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tile ; and he who gave me nothing more than life, gave me only what a fly or a worm may boast." So said the ancient Seneca, and said truly. Our business is to improve our natureto render it more noble in the sight of Heaven. And this we can do only by living well-by setting before ourselves the purest and most perfect models, and aiming at the closest assimilation. The miser lives; but in his pursuits there is no mixture of the social affections : he is absorbed in self; be sets his own interest in opposition to that of every other man. The sensualist lives; but his enjoyments all expire within his own person. In both cases the mind is so occupied that the duties and obligations of life are entirely neglected. Habits of sloth are induced ; inoccupation and idleness, which are the certain effect of depraved feelings and vicious conduct, are preferred to that activity which terminates in some serious purpose. In such circumstances it is vain to dream of happiness. This is to be found in the personal qualities of the man, not in his situation or circumstances; and, unless there be present all the moral properties which are requisite to attain so blessed an end, the enjoyment of which thousands boast is like the bow painted in the cloud, which fades and dies away from the eye that gazes upon it. For man to be happy he must be good. Not only must his mind be enlightened, but his affections pure and benevolent. He who, in his beneficent providence, has wonderfully adapted our sensitive powers to the scene which we here occupy—the eye to all the beauties and glories of creation as they lie spread out before us,—the ear to the melodies which float on every breath of Heaven,—the smell to the fragrance and the perfumes which scent the air,--and the taste to that endless profusion of luxuries which our earthly habitation affords-has made far richer provision for our enjoyment in the pleasures of the understanding, the affections of the beart, the purity of the soul, and the activity of a well-directed life.
It follows that, in a course of SELF-CULTURE, no common attention must be directed to the state of the moral feelings. As has been justly said, “The sound exercise of the understanding is closely connected with the important habit of looking within, or of rigidly investigating our intellectual and moral condition. This leads us to inquire what opinions we have formed, and on what grounds we have formed them,-what have been our leading pursuits—whether these have been guided by a sound consideration of their real value, or whether important objects of attention have been lightly passed over or entirely neglected. It leads us further to contemplate our moral condition-our desires, attachments, antipathies—the government of the imagination, and the régimen of the heart; what is the habitual current of our thoughts, and whether we exercise over them that control which indicates alike intellectual vigour and moral purity. It leads us to review our conduct, with its principles and motives, and to compare the whole with the great standard of truth and rectitude. This investigation is the part of every wise man. Without it an individual may make the greatest attainments in science—may learn to measure the earth and to trace the course of the stars, while he is entirely wanting in that higher department—the knowledge of himself.”*
* Abercrombie on The Intellectual Powers, pp. 448, 449.
WHATEVER tells upon the human heart and modifies the human character cannot but be worthy of our notice. Whatever one man has looked upon as true, that, though it were scouted before, has henceforth a claim on every heart, and an utterance that, to the best of his ability, every one should seek to understand. The shapeless block of wood that I in the sunshine may look upon with indifference or scorn, my brother living in the dark places of the earth may view as the very personification of his idea of God; it may be to him the symbol and outward sign of the highest majesty and might, and as such he may gaze on it with wonder, and approach and worship it with awe, and I have not the feelings of a man if I can pass it and look upon it as I should upon a common block. In the wild, and bleak, and mountain fastnesses of Scandinavia arose a religion as wild as her wildest glens—as unwieldy and shapeless as her ice-bound and rudest rocks,a religion that told how the cow Andumbla, the symbol of the atmosphere, licked the earth in its chaos state, or the giant Ymer, and how Rune was born; that is, how the earth emerged from the sea-how his children, Odin, Viel, and Vie (air, light, and fire) put an end to the chaos, or, in the language of the northern cosmogony, slew the giant Ymer-how his blood made the sea, his flesh the earth, his bones the mountains, his teeth the rocks, and his brains the clouds how the tree of human life sprang up and grew-how there are agencies that defy the power and pride of man-how Lolu eat up all except the bonesand how Loje, or devouring flame, eat up bones and all-how Tialf ran a race and was beaten by the dwarf Hugo or thought-how Thor volunteered to empty the drinking horn, but in vain, for it was the ocean that baffled him—how he wrested with an haggard and decrepid dame named Hela, but was beaten by her, for Hela was time. Why all this mysterious yet graphic personification of the elements of nature—this seeing the Godhead in every thing strange and wonderful around,—the norseman standing upon the mountain ridge, and believing himself standing upon the bones of the giant Ymer, was the norsemen's best and fairest theory of the beautiful and divine? It was his best, and what more can the sternest of us require ? It was nursed in a land of snow and storm-of mountain and of mountain mists; and it has an earnestness and sincerity about it which the more graceful mythologies of Greece and Rome had not.
“ Wild the Runic faith,
Next to a man's theory of the divine is his theory of the beautiful, and the latter depends much upon the former. In an age when a man believes not in divinity-when rites are forms and religion is a lie, there is a tone of heartlessness and flippancy tainting the thought of the age or man, and the literature in which that thought is embodied. Witness Voltaire and his criticisms on Shakspeare and Addison_his preference of Cato and its unities to those proudest achievements of human genius, which have rendered familiar as household words the ambition of Macbeth—the unhinged, yet busy mind of Denmark's royal son—the love, strong as death, of a Juliet and Romeo—the tragic tale of Othello—and the sorrows of King Lear. Witness much of the French drama. Witness the age of the Restoration, when Dryden remodelled and popularised Milton and Sir William Davenant in an age of play-going and play-writing—from the unknown and unheard-of works of Shakspeare selected and recast the Tempest in the form of an opera. Witness the age that was startled from its sleep by the fervent zeal that made Methodist and enthusiast for the first time synonymous terms—when Whitfield and Wesley lit up with truth the darkest corners of our land—when Mason and Hayley, and Warton and West were looked on as models of perfection—when prose had sunk into the art of writing correctly and saying nothing all the while, and verse, while it showed that the writer was a tolerable grammarian, knew something of geography and history, had the names of the three graces and nine muses by heart, yet wanted the “vision and the faculty divine,” without which do man may wear the poet's world-honoured name.
We shall find that true criticism and true feeling go hand in hand ; that they are both the effects of the same cause, and always co-exist; that as grammar, in its higher and proper sense, is right reason, so æsthetical criticism is right feeling ; that it is the heart bowing to the beautiful, however that beautiful may be expressed and wherever it may exist, whether it may be wrapped in rant as in Marlowe's Tamerlane-encumbered by pedantry as in Ben Jonson-almost forgotten in the clap-trap of circumstance and accident as in the dramas of Beaumont and Fletcher-too much modelled upon those of Calderon, known to the student of Spanish literature as comedies of the cloak and sword—or gushing out clear and sparkling, like living water, as in the dramatist of all time and place, who has won for our island-home a prouder trophy than any that her gold could buy or her arms could win-whether it may have eluded the drama altogether, as it did when Chatterton was writing his forgeries, and Grey and Collins were composing their matchless odes,-still, wherever its inspiration can be traced, to detect it, to own it, and to publish it, has been the part of æsthetical criticism. Kaimes and Blair, especially the latter, men who viewed it as an art, would correct and level—would lay down rules, till our literature should be barren and dull as a straight road on some dismal heath; but as a science it has principles which defy the rigid letter of a law. It is essentially catholic: it would make the production of no time or place the Procrustean bud by which to measure and regulate the production of all other times and places. The great fundamental article of belief is that a phantom cannot be—that whatever may have floated upon the wave of time so as to come within our reach must have had in it something to keep it afloat—that whatever has touched the heart, has stirred the cords of human feeling and of human passion, must have had in it something of reality and life. The age may have given it a motley and fantastic garb -euphuism, and alliteration, and affected wit, and quaint conceit, may have disguised it; but the fact that it is that it has not ceased to be where so many things that were are not—that when I read it, it makes me feel in spite of its grotesqueness and antiquity, tells me that there is in it beauty, vitality, and truth. Beneath the gay dress of a harlequin, or the cowl of a monk-beneath the fustian of a peasant, or the purple of an emperor, there are the same hearts, that, true to their common humanity, will
melt, and swell, and throb, with common sorrows, and hopes, and joys. Given the same cause of joy or sorrow, and, in spite of the fustian or the purple, the peasant and the emperor have a oneness of feeling and of heart. The homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto is the spirit of æsthetical criticism. Nothing that my brother has written or can write-how that heart of his has felt what it has taken for the beautiful in thought and the graceful in language-all this claims my study and respect.
Take the school-boy debate of Boyle and Bentley, the English managers of the question relative to ancient and modern learning, for it was a pons asinorum to many a learned continental head; as well, for instance, Fontenelle and Boileau, in France. Imagine Sir William Temple, a statesman and a philosopher, gravely writing to prove the authenticity of a performance which the reputed author had never written, and which Sir William had never read-a mere question of words. What is true and beautiful in the remains of antiquity is so, not because it was written by Cicero or Virgil, but because of its conformity to that which was the same eighteen hundred years back that it is now—that is man's universal heart. Whatever conforms with that, whether written in the time of Homer or now, has on it the stamp of excellence, and is true, and whatever does not is false. Truth, reality, nature, relatively to composition as to everything else, are, in the end, of the same. The snatches of old song with which Ophelia made vocal at her watery grave; the old song that Barbara sang, and that Desdemona “could not choose” but sing that fatal night, whose morrow looked on her lifeless clay, and that of her lion-hearted lord. Christopher Marlowe's simple ballad, “Come live with me, and be my love,” which good, honest Izaac Walton called “old-fashioned, pretty, but choicely good," the heroic lay of Chevy Chace, which moved the heart of the chivalrous Sir Philip Sidney, so that, to use his own language, “I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet, and yet it is sung by some blind crowder with no rougher voice than rude style,”—a ballad, indeed, so full of beauty, that the fastidious Addison, the man who carried out the doctrine of the unities to an extreme, who gave to Cowley, to Roscommon
“The mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease,” to use the words of his brother critic and cotemporary, Pope—that lavish praise he denied to Chaucer (vide his account of the greatest English poets in the first volume of his Miscellaneous Works) was compelled to yield it the homage it required. The lyrical poetry of such men as Kenrick, and such as we find floating here and there throughout the whole of the Elizabethan drama, at this time they tell with a power on the heart equal to that with which at first they impelled the poet who wrote them, and woke up a response, a fellowship of feeling and of fire in the bosom of the first man that heard them sung. Even in spite of time, though the very men that wrote them might, if set down amongst us, be looked upon as men of a strange land and a foreign tongue, do they carry with them the stamp of nature, of truth.
It is not the rule of the formal pedant or plodding critic, who is generally fortunate, to exemplify as a writer the faults which as a critic he condemns; as some good-natured people have tried Blair's Sermons by Blair's Lectures, and have found them wanting. It is not whether the unities are kept or not: a paltry question—since it is as easy to imagine a change of
place or time as anything else. It is not whether the drama drags its slow length along the required number of acts, or whether the novel gracefully expands itself into the three octavos which custom requires. Many a drama and many a novel that had these requisites, and more, the trunkmaker has appropriated to himself. It is not conformity to the criticism of an age ; for that, being but the age's theory of the beautiful, must be one-sided, and is most probably short-lived. The critics of an age have exclaimed divine over many a poem, and written immortal on many a work whose names and whose works are alike unknown. Life and reality are the only conditions of existence. To the highest beauty truth is an essential requisite.
On right principles, what is not true cannot be called beautiful. Look at Cowley, some parts of Pope, and even Shakspeare, some of Dryden-his heroic plays and those of his eager contemporaries and bitter rivals. The only thing Dryden's heroic plays wanted was truth. As a mere writer, no man can vie with him: his language has the rare merit of being harmonious, and yet at the same time free from monotony; unlike the too smooth versification of Pope, who, though more praised than Dryden, is in reality his inferior. What makes bombast ? Not the mock-heroic, as the Rape of the Lock of Pope, but sheer bombast, where you have often fine language and imagery, and versification not at all deficient, and yet the whole is unsupportable, but its want of truth-it is strained, unnatural, unreal.
It is in the mind that beauty has its dwelling, and not in the critic's page. The conception of beauty is the heart owning a fellow-feeling with something from without and kindling up with it. As is the mirror to the outward, so is the beautiful to the heart that cherishes it. Of the beautiful as a whole, one principal division is a national literature; and above all, the national idea of literature in general, and its own in particular. This modifies more than any thing else the production of an age, as a glance at our own literature will teach. To the permanency and life of any work, it is essential it should be in accordance with the heart of man, which in every age is the same. Such being the case, the rules of the professed critic, in the majority of cases, are wrong—they are but that man's theory, and that is all. The French critics object to the ghost scene in Hamlet; they say it is a violation of the unity of action—but who else objects to it? Obviously, then, much of what has been called criticism must pass away. New elements have been called into being. Man has learnt that his heart is to go forth in good-will and love to his fellow-man; that life is many-sided; and that, if man's feelings be drawn, it must be by one who can see beauty in the mixed splendours of the rainbow or in the 'chameleon's varied bue. Even critics are opening their eyes to the fact that it by no means follows that because the Ænied has twelve books therefore any thing else having the required number of twelve books, should be an epic poem or a poem at all; and your isolated criticism, your criticisms of a certain time and place have another fault-they induce a one-sidedness in the critic. You take some standard, be it French, English, or Italian, or what you will ; and whatever does not agree with your self-elected standard, you pronounce it to be worthless, and throw it away, which is but another means of letting half the people in the world know they are writing nonsense. And what right has one man to say this of another, granting that his sanity be not suspected ? Alexander the Great from mal-formation was forced to wear his head on one side-out of politeness his conrtiers did the same. It