine hert shall to-cleve;
     And hithir home I came whan it was eve,
     And here I dwel, out-cast from ally joie,
     And steal, til I maie sene her efte in Troie.
       "And of himselfe imaginid he ofte
     To ben defaitid, pale and woxin lesse
     Than he was wonte, and that men saidin softe,
     What may it be? who can the sothe gesse,
     Why Troilus hath al this hevinesse?
     And al this n' as but his melancolie,
     That he had of himselfe suche fantasie.
       Anothir time imaginin he would
     That every wight, that past him by the wey,
     Had of him routhe, and that thei saien should,
     I am right sory, Troilus wol dey!
     And thus he drove a daie yet forth or twey,
     As ye have herde: suche life gan he to lede
     As he that stode betwixin hope and drede:
       For which him likid in his songis shewe
     Th' encheson of his wo as he best might,
     And made a songe of words but a fewe,
     Somwhat his woful herte for to light,
     And whan he was from every mann'is sight
     With softe voice he of his lady dere,
     That absent was, gan sing as ye may here:

          *     *     *     *     *     *

       This song, when he thus songin had, ful Bone
     He fil agen into his sighis olde
     And every night, as was his wonte to done;
     He stode the bright moone to beholde
     And all his sorowe to the moone he tolde,
     And said: I wis, whan thou art hornid newe,
     I shall be glad, if al the world be trewe!"

Another exquisite master of this species of style, where the scholar and
the poet supplies the material, but the perfect well-bred gentleman the
expressions and the arrangement, is George Herbert. As from the nature
of the subject, and the too frequent quaintness of the thoughts, his
little known, I shall extract two poems. The first is a sonnet, equally
admirable for the weight, number, and expression of the thoughts, and
for the simple dignity of the language. Unless, indeed, a fastidious
taste should object to the latter half of the sixth line. The second is
a poem of greater length, which I have chosen not only for the present
purpose, but likewise as a striking example and illustration of an
assertion hazarded in a former page of these sketches namely, that the
characteristic fault of our elder poets is the reverse of that, which
distinguishes too many of our more recent versifiers; the one conveying
the most fantastic thoughts in the most correct and natural language;
the other in the most fantastic language conveying the most trivial
thoughts. The latter is a riddle of words; the former an enigma of
thoughts. The one reminds me of an odd passage in Drayton's IDEAS

    As other men, so I myself do muse,
    Why in this sort I wrest invention so;
    And why these giddy metaphors I use,
    Leaving the path the greater part do go;
    I will resolve you: I am lunatic! [72]

The other recalls a still odder passage in THE SYNAGOGUE: or THE SHADOW
OF THE TEMPLE, a connected series of poems in imitation of Herbert's
TEMPLE, and, in some editions, annexed to it.

               O how my mind
                     Is gravell'd!
                          Not a thought,
               That I can find,
                     But's ravell'd
                          All to nought!
               Short ends of threds,
                     And narrow shreds
                          Of lists,
                     Knots, snarled ruffs,
                          Loose broken tufts
                              Of twists,
    Are my torn meditations ragged clothing,
    Which, wound and woven, shape a suit for nothing:
    One while I think, and then I am in pain
    To think how to unthink that thought again.

Immediately after these burlesque passages I cannot proceed to the
extracts promised, without changing the ludicrous tone of feeling by the
interposition of the three following stanzas of Herbert's.


    Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
    The bridal of the earth and sky,
    The dew shall weep thy fall to-night;
        For thou must die.

    Sweet rose, whose hue angry and brave
    Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye
    Thy root is ever in its grave,
        And thou must die.

    Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
    A box, where sweets compacted lie
    My music shews, ye have your closes,
        And all must die.

         THE BOSOM SIN:

      Lord, with what care hast thou begirt us round,
      Parents first season us; then schoolmasters
      Deliver us to laws; they send us bound
      To rules of reason, holy messengers,
    Pulpits and Sundays, sorrow dogging sin,
      Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,
      Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in,
    Bibles laid open, millions of surprises;
    Blessings beforehand, ties of gratefulness,
      The sound of Glory ringing in our ears
      Without, our shame; within, our consciences;
    Angels and grace, eternal hopes and fears.
      Yet all these fences and their whole array
      One cunning bosom-sin blows quite away.


    Dear friend, sit down, the tale is long and sad
    And in my faintings, I presume, your love
    Will more comply than help. A Lord I had,
    And have, of whom some grounds, which may improve,
    I hold for two lives, and both lives in me.
    To him I brought a dish of fruit one day,
    And in the middle placed my heart. But he
                                     (I sigh to say)
    Look'd on a servant, who did know his eye,
    Better than you know me, or (which is one)
    Than I myself. The servant instantly,
    Quitting the fruit, seiz'd on my heart alone,
    And threw it in a font, wherein did fall
    A stream of blood, which issued from the side
    Of a great rock: I well remember all,
    And have good cause: there it was dipt and dyed,
    And wash'd, and wrung: the very wringing yet
    Enforceth tears. "Your heart was foul, I fear."
    Indeed 'tis true. I did and do commit
    Many a fault, more than my lease will bear;
    Yet still ask'd pardon, and was not denied.
    But you shall hear. After my heart was well,
    And clean and fair, as I one eventide
                                     (I sigh to tell)
    Walk'd by myself abroad, I saw a large
    And spacious furnace flaming, and thereon
    A boiling caldron, round about whose verge
    Was in great letters set AFFLICTION.
    The greatness shew'd the owner. So I went
    To fetch a sacrifice out of my fold,
    Thinking with that, which I did thus present,
    To warm his love, which, I did fear, grew cold.
    But as my heart did tender it, the man
    Who was to take it from me, slipt his hand,
    And threw my heart into the scalding pan;
    My heart that brought it (do you understand?)
    The offerer's heart. "Your heart was hard, I fear."
    Indeed 'tis true. I found a callous matter
    Began to spread and to expatiate there:
    But with a richer drug than scalding water
    I bath'd it often, ev'n with holy blood,
    Which at a board, while many drank bare wine,
    A friend did steal into my cup for good,
    Ev'n taken inwardly, and most divine
    To supple hardnesses. But at the length
    Out of the caldron getting, soon I fled
    Unto my house, where to repair the strength
    Which I had lost, I hasted to my bed:
    But when I thought to sleep out all these faults,
                                      (I sigh to speak)
    I found that some had stuff'd the bed with thoughts,
    I would say thorns. Dear, could my heart not break,
    When with my pleasures ev'n my rest was gone?
    Full well I understood who had been there:
    For I had given the key to none but one:
    It must be he. "Your heart was dull, I fear."
    Indeed a slack and sleepy state of mind
    Did oft possess me; so that when I pray'd,
    Though my lips went, my heart did stay behind.
    But all my scores were by another paid,
    Who took my guilt upon him. "Truly, Friend,
    "For aught I hear, your Master shews to you
    "More favour than you wot of. Mark the end.
    "The font did only what was old renew
    "The caldron suppled what was grown too hard:
    "The thorns did quicken what was grown too dull:
    "All did but strive to mend what you had marr'd.
    "Wherefore be cheer'd, and praise him to the full
    "Each day, each hour, each moment of the week
    "Who fain would have you be new, tender quick."


The former subject continued--The neutral style, or that common to Prose
and Poetry, exemplified by specimens from Chaucer, Herbert, and others.

I have no fear in declaring my conviction, that the excellence defined
and exemplified in the preceding chapter is not the characteristic
excellence of Mr. Wordsworth's style; because I can add with equal
sincerity, that it is precluded by higher powers. The praise of uniform
adherence to genuine, logical English is undoubtedly his; nay, laying
the main emphasis on the word uniform, I will dare add that, of all
contemporary poets, it is his alone. For, in a less absolute sense of
the word, I should certainly include Mr. Bowies, Lord Byron, and, as to
all his later writings, Mr. Southey, the exceptions in their works being
so few and unimportant. But of the specific excellence described in
the quotation from Garve, I appear to find more, and more undoubted
specimens in the works of others; for instance, among the minor poems of
Mr. Thomas Moore, and of our illustrious Laureate. To me it will always
remain a singular and noticeable fact; that a theory, which would
establish this lingua communis, not only as the best, but as the only
commendable style, should have proceeded from a poet, whose diction,
next to that of Shakespeare and Milton, appears to me of all others the
most individualized and characteristic. And let it be remembered too,
that I am now interpreting the controverted passages of Mr. Wordsworth's
critical preface by the purpose and object, which he may be supposed to
have intended, rather than by the sense which the words themselves must
convey, if they are taken without this allowance.

A person of any taste, who had but studied three or four of
Shakespeare's principal plays, would without the name affixed scarcely
fail to recognise as Shakespeare's a quotation from any other play,
though but of a few lines. A similar peculiarity, though in a less
degree, attends Mr. Wordsworth's style, whenever he speaks in his own
person; or whenever, though under a feigned name, it is clear that he
himself is still speaking, as in the different dramatis personae of
THE RECLUSE. Even in the other poems, in which he purposes to be most
dramatic, there are few in which it does not occasionally burst forth.
The reader might often address the poet in his own words with reference
to the persons introduced:

    "It seems, as I retrace the ballad line by line
     That but half of it is theirs, and the better half is thine."

Who, having been previously acquainted with any considerable portion
of Mr. Wordsworth's publications, and having studied them with a full
feeling of the author's genius, would not at once claim as Wordsworthian
the little poem on the rainbow?

    "The Child is father of the Man, etc."

Or in the LUCY GRAY?

    "No mate, no comrade Lucy knew;
     She dwelt on a wide moor;
     The sweetest thing that ever grew
     Beside a human door."


    "Along the river's stony marge
     The sand-lark chants a joyous song;
     The thrush is busy in the wood,
     And carols loud and strong.
     A thousand lambs are on the rocks,
     All newly born! both earth and sky
     Keep jubilee, and more than all,
     Those boys with their green coronal;
     They never hear the cry,
     That plaintive cry! which up the hill
     Comes from the depth of Dungeon-Ghyll."

Need I mention the exquisite description of the Sea-Loch in THE BLIND
HIGHLAND BOY. Who but a poet tells a tale in such language to the little
ones by the fire-side as--

    "Yet had he many a restless dream;
     Both when he heard the eagle's scream,
     And when he heard the torrents roar,
     And heard the water beat the shore
         Near where their cottage stood.

    Beside a lake their cottage stood,
    Not small like our's, a peaceful flood;
    But one of mighty size, and strange;
    That, rough or smooth, is full of change,
        And stirring in its bed.

    For to this lake, by night and day,
    The great Sea-water finds its way
    Through long, long windings of the hills,
    And drinks up all the pretty rills
        And rivers large and strong:

    Then hurries back the road it came
    Returns on errand still the same;
    This did it when the earth was new;
    And this for evermore will do,
        As long as earth shall last.

    And, with the coming of the tide,
    Come boats and ships that sweetly ride,
    Between the woods and lofty rocks;
    And to the shepherds with their flocks
        Bring tales of distant lands."

I might quote almost the whole of his RUTH, but take the following

    But, as you have before been told,
    This Stripling, sportive, gay, and bold,
    And, with his dancing crest,
    So beautiful, through savage lands
    Had roamed about with vagrant bands
        Of Indians in the West.

    The wind, the tempest roaring high,
    The tumult of a tropic sky,
    Might well be dangerous food
    For him, a Youth to whom was given
    So much of earth--so much of heaven,
        And such impetuous blood.

    Whatever in those climes he found
    Irregular in sight or sound
    Did to his mind impart
    A kindred impulse, seemed allied
    To his own powers, and justified
        The workings of his heart.

    Nor less, to feed voluptuous thought,
    The beauteous forms of nature wrought,
    Fair trees and lovely flowers;
    The breezes their own languor lent;
    The stars had feelings, which they sent
        Into those magic bowers.

    Yet in his worst pursuits, I ween,
    That sometimes there did intervene
    Pure hopes of high intent
    For passions linked to forms so fair
    And stately, needs must have their share
        Of noble sentiment."

But from Mr. Wordsworth's more elevated compositions, which already form
three-fourths of his works; and will, I trust, constitute hereafter a
still larger proportion;--from these, whether in rhyme or blank verse,
it would be difficult and almost superfluous to select instances of a
diction peculiarly his own, of a style which cannot be imitated without
its being at once recognised, as originating in Mr. Wordsworth. It would
not be easy to open on any one of his loftier strains, that does not
contain examples of this; and more in proportion as the lines are more
excellent, and most like the author. For those, who may happen to have
been less familiar with his writings, I will give three specimens
taken with little choice. The first from the lines on the BOY OF

    "Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls,
     That they might answer him.--And they would shout
     Across the watery vale, and shout again,
     With long halloos, and screams, and echoes loud
     Redoubled and redoubled; concourse wild
     Of mirth and jocund din! And when it chanced,
     That pauses of deep silence mocked his skill,
     Then sometimes in that silence, while he hung
     Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
     Has carried far into his heart the voice
     Of mountain-torrents; or the visible scene [73]
     Would enter unawares into his mind
     With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
     Its woods, and that uncertain heaven, received
     Into the bosom of the steady lake."

The second shall be that noble imitation of Drayton [74] (if it was not
rather a coincidence) in the lines TO JOANNA.

    --"When I had gazed perhaps two minutes' space,
    Joanna, looking in my eyes, beheld
    That ravishment of mine, and laughed aloud.
    The Rock, like something starting from a sleep,
    Took up the Lady's voice, and laughed again!
    That ancient woman seated on Helm-crag
    Was ready with her cavern; Hammar-scar
    And the tall Steep of Silver-How sent forth
    A noise of laughter; southern Lougbrigg heard,
    And Fairfield answered with a mountain tone.
    Helvellyn far into the clear blue sky
    Carried the lady's voice!--old Skiddaw blew
    His speaking trumpet!--back out of the clouds
    From Glaramara southward came the voice:
    And Kirkstone tossed it from its misty head!"

The third, which is in rhyme, I take from the SONG AT THE FEAST OF
BROUGHAM CASTLE, upon the restoration of Lord Clifford, the Shepherd, to
the Estates and Honours of his Ancestors.

        ------"Now another day is come,
        Fitter hope, and nobler doom;
        He hath thrown aside his crook,
        And hath buried deep his book;
        Armour rusting in his halls
        On the blood of Clifford calls,--
        'Quell the Scot,' exclaims the Lance!
        Bear me to the heart of France,
        Is the longing of the Shield--
        Tell thy name, thou trembling Field!--
        Field of death, where'er thou be,
        Groan thou with our victory!
        Happy day, and mighty hour,
        When our Shepherd, in his power,
        Mailed and horsed, with lance and sword,
        To his ancestors restored,
        Like a re-appearing Star,
        Like a glory from afar,
        First shall head the flock of war!"

   "Alas! the fervent harper did not know,
    That for a tranquil Soul the Lay was framed,
    Who, long compelled in humble walks to go,
    Was softened into feeling, soothed, and tamed.

    Love had he found in huts where poor men lie;
    His daily teachers had been woods and rills,
    The silence that is in the starry sky,
    The sleep that is among the lonely hills."

The words themselves in the foregoing extracts, are, no doubt,
sufficiently common for the greater part.--But in what poem are they not
so, if we except a few misadventurous attempts to translate the arts
and sciences into verse? In THE EXCURSION the number of polysyllabic
(or what the common people call, dictionary) words is more than usually
great. And so must it needs be, in proportion to the number and variety
of an author's conceptions, and his solicitude to express them with
precision.--But are those words in those places commonly employed in
real life to express the same thought or outward thing? Are they the
style used in the ordinary intercourse of spoken words? No! nor are the
modes of connections; and still less the breaks and transitions. Would
any but a poet--at least could any one without being conscious that he
had expressed himself with noticeable vivacity--have described a bird
singing loud by, "The thrush is busy in the wood?"--or have spoken of
boys with a string of club-moss round their rusty hats, as the boys
"with their green coronal?"--or have translated a beautiful May-day into
"Both earth and sky keep jubilee!"--or have brought all the different
marks and circumstances of a sealoch before the mind, as the actions of
a living and acting power? Or have represented the reflection of the sky
in the water, as "That uncertain heaven received into the bosom of the
steady lake?" Even the grammatical construction is not unfrequently
peculiar; as "The wind, the tempest roaring high, the tumult of a tropic
sky, might well be dangerous food to him, a youth to whom was given,
etc." There is a peculiarity in the frequent use of the asymartaeton
(that is, the omission of the connective particle before the last of
several words, or several sentences used grammatically as single words,
all being in the same case and governing or governed by the same verb)
and not less in the construction of words by apposition ("to him, a
youth"). In short, were there excluded from Mr. Wordsworth's poetic
compositions all, that a literal adherence to the theory of his preface
would exclude, two thirds at least of the marked beauties of his poetry
must be erased. For a far greater number of lines would be sacrificed
than in any other recent poet; because the pleasure received from
Wordsworth's poems being less derived either from excitement of
curiosity or the rapid flow of narration, the striking passages form a
larger proportion of their value. I do not adduce it as a fair criterion
of comparative excellence, nor do I even think it such; but merely as
matter of fact. I affirm, that from no contemporary writer could so many
lines be quoted, without reference to the poem in which they are found,
for their own independent weight or beauty. From the sphere of my own
experience I can bring to my recollection three persons of no every-day
powers and acquirements, who had read the poems of others with more and
more unallayed pleasure, and had thought more highly of their authors,
as poets; who yet have confessed to me, that from no modern work had so
many passages started up anew in their minds at different times, and as
different occasions had awakened a meditative mood.


Remarks on the present mode of conducting critical journals.

Long have I wished to see a fair and philosophical inquisition into the
character of Wordsworth, as a poet, on the evidence of his published
works; and a positive, not a comparative, appreciation of their
characteristic excellencies, deficiencies, and defects. I know no claim
that the mere opinion of any individual can have to weigh down the
opinion of the author himself; against the probability of whose parental
partiality we ought to set that of his having thought longer and more
deeply on the subject. But I should call that investigation fair and
philosophical in which the critic announces and endeavours to establish
the principles, which he holds for the foundation of poetry in general,
with the specification of these in their application to the different
classes of poetry. Having thus prepared his canons of criticism for
praise and condemnation, he would proceed to particularize the most
striking passages to which he deems them applicable, faithfully noticing
the frequent or infrequent recurrence of similar merits or defects,
and as faithfully distinguishing what is characteristic from what is
accidental, or a mere flagging of the wing. Then if his premises be
rational, his deductions legitimate, and his conclusions justly applied,
the reader, and possibly the poet himself, may adopt his judgment in
the light of judgment and in the independence of free-agency. If he has
erred, he presents his errors in a definite place and tangible form, and
holds the torch and guides the way to their detection.

I most willingly admit, and estimate at a high value, the services which
the EDINBURGH REVIEW, and others formed afterwards on the same plan,
have rendered to society in the diffusion of knowledge. I think the
commencement of the EDINBURGH REVIEW an important epoch in periodical
criticism; and that it has a claim upon the gratitude of the literary
republic, and indeed of the reading public at large, for having
originated the scheme of reviewing those books only, which are
susceptible and deserving of argumentative criticism. Not less
meritorious, and far more faithfully and in general far more ably
executed, is their plan of supplying the vacant place of the trash or
mediocrity, wisely left to sink into oblivion by its own weight, with
original essays on the most interesting subjects of the time, religious,
or political; in which the titles of the books or pamphlets prefixed
furnish only the name and occasion of the disquisition. I do not arraign
the keenness, or asperity of its damnatory style, in and for itself, as
long as the author is addressed or treated as the mere impersonation of
the work then under trial. I have no quarrel with them on this account,
as long as no personal allusions are admitted, and no re-commitment
(for new trial) of juvenile performances, that were published, perhaps
forgotten, many years before the commencement of the review: since for
the forcing back of such works to public notice no motives are easily
assignable, but such as are furnished to the critic by his own personal
malignity; or what is still worse, by a habit of malignity in the form
of mere wantonness.

    "No private grudge they need, no personal spite
     The viva sectio is its own delight!
     All enmity, all envy, they disclaim,
     Disinterested thieves of our good name:
     Cool, sober murderers of their neighbour's fame!"
                                                 S. T. C.

Every censure, every sarcasm respecting a publication which the critic,
with the criticised work before him, can make good, is the critic's
right. The writer is authorized to reply, but not to complain. Neither
can anyone prescribe to the critic, how soft or how hard; how friendly,
or how bitter, shall be the phrases which he is to select for the
expression of such reprehension or ridicule. The critic must know, what
effect it is his object to produce; and with a view to this effect must
he weigh his words. But as soon as the critic betrays, that he knows
more of his author, than the author's publications could have told him;
as soon as from this more intimate knowledge, elsewhere obtained, he
avails himself of the slightest trait against the author; his censure
instantly becomes personal injury, his sarcasms personal insults. He
ceases to be a critic, and takes on him the most contemptible character
to which a rational creature can be degraded, that of a gossip,
backbiter, and pasquillant: but with this heavy aggravation, that he
steals the unquiet, the deforming passions of the world into the museum;
into the very place which, next to the chapel and oratory, should be our
sanctuary, and secure place of refuge; offers abominations on the altar
of the Muses; and makes its sacred paling the very circle in which he
conjures up the lying and profane spirit.

This determination of unlicensed personality, and of permitted and
legitimate censure, (which I owe in part to the illustrious Lessing,
himself a model of acute, spirited, sometimes stinging, but always
argumentative and honourable, criticism) is beyond controversy the
true one: and though I would not myself exercise all the rights of the
latter, yet, let but the former be excluded, I submit myself to
its exercise in the hands of others, without complaint and without

Let a communication be formed between any number of learned men in the
various branches of science and literature; and whether the president
and central committee be in London, or Edinburgh, if only they
previously lay aside their individuality, and pledge themselves
inwardly, as well as ostensibly, to administer judgment according to
a constitution and code of laws; and if by grounding this code on the
two-fold basis of universal morals and philosophic reason, independent
of all foreseen application to particular works and authors, they obtain
the right to speak each as the representative of their body corporate;
they shall have honour and good wishes from me, and I shall accord to
them their fair dignities, though self-assumed, not less cheerfully than
if I could inquire concerning them in the herald's office, or turn
to them in the book of peerage. However loud may be the outcries for
prevented or subverted reputation, however numerous and impatient the
complaints of merciless severity and insupportable despotism, I shall
neither feel, nor utter aught but to the defence and justification of
the critical machine. Should any literary Quixote find himself provoked
by its sounds and regular movements, I should admonish him with Sancho
Panza, that it is no giant but a windmill; there it stands on its own
place, and its own hillock, never goes out of its way to attack anyone,
and to none and from none either gives or asks assistance. When
the public press has poured in any part of its produce between its
mill-stones, it grinds it off, one man's sack the same as another, and
with whatever wind may happen to be then blowing. All the two-and-thirty
winds are alike its friends. Of the whole wide atmosphere it does not
desire a single finger-breadth more than what is necessary for its sails
to turn round in. But this space must be left free and unimpeded. Gnats,
beetles, wasps, butterflies, and the whole tribe of ephemerals and
insignificants, may flit in and out and between; may hum, and buzz, and
jar; may shrill their tiny pipes, and wind their puny horns, unchastised
and unnoticed. But idlers and bravadoes of larger size and prouder show
must beware, how they place themselves within its sweep. Much less may
they presume to lay hands on the sails, the strength of which is
neither greater nor less than as the wind is, which drives them round.
Whomsoever the remorseless arm slings aloft, or whirls along with it in
the air, he has himself alone to blame; though, when the same arm throws
him from it, it will more often double than break the force of his fall.

Putting aside the too manifest and too frequent interference of national
party, and even personal predilection or aversion; and reserving for
deeper feelings those worse and more criminal intrusions into the
sacredness of private life, which not seldom merit legal rather than
literary chastisement, the two principal objects and occasions which I
find for blame and regret in the conduct of the review in question are
first, its unfaithfulness to its own announced and excellent plan, by
subjecting to criticism works neither indecent nor immoral, yet of such
trifling importance even in point of size and, according to the critic's
own verdict, so devoid of all merit, as must excite in the most candid
mind the suspicion, either that dislike or vindictive feelings were at
work; or that there was a cold prudential pre-determination to increase
the sale of the review by flattering the malignant passions of human
nature. That I may not myself become subject to the charge, which I am
bringing against others, by an accusation without proof, I refer to
the article on Dr. Rennell's sermon in the very first number of the
EDINBURGH REVIEW as an illustration of my meaning. If in looking through
all the succeeding volumes the reader should find this a solitary
instance, I must submit to that painful forfeiture of esteem, which
awaits a groundless or exaggerated charge.

The second point of objection belongs to this review only in common with
all other works of periodical criticism: at least, it applies in common
to the general system of all, whatever exception there may be in favour
of particular articles. Or if it attaches to THE EDINBURGH REVIEW, and
to its only corrival (THE QUARTERLY), with any peculiar force, this
results from the superiority of talent, acquirement, and information
which both have so undeniably displayed; and which doubtless deepens
the regret though not the blame. I am referring to the substitution
of assertion for argument; to the frequency of arbitrary and sometimes
petulant verdicts, not seldom unsupported even by a single quotation
from the work condemned, which might at least have explained the
critic's meaning, if it did not prove the justice of his sentence. Even
where this is not the case, the extracts are too often made without
reference to any general grounds or rules from which the faultiness or
inadmissibility of the qualities attributed may be deduced; and without
any attempt to show, that the qualities are attributable to the passage
extracted. I have met with such extracts from Mr. Wordsworth's poems,
annexed to such assertions, as led me to imagine, that the reviewer,
having written his critique before he had read the work, had then
pricked with a pin for passages, wherewith to illustrate the various
branches of his preconceived opinions. By what principle of rational
choice can we suppose a critic to have been directed (at least in a
Christian country, and himself, we hope, a Christian) who gives the
following lines, portraying the fervour of solitary devotion excited by
the magnificent display of the Almighty's works, as a proof and
example of an author's tendency to downright ravings, and absolute

    "O then what soul was his, when on the tops
     Of the high mountains he beheld the sun
     Rise up, and bathe the world in light! He looked--
     Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth,
     And ocean's liquid mass, beneath him lay
     In gladness and deep joy. The clouds were touched,
     And in their silent faces did he read
     Unutterable love. Sound needed none,
     Nor any voice of joy: his spirit drank
     The spectacle! sensation, soul, and form,
     All melted into him; they swallowed up
     His animal being; in them did he live,
     And by them did he live: they were his life."

Can it be expected, that either the author or his admirers, should be
induced to pay any serious attention to decisions which prove nothing
but the pitiable state of the critic's own taste and sensibility? On
opening the review they see a favourite passage, of the force and truth
of which they had an intuitive certainty in their own inward experience
confirmed, if confirmation it could receive, by the sympathy of their
most enlightened friends; some of whom perhaps, even in the world's
opinion, hold a higher intellectual rank than the critic himself would
presume to claim. And this very passage they find selected, as the
characteristic effusion of a mind deserted by reason!--as furnishing
evidence that the writer was raving, or he could not have thus strung
words together without sense or purpose! No diversity of taste seems
capable of explaining such a contrast in judgment.

That I had over-rated the merit of a passage or poem, that I had erred
concerning the degree of its excellence, I might be easily induced to
believe or apprehend. But that lines, the sense of which I had analysed
and found consonant with all the best convictions of my understanding;
and the imagery and diction of which had collected round those
convictions my noblest as well as my most delightful feelings; that I
should admit such lines to be mere nonsense or lunacy, is too much for
the most ingenious arguments to effect. But that such a revolution of
taste should be brought about by a few broad assertions, seems little
less than impossible. On the contrary, it would require an effort of
charity not to dismiss the criticism with the aphorism of the wise man,
in animam malevolam sapientia haud intrare potest.

What then if this very critic should have cited a large number of single
lines and even of long paragraphs, which he himself acknowledges to
possess eminent and original beauty? What if he himself has owned, that
beauties as great are scattered in abundance throughout the whole
book? And yet, though under this impression, should have commenced his
critique in vulgar exultation with a prophecy meant to secure its own
fulfilment? With a "This won't do!" What? if after such acknowledgments
extorted from his own judgment he should proceed from charge to charge
of tameness and raving; flights and flatness; and at length, consigning
the author to the house of incurables, should conclude with a strain of
rudest contempt evidently grounded in the distempered state of his own
moral associations? Suppose too all this done without a single leading
principle established or even announced, and without any one attempt at
argumentative deduction, though the poet had presented a more than usual
opportunity for it, by having previously made public his own principles
of judgment in poetry, and supported them by a connected train of

The office and duty of the poet is to select the most dignified as well

    "The gayest, happiest attitude of things."

The reverse, for in all cases a reverse is possible, is the appropriate
business of burlesque and travesty, a predominant taste for which has
been always deemed a mark of a low and degraded mind. When I was at
Rome, among many other visits to the tomb of Julius II. I went thither
once with a Prussian artist, a man of genius and great vivacity of
feeling. As we were gazing on Michael Angelo's MOSES, our conversation
turned on the horns and beard of that stupendous statue; of the
necessity of each to support the other; of the super-human effect of the
former, and the necessity of the existence of both to give a harmony and
integrity both to the image and the feeling excited by it. Conceive
them removed, and the statue would become un-natural, without being
super-natural. We called to mind the horns of the rising sun, and I
repeated the noble passage from Taylor's HOLY DYING. That horns were the
emblem of power and sovereignty among the Eastern nations, and are still
retained as such in Abyssinia; the Achelous of the ancient Greeks; and
the probable ideas and feelings, that originally suggested the mixture
of the human and the brute form in the figure, by which they realized
the idea of their mysterious Pan, as representing intelligence blended
with a darker power, deeper, mightier, and more universal than the
conscious intellect of man; than intelligence;--all these thoughts and
recollections passed in procession before our minds. My companion who
possessed more than his share of the hatred, which his countrymen bore
to the French, had just observed to me, "a Frenchman, Sir! is the only
animal in the human shape, that by no possibility can lift itself up to
religion or poetry:" when, lo! two French officers of distinction and
rank entered the church! "Mark you," whispered the Prussian, "the
first thing which those scoundrels will notice--(for they will begin by
instantly noticing the statue in parts, without one moment's pause of
admiration impressed by the whole)--will be the horns and the beard. And
the associations, which they will immediately connect with them will be
those of a he-goat and a cuckold." Never did man guess more luckily. Had
he inherited a portion of the great legislator's prophetic powers, whose
statue we had been contemplating, he could scarcely have uttered words
more coincident with the result: for even as he had said, so it came to

In THE EXCURSION the poet has introduced an old man, born in humble but
not abject circumstances, who had enjoyed more than usual advantages of
education, both from books and from the more awful discipline of nature.
This person he represents, as having been driven by the restlessness of
fervid feelings, and from a craving intellect to an itinerant life; and
as having in consequence passed the larger portion of his time, from
earliest manhood, in villages and hamlets from door to door,

     "A vagrant Merchant bent beneath his load."

Now whether this be a character appropriate to a lofty didactick poem,
is perhaps questionable. It presents a fair subject for controversy; and
the question is to be determined by the congruity or incongruity of such
a character with what shall be proved to be the essential constituents
of poetry. But surely the critic who, passing by all the opportunities
which such a mode of life would present to such a man; all the
advantages of the liberty of nature, of solitude, and of solitary
thought; all the varieties of places and seasons, through which his
track had lain, with all the varying imagery they bring with them; and
lastly, all the observations of men,

    "Their manners, their enjoyments, and pursuits,
     Their passions and their feelings="

which the memory of these yearly journeys must have given and recalled
to such a mind--the critic, I say, who from the multitude of possible
associations should pass by all these in order to fix his attention
exclusively on the pin-papers, and stay-tapes, which might have been
among the wares of his pack; this critic, in my opinion, cannot be
thought to possess a much higher or much healthier state of moral
feeling, than the Frenchmen above recorded.


The characteristic defects of Wordsworth's poetry, with the principles
from which the judgment, that they are defects, is deduced--Their
proportion to the beauties--For the greatest part characteristic of his
theory only.

If Mr. Wordsworth have set forth principles of poetry which his
arguments are insufficient to support, let him and those who have
adopted his sentiments be set right by the confutation of those
arguments, and by the substitution of more philosophical principles. And
still let the due credit be given to the portion and importance of the
truths, which are blended with his theory; truths, the too exclusive
attention to which had occasioned its errors, by tempting him to carry
those truths beyond their proper limits. If his mistaken theory have at
all influenced his poetic compositions, let the effects be pointed
out, and the instances given. But let it likewise be shown, how far the
influence has acted; whether diffusively, or only by starts; whether the
number and importance of the poems and passages thus infected be great
or trifling compared with the sound portion; and lastly, whether they
are inwoven into the texture of his works, or are loose and separable.
The result of such a trial would evince beyond a doubt, what it is high
time to announce decisively and aloud, that the supposed characteristics
of Mr. Wordsworth's poetry, whether admired or reprobated; whether they
are simplicity or simpleness; faithful adherence to essential nature, or
wilful selections from human nature of its meanest forms and under the
least attractive associations; are as little the real characteristics of
his poetry at large, as of his genius and the constitution of his mind.

In a comparatively small number of poems he chose to try an experiment;
and this experiment we will suppose to have failed. Yet even in these
poems it is impossible not to perceive that the natural tendency of
the poet's mind is to great objects and elevated conceptions. The
poem entitled FIDELITY is for the greater part written in language,
as unraised and naked as any perhaps in the two volumes. Yet take the
following stanza and compare it with the preceding stanzas of the same

    "There sometimes doth a leaping fish
     Send through the tarn a lonely cheer;
     The crags repeat the raven's croak,
     In symphony austere;
     Thither the rainbow comes--the cloud--
     And mists that spread the flying shroud;
     And sun-beams; and the sounding blast,
     That, if it could, would hurry past;
     But that enormous barrier holds it fast."

Or compare the four last lines of the concluding stanza with the former

    "Yes, proof was plain that, since the day
     On which the Traveller thus had died,
     The Dog had watched about the spot,
     Or by his Master's side:
     How nourish'd here through such long time
     He knows, who gave that love sublime,--
     And gave that strength of feeling, great
     Above all human estimate!"

Can any candid and intelligent mind hesitate in determining, which of
these best represents the tendency and native character of the poet's
genius? Will he not decide that the one was written because the poet
would so write, and the other because he could not so entirely repress
the force and grandeur of his mind, but that he must in some part or
other of every composition write otherwise? In short, that his only
disease is the being out of his element; like the swan, that, having
amused himself, for a while, with crushing the weeds on the river's
bank, soon returns to his own majestic movements on its reflecting and
sustaining surface. Let it be observed that I am here supposing the
imagined judge, to whom I appeal, to have already decided against the
poet's theory, as far as it is different from the principles of the art,
generally acknowledged.

I cannot here enter into a detailed examination of Mr. Wordsworth's
works; but I will attempt to give the main results of my own judgment,
after an acquaintance of many years, and repeated perusals. And though,
to appreciate the defects of a great mind it is necessary to understand
previously its characteristic excellences, yet I have already expressed
myself with sufficient fulness, to preclude most of the ill effects that
might arise from my pursuing a contrary arrangement. I will therefore
commence with what I deem the prominent defects of his poems hitherto

The first characteristic, though only occasional defect, which I appear
to myself to find in these poems is the inconstancy of the style. Under
this name I refer to the sudden and unprepared transitions from lines
or sentences of peculiar felicity--(at all events striking and
original)--to a style, not only unimpassioned but undistinguished. He
sinks too often and too abruptly to that style, which I should place
in the second division of language, dividing it into the three species;
first, that which is peculiar to poetry; second, that which is only
proper in prose; and third, the neutral or common to both. There have
been works, such as Cowley's Essay on Cromwell, in which prose and verse
are intermixed (not as in the Consolation of Boetius, or the ARGENIS
of Barclay, by the insertion of poems supposed to have been spoken or
composed on occasions previously related in prose, but) the poet passing
from one to the other, as the nature of the thoughts or his own feelings
dictated. Yet this mode of composition does not satisfy a cultivated
taste. There is something unpleasant in the being thus obliged to
alternate states of feeling so dissimilar, and this too in a species of
writing, the pleasure from which is in part derived from the preparation
and previous expectation of the reader. A portion of that awkwardness
is felt which hangs upon the introduction of songs in our modern comic
operas; and to prevent which the judicious Metastasio (as to whose
exquisite taste there can be no hesitation, whatever doubts may be
entertained as to his poetic genius) uniformly placed the aria at the
end of the scene, at the same time that he almost always raises and
impassions the style of the recitative immediately preceding. Even in
real life, the difference is great and evident between words used as the
arbitrary marks of thought, our smooth market-coin of intercourse,
with the image and superscription worn out by currency; and those which
convey pictures either borrowed from one outward object to enliven and
particularize some other; or used allegorically to body forth the inward
state of the person speaking; or such as are at least the exponents of
his peculiar turn and unusual extent of faculty. So much so indeed, that
in the social circles of private life we often find a striking use of
the latter put a stop to the general flow of conversation, and by the
excitement arising from concentred attention produce a sort of damp
and interruption for some minutes after. But in the perusal of works of
literary art, we prepare ourselves for such language; and the business
of the writer, like that of a painter whose subject requires unusual
splendour and prominence, is so to raise the lower and neutral tints,
that what in a different style would be the commanding colours, are
here used as the means of that gentle degradation requisite in order to
produce the effect of a whole. Where this is not achieved in a poem,
the metre merely reminds the reader of his claims in order to disappoint
them; and where this defect occurs frequently, his feelings are
alternately startled by anticlimax and hyperclimax.

I refer the reader to the exquisite stanzas cited for another purpose
from THE BLIND HIGHLAND BOY; and then annex, as being in my opinion
instances of this disharmony in style, the two following:

    "And one, the rarest, was a shell,
     Which he, poor child, had studied well:
     The shell of a green turtle, thin
     And hollow;--you might sit therein,
         It was so wide, and deep."

    "Our Highland Boy oft visited
     The house which held this prize; and, led
     By choice or chance, did thither come
     One day, when no one was at home,
         And found the door unbarred."

Or page 172, vol. I.

    "'Tis gone forgotten, let me do
     My best. There was a smile or two--
     I can remember them, I see
     The smiles worth all the world to me.
     Dear Baby! I must lay thee down:
     Thou troublest me with strange alarms;
     Smiles hast thou, sweet ones of thine own;
     I cannot keep thee in my arms;
     For they confound me: as it is,
     I have forgot those smiles of his!"

Or page 269, vol. I.

    "Thou hast a nest, for thy love and thy rest
     And though little troubled with sloth
     Drunken lark! thou would'st be loth
     To be such a traveller as I.
         Happy, happy liver!
     _With a soul as strong as a mountain river
     Pouring out praise to th' Almighty giver,_
     Joy and jollity be with us both!
     Hearing thee or else some other,
         As merry a brother
     I on the earth will go plodding on
     By myself cheerfully till the day is done."

The incongruity, which I appear to find in this passage, is that of the
two noble lines in italics with the preceding and following. So vol. II.
page 30.

    "Close by a Pond, upon the further side,
     He stood alone; a minute's space I guess,
     I watch'd him, he continuing motionless
     To the Pool's further margin then I drew;
     He being all the while before me full in view."

Compare this with the repetition of the same image, the next stanza but

    "And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,
     Beside the little pond or moorish flood
     Motionless as a Cloud the Old Man stood,
     That heareth not the loud winds when they call;
     And moveth altogether, if it move at all."

Or lastly, the second of the three following stanzas, compared both with
the first and the third.

    "My former thoughts returned; the fear that kills;
     And hope that is unwilling to be fed;
     Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
     And mighty Poets in their misery dead.
     But now, perplex'd by what the Old Man had said,
     My question eagerly did I renew,
     'How is it that you live, and what is it you do?'

    "He with a smile did then his words repeat;
     And said, that gathering Leeches far and wide
     He travell'd; stirring thus about his feet
     The waters of the Ponds where they abide.
     `Once I could meet with them on every side;
     'But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
     'Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may.'

     While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
     The Old Man's shape, and speech, all troubled me
     In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
     About the weary moors continually,
     Wandering about alone and silently."

Indeed this fine poem is especially characteristic of the author. There
is scarce a defect or excellence in his writings of which it would
not present a specimen. But it would be unjust not to repeat that this
defect is only occasional. From a careful reperusal of the two volumes
of poems, I doubt whether the objectionable passages would amount in the
whole to one hundred lines; not the eighth part of the number of pages.
In THE EXCURSION the feeling of incongruity is seldom excited by
the diction of any passage considered in itself, but by the sudden
superiority of some other passage forming the context.

The second defect I can generalize with tolerable accuracy, if the
reader will pardon an uncouth and new-coined word. There is, I should
say, not seldom a matter-of-factness in certain poems. This may
be divided into, first, a laborious minuteness and fidelity in the
representation of objects, and their positions, as they appeared to the
poet himself; secondly, the insertion of accidental circumstances,
in order to the full explanation of his living characters, their
dispositions and actions; which circumstances might be necessary to
establish the probability of a statement in real life, where nothing is
taken for granted by the hearer; but appear superfluous in poetry, where
the reader is willing to believe for his own sake. To this actidentality
I object, as contravening the essence of poetry, which Aristotle
pronounces to be spoudaiotaton kai philosophotaton genos, the most
intense, weighty and philosophical product of human art; adding, as the
reason, that it is the most catholic and abstract. The following passage
from Davenant's prefatory letter to Hobbes well expresses this truth.
"When I considered the actions which I meant to describe; (those
inferring the persons), I was again persuaded rather to choose those
of a former age, than the present; and in a century so far removed, as
might preserve me from their improper examinations, who know not the
requisites of a poem, nor how much pleasure they lose, (and even the
pleasures of heroic poesy are not unprofitable), who take away the
liberty of a poet, and fetter his feet in the shackles of an historian.
For why should a poet doubt in story to mend the intrigues of fortune
by more delightful conveyances of probable fictions, because austere
historians have entered into bond to truth? An obligation, which were
in poets as foolish and unnecessary, as is the bondage of false martyrs,
who lie in chains for a mistaken opinion. But by this I would imply,
that truth, narrative and past, is the idol of historians, (who worship
a dead thing), and truth operative, and by effects continually alive,
is the mistress of poets, who hath not her existence in matter, but in

For this minute accuracy in the painting of local imagery, the lines in
THE EXCURSION, pp. 96, 97, and 98, may be taken, if not as a striking
instance, yet as an illustration of my meaning. It must be some strong
motive--(as, for instance, that the description was necessary to the
intelligibility of the tale)--which could induce me to describe in
a number of verses what a draughtsman could present to the eye with
incomparably greater satisfaction by half a dozen strokes of his pencil,
or the painter with as many touches of his brush. Such descriptions too
often occasion in the mind of a reader, who is determined to understand
his author, a feeling of labour, not very dissimilar to that, with
which he would construct a diagram, line by line, for a long geometrical
proposition. It seems to be like taking the pieces of a dissected map
out of its box. We first look at one part, and then at another, then
join and dove-tail them; and when the successive acts of attention have
been completed, there is a retrogressive effort of mind to behold it as
a whole. The poet should paint to the imagination, not to the fancy; and
I know no happier case to exemplify the distinction between these two
faculties. Master-pieces of the former mode of poetic painting abound
in the writings of Milton, for example:

    "The fig-tree; not that kind for fruit renown'd,
    "But such as at this day, to Indians known,
    "In Malabar or Decan spreads her arms
    "Branching so broad and long, that in the ground
    "The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow
    "About the mother tree, a pillar'd shade
    "High over-arch'd and ECHOING WALKS BETWEEN;
    "There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat,
    "Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds
    "At hoop-holes cut through thickest shade."

This is creation rather than painting, or if painting, yet such, and
with such co-presence of the whole picture flashed at once upon the
eye, as the sun paints in a camera obscura. But the poet must likewise
understand and command what Bacon calls the vestigia communia of the
senses, the latency of all in each, and more especially as by a magical
penny duplex, the excitement of vision by sound and the exponents of
sound. Thus, "The echoing walks between," may be almost said to reverse
the fable in tradition of the head of Memnon, in the Egyptian statue.
Such may be deservedly entitled the creative words in the world of

The second division respects an apparent minute adherence to matter-
of-fact in character and Incidents; a biographical attention to
probability, and an anxiety of explanation and retrospect. Under this
head I shall deliver, with no feigned diffidence, the results of my best
reflection on the great point of controversy between Mr. Wordsworth and
his objectors; namely, on the choice of his characters. I have already
declared, and, I trust justified, my utter dissent from the mode of
argument which his critics have hitherto employed. To their question,
"Why did you choose such a character, or a character from such a rank
of life?"--the poet might in my opinion fairly retort: why with the
conception of my character did you make wilful choice of mean or
ludicrous associations not furnished by me, but supplied from your own
sickly and fastidious feelings? How was it, indeed, probable, that
such arguments could have any weight with an author, whose plan, whose
guiding principle, and main object it was to attack and subdue that
state of association, which leads us to place the chief value on those
things on which man differs from man, and to forget or disregard the
high dignities, which belong to Human Nature, the sense and the feeling,
which may be, and ought to be, found in all ranks? The feelings with
which, as Christians, we contemplate a mixed congregation rising
or kneeling before their common Maker, Mr. Wordsworth would have us
entertain at all times, as men, and as readers; and by the excitement of
this lofty, yet prideless impartiality in poetry, he might hope to have
encouraged its continuance in real life. The praise of good men be his!
In real life, and, I trust, even in my imagination, I honour a virtuous
and wise man, without reference to the presence or absence of artificial
advantages. Whether in the person of an armed baron, a laurelled bard,
or of an old Pedlar, or still older Leech-gatherer, the same qualities
of head and heart must claim the same reverence. And even in poetry I am
not conscious, that I have ever suffered my feelings to be disturbed
or offended by any thoughts or images, which the poet himself has not

But yet I object, nevertheless, and for the following reasons. First,
because the object in view, as an immediate object, belongs to the moral
philosopher, and would be pursued, not only more appropriately, but in
my opinion with far greater probability of success, in sermons or moral
essays, than in an elevated poem. It seems, indeed, to destroy the main
fundamental distinction, not only between a poem and prose, but even
between philosophy and works of fiction, inasmuch as it proposes truth
for its immediate object, instead of pleasure. Now till the blessed time
shall come, when truth itself shall be pleasure, and both shall be so
united, as to be distinguishable in words only, not in feeling, it will
remain the poet's office to proceed upon that state of association,
which actually exists as general; instead of attempting first to make
it what it ought to be, and then to let the pleasure follow. But here
is unfortunately a small hysteron-proteron. For the communication of
pleasure is the introductory means by which alone the poet must expect
to moralize his readers. Secondly: though I were to admit, for a moment,
this argument to be groundless: yet how is the moral effect to be
produced, by merely attaching the name of some low profession to powers
which are least likely, and to qualities which are assuredly not more
likely, to be found in it? The Poet, speaking in his own person, may
at once delight and improve us by sentiments, which teach us the
independence of goodness, of wisdom, and even of genius, on the favours
of fortune. And having made a due reverence before the throne of
Antonine, he may bow with equal awe before Epictetus among his

                      ------"and rejoice
    In the plain presence of his dignity."

Who is not at once delighted and improved, when the Poet Wordsworth
himself exclaims,

    "Oh! many are the Poets that are sown
     By Nature; men endowed with highest gifts
     The vision and the faculty divine,
     Yet wanting the accomplishment of verse,
     Nor having e'er, as life advanced, been led
     By circumstance to take unto the height
     The measure of themselves, these favoured Beings,
     All but a scattered few, live out their time,
     Husbanding that which they possess within,
     And go to the grave, unthought of. Strongest minds
     Are often those of whom the noisy world
     Hears least."

To use a colloquial phrase, such sentiments, in such language, do one's
heart good; though I for my part, have not the fullest faith in the
truth of the observation. On the contrary I believe the instances to
be exceedingly rare; and should feel almost as strong an objection to
introduce such a character in a poetic fiction, as a pair of black swans
on a lake, in a fancy landscape. When I think how many, and how much
better books than Homer, or even than Herodotus, Pindar or Aeschylus,
could have read, are in the power of almost every man, in a country
where almost every man is instructed to read and write; and how
restless, how difficultly hidden, the powers of genius are; and yet find
even in situations the most favourable, according to Mr. Wordsworth, for
the formation of a pure and poetic language; in situations which ensure
familiarity with the grandest objects of the imagination; but one Burns,
among the shepherds of Scotland, and not a single poet of humble life
among those of English lakes and mountains; I conclude, that Poetic
Genius is not only a very delicate but a very rare plant.

But be this as it may, the feelings with which,

    "I think of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,
     The sleepless Soul, that perished in his pride;
     Of Burns, who walk'd in glory and in joy
     Behind his plough, upon the mountain-side"--

are widely different from those with which I should read a poem,
where the author, having occasion for the character of a poet and a
philosopher in the fable of his narration, had chosen to make him a
chimney-sweeper; and then, in order to remove all doubts on the subject,
had invented an account of his birth, parentage and education, with all
the strange and fortunate accidents which had concurred in making him at
once poet, philosopher, and sweep! Nothing, but biography, can justify
this. If it be admissible even in a novel, it must be one in the manner
of De Foe's, that were meant to pass for histories, not in the manner of
JONES, or even a JOSEPH ANDREWS. Much less then can it be legitimately
introduced in a poem, the characters of which, amid the strongest
individualization, must still remain representative. The precepts of
Horace, on this point, are grounded on the nature both of poetry and of
the human mind. They are not more peremptory, than wise and prudent.
For in the first place a deviation from them perplexes the reader's
feelings, and all the circumstances which are feigned in order to make
such accidents less improbable, divide and disquiet his faith, rather
than aid and support it. Spite of all attempts, the fiction will appear,
and unfortunately not as fictitious but as false. The reader not only
knows, that the sentiments and language are the poet's own, and his
own too in his artificial character, as poet; but by the fruitless
endeavours to make him think the contrary, he is not even suffered to
forget it. The effect is similar to that produced by an Epic Poet, when
the fable and the characters are derived from Scripture history, as in
THE MESSIAH of Klopstock, or in CUMBERLAND'S CALVARY; and not merely
suggested by it as in the PARADISE LOST of Milton. That illusion,
contradistinguished from delusion, that negative faith, which simply
permits the images presented to work by their own force, without either
denial or affirmation of their real existence by the judgment, is
rendered impossible by their immediate neighbourhood to words and facts
of known and absolute truth. A faith, which transcends even historic
belief, must absolutely put out this mere poetic analogon of faith, as
the summer sun is said to extinguish our household fires, when it shines
full upon them. What would otherwise have been yielded to as pleasing
fiction, is repelled as revolting falsehood. The effect produced in
this latter case by the solemn belief of the reader, is in a less degree
brought about in the instances, to which I have been objecting, by the
balked attempts of the author to make him believe.

Add to all the foregoing the seeming uselessness both of the project and
of the anecdotes from which it is to derive support. Is there one word,
for instance, attributed to the pedlar in THE EXCURSION, characteristic
of a Pedlar? One sentiment, that might not more plausibly, even without
the aid of any previous explanation, have proceeded from any wise and
beneficent old man, of a rank or profession in which the language of
learning and refinement are natural and to be expected? Need the
rank have been at all particularized, where nothing follows which the
knowledge of that rank is to explain or illustrate? When on the contrary
this information renders the man's language, feelings, sentiments,
and information a riddle, which must itself be solved by episodes
of anecdote? Finally when this, and this alone, could have induced a
genuine Poet to inweave in a poem of the loftiest style, and on subjects
the loftiest and of most universal interest, such minute matters of
fact, (not unlike those furnished for the obituary of a magazine by the
friends of some obscure "ornament of society lately deceased" in some
obscure town,) as

    "Among the hills of Athol he was born
     There, on a small hereditary Farm,
     An unproductive slip of rugged ground,
     His Father dwelt; and died in poverty;
     While He, whose lowly fortune I retrace,
     The youngest of three sons, was yet a babe,
     A little One--unconscious of their loss.
     But ere he had outgrown his infant days
     His widowed Mother, for a second Mate,
     Espoused the teacher of the Village School;
     Who on her offspring zealously bestowed
     Needful instruction."

    "From his sixth year, the Boy of whom I speak,
     In summer tended cattle on the Hills;
     But, through the inclement and the perilous days
     Of long-continuing winter, he repaired
     To his Step-father's School,"-etc.

For all the admirable passages interposed in this narration, might, with
trifling alterations, have been far more appropriately, and with far
greater verisimilitude, told of a poet in the character of a poet;
and without incurring another defect which I shall now mention, and a
sufficient illustration of which will have been here anticipated.

Third; an undue predilection for the dramatic form in certain poems,
from which one or other of two evils result. Either the thoughts and
diction are different from that of the poet, and then there arises an
incongruity of style; or they are the same and indistinguishable, and
then it presents a species of ventriloquism, where two are represented
as talking, while in truth one man only speaks.

The fourth class of defects is closely connected with the former;
but yet are such as arise likewise from an intensity of feeling
disproportionate to such knowledge and value of the objects described,
as can be fairly anticipated of men in general, even of the most
cultivated classes; and with which therefore few only, and those few
particularly circumstanced, can be supposed to sympathize: In this
class, I comprise occasional prolixity, repetition, and an eddying,
instead of progression, of thought. As instances, see pages 27, 28, and
62 of the Poems, vol. I. and the first eighty lines of the VIth Book of

Fifth and last; thoughts and images too great for the subject. This
is an approximation to what might be called mental bombast,
as distinguished from verbal: for, as in the latter there is a
disproportion of the expressions to the thoughts so in this there is a
disproportion of thought to the circumstance and occasion. This, by the
bye, is a fault of which none but a man of genius is capable. It is the
awkwardness and strength of Hercules with the distaff of Omphale.

It is a well-known fact, that bright colours in motion both make and
leave the strongest impressions on the eye. Nothing is more likely too,
than that a vivid image or visual spectrum, thus originated, may become
the link of association in recalling the feelings and images that had
accompanied the original impression. But if we describe this in such
lines, as

    "They flash upon that inward eye,
     Which is the bliss of solitude!"

in what words shall we describe the joy of retrospection, when the
images and virtuous actions of a whole well-spent life, pass before that
conscience which is indeed the inward eye: which is indeed "the bliss
of solitude?" Assuredly we seem to sink most abruptly, not to say
burlesquely, and almost as in a medley, from this couplet to--

    "And then my heart with pleasure fills,
     And dances with the daffodils."    Vol. I. p. 328.

The second instance is from vol. II. page 12, where the poet having gone
out for a day's tour of pleasure, meets early in the morning with a knot
of Gipsies, who had pitched their blanket-tents and straw-beds, together
with their children and asses, in some field by the road-side. At the
close of the day on his return our tourist found them in the same place.
"Twelve hours," says he,

    "Twelve hours, twelve bounteous hours are gone, while I
     Have been a traveller under open sky,
     Much witnessing of change and cheer,
     Yet as I left I find them here!"

Whereat the poet, without seeming to reflect that the poor tawny
wanderers might probably have been tramping for weeks together through
road and lane, over moor and mountain, and consequently must have been
right glad to rest themselves, their children and cattle, for one whole
day; and overlooking the obvious truth, that such repose might be quite
as necessary for them, as a walk of the same continuance was pleasing
or healthful for the more fortunate poet; expresses his indignation in a
series of lines, the diction and imagery of which would have been rather
above, than below the mark, had they been applied to the immense empire
of China improgressive for thirty centuries:

    "The weary Sun betook himself to rest:--
     --Then issued Vesper from the fulgent west,
     Outshining, like a visible God,
     The glorious path in which he trod.
     And now, ascending, after one dark hour,
     And one night's diminution of her power,
     Behold the mighty Moon! this way
     She looks, as if at them--but they
     Regard not her:--oh, better wrong and strife,
     Better vain deeds or evil than such life!
     The silent Heavens have goings on
     The stars have tasks!--but these have none!"

The last instance of this defect,(for I know no other than these already
cited) is from the Ode, page 351, vol. II., where, speaking of a child,
"a six years' Darling of a pigmy size," he thus addresses him:

    "Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep
     Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind,
     That, deaf and silent, read'st the eternal deep,
     Haunted for ever by the Eternal Mind,--
     Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
     On whom those truths do rest,
     Which we are toiling all our lives to find!
     Thou, over whom thy Immortality
     Broods like the Day, a Master o'er a Slave,
     A Present which is not to be put by!"

Now here, not to stop at the daring spirit of metaphor which connects
the epithets "deaf and silent," with the apostrophized eye: or (if we
are to refer it to the preceding word, "Philosopher"), the faulty and
equivocal syntax of the passage; and without examining the propriety of
making a "Master brood o'er a Slave," or "the Day" brood at all; we will
merely ask, what does all this mean? In what sense is a child of that
age a Philosopher? In what sense does he read "the eternal deep?" In
what sense is he declared to be "for ever haunted" by the Supreme Being?
or so inspired as to deserve the splendid titles of a Mighty Prophet, a
blessed Seer? By reflection? by knowledge? by conscious intuition? or
by any form or modification of consciousness? These would be tidings
indeed; but such as would pre-suppose an immediate revelation to
the inspired communicator, and require miracles to authenticate his
inspiration. Children at this age give us no such information of
themselves; and at what time were we dipped in the Lethe, which has
produced such utter oblivion of a state so godlike? There are many of us
that still possess some remembrances, more or less distinct, respecting
themselves at six years old; pity that the worthless straws only should
float, while treasures, compared with which all the mines of Golconda
and Mexico were but straws, should be absorbed by some unknown gulf into
some unknown abyss.

But if this be too wild and exorbitant to be suspected as having
been the poet's meaning; if these mysterious gifts, faculties, and
operations, are not accompanied with consciousness; who else is
conscious of them? or how can it be called the child, if it be no part
of the child's conscious being? For aught I know, the thinking Spirit
within me may be substantially one with the principle of life, and of
vital operation. For aught I know, it might be employed as a secondary
agent in the marvellous organization and organic movements of my body.
But, surely, it would be strange language to say, that I construct my
heart! or that I propel the finer influences through my nerves! or that
I compress my brain, and draw the curtains of sleep round my own eyes!
Spinoza and Behmen were, on different systems, both Pantheists; and
among the ancients there were philosophers, teachers of the EN KAI PAN,
who not only taught that God was All, but that this All constituted God.
Yet not even these would confound the part, as a part, with the
whole, as the whole. Nay, in no system is the distinction between
the individual and God, between the Modification, and the one only
Substance, more sharply drawn, than in that of Spinoza. Jacobi indeed
relates of Lessing, that, after a conversation with him at the house of
the Poet, Gleim, (the Tyrtaeus and Anacreon of the German Parnassus,) in
which conversation Lessing had avowed privately to Jacobi his reluctance
to admit any personal existence of the Supreme Being, or the possibility
of personality except in a finite Intellect, and while they were sitting
at table, a shower of rain came on unexpectedly. Gleim expressed his
regret at the circumstance, because they had meant to drink their
wine in the garden: upon which Lessing in one of his half-earnest,
half-joking moods, nodded to Jacobi, and said, "It is I, perhaps, that
am doing that," i.e. raining!--and Jacobi answered, "or perhaps I;"
Gleim contented himself with staring at them both, without asking for
any explanation.

So with regard to this passage. In what sense can the magnificent
attributes, above quoted, be appropriated to a child, which would not
make them equally suitable to a bee, or a dog, or afield of corn: or
even to a ship, or to the wind and waves that propel it? The omnipresent
Spirit works equally in them, as in the child; and the child is equally
unconscious of it as they. It cannot surely be, that the four lines,
immediately following, are to contain the explanation?

        "To whom the grave
    Is but a lonely bed without the sense or sight
        Of day or the warm light,
    A place of thought where we in waiting lie;"--

Surely, it cannot be that this wonder-rousing apostrophe is but a
comment on the little poem, "We are Seven?"--that the whole meaning of
the passage is reducible to the assertion, that a child, who by the bye
at six years old would have been better instructed in most Christian
families, has no other notion of death than that of lying in a dark,
cold place? And still, I hope, not as in a place of thought! not the
frightful notion of lying awake in his grave! The analogy between death
and sleep is too simple, too natural, to render so horrid a belief
possible for children; even had they not been in the habit, as all
Christian children are, of hearing the latter term used to express the
former. But if the child's belief be only, that "he is not dead, but
sleepeth:" wherein does it differ from that of his father and mother,
or any other adult and instructed person? To form an idea of a thing's
becoming nothing; or of nothing becoming a thing; is impossible to
all finite beings alike, of whatever age, and however educated or
uneducated. Thus it is with splendid paradoxes in general. If the words
are taken in the common sense, they convey an absurdity; and if, in
contempt of dictionaries and custom, they are so interpreted as to avoid
the absurdity, the meaning dwindles into some bald truism. Thus you must
at once understand the words contrary to their common import, in order
to arrive at any sense; and according to their common import, if you are
to receive from them any feeling of sublimity or admiration.

Though the instances of this defect in Mr. Wordsworth's poems are so
few, that for themselves it would have been scarcely just to attract the
reader's attention toward them; yet I have dwelt on it, and perhaps the
more for this very reason. For being so very few, they cannot sensibly
detract from the reputation of an author, who is even characterized
by the number of profound truths in his writings, which will stand
the severest analysis; and yet few as they are, they are exactly those
passages which his blind admirers would be most likely, and best able,
to imitate. But Wordsworth, where he is indeed Wordsworth, may be
mimicked by copyists, he may be plundered by plagiarists; but he cannot
be imitated, except by those who are not born to be imitators. For
without his depth of feeling and his imaginative power his sense would
want its vital warmth and peculiarity; and without his strong sense, his
mysticism would become sickly--mere fog, and dimness!

To these defects which, as appears by the extracts, are only occasional,
I may oppose, with far less fear of encountering the dissent of
any candid and intelligent reader, the following (for the most part
correspondent) excellencies. First, an austere purity of language both
grammatically and logically; in short a perfect appropriateness of
the words to the meaning. Of how high value I deem this, and how
particularly estimable I hold the example at the present day, has been
already stated: and in part too the reasons on which I ground both the
moral and intellectual importance of habituating ourselves to a strict
accuracy of expression. It is noticeable, how limited an acquaintance
with the masterpieces of art will suffice to form a correct and even
a sensitive taste, where none but master-pieces have been seen and
admired: while on the other hand, the most correct notions, and the
widest acquaintance with the works of excellence of all ages and
countries, will not perfectly secure us against the contagious
familiarity with the far more numerous offspring of tastelessness or of
a perverted taste. If this be the case, as it notoriously is, with the
arts of music and painting, much more difficult will it be, to avoid the
infection of multiplied and daily examples in the practice of an art,
which uses words, and words only, as its instruments. In poetry, in
which every line, every phrase, may pass the ordeal of deliberation and
deliberate choice, it is possible, and barely possible, to attain that
ultimatum which I have ventured to propose as the infallible test of
a blameless style; namely: its untranslatableness in words of the same
language without injury to the meaning. Be it observed, however, that I
include in the meaning of a word not only its correspondent object, but
likewise all the associations which it recalls. For language is framed
to convey not the object alone but likewise the character, mood and
intentions of the person who is representing it. In poetry it is
practicable to preserve the diction uncorrupted by the affectations
and misappropriations, which promiscuous authorship, and reading not
promiscuous only because it is disproportionally most conversant with
the compositions of the day, have rendered general. Yet even to the
poet, composing in his own province, it is an arduous work: and as
the result and pledge of a watchful good sense of fine and luminous
distinction, and of complete self-possession, may justly claim all the
honour which belongs to an attainment equally difficult and valuable,
and the more valuable for being rare. It is at all times the proper food
of the understanding; but in an age of corrupt eloquence it is both food
and antidote.

In prose I doubt whether it be even possible to preserve our style
wholly unalloyed by the vicious phraseology which meets us everywhere,
from the sermon to the newspaper, from the harangue of the legislator
to the speech from the convivial chair, announcing a toast or sentiment.
Our chains rattle, even while we are complaining of them. The poems of
Boetius rise high in our estimation when we compare them with those of
his contemporaries, as Sidonius Apollinaris, and others. They might even
be referred to a purer age, but that the prose, in which they are
set, as jewels in a crown of lead or iron, betrays the true age of the
writer. Much however may be effected by education. I believe not only
from grounds of reason, but from having in great measure assured myself
of the fact by actual though limited experience, that, to a youth led
from his first boyhood to investigate the meaning of every word and
the reason of its choice and position, logic presents itself as an old
acquaintance under new names.

On some future occasion, more especially demanding such disquisition, I
shall attempt to prove the close connection between veracity and habits
of mental accuracy; the beneficial after-effects of verbal precision in
the preclusion of fanaticism, which masters the feelings more especially
by indistinct watch-words; and to display the advantages which language
alone, at least which language with incomparably greater ease and
certainty than any other means, presents to the instructor of impressing
modes of intellectual energy so constantly, so imperceptibly, and as it
were by such elements and atoms, as to secure in due time the formation
of a second nature. When we reflect, that the cultivation of the
judgment is a positive command of the moral law, since the reason can
give the principle alone, and the conscience bears witness only to the
motive, while the application and effects must depend on the judgment
when we consider, that the greater part of our success and comfort in
life depends on distinguishing the similar from the same, that which is
peculiar in each thing from that which it has in common with others, so
as still to select the most probable, instead of the merely possible or
positively unfit, we shall learn to value earnestly and with a practical
seriousness a mean, already prepared for us by nature and society,
of teaching the young mind to think well and wisely by the same
unremembered process and with the same never forgotten results, as those
by which it is taught to speak and converse. Now how much warmer
the interest is, how much more genial the feelings of reality and
practicability, and thence how much stronger the impulses to imitation
are, which a contemporary writer, and especially a contemporary poet,
excites in youth and commencing manhood, has been treated of in the
earlier pages of these sketches. I have only to add, that all the
praise which is due to the exertion of such influence for a purpose so
important, joined with that which must be claimed for the infrequency of
the same excellence in the same perfection, belongs in full right to
Mr. Wordsworth. I am far however from denying that we have poets whose
general style possesses the same excellence, as Mr. Moore, Lord
Byron, Mr. Bowles, and, in all his later and more important works, our
laurel-honouring Laureate. But there are none, in whose works I do not
appear to myself to find more exceptions, than in those of Wordsworth.
Quotations or specimens would here be wholly out of place, and must be
left for the critic who doubts and would invalidate the justice of this
eulogy so applied.

The second characteristic excellence of Mr. Wordsworth's work is: a
correspondent weight and sanity of the Thoughts and Sentiments,--won,
not from books; but--from the poet's own meditative observation. They
are fresh and have the dew upon them. His muse, at least when in her
strength of wing, and when she hovers aloft in her proper element,

    Makes audible a linked lay of truth,
    Of truth profound a sweet continuous lay,
    Not learnt, but native, her own natural notes!

Even throughout his smaller poems there is scarcely one, which is not
rendered valuable by some just and original reflection.

See page 25, vol. II.: or the two following passages in one of his
humblest compositions.

    "O Reader! had you in your mind
     Such stores as silent thought can bring,
     O gentle Reader! you would find
     A tale in every thing;"


    "I've heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
     With coldness still returning;
     Alas! the gratitude of men
     Has oftener left me mourning;"

or in a still higher strain the six beautiful quatrains, page 134.

    "Thus fares it still in our decay:
     And yet the wiser mind
     Mourns less for what age takes away
     Than what it leaves behind.

     The Blackbird in the summer trees,
     The Lark upon the hill,
     Let loose their carols when they please,
     Are quiet when they will.

     With Nature never do they wage
     A foolish strife; they see
     A happy youth, and their old age
     Is beautiful and free!

     But we are pressed by heavy laws;
     And often glad no more,
     We wear a face of joy, because
     We have been glad of yore.

     If there is one, who need bemoan
     His kindred laid in earth,
     The household hearts that were his own,
     It is the man of mirth.

     My days, my Friend, are almost gone,
     My life has been approved,
     And many love me; but by none
     Am I enough beloved;"

or the sonnet on Buonaparte, page 202, vol. II. or finally (for a volume
would scarce suffice to exhaust the instances,) the last stanza of the
poem on the withered Celandine, vol. II. p. 312.

    "To be a Prodigal's Favorite--then, worse truth,
     A Miser's Pensioner--behold our lot!
     O Man! That from thy fair and shining youth
     Age might but take the things Youth needed not."

Both in respect of this and of the former excellence, Mr. Wordsworth
strikingly resembles Samuel Daniel, one of the golden writers of our
golden Elizabethan age, now most causelessly neglected: Samuel Daniel,
whose diction bears no mark of time, no distinction of age which
has been, and as long as our language shall last, will be so far the
language of the to-day and for ever, as that it is more intelligible to
us, than the transitory fashions of our own particular age. A similar
praise is due to his sentiments. No frequency of perusal can deprive
them of their freshness. For though they are brought into the full
day-light of every reader's comprehension; yet are they drawn up from
depths which few in any age are privileged to visit, into which few in
any age have courage or inclination to descend. If Mr. Wordsworth is
not equally with Daniel alike intelligible to all readers of average
understanding in all passages of his works, the comparative difficulty
does not arise from the greater impurity of the ore, but from the nature
and uses of the metal. A poem is not necessarily obscure, because it
does not aim to be popular. It is enough, if a work be perspicuous to
those for whom it is written, and

    "Fit audience find, though few."

To the "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of
early Childhood" the poet might have prefixed the lines which Dante
addresses to one of his own Canzoni--

    "Canzone, i' credo, che saranno radi
     Color, che tua ragione intendan bene,
     Tanto lor sei faticoso ed alto."

    "O lyric song, there will be few, I think,
     Who may thy import understand aright:
     Thou art for them so arduous and so high!"

But the ode was intended for such readers only as had been accustomed
to watch the flux and reflux of their inmost nature, to venture at times
into the twilight realms of consciousness, and to feel a deep interest
in modes of inmost being, to which they know that the attributes of time
and space are inapplicable and alien, but which yet can not be conveyed,
save in symbols of time and space. For such readers the sense is
sufficiently plain, and they will be as little disposed to charge Mr.
Wordsworth with believing the Platonic pre-existence in the ordinary
interpretation of the words, as I am to believe, that Plato himself ever
meant or taught it.

    Polla oi ut' anko-
    nos okea belae
    endon enti pharetras
    phonanta synetoisin; es
    de to pan hermaeneon
    chatizei; sophos o pol-
    la eidos phua;
    mathontes de labroi
    panglossia, korakes os,
    akranta garueton
    Dios pros ornicha theion.

Third (and wherein he soars far above Daniel) the sinewy strength
and originality of single lines and paragraphs: the frequent curiosa
felicitas of his diction, of which I need not here give specimens,
having anticipated them in a preceding page. This beauty, and as
eminently characteristic of Wordsworth's poetry, his rudest assailants
have felt themselves compelled to acknowledge and admire.

Fourth; the perfect truth of nature in his images and descriptions as
taken immediately from nature, and proving a long and genial intimacy
with the very spirit which gives the physiognomic expression to all the
works of nature. Like a green field reflected in a calm and perfectly
transparent lake, the image is distinguished from the reality only by
its greater softness and lustre. Like the moisture or the polish on a
pebble, genius neither distorts nor false-colours its objects; but on
the contrary brings out many a vein and many a tint, which escape the
eye of common observation, thus raising to the rank of gems what had
been often kicked away by the hurrying foot of the traveller on the
dusty high road of custom.

Let me refer to the whole description of skating, vol. I. page 42 to 47,
especially to the lines

    "So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
     And not a voice was idle. with the din
     Meanwhile the precipices rang aloud;
     The leafless trees and every icy crag
     Tinkled like iron; while the distant hills
     Into the tumult sent an alien sound
     Of melancholy, not unnoticed, while the stars,
     Eastward, were sparkling clear, and in the west
     The orange sky of evening died away."

Or to the poem on THE GREEN LINNET, vol. I. page 244. What can be more
accurate yet more lovely than the two concluding stanzas?

    "Upon yon tuft of hazel trees,
     That twinkle to the gusty breeze,
     Behold him perched in ecstasies,
         Yet seeming still to hover;
     There! where the flutter of his wings
     Upon his back and body flings
     Shadows and sunny glimmerings,
         That cover him all over.

     While thus before my eyes he gleams,
     A Brother of the Leaves he seems;
     When in a moment forth he teems
         His little song in gushes
     As if it pleased him to disdain
     And mock the Form which he did feign
     While he was dancing with the train
         Of Leaves among the bushes."

Or the description of the blue-cap, and of the noontide silence, page
284; or the poem to the cuckoo, page 299; or, lastly, though I might
multiply the references to ten times the number, to the poem, so
completely Wordsworth's, commencing

    "Three years she grew in sun and shower"--

Fifth: a meditative pathos, a union of deep and subtle thought with
sensibility; a sympathy with man as man; the sympathy indeed of a
contemplator, rather than a fellow-sufferer or co-mate, (spectator, haud
particeps) but of a contemplator, from whose view no difference of rank
conceals the sameness of the nature; no injuries of wind or weather, or
toil, or even of ignorance, wholly disguise the human face divine. The
superscription and the image of the Creator still remain legible to
him under the dark lines, with which guilt or calamity had cancelled or
cross-barred it. Here the Man and the Poet lose and find themselves in
each other, the one as glorified, the latter as substantiated. In this
mild and philosophic pathos, Wordsworth appears to me without a compeer.
Such as he is: so he writes. See vol. I. page 134 to 136, or that most
affecting composition, THE AFFLICTION OF MARGARET ---- OF ----, page 165
to 168, which no mother, and, if I may judge by my own experience, no
parent can read without a tear. Or turn to that genuine lyric, in the
former edition, entitled, THE MAD MOTHER, page 174 to 178, of which I
cannot refrain from quoting two of the stanzas, both of them for their
pathos, and the former for the fine transition in the two concluding
lines of the stanza, so expressive of that deranged state, in which,
from the increased sensibility, the sufferer's attention is abruptly
drawn off by every trifle, and in the same instant plucked back again by
the one despotic thought, bringing home with it, by the blending, fusing
power of Imagination and Passion, the alien object to which it had been
so abruptly diverted, no longer an alien but an ally and an inmate.

    "Suck, little babe, oh suck again!
     It cools my blood; it cools my brain;
     Thy lips, I feel them, baby! They
     Draw from my heart the pain away.
     Oh! press me with thy little hand;
     It loosens something at my chest
     About that tight and deadly band
     I feel thy little fingers prest.
     The breeze I see is in the tree!
     It comes to cool my babe and me."

    "Thy father cares not for my breast,
     'Tis thine, sweet baby, there to rest;
     'Tis all thine own!--and if its hue
     Be changed, that was so fair to view,
     'Tis fair enough for thee, my dove!
     My beauty, little child, is flown,
     But thou wilt live with me in love;
     And what if my poor cheek be brown?
     'Tis well for me, thou canst not see
     How pale and wan it else would be."

Last, and pre-eminently, I challenge for this poet the gift of
Imagination in the highest and strictest sense of the word. In the
play of fancy, Wordsworth, to my feelings, is not always graceful,
and sometimes recondite. The likeness is occasionally too strange, or
demands too peculiar a point of view, or is such as appears the creature
of predetermined research, rather than spontaneous presentation. Indeed
his fancy seldom displays itself, as mere and unmodified fancy. But
in imaginative power, he stands nearest of all modern writers to
Shakespeare and Milton; and yet in a kind perfectly unborrowed and
his own. To employ his own words, which are at once an instance and an
illustration, he does indeed to all thoughts and to all objects--

                       "------add the gleam,
     The light that never was, on sea or land,
     The consecration, and the Poet's dream."

I shall select a few examples as most obviously manifesting this
faculty; but if I should ever be fortunate enough to render my analysis
of Imagination, its origin and characters, thoroughly intelligible to
the reader, he will scarcely open on a page of this poet's works without
recognising, more or less, the presence and the influences of this
faculty. From the poem on the YEW TREES, vol. I. page 303, 304.

        "But worthier still of note
    Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
    Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
    Huge trunks!--and each particular trunk a growth
    Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
    Up-coiling, and inveterately convolved;
    Not uninformed with phantasy, and looks
    That threaten the profane;--a pillared shade,
    Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
    By sheddings from the pinal umbrage tinged
    Perennially--beneath whose sable roof
    Of boughs, as if for festal purpose, decked
    With unrejoicing berries--ghostly shapes
    May meet at noontide; FEAR and trembling HOPE,
    SILENCE and FORESIGHT; DEATH, the Skeleton,
    And TIME, the Shadow; there to celebrate,
    As in a natural temple scattered o'er
    With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
    United worship; or in mute repose
    To lie, and listen to the mountain flood
    Murmuring from Glazamara's inmost caves."

The effect of the old man's figure in the poem of RESOLUTION AND
INDEPENDENCE, vol. II. page 33.

    "While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
     The Old Man's shape, and speech, all troubled me
     In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
     About the weary moors continually,
     Wandering about alone and silently."

Or the 8th, 9th, 19th, 26th, 31st, and 33rd, in the collection of
miscellaneous sonnets--the sonnet on the subjugation of Switzerland,
page 210, or the last ode, from which I especially select the two
following stanzas or paragraphs, page 349 to 350.

    "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
     The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
     Hath had elsewhere its setting,
         And cometh from afar.
     Not in entire forgetfulness,
     And not in utter nakedness,
     But trailing clouds of glory do we come
     From God, who is our home:
     Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
     Shades of the prison-house begin to close
         Upon the growing Boy;
     But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
         He sees it in his joy!
     The Youth who daily further from the East
     Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
         And by the vision splendid
         Is on his way attended;
     At length the Man perceives it die away,
     And fade into the light of common day."

And page 352 to 354 of the same ode.

    "O joy! that in our embers
     Is something that doth live,
     That nature yet remembers
     What was so fugitive!
     The thought of our past years in me doth breed
     Perpetual benedictions: not indeed
     For that which is most worthy to be blest;
     Delight and liberty, the simple creed
     Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
     With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:--
     Not for these I raise
     The song of thanks and praise;
     But for those obstinate questionings
     Of sense and outward things,
     Fallings from us, vanishings;
     Blank misgivings of a Creature
     Moving about in worlds not realized,
     High instincts, before which our mortal Nature
     Did tremble like a guilty Thing surprised!
     But for those first affections,
     Those shadowy recollections,
     Which, be they what they may,
     Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
     Are yet a master light of all our seeing;
     Uphold us--cherish--and have power to make
     Our noisy years seem moments in the being
     Of the eternal Silence; truths that wake
         To perish never;
     Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
     Nor Man nor Boy,
     Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
     Can utterly abolish or destroy!
     Hence, in a season of calm weather,
     Though inland far we be,
     Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
     Which brought us hither;
     Can in a moment travel thither,--
     And see the children sport upon the shore,
     And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore."

And since it would be unfair to conclude with an extract, which, though
highly characteristic, must yet, from the nature of the thoughts and the
subject, be interesting or perhaps intelligible, to but a limited number
of readers; I will add, from the poet's last published work, a passage
equally Wordsworthian; of the beauty of which, and of the imaginative
power displayed therein, there can be but one opinion, and one feeling.
See White Doe, page 5.

    "Fast the church-yard fills;--anon
     Look again and they all are gone;
     The cluster round the porch, and the folk
     Who sate in the shade of the Prior's Oak!
     And scarcely have they disappeared
     Ere the prelusive hymn is heard;--
     With one consent the people rejoice,
     Filling the church with a lofty voice!
     They sing a service which they feel:
     For 'tis the sun-rise now of zeal;
     And faith and hope are in their prime
     In great Eliza's golden time."

    "A moment ends the fervent din,
     And all is hushed, without and within;
     For though the priest, more tranquilly,
     Recites the holy liturgy,
     The only voice which you can hear
     Is the river murmuring near.
     --When soft!--the dusky trees between,
     And down the path through the open green,
     Where is no living thing to be seen;
     And through yon gateway, where is found,
     Beneath the arch with ivy bound,
     Free entrance to the church-yard ground--
     And right across the verdant sod,
     Towards the very house of God;
     Comes gliding in with lovely gleam,
     Comes gliding in serene and slow,
     Soft and silent as a dream.
     A solitary Doe!
     White she is as lily of June,
     And beauteous as the silver moon
     When out of sight the clouds are driven
     And she is left alone in heaven!
     Or like a ship some gentle day
     In sunshine sailing far away
     A glittering ship that hath the plain
     Of ocean for her own domain."

        *     *     *     *     *     *

    "What harmonious pensive changes
     Wait upon her as she ranges
     Round and through this Pile of state
     Overthrown and desolate!
     Now a step or two her way
     Is through space of open day,
     Where the enamoured sunny light
     Brightens her that was so bright;
     Now doth a delicate shadow fall,
     Falls upon her like a breath,
     From some lofty arch or wall,
     As she passes underneath."

The following analogy will, I am apprehensive, appear dim and fantastic,
but in reading Bartram's Travels I could not help transcribing the
following lines as a sort of allegory, or connected simile and metaphor
of Wordsworth's intellect and genius.--"The soil is a deep, rich, dark
mould, on a deep stratum of tenacious clay; and that on a foundation of
rocks, which often break through both strata, lifting their backs above
the surface. The trees which chiefly grow here are the gigantic, black
oak; magnolia grandi-flora; fraximus excelsior; platane; and a few
stately tulip trees." What Mr. Wordsworth will produce, it is not for me
to prophesy but I could pronounce with the liveliest convictions what he
is capable of producing. It is the FIRST GENUINE PHILOSOPHIC POEM.

The preceding criticism will not, I am aware, avail to overcome the
prejudices of those, who have made it a business to attack and ridicule
Mr. Wordsworth's compositions.

Truth and prudence might be imaged as concentric circles. The poet may
perhaps have passed beyond the latter, but he has confined himself far
within the bounds of the former, in designating these critics, as "too
petulant to be passive to a genuine poet, and too feeble to grapple with
him;----men of palsied imaginations, in whose minds all healthy action
is languid;----who, therefore, feed as the many direct them, or with the
many are greedy after vicious provocatives."

So much for the detractors from Wordsworth's merits. On the other hand,
much as I might wish for their fuller sympathy, I dare not flatter
myself, that the freedom with which I have declared my opinions
concerning both his theory and his defects, most of which are more
or less connected with his theory, either as cause or effect, will be
satisfactory or pleasing to all the poet's admirers and advocates.
More indiscriminate than mine their admiration may be: deeper and more
sincere it cannot be. But I have advanced no opinion either for praise
or censure, other than as texts introductory to the reasons which compel
me to form it. Above all, I was fully convinced that such a criticism
was not only wanted; but that, if executed with adequate ability, it
must conduce, in no mean degree, to Mr. Wordsworth's reputation.
His fame belongs to another age, and can neither be accelerated nor
retarded. How small the proportion of the defects are to the beauties,
I have repeatedly declared; and that no one of them originates in
deficiency of poetic genius. Had they been more and greater, I should
still, as a friend to his literary character in the present age,
consider an analytic display of them as pure gain; if only it removed,
as surely to all reflecting minds even the foregoing analysis must have
removed, the strange mistake, so slightly grounded, yet so widely and
industriously propagated, of Mr. Wordsworth's turn for simplicity! I
am not half as much irritated by hearing his enemies abuse him for
vulgarity of style, subject, and conception, as I am disgusted with the
gilded side of the same meaning, as displayed by some affected admirers,
with whom he is, forsooth, a "sweet, simple poet!" and so natural, that
little master Charles and his younger sister are so charmed with them,
that they play at "Goody Blake," or at "Johnny and Betty Foy!"

Were the collection of poems, published with these biographical
sketches, important enough, (which I am not vain enough to believe,)
to deserve such a distinction; even as I have done, so would I be done

For more than eighteen months have the volume of Poems, entitled
SIBYLLINE LEAVES, and the present volume, up to this page, been printed,
and ready for publication. But, ere I speak of myself in the tones,
which are alone natural to me under the circumstances of late years, I
would fain present myself to the Reader as I was in the first dawn of my
literary life:

    When Hope grew round me, like the climbing vine,
    And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seem'd mine!

For this purpose I have selected from the letters, which I wrote home
from Germany, those which appeared likely to be most interesting, and at
the same time most pertinent to the title of this work.



On Sunday morning, September 16, 1798, the Hamburg packet set sail from
Yarmouth; and I, for the first time in my life, beheld my native land
retiring from me. At the moment of its disappearance--in all the kirks,
churches, chapels, and meeting-houses, in which the greater number, I
hope, of my countrymen were at that time assembled, I will dare question
whether there was one more ardent prayer offered up to heaven, than
that which I then preferred for my country. "Now then," (said I to a
gentleman who was standing near me,) "we are out of our country." "Not
yet, not yet!" he replied, and pointed to the sea; "This, too, is a
Briton's country." This bon mot gave a fillip to my spirits, I rose and
looked round on my fellow-passengers, who were all on the deck. We
were eighteen in number, videlicet, five Englishmen, an English lady,
a French gentleman and his servant, an Hanoverian and his servant, a
Prussian, a Swede, two Danes, and a Mulatto boy, a German tailor and his
wife, (the smallest couple I ever beheld,) and a Jew. We were all on the
deck; but in a short time I observed marks of dismay. The lady retired
to the cabin in some confusion, and many of the faces round me assumed a
very doleful and frog-coloured appearance; and within an hour the number
of those on deck was lessened by one half. I was giddy, but not sick,
and the giddiness soon went away, but left a feverishness and want of
appetite, which I attributed, in great measure, to the saeva Mephitis of
the bilge-water; and it was certainly not decreased by the exportations
from the cabin. However, I was well enough to join the able-bodied
passengers, one of whom observed not inaptly, that Momus might have
discovered an easier way to see a man's inside, than by placing a
window in his breast. He needed only have taken a saltwater trip in a

I am inclined to believe, that a packet is far superior to a stage-
coach, as a means of making men open out to each other. In the latter
the uniformity of posture disposes to dozing, and the definitiveness of
the period, at which the company will separate, makes each individual
think more of those to whom he is going, than of those with whom he is
going. But at sea, more curiosity is excited, if only on this account,
that the pleasant or unpleasant qualities of your companions are of
greater importance to you, from the uncertainty how long you may be
obliged to house with them. Besides, if you are countrymen, that now
begins to form a distinction and a bond of brotherhood; and if of
different countries, there are new incitements of conversation, more to
ask and more to communicate. I found that I had interested the Danes
in no common degree. I had crept into the boat on the deck and fallen
asleep; but was awakened by one of them, about three o'clock in the
afternoon, who told me that they had been seeking me in every hole and
corner, and insisted that I should join their party and drink with them.
He talked English with such fluency, as left me wholly unable to account
for the singular and even ludicrous incorrectness with which he spoke
it. I went, and found some excellent wines and a dessert of grapes with
a pine-apple. The Danes had christened me Doctor Teology, and dressed
as I was all in black, with large shoes and black worsted stockings,
I might certainly have passed very well for a Methodist missionary.
However I disclaimed my title. What then may you be? A man of fortune?
No!--A merchant? No!--A merchant's traveller? No!--A clerk? No!--Un
Philosophe, perhaps? It was at that time in my life, in which of all
possible names and characters I had the greatest disgust to that of "un
Philosophe." But I was weary of being questioned, and rather than be
nothing, or at best only the abstract idea of a man, I submitted by a
bow, even to the aspersion implied in the word "un Philosophe."--The
Dane then informed me, that all in the present party were Philosophers
likewise. Certes we were not of the Stoick school. For we drank and
talked and sung, till we talked and sung all together; and then we rose
and danced on the deck a set of dances, which in one sense of the word
at least, were very intelligibly and appropriately entitled reels.
The passengers, who lay in the cabin below in all the agonies of sea-
sickness, must have found our bacchanalian merriment

                                      ------a tune
    Harsh and of dissonant mood from their complaint.

I thought so at the time; and, (by way, I suppose, of supporting my
newly assumed philosophical character,) I thought too, how closely the
greater number of our virtues are connected with the fear of death, and
how little sympathy we bestow on pain, where there is no danger.

The two Danes were brothers. The one was a man with a clear white
complexion, white hair, and white eyebrows; looked silly, and nothing
that he uttered gave the lie to his looks. The other, whom, by way of
eminence I have called the Dane, had likewise white hair, but was much
shorter than his brother, with slender limbs, and a very thin face
slightly pockfretten. This man convinced me of the justice of an old
remark, that many a faithful portrait in our novels and farces has been
rashly censured for an outrageous caricature, or perhaps nonentity. I
had retired to my station in the boat--he came and seated himself by my
side, and appeared not a little tipsy. He commenced the conversation in
the most magnific style, and, as a sort of pioneering to his own vanity,
he flattered me with such grossness! The parasites of the old comedy
were modest in the comparison. His language and accentuation were so
exceedingly singular, that I determined for once in my life to take
notes of a conversation. Here it follows, somewhat abridged, indeed, but
in all other respects as accurately as my memory permitted.

THE DANE. Vat imagination! vat language! vat vast science! and vat eyes!
vat a milk-vite forehead! O my heafen! vy, you're a Got!

ANSWER. You do me too much honour, Sir.

THE DANE. O me! if you should dink I is flattering you!--No, no, no! I
haf ten tousand a year--yes, ten tousand a year--yes, ten tousand pound
a year! Vel--and vat is dhat? a mere trifle! I 'ouldn't gif my sincere
heart for ten times dhe money. Yes, you're a Got! I a mere man! But, my
dear friend! dhink of me, as a man! Is, is--I mean to ask you now, my
dear friend--is I not very eloquent? Is I not speak English very fine?

ANSWER. Most admirably! Believe me, Sir! I have seldom heard even a
native talk so fluently.

THE DANE. (Squeezing my hand with great vehemence.) My dear friend! vat
an affection and fidelity ve have for each odher! But tell me, do tell
me,--Is I not, now and den, speak some fault? Is I not in some wrong?

ANSWER. Why, Sir! perhaps it might be observed by nice critics in the
English language, that you occasionally use the word "is" instead of
"am." In our best companies we generally say I am, and not I is or I'se.
Excuse me, Sir! it is a mere trifle.

THE DANE. O!--is, is, am, am, am. Yes, yes--I know, I know.

ANSWER. I am, thou art, he is, we are, ye are, they are.

THE DANE. Yes, yes,--I know, I know--Am, am, am, is dhe praesens, and is
is dhe perfectum--yes, yes--and are is dhe plusquam perfectum.

ANSWER. And art, Sir! is--?

THE DANE. My dear friend! it is dhe plusquam perfectum, no, no--dhat
is a great lie; are is dhe plusquam perfectum--and art is dhe plasquam
plue-perfectum--(then swinging my hand to and fro, and cocking his
little bright hazel eyes at me, that danced with vanity and wine)--You
see, my dear friend that I too have some lehrning?

ANSWER. Learning, Sir? Who dares suspect it? Who can listen to you for a
minute, who can even look at you, without perceiving the extent of it?

THE DANE. My dear friend!--(then with a would-be humble look, and in a
tone of voice as if he was reasoning) I could not talk so of prawns and
imperfectum, and futurum and plusquamplue perfectum, and all dhat, my
dear friend! without some lehrning?

ANSWER. Sir! a man like you cannot talk on any subject without
discovering the depth of his information.

THE DANE. Dhe grammatic Greek, my friend; ha! ha! Ha! (laughing, and
swinging my hand to and fro--then with a sudden transition to great
solemnity) Now I will tell you, my dear friend! Dhere did happen about
me vat de whole historia of Denmark record no instance about nobody
else. Dhe bishop did ask me all dhe questions about all dhe religion in
dhe Latin grammar.

ANSWER. The grammar, Sir? The language, I presume--

THE DANE. (A little offended.) Grammar is language, and language is

ANSWER. Ten thousand pardons!

THE DANE. Vell, and I was only fourteen years--

ANSWER. Only fourteen years old?

THE DANE. No more. I vas fourteen years old--and he asked me all
questions, religion and philosophy, and all in dhe Latin language--and I
answered him all every one, my dear friend! all in dhe Latin language.

ANSWER. A prodigy! an absolute prodigy!

THE DANE. No, no, no! he was a bishop, a great superintendent.

ANSWER. Yes! a bishop.

THE DANE. A bishop--not a mere predicant, not a prediger.

ANSWER. My dear Sir! we have misunderstood each other. I said that your
answering in Latin at so early an age was a prodigy, that is, a thing
that is wonderful; that does not often happen.

THE DANE. Often! Dhere is not von instance recorded in dhe whole
historia of Denmark.

ANSWER. And since then, Sir--?

THE DANE. I was sent ofer to dhe Vest Indies--to our Island, and dhere I
had no more to do vid books. No! no! I put my genius anodher way--and
I haf made ten tousand pound a year. Is not dhat ghenius, my dear
friend?--But vat is money?--I dhink dhe poorest man alive my equal.
Yes, my dear friend; my little fortune is pleasant to my generous heart,
because I can do good--no man with so little a fortune ever did so much
generosity--no person--no man person, no woman person ever denies it.
But we are all Got's children.

Here the Hanoverian interrupted him, and the other Dane, the Swede, and
the Prussian, joined us, together with a young Englishman who spoke the
German fluently, and interpreted to me many of the Prussian's jokes. The
Prussian was a travelling merchant, turned of threescore, a hale
man, tall, strong, and stout, full of stories, gesticulations, and
buffoonery, with the soul as well as the look of a mountebank, who,
while he is making you laugh, picks your pocket. Amid all his droll
looks and droll gestures, there remained one look untouched by laughter;
and that one look was the true face, the others were but its mask. The
Hanoverian was a pale, fat, bloated young man, whose father had made a
large fortune in London, as an army-contractor. He seemed to emulate
the manners of young Englishmen of fortune. He was a good-natured
fellow, not without information or literature; but a most egregious
coxcomb. He had been in the habit of attending the House of Commons, and
had once spoken, as he informed me, with great applause in a debating
society. For this he appeared to have qualified himself with laudable
industry: for he was perfect in Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary, and
with an accent, which forcibly reminded me of the Scotchman in Roderic
Random, who professed to teach the English pronunciation, he was
constantly deferring to my superior judgment, whether or no I had
pronounced this or that word with propriety, or "the true delicacy."
When he spoke, though it were only half a dozen sentences, he always
rose: for which I could detect no other motive, than his partiality
to that elegant phrase so liberally introduced in the orations of
our British legislators, "While I am on my legs." The Swede, whom
for reasons that will soon appear, I shall distinguish by the name
of Nobility, was a strong-featured, scurvy-faced man, his complexion
resembling in colour, a red hot poker beginning to cool. He appeared
miserably dependent on the Dane; but was, however, incomparably the
best informed and most rational of the party. Indeed his manners
and conversation discovered him to be both a man of the world and a
gentleman. The Jew was in the hold: the French gentleman was lying on
the deck so ill, that I could observe nothing concerning him, except the
affectionate attentions of his servant to him. The poor fellow was very
sick himself, and every now and then ran to the side of the vessel,
still keeping his eye on his master, but returned in a moment and seated
himself again by him, now supporting his head, now wiping his forehead
and talking to him all the while in the most soothing tones. There
had been a matrimonial squabble of a very ludicrous kind in the cabin,
between the little German tailor and his little wife. He had secured two
beds, one for himself and one for her. This had struck the little woman
as a very cruel action; she insisted upon their having but one, and
assured the mate in the most piteous tones, that she was his lawful
wife. The mate and the cabin boy decided in her favour, abused the
little man for his want of tenderness with much humour, and hoisted
him into the same compartment with his sea-sick wife. This quarrel was
interesting to me, as it procured me a bed, which I otherwise should not
have had.

In the evening, at seven o'clock, the sea rolled higher, and the Dane,
by means of the greater agitation, eliminated enough of what he had been
swallowing to make room for a great deal more. His favourite potation
was sugar and brandy, i.e. a very little warm water with a large
quantity of brandy, sugar, and nutmeg His servant boy, a black-eyed
Mulatto, had a good-natured round face, exactly the colour of the skin
of the walnut-kernel. The Dane and I were again seated, tete-a-tete,
in the ship's boat. The conversation, which was now indeed rather an
oration than a dialogue, became extravagant beyond all that I ever
heard. He told me that he had made a large fortune in the island of
Santa Cruz, and was now returning to Denmark to enjoy it. He expatiated
on the style in which he meant to live, and the great undertakings which
he proposed to himself to commence, till, the brandy aiding his vanity,
and his vanity and garrulity aiding the brandy, he talked like a
madman--entreated me to accompany him to Denmark--there I should see his
influence with the government, and he would introduce me to the king,
etc., etc. Thus he went on dreaming aloud, and then passing with a very
lyrical transition to the subject of general politics, he declaimed,
like a member of the Corresponding Society, about, (not concerning,)
the Rights of Man, and assured me that, notwithstanding his fortune, he
thought the poorest man alive his equal. "All are equal, my dear friend!
all are equal! Ve are all Got's children. The poorest man haf the same
rights with me. Jack! Jack! some more sugar and brandy. Dhere is dhat
fellow now! He is a Mulatto--but he is my equal.--That's right, Jack!
(taking the sugar and brandy.) Here you Sir! shake hands with dhis
gentleman! Shake hands with me, you dog! Dhere, dhere!--We are all equal
my dear friend! Do I not speak like Socrates, and Plato, and Cato--they
were all philosophers, my dear philosophe! all very great men!--and so
was Homer and Virgil--but they were poets. Yes, yes! I know all about
it!--But what can anybody say more than this? We are all equal, all
Got's children. I haf ten tousand a year, but I am no more dhan de
meanest man alive. I haf no pride; and yet, my dear friend! I can
say, do! and it is done. Ha! ha! ha! my dear friend! Now dhere is dhat
gentleman (pointing to Nobility) he is a Swedish baron--you shall see.
Ho! (calling to the Swede) get me, will you, a bottle of wine from the
cabin. SWEDE.--Here, Jack! go and get your master a bottle of wine from
the cabin. DANE. No, no, no! do you go now--you go yourself you go now!
SWEDE. Pah!--DANE. Now go! Go, I pray you." And the Swede went!!

After this the Dane commenced an harangue on religion, and mistaking
me for un philosophe in the continental sense of the word, he talked of
Deity in a declamatory style, very much resembling the devotional rants
of that rude blunderer, Mr. Thomas Paine, in his Age of Reason, and
whispered in my ear, what damned hypocrism all Jesus Christ's business
was. I dare aver, that few men have less reason to charge themselves
with indulging in persiflage than myself. I should hate it, if it were
only that it is a Frenchman's vice, and feel a pride in avoiding it,
because our own language is too honest to have a word to express it by.
But in this instance the temptation had been too powerful, and I have
placed it on the list of my offences. Pericles answered one of his
dearest friends, who had solicited him on a case of life and death, to
take an equivocal oath for his preservation: Debeo amicis opitulari, sed
usque ad Deos [75]. Friendship herself must place her last and boldest
step on this side the altar. What Pericles would not do to save a
friend's life, you may be assured, I would not hazard merely to mill the
chocolate-pot of a drunken fool's vanity till it frothed over. Assuming
a serious look, I professed myself a believer, and sunk at once an
hundred fathoms in his good graces. He retired to his cabin, and I
wrapped myself up in my great coat, and looked at the water. A beautiful
white cloud of foam at momently intervals coursed by the side of the
vessel with a roar, and little stars of flame danced and sparkled and
went out in it: and every now and then light detachments of this white
cloud-like foam darted off from the vessel's side, each with its own
small constellation, over the sea, and scoured out of sight like a
Tartar troop over a wilderness.

It was cold, the cabin was at open war with my olfactories, and I found
reason to rejoice in my great coat, a weighty high-caped, respectable
rug, the collar of which turned over, and played the part of a night-cap
very passably. In looking up at two or three bright stars, which
oscillated with the motion of the sails, I fell asleep, but was awakened
at one o'clock, Monday morning, by a shower of rain. I found myself
compelled to go down into the cabin, where I slept very soundly, and
awoke with a very good appetite at breakfast time, my nostrils, the most
placable of all the senses, reconciled to, or indeed insensible of the

Monday, September 17th, I had a long conversation with the Swede, who
spoke with the most poignant contempt of the Dane, whom he described as
a fool, purse-mad; but he confirmed the boasts of the Dane respecting
the largeness of his fortune, which he had acquired in the first
instance as an advocate, and afterwards as a planter. From the Dane and
from himself I collected that he was indeed a Swedish nobleman, who had
squandered a fortune, that was never very large, and had made over his
property to the Dane, on whom he was now utterly dependent. He seemed
to suffer very little pain from the Dane's insolence. He was in a high
degree humane and attentive to the English lady, who suffered most
fearfully, and for whom he performed many little offices with a
tenderness and delicacy which seemed to prove real goodness of heart.
Indeed his general manners and conversation were not only pleasing,
but even interesting; and I struggled to believe his insensibility
respecting the Dane philosophical fortitude. For though the Dane was
now quite sober, his character oozed out of him at every pore. And after
dinner, when he was again flushed with wine, every quarter of an hour or
perhaps oftener he would shout out to the Swede, "Ho! Nobility, go--do
such a thing! Mr. Nobility!--tell the gentlemen such a story, and
so forth;" with an insolence which must have excited disgust and
detestation, if his vulgar rants on the sacred rights of equality,
joined to his wild havoc of general grammar no less than of the English
language, had not rendered it so irresistibly laughable.

At four o'clock I observed a wild duck swimming on the waves, a single
solitary wild duck. It is not easy to conceive, how interesting a thing
it looked in that round objectless desert of waters. I had associated
such a feeling of immensity with the ocean, that I felt exceedingly
disappointed, when I was out of sight of all land, at the narrowness and
nearness, as it were, of the circle of the horizon. So little are images
capable of satisfying the obscure feelings connected with words. In the
evening the sails were lowered, lest we should run foul of the land,
which can be seen only at a small distance. And at four o'clock, on
Tuesday morning, I was awakened by the cry of "land! land!" It was an
ugly island rock at a distance on our left, called Heiligeland, well
known to many passengers from Yarmouth to Hamburg, who have been obliged
by stormy weather to pass weeks and weeks in weary captivity on it,
stripped of all their money by the exorbitant demands of the wretches
who inhabit it. So at least the sailors informed me.--About nine o'clock
we saw the main land, which seemed scarcely able to hold its head above
water, low, flat, and dreary, with lighthouses and land-marks which
seemed to give a character and language to the dreariness. We entered
the mouth of the Elbe, passing Neu-werk; though as yet the right bank
only of the river was visible to us. On this I saw a church, and thanked
God for my safe voyage, not without affectionate thoughts of those I
had left in England. At eleven o'clock on the same morning we arrived
at Cuxhaven, the ship dropped anchor, and the boat was hoisted out, to
carry the Hanoverian and a few others on shore. The captain agreed to
take us, who remained, to Hamburg for ten guineas, to which the Dane
contributed so largely, that the other passengers paid but half a guinea
each. Accordingly we hauled anchor, and passed gently up the river. At
Cuxhaven both sides of the river may be seen in clear weather; we could
now see the right bank only. We passed a multitude of English traders
that had been waiting many weeks for a wind. In a short time both banks
became visible, both flat and evidencing the labour of human hands by
their extreme neatness. On the left bank I saw a church or two in
the distance; on the right bank we passed by steeple and windmill and
cottage, and windmill and single house, windmill and windmill, and neat
single house, and steeple. These were the objects and in the succession.
The shores were very green and planted with trees not inelegantly.
Thirty-five miles from Cuxhaven the night came on us, and, as the
navigation of the Elbe is perilous, we dropped anchor.

Over what place, thought I, does the moon hang to your eye, my dearest
friend? To me it hung over the left bank of the Elbe. Close above the
moon was a huge volume of deep black cloud, while a very thin fillet
crossed the middle of the orb, as narrow and thin and black as a ribbon
of crape. The long trembling road of moonlight, which lay on the water
and reached to the stern of our vessel, glimmered dimly and obscurely.
We saw two or three lights from the right bank, probably from bed-rooms.
I felt the striking contrast between the silence of this majestic
stream, whose banks are populous with men and women and children, and
flocks and herds--between the silence by night of this peopled river,
and the ceaseless noise, and uproar, and loud agitations of the desolate
solitude of the ocean. The passengers below had all retired to their
beds; and I felt the interest of this quiet scene the more deeply from
the circumstance of having just quitted them. For the Prussian had
during the whole of the evening displayed all his talents to captivate
the Dane, who had admitted him into the train of his dependents. The
young Englishman continued to interpret the Prussian's jokes to me. They
were all without exception profane and abominable, but some sufficiently
witty, and a few incidents, which he related in his own person, were
valuable as illustrating the manners of the countries in which they had
taken place.

Five o'clock on Wednesday morning we hauled the anchor, but were soon
obliged to drop it again in consequence of a thick fog, which our
captain feared would continue the whole day; but about nine it cleared
off, and we sailed slowly along, close by the shore of a very beautiful
island, forty miles from Cuxhaven, the wind continuing slack. This
holm or island is about a mile and a half in length, wedge-shaped,
well wooded, with glades of the liveliest green, and rendered more
interesting by the remarkably neat farm-house on it. It seemed made for
retirement without solitude--a place that would allure one's friends,
while it precluded the impertinent calls of mere visitors. The shores of
the Elbe now became more beautiful, with rich meadows and trees running
like a low wall along the river's edge; and peering over them,
neat houses and, (especially on the right bank,) a profusion of
steeple-spires, white, black, or red. An instinctive taste teaches men
to build their churches in flat countries with spire-steeples, which,
as they cannot be referred to any other object, point, as with silent
finger, to the sky and stars, and sometimes, when they reflect the
brazen light of a rich though rainy sun-set, appear like a pyramid of
flame burning heavenward. I remember once, and once only, to have seen
a spire in a narrow valley of a mountainous country. The effect was
not only mean but ludicrous, and reminded me against my will of an
extinguisher; the close neighbourhood of the high mountain, at the foot
of which it stood, had so completely dwarfed it, and deprived it of
all connection with the sky or clouds. Forty-six English miles from
Cuxhaven, and sixteen from Hamburg, the Danish village Veder ornaments
the left bank with its black steeple, and close by it is the wild and
pastoral hamlet of Schulau. Hitherto both the right and left bank, green
to the very brink, and level with the river, resembled the shores of a
park canal. The trees and houses were alike low, sometimes the low trees
over-topping the yet lower houses, sometimes the low houses rising
above the yet lower trees. But at Schulau the left bank rises at once
forty or fifty feet, and stares on the river with its perpendicular
facade of sand, thinly patched with tufts of green. The Elbe continued
to present a more and more lively spectacle from the multitude of
fishing boats and the flocks of sea gulls wheeling round them, the
clamorous rivals and companions of the fishermen; till we came to
Blankaness, a most interesting village scattered amid scattered trees,
over three hills in three divisions. Each of the three hills stares upon
the river, with faces of bare sand, with which the boats with their
bare poles, standing in files along the banks, made a sort of fantastic
harmony. Between each facade lies a green and woody dell, each deeper
than the other. In short it is a large village made up of individual
cottages, each cottage in the centre of its own little wood or orchard,
and each with its own separate path: a village with a labyrinth of
paths, or rather a neighbourhood of houses! It is inhabited by fishermen
and boat-makers, the Blankanese boats being in great request through the
whole navigation of the Elbe. Here first we saw the spires of Hamburg,
and from hence, as far as Altona, the left bank of the Elbe is
uncommonly pleasing, considered as the vicinity of an industrious and
republican city--in that style of beauty, or rather prettiness, that
might tempt the citizen into the country, and yet gratify the taste
which he had acquired in the town. Summer-houses and Chinese show-work
are everywhere scattered along the high and green banks; the boards
of the farm-houses left unplastered and gaily painted with green and
yellow; and scarcely a tree not cut into shapes and made to remind the
human being of his own power and intelligence instead of the wisdom of
nature. Still, however, these are links of connection between town and
country, and far better than the affectation of tastes and enjoyments
for which men's habits have disqualified them. Pass them by on Saturdays
and Sundays with the burghers of Hamburg smoking their pipes, the women
and children feasting in the alcoves of box and yew, and it becomes a
nature of its own. On Wednesday, four o'clock, we left the vessel, and
passing with trouble through the huge masses of shipping that seemed to
choke the wide Elbe from Altona upward, we were at length landed at the
Boom House, Hamburg.


To a lady.


Meine liebe Freundinn,

See how natural the German comes from me, though I have not yet
been six weeks in the country!--almost as fluently as English from my
neighbour the Amtsschreiber, (or public secretary,) who as often as
we meet, though it should be half a dozen times in the same day,
never fails to greet me with--"---ddam your ploot unt eyes, my
dearest Englander! vhee goes it!"--which is certainly a proof of great
generosity on his part, these words being his whole stock of English.
I had, however, a better reason than the desire of displaying my
proficiency: for I wished to put you in good humour with a language,
from the acquirement of which I have promised myself much edification
and the means too of communicating a new pleasure to you and your
sister, during our winter readings. And how can I do this better than
by pointing out its gallant attention to the ladies? Our English affix,
ess, is, I believe, confined either to words derived from the Latin, as
actress, directress, etc., or from the French, as mistress, duchess, and
the like. But the German, inn, enables us to designate the sex in
every possible relation of life. Thus the Amtmann's lady is the Frau
Amtmanninn--the secretary's wife, (by the bye, the handsomest
woman I have yet seen in Germany,) is die allerliebste Frau
Amtsschreiberinn--the colonel's lady, die Frau Obristinn or
Colonellinn--and even the parson's wife, die Frau Pastorinn. But I am
especially pleased with their Freundinn, which, unlike the amica of the
Romans, is seldom used but in its best and purest sense. Now, I know
it will be said, that a friend is already something more than a friend,
when a man feels an anxiety to express to himself that this friend is a
female; but this I deny--in that sense at least in which the objection
will be made. I would hazard the impeachment of heresy, rather than
abandon my belief that there is a sex in our souls as well as in their
perishable garments; and he who does not feel it, never truly loved a
sister--nay, is not capable even of loving a wife as she deserves to be
loved, if she indeed be worthy of that holy name.

Now I know, my gentle friend, what you are murmuring to yourself--"This
is so like him! running away after the first bubble, that chance has
blown off from the surface of his fancy; when one is anxious to learn
where he is and what he has seen." Well then! that I am settled at
Ratzeburg, with my motives and the particulars of my journey hither,
will inform you. My first letter to him, with which doubtless he has
edified your whole fireside, left me safely landed at Hamburg on the
Elbe Stairs, at the Boom House. While standing on the stairs, I was
amused by the contents of the passage-boat which crosses the river once
or twice a day from Hamburg to Haarburg. It was stowed close with all
people of all nations, in all sorts of dresses; the men all with pipes
in their mouths, and these pipes of all shapes and fancies--straight
and wreathed, simple and complex, long and short, cane, clay, porcelain,
wood, tin, silver, and ivory; most of them with silver chains and silver
bole-covers. Pipes and boots are the first universal characteristic of
the male Hamburgers that would strike the eye of a raw traveller. But
I forget my promise of journalizing as much as possible.--Therefore,
Septr. 19th Afternoon. My companion, who, you recollect, speaks
the French language with unusual propriety, had formed a kind of
confidential acquaintance with the emigrant, who appeared to be a man
of sense, and whose manners were those of a perfect gentleman. He seemed
about fifty or rather more. Whatever is unpleasant in French manners
from excess in the degree, had been softened down by age or affliction;
and all that is delightful in the kind, alacrity and delicacy in little
attentions, etc., remained, and without bustle, gesticulation,
or disproportionate eagerness. His demeanour exhibited the minute
philanthropy of a polished Frenchman, tempered by the sobriety of
the English character disunited from its reserve. There is something
strangely attractive in the character of a gentleman when you apply the
word emphatically, and yet in that sense of the term which it is more
easy to feel than to define. It neither includes the possession of high
moral excellence, nor of necessity even the ornamental graces of manner.
I have now in my mind's eye a person whose life would scarcely stand
scrutiny even in the court of honour, much less in that of conscience;
and his manners, if nicely observed, would of the two excite an idea
of awkwardness rather than of elegance: and yet every one who conversed
with him felt and acknowledged the gentleman. The secret of the matter,
I believe to be this--we feel the gentlemanly character present to us,
whenever, under all the circumstances of social intercourse, the trivial
not less than the important, through the whole detail of his manners
and deportment, and with the ease of a habit, a person shows respect to
others in such a way, as at the same time implies in his own feelings
an habitual and assured anticipation of reciprocal respect from them to
himself. In short, the gentlemanly character arises out of the feeling
of Equality acting, as a Habit, yet flexible to the varieties of
Rank, and modified without being disturbed or superseded by them. This
description will perhaps explain to you the ground of one of your own
remarks, as I was englishing to you the interesting dialogue concerning
the causes of the corruption of eloquence. "What perfect gentlemen these
old Romans must have been! I was impressed, I remember, with the
same feeling at the time I was reading a translation of Cicero's
philosophical dialogues and of his epistolary correspondence: while in
Pliny's Letters I seemed to have a different feeling--he gave me the
notion of a very fine gentleman." You uttered the words as if you had
felt that the adjunct had injured the substance and the increased degree
altered the kind. Pliny was the courtier of an absolute monarch--Cicero
an aristocratic republican. For this reason the character of gentleman,
in the sense to which I have confined it, is frequent in England, rare
in France, and found, where it is found, in age or the latest period
of manhood; while in Germany the character is almost unknown. But
the proper antipode of a gentleman is to be sought for among the
Anglo-American democrats.

I owe this digression, as an act of justice to this amiable Frenchman,
and of humiliation for myself. For in a little controversy between us
on the subject of French poetry, he made me feel my own ill behaviour by
the silent reproof of contrast, and when I afterwards apologized to him
for the warmth of my language, he answered me with a cheerful expression
of surprise, and an immediate compliment, which a gentleman might both
make with dignity and receive with pleasure. I was pleased therefore to
find it agreed on, that we should, if possible, take up our quarters in
the same house. My friend went with him in search of an hotel, and I to
deliver my letters of recommendation.

I walked onward at a brisk pace, enlivened not so much by anything I
actually saw, as by the confused sense that I was for the first time
in my life on the continent of our planet. I seemed to myself like a
liberated bird that had been hatched in an aviary, who now, after his
first soar of freedom, poises himself in the upper air. Very naturally I
began to wonder at all things, some for being so like and some for being
so unlike the things in England--Dutch women with large umbrella hats
shooting out half a yard before them, with a prodigal plumpness of
petticoat behind--the women of Hamburg with caps plaited on the caul
with silver, or gold, or both, bordered round with stiffened lace, which
stood out before their eyes, but not lower, so that the eyes sparkled
through it--the Hanoverian with the fore part of the head bare, then a
stiff lace standing up like a wall perpendicular on the cap, and the cap
behind tailed with an enormous quantity of ribbon which lies or tosses
on the back:

    "Their visnomies seem'd like a goodly banner
     Spread in defiance of all enemies."

The ladies all in English dresses, all rouged, and all with bad teeth:
which you notice instantly from their contrast to the almost animal, too
glossy mother-of-pearl whiteness and the regularity of the teeth of the
laughing, loud-talking country-women and servant-girls, who with their
clean white stockings and with slippers without heel quarters, tripped
along the dirty streets, as if they were secured by a charm from
the dirt: with a lightness too, which surprised me, who had always
considered it as one of the annoyances of sleeping in an Inn, that I
had to clatter up stairs in a pair of them. The streets narrow; to my
English nose sufficiently offensive, and explaining at first sight
the universal use of boots; without any appropriate path for the
foot-passengers; the gable ends of the houses all towards the street,
some in the ordinary triangular form and entire as the botanists say;
but the greater number notched and scolloped with more than Chinese
grotesqueness. Above all, I was struck with the profusion of windows,
so large and so many, that the houses look all glass. Mr. Pitt's window
tax, with its pretty little additionals sprouting out from it like young
toadlets on the back of a Surinam toad, would certainly improve the
appearance of the Hamburg houses, which have a slight summer look, not
in keeping with their size, incongruous with the climate, and precluding
that feeling of retirement and self-content, which one wishes to
associate with a house in a noisy city. But a conflagration would, I
fear, be the previous requisite to the production of any architectural
beauty in Hamburg: for verily it is a filthy town. I moved on and
crossed a multitude of ugly bridges, with huge black deformities of
water wheels close by them. The water intersects the city everywhere,
and would have furnished to the genius of Italy the capabilities of all
that is most beautiful and magnificent in architecture. It might have
been the rival of Venice, and it is huddle and ugliness, stench and
stagnation. The Jungfer Stieg, (that is, Young Ladies' Walk), to which
my letters directed me, made an exception. It was a walk or promenade
planted with treble rows of elm trees, which, being yearly pruned and
cropped, remain slim and dwarf-like. This walk occupies one side of a
square piece of water, with many swans on it perfectly tame, and, moving
among the swans, shewy pleasure-boats with ladies in them, rowed by
their husbands or lovers.------

(Some paragraphs have been here omitted.)------thus embarrassed by sad
and solemn politeness still more than by broken English, it sounded like
the voice of an old friend when I heard the emigrant's servant inquiring
after me. He had come for the purpose of guiding me to our hotel.
Through streets and streets I pressed on as happy as a child, and, I
doubt not, with a childish expression of wonderment in my busy eyes,
amused by the wicker waggons with movable benches across them, one
behind the other, (these were the hackney coaches;) amused by the
sign-boards of the shops, on which all the articles sold within are
painted, and that too very exactly, though in a grotesque confusion, (a
useful substitute for language in this great mart of nations;) amused
with the incessant tinkling of the shop and house door bells, the
bell hanging over each door and struck with a small iron rod at every
entrance and exit;--and finally, amused by looking in at the windows,
as I passed along; the ladies and gentlemen drinking coffee or playing
cards, and the gentlemen all smoking. I wished myself a painter, that I
might have sent you a sketch of one of the card parties. The long pipe
of one gentleman rested on the table, its bole half a yard from his
mouth, fuming like a censer by the fish-pool--the other gentleman, who
was dealing the cards, and of course had both hands employed, held his
pipe in his teeth, which hanging down between his knees, smoked beside
his ancles. Hogarth himself never drew a more ludicrous distortion both
of attitude and physiognomy, than this effort occasioned nor was there
wanting beside it one of those beautiful female faces which the same
Hogarth, in whom the satirist never extinguished that love of beauty
which belonged to him as a poet, so often and so gladly introduces, as
the central figure, in a crowd of humorous deformities, which figures,
(such is the power of true genius!) neither acts, nor is meant to act
as a contrast; but diffuses through all, and over each of the group,
a spirit of reconciliation and human kindness; and, even when the
attention is no longer consciously directed to the cause of this
feeling, still blends its tenderness with our laughter: and thus
prevents the instructive merriment at the whims of nature or the foibles
or humours of our fellow-men from degenerating into the heart-poison of
contempt or hatred.

Our hotel DIE WILDE MAN, (the sign of which was no bad likeness of the
landlord, who had ingrafted on a very grim face a restless grin, that
was at every man's service, and which indeed, like an actor rehearsing
to himself, he kept playing in expectation of an occasion for
it)--neither our hotel, I say, nor its landlord were of the genteelest
class. But it has one great advantage for a stranger, by being in the
market place, and the next neighbour of the huge church of St. Nicholas:
a church with shops and houses built up against it, out of which wens
and warts its high massy steeple rises, necklaced near the top with a
round of large gilt balls. A better pole-star could scarcely be desired.
Long shall I retain the impression made on my mind by the awful echo,
so loud and long and tremulous, of the deep-toned clock within this
church, which awoke me at two in the morning from a distressful dream,
occasioned, I believe, by the feather bed, which is used here instead
of bed-clothes. I will rather carry my blanket about with me like a wild
Indian, than submit to this abominable custom. Our emigrant acquaintance
was, we found, an intimate friend of the celebrated Abbe de Lisle:
and from the large fortune which he possessed under the monarchy, had
rescued sufficient not only for independence, but for respectability. He
had offended some of his fellow-emigrants in London, whom he had obliged
with considerable sums, by a refusal to make further advances, and
in consequence of their intrigues had received an order to quit the
kingdom. I thought it one proof of his innocence, that he attached no
blame either to the alien act, or to the minister who had exerted it
against him; and a still greater, that he spoke of London with rapture,
and of his favourite niece, who had married and settled in England, with
all the fervour and all the pride of a fond parent. A man sent by force
out of a country, obliged to sell out of the stocks at a great loss, and
exiled from those pleasures and that style of society which habit had
rendered essential to his happiness, whose predominant feelings were yet
all of a private nature, resentment for friendship outraged, and anguish
for domestic affections interrupted--such a man, I think, I could dare
warrant guiltless of espionnage in any service, most of all in that of
the present French Directory. He spoke with ecstasy of Paris under the
Monarchy: and yet the particular facts, which made up his description,
left as deep a conviction on my mind, of French worthlessness, as his
own tale had done of emigrant ingratitude. Since my arrival in
Germany, I have not met a single person, even among those who abhor
the Revolution, that spoke with favour, or even charity of the French
emigrants. Though the belief of their influence in the organization
of this disastrous war (from the horrors of which, North Germany deems
itself only reprieved, not secured,) may have some share in the general
aversion with which they are regarded: yet I am deeply persuaded
that the far greater part is owing to their own profligacy, to their
treachery and hardheartedness to each other, and the domestic misery or
corrupt principles which so many of them have carried into the families
of their protectors. My heart dilated with honest pride, as I recalled
to mind the stern yet amiable characters of the English patriots, who
sought refuge on the Continent at the Restoration! O let not our civil
war under the first Charles be paralleled with the French Revolution!
In the former, the character overflowed from excess of principle; in the
latter from the fermentation of the dregs! The former, was a civil war
between the virtues and virtuous prejudices of the two parties; the
latter, between the vices. The Venetian glass of the French monarchy
shivered and flew asunder with the working of a double poison.

Sept. 20th. I was introduced to Mr. Klopstock, the brother of the poet,
who again introduced me to Professor Ebeling, an intelligent and lively
man, though deaf: so deaf, indeed, that it was a painful effort to talk
with him, as we were obliged to drop our pearls into a huge ear-trumpet.
From this courteous and kind-hearted man of letters, (I hope, the
German literati in general may resemble this first specimen), I heard a
tolerable Italian pun, and an interesting anecdote. When Buonaparte was
in Italy, having been irritated by some instance of perfidy, he said in
a loud and vehement tone, in a public company--"'tis a true proverb, gli
Italiani tutti ladroni"--(that is, the Italians all plunderers.) A lady
had the courage to reply, "Non tutti; ma BUONA PARTE," (not all, but a
good part, or Buonaparte.) This, I confess, sounded to my ears, as one
of the many good things that might have been said. The anecdote is more
valuable; for it instances the ways and means of French insinuation.
Hoche had received much information concerning the face of the country
from a map of unusual fulness and accuracy, the maker of which, he
heard, resided at Duesseldorf. At the storming of Duesseldorf by the
French army, Hoche previously ordered, that the house and property of
this man should be preserved, and intrusted the performance of the order
to an officer on whose troop he could rely. Finding afterwards, that the
man had escaped before the storming commenced, Hoche exclaimed, "HE had
no reason to flee! It is for such men, not against them, that the French
nation makes war, and consents to shed the blood of its children." You
remember Milton's sonnet--

    "The great Emathian conqueror bid spare
     The house of Pindarus when temple and tower
     Went to the ground"------

Now though the Duesseldorf map-maker may stand in the same relation to
the Theban bard, as the snail, that marks its path by lines of film on
the wall it creeps over, to the eagle that soars sunward and beats the
tempest with its wings; it does not therefore follow, that the Jacobin
of France may not be as valiant a general and as good a politician, as
the madman of Macedon.

From Professor Ebeling's Mr. Klopstock accompanied my friend and me
to his own house, where I saw a fine bust of his brother. There was a
solemn and heavy greatness in his countenance, which corresponded to my
preconceptions of his style and genius.--I saw there, likewise, a very
fine portrait of Lessing, whose works are at present the chief object of
my admiration. His eyes were uncommonly like mine, if anything, rather
larger and more prominent. But the lower part of his face and his
nose--O what an exquisite expression of elegance and sensibility!--There
appeared no depth, weight, or comprehensiveness in the forehead.--The
whole face seemed to say, that Lessing was a man of quick and voluptuous
feelings; of an active but light fancy; acute; yet acute not in the
observation of actual life, but in the arrangements and management of
the ideal world, that is, in taste, and in metaphysics. I assure you,
that I wrote these very words in my memorandum-book with the portrait
before my eyes, and when I knew nothing of Lessing but his name, and
that he was a German writer of eminence.

We consumed two hours and more over a bad dinner, at the table d'hote.
"Patience at a German ordinary, smiling at time." The Germans are the
worst cooks in Europe. There is placed for every two persons a bottle
of common wine--Rhenish and Claret alternately; but in the houses of the
opulent, during the many and long intervals of the dinner, the servants
hand round glasses of richer wines. At the Lord of Culpin's they came
in this order. Burgundy--Madeira--Port--Frontiniac--Pacchiaretti--Old
Hock--Mountain--Champagne--Hock again--Bishop, and lastly, Punch. A
tolerable quantum, methinks! The last dish at the ordinary, viz. slices
of roast pork, (for all the larger dishes are brought in, cut up, and
first handed round and then set on the table,) with stewed prunes and
other sweet fruits, and this followed by cheese and butter, with plates
of apples, reminded me of Shakespeare [76], and Shakespeare put it in my
head to go to the French comedy.

Bless me! why it is worse than our modern English plays! The first act
informed me, that a court martial is to be held on a Count Vatron, who
had drawn his sword on the Colonel, his brother-in-law. The officers
plead in his behalf--in vain! His wife, the Colonel's sister, pleads
with most tempestuous agonies--in vain! She falls into hysterics and
faints away, to the dropping of the inner curtain! In the second act
sentence of death is passed on the Count--his wife, as frantic and
hysterical as before: more so (good industrious creature!) she could
not be. The third and last act, the wife still frantic, very frantic
indeed!--the soldiers just about to fire, the handkerchief actually
dropped; when reprieve! reprieve! is heard from behind the scenes:
and in comes Prince Somebody, pardons the Count, and the wife is still
frantic, only with joy; that was all!

O dear lady! this is one of the cases, in which laughter is followed
by melancholy: for such is the kind of drama, which is now substituted
every where for Shakespeare and Racine. You well know, that I offer
violence to my own feelings in joining these names. But however meanly
I may think of the French serious drama, even in its most perfect
specimens; and with whatever right I may complain of its perpetual
falsification of the language, and of the connections and transitions
of thought, which Nature has appropriated to states of passion; still,
however, the French tragedies are consistent works of art, and the
offspring of great intellectual power. Preserving a fitness in the
parts, and a harmony in the whole, they form a nature of their own,
though a false nature. Still they excite the minds of the spectators to
active thought, to a striving after ideal excellence. The soul is not
stupefied into mere sensations by a worthless sympathy with our
own ordinary sufferings, or an empty curiosity for the surprising,
undignified by the language or the situations which awe and delight the
imagination. What, (I would ask of the crowd, that press forward to
the pantomimic tragedies and weeping comedies of Kotzebue and his
imitators), what are you seeking? Is it comedy? But in the comedy of
Shakespeare and Moliere the more accurate my knowledge, and the more
profoundly I think, the greater is the satisfaction that mingles with
my laughter. For though the qualities which these writers pourtray are
ludicrous indeed, either from the kind or the excess, and exquisitely
ludicrous, yet are they the natural growth of the human mind and such
as, with more or less change in the drapery, I can apply to my own
heart, or at least to whole classes of my fellow-creatures. How often
are not the moralist and the metaphysician obliged for the happiest
illustrations of general truths and the subordinate laws of human
thought and action to quotations, not only from the tragic characters,
but equally from the Jaques, Falstaff, and even from the fools and
clowns of Shakespeare, or from the Miser, Hypochondriast, and Hypocrite,
of Moliere! Say not, that I am recommending abstractions: for these
class-characteristics, which constitute the instructiveness of a
character, are so modified and particularized in each person of the
Shakesperian Drama, that life itself does not excite more distinctly
that sense of individuality which belongs to real existence. Paradoxical
as it may sound, one of the essential properties of geometry is not
less essential to dramatic excellence, and, (if I may mention his name
without pedantry to a lady,) Aristotle has accordingly required of
the poet an involution of the universal in the individual. The chief
differences are, that in geometry it is the universal truth itself,
which is uppermost in the consciousness, in poetry the individual form
in which the truth is clothed. With the ancients, and not less with the
elder dramatists of England and France, both comedy and tragedy were
considered as kinds of poetry. They neither sought in comedy to make
us laugh merely, much less to make us laugh by wry faces, accidents of
jargon, slang phrases for the day, or the clothing of commonplace morals
in metaphors drawn from the shops or mechanic occupations of their
characters; nor did they condescend in tragedy to wheedle away the
applause of the spectators, by representing before them fac-similes
of their own mean selves in all their existing meanness, or to work on
their sluggish sympathies by a pathos not a whit more respectable than
the maudlin tears of drunkenness. Their tragic scenes were meant to
affect us indeed, but within the bounds of pleasure, and in union with
the activity both of our understanding and imagination. They wished to
transport the mind to a sense of its possible greatness, and to implant
the germs of that greatness during the temporary oblivion of the
worthless "thing, we are" and of the peculiar state, in which each man
happens to be; suspending our individual recollections and lulling them
to sleep amid the music of nobler thoughts.

Hold!--(methinks I hear the spokesman of the crowd reply, and we will
listen to him. I am the plaintiff, and he the defendant.)

DEFENDANT. Hold! are not our modern sentimental plays filled with the
best Christian morality?

PLAINTIFF. Yes! just as much of it, and just that part of it, which
you can exercise without a single Christian virtue--without a single
sacrifice that is really painful to you!--just as much as flatters you,
sends you away pleased with your own hearts, and quite reconciled to
your vices, which can never be thought very ill of, when they keep
such good company, and walk hand in hand with so much compassion and
generosity; adulation so loathsome, that you would spit in the man's
face who dared offer it to you in a private company, unless you
interpreted it as insulting irony, you appropriate with infinite
satisfaction, when you share the garbage with the whole stye, and gobble
it out of a common trough. No Caesar must pace your boards--no Antony,
no royal Dane, no Orestes, no Andromache!

D. No: or as few of them as possible. What has a plain citizen of
London, or Hamburg, to do with your kings and queens, and your old
school-boy Pagan heroes? Besides, every body knows the stories; and what
curiosity can we feel----

P. What, Sir, not for the manner?--not for the delightful language
of the poet?--not for the situations, the action and reaction of the

D. You are hasty, Sir! the only curiosity, we feel, is in the story: and
how can we be anxious concerning the end of a play, or be surprised by
it, when we know how it will turn out?

P. Your pardon, for having interrupted you! we now understand each
other. You seek then, in a tragedy, which wise men of old held for the
highest effort of human genius, the same gratification, as that you
receive from a new novel, the last German romance, and other dainties of
the day, which can be enjoyed but once. If you carry these feelings to
the sister art of Painting, Michael Angelo's Sixtine Chapel, and the
Scripture Gallery of Raphael can expect no favour from you. You know
all about them beforehand; and are, doubtless, more familiar with the
subjects of those paintings, than with the tragic tales of the historic
or heroic ages. There is a consistency, therefore, in your preference of
contemporary writers: for the great men of former times, those at least
who were deemed great by our ancestors, sought so little to gratify this
kind of curiosity, that they seemed to have regarded the story in a not
much higher light, than the painter regards his canvass: as that on, not
by, which they were to display their appropriate excellence. No work,
resembling a tale or romance, can well show less variety of invention
in the incidents, or less anxiety in weaving them together, than the DON
QUIXOTE of Cervantes. Its admirers feel the disposition to go back and
re-peruse some preceding chapter, at least ten times for once that they
find any eagerness to hurry forwards: or open the book on those parts
which they best recollect, even as we visit those friends oftenest whom
we love most, and with whose characters and actions we are the most
intimately acquainted. In the divine Ariosto, (as his countrymen call
this, their darling poet,) I question whether there be a single tale of
his own invention, or the elements of which, were not familiar to the
readers of "old romance." I will pass by the ancient Greeks, who thought
it even necessary to the fable of a tragedy, that its substance should
be previously known. That there had been at least fifty tragedies with
the same title, would be one of the motives which determined Sophocles
and Euripides, in the choice of Electra as a subject. But Milton--

D. Aye Milton, indeed!--but do not Dr. Johnson and other great men tell
us, that nobody now reads Milton but as a task?

P. So much the worse for them, of whom this can be truly said! But why
then do you pretend to admire Shakespeare? The greater part, if not
all, of his dramas were, as far as the names and the main incidents are
concerned, already stock plays. All the stories, at least, on which they
are built, pre-existed in the chronicles, ballads, or translations of
contemporary or preceding English writers. Why, I repeat, do you pretend
to admire Shakespeare? Is it, perhaps, that you only pretend to admire
him? However, as once for all, you have dismissed the well-known events
and personages of history, or the epic muse, what have you taken in
their stead? Whom has your tragic muse armed with her bowl and dagger?
the sentimental muse I should have said, whom you have seated in the
throne of tragedy? What heroes has she reared on her buskins?

D. O! our good friends and next-door neighbours--honest tradesmen,
valiant tars, high-spirited half-pay officers, philanthropic Jews,
virtuous courtezans, tender-hearted braziers, and sentimental rat-
catchers!--(a little bluff or so, but all our very generous, tender-
hearted characters are a little rude or misanthropic, and all our
misanthropes very tender-hearted.)

P. But I pray you, friend, in what actions great or interesting, can
such men be engaged?

D. They give away a great deal of money; find rich dowries for young
men and maidens who have all other good qualities; they brow-beat
lords, baronets, and justices of the peace, (for they are as bold as
Hector!)--they rescue stage coaches at the instant they are falling down
precipices; carry away infants in the sight of opposing armies; and some
of our performers act a muscular able-bodied man to such perfection,
that our dramatic poets, who always have the actors in their eye, seldom
fail to make their favourite male character as strong as Samson. And
then they take such prodigious leaps!! And what is done on the stage is
more striking even than what is acted. I once remember such a deafening
explosion, that I could not hear a word of the play for half an act
after it: and a little real gunpowder being set fire to at the same
time, and smelt by all the spectators, the naturalness of the scene was
quite astonishing!

P. But how can you connect with such men and such actions that
dependence of thousands on the fate of one, which gives so lofty an
interest to the personages of Shakespeare, and the Greek Tragedians? How
can you connect with them that sublimest of all feelings, the power of
destiny and the controlling might of heaven, which seems to elevate the
characters which sink beneath its irresistible blow?

D. O mere fancies! We seek and find on the present stage our own wants
and passions, our own vexations, losses, and embarrassments.

P. It is your own poor pettifogging nature then, which you desire to
have represented before you?--not human nature in its height and vigour?
But surely you might find the former with all its joys and sorrows, more
conveniently in your own houses and parishes.

D. True! but here comes a difference. Fortune is blind, but the poet has
his eyes open, and is besides as complaisant as fortune is capricious.
He makes every thing turn out exactly as we would wish it. He gratifies
us by representing those as hateful or contemptible whom we hate and
wish to despise.

P. (aside.) That is, he gratifies your envy by libelling your superiors.

D. He makes all those precise moralists, who affect to be better than
their neighbours, turn out at last abject hypocrites, traitors, and
hard-hearted villains; and your men of spirit, who take their girl and
their glass with equal freedom, prove the true men of honour, and, (that
no part of the audience may remain unsatisfied,) reform in the last
scene, and leave no doubt in the minds of the ladies, that they will
make most faithful and excellent husbands: though it does seem a pity,
that they should be obliged to get rid of qualities which had made them
so interesting! Besides, the poor become rich all at once; and in the
final matrimonial choice the opulent and high-born themselves are made

P. Excellent! But you have forgotten those brilliant flashes of loyalty,
those patriotic praises of the King and Old England, which, especially
if conveyed in a metaphor from the ship or the shop, so often solicit
and so unfailingly receive the public plaudit! I give your prudence
credit for the omission. For the whole system of your drama is a moral
and intellectual Jacobinism of the most dangerous kind, and those
common-place rants of loyalty are no better than hypocrisy in your
playwrights, and your own sympathy with them a gross self-delusion.
For the whole secret of dramatic popularity consists with you in the
confusion and subversion of the natural order of things, their causes
and their effects; in the excitement of surprise, by representing the
qualities of liberality, refined feeling, and a nice sense of honour,
(those things rather which pass among you for such), in persons and in
classes of life where experience teaches us least to expect them; and
in rewarding with all the sympathies, that are the dues of virtue, those
criminals whom law, reason, and religion have excommunicated from our

And now--good night! Truly! I might have written this last sheet without
having gone to Germany; but I fancied myself talking to you by your own
fireside, and can you think it a small pleasure to me to forget now and
then, that I am not there? Besides, you and my other good friends have
made up your minds to me as I am, and from whatever place I write you
will expect that part of my "Travels" will consist of excursions in my
own mind.


No little fish thrown back again into the water, no fly unimprisoned
from a child's hand, could more buoyantly enjoy its element, than I this
clean and peaceful house, with this lovely view of the town, groves,
and lake of Ratzeburg, from the window at which I am writing. My spirits
certainly, and my health I fancied, were beginning to sink under the
noise, dirt, and unwholesome air of our Hamburg hotel. I left it
on Sunday, Sept. 23rd, with a letter of introduction from the poet
Klopstock, to the Amtmann of Ratzeburg. The Amtmann received me with
kindness, and introduced me to the worthy pastor, who agreed to board
and lodge me for any length of time not less than a month. The vehicle,
in which I took my place, was considerably larger than an English
stage-coach, to which it bore much the same proportion and rude
resemblance, that an elephant's ear does to the human. Its top was
composed of naked boards of different colours, and seeming to have been
parts of different wainscots. Instead of windows there were leathern
curtains with a little eye of glass in each: they perfectly answered
the purpose of keeping out the prospect and letting in the cold. I
could observe little therefore, but the inns and farmhouses at which
we stopped. They were all alike, except in size: one great room, like
a barn, with a hay-loft over it, the straw and hay dangling in tufts
through the boards which formed the ceiling of the room, and the floor
of the loft. From this room, which is paved like a street, sometimes
one, sometimes two smaller ones, are enclosed at one end. These are
commonly floored. In the large room the cattle, pigs, poultry, men,
women, and children, live in amicable community; yet there was an
appearance of cleanliness and rustic comfort. One of these houses I
measured. It was an hundred feet in length. The apartments were taken
off from one corner. Between these and the stalls there was a small
interspace, and here the breadth was forty-eight feet, but thirty-two
where the stalls were; of course, the stalls were on each side eight
feet in depth. The faces of the cows, etc. were turned towards the room;
indeed they were in it, so that they had at least the comfort of seeing
each other's faces. Stall-feeding is universal in this part of Germany,
a practice concerning which the agriculturist and the poet are likely
to entertain opposite opinions--or at least, to have very different
feelings. The woodwork of these buildings on the outside is left
unplastered, as in old houses among us, and, being painted red and
green, it cuts and tesselates the buildings very gaily. From within
three miles of Hamburg almost to Molln, which is thirty miles from it,
the country, as far as I could see it, was a dead flat, only varied by
woods. At Molln it became more beautiful. I observed a small lake nearly
surrounded with groves, and a palace in view belonging to the King of
Great Britain, and inhabited by the Inspector of the Forests. We were
nearly the same time in travelling the thirty-five miles from Hamburg to
Ratzeburg, as we had been in going from London to Yarmouth, one hundred
and twenty-six miles.

The lake of Ratzeburg runs from south to north, about nine miles in
length, and varying in breadth from three miles to half a mile. About a
mile from the southernmost point it is divided into two, of course very
unequal, parts by an island, which, being connected by a bridge and a
narrow slip of land with the one shore, and by another bridge of immense
length with the other shore, forms a complete isthmus. On this island
the town of Ratzeburg is built. The pastor's house or vicarage, together
with the Amtmann's Amtsschreiber's, and the church, stands near the
summit of a hill, which slopes down to the slip of land and the little
bridge, from which, through a superb military gate, you step into
the island-town of Ratzeburg. This again is itself a little hill, by
ascending and descending which, you arrive at the long bridge, and so to
the other shore. The water to the south of the town is called the Little
Lake, which however almost engrosses the beauties of the whole the
shores being just often enough green and bare to give the proper
effect to the magnificent groves which occupy the greater part of their
circumference. From the turnings, windings, and indentations of the
shore, the views vary almost every ten steps, and the whole has a sort
of majestic beauty, a feminine grandeur. At the north of the Great Lake,
and peeping over it, I see the seven church towers of Luebec, at the
distance of twelve or thirteen miles, yet as distinctly as if they
were not three. The only defect in the view is, that Ratzeburg is built
entirely of red bricks, and all the houses roofed with red tiles. To the
eye, therefore, it presents a clump of brick-dust red. Yet this evening,
Oct. 10th, twenty minutes past five, I saw the town perfectly beautiful,
and the whole softened down into complete keeping, if I may borrow a
term from the painters. The sky over Ratzeburg and all the east was a
pure evening blue, while over the west it was covered with light sandy
clouds. Hence a deep red light spread over the whole prospect, in
undisturbed harmony with the red town, the brown-red woods, and the
yellow-red reeds on the skirts of the lake. Two or three boats, with
single persons paddling them, floated up and down in the rich light,
which not only was itself in harmony with all, but brought all into

I should have told you that I went back to Hamburg on Thursday (Sept.
27th) to take leave of my friend, who travels southward, and returned
hither on the Monday following. From Empfelde, a village half way from
Ratzeburg, I walked to Hamburg through deep sandy roads and a dreary
flat: the soil everywhere white, hungry, and excessively pulverised; but
the approach to the city is pleasing. Light cool country houses, which
you can look through and see the gardens behind them, with arbours and
trellis work, and thick vegetable walls, and trees in cloisters and
piazzas, each house with neat rails before it, and green seats within
the rails. Every object, whether the growth of nature or the work of
man, was neat and artificial. It pleased me far better, than if the
houses and gardens, and pleasure fields, had been in a nobler taste:
for this nobler taste would have been mere apery. The busy, anxious,
money-loving merchant of Hamburg could only have adopted, he could not
have enjoyed the simplicity of nature. The mind begins to love nature by
imitating human conveniences in nature; but this is a step in intellect,
though a low one--and were it not so, yet all around me spoke
of innocent enjoyment and sensitive comforts, and I entered with
unscrupulous sympathy into the enjoyments and comforts even of the
busy, anxious, money-loving merchants of Hamburg. In this charitable and
catholic mood I reached the vast ramparts of the city. These are huge
green cushions, one rising above the other, with trees growing in the
interspaces, pledges and symbols of a long peace. Of my return I have
nothing worth communicating, except that I took extra post, which
answers to posting in England. These north German post chaises are
uncovered wicker carts. An English dust-cart is a piece of finery, a
chef d'auvre of mechanism, compared with them and the horses!--a savage
might use their ribs instead of his fingers for a numeration table.
Wherever we stopped, the postilion fed his cattle with the brown rye
bread of which he eat himself, all breakfasting together; only the
horses had no gin to their water, and the postilion no water to his gin.
Now and henceforward for subjects of more interest to you, and to
the objects in search of which I left you: namely, the literati and
literature of Germany.

Believe me, I walked with an impression of awe on my spirits, as
W----and myself accompanied Mr. Klopstock to the house of his brother,
the poet, which stands about a quarter of a mile from the city gate.
It is one of a row of little common-place summer-houses, (for so they
looked,) with four or five rows of young meagre elm trees before the
windows, beyond which is a green, and then a dead flat intersected with
several roads. Whatever beauty, (thought I,) may be before the poet's
eyes at present, it must certainly be purely of his own creation. We
waited a few minutes in a neat little parlour, ornamented with the
figures of two of the Muses and with prints, the subjects of which were
from Klopstock's odes. The poet entered. I was much disappointed in his
countenance, and recognised in it no likeness to the bust. There was
no comprehension in the forehead, no weight over the eye-brows, no
expression of peculiarity, moral or intellectual, on the eyes, no
massiveness in the general countenance. He is, if anything, rather below
the middle size. He wore very large half-boots, which his legs filled,
so fearfully were they swollen. However, though neither W---- nor
myself could discover any indications of sublimity or enthusiasm in his
physiognomy, we were both equally impressed with his liveliness, and his
kind and ready courtesy. He talked in French with my friend, and with
difficulty spoke a few sentences to me in English. His enunciation was
not in the least affected by the entire want of his upper teeth. The
conversation began on his part by the expression of his rapture at the
surrender of the detachment of French troops under General Humbert.
Their proceedings in Ireland with regard to the committee which they
had appointed, with the rest of their organizing system, seemed to have
given the poet great entertainment. He then declared his sanguine belief
in Nelson's victory, and anticipated its confirmation with a keen and
triumphant pleasure. His words, tones, looks, implied the most vehement
Anti-Gallicanism. The subject changed to literature, and I inquired
in Latin concerning the history of German poetry and the elder German
poets. To my great astonishment he confessed, that he knew very little
on the subject. He had indeed occasionally read one or two of their
elder writers, but not so as to enable him to speak of their merits.
Professor Ebeling, he said, would probably give me every information of
this kind: the subject had not particularly excited his curiosity.
He then talked of Milton and Glover, and thought Glover's blank verse
superior to Milton's. W---- and myself expressed our surprise: and
my friend gave his definition and notion of harmonious verse, that
it consisted, (the English iambic blank verse above all,) in the apt
arrangement of pauses and cadences, and the sweep of whole paragraphs,

    "with many a winding bout
     Of linked sweetness long drawn out,"

and not in the even flow, much less in the prominence of antithetic
vigour, of single lines, which were indeed injurious to the total
effect, except where they were introduced for some specific purpose.
Klopstock assented, and said that he meant to confine Glover's
superiority to single lines. He told us that he had read Milton, in
a prose translation, when he was fourteen [77]. I understood him thus
myself, and W---- interpreted Klopstock's French as I had already
construed it. He appeared to know very little of Milton or indeed of our
poets in general. He spoke with great indignation of the English prose
translation of his MESSIAH. All the translations had been bad, very
bad--but the English was no translation--there were pages on pages
not in the original--and half the original was not to be found in the
translation. W---- told him that I intended to translate a few of his
odes as specimens of German lyrics--he then said to me in English, "I
wish you would render into English some select passages of THE MESSIAH,
and revenge me of your countryman!". It was the liveliest thing which he
produced in the whole conversation. He told us, that his first ode was
fifty years older than his last. I looked at him with much emotion--I
considered him as the venerable father of German poetry; as a good man;
as a Christian; seventy-four years old; with legs enormously swollen;
yet active, lively, cheerful, and kind, and communicative. My eyes felt
as if a tear were swelling into them. In the portrait of Lessing
there was a toupee periwig, which enormously injured the effect of his
physiognomy--Klopstock wore the same, powdered and frizzled. By the
bye, old men ought never to wear powder--the contrast between a large
snow-white wig and the colour of an old man's skin is disgusting, and
wrinkles in such a neighbourhood appear only channels for dirt. It is
an honour to poets and great men, that you think of them as parts of
nature; and anything of trick and fashion wounds you in them, as much as
when you see venerable yews clipped into miserable peacocks.--The author
of THE MESSIAH should have worn his own grey hair.--His powder and
periwig were to the eye what Mr. Virgil would be to the ear.

Klopstock dwelt much on the superior power which the German language
possessed of concentrating meaning. He said, he had often translated
parts of Homer and Virgil, line by line, and a German line proved always
sufficient for a Greek or Latin one. In English you cannot do this. I
answered, that in English we could commonly render one Greek heroic line
in a line and a half of our common heroic metre, and I conjectured that
this line and a half would be found to contain no more syllables than
one German or Greek hexameter. He did not understand me [78]: and I, who
wished to hear his opinions, not to correct them, was glad that he did

We now took our leave. At the beginning of the French Revolution
Klopstock wrote odes of congratulation. He received some honorary
presents from the French Republic, (a golden crown I believe), and,
like our Priestley, was invited to a seat in the legislature, which he
declined. But when French liberty metamorphosed herself into a fury, he
sent back these presents with a palinodia, declaring his abhorrence of
their proceedings: and since then he has been perhaps more than enough
an Anti-Gallican. I mean, that in his just contempt and detestation
of the crimes and follies of the Revolutionists, he suffers himself to
forget that the revolution itself is a process of the Divine Providence;
and that as the folly of men is the wisdom of God, so are their
iniquities instruments of his goodness. From Klopstock's house we walked
to the ramparts, discoursing together on the poet and his conversation,
till our attention was diverted to the beauty and singularity of the
sunset and its effects on the objects around us. There were woods in the
distance. A rich sandy light, (nay, of a much deeper colour than sandy,)
lay over these woods that blackened in the blaze. Over that part of
the woods which lay immediately under the intenser light, a brassy mist
floated. The trees on the ramparts, and the people moving to and fro
between them, were cut or divided into equal segments of deep shade and
brassy light. Had the trees, and the bodies of the men and women, been
divided into equal segments by a rule or pair of compasses, the portions
could not have been more regular. All else was obscure. It was a
fairy scene!--and to increase its romantic character, among the moving
objects, thus divided into alternate shade and brightness, was a
beautiful child, dressed with the elegant simplicity of an English
child, riding on a stately goat, the saddle, bridle, and other
accoutrements of which were in a high degree costly and splendid. Before
I quit the subject of Hamburg, let me say, that I remained a day or two
longer than I otherwise should have done, in order to be present at the
feast of St. Michael, the patron saint of Hamburg, expecting to see
the civic pomp of this commercial Republic. I was however disappointed.
There were no processions, two or three sermons were preached to two
or three old women in two or three churches, and St. Michael and
his patronage wished elsewhere by the higher classes, all places of
entertainment, theatre, etc. being shut up on this day. In Hamburg,
there seems to be no religion at all; in Luebec it is confined to the
women. The men seemed determined to be divorced from their wives in the
other world, if they cannot in this. You will not easily conceive a more
singular sight, than is presented by the vast aisle of the principal
church at Luebec, seen from the organ loft: for being filled with female
servants and persons in the same class of life, and all their caps
having gold and silver cauls, it appears like a rich pavement of gold
and silver.

I will conclude this letter with the mere transcription of notes, which
my friend W---- made of his conversations with Klopstock, during the
interviews that took place after my departure. On these I shall make but
one remark at present, and that will appear a presumptuous one, namely,
that Klopstock's remarks on the venerable sage of Koenigsburg are to my
own knowledge injurious and mistaken; and so far is it from being true,
that his system is now given up, that throughout the Universities of
Germany there is not a single professor who is not either a Kantean or
a disciple of Fichte, whose system is built on the Kantean, and
presupposes its truth; or lastly who, though an antagonist of Kant, as
to his theoretical work, has not embraced wholly or in part his moral
system, and adopted part of his nomenclature. "Klopstock having wished
to see the CALVARY of Cumberland, and asked what was thought of it in
England, I went to Remnant's (the English bookseller) where I procured
the Analytical Review, in which is contained the review of Cumberland's
CALVARY. I remembered to have read there some specimens of a blank verse
translation of THE MESSIAH. I had mentioned this to Klopstock, and he
had a great desire to see them. I walked over to his house and put the
book into his hands. On adverting to his own poem, he told me he began
THE MESSIAH when he was seventeen; he devoted three entire years to the
plan without composing a single line. He was greatly at a loss in
what manner to execute his work. There were no successful specimens of
versification in the German language before this time. The first three
cantos he wrote in a species of measured or numerous prose. This, though
done with much labour and some success, was far from satisfying him. He
had composed hexameters both Latin and Greek as a school exercise, and
there had been also in the German language attempts in that style of
versification. These were only of very moderate merit.--One day he was
struck with the idea of what could be done in this way--he kept his
room a whole day, even went without his dinner, and found that in the
evening he had written twenty-three hexameters, versifying a part of
what he had before written in prose. From that time, pleased with his
efforts, he composed no more in prose. Today he informed me that he
had finished his plan before he read Milton. He was enchanted to see an
author who before him had trod the same path. This is a contradiction
of what he said before. He did not wish to speak of his poem to any one
till it was finished: but some of his friends who had seen what he had
finished, tormented him till he had consented to publish a few books in
a journal. He was then, I believe, very young, about twenty-five.
The rest was printed at different periods, four books at a time. The
reception given to the first specimens was highly flattering. He was
nearly thirty years in finishing the whole poem, but of these thirty
years not more than two were employed in the composition. He only
composed in favourable moments; besides he had other occupations. He
values himself upon the plan of his odes, and accuses the modern lyrical
writers of gross deficiency in this respect. I laid the same accusation
against Horace: he would not hear of it--but waived the discussion.
He called Rousseau's ODE TO FORTUNE a moral dissertation in stanzas.
I spoke of Dryden's ST. CECILIA; but he did not seem familiar with our
writers. He wished to know the distinctions between our dramatic and
epic blank verse. He recommended me to read his HERMANN before I read
either THE MESSIAH or the odes. He flattered himself that some time or
other his dramatic poems would be known in England. He had not heard of
Cowper. He thought that Voss in his translation of THE ILIAD had done
violence to the idiom of the Germans, and had sacrificed it to the
Greeks, not remembering sufficiently that each language has its
particular spirit and genius. He said Lessing was the first of their
dramatic writers. I complained of NATHAN as tedious. He said there was
not enough of action in it; but that Lessing was the most chaste of
their writers. He spoke favourably of Goethe; but said that his SORROWS
OF WERTER was his best work, better than any of his dramas: he preferred
the first written to the rest of Goethe's dramas. Schiller's ROBBERS he
found so extravagant, that he could not read it. I spoke of the scene of
the setting sun. He did not know it. He said Schiller could not live.
He thought DON CARLOS the best of his dramas; but said that the plot
was inextricable.--It was evident he knew little of Schiller's works:
indeed, he said, he could not read them. Buerger, he said, was a true
poet, and would live; that Schiller, on the contrary, must soon be
forgotten; that he gave himself up to the imitation of Shakespeare, who
often was extravagant, but that Schiller was ten thousand times more so.
He spoke very slightingly of Kotzebue, as an immoral author in the first
place, and next, as deficient in power. At Vienna, said he, they are
transported with him; but we do not reckon the people of Vienna either
the wisest or the wittiest people of Germany. He said Wieland was a
charming author, and a sovereign master of his own language: that in
this respect Goethe could not be compared to him, nor indeed could any
body else. He said that his fault was to be fertile to exuberance. I
told him the OBERON had just been translated into English. He asked me
if I was not delighted with the poem. I answered, that I thought the
story began to flag about the seventh or eighth book; and observed, that
it was unworthy of a man of genius to make the interest of a long poem
turn entirely upon animal gratification. He seemed at first disposed to
excuse this by saying, that there are different subjects for poetry, and
that poets are not willing to be restricted in their choice. I answered,
that I thought the passion of love as well suited to the purposes of
poetry as any other passion; but that it was a cheap way of pleasing
to fix the attention of the reader through a long poem on the mere
appetite. Well! but, said he, you see, that such poems please every
body. I answered, that it was the province of a great poet to raise
people up to his own level, not to descend to theirs. He agreed, and
confessed, that on no account whatsoever would he have written a work
like the OBERON. He spoke in raptures of Wieland's style, and pointed
out the passage where Retzia is delivered of her child, as exquisitely
beautiful. I said that I did not perceive any very striking passages;
but that I made allowance for the imperfections of a translation. Of the
thefts of Wieland, he said, they were so exquisitely managed, that the
greatest writers might be proud to steal as he did. He considered the
books and fables of old romance writers in the light of the ancient
mythology, as a sort of common property, from which a man was free to
take whatever he could make a good use of. An Englishman had presented
him with the odes of Collins, which he had read with pleasure. He
knew little or nothing of Gray, except his ELEGY written in a country
CHURCH-YARD. He complained of the fool in LEAR. I observed that he
seemed to give a terrible wildness to the distress; but still he
complained. He asked whether it was not allowed, that Pope had written
rhymed poetry with more skill than any of our writers--I said I
preferred Dryden, because his couplets had greater variety in their
movement. He thought my reason a good one; but asked whether the rhyme
of Pope were not more exact. This question I understood as applying to
the final terminations, and observed to him that I believed it was the
case; but that I thought it was easy to excuse some inaccuracy in the
final sounds, if the general sweep of the verse was superior. I told him
that we were not so exact with regard to the final endings of the lines
as the French. He did not seem to know that we made no distinction
between masculine and feminine (i.e. single or double,) rhymes: at
least he put inquiries to me on this subject. He seemed to think that
no language could be so far formed as that it might not be enriched by
idioms borrowed from another tongue. I said this was a very dangerous
practice; and added, that I thought Milton had often injured both his
prose and verse by taking this liberty too frequently. I recommended to
him the prose works of Dryden as models of pure and native English. I
was treading upon tender ground, as I have reason to suppose that he has
himself liberally indulged in the practice."

The same day I dined at Mr. Klopstock's, where I had the pleasure of a
third interview with the poet. We talked principally about indifferent
things. I asked him what he thought of Kant. He said that his reputation
was much on the decline in Germany. That for his own part he was not
surprised to find it so, as the works of Kant were to him utterly
incomprehensible--that he had often been pestered by the Kanteans;
but was rarely in the practice of arguing with them. His custom was to
produce the book, open it and point to a passage, and beg they would
explain it. This they ordinarily attempted to do by substituting their
own ideas. I do not want, I say, an explanation of your own ideas, but
of the passage which is before us. In this way I generally bring the
dispute to an immediate conclusion. He spoke of Wolfe as the first
Metaphysician they had in Germany. Wolfe had followers; but they could
hardly be called a sect, and luckily till the appearance of Kant,
about fifteen years ago, Germany had not been pestered by any sect of
philosophers whatsoever; but that each man had separately pursued his
inquiries uncontrolled by the dogmas of a master. Kant had appeared
ambitious to be the founder of a sect; that he had succeeded: but that
the Germans were now coming to their senses again. That Nicolai and
Engel had in different ways contributed to disenchant the nation; but
above all the incomprehensibility of the philosopher and his philosophy.
He seemed pleased to hear, that as yet Kant's doctrines had not met with
many admirers in England--did not doubt but that we had too much wisdom
to be duped by a writer who set at defiance the common sense and common
understandings of men. We talked of tragedy. He seemed to rate highly
the power of exciting tears--I said that nothing was more easy than to
deluge an audience, that it was done every day by the meanest writers.

I must remind you, my friend, first, that these notes are not intended
as specimens of Klopstock's intellectual power, or even "colloquial
prowess," to judge of which by an accidental conversation, and this with
strangers, and those too foreigners, would be not only unreasonable, but
calumnious. Secondly, I attribute little other interest to the remarks
than what is derived from the celebrity of the person who made them.
Lastly, if you ask me, whether I have read THE MESSIAH, and what I
think of it? I answer--as yet the first four books only: and as to my
opinion--(the reasons of which hereafter)--you may guess it from what
I could not help muttering to myself, when the good pastor this morning
told me, that Klopstock was the German Milton--"a very German Milton

Heaven preserve you, and S. T. COLERIDGE.


Quid quod praefatione praemunierim libellum, qua conor omnem offendiculi
ansam praecidere? [79] Neque quicquam addubito, quin ea candidis omnibus
faciat satis. Quid autem facias istis, qui vel ob ingenii pertinaciam
sibi satisfieri nolint, vel stupidiores sint, quam ut satisfactionem
intelligant? Nam quemadmodum Simonides dixit, Thessalos hebetiores esse,
quam ut possint a se decipi, ita quosdam videas stupidiores, quam ut
placari queant. Adhaec, non mirum est invenire quod calumnietur,
qui nihil aliud quaerit, nisi quod calumnietur. ERASMUS ad Dorpium,

In the rifacimento of THE FRIEND, I have inserted extracts from the
CONCIONES AD POPULUM, printed, though scarcely published, in the year
1795, in the very heat and height of my anti-ministerial enthusiasm:
these in proof that my principles of politics have sustained no
change.--In the present chapter, I have annexed to my Letters
from Germany, with particular reference to that, which contains a
disquisition on the modern drama, a critique on the Tragedy of BERTRAM,
written within the last twelve months: in proof, that I have been as
falsely charged with any fickleness in my principles of taste.--The
letter was written to a friend: and the apparent abruptness with which
it begins, is owing to the omission of the introductory sentences.

You remember, my dear Sir, that Mr. Whitbread, shortly before his death,
proposed to the assembled subscribers of Drury Lane Theatre, that the
concern should be farmed to some responsible individual under certain
conditions and limitations: and that his proposal was rejected,
not without indignation, as subversive of the main object, for the
attainment of which the enlightened and patriotic assemblage of
philodramatists had been induced to risk their subscriptions. Now this
object was avowed to be no less than the redemption of the British stage
not only from horses, dogs, elephants, and the like zoological rarities,
but also from the more pernicious barbarisms and Kotzebuisms in morals
and taste. Drury Lane was to be restored to its former classical renown;
Shakespeare, Jonson, and Otway, with the expurgated muses of Vanbrugh,
Congreve, and Wycherley, were to be reinaugurated in their rightful
dominion over British audiences; and the Herculean process was to
commence, by exterminating the speaking monsters imported from the banks
of the Danube, compared with which their mute relations, the emigrants
from Exeter 'Change, and Polito (late Pidcock's) show-carts, were tame
and inoffensive. Could an heroic project, at once so refined and so
arduous, be consistently entrusted to, could its success be rationally
expected from, a mercenary manager, at whose critical quarantine the
lucri bonus odor would conciliate a bill of health to the plague in
person? No! As the work proposed, such must be the work-masters. Rank,
fortune, liberal education, and (their natural accompaniments, or
consequences) critical discernment, delicate tact, disinterestedness,
unsuspected morals, notorious patriotism, and tried Maecenasship, these
were the recommendations that influenced the votes of the proprietary
subscribers of Drury Lane Theatre, these the motives that occasioned the
election of its Supreme Committee of Management. This circumstance alone
would have excited a strong interest in the public mind, respecting the
first production of the Tragic Muse which had been announced under such
auspices, and had passed the ordeal of such judgments: and the tragedy,
on which you have requested my judgment, was the work on which the great
expectations, justified by so many causes, were doomed at length to

But before I enter on the examination of BERTRAM, or THE CASTLE OF ST.
ALDOBRAND, I shall interpose a few words, on the phrase German Drama,
which I hold to be altogether a misnomer. At the time of Lessing, the
German stage, such as it was, appears to have been a flat and servile
copy of the French. It was Lessing who first introduced the name and the
works of Shakespeare to the admiration of the Germans; and I should not
perhaps go too far, if I add, that it was Lessing who first proved to
all thinking men, even to Shakespeare's own countrymen, the true nature
of his apparent irregularities. These, he demonstrated, were deviations
only from the accidents of the Greek tragedy; and from such accidents as
hung a heavy weight on the wings of the Greek poets, and narrowed
their flight within the limits of what we may call the heroic opera. He
proved, that, in all the essentials of art, no less than in the truth of
nature, the Plays of Shakespeare were incomparably more coincident
with the principles of Aristotle, than the productions of Corneille
and Racine, notwithstanding the boasted regularity of the latter. Under
these convictions were Lessing's own dramatic works composed. Their
deficiency is in depth and imagination: their excellence is in the
construction of the plot; the good sense of the sentiments; the sobriety
of the morals; and the high polish of the diction and dialogue. In
short, his dramas are the very antipodes of all those which it has been
the fashion of late years at once to abuse and enjoy, under the name of
the German drama. Of this latter, Schiller's ROBBERS was the earliest
specimen; the first fruits of his youth, (I had almost said of his
boyhood), and as such, the pledge, and promise of no ordinary genius.
Only as such, did the maturer judgment of the author tolerate the Play.
During his whole life he expressed himself concerning this production
with more than needful asperity, as a monster not less offensive to good
taste, than to sound morals; and, in his latter years, his indignation
at the unwonted popularity of the ROBBERS seduced him into the contrary
extremes, viz. a studied feebleness of interest, (as far as the interest
was to be derived from incidents and the excitement of curiosity);
a diction elaborately metrical; the affectation of rhymes; and the
pedantry of the chorus.

But to understand the true character of the ROBBERS, and of the
countless imitations which were its spawn, I must inform you, or at
least call to your recollection, that, about that time, and for some
years before it, three of the most popular books in the German language
and RICHARDSON'S CLARISSA HARLOW. Now we have only to combine the
bloated style and peculiar rhythm of Hervey, which is poetic only on
account of its utter unfitness for prose, and might as appropriately
be called prosaic, from its utter unfitness for poetry; we have only,
I repeat, to combine these Herveyisms with the strained thoughts, the
figurative metaphysics and solemn epigrams of Young on the one hand; and
with the loaded sensibility, the minute detail, the morbid consciousness
of every thought and feeling in the whole flux and reflux of the mind,
in short the self-involution and dreamlike continuity of Richardson on
the other hand; and then to add the horrific incidents, and mysterious
villains, (geniuses of supernatural intellect, if you will take the
authors' words for it, but on a level with the meanest ruffians of
the condemned cells, if we are to judge by their actions and
contrivances)--to add the ruined castles, the dungeons, the trap-doors,
the skeletons, the flesh-and-blood ghosts, and the perpetual moonshine
of a modern author, (themselves the literary brood of the CASTLE OF
OTRANTO, the translations of which, with the imitations and improvements
aforesaid, were about that time beginning to make as much noise in
Germany as their originals were making in England),--and as the compound
of these ingredients duly mixed, you will recognize the so-called German
drama. The olla podrida thus cooked up, was denounced, by the best
critics in Germany, as the mere cramps of weakness, and orgasms of a
sickly imagination on the part of the author, and the lowest provocation
of torpid feeling on that of the readers. The old blunder, however,
concerning the irregularity and wildness of Shakespeare, in which the
German did but echo the French, who again were but the echoes of our own
critics, was still in vogue, and Shakespeare was quoted as authority for
the most anti-Shakespearean drama. We have indeed two poets who wrote as
one, near the age of Shakespeare, to whom, (as the worst characteristic
of their writings), the Coryphaeus of the present drama may challenge
the honour of being a poor relation, or impoverished descendant. For
if we would charitably consent to forget the comic humour, the wit, the
felicities of style, in other words, all the poetry, and nine-tenths of
all the genius of Beaumont and Fletcher, that which would remain becomes
a Kotzebue.

The so-called German drama, therefore, is English in its origin, English
in its materials, and English by re-adoption; and till we can prove that
Kotzebue, or any of the whole breed of Kotzebues, whether dramatists or
romantic writers, or writers of romantic dramas, were ever admitted
to any other shelf in the libraries of well-educated Germans than were
occupied by their originals, and apes' apes in their mother country,
we should submit to carry our own brat on our own shoulders; or rather
consider it as a lack-grace returned from transportation with such
improvements only in growth and manners as young transported convicts
usually come home with.

I know nothing that contributes more to a clearer insight into the true
nature of any literary phaenomenon, than the comparison of it with some
elder production, the likeness of which is striking, yet only apparent,
while the difference is real. In the present case this opportunity is
furnished us, by the old Spanish play, entitled Atheista Fulminato,
formerly, and perhaps still, acted in the churches and monasteries of
Spain, and which, under various names (Don Juan, the Libertine,
etc.) has had its day of favour in every country throughout Europe. A
popularity so extensive, and of a work so grotesque and extravagant,
claims and merits philosophical attention and investigation. The first
point to be noticed is, that the play is throughout imaginative.
Nothing of it belongs to the real world, but the names of the places and
persons. The comic parts, equally with the tragic; the living, equally
with the defunct characters, are creatures of the brain; as little
amenable to the rules of ordinary probability, as the Satan Of PARADISE
LOST, or the Caliban of THE TEMPEST, and therefore to be understood
and judged of as impersonated abstractions. Rank, fortune, wit, talent,
acquired knowledge, and liberal accomplishments, with beauty of person,
vigorous health, and constitutional hardihood,--all these advantages,
elevated by the habits and sympathies of noble birth and national
character, are supposed to have combined in Don Juan, so as to give him
the means of carrying into all its practical consequences the doctrine
of a godless nature, as the sole ground and efficient cause not only of
all things, events, and appearances, but likewise of all our thoughts,
sensations, impulses and actions. Obedience to nature is the only
virtue: the gratification of the passions and appetites her only
dictate: each individual's self-will the sole organ through which nature
utters her commands, and

    "Self-contradiction is the only wrong!
     For, by the laws of spirit, in the right
     Is every individual character
     That acts in strict consistence with itself."

That speculative opinions, however impious and daring they may be, are
not always followed by correspondent conduct, is most true, as well as
that they can scarcely in any instance be systematically realized, on
account of their unsuitableness to human nature and to the institutions
of society. It can be hell, only where it is all hell: and a separate
world of devils is necessary for the existence of any one complete
devil. But on the other hand it is no less clear, nor, with the
biography of Carrier and his fellow atheists before us, can it be denied
without wilful blindness, that the (so called) system of nature (that
is, materialism, with the utter rejection of moral responsibility, of
a present Providence, and of both present and future retribution)
may influence the characters and actions of individuals, and even of
communities, to a degree that almost does away the distinction between
men and devils, and will make the page of the future historian resemble
the narration of a madman's dreams. It is not the wickedness of Don
Juan, therefore, which constitutes the character an abstraction, and
removes it from the rules of probability; but the rapid succession of
the correspondent acts and incidents, his intellectual superiority,
and the splendid accumulation of his gifts and desirable qualities, as
co-existent with entire wickedness in one and the same person. But this
likewise is the very circumstance which gives to this strange play its
charm and universal interest. Don Juan is, from beginning to end, an
intelligible character: as much so as the Satan of Milton. The poet asks
only of the reader, what, as a poet, he is privileged to ask: namely,
that sort of negative faith in the existence of such a being, which we
willingly give to productions professedly ideal, and a disposition
to the same state of feeling, as that with which we contemplate the
idealized figures of the Apollo Belvidere, and the Farnese Hercules.
What the Hercules is to the eye in corporeal strength, Don Juan is
to the mind in strength of character. The ideal consists in the happy
balance of the generic with the individual. The former makes the
character representative and symbolical, therefore instructive; because,
mutatis mutandis, it is applicable to whole classes of men. The latter
gives it living interest; for nothing lives or is real, but as definite
and individual. To understand this completely, the reader need only
recollect the specific state of his feelings, when in looking at a
picture of the historic (more properly of the poetic or heroic) class,
he objects to a particular figure as being too much of a portrait;
and this interruption of his complacency he feels without the least
reference to, or the least acquaintance with, any person in real life
whom he might recognise in this figure. It is enough that such a figure
is not ideal: and therefore not ideal, because one of the two factors
or elements of the ideal is in excess. A similar and more powerful
objection he would feel towards a set of figures which were mere
abstractions, like those of Cipriani, and what have been called Greek
forms and faces, that is, outlines drawn according to a recipe. These
again are not ideal; because in these the other element is in excess.
"Forma formans per formam formatam translucens," [80] is the definition
and perfection of ideal art.

This excellence is so happily achieved in the Don Juan, that it is
capable of interesting without poetry, nay, even without words, as in
our pantomime of that name. We see clearly how the character is formed;
and the very extravagance of the incidents, and the super-human
entireness of Don Juan's agency, prevents the wickedness from shocking
our minds to any painful degree. We do not believe it enough for this
effect; no, not even with that kind of temporary and negative belief or
acquiescence which I have described above. Meantime the qualities of his
character are too desirable, too flattering to our pride and our wishes,
not to make up on this side as much additional faith as was lost on
the other. There is no danger (thinks the spectator or reader) of my
becoming such a monster of iniquity as Don Juan! I never shall be an
atheist! I shall never disallow all distinction between right and wrong!
I have not the least inclination to be so outrageous a drawcansir in my
love affairs! But to possess such a power of captivating and enchanting
the affections of the other sex!--to be capable of inspiring in a
charming and even a virtuous woman, a love so deep, and so entirely
personal to me!--that even my worst vices, (if I were vicious), even
my cruelty and perfidy, (if I were cruel and perfidious), could not
eradicate the passion!--to be so loved for my own self, that even with a
distinct knowledge of my character, she yet died to save me!--this, sir,
takes hold of two sides of our nature, the better and the worse. For the
heroic disinterestedness, to which love can transport a woman, can
not be contemplated without an honourable emotion of reverence towards
womanhood: and, on the other hand, it is among the miseries, and abides
in the dark ground-work of our nature, to crave an outward confirmation
of that something within us, which is our very self, that something,
not made up of our qualities and relations, but itself the supporter and
substantial basis of all these. Love me, and not my qualities, may be
a vicious and an insane wish, but it is not a wish wholly without a

Without power, virtue would be insufficient and incapable of revealing
its being. It would resemble the magic transformation of Tasso's heroine
into a tree, in which she could only groan and bleed. Hence power is
necessarily an object of our desire and of our admiration. But of all
power, that of the mind is, on every account, the grand desideratum of
human ambition. We shall be as Gods in knowledge, was and must have been
the first temptation: and the coexistence of great intellectual lordship
with guilt has never been adequately represented without exciting
the strongest interest, and for this reason, that in this bad and
heterogeneous co-ordination we can contemplate the intellect of man more
exclusively as a separate self-subsistence, than in its proper state
of subordination to his own conscience, or to the will of an infinitely
superior being.

This is the sacred charm of Shakespeare's male characters in general.
They are all cast in the mould of Shakespeare's own gigantic intellect;
and this is the open attraction of his Richard, Iago, Edmund, and others
in particular. But again; of all intellectual power, that of superiority
to the fear of the invisible world is the most dazzling. Its influence
is abundantly proved by the one circumstance, that it can bribe us into
a voluntary submission of our better knowledge, into suspension of all
our judgment derived from constant experience, and enable us to peruse
with the liveliest interest the wildest tales of ghosts, wizards,
genii, and secret talismans. On this propensity, so deeply rooted in our
nature, a specific dramatic probability may be raised by a true poet, if
the whole of his work be in harmony: a dramatic probability, sufficient
for dramatic pleasure, even when the component characters and incidents
border on impossibility. The poet does not require us to be awake and
believe; he solicits us only to yield ourselves to a dream; and this
too with our eyes open, and with our judgment perdue behind the curtain,
ready to awaken us at the first motion of our will: and meantime,
only, not to disbelieve. And in such a state of mind, who but must be
impressed with the cool intrepidity of Don john on the appearance of his
father's ghost:

 "GHOST.--Monster! behold these wounds!

 "D. JOHN.--I do! They were well meant and well performed, I see.

 "GHOST.------Repent, repent of all thy villanies.
  My clamorous blood to heaven for vengeance cries,
  Heaven will pour out his judgments on you all.
  Hell gapes for you, for you each fiend doth call,
  And hourly waits your unrepenting fall.
  You with eternal horrors they'll torment,
  Except of all your crimes you suddenly repent. (Ghost sinks.)

 "D. JOHN.--Farewell, thou art a foolish ghost. Repent, quoth he!
  what could this mean? Our senses are all in a mist sure.

 "D. ANTONIO.--(one of D. Juan's reprobate companions.) They are not!
  'Twas a ghost.

 "D. LOPEZ.--(another reprobate.) I ne'er believed those foolish tales

 "D. JOHN.--Come! 'Tis no matter. Let it be what it will, it must be

 "D. ANT.--And nature is unalterable in us too.

 "D. JOHN.--'Tis true! The nature of a ghost can not change our's."

Who also can deny a portion of sublimity to the tremendous consistency
with which he stands out the last fearful trial, like a second

                  "Chorus of Devils.

 "STATUE-GHOST.--Will you not relent and feel remorse?

 "D. JOHN.--Could'st thou bestow another heart on me I might. But
  with this heart I have, I can not.

 "D. LOPEZ.--These things are prodigious.

 "D. ANTON.--I have a sort of grudging to relent, but something holds
  me back.

 "D. LOP.--If we could, 'tis now too late. I will not.

 "D. ANT.--We defy thee!

 "GHOST.--Perish ye impious wretches, go and find the punishments laid
  up in store for you!

  (Thunder and lightning. D. Lop. and D. Ant. are swallowed up.)

 "GHOST To D. JOHN.--Behold their dreadful fates, and know that thy
  last moment's come!

 "D. JOHN.--Think not to fright me, foolish ghost; I'll break your
  marble body in pieces and pull down your horse.
          (Thunder and lightning--chorus of devils, etc.)

 "D. JOHN.--These things I see with wonder, but no fear.
  Were all the elements to be confounded,
  And shuffled all into their former chaos;
  Were seas of sulphur flaming round about me,
  And all mankind roaring within those fires,
  I could not fear, or feel the least remorse.
  To the last instant I would dare thy power.
  Here I stand firm, and all thy threats contemn.
  Thy murderer (to the ghost of one whom he had murdered)
  Stands here! Now do thy worst!"
          (He is swallowed up in a cloud of fire.)

In fine the character of Don John consists in the union of every thing
desirable to human nature, as means, and which therefore by the well
known law of association becomes at length desirable on their own
account. On their own account, and, in their own dignity, they are here
displayed, as being employed to ends so unhuman, that in the effect,
they appear almost as means without an end. The ingredients too are
mixed in the happiest proportion, so as to uphold and relieve each
other--more especially in that constant interpoise of wit, gaiety,
and social generosity, which prevents the criminal, even in his most
atrocious moments, from sinking into the mere ruffian, as far at least,
as our imagination sits in judgment. Above all, the fine suffusion
through the whole, with the characteristic manners and feelings, of a
highly bred gentleman gives life to the drama. Thus having invited the
statue-ghost of the governor, whom he had murdered, to supper, which
invitation the marble ghost accepted by a nod of the head, Don John has
prepared a banquet.

 "D. JOHN.--Some wine, sirrah! Here's to Don Pedro's ghost--he should
  have been welcome.

 "D. LOP.--The rascal is afraid of you after death.
                                   (One knocks hard at the door.)

 "D. JOHN.--(to the servant)--Rise and do your duty.

 "SERV.--Oh the devil, the devil!  (Marble ghost enters.)

 "D. JOHN.--Ha! 'tis the ghost! Let's rise and receive him! Come,
  Governour, you are welcome, sit there; if we had thought you would
  have come, we would have staid for you.

     *     *     *     *     *     *

  Here, Governour, your health! Friends, put it about! Here's
  excellent meat, taste of this ragout. Come, I'll help you, come
  eat, and let old quarrels be forgotten.  (The ghost threatens him
  with vengeance.)

 "D. JOHN.--We are too much confirmed--curse on this dry discourse.
  Come, here's to your mistress, you had one when you were living:
  not forgetting your sweet sister.                (devils enter.)

 "D. JOHN.--Are these some of your retinue? Devils, say you? I'm
  sorry I have no burnt brandy to treat 'em with, that's drink fit
  for devils," etc.

Nor is the scene from which we quote interesting, in dramatic
probability alone; it is susceptible likewise of a sound moral; of a
moral that has more than common claims on the notice of a too numerous
class, who are ready to receive the qualities of gentlemanly courage,
and scrupulous honour, (in all the recognised laws of honour,) as the
substitutes of virtue, instead of its ornaments. This, indeed, is the
moral value of the play at large, and that which places it at a world's
distance from the spirit of modern jacobinism. The latter introduces
to us clumsy copies of these showy instrumental qualities, in order to
reconcile us to vice and want of principle; while the Atheista Fulminato
presents an exquisite portraiture of the same qualities, in all their
gloss and glow, but presents them for the sole purpose of displaying
their hollowness, and in order to put us on our guard by demonstrating
their utter indifference to vice and virtue, whenever these and the like
accomplishments are contemplated for themselves alone.

Eighteen years ago I observed, that the whole secret of the modern
jacobinical drama, (which, and not the German, is its appropriate
designation,) and of all its popularity, consists in the confusion and
subversion of the natural order of things in their causes and effects:
namely, in the excitement of surprise by representing the qualities of
liberality, refined feeling, and a nice sense of honour (those things
rather which pass amongst us for such) in persons and in classes where
experience teaches us least to expect them; and by rewarding with all
the sympathies which are the due of virtue, those criminals whom law,
reason, and religion have excommunicated from our esteem.

This of itself would lead me back to BERTRAM, or the CASTLE OF ST.
ALDOBRAND; but, in my own mind, this tragedy was brought into connection
with THE LIBERTINE, (Shadwell's adaptation of the Atheista Fulminato to
the English stage in the reign of Charles the Second,) by the fact, that
our modern drama is taken, in the substance of it, from the first scene
of the third act of THE LIBERTINE. But with what palpable superiority of
judgment in the original! Earth and hell, men and spirits are up in arms
against Don John; the two former acts of the play have not only prepared
us for the supernatural, but accustomed us to the prodigious. It is,
therefore, neither more nor less than we anticipate when the Captain
exclaims: "In all the dangers I have been, such horrors I never knew.
I am quite unmanned:" and when the Hermit says, that he had "beheld the
ocean in wildest rage, yet ne'er before saw a storm so dreadful, such
horrid flashes of lightning, and such claps of thunder, were never in
my remembrance." And Don John's burst of startling impiety is equally
intelligible in its motive, as dramatic in its effect.

But what is there to account for the prodigy of the tempest at Bertram's
shipwreck? It is a mere supernatural effect, without even a hint of any
supernatural agency; a prodigy, without any circumstance mentioned that
is prodigious; and a miracle introduced without a ground, and ending
without a result. Every event and every scene of the play might have
taken place as well if Bertram and his vessel had been driven in by a
common hard gale, or from want of provisions. The first act would have
indeed lost its greatest and most sonorous picture; a scene for the sake
of a scene, without a word spoken; as such, therefore, (a rarity without
a precedent), we must take it, and be thankful! In the opinion of not a
few, it was, in every sense of the word, the best scene in the play.
I am quite certain it was the most innocent: and the steady, quiet
uprightness of the flame of the wax-candles, which the monks held
over the roaring billows amid the storm of wind and rain, was really

The Sicilian sea coast: a convent of monks: night: a most portentous,
unearthly storm: a vessel is wrecked contrary to all human expectation,
one man saves himself by his prodigious powers as a swimmer, aided by
the peculiarity of his destination--

 "PRIOR.------All, all did perish

  FIRST MONK.--Change, change those drenched weeds--

  PRIOR.--I wist not of them--every soul did perish--
                       Enter third Monk hastily.

 "THIRD MONK.--No, there was one did battle with the storm
  With careless desperate force; full many times
  His life was won and lost, as tho' he recked not--
  No hand did aid him, and he aided none--
  Alone he breasted the broad wave, alone
  That man was saved."

Well! This man is led in by the monks, supposed dripping wet, and to
very natural inquiries he either remains silent, or gives most brief and
surly answers, and after three or four of these half-line courtesies,
"dashing off the monks" who had saved him, he exclaims in the true
sublimity of our modern misanthropic heroism--

 "Off! ye are men--there's poison in your touch.
  But I must yield, for this" (what?) "hath left me strengthless."

So end the three first scenes. In the next (the Castle of St.
Aldobrand,) we find the servants there equally frightened with this
unearthly storm, though wherein it differed from other violent storms we
are not told, except that Hugo informs us, page 9--

 "PIET.--Hugo, well met. Does e'en thy age bear
  Memory of so terrible a storm?

  HUGO.--They have been frequent lately.

  PIET.--They are ever so in Sicily.

  HUGO.--So it is said. But storms when I was young
  Would still pass o'er like Nature's fitful fevers,
  And rendered all more wholesome. Now their rage,
  Sent thus unseasonable and profitless,
  Speaks like the threats of heaven."

A most perplexing theory of Sicilian storms is this of old Hugo! and
what is very remarkable, not apparently founded on any great familiarity
of his own with this troublesome article. For when Pietro asserts the
"ever more frequency" of tempests in Sicily, the old man professes to
know nothing more of the fact, but by hearsay. "So it is said."--But why
he assumed this storm to be unseasonable, and on what he grounded
his prophecy, (for the storm is still in full fury), that it would be
profitless, and without the physical powers common to all other violent
sea-winds in purifying the atmosphere, we are left in the dark; as
well concerning the particular points in which he knew it, during its
continuance, to differ from those that he had been acquainted with in
his youth. We are at length introduced to the Lady Imogine, who,
we learn, had not rested "through" the night; not on account of the
tempest, for

    "Long ere the storm arose, her restless gestures
     Forbade all hope to see her blest with sleep."

Sitting at a table, and looking at a portrait, she informs us--First,
that portrait-painters may make a portrait from memory,

    "The limner's art may trace the absent feature."

For surely these words could never mean, that a painter may have a
person sit to him who afterwards may leave the room or perhaps the
country? Secondly, that a portrait-painter can enable a mourning lady
to possess a good likeness of her absent lover, but that the portrait-
painter cannot, and who shall--

    "Restore the scenes in which they met and parted?"

The natural answer would have been--Why the scene-painter to be sure!
But this unreasonable lady requires in addition sundry things to be
painted that have neither lines nor colours--

    "The thoughts, the recollections, sweet and bitter,
     Or the Elysian dreams of lovers when they loved."

Which last sentence must be supposed to mean; when they were present,
and making love to each other.--Then, if this portrait could speak, it
would "acquit the faith of womankind." How? Had she remained constant?
No, she has been married to another man, whose wife she now is. How
then? Why, that, in spite of her marriage vow, she had continued to
yearn and crave for her former lover--

    "This has her body, that her mind:
     Which has the better bargain?"

The lover, however, was not contented with this precious arrangement, as
we shall soon find. The lady proceeds to inform us that during the many
years of their separation, there have happened in the different parts of
the world, a number of "such things;" even such, as in a course of
years always have, and till the Millennium, doubtless always will happen
somewhere or other. Yet this passage, both in language and in metre, is
perhaps amongst the best parts of the play. The lady's love companion
and most esteemed attendant, Clotilda, now enters and explains this love
and esteem by proving herself a most passive and dispassionate listener,
as well as a brief and lucky querist, who asks by chance, questions that
we should have thought made for the very sake of the answers. In short,
she very much reminds us of those puppet-heroines, for whom the
showman contrives to dialogue without any skill in ventriloquism. This,
notwithstanding, is the best scene in the Play, and though crowded with
solecisms, corrupt diction, and offences against metre, would possess
merits sufficient to out-weigh them, if we could suspend the moral
sense during the perusal. It tells well and passionately the preliminary
circumstances, and thus overcomes the main difficulty of most first
acts, to wit, that of retrospective narration. It tells us of her having
been honourably addressed by a noble youth, of rank and fortune vastly
superior to her own: of their mutual love, heightened on her part
by gratitude; of his loss of his sovereign's favour; his disgrace;
attainder; and flight; that he (thus degraded) sank into a vile ruffian,
the chieftain of a murderous banditti; and that from the habitual
indulgence of the most reprobate habits and ferocious passions, he had
become so changed, even in appearance, and features,

    "That she who bore him had recoiled from him,
     Nor known the alien visage of her child,
     Yet still she (Imogine) lov'd him."

She is compelled by the silent entreaties of a father, perishing with
"bitter shameful want on the cold earth," to give her hand, with a heart
thus irrecoverably pre-engaged, to Lord Aldobrand, the enemy of her
lover, even to the very man who had baffled his ambitious schemes, and
was, at the present time, entrusted with the execution of the sentence
of death which had been passed on Bertram. Now, the proof of "woman's
love," so industriously held forth for the sympathy, if not for the
esteem of the audience, consists in this, that, though Bertram had
become a robber and a murderer by trade, a ruffian in manners, yea, with
form and features at which his own mother could not but "recoil," yet
she (Lady Imogine) "the wife of a most noble, honoured Lord," estimable
as a man, exemplary and affectionate as a husband, and the fond father
of her only child--that she, notwithstanding all this, striking her
heart, dares to say to it--

    "But thou art Bertram's still, and Bertram's ever."

A Monk now enters, and entreats in his Prior's name for the wonted
hospitality, and "free noble usage" of the Castle of St. Aldobrand for
some wretched shipwrecked souls, and from this we learn, for the
first time, to our infinite surprise, that notwithstanding the
supernaturalness of the storm aforesaid, not only Bertram, but the whole
of his gang, had been saved, by what means we are left to conjecture,
and can only conclude that they had all the same desperate swimming
powers, and the same saving destiny as the hero, Bertram himself. So
ends the first act, and with it the tale of the events, both those with
which the tragedy begins, and those which had occurred previous to
the date of its commencement. The second displays Bertram in disturbed
sleep, which the Prior, who hangs over him, prefers calling a "starting
trance," and with a strained voice, that would have awakened one of the
seven sleepers, observes to the audience--

    "How the lip works! How the bare teeth do grind!
     And beaded drops course [81] down his writhen brow!"

The dramatic effect of which passage we not only concede to the admirers
of this tragedy, but acknowledge the further advantages of preparing the
audience for the most surprising series of wry faces, proflated mouths,
and lunatic gestures that were ever "launched" on an audience to "sear
the sense." [82]

 "PRIOR.--I will awake him from this horrid trance. This is no
  natural sleep! Ho, wake thee, stranger!"

This is rather a whimsical application of the verb reflex we must
confess, though we remember a similar transfer of the agent to the
patient in a manuscript tragedy, in which the Bertram of the piece,
prostrating a man with a single blow of his fist, exclaims--"Knock me
thee down, then ask thee if thou liv'st." Well; the stranger obeys, and
whatever his sleep might have been, his waking was perfectly natural;
for lethargy itself could not withstand the scolding Stentorship of
Mr. Holland, the Prior. We next learn from the best authority, his own
confession, that the misanthropic hero, whose destiny was incompatible
with drowning, is Count Bertram, who not only reveals his past fortunes,
but avows with open atrocity, his Satanic hatred of Imogine's lord, and
his frantick thirst of revenge; and so the raving character raves, and
the scolding character scolds--and what else? Does not the Prior act?
Does he not send for a posse of constables or thief-takers to handcuff
the villain, or take him either to Bedlam or Newgate? Nothing of the
kind; the author preserves the unity of character, and the scolding
Prior from first to last does nothing but scold, with the exception
indeed of the last scene of the last act, in which, with a most
surprising revolution, he whines, weeps, and kneels to the condemned
blaspheming assassin out of pure affection to the high-hearted man, the
sublimity of whose angel-sin rivals the star-bright apostate, (that
is, who was as proud as Lucifer, and as wicked as the Devil), and, "had
thrilled him," (Prior Holland aforesaid), with wild admiration.

Accordingly in the very next scene, we have this tragic Macheath, with
his whole gang, in the Castle of St. Aldobrand, without any attempt
on the Prior's part either to prevent him, or to put the mistress and
servants of the Castle on their guard against their new inmates; though
he (the Prior) knew, and confesses that he knew, that Bertram's "fearful
mates" were assassins so habituated and naturalized to guilt, that--

    "When their drenched hold forsook both gold and gear,
     They griped their daggers with a murderer's instinct;"

and though he also knew, that Bertram was the leader of a band whose
trade was blood. To the Castle however he goes, thus with the holy
Prior's consent, if not with his assistance; and thither let us follow

No sooner is our hero safely housed in the Castle of St. Aldobrand, than
he attracts the notice of the lady and her confidante, by his "wild and
terrible dark eyes," "muffled form," "fearful form," [83] "darkly wild,"
"proudly stern," and the like common-place indefinites, seasoned by
merely verbal antitheses, and at best, copied with very slight change,
from the Conrade of Southey's JOAN OF ARC. The lady Imogine, who has
been, (as is the case, she tells us, with all soft and solemn spirits,)
worshipping the moon on a terrace or rampart within view of the Castle,
insists on having an interview with our hero, and this too tete-a-tete.
Would the reader learn why and wherefore the confidante is excluded, who
very properly remonstrates against such "conference, alone, at night,
with one who bears such fearful form;" the reason follows--"why,
therefore send him!" I say, follows, because the next line, "all things
of fear have lost their power over me," is separated from the former
by a break or pause, and besides that it is a very poor answer to the
danger, is no answer at all to the gross indelicacy of this wilful
exposure. We must therefore regard it as a mere after-thought, that a
little softens the rudeness, but adds nothing to the weight, of that
exquisite woman's reason aforesaid. And so exit Clotilda and enter
Bertram, who "stands without looking at her," that is, with his lower
limbs forked, his arms akimbo, his side to the lady's front, the whole
figure resembling an inverted Y. He is soon however roused from the
state surly to the state frantick, and then follow raving, yelling,
cursing, she fainting, he relenting, in runs Imogine's child, squeaks
"mother!" He snatches it up, and with a "God bless thee, child! Bertram
has kissed thy child,"--the curtain drops. The third act is short, and
short be our account of it. It introduces Lord St. Aldobrand on his road
homeward, and next Imogine in the convent, confessing the foulness of
her heart to the Prior, who first indulges his old humour with a fit
of senseless scolding, then leaves her alone with her ruffian paramour,
with whom she makes at once an infamous appointment, and the curtain
drops, that it may be carried into act and consummation.

I want words to describe the mingled horror and disgust with which I
witnessed the opening of the fourth act, considering it as a melancholy
proof of the depravation of the public mind. The shocking spirit of
jacobinism seemed no longer confined to politics. The familiarity with
atrocious events and characters appeared to have poisoned the taste,
even where it had not directly disorganized the moral principles, and
left the feelings callous to all the mild appeals, and craving alone for
the grossest and most outrageous stimulants. The very fact then present
to our senses, that a British audience could remain passive under such
an insult to common decency, nay, receive with a thunder of applause, a
human being supposed to have come reeking from the consummation of this
complex foulness and baseness, these and the like reflections so pressed
as with the weight of lead upon my heart, that actor, author, and
tragedy would have been forgotten, had it not been for a plain elderly
man sitting beside me, who, with a very serious face, that at once
expressed surprise and aversion, touched my elbow, and, pointing to
the actor, said to me in a half-whisper--"Do you see that little fellow
there? he has just been committing adultery!" Somewhat relieved by the
laugh which this droll address occasioned, I forced back my attention
to the stage sufficiently to learn, that Bertram is recovered from a
transient fit of remorse by the information, that St. Aldobrand was
commissioned (to do, what every honest man must have done without
commission, if he did his duty) to seize him and deliver him to the
just vengeance of the law; an information which, (as he had long known
himself to be an attainted traitor and proclaimed outlaw, and not only
a trader in blood himself, but notoriously the Captain of a gang of
thieves, pirates, and assassins), assuredly could not have been new to
him. It is this, however, which alone and instantly restores him to
his accustomed state of raving, blasphemy, and nonsense. Next follows
Imogine's constrained interview with her injured husband, and his sudden
departure again, all in love and kindness, in order to attend the feast
of St. Anselm at the convent. This was, it must be owned, a very strange
engagement for so tender a husband to make within a few minutes after so
long an absence. But first his lady has told him that she has "a vow
on her," and wishes "that black perdition may gulf her perjured
soul,"--(Note: she is lying at the very time)--if she ascends his bed,
till her penance is accomplished. How, therefore, is the poor husband to
amuse himself in this interval of her penance? But do not be distressed,
reader, on account of the St. Aldobrand's absence! As the author has
contrived to send him out of the house, when a husband would be in his,
and the lover's way, so he will doubtless not be at a loss to bring him
back again as soon as he is wanted. Well! the husband gone in on the one
side, out pops the lover from the other, and for the fiendish purpose of
harrowing up the soul of his wretched accomplice in guilt, by announcing
to her, with most brutal and blasphemous execrations, his fixed and
deliberate resolve to assassinate her husband; all this too is for no
discoverable purpose on the part of the author, but that of introducing
a series of super-tragic starts, pauses, screams, struggling,
dagger-throwing, falling on the ground, starting up again wildly,
swearing, outcries for help, falling again on the ground, rising again,
faintly tottering towards the door, and, to end the scene, a most
convenient fainting fit of our lady's, just in time to give Bertram an
opportunity of seeking the object of his hatred, before she alarms the
house, which indeed she has had full time to have done before, but that
the author rather chose she should amuse herself and the audience by the
above-described ravings and startings. She recovers slowly, and to her
enter, Clotilda, the confidante and mother confessor; then commences,
what in theatrical language is called the madness, but which the author
more accurately entitles, delirium, it appearing indeed a sort of
intermittent fever with fits of lightheadedness off and on, whenever
occasion and stage effect happen to call for it. A convenient return
of the storm, (we told the reader before-hand how it would be), had

    "The rivulet, that bathed the convent walls,
     Into a foaming flood: upon its brink
     The Lord and his small train do stand appalled.
     With torch and bell from their high battlements
     The monks do summon to the pass in vain;
     He must return to-night."

Talk of the Devil, and his horns appear, says the proverb and sure
enough, within ten lines of the exit of the messenger, sent to stop him,
the arrival of Lord St. Aldobrand is announced. Bertram's ruffian band
now enter, and range themselves across the stage, giving fresh cause for
Imogine's screams and madness. St. Aldobrand, having received his mortal
wound behind the scenes, totters in to welter in his blood, and to die
at the feet of this double-damned adultress.

Of her, as far as she is concerned in this fourth act, we have two
additional points to notice: first, the low cunning and Jesuitical trick
with which she deludes her husband into words of forgiveness, which he
himself does not understand; and secondly, that everywhere she is made
the object of interest and sympathy, and it is not the author's fault,
if, at any moment, she excites feelings less gentle, than those we are
accustomed to associate with the self-accusations of a sincere religious
penitent. And did a British audience endure all this?--They received
it with plaudits, which, but for the rivalry of the carts and hackney
coaches, might have disturbed the evening-prayers of the scanty week
day congregation at St. Paul's cathedral.

    Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

Of the fifth act, the only thing noticeable, (for rant and nonsense,
though abundant as ever, have long before the last act become things of
course,) is the profane representation of the high altar in a chapel,
with all the vessels and other preparations for the holy sacrament. A
hymn is actually sung on the stage by the chorister boys! For the
rest, Imogine, who now and then talks deliriously, but who is always
light-headed as far as her gown and hair can make her so, wanders about
in dark woods with cavern-rocks and precipices in the back-scene; and a
number of mute dramatis personae move in and out continually, for
whose presence, there is always at least this reason, that they afford
something to be seen, by that very large part of a Drury Lane audience
who have small chance of hearing a word. She had, it appears, taken her
child with her, but what becomes of the child, whether she murdered
it or not, nobody can tell, nobody can learn; it was a riddle at the
representation, and after a most attentive perusal of the Play, a riddle
it remains.

    "No more I know, I wish I did,
     And I would tell it all to you;
     For what became of this poor child
     There's none that ever knew."

Our whole information [84] is derived from the following words--

 "PRIOR.--Where is thy child?

  CLOTIL.--(Pointing to the cavern into which she has looked)
  Oh he lies cold within his cavern-tomb!
  Why dost thou urge her with the horrid theme?

  PRIOR.--(who will not, the reader may observe, be disappointed of
  his dose of scolding)
  It was to make (query wake) one living cord o' th' heart,
  And I will try, tho' my own breaks at it.
  Where is thy child?

  IMOG.--(with a frantic laugh) The forest fiend hath snatched him--
  He (who? the fiend or the child?) rides the night-mare thro' the
  wizard woods."

Now these two lines consist in a senseless plagiarism from the
counterfeited madness of Edgar in Lear, who, in imitation of the
gypsy incantations, puns on the old word mair, a hag; and the no less
senseless adoption of Dryden's forest fiend, and the wisard stream by
which Milton, in his Lycidas, so finely characterizes the spreading
Deva, fabulosus amnis. Observe too these images stand unique in the
speeches of Imogine, without the slightest resemblance to anything she
says before or after. But we are weary. The characters in this act
frisk about, here, there, and every where, as teasingly as the Jack
o' Lantern-lights which mischievous boys, from across a narrow street,
throw with a looking-glass on the faces of their opposite neighbours.
Bertram disarmed, outheroding Charles de Moor in the Robbers, befaces
the collected knights of St. Anselm, (all in complete armour) and so, by
pure dint of black looks, he outdares them into passive poltroons. The
sudden revolution in the Prior's manners we have before noticed, and
it is indeed so outre, that a number of the audience imagined a great
secret was to come out, viz.: that the Prior was one of the many
instances of a youthful sinner metamorphosed into an old scold, and that
this Bertram would appear at last to be his son. Imogine re-appears at
the convent, and dies of her own accord. Bertram stabs himself, and dies
by her side, and that the play may conclude as it began, to wit, in
a superfetation of blasphemy upon nonsense, because he had snatched
a sword from a despicable coward, who retreats in terror when it is
pointed towards him in sport; this felo de se, and thief-captain--this
loathsome and leprous confluence of robbery, adultery, murder, and
cowardly assassination,--this monster, whose best deed is, the having
saved his betters from the degradation of hanging him, by turning Jack
Ketch to himself; first recommends the charitable Monks and holy Prior
to pray for his soul, and then has the folly and impudence to exclaim--

               "I die no felon's death,
     A warriour's weapon freed a warriour's soul!"



It sometimes happens that we are punished for our faults by incidents,
in the causation of which these faults had no share: and this I have
always felt the severest punishment. The wound indeed is of the same
dimensions; but the edges are jagged, and there is a dull underpain
that survives the smart which it had aggravated. For there is always a
consolatory feeling that accompanies the sense of a proportion between
antecedents and consequents. The sense of Before and After becomes both
intelligible and intellectual when, and only when, we contemplate the
succession in the relations of Cause and Effect, which, like the two
poles of the magnet manifest the being and unity of the one power by
relative opposites, and give, as it were, a substratum of permanence, of
identity, and therefore of reality, to the shadowy flux of Time. It is
Eternity revealing itself in the phaenomena of Time: and the perception
and acknowledgment of the proportionality and appropriateness of the
Present to the Past, prove to the afflicted Soul, that it has not yet
been deprived of the sight of God, that it can still recognise the
effective presence of a Father, though through a darkened glass and a
turbid atmosphere, though of a Father that is chastising it. And for
this cause, doubtless, are we so framed in mind, and even so organized
in brain and nerve, that all confusion is painful. It is within the
experience of many medical practitioners, that a patient, with strange
and unusual symptoms of disease, has been more distressed in mind, more
wretched, from the fact of being unintelligible to himself and others,
than from the pain or danger of the disease: nay, that the patient
has received the most solid comfort, and resumed a genial and enduring
cheerfulness, from some new symptom or product, that had at once
determined the name and nature of his complaint, and rendered it an
intelligible effect of an intelligible cause: even though the discovery
did at the same moment preclude all hope of restoration. Hence the
mystic theologians, whose delusions we may more confidently hope to
separate from their actual intuitions, when we condescend to read their
works without the presumption that whatever our fancy, (always the ape,
and too often the adulterator and counterfeit of our memory,) has not
made or cannot make a picture of, must be nonsense,--hence, I say, the
Mystics have joined in representing the state of the reprobate spirits
as a dreadful dream in which there is no sense of reality, not even of
the pangs they are enduring--an eternity without time, and as it were
below it--God present without manifestation of his presence. But these
are depths, which we dare not linger over. Let us turn to an instance
more on a level with the ordinary sympathies of mankind. Here then, and
in this same healing influence of Light and distinct Beholding, we may
detect the final cause of that instinct which, in the great majority of
instances, leads, and almost compels the Afflicted to communicate their
sorrows. Hence too flows the alleviation that results from "opening out
our griefs:" which are thus presented in distinguishable forms instead
of the mist, through which whatever is shapeless becomes magnified and
(literally) enormous. Casimir, in the fifth Ode of his third Book, has
happily [85] expressed this thought.

                  Me longus silendi
      Edit amor, facilesque luctus
    Hausit medullas. Fugerit ocyus,
    Simul negantem visere jusseris
      Aures amicorum, et loquacem
        Questibus evacuaris iram.

    Olim querendo desinimus queri,
    Ipsoque fletu lacryma perditur
      Nec fortis [86] aeque, si per omnes
        Cura volat residetque ramos.

    Vires amicis perdit in auribus,
    Minorque semper dividitur dolor,
      Per multa permissus vagari

I shall not make this an excuse, however, for troubling my readers with
any complaints or explanations, with which, as readers, they have little
or no concern. It may suffice, (for the present at least,) to declare,
that the causes that have delayed the publication of these volumes for
so long a period after they had been printed off, were not connected
with any neglect of my own; and that they would form an instructive
comment on the chapter concerning authorship as a trade, addressed to
young men of genius in the first volume of this work. I remember
the ludicrous effect produced on my mind by the fast sentence of
an auto-biography, which, happily for the writer, was as meagre in
incidents as it is well possible for the life of an individual to
be--"The eventful life which I am about to record, from the hour
in which I rose into existence on this planet, etc." Yet when,
notwithstanding this warning example of self-importance before me, I
review my own life, I cannot refrain from applying the same epithet to
it, and with more than ordinary emphasis--and no private feeling, that
affected myself only, should prevent me from publishing the same, (for
write it I assuredly shall, should life and leisure be granted me,)
if continued reflection should strengthen my present belief, that my
history would add its contingent to the enforcement of one important
truth, to wit, that we must not only love our neighbours as ourselves,
but ourselves likewise as our neighbours; and that we can do neither
unless we love God above both.

                     Who lives, that's not
    Depraved or depraves? Who dies, that bears
    Not one spurn to the grave of their friends' gift?

Strange as the delusion may appear, yet it is most true, that three
years ago I did not know or believe that I had an enemy in the world:
and now even my strongest sensations of gratitude are mingled with fear,
and I reproach myself for being too often disposed to ask,--Have I one
friend?--During the many years which intervened between the composition
and the publication of the CHRISTABEL, it became almost as well known
among literary men as if it had been on common sale; the same references
were made to it, and the same liberties taken with it, even to the very
names of the imaginary persons in the poem. From almost all of our
most celebrated poets, and from some with whom I had no personal
acquaintance, I either received or heard of expressions of admiration
that, (I can truly say,) appeared to myself utterly disproportionate
to a work, that pretended to be nothing more than a common Faery Tale.
Many, who had allowed no merit to my other poems, whether printed or
manuscript, and who have frankly told me as much, uniformly made an
exception in favour of the CHRISTABEL and the poem entitled LOVE. Year
after year, and in societies of the most different kinds, I had been
entreated to recite it and the result was still the same in all, and
altogether different in this respect from the effect produced by the
occasional recitation of any other poems I had composed.--This before
the publication. And since then, with very few exceptions, I have heard
nothing but abuse, and this too in a spirit of bitterness at least as
disproportionate to the pretensions of the poem, had it been the most
pitiably below mediocrity, as the previous eulogies, and far more
inexplicable.--This may serve as a warning to authors, that in their
calculations on the probable reception of a poem, they must subtract
to a large amount from the panegyric, which may have encouraged them to
publish it, however unsuspicious and however various the sources of this
panegyric may have been. And, first, allowances must be made for private
enmity, of the very existence of which they had perhaps entertained no
suspicion--for personal enmity behind the mask of anonymous criticism:
secondly for the necessity of a certain proportion of abuse and ridicule
in a Review, in order to make it saleable, in consequence of which, if
they have no friends behind the scenes, the chance must needs be against
them; but lastly and chiefly, for the excitement and temporary sympathy
of feeling, which the recitation of the poem by an admirer, especially
if he be at once a warm admirer and a man of acknowledged celebrity,
calls forth in the audience. For this is really a species of animal
magnetism, in which the enkindling reciter, by perpetual comment of
looks and tones, lends his own will and apprehensive faculty to his
auditors. They live for the time within the dilated sphere of his
intellectual being. It is equally possible, though not equally common,
that a reader left to himself should sink below the poem, as that
the poem left to itself should flag beneath the feelings of the
reader.--But, in my own instance, I had the additional misfortune of
having been gossiped about, as devoted to metaphysics, and worse than
all, to a system incomparably nearer to the visionary flights of Plato,
and even to the jargon of the Mystics, than to the established tenets
of Locke. Whatever therefore appeared with my name was condemned
beforehand, as predestined metaphysics. In a dramatic poem, which had
been submitted by me to a gentleman of great influence in the theatrical
world, occurred the following passage:--

    "O we are querulous creatures! Little less
     Than all things can suffice to make us happy:
     And little more than nothing is enough
     To make us wretched."

Aye, here now! (exclaimed the critic) here come Coleridge's metaphysics!
And the very same motive (that is, not that the lines were unfit for the
present state of our immense theatres; but that they were metaphysics
[87]) was assigned elsewhere for the rejection of the two following
passages. The first is spoken in answer to a usurper, who had rested his
plea on the circumstance, that he had been chosen by the acclamations of
the people.--

    "What people? How convened? or, if convened,
     Must not the magic power that charms together
     Millions of men in council, needs have power
     To win or wield them? Rather, O far rather
     Shout forth thy titles to yon circling mountains,
     And with a thousand-fold reverberation
     Make the rocks flatter thee, and the volleying air,
     Unbribed, shout back to thee, King Emerick!
     By wholesome laws to embank the sovereign power,
     To deepen by restraint, and by prevention
     Of lawless will to amass and guide the flood
     In its majestic channel, is man's task
     And the true patriot's glory! In all else
     Men safelier trust to Heaven, than to themselves
     When least themselves: even in those whirling crowds
     Where folly is contagious, and too oft
     Even wise men leave their better sense at home,
     To chide and wonder at them, when returned."

The second passage is in the mouth of an old and experienced courtier,
betrayed by the man in whom he had most trusted.

    "And yet Sarolta, simple, inexperienced,
     Could see him as he was, and often warned me.
     Whence learned she this?--O she was innocent!
     And to be innocent is Nature's wisdom!
     The fledge-dove knows the prowlers of the air,
     Feared soon as seen, and flutters back to shelter.
     And the young steed recoils upon his haunches,
     The never-yet-seen adder's hiss first heard.
     O surer than suspicion's hundred eyes
     Is that fine sense, which to the pure in heart,
     By mere oppugnancy of their own goodness,
     Reveals the approach of evil."

As therefore my character as a writer could not easily be more injured
by an overt act than it was already in consequence of the report, I
published a work, a large portion of which was professedly metaphysical.
A long delay occurred between its first annunciation and its appearance;
it was reviewed therefore by anticipation with a malignity, so avowedly
and exclusively personal, as is, I believe, unprecedented even in the
present contempt of all common humanity that disgraces and endangers the
liberty of the press. After its appearance, the author of this lampoon
undertook to review it in the Edinburgh Review; and under the single
condition, that he should have written what he himself really thought,
and have criticised the work as he would have done had its author been
indifferent to him, I should have chosen that man myself, both from
the vigour and the originality of his mind, and from his particular
acuteness in speculative reasoning, before all others.--I remembered
Catullus's lines.

    Desine de quoquam quicquam bene velle mereri,
      Aut aliquem fieri posse putare pium.
    Omnia sunt ingrata: nihil fecisse benigne est:
      Immo, etiam taedet, taedet obestque magis;
    Ut mihi, quem nemo gravius nec acerbius urget,
      Quam modo qui me unum atque unicum amicum habuit.

But I can truly say, that the grief with which I read this rhapsody of
predetermined insult, had the rhapsodist himself for its whole and sole

     *     *     *     *     *     *

I refer to this review at present, in consequence of information having
been given me, that the inuendo of my "potential infidelity," grounded
on one passage of my first Lay Sermon, has been received and propagated
with a degree of credence, of which I can safely acquit the originator
of the calumny. I give the sentences, as they stand in the sermon,
premising only that I was speaking exclusively of miracles worked for
the outward senses of men. "It was only to overthrow the usurpation
exercised in and through the senses, that the senses were miraculously
is in this respect a symbol of the spiritual. Ere he is fully arisen,
and while his glories are still under veil, he calls up the breeze to
chase away the usurping vapours of the night-season, and thus converts
the air itself into the minister of its own purification: not surely
in proof or elucidation of the light from heaven, but to prevent its

"Wherever, therefore, similar circumstances co-exist with the same
moral causes, the principles revealed, and the examples recorded, in
the inspired writings, render miracles superfluous: and if we neglect
to apply truths in expectation of wonders, or under pretext of the
cessation of the latter, we tempt God, and merit the same reply which
our Lord gave to the Pharisees on a like occasion."

In the sermon and the notes both the historical truth and the necessity
of the miracles are strongly and frequently asserted. "The testimony
of books of history (that is, relatively to the signs and wonders,
with which Christ came) is one of the strong and stately pillars of the
church: but it is not the foundation!" Instead, therefore, of defending
myself, which I could easily effect by a series of passages, expressing
the same opinion, from the Fathers and the most eminent Protestant
Divines, from the Reformation to the Revolution, I shall merely state
what my belief is, concerning the true evidences of Christianity. 1.
Its consistency with right Reason, I consider as the outer court of the
temple--the common area, within which it stands. 2. The miracles, with
and through which the Religion was first revealed and attested, I regard
as the steps, the vestibule, and the portal of the temple. 3. The
sense, the inward feeling, in the soul of each believer of its exceeding
desirableness--the experience, that he needs something, joined with the
strong foretokening, that the redemption and the graces propounded to
us in Christ are what he needs--this I hold to be the true foundation of
the spiritual edifice. With the strong a priori probability that flows
in from 1 and 3 on the correspondent historical evidence of 2, no man
can refuse or neglect to make the experiment without guilt. But, 4, it
is the experience derived from a practical conformity to the conditions
of the Gospel--it is the opening eye; the dawning light: the terrors and
the promises of spiritual growth; the blessedness of loving God as
God, the nascent sense of sin hated as sin, and of the incapability of
attaining to either without Christ; it is the sorrow that still rises
up from beneath and the consolation that meets it from above; the
bosom treacheries of the principal in the warfare and the exceeding
faithfulness and long-suffering of the uninteresting ally;--in a word,
it is the actual trial of the faith in Christ, with its accompaniments
and results, that must form the arched roof, and the faith itself is the
completing key-stone. In order to an efficient belief in Christianity,
a man must have been a Christian, and this is the seeming argumentum
in circulo, incident to all spiritual Truths, to every subject not
presentable under the forms of Time and Space, as long as we attempt to
master by the reflex acts of the Understanding what we can only know by
the act of becoming. Do the will of my Father, and ye shall know whether
I am of God. These four evidences I believe to have been and still to
be, for the world, for the whole Church, all necessary, all equally
necessary: but at present, and for the majority of Christians born in
Christian countries, I believe the third and the fourth evidences to
be the most operative, not as superseding but as involving a glad
undoubting faith in the two former. Credidi, ideoque intellexi, appears
to me the dictate equally of Philosophy and Religion, even as I
believe Redemption to be the antecedent of Sanctification, and not its
consequent. All spiritual predicates may be construed indifferently as
modes of Action or as states of Being, Thus Holiness and Blessedness
are the same idea, now seen in relation to act and now to existence.
The ready belief which has been yielded to the slander of my "potential
infidelity," I attribute in part to the openness with which I have
avowed my doubts, whether the heavy interdict, under which the name of
Benedict Spinoza lies, is merited on the whole or to the whole extent.
Be this as it may, I wish, however, that I could find in the books of
philosophy, theoretical or moral, which are alone recommended to the
present students of theology in our established schools, a few passages
as thoroughly Pauline, as completely accordant with the doctrines of the
Established Church, as the following sentences in the concluding page
of Spinoza's Ethics. Deinde quo mens hoc amore divino, seu beatitudine
magis gaudet, eo plus intelligit, hoc est, eo majorem in affectus habet
potentiam, et eo minus ab affectibus, qui mali sunt, patitur; atque adeo
ex eo, quod mens hoc amore divino, seu beatitudine gaudet, potestatem
habet libidines coercendi; et quia humana potentia ad coercendos
affectus in solo intellectu consistit; ergo nemo beatitudine gaudet,
quia affectus coercuit, sed contra potestas libidines coercendi ex ipsa
beatitudine oritur.

With regard to the Unitarians, it has been shamelessly asserted, that
I have denied them to be Christians. God forbid! For how should I know,
what the piety of the heart may be, or what quantum of error in the
understanding may consist with a saving faith in the intentions and
actual dispositions of the whole moral being in any one individual?
Never will God reject a soul that sincerely loves him: be his
speculative opinions what they may: and whether in any given instance
certain opinions, be they unbelief, or misbelief, are compatible with a
sincere love of God, God can only know.--But this I have said, and shall
continue to say: that if the doctrines, the sum of which I believe to
constitute the truth in Christ, be Christianity, then Unitarianism
is not, and vice versa: and that, in speaking theologically and
impersonally, i.e. of Psilanthropism and Theanthropism as schemes of
belief, without reference to individuals, who profess either the one or
the other, it will be absurd to use a different language as long as it
is the dictate of common sense, that two opposites cannot properly be
called by the same name. I should feel no offence if a Unitarian applied
the same to me, any more than if he were to say, that two and two being
four, four and four must be eight.

        alla broton
    ton men keneophrones auchai
        ex agathon ebalon;
    ton d' au katamemphthent' agan
    ischun oikeion paresphalen kalon,
    cheiros elkon opisso, thumos atolmos eon.

This has been my object, and this alone can be my defence--and O! that
with this my personal as well as my LITERARY LIFE might conclude!--the
unquenched desire I mean, not without the consciousness of having
earnestly endeavoured to kindle young minds, and to guard them against
the temptations of scorners, by showing that the scheme of Christianity,
as taught in the liturgy and homilies of our Church, though not
discoverable by human reason, is yet in accordance with it; that link
follows link by necessary consequence; that Religion passes out of the
ken of Reason only where the eye of Reason has reached its own horizon;
and that Faith is then but its continuation: even as the day softens
away into the sweet twilight, and twilight, hushed and breathless,
steals into the darkness. It is night, sacred night! the upraised eye
views only the starry heaven which manifests itself alone: and the
outward beholding is fixed on the sparks twinkling in the awful depth,
though suns of other worlds, only to preserve the soul steady and
collected in its pure act of inward adoration to the great I AM, and to
the filial WORD that re-affirmeth it from eternity to eternity, whose
choral echo is the universe.



[Footnote 1: The authority of Milton and Shakespeare may be usefully pointed out
to young authors. In the Comus and other early poems of Milton there
is a superfluity of double epithets; while in the Paradise Lost we find
very few, in the Paradise Regained scarce any. The same remark holds
almost equally true of the Love's Labour Lost, Romeo and Juliet, Venus
and Adonis, and Lucrece, compared with the Lear, Macbeth, Othello, and
Hamlet of our great Dramatist. The rule for the admission of double
epithets seems to be this: either that they should be already
denizens of our language, such as blood-stained, terror-stricken,
self-applauding: or when a new epithet, or one found in books only, is
hazarded, that it, at least, be one word, not two words made one by mere
virtue of the printers hyphen. A language which, like the English,
is almost without cases, is indeed in its very genius unfitted for
compounds. If a writer, every time a compounded word suggests itself to
him, would seek for some other mode of expressing the same sense, the
chances are always greatly in favour of his finding a better word.
Ut tanquam scopulum sic fugias insolens verbum, is the wise advice of
Caesar to the Roman Orators, and the precept applies with double force
to the writers in our own language. But it must not be forgotten,
that the same Caesar wrote a Treatise for the purpose of reforming
the ordinary language by bringing it to a greater accordance with the
principles of logic or universal grammar.]

[Footnote 2: See the criticisms on the Ancient Mariner, in the Monthly and
Critical Reviews of the first volume of the Lyrical Ballads.]

[Footnote 3: This is worthy of ranking as a maxim, (regula maxima,) of criticism.
Whatever is translatable in other and simpler words of the same
language, without loss of sense or dignity, is bad. N.B.--By dignity I
mean the absence of ludicrous and debasing associations.]

[Footnote 4: The Christ's Hospital phrase, not for holidays altogether, but for
those on which the boys are permitted to go beyond the precincts of the

[Footnote 5: I remember a ludicrous instance in the poem of a young tradesman:

    "No more will I endure love's pleasing pain,
     Or round my heart's leg tie his galling chain."]

[Footnote 6: Cowper's Task was published some time before the Sonnets of Mr.
Bowles; but I was not familiar with it till many years afterwards. The
vein of satire which runs through that excellent poem, together with the
sombre hue of its religious opinions, would probably, at that time,
have prevented its laying any strong hold on my affections. The love of
nature seems to have led Thomson to a cheerful religion; and a gloomy
religion to have led Cowper to a love of nature. The one would carry his
fellow-men along with him into nature; the other flies to nature from
his fellow-men. In chastity of diction however, and the harmony of blank
verse, Cowper leaves Thomson immeasurably below him; yet still I feel
the latter to have been the born poet.]

[Footnote 7: SONNET I

    Pensive at eve, on the hard world I mused,
    And m poor heart was sad; so at the Moon
    I gazed and sighed, and sighed; for ah how soon
    Eve saddens into night! mine eyes perused
    With tearful vacancy the dampy grass
    That wept and glitter'd in the paly ray
    And I did pause me on my lonely way
    And mused me on the wretched ones that pass
    O'er the bleak heath of sorrow. But alas!
    Most of myself I thought! when it befel,
    That the soothe spirit of the breezy wood
    Breath'd in mine ear: "All this is very well,
    But much of one thing, is for no thing good."
    Oh my poor heart's inexplicable swell!


    Oh I do love thee, meek Simplicity!
    For of thy lays the lulling simpleness
    Goes to my heart, and soothes each small distress,
    Distress the small, yet haply great to me.
    'Tis true on Lady Fortune's gentlest pad
    I amble on; and yet I know not why
    So sad I am! but should a friend and I
    Frown, pout and part, then I am very sad.
    And then with sonnets and with sympathy
    My dreamy bosom's mystic woes I pall:
    Now of my false friend plaining plaintively,
    Now raving at mankind in general;
    But whether sad or fierce, 'tis simple all,
    All very simple, meek Simplicity!


    And this reft house is that, the which he built,
    Lamented Jack! and here his malt he pil'd,
    Cautious in vain! these rats, that squeak so wild,
    Squeak not unconscious of their father's guilt.
    Did he not see her gleaming thro' the glade!
    Belike 'twas she, the maiden all forlorn.
    What the she milk no cow with crumpled horn,
    Yet, aye she haunts the dale where erst she stray'd:
    And aye, beside her stalks her amorous knight
    Still on his thighs their wonted brogues are worn,
    And thro' those brogues, still tatter'd and betorn,
    His hindward charms gleam an unearthly white.
    Ah! thus thro' broken clouds at night's high noon
    Peeps to fair fragments forth the full-orb'd harvest-moon!

The following anecdote will not be wholly out of place here, and may
perhaps amuse the reader. An amateur performer in verse expressed to a
common friend a strong desire to be introduced to me, but hesitated in
accepting my friend's immediate offer, on the score that "he was,
he must acknowledge, the author of a confounded severe epigram on my
Ancient Mariner, which had given me great pain." I assured my friend
that, if the epigram was a good one, it would only increase my desire to
become acquainted with the author, and begged to hear it recited: when,
to my no less surprise than amusement, it proved to be one which I had
myself some time before written and inserted in the "Morning Post," to

    To the Author of the Ancient Mariner.

        Your poem must eternal be,
        Dear sir! it cannot fail,
        For 'tis incomprehensible,
        And without head or tail.]

[Footnote 8: --

    Of old things all are over old,
    Of good things none are good enough;--
    We'll show that we can help to frame
    A world of other stuff.

    I too will have my kings, that take
    From me the sign of life and death:
    Kingdoms shall shift about, like clouds,
    Obedient to my breath.
      Wordsworth's Rob Roy.--Poet. Works, vol. III. p. 127.]

[Footnote 9: Pope was under the common error of his age, an error far from
being sufficiently exploded even at the present day. It consists (as
I explained at large, and proved in detail in my public lectures,) in
mistaking for the essentials of the Greek stage certain rules, which the
wise poets imposed upon themselves, in order to render all the remaining
parts of the drama consistent with those, that had been forced upon them
by circumstances independent of their will; out of which circumstances
the drama itself arose. The circumstances in the time of Shakespeare,
which it was equally out of his power to alter, were different, and such
as, in my opinion, allowed a far wider sphere, and a deeper and more
human interest. Critics are too apt to forget, that rules are but means
to an end; consequently, where the ends are different, the rules must
be likewise so. We must have ascertained what the end is, before we can
determine what the rules ought to be. Judging under this impression,
I did not hestitate to declare my full conviction, that the consummate
judgment of Shakespeare, not only in the general construction, but in
all the details, of his dramas, impressed me with greater wonder,
than even the might of his genius, or the depth of his philosophy. The
substance of these lectures I hope soon to publish; and it is but a debt
of justice to myself and my friends to notice, that the first course
of lectures, which differed from the following courses only, by
occasionally varying the illustrations of the same thoughts, was
addressed to very numerous, and I need not add, respectable audiences at
the Royal institution, before Mr. Schlegel gave his lectures on the same
subjects at Vienna.]

[Footnote 10: In the course of one of my Lectures, I had occasion to point out
the almost faultless position and choice of words, in Pope's original
compositions, particularly in his Satires and moral Essays, for the
purpose of comparing them with his translation of Homer, which, I do
not stand alone in regarding, as the main source of our pseudo-poetic
diction. And this, by the bye, is an additional confirmation of a remark
made, I believe, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, that next to the man who forms
and elevates the taste of the public, he that corrupts it, is commonly
the greatest genius. Among other passages, I analyzed sentence by
sentence, and almost word by word, the popular lines,

    As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night, etc.
                                                (Iliad. B. viii.)

much in the same way as has been since done, in an excellent article on
Chalmers's British Poets in the Quarterly Review. The impression on the
audience in general was sudden and evident: and a number of enlightened
and highly educated persons, who at different times afterwards addressed
me on the subject, expressed their wonder, that truth so obvious should
not have struck them before; but at the same time acknowledged--(so much
had they been accustomed, in reading poetry, to receive pleasure from
the separate images and phrases successively, without asking themselves
whether the collective meaning was sense or nonsense)--that they might
in all probability have read the same passage again twenty times with
undiminished admiration, and without once reflecting, that

          astra phaeinaen amphi selaenaen
    phainet aritretea--

(that is, the stars around, or near the full moon, shine pre-eminently
bright) conveys a just and happy image of a moonlight sky: while it is
difficult to determine whether, in the lines,

    Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
    And stars unnumber'd gild the glowing pole,

the sense or the diction be the more absurd. My answer was; that, though
I had derived peculiar advantages from my school discipline, and
though my general theory of poetry was the same then as now, I had yet
experienced the same sensations myself, and felt almost as if I bad
been newly couched, when, by Mr. Wordsworth's conversation, I had been
induced to re-examine with impartial strictness Gray's celebrated Elegy.
I had long before detected the defects in The Bard; but the Elegy I had
considered as proof against all fair attacks; and to this day I cannot
read either without delight, and a portion of enthusiasm. At all events,
whatever pleasure I may have lost by the clearer perception of the
faults in certain passages, has been more than repaid to me by the
additional delight with which I read the remainder.

Another instance in confirmation of these remarks occurs to me in the
Faithful Shepherdess. Seward first traces Fletcher's lines;

    More foul diseases than e'er yet the hot
    Sun bred thro' his burnings, while the dog
    Pursues the raging lion, throwing the fog
    And deadly vapour from his angry breath,
    Filling the lower world with plague and death,

to Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar,

    The rampant lion hunts he fast
      With dogs of noisome breath;
    Whose baleful barking brings, in haste,
      Pine, plagues, and dreary death!

He then takes occasion to introduce Homer's simile of the appearance of
Achilles' mail to Priam compared with the Dog Star; literally thus--

"For this indeed is most splendid, but it was made an evil sign, and
brings many a consuming disease to wretched mortals." Nothing can be
more simple as a description, or more accurate as a simile; which, (says
Seward,) is thus finely translated by Mr. Pope

    Terrific Glory! for his burning breath
    Taints the red air with fevers, plagues, and death!

Now here--(not to mention the tremendous bombast)--the Dog Star, so
called, is turned into a real dog, a very odd dog, a fire, fever,
plague, and death-breathing, red, air-tainting dog: and the whole visual
likeness is lost, while the likeness in the effects is rendered absurd
by the exaggeration. In Spenser and Fletcher the thought is justifiable;
for the images are at least consistent, and it was the intention of the
writers to mark the seasons by this allegory of visualized puns.]

[Footnote 11: Especially in this age of personality, this age of literary and
political gossiping, when the meanest insects are worshipped with a sort
of Egyptian superstition, if only the brainless head be atoned for
by the sting of personal malignity in the tail;--when the most vapid
satires have become the objects of a keen public interest, purely from
the number of contemporary characters named in the patch-work notes,
(which possess, however, the comparative merit of being more poetical
than the text,) and because, to increase the stimulus, the author has
sagaciously left his own name for whispers and conjectures.]

[Footnote 12: If it were worth while to mix together, as ingredients, half
the anecdotes which I either myself know to be true, or which I have
received from men incapable of intentional falsehood, concerning the
characters, qualifications, and motives of our anonymous critics, whose
decisions are oracles for our reading public; I might safely borrow the
words of the apocryphal Daniel; "Give me leave, O SOVEREIGN PUBLIC, and
I shall slay this dragon without sward or staff." For the compound would
be as the "pitch, and fat, and hair, which Daniel took, and did seethe
them together, and made lumps thereof; this he put in the dragon's
mouth, and so the dragon burst in sunder; and Daniel said, LO, THESE ARE

[Footnote 13: This is one instance among many of deception, by the telling the
half of a fact, and omitting the other half, when it is from their
mutual counteraction and neutralization, that the whole truth arises, as
a tertium aliquid different from either. Thus in Dryden's famous line

    Great wit (meaning genius) to madness sure is near allied.

Now if the profound sensibility, which is doubtless one of the
components of genius, were alone considered, single and unbalanced, it
might be fairly described as exposing the individual to a greater
chance of mental derangement; but then a more than usual rapidity of
association, a more than usual power of passing from thought to thought,
and image to image, is a component equally essential; and to the due
modification of each by the other the genius itself consists; so that
it would be just as fair to describe the earth, as in imminent danger of
exorbitating, or of falling into the sun, according as the assertor of
the absurdity confined his attention either to the projectile or to the
attractive force exclusively.]

[Footnote 14: For as to the devotees of the circulating libraries, I dare not
compliment their pass-time, or rather kill-time, with the name of
reading. Call it rather a sort of beggarly day-dreaming, during which
the mind of the dreamer furnishes for itself nothing but laziness, and a
little mawkish sensibility; while the whole materiel and imagery of
the doze is supplied ab extra by a sort of mental camera obscura
manufactured at the printing office, which pro tempore fixes, reflects,
and transmits the moving phantasms of one mans delirium, so as to people
the barrenness of a hundred other brains afflicted with the same trance
or suspension of all common sense and all definite purpose. We should
therefore transfer this species of amusement--(if indeed those can be
said to retire a musis, who were never in their company, or relaxation
be attributable to those, whose bows are never bent)--from the genus,
reading, to that comprebensive class characterized by the power of
reconciling the two contrary yet coexisting propensities of human
nature, namely, indulgence of sloth, and hatred of vacancy. In addition
to novels and tales of chivalry to prose or rhyme, (by which last I mean
neither rhythm nor metre) this genus comprises as its species, gaming,
swinging, or swaying on a chair or gate; spitting over a bridge;
smoking; snuff-taking; tete-a-tete quarrels after dinner between
husband and wife; conning word by word all the advertisements of a daily
newspaper in a public house on a rainy day, etc. etc. etc.]

[Footnote 15: Ex. gr. Pediculos e capillis excerptos in arenam jacere incontusos;
eating of unripe fruit; gazing on the clouds, and (in genere) on
movable things suspended in the air; riding among a multitude of
camels; frequent laughter; listening to a series of jests and humorous
anecdotes,--as when (so to modernize the learned Saracen's meaning) one
man's droll story of an Irishman inevitably occasions another's droll
story of a Scotchman, which again, by the same sort of conjunction
disjunctive, leads to some etourderie of a Welshman, and that again to
some sly hit of a Yorkshireman;--the habit of reading tomb-stones in
church-yards, etc. By the bye, this catalogue, strange as it may appear,
is not insusceptible of a sound psychological commentary.]

[Footnote 16: I have ventured to call it unique; not only because I know no work
of the kind in our language, (if we except a few chapters of the old
translation of Froissart)--none, which uniting the charms of romance and
history, keeps the imagination so constantly on the wing, and yet leaves
so much for after reflection; but likewise, and chiefly, because it is
a compilation, which, in the various excellencies of translation,
selection, and arrangement, required and proves greater genius in
the compiler, as living in the present state of society, than in the
original composers.]

[Footnote 17: It is not easy to estimate the effects which the example of a
young man as highly distinguished for strict purity of disposition
and conduct, as for intellectual power and literary acquirements, may
produce on those of the same age with himself, especially on those of
similar pursuits and congenial minds. For many years, my opportunities
of intercourse with Mr. Southey have been rare, and at long intervals;
but I dwell with unabated pleasure on the strong and sudden, yet I
trust not fleeting, influence, which my moral being underwent on my
acquaintance with him at Oxford, whither I had gone at the commencement
of our Cambridge vacation on a visit to an old school-fellow. Not
indeed on my moral or religious principles, for they had never been
contaminated; but in awakening the sense of the duty and dignity of
making my actions accord with those principles, both in word and
deed. The irregularities only not universal among the young men of my
standing, which I always knew to be wrong, I then learned to feel as
degrading; learned to know that an opposite conduct, which was at that
time considered by us as the easy virtue of cold and selfish prudence,
might originate in the noblest emotions, in views the most disinterested
and imaginative. It is not however from grateful recollections only,
that I have been impelled thus to leave these my deliberate sentiments
on record; but in some sense as a debt of justice to the man, whose
name has been so often connected with mine for evil to which he is a
stranger. As a specimen I subjoin part of a note, from The Beauties of
the Anti-jacobin, in which, having previously informed the public that
I had been dishonoured at Cambridge for preaching Deism, at a time when,
for my youthful ardour in defence of Christianity, I was decried as
a bigot by the proselytes of French phi-(or to speak more truly
psi-)-losophy, the writer concludes with these words; "since this time
he has left his native country, commenced citizen of the world, left
his poor children fatherless, and his wife destitute. Ex his disce his
friends, LAMB and SOUTHEY." With severest truth it may be asserted, that
it would not be easy to select two men more exemplary in their domestic
affections than those whose names were thus printed at full length as in
the same rank of morals with a denounced infidel and fugitive, who had
left his children fatherless and his wife destitute! Is it surprising,
that many good men remained longer than perhaps they otherwise would
have done adverse to a party, which encouraged and openly rewarded the
authors of such atrocious calumnies? Qualis es, nescio; sed per quales
agis, scio et doleo.]

[Footnote 18: In opinions of long continuance, and in which we have never before
been molested by a single doubt, to be suddenly convinced of an error,
is almost like being convicted of a fault. There is a state of mind,
which is the direct antithesis of that, which takes place when we make
a bull. The bull namely consists in the bringing her two incompatible
thoughts, with the sensation, but without the sense, of their
connection. The psychological condition, or that which constitutes the
possibility, of this state, being such disproportionate vividness of two
distant thoughts, as extinguishes or obscures the consciousness of the
intermediate images or conceptions, or wholly abstracts the attention
from them. Thus in the well known bull, "I was a fine child, but they
changed me:" the first conception expressed in the word "I," is that
of personal identity--Ego contemplans: the second expressed in the word
"me," is the visual image or object by which the mind represents to
itself its past condition, or rather, its personal identity under
the form in which it imagined itself previously to have existed,--Ego
contemplatus. Now the change of one visual image for another involves
in itself no absurdity, and becomes absurd only by its immediate
juxta-position with the fast thought, which is rendered possible by the
whole attention being successively absorbed to each singly, so as not to
notice the interjacent notion, changed, which by its incongruity, with
the first thought, I, constitutes the bull. Add only, that this process
is facilitated by the circumstance of the words I, and me, being
sometimes equivalent, and sometimes having a distinct meaning;
sometimes, namely, signifying the act of self-consciousness, sometimes
the external image in and by which the mind represents that act to
itself, the result and symbol of its individuality. Now suppose the
direct contrary state, and you will have a distinct sense of the
connection between two conceptions, without that sensation of such
connection which is supplied by habit. The man feels as if he were
standing on his head though he cannot but see that he is truly standing
on his feet. This, as a painful sensation, will of course have a
tendency to associate itself with him who occasions it; even as persons,
who have been by painful means restored from derangement, are known to
feel an involuntary dislike towards their physician.]

[Footnote 19: Without however the apprehensions attributed to the Pagan reformer
of the poetic republic. If we may judge from the preface to the recent
collection of his poems, Mr. W. would have answered with Xanthias--

    su d' ouk edeisas ton huophon ton rhaematon,
    kai tas apeilas; XAN, ou ma Di', oud' ephrontisa.--Ranae, 492-3.

And here let me hint to the authors of the numerous parodies, and
pretended imitations of Mr. Wordsworth's style, that at once to conceal
and convey wit and wisdom in the semblance of folly and dulness, as
is done in the Clowns and Fools, nay even in the Dogberry, of our
Shakespeare, is doubtless a proof of genius, or at all events of satiric
talent; but that the attempt to ridicule a silly and childish poem, by
writing another still sillier and still more childish, can only prove
(if it prove any thing at all) that the parodist is a still greater
blockhead than the original writer, and, what is far worse, a malignant
coxcomb to boot. The talent for mimicry seems strongest where the
human race are most degraded. The poor, naked half human savages of New
Holland were found excellent mimics: and, in civilized society, minds of
the very lowest stamp alone satirize by copying. At least the difference
which must blend with and balance the likeness, in order to constitute
a just imitation, existing here merely in caricature, detracts from
the libeller's heart, without adding an iota to the credit of his

[Footnote 20: --

     The Butterfly the ancient Grecians made
     The soul's fair emblem, and its only name--
     But of the soul, escaped the slavish trade
     Of mortal life! For to this earthly frame
     Ours is the reptile's lot, much toil, much blame,
     Manifold motions making little speed,
     And to deform and kill the things whereon we feed.]

[Footnote 21: Mr. Wordsworth, even in his two earliest poems, The Evening Walk
and the Descriptive Sketches, is more free from this latter defect
than most of the young poets his contemporaries. It may however be
exemplified, together with the harsh and obscure construction, in which
he more often offended, in the following lines:--

    "'Mid stormy vapours ever driving by,
     Where ospreys, cormorants, and herons cry;
     Where hardly given the hopeless waste to cheer,
     Denied the bread of life the foodful ear,
     Dwindles the pear on autumn's latest spray,
     And apple sickens pale in summer's ray;
     Ev'n here content has fixed her smiling reign
     With independence, child of high disdain."

I hope, I need not say, that I have quoted these lines for no other
purpose than to make my meaning fully understood. It is to be regretted
that Mr. Wordsworth has not republished these two poems entire.]

[Footnote 22: This is effected either by giving to the one word a general, and to
the other an exclusive use; as "to put on the back" and "to indorse;" or
by an actual distinction of meanings, as "naturalist," and "physician;"
or by difference of relation, as "I" and "Me" (each of which the rustics
of our different provinces still use in all the cases singular of the
first personal pronoun). Even the mere difference, or corruption, in the
pronunciation of the same word, if it have become general, will
produce a new word with a distinct signification; thus "property" and
"propriety;" the latter of which, even to the time of Charles II was
the written word for all the senses of both. There is a sort of minim
immortal among the animalcula infusoria, which has not naturally either
birth, or death, absolute beginning, or absolute end: for at a certain
period a small point appears on its back, which deepens and lengthens
till the creature divides into two, and the same process recommences in
each of the halves now become integral. This may be a fanciful, but
it is by no means a bad emblem of the formation of words, and may
facilitate the conception, how immense a nomenclature may be organized
from a few simple sounds by rational beings in a social state. For each
new application, or excitement of the same sound, will call forth a
different sensation, which cannot but affect the pronunciation. The
after recollections of the sound, without the same vivid sensation,
will modify it still further till at length all trace of the original
likeness is worn away.]

[Footnote 23: I ought to have added, with the exception of a single sheet which I
accidentally met with at the printer's. Even from this scanty specimen,
I found it impossible to doubt the talent, or not to admire the
ingenuity, of the author. That his distinctions were for the greater
part unsatisfactory to my mind, proves nothing against their accuracy;
but it may possibly be serviceable to him, in case of a second edition,
if I take this opportunity of suggesting the query; whether he may not
have been occasionally misled, by having assumed, as to me he appears to
have done, the non-existence of any absolute synonymes in our language?
Now I cannot but think, that there are many which remain for our
posterity to distinguish and appropriate, and which I regard as so much
reversionary wealth in our mother tongue. When two distinct meanings are
confounded under one or more words,--(and such must be the case, as
sure as our knowledge is progressive and of course imperfect)--erroneous
consequences will be drawn, and what is true in one sense of the word
will be affirmed as true in toto. Men of research, startled by the
consequences, seek in the things themselves--(whether in or out of
the mind)--for a knowledge of the fact, and having discovered the
difference, remove the equivocation either by the substitution of a new
word, or by the appropriation of one of the two or more words, which
had before been used promiscuously. When this distinction has been so
naturalized and of such general currency that the language does as it
were think for us--(like the sliding rule which is the mechanic's safe
substitute for arithmetical knowledge)--we then say, that it is evident
to common sense. Common sense, therefore, differs in different ages.
What was born and christened in the Schools passes by degrees into
the world at large, and becomes the property of the market and the
tea-table. At least I can discover no other meaning of the term,
common sense, if it is to convey any specific difference from sense
and judgment in genere, and where it is not used scholastically for the
universal reason. Thus in the reign of Charles II the philosophic world
was called to arms by the moral sophisms of Hobbes, and the ablest
writers exerted themselves in the detection of an error, which a
school-boy would now be able to confute by the mere recollection, that
compulsion and obligation conveyed two ideas perfectly disparate, and
that what appertained to the one, had been falsely transferred to the
other by a mere confusion of terms.]

[Footnote 24: I here use the word idea in Mr. Hume's sense on account of its
general currency amongst the English metaphysicians; though against my
own judgment, for I believe that the vague use of this word has been the
cause of much error and more confusion. The word, idea, in its original
sense as used by Pindar, Aristophanes, and in the Gospel of St. Matthew,
represented the visual abstraction of a distant object, when we see the
whole without distinguishing its parts. Plato adopted it as a technical
term, and as the antithesis to eidolon, or sensuous image; the transient
and perishable emblem, or mental word, of the idea. Ideas themselves he
considered as mysterious powers, living, seminal, formative, and exempt
from time. In this sense the word Idea became the property of the
Platonic school; and it seldom occurs in Aristotle, without some such
phrase annexed to it, as according to Plato, or as Plato says. Our
English writers to the end of the reign of Charles II or somewhat later,
employed it either in the original sense, or Platonically, or in a
sense nearly correspondent to our present use of the substantive, Ideal;
always however opposing it, more or less to image, whether of present
or absent objects. The reader will not be displeased with the following
interesting exemplification from Bishop Jeremy Taylor. "St. Lewis the
King sent Ivo Bishop of Chartres on an embassy, and he told, that he met
a grave and stately matron on the way with a censer of fire in one
band, and a vessel of water in the other; and observing her to have a
melancholy, religious, and phantastic deportment and look, he asked her
what those symbols meant, and what she meant to do with her fire and
water; she answered, My purpose is with the fire to burn paradise,
and with my water to quench the flames of hell, that men may serve God
purely for the love of God. But we rarely meet with such spirits which
love virtue so metaphysically as to abstract her from all sensible
compositions, and love the purity of the idea." Des Cartes having
introduced into his philosophy the fanciful hypothesis of material
ideas, or certain configurations of the brain, which were as so many
moulds to the influxes of the external world,--Locke adopted the term,
but extended its signification to whatever is the immediate object
of the mind's attention or consciousness. Hume, distinguishing those
representations which are accompanied with a sense of a present object
from those reproduced by the mind itself, designated the former by
impressions, and confined the word idea to the latter.]

[Footnote 25: I am aware, that this word occurs neither in Johnson's Dictionary
nor in any classical writer. But the word, to intend, which Newton
and others before him employ in this sense, is now so completely
appropriated to another meaning, that I could not use it without
ambiguity: while to paraphrase the sense, as by render intense, would
often break up the sentence and destroy that harmony of the position of
the words with the logical position of the thoughts, which is a
beauty in all composition, and more especially desirable in a close
philosophical investigation. I have therefore hazarded the word,
intensify: though, I confess, it sounds uncouth to my own ear.]

[Footnote 26: And Coxcombs vanquish Berkeley by a grin.]

[Footnote 27: Videlicet; Quantity, Quality, Relation, and Mode, each consisting
of three subdivisions. See Kritik der reinen Vernunft. See too the
judicious remarks on Locke and Hume.]

[Footnote 28: St. Luke x. 21.]

[Footnote 29: An American Indian with little variety of images, and a still
scantier stock of language, is obliged to turn his few words to many
purposes, by likenesses so clear and analogies so remote as to give his
language the semblance and character of lyric poetry interspersed with
grotesques. Something not unlike this was the case of such men as
Behmen and Fox with regard to the Bible. It was their sole armoury of
expressions, their only organ of thought.]

[Footnote 30: The following burlesque on the Fichtean Egoisnsus may, perhaps,
be amusing to the few who have studied the system, and to those who are
unacquainted with it, may convey as tolerable a likeness of Fichte's
idealism as can be expected from an avowed caricature.

The Categorical Imperative, or the annunciation of the new Teutonic God,
EGOENKAIPAN: a dithyrambic ode, by QUERKOPF VON KLUBSTICK, Grammarian,
and Subrector in Gymmasic.

    Eu! Dei vices gerens, ipse Divus,
    (Speak English, Friend!) the God Imperativus,
    Here on this market-cross aloud I cry:
    I, I, I! I itself I!
    The form and the substance, the what and the why,
    The when and the where, and the low and the high,
    The inside and outside, the earth and the sky,
    I, you and he, and he, you and I,
    All souls and all bodies are I itself I!
                  All I itself I!
                  (Fools! a truce with this starting!)
                  All my I! all my I!
    He's a heretic dog who but adds Betty Martin!
    Thus cried the God with high imperial tone;
    In robe of stiffest state, that scoffed at beauty,
    A pronoun-verb imperative he shone--
    Then substantive and plural-singular grown
    He thus spake on! Behold in I alone
    (For ethics boast a syntax of their own)
    Or if in ye, yet as I doth depute ye,
    In O! I, you, the vocative of duty!
    I of the world's whole Lexicon the root!
    Of the whole universe of touch, sound, sight
    The genitive and ablative to boot:
    The accusative of wrong, the nominative of right,
    And in all cases the case absolute!
    Self-construed, I all other moods decline:
    Imperative, from nothing we derive us;
    Yet as a super-postulate of mine,
    Unconstrued antecedence I assign
    To X, Y, Z, the God Infinitivus!]

[Footnote 31: It would be an act of high and almost criminal injustice to pass
over in silence the name of Mr. Richard Saumarez, a gentleman equally
well known as a medical man and as a philanthropist, but who demands
notice on the present occasion as the author of "A new System of
Physiology" in two volumes octavo, published 1797; and in 1812 of "An
Examination of the natural and artificial Systems of Philosophy
which now prevail" in one volume octavo, entitled, "The Principles of
physiological and physical Science." The latter work is not quite equal
to the former in style or arrangement; and there is a greater necessity
of distinguishing the principles of the author's philosophy from his
conjectures concerning colour, the atmospheric matter, comets, etc.
which, whether just or erroneous, are by no means necessary consequences
of that philosophy. Yet even in this department of this volume, which I
regard as comparatively the inferior work, the reasonings by which Mr.
Saumarez invalidates the immanence of an infinite power in any finite
substance are the offspring of no common mind; and the experiment on the
expansibility of the air is at least plausible and highly ingenious. But
the merit, which will secure both to the book and to the writer a high
and honourable name with posterity, consists in the masterly force of
reasoning, and the copiousness of induction, with which he has assailed,
and (in my opinion) subverted the tyranny of the mechanic system in
physiology; established not only the existence of final causes, but
their necessity and efficiency to every system that merits the name
of philosophical; and, substituting life and progressive power for the
contradictory inert force, has a right to be known and remembered as
the first instaurator of the dynamic philosophy in England. The author's
views, as far as concerns himself, are unborrowed and completely his
own, as he neither possessed nor do his writings discover, the
least acquaintance with the works of Kant, in which the germs of the
philosophy exist: and his volumes were published many years before the
full development of these germs by Schelling. Mr. Saumarez's detection
of the Braunonian system was no light or ordinary service at the time;
and I scarcely remember in any work on any subject a confutation so
thoroughly satisfactory. It is sufficient at this time to have stated
the fact; as in the preface to the work, which I have already announced
on the Logos, I have exhibited in detail the merits of this writer, and
genuine philosopher, who needed only have taken his foundation somewhat
deeper and wider to have superseded a considerable part of my labours.]

[Footnote 32: But for sundry notes on Shakespeare, and other pieces which have
fallen in my way, I should have deemed it unnecessary to observe; that
discourse here, or elsewhere does not mean what we now call discoursing;
but the discursion of the mind, the processes of generalization and
subsumption, of deduction and conclusion. Thus, Philosophy has hitherto
been discursive; while Geometry is always and essentially intuitive.]

[Footnote 33: Revelation xx. 3.]

[Footnote 34: See Laing's History of Scotland.--Walter Scott's bards, ballads,

[Footnote 35: Thus organization, and motion are regarded as from God, not in God.]

[Footnote 36: Job, chap. xxviii.]

[Footnote 37: Wherever A=B, and A is not=B, are equally demonstrable, the
premise in each undeniable, the induction evident, and the conclusion
legitimate--the result must be, either that contraries can both be true,
(which is absurd,) or that the faculty and forms of reasoning employed
are inapplicable to the subject--i.e. that there is a metabasis eis
allo genos. Thus, the attributes of Space and time applied to Spirit
are heterogeneous--and the proof of this is, that by admitting them
explicite or implicite contraries may be demonstrated true--i.e. that
the same, taken in the same sense, is true and not true.--That the world
had a beginning in Time and a bound in Space; and That the world had not
a beginning and has no limit;--That a self originating act is, and is
not possible, are instances.]

[Footnote 38: To those, who design to acquire the language of a country in
the country itself, it may be useful, if I mention the incalculable
advantage which I derived from learning all the words, that could
possibly be so learned, with the objects before me, and without the
intermediation of the English terms. It was a regular part of my
morning studies for the first six weeks of my residence at Ratzeburg,
to accompany the good and kind old pastor, with whom I lived, from the
cellar to the roof, through gardens, farmyard, etc. and to call every,
the minutest, thing by its German name. Advertisements, farces, jest
books, and the conversation of children while I was at play with them,
contributed their share to a more home-like acquaintance with the
language than I could have acquired from works of polite literature
alone, or even from polite society. There is a passage of hearty sound
sense in Luther's German Letter on interpretation, to the translation of
which I shall prefix, for the sake of those who read the German, yet
are not likely to have dipped often in the massive folios of this heroic
reformer, the simple, sinewy, idiomatic words of the original. "Denn
man muss nicht die Buchstaben in der Lateinischen Sprache fragen wie man
soll Deutsch reden: sondern man muss die Mutter in Hause, die Kinder
auf den Gassen, den gemeinen Mann auf dem Markte, darum fragen: und
denselbigen auf das Maul sehen wie sie reden, und darnach dolmetschen.
So verstehen sie es denn, und merken dass man Deutsch mit ihnen redet."


For one must not ask the letters in the Latin tongue, how one ought to
speak German; but one must ask the mother in the house, the children
in the lanes and alleys, the common man in the market, concerning this;
yea, and look at the moves of their mouths while they are talking, and
thereafter interpret. They understand you then, and mark that one talks
German with them.]

[Footnote 39: This paraphrase, written about the time of Charlemagne, is by no
means deficient in occasional passages of considerable poetic merit.
There is a flow, and a tender enthusiasm in the following lines (at the
conclusion of Chapter XI.) which, even in the translation will not, I
flatter myself, fail to interest the reader. Ottfried is describing the
circumstances immediately following the birth of our Lord.

    She gave with joy her virgin breast;
    She hid it not, she bared the breast,
    Which suckled that divinest babe!
    Blessed, blessed were the breasts
    Which the Saviour infant kiss'd;
    And blessed, blessed was the mother
    Who wrapp'd his limbs in swaddling clothes,
    Singing placed him on her lap,
    Hung o'er him with her looks of love,
    And sooth'd him with a lulling motion.
    Blessed; for she shelter'd him
    From the damp and chilling air;
    Blessed, blessed! for she lay
    With such a babe in one blest bed,
    Close as babes and mothers lie!
    Blessed, blessed evermore,
    With her virgin lips she kiss'd,
    With her arms, and to her breast
    She embraced the babe divine,
    Her babe divine the virgin mother!
    There lives not on this ring of earth
    A mortal, that can sing her praise.
    Mighty mother, virgin pure,
    In the darkness and the night
    For us she bore the heavenly Lord!

Most interesting is it to consider the effect, when the feelings are
wrought above the natural pitch by the belief of something mysterious,
while all the images are purely natural. Then it is, that religion and
poetry strike deepest.]

[Footnote 40: Lord Grenville has lately re-asserted (in the House of Lords) the
imminent danger of a revolution in the earlier part of the war against
France. I doubt not, that his Lordship is sincere; and it must be
flattering to his feelings to believe it. But where are the evidences of
the danger, to which a future historian can appeal? Or must he rest on
an assertion? Let me be permitted to extract a passage on the subject
from The Friend. "I have said that to withstand the arguments of the
lawless, the anti-Jacobins proposed to suspend the law, and by the
interposition of a particular statute to eclipse the blessed light of
the universal sun, that spies and informers might tyrannize and escape
in the ominous darkness. Oh! if these mistaken men, intoxicated with
alarm and bewildered by that panic of property, which they themselves
were the chief agents in exciting, had ever lived in a country where
there really existed a general disposition to change and rebellion!
Had they ever travelled through Sicily; or through France at the first
coming on of the revolution; or even alas! through too many of the
provinces of a sister island; they could not but have shrunk from their
own declarations concerning the state of feeling and opinion at that
time predominant throughout Great Britain. There was a time--(Heaven
grant that that time may have passed by!)--when by crossing a narrow
strait, they might have learned the true symptoms of approaching danger,
and have secured themselves from mistaking the meetings and idle rant of
such sedition, as shrank appalled from the sight of a constable, for
the dire murmuring and strange consternation which precedes the storm
or earthquake of national discord. Not only in coffee-houses and public
theatres, but even at the tables of the wealthy, they would have heard
the advocates of existing Government defend their cause in the language
and with the tone of men, who are conscious that they are in a minority.
But in England, when the alarm was at its highest, there was not a
city, no, not a town or village, in which a man suspected of holding
democratic principles could move abroad without receiving some
unpleasant proof of the hatred in which his supposed opinions were held
by the great majority of the people; and the only instances of popular
excess and indignation were on the side of the government and the
established church. But why need I appeal to these invidious facts? Turn
over the pages of history and seek for a single instance of a revolution
having been effected without the concurrence of either the nobles, or
the ecclesiastics, or the monied classes, in any country, in which
the influences of property had ever been predominant, and where the
interests of the proprietors were interlinked! Examine the revolution
of the Belgic provinces under Philip II; the civil wars of France in the
preceding generation; the history of the American revolution, or the
yet more recent events in Sweden and in Spain; and it will be scarcely
possible not to perceive that in England from 1791 to the peace
of Amiens there were neither tendencies to confederacy nor actual
confederacies, against which the existing laws had not provided both
sufficient safeguards and an ample punishment. But alas! the panic of
property had been struck in the first instance for party purposes; and
when it became general, its propagators caught it themselves and ended
in believing their own lie; even as our bulls to Borrowdale sometimes
run mad with the echo of their own bellowing. The consequences were most
injurious. Our attention was concentrated on a monster, which could not
survive the convulsions, in which it had been brought forth,--even
the enlightened Burke himself too often talking and reasoning, as if a
perpetual and organized anarchy had been a possible thing! Thus while we
were warring against French doctrines, we took little heed whether the
means by which we attempted to overthrow them, were not likely to
aid and augment the far more formidable evil of French ambition. Like
children we ran away from the yelping of a cur, and took shelter at the
heels of a vicious war horse." (Vol. II. Essay i. p. 21, 4th edit.)]

[Footnote 41: I seldom think of the murder of this illustrious Prince without
recollecting the lines of Valerius Flaccus:

    ------super ipsius ingens
    Instat fama viri, virtusque haud laeta tyranno;
    Ergo anteire metus, juvenemque exstinguere pergit.
                                           Argonaut, I. 29.]

[Footnote 42: --

     Theara de kai ton chaena kai taen dorkada,
     Kai ton lagoon, kai to ton tauron genos.
            Manuel Phile, De Animal. Proprietat. sect. I. i. 12.]

[Footnote 43: Paradise Regained. Book IV. I. 261.]

[Footnote 44: Vita e Costumi di Dante.]

[Footnote 45: TRANSLATION: "With the greatest possible solicitude avoid
authorship. Too early or immoderately employed, it makes the head waste
and the heart empty; even were there no other worse consequences. A
person, who reads only to print, to all probability reads amiss; and he,
who sends away through the pen and the press every thought, the moment
it occurs to him, will in a short time have sent all away, and will
become a mere journeyman of the printing-office, a compositor."

To which I may add from myself, that what medical physiologists affirm
of certain secretions applies equally to our thoughts; they too must be
taken up again into the circulation, and be again and again re-secreted
to order to ensure a healthful vigour, both to the mind and to its
intellectual offspring.]

[Footnote 46: This distinction between transcendental and transcendent is
observed by our elder divines and philosophers, whenever they express
themselves scholastically. Dr. Johnson indeed has confounded the two
words; but his own authorities do not bear him out. Of this celebrated
dictionary I will venture to remark once for all, that I should suspect
the man of a morose disposition who should speak of it without respect
and gratitude as a most instructive and entertaining book, and hitherto,
unfortunately, an indispensable book; but I confess, that I should be
surprised at hearing from a philosophic and thorough scholar any but
very qualified praises of it, as a dictionary. I am not now alluding
to the number of genuine words omitted; for this is (and perhaps to a
greater extent) true, as Mr. Wakefield has noticed, of our best Greek
Lexicons, and this too after the successive labours of so many giants in
learning. I refer at present both to omissions and commissions of a more
important nature. What these are, me saltem judice, will be stated at
full in The Friend, re-published and completed.

I had never heard of the correspondence between Wakefield and Fox till I
saw the account of it this morning (16th September 1815) in the Monthly
Review. I was not a little gratified at finding, that Mr. Wakefield
had proposed to himself nearly the same plan for a Greek and English
Dictionary, which I had formed, and began to execute, now ten years ago.
But far, far more grieved am I, that he did not live to complete it.
I cannot but think it a subject of most serious regret, that the same
heavy expenditure, which is now employing in the republication of
STEPHANUS augmented, had not been applied to a new Lexicon on a more
philosophical plan, with the English, German, and French synonymes
as well as the Latin. In almost every instance the precise individual
meaning might be given in an English or German word; whereas in Latin we
must too often be contented with a mere general and inclusive term. How
indeed can it be otherwise, when we attempt to render the most copious
language of the world, the most admirable for the fineness of its
distinctions, into one of the poorest and most vague languages?
Especially when we reflect on the comparative number of the works, still
extant, written while the Greek and Latin were living languages. Were
I asked what I deemed the greatest and most unmixed benefit, which
a wealthy individual, or an association of wealthy individuals could
bestow on their country and on mankind, I should not hesitate to answer,
"a philosophical English dictionary; with the Greek, Latin, German,
French, Spanish, and Italian synonymes, and with correspondent indexes."
That the learned languages might thereby be acquired, better, in
half the time, is but a part, and not the most important part, of the
advantages which would accrue from such a work. O! if it should
be permitted by Providence, that without detriment to freedom and
independence our government might be enabled to become more than a
committee for war and revenue! There was a time, when every thing was to
be done by Government. Have we not flown off to the contrary extreme?]

[Footnote 47: April, 1825. If I did not see it with my own eyes, I should not
believe that I had been guilty of so many hydrostatic Bulls as bellow in
this unhappy allegory or string of metaphors! How a river was to
travel up hill from a vale far inward, over the intervening mountains,
Morpheus, the Dream weaver, can alone unriddle. I am ashamed and
humbled. S. T. Coleridge.]

[Footnote 48: Ennead, III. 8. 3. The force of the Greek sunienai is imperfectly
expressed by "understand;" our own idiomatic phrase "to go along with
me" comes nearest to it. The passage, that follows, full of profound
sense, appears to me evidently corrupt; and in fact no writer more
wants, better deserves, or is less likely to obtain, a new and more
correct edition-ti oun sunienai; oti to genomenon esti theama emon,
siopaesis (mallem, theama, emon sioposaes,) kai physei genomenon
theoraema, kai moi genomenae ek theorias taes odi, taen physin echein
philotheamona uparkei. (mallem, kai moi hae genomenae ek theorias autaes
odis). "What then are we to understand? That whatever is produced is an
intuition, I silent; and that, which is thus generated, is by its nature
a theorem, or form of contemplation; and the birth; which results to
me from this contemplation, attains to have a contemplative nature." So

    'Odis hiera
    'Arraeta gona

The after comparison of the process of the natura naturans with that of
the geometrician is drawn from the very heart of philosophy.]

[Footnote 49: This is happily effected in three lines by Synesius, in his THIRD

    'En kai Pan'ta--(taken by itself) is Spinozism.
    'En d' 'Apan'ton--a mere Anima Mundi.
    'En te pro panton--is mechanical Theism.

But unite all three, and the result is the Theism of Saint Paul and
Christianity. Synesius was censured for his doctrine of the pre-
existence of the soul; but never, that I can find, arraigned or deemed
heretical for his Pantheism, though neither Giordano Bruno, nor Jacob
Behmen ever avowed it more broadly.

    Mystas de Noos,
    Ta te kai ta legei,
    Buthon arraeton
    Su to tikton ephus,
    Su to tiktomenon;
    Su to photizon,
    Su to lampomenon;
    Su to phainomenon,
    Su to kryptomenon
    Idiais augais.
    'En kai panta,
    'En kath' heauto,
    Kai dia panton.

Pantheism is therefore not necessarily irreligious or heretical; though
it may be taught atheistically. Thus Spinoza would agree with Synesius
in calling God Physis en Noerois, the Nature in Intelligences; but
he could not subscribe to the preceding Nous kai noeros, i.e. Himself
Intelligence and intelligent.

In this biographical sketch of my literary life I may be excused, if I
mention here, that I had translated the eight Hymns of Synesius from the
Greek into English Anacreontics before my fifteenth year.]

[Footnote 50: See Schell. Abhandl. zur Erlaeuter. des Id. der Wissenschafslehre.]

[Footnote 51: Des Cartes, Diss. de Methodo.]

[Footnote 52: The impossibility of an absolute thing (substantia unica) as
neither genus, species, nor individuum: as well as its utter unfitness
for the fundamental position of a philosophic system, will be
demonstrated in the critique on Spinozism in the fifth treatise of my

[Footnote 53: It is most worthy of notice, that in the first revelation
of himself, not confined to individuals; indeed in the very first
revelation of his absolute being, Jehovah at the same time revealed the
fundamental truth of all philosophy, which must either commence with
the absolute, or have no fixed commencement; that is, cease to be
philosophy. I cannot but express my regret, that in the equivocal use
of the word that, for in that, or because, our admirable version has
rendered the passage susceptible of a degraded interpretation in the
mind of common readers or hearers, as if it were a mere reproof to an
impertinent question, I am what I am, which might be equally affirmed of
himself by any existent being.

The Cartesian Cogito ergo sum is objectionable, because either the
Cogito is used extra gradum, and then it is involved to the sum and is
tautological; or it is taken as a particular mode or dignity, and then
it is subordinated to the sum as the species to the genus, or rather
as a particular modification to the subject modified; and not pre-
ordinated as the arguments seem to require. For Cogito is Sum Cogitans.
This is clear by the inevidence of the converse. Cogitat, ergo est is
true, because it is a mere application of the logical rule: Quicquid in
genere est, est et in specie. Est (cogitans), ergo est. It is a cherry
tree; therefore it is a tree. But, est ergo cogitat, is illogical: for
quod est in specie, non NBCESSARIO in genere est. It may be true. I hold
it to be true, that quicquid vere est, est per veram sui affirmationem;
but it is a derivative, not an immediate truth. Here then we have, by
anticipation, the distinction between the conditional finite! (which, as
known in distinct consciousness by occasion of experience, is called by
Kant's followers the empirical!) and the absolute I AM, and likewise the
dependence or rather the inherence of the former in the latter; in whom
"we live, and move, and have our being," as St. Paul divinely asserts,
differing widely from the Theists of the mechanic school (as Sir J.
Newton, Locke, and others) who must say from whom we had our being, and
with it life and the powers of life.]

[Footnote 54: TRANSLATION. "Hence it is clear, from what cause many
reject the notion of the continuous and the infinite. They take, namely,
the words irrepresentable and impossible in one and the same meaning;
and, according to the forms of sensuous evidence, the notion of the
continuous and the infinite is doubtless impossible. I am not now
pleading the cause of these laws, which not a few schools have thought
proper to explode, especially the former (the law of continuity). But it
is of the highest importance to admonish the reader, that those, who
adopt so perverted a mode of reasoning, are under a grievous error.
Whatever opposes the formal principles of the understanding and the
reason is confessedly impossible; but not therefore that, which is
therefore not amenable to the forms of sensuous evidence, because it is
exclusively an object of pure intellect. For this non-coincidence of the
sensuous and the intellectual (the nature of which I shall presently lay
open) proves nothing more, but that the mind cannot always adequately
represent to the concrete, and transform into distinct images, abstract
notions derived from the pure intellect. But this contradiction, which
is in itself merely subjective (i.e. an incapacity in the nature of
man), too often passes for an incongruity or impossibility in the object
(i.e. the notions themselves), and seduces the incautious to mistake the
limitations of the human faculties for the limits of things, as they
really exist."

I take this occasion to observe, that here and elsewhere Kant uses the
term intuition, and the verb active (intueri Germanice anschauen) for
which we have unfortunately no correspondent word, exclusively for that
which can be represented in space and time. He therefore consistently
and rightly denies the possibility of intellectual intuitions. But as
I see no adequate reason for this exclusive sense of the term, I have
reverted to its wider signification, authorized by our elder theologians
and metaphysicians, according to whom the term comprehends all truths
known to us without a medium.

From Kant's Treatise De mundi sensibilis et intelligibilis forma et
principiis. 1770.]

[Footnote 55: Franc. Baconis de Verulam, NOVUM ORGANUM.]

[Footnote 56: This phrase, a priori, is in common, most grossly misunderstood,
and as absurdity burdened on it, which it does not deserve. By knowledge
a priori, we do not mean, that we can know anything previously to
experience, which would be a contradiction in terms; but that having
once known it by occasion of experience (that is, something acting
upon us from without) we then know, that it must have existed, or the
experience itself would have been impossible. By experience only now,
that I have eyes; but then my reason convinces me, that I must have had
eyes in order to the experience.]

[Footnote 57: Jer. Taylor's Via Pacis.]

[Footnote 58: Par. Lost. Book V. I. 469.]

[Footnote 59: Leibnitz. Op. T. II. P. II. p. 53.--T. III. p. 321.]

[Footnote 60: Synesii Episcop. Hymn. III. I. 231]

[Footnote 61: 'Anaer morionous, a phrase which I have borrowed from a Greek monk,
who applies it to a Patriarch of Constantinople. I might have said, that
I have reclaimed, rather than borrowed, it: for it seems to belong to
Shakespeare, de jure singulari, et ex privilegio naturae.]

[Footnote 62: First published in 1803.]

[Footnote 63: These thoughts were suggested to me during the perusal of the
Madrigals of Giovambatista Strozzi published in Florence in May, 1593,
by his sons Lorenzo and Filippo Strozzi, with a dedication to their
paternal uncle, Signor Leone Strozzi, Generale delle battaglie di Santa
Chiesa. As I do not remember to have seen either the poems or their
author mentioned in any English work, or to have found them in any of
the common collections of Italian poetry; and as the little work is of
rare occurrence; I will transcribe a few specimens. I have seldom
met with compositions that possessed, to my feelings, more of that
satisfying entireness, that complete adequateness of the manner to the
matter which so charms us in Anacreon, joined with the tenderness,
and more than the delicacy of Catullus. Trifles as they are, they were
probably elaborated with great care; yet to the perusal we refer them
to a spontaneous energy rather than to voluntary effort. To a cultivated
taste there is a delight in perfection for its own sake, independently
of the material in which it is manifested, that none but a cultivated
taste can understand or appreciate.

After what I have advanced, it would appear presumption to offer a
translation; even if the attempt were not discouraged by the different
genius of the English mind and language, which demands a denser body of
thought as the condition of a high polish, than the Italian. I cannot
but deem it likewise an advantage in the Italian tongue, in many other
respects inferior to our own, that the language of poetry is more
distinct from that of prose than with us. From the earlier appearance
and established primacy of the Tuscan poets, concurring with the
number of independent states, and the diversity of written dialects,
the Italians have gained a poetic idiom, as the Greeks before them
had obtained from the same causes with greater and more various
discriminations, for example, the Ionic for their heroic verses; the
Attic for their iambic; and the two modes of the Doric for the lyric or
sacerdotal, and the pastoral, the distinctions of which were doubtless
more obvious to the Greeks themselves than they are to us.

I will venture to add one other observation before I proceed to the
transcription. I am aware that the sentiments which I have avowed
concerning the points of difference between the poetry of the present
age, and that of the period between 1500 and 1650, are the reverse of
the opinion commonly entertained. I was conversing on this subject with
a friend, when the servant, a worthy and sensible woman, coming in, I
placed before her two engravings, the one a pinky-coloured plate of the
day, the other a masterly etching by Salvator Rosa from one of his
own pictures. On pressing her to tell us, which she preferred, after a
little blushing and flutter of feeling, she replied "Why, that, Sir, to
be sure! (pointing to the ware from the Fleet-street print shops);--it's
so neat and elegant. T'other is such a scratchy slovenly thing." An
artist, whose writings are scarcely less valuable than his pictures, and
to whose authority more deference will be willingly paid, than I
could even wish should be shown to mine, has told us, and from his own
experience too, that good taste must be acquired, and like all other
good things, is the result of thought and the submissive study of the
best models. If it be asked, "But what shall I deem such?"--the answer
is; presume those to be the best, the reputation of which has been
matured into fame by the consent of ages. For wisdom always has a final
majority, if not by conviction, yet by acquiescence. In addition to
Sir J. Reynolds I may mention Harris of Salisbury; who in one of his
philosophical disquisitions has written on the means of acquiring a just
taste with the precision of Aristotle, and the elegance of Quinctilian.


    Gelido suo ruscel chiaro, e tranquillo
    M'insegno Amor di state a mezzo'l giorno;
    Ardean le solve, ardean le piagge, e i colli.
    Ond' io, ch' al piu gran gielo ardo e sfavillo,
    Subito corsi; ma si puro adorno
    Girsene il vidi, che turbar no'l volli:
    Sol mi specchiava, e'n dolce ombrosa sponda
    Mi stava intento al mormorar dell' onda.

    Aure dell' angoscioso viver mio
    Refrigerio soave,
    E dolce si, che piu non mi par grave
    Ne'l ardor, ne'l morir, anz' il desio;
    Deh voil ghiaccio, e le nubi, e'l tempo rio
    Discacciatene omai, che londa chiara,
    E l'ombra non men cara
    A scherzare, a cantar per suoi boschetti,
    E prati festa et allegrezza alletti.

    Pacifiche, ma spesso in amorosa
    Guerra co'fiori, e l'erba
    Alla stagione acerba
    Verdi insegne del giglio e della rosa,
    Movete, Aure, pian pian; che tregua o posa,
    Se non pace, io ritrove;
    E so ben dove:--Oh vago, a mansueto
    Sguardo, oh labbra d'ambrosia, oh rider, lieto!

    Hor come un scoglio stassi,
    Hor come un rio se'n fugge,
    Ed hor crud' orsa rugge,
    Hor canta angelo pio: ma che non fassi!
    E che non fammi, O sassi,
    O rivi, o belue, o Dii, questa mia vaga
    Non so, se ninfa, o magna,
    Non so, se donna, o Dea,
    Non so, se dolce o rea?

    Piangendo mi baciaste,
    E ridendo il negaste:
    In doglia hebbivi pin,
    In festa hebbivi ria:
    Nacque gioia di pianti,
    Dolor di riso: O amanti
    Miseri, habbiate insieme
    Ognor paura e speme.

    Bel Fior, tu mi rimembri
    La rugiadosa guancia del bet viso;
    E si vera l'assembri,
    Che'n te sovente, come in lei m'affiso:
    Et hor del vago riso,
    Hor del serene sguardo
    Io pur cieco riguardo. Ma qual fugge,
    O Rosa, il mattin lieve!
    E chi te, come neve,
    E'l mio cor teco, e la mia vita strugge!

    Anna mia, Anna dolce, oh sempre nuovo
    E piu chiaro concento,
    Quanta dolcezza sento
    In sol Anna dicendo? Io mi pur pruovo,
    Ne qui tra noi ritruovo,
    Ne tra cieli armonia,
    Che del bel nome suo piu dolce sia:
    Altro il Cielo, altro Amore,
    Altro non suona l'Ecco del mio core.

    Hor che'l prato, e la selva si scoiora,
    Al tuo serena ombroso
    Muovine, alto Riposo,
    Deh ch'io riposi una sol notte, un hora:
    Han le fere, e git augelli, ognun talora
    Ha qualche pace; io quando,
    Lasso! non vonne errando,
    E non piango, e non grido? e qual pur forte?
    Ma poiche, non sent' egli, odine, Morte.

    Risi e piansi d'Amor; ne pero mai
    Se non in fiamma, o'n onda, o'n vento scrissi
    Spesso msrce trovai
    Crudel; sempre in me morto, in altri vissi:
    Hor da' piu scuri Abissi al ciel m'aizai,
    Hor ne pur caddi giuso;
    Stance al fin qui son chiuso.

[Footnote 64: --

      "I've measured it from side to side;
      'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide."]

[Footnote 65: --

      "Nay, rack your brain--'tis all in vain,
      I'll tell you every thing I know;
      But to the Thorn, and to the Pond
      Which is a little step beyond,
      I wish that you would go:
      Perhaps, when you are at the place,
      You something of her tale may trace.

      I'll give you the best help I can
      Before you up the mountain go,
      Up to the dreary mountain-top,
      I'll tell you all I know.
      'Tis now some two-and-twenty years
      Since she (her name is Martha Ray)
      Gave, with a maiden's true good will,
      Her company to Stephen Hill;
      And she was blithe and gay,
      And she was happy, happy still
      Whene'er she thought of Stephen Hill.

      And they had fixed the wedding-day,
      The morning that must wed them both
      But Stephen to another maid
      Had sworn another oath;
      And, with this other maid, to church
      Unthinking Stephen went--
      Poor Martha! on that woeful day
      A pang of pitiless dismay
      Into her soul was sent;
      A fire was kindled in her breast,
      Which might not burn itself to rest.

      They say, full six months after this,
      While yet the summer leaves were green,
      She to the mountain-top would go,
      And there was often seen;
      'Tis said a child was in her womb,
      As now to any eye was plain;
      She was with child, and she was mad;
      Yet often she was sober sad
      From her exceeding pain.
      Oh me! ten thousand times I'd rather
      That he had died, that cruel father!

           *     *     *     *
           *     *     *     *
           *     *     *     *
           *     *     *     *

      Last Christmas when they talked of this,
      Old Farmer Simpson did maintain,
      That in her womb the infant wrought
      About its mother's heart, and brought
      Her senses back again:
      And, when at last her time drew near,
      Her looks were calm, her senses clear.

      No more I know, I wish I did,
      And I would tell it all to you
      For what became of this poor child
      There's none that ever knew
      And if a child was born or no,
      There's no one that could ever tell;
      And if 'twas born alive or dead,
      There's no one knows, as I have said:
      But some remember well,
      That Martha Ray about this time
      Would up the mountain often climb."]

[Footnote 66: It is no less an error in teachers, than a torment to the poor
children, to enforce the necessity of reading as they would talk. In
order to cure them of singing as it is called, that is, of too great a
difference, the child is made to repeat the words with his eyes from off
the book; and then, indeed, his tones resemble talking, as far as his
fears, tears and trembling will permit. But as soon as the eye is again
directed to the printed page, the spell begins anew; for an instinctive
sense tells the child's feelings, that to utter its own momentary
thoughts, and to recite the written thoughts of another, as of another,
and a far wiser than himself, are two widely different things; and as
the two acts are accompanied with widely different feelings, so must
they justify different modes of enunciation. Joseph Lancaster, among
his other sophistications of the excellent Dr. Bell's invaluable system,
cures this fault of singing, by hanging fetters and chains on the child,
to the music of which one of his school-fellows, who walks before,
dolefully chants out the child's last speech and confession, birth,
parentage, and education. And this soul-benumbing ignominy, this unholy
and heart-hardening burlesque on the last fearful infliction of outraged
law, in pronouncing the sentence to which the stern and familiarized
judge not seldom bursts into tears, has been extolled as a happy and
ingenious method of remedying--what? and how?--why, one extreme in order
to introduce another, scarce less distant from good sense, and certainly
likely to have worse moral effects, by enforcing a semblance of petulant
ease and self-sufficiency, in repression and possible after-perversion
of the natural feelings. I have to beg Dr. Bell's pardon for this
connection of the two names, but he knows that contrast is no less
powerful a cause of association than likeness.]

[Footnote 67: Altered from the description of Night-Mair in the REMORSE.

    "Oh Heaven! 'twas frightful! Now ran down and stared at
     By hideous shapes that cannot be remembered;
     Now seeing nothing and imagining nothing;
     But only being afraid--stifled with fear!
     While every goodly or familiar form
     Had a strange power of spreading terror round me!"

N.B.--Though Shakespeare has, for his own all justifying purposes,
introduced the Night-Mare with her own foals, yet Mair means a Sister,
or perhaps a Hag.]

[Footnote 68: But still more by the mechanical system of philosophy which
has needlessly infected our theological opinions, and teaching us to
consider the world in its relation to god, as of a building to its
mason, leaves the idea of omnipresence a mere abstract notion in the
stateroom of our reason.]

[Footnote 69: As the ingenious gentleman under the influence of the Tragic Muse
contrived to dislocate, "I wish you a good morning, Sir! Thank you, Sir,
and I wish you the same," into two blank-verse heroics:--

    To you a morning good, good Sir! I wish.
    You, Sir! I thank: to you the same wish I.

In those parts of Mr. Wordsworth's works which I have thoroughly
studied, I find fewer instances in which this would be practicable
than I have met to many poems, where an approximation of prose has been
sedulously and on system guarded against. Indeed excepting the stanzas
already quoted from THE SAILOR'S MOTHER, I can recollect but one
instance: that is to say, a short passage of four or five lines in THE
BROTHERS, that model of English pastoral, which I never yet read with
unclouded eye.--"James, pointing to its summit, over which they had all
purposed to return together, informed them that he would wait for them
there. They parted, and his comrades passed that way some two hours
after, but they did not find him at the appointed place, _a circumstance
of which they took no heed:_ but one of them, going by chance into the
house, which at this time was James's house, learnt _there,_ that nobody
had seen him all that day." The only change which has been made is in
the position of the little word there in two instances, the position
in the original being clearly such as is not adopted in ordinary
conversation. The other words printed in italics were so marked because,
though good and genuine English, they are not the phraseology of common
conversation either in the word put in apposition, or in the connection
by the genitive pronoun. Men in general would have said, "but that was
a circumstance they paid no attention to, or took no notice of;" and
the language is, on the theory of the preface, justified only by the
narrator's being the Vicar. Yet if any ear could suspect, that these
sentences were ever printed as metre, on those very words alone could
the suspicion have been grounded.]

[Footnote 70: I had in my mind the striking but untranslatable epithet, which
the celebrated Mendelssohn applied to the great founder of the Critical
Philosophy "Der alleszermalmende KANT," that is, the all-becrushing,
or rather the all-to-nothing-crushing Kant. In the facility and force
of compound epithets, the German from the number of its cases and
inflections approaches to the Greek, that language so

    "Bless'd in the happy marriage of sweet words."

It is in the woful harshness of its sounds alone that the German need
shrink from the comparison.]

[Footnote 71: Sammlung einiger Abhandlungen von Christian Garve.]

[Footnote 72: Sonnet IX.]

[Footnote 73: Mr. Wordsworth's having judiciously adopted "concourse wild" in
this passage for "a wild scene" as it stood to the former edition,
encourages me to hazard a remark, which I certainly should not have made
in the works of a poet less austerely accurate in the use of words, than
he is, to his own great honour. It respects the propriety of the word,
"scene," even in the sentence in which it is retained. Dryden, and he
only in his more careless verses, was the first, as far as my researches
have discovered, who for the convenience of rhyme used this word in the
vague sense, which has been since too current even in our best writers,
and which (unfortunately, I think) is given as its first explanation in
Dr. Johnson's Dictionary and therefore would be taken by an incautious
reader as its proper sense. In Shakespeare and Milton the word is
never used without some clear reference, proper or metaphorical, to the
theatre. Thus Milton:

    "Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm
     A sylvan scene; and, as the ranks ascend
     Shade above shade, a woody theatre
     Of stateliest view."

I object to any extension of its meaning, because the word is already
more equivocal than might be wished; inasmuch as to the limited use,
which I recommend, it may still signify two different things; namely,
the scenery, and the characters and actions presented on the stage
during the presence of particular scenes. It can therefore be preserved
from obscurity only by keeping the original signification full in the
mind. Thus Milton again,

    ------"Prepare thee for another scene."]

[Footnote 74: --

     Which Copland scarce had spoke, but quickly every hill,
     Upon her verge that stands, the neighbouring vallies fill;
     Helvillon from his height, it through the mountains threw,
     From whom as soon again, the sound Dunbalrase drew,
     From whose stone-trophied head, it on the Windross went,
     Which tow'rds the sea again, resounded it to Dent.
     That Brodwater, therewith within her banks astound,
     In sailing to the sea, told it to Egremound,
     Whose buildings, walks, and streets, with echoes loud and long,
     Did mightily commend old Copland for her song.
                                     Drayton's POLYOLBION: Song XXX.]

[Footnote 75: Translation. It behoves me to side with my friends, but only as far
as the gods.]

[Footnote 76: "Slender. I bruised my shin with playing with sword and dagger for
a dish of stewed prunes, and by my troth I cannot abide the smell of hot
meat since."--So again, Evans. "I will make an end of my dinner: there's
pippins and cheese to come."]

[Footnote 77: This was accidentally confirmed to me by an old German gentleman at
Helmstadt, who had been Klopstock's school and bed-fellow. Among other
boyish anecdotes, he related that the young poet set a particular value
on a translation of the PARADISE LOST, and always slept with it under
his pillow.]

[Footnote 78: Klopstock's observation was partly true and partly erroneous. In
the literal sense of his words, and, if we confine the comparison to the
average of space required for the expression of the same thought in the
two languages, it is erroneous. I have translated some German hexameters
into English hexameter; and find, that on the average three English
lines will express four lines German. The reason is evident: our
language abounds in monosyllables and dissyllables. The German, not less
than the Greek, is a polysyllable language. But in another point of view
the remark was not without foundation. For the German possessing the
same unlimited privilege of forming compounds, both with prepositions
and with epithets, as the Greek, it can express the richest single Greek
word in a single German one, and is thus freed from the necessity
of weak or ungraceful paraphrases. I will content myself with one at
present, viz. the use of the prefixed participles ver, zer, ent, and
weg: thus reissen to rend, verreissen to rend away, zerreissen to rend
to pieces, entreissen to rend off or out of a thing, in the active
sense: or schmelzen to melt--ver, zer, ent, schmelzen--and in like
manner through all the verbs neuter and active. If you consider only
how much we should feel the loss of the prefix be, as in bedropt,
besprinkle, besot, especially in our poetical language, and then think
that this same mode of composition is carved through all their simple
and compound prepositions, and many of their adverbs; and that with most
of these the Germans have the same privilege as we have of dividing them
from the verb and placing them at the end of the sentence; you will
have no difficulty in comprehending the reality and the cause of this
superior power in the German of condensing meaning, in which its great
poet exulted. It is impossible to read half a dozen pages of Wieland
without perceiving that in this respect the German has no rival but the
Greek. And yet I feel, that concentration or condensation is not the
happiest mode of expressing this excellence, which seems to consist not
so much in the less time required for conveying an impression, as in
the unity and simultaneousness with which the impression is conveyed.
It tends to make their language more picturesque: it depictures images
better. We have obtained this power in part by our compound verbs
derived from the Latin: and the sense of its great effect no doubt
induced our Milton both to the use and the abuse of Latin derivatives.
But still these prefixed particles, conveying no separate or separable
meaning to the mere English reader, cannot possibly act on the mind with
the force or liveliness of an original and homogeneous language such as
the German is, and besides are confined to certain words.]

[Footnote 79: Praecludere calumniam, in the original.]

[Footnote 80: Better thus: Forma specifica per formam individualem translucens:
or better yet--Species individualisata, sive Individuum cuilibet Speciei
determinatae in omni parte correspondens et quasi versione quadam eam
interpretans et repetens.]

[Footnote 81: --

     ------"The big round tears
     Cours'd one another down his innocent nose
     In piteous chase,"

says Shakespeare of a wounded stag hanging its head over a stream:
naturally, from the position of the head, and most beautifully, from
the association of the preceding image, of the chase, in which "the
poor sequester'd stag from the hunter's aim had ta'en a hurt." In the
supposed position of Bertram, the metaphor, if not false, loses all the
propriety of the original.]

[Footnote 82: Among a number of other instances of words chosen without reason,
Imogine in the first act declares, that thunder-storms were not able
to intercept her prayers for "the desperate man, in desperate ways who

    "Yea, when the launched bolt did sear her sense,
     Her soul's deep orisons were breathed for him;"

that is, when a red-hot bolt, launched at her from a thunder-cloud, had
cauterized her sense, to plain English, burnt her eyes out of her head,
she kept still praying on.

    "Was not this love? Yea, thus doth woman love!"]

[Footnote 83: This sort of repetition is one of this writers peculiarities, and
there is scarce a page which does not furnish one or more instances--Ex.
gr. in the first page or two. Act I, line 7th, "and deemed that I might
sleep."--Line 10, "Did rock and quiver in the bickering glare."--Lines
14, 15, 16, "But by the momently gleams of sheeted blue, Did the pale
marbles dare so sternly on me, I almost deemed they lived."--Line
37, "The glare of Hell."--Line 35, "O holy Prior, this is no earthly
storm."--Line 38, "This is no earthly storm."--Line 42, "Dealing
with us."--Line 43, "Deal thus sternly:"--Line 44, "Speak! thou hast
something seen?"--"A fearful sight!"--Line 45, "What hast thou seen! A
piteous, fearful sight."--Line 48, "quivering gleams."--Line 50, "In the
hollow pauses of the storm."--Line 61, "The pauses of the storm, etc."]

[Footnote 84: The child is an important personage, for I see not by what possible
means the author could have ended the second and third acts but for its
timely appearance. How ungrateful then not further to notice its fate!]

[Footnote 85: Classically too, as far as consists with the allegorizing fancy
of the modern, that still striving to project the inward,
contradistinguishes itself from the seeming ease with which the poetry
of the ancients reflects the world without. Casimir affords, perhaps,
the most striking instance of this characteristic difference.--For his
style and diction are really classical: while Cowley, who resembles
Casimir in many respects, completely barbarizes his Latinity, and even
his metre, by the heterogeneous nature of his thoughts. That Dr. Johnson
should have passed a contrary judgment, and have even preferred Cowley's
Latin Poems to Milton's, is a caprice that has, if I mistake not,
excited the surprise of all scholars. I was much amused last summer with
the laughable affright, with which an Italian poet perused a page of
Cowley's Davideis, contrasted with the enthusiasm with which he first
ran through, and then read aloud, Milton's Mansus and Ad Patrem.]

[Footnote 86: Flectit, or if the metre had allowed, premit would have supported
the metaphor better.]

[Footnote 87: Poor unlucky Metaphysicks! and what are they? A single sentence
expresses the object and thereby the contents of this science. Gnothi

                                     Nosce te ipsum,
    Tuque Deum, quantum licet, inque Deo omnia noscas.]

Know thyself: and so shalt thou know God, as far as is permitted to
a creature, and in God all things.--Surely, there is a strange--nay,
rather too natural--aversion to many to know themselves.]

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