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who started with higher aspirations, that becomes the great end of labour and of thought. But it seems to be a law of mind that as the grosser and more material wants are supplied, other wants of a more ethereal and fanciful nature come to be felt. And thus perhaps many a man, whom circumstances now compel to bestow all his energies on the quest of the supply of the day that is passing over him and his, is by those very circumstances saved from feeling wants more crushing, and from grappling with riddles and mysteries that sit with a heavy perplexity upon the heart. Let us be thankful if we are not too independent of work: let us be thankful that we are not too thoughtful and able. Mr. Smith’s book sets out with a charming description of a secluded dwelling to which a young philosophic thinker, smitten by consumption, had retired to die. On a little terrace, near the summit of Mount Posilipo, there stands a retired villa, looking from that height over the Bay of Naples. Overlooked by none, it commands a wide extent of view. Myrtle and roses have overgrown its pillared front. The rock descends sheer down from the terrace. Charles Thorndale, the hero of the book, had been charmed by the Villa Scarpa in the course of a continental tour, made while still in health ; and when stricken with the disease of which he died, and when the physician spoke of the climate of Italy, he chose this for his last retreat. It would not be long he would be there, he knew ; and in its quiet he had much to think of.
It is a spot, one would say, in which it would be very hard to part with this divine faculty of thought. It seemed made for the very spirit of meditation. The little platform on which the villa stands is so situated that, while it commands the most extensive prospect imaginable, it is itself entirely sheltered from observation. No house of any kind overlooks it; from no road is it visible; not a sound from the neighbouring city ascends to it. From one part of the parapet that bounds the terrace you may sometimes catch sight of a swarthy bare-legged fisherman, sauntering on the beach, or lying at full length in the sun. It is the only specimen of humanity you are likely to behold : you live solely in the eye of nature. It is with difficulty you can believe that within the space of an hour you may, if you choose it, be elbowing your way, jostled and stunned, among the swarming population of Naples—surely the noisiest hive of human beings anywhere to be found on the face of the earth. Here, on these heights, is perfect stillness with perfect beauty. What voices come to you come from the upper air—the winds and the melody of birds; and not unfrequently the graceful sea-gull utters its short plaintive cry, as it wheels round and back to its own ocean fields. And then that glorious silent picture for ever open to the eye' Picture! you hastily retract the word. It is no dead picture; it is the living spirit of the universe, manifesting itself, in glorious vision, to the eye and the soul of man.
Thorndale was a studious man, but had not been attracted by either of the learned professions. His modest competency relieved him from the necessity of choosing a decided path in life. Like many meditative idlers, he intended, vaguely, to write a book; and, indeed, he did finish a philosophical treatise more than once; but he always became dissatisfied with it and destroyed it. But in his retirement at Villa Scarpa a large manuscript volume lay on his table, in which, ‘the habit of the pen' clinging to him to the last, he was accustomed to write down his thoughts upon whatever topic interested him for the time. This book was autobiography, essay, diary, record of former conversations with friends, as the humour of the moment prompted; and we are invited to believe that this book, having fallen into the hands of Mr. Smith, is now given to the world:—
It is precisely this manuscript volume, note-book, memoir, diary, whatever it should be called, which we have to present to the reader. In it Thorndale, though apparently with little of set purpose or design, gives us a description of himself and of several friends, or rather sketches out their opinions and modes of thinking. Amongst these two may be at once particularly mentioned : Clarence, who might be called a representative of the philosophy of hope; and Seckendorf, his complete contrast, and who, especially on the subject of human progress, takes the side of denial or of cavil.
The author, or editor, sets before us the character of his hero, less by one complete description than by many touches, given here and there, as he exhibits Thorndale to us in various combinations of circumstances, and at several critical points in his life. Our impression of Thorndale is being retouched, modified, lightened, and shadowed on to the close of the book. He was a meditative and melancholy man, of little pith or active energy; he was shy and retiring, overshadowed by a settled despondency, but always kind and gentle, with no trace of fretfulness or irritability. Although his character is an interesting and truthful one, it is essentially morbid; and we may be glad that men like him must always be few. We should have no railroads, no Great Easterns, no ocean telegraphs, in a world peopled by Thorndales. The weakly physical constitution which he bore from birth had
much to do with the tone of his thought and feeling. The remark is in the main just and sound, though it was made by Boswell :— The truth is, that we judge of the happiness of misery of life differently at different times, according to the state of our changeable frame. I always remember a remark made to me by a
Turkish Lady educated in France: Ma foi, monsieur, notre bonheur dépend de la façon que notre sang circule.
Nor ought we to forget that deeply philosophic remark of Sydney Smith, that little stoppages in the bodily circulation are the things which, above all others, darken our views of life and of man. A friend, said the genial physiologist, comes to him in a most depressed condition. He declares that his affairs are getting embarrassed; that he must retrench his establishment and retire to the country; that his daughter's cough has settled upon the lungs; that his wife is breaking up, and his son going to the mischief. But Sydney only asked on what he supped the evening before, and finds that he then partook of lobster to an undue degree. “All this,” he says, “all these gloomy views are the lobster.” Instead of seeking directly to minister to a mind diseased, he does so indirectly, but not the less effectually. He suggests medicine, not philosophy. And next day the world is a capital world, after all; the income is ample, the cough is gone, the wife is in rude health, and the son all that a father’s heart could wish. Now in the case of Thorndale, there was an entire deficiency of healthy animalism; and if, as a Scotch divine lately declared in a sermon published by royal command, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a dyspeptic man to be kind, gentle, and long-suffering : not less true is it that a well-knit, vigorous, sinewy mind is oftentimes trammelled and hampered all through life, by being linked to a weakly, puny, jaded body. How much of Sydney Smith's wit, how much of Christopher North's reckless abandonment of glee, was the result of physical organisation How incomprehensible to many men must such despondency as Thorndale’s seem | No worldly wants or anxieties, no burden of remorse, kind friends around him, what
right had he to be unhappy : * Thorndale, in short,
is a less energetic and passionate form of the nameless
hero of j Shall we confess that a less happy
association at certain points in his history suggested
itself to our mind We thought of Mr. Augustus
Moddle, of whom his historian records as follows:—
He often informed Mrs. Todgers that the sun had set upon him ; that the billows had rolled over him ; that the car of Juggernaut had crushed him; and also that the deadly upas tree of Java had blighted him.t
Young men, who at five-and-twenty profess that they have lost all interest in life, and that they have
* We remember a review of Maud which we read in a certain provincial journal. The writer evidently thought the gloomy hero an ungrateful and querulous fellow for making such a moan. “Why," said the reviewer, ‘the man was in very comfortable circumstances: he was able to have two servants (“I keep but a man and a maid”) ; and what earthly right had he to be always grumbling 2 If a man has two servants ought he not to be content 2'
+ Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit.