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reader no less ; leaving him in doubt, whether he should blind wondermeni,-how, is the rest to be accounted more admire the Poet or love the Man.»
for?--Thomson was fortunate in the very title of his This case appears to bear strongly against us :—but Poem, which seemed to bring it home to the prepared we must distinguish between wonder and legitimate sympathies of every one : in the next place, notwithadmiration. The subject of the work is the changes standing his high powers, he writes a vicious style; and produced in the appearances of nature by the revolu- bis false ornaments are exactly of that kind which tion of the year: and by undertaking to write in verse, would be most likely to strike the undiscerning. He Thomson pledged himself to treat his subject as became likewise abounds with sentimental common
non-places, a Poet. Now it is remarkable that, excepting the noc-that, from the manner in which they were brought turual Reverie of Lady Winchelsea, and a passage or forward, bore an imposing air of novelty. In any
welltwo in the Windsor Forest of Pope, the Poetry of the used Copy of the Seasons the Book generally opens of period intervening between the publication of the Pa- itself with the rhapsody on love, or with one of the storadise Lost and the Seasons does not contain a single rics (perhaps Damon and Musidora); these also are new image of external nature ; and scarcely presents a prominent in our Collections of Extracts; and are the familiar one from which it can be inferred that the eye parts of his work, which, after all, were probably most of the Poet had been steadily fixed upon bis object, efficient in first recommending the author to general much less that his feelings had urged him to work upon notice. Pope, repaying praises which he had received, it in the spirit of genuine imagination. To what a low and wishing to extol him to the highest, only styles state kuowledge of the most obvious and important him « an elegant and philosophical Poet;» nor are we pbenomena had sunk, is evident from the style in which able to collect any unquestionable proofs that the Dryden has executed a descriptiou of Night in one of true characteristics of Thomson's genius as an imagihis Tragedies, and Pope bis translation of the celebrated native Poet' were perceived till the elder Warton, almoonlight scene in the Iliad. A blind man, in the most forty years after the publication of the Seasons, habit of attending accurately to descriptions casually pointed them out by a note in his Essay on the Life dropped from the lips of those around him, might and Writings of Pope. In the Castle of Indolence (of casily depict these appearances with more truth. Dry- which Gray speaks so coldly) these characteristics were den's lines are vague, bombastic, and senseless;' those almost as conspicuously displayed, and in verse more of Pope, though he had lower to guide him, are harmonious, and diction more pure. Yet that fine Poem throughout false and contradictory. The verses of was neglected on its appearance, and is at this day the Dryden, once highly celebrated, are forgotten; those of delight only of a few! Pope still retain their hold upon public estimation, - When Thomson died, Collins brcathed his regrets in. nay, there is not a passage of descriptive poetry, which to ao Elegiac Poem, in which he pronounces a poetical at this day finds so many and such ardent admirers. curse upon him who should regard with insensibility Strauge to think of an Enthusiast, as may have been the place where the Poet's remains were deposited. the case with thousands, reciting those verses under the The Poems of the mourner himself have now passed cope of a moonlight sky, without having his raptures through innumerable Editions, and are universally in the least disturbed by a suspicion of their absurdity! known; but if, wlien Collins died, the same kind of -If these two distinguished Writers could habitually imprecation had been pronounced by a surviving adthink that the visible universe was of so little conse- mirer, small is the number whom it would not have quence to a Poet, that it was scarcely necessary for him comprehended. The notice which his poems atlained to cast his eyes upon it, we may be assured that those during his life-time was so small, and of course the sale passages of the elder Poets which faithfully and poeti- so insignificant, that not long before his death he cally describe the phenomena of nature, were not at deemed it right to repay to the Bookseller the sum which that time holden in much estimation, and that there he had advanced for them, and threw the Edition into was little accurate attention paid to these appearances. the fire.
Wonder is the natural product of Ignorance; and as Next in importance to the Seasons of Thomson, the soil was in such good condition at the time of the though at considerable distance from that work in orpublication of the Seasons, the crop was doubtless der of time, come the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry; abundaol. Neither individuals nor nations become collected, new-modelled, and in many instances (if such corrupt all at once, nor are they enlightened in a moment. a contradiction in terms may be used) composed by Thomson was an inspired Poet, but he could not work the Editor, Dr Perey. This work did not steal silently miracles; in cases where the art of sceing had in some into the world, as is evident from the number of legendegree been learued, the teacher would further the pro- dary tales, which appeared not long after its publicahciency of his pupils, but he could do little more, tion; and which were modelled, as the Authors perthough so far docs vanity assist men in acts of self-de-suaded themselves, after the old Ballad. The Compilation ception, that many would often fancy they recognized was however ill suited to the then existing taste of City a likeness when they knew nothing of the original. society; and Dr Johnson, mid the little senate to which Ilaring shown that much of what his Biographier le gave laws, was not sparing in his exertions to make deemed geuuinc admiration must in fact bave been it an object of contempt. The Critic triumphed, the Contra alone in a might-youn.
legendary imitators were deservedly disregarded, and, All things are bush'd as Nature's self lay dead:
as undeservedly, their ill-imitated models sank, in this The mountains socm to od their drowsy bead : Tbe little Birds in dreamstbeir songs repeat,
Since these observations upon Thomson were written, I have And sleeping Flowers bencath the Night-dow sweat : perused the second Edition of his Seasons, aod find that even that Even Lost and Envy sleep: yot Love denies
does not contain the most striking passages whicb Wartoo points flat to my soul, and slumber tu may eyes.
out for admiration; these, with other improvements, throughout Davors Indian Emperor, the whole work, must bave been added at a later period.
Country, into temporary neglect; while Birger, and Gael, who, like Lear, gives his kingdom away, and is other able writers of Germany, were translating or content to become a pensioner upon his own issue for a imitating these Reliques, and composing, with the aid beggarly pittance !-Open this far-famed Book !-I have of inspiration thence derived, Poems which are the de- done so at random, and the beginning of the « Epic light of the German nation. Dr Percy was so abashed Poem Temora,» in 8 Books, presents itself. The blue by the ridicule flung upon his labours from the igno-waves of Ullin roll in light. The green hills are covered rance and inseasibility of the persons with whom be with day. Trees shake their dusky heads in the breeze. lived, that though while he was writing under a mask Grey torrents pour their noisy streams. he had not wanted resolution to follow his genius into the hills with aged oaks surround a narrow plain. The regions of true simplicity and genuine pathos(as is evinced | blue course of a stream is there. On its banks by the exquisite ballad of Sir Cauline, and by many stood Cairbar of Atha. His spear supports the king; other pieces), yet when he appeared in his own person the red eyes of his fear are sad. Cormac rises on his and character as a poctical writer, he adopted, as in the soul with all his ghasily wounds.) Precious memotale of the Herinit of Warkworth, a diction scarcely in randums from the pocket-book of the blind Ossian! any one of its features distinguishable from the vague, If it be unbecoming, as I ackuowledge that for the the glossy, and unfeeling language of his day. I men most part it is, to speak disrespectfully of Works that tion this remarkable fact with regret, esteeming the have enjoyed for a length of time a widely-spread repugenius of Dr Percy in this kind of writing superior 10 tation, without at the same time producing irrefragable that of any other man by whom in modern times it has proofs of their unworthiness, let me be forgiven upon been cultivated. That even Bürger (to whom Klop- this occasion.-Having had the good fortune to be born stock gave in my hearing, a commendation which he aud reared in a mou ainous country, from my very denied to Gathe and Schiller, pronouncing him to be childhood I have felt the falsehood that pervades the a genuine Poct, and one of the few among the Germans volumes imposed upon the world under the name of whose works would last) had not the fine sensibility of Ossian. From what I saw with my own eyes, I knew Percy, might be shown from many passages, in which that the imagery was spurious. In nature every thing he has deserted his original only to go astray. For ex- is distinct, yet nothing delived into absolute independample,
And soone she heard her true Love's voice
ent singleness. In Macpherson's work it is exactly the
reverse; every thing that is not stolen) is in this manNow daye was gone, and night was come,
ner defined, insulated, dislocated, deadened, - yet noAnd all were fast asleepe, All save the Lady Emeline,
thing distinct. It will always be so when words are Wbo sate in her bowre to weepe:
substituted for things. To say that the characters never could exist, that the manners are impossible, and that
a dream has more substance than the whole state of Low whispering at the walle, Awake, awake, my dear Ladye,
society, as there depicted, is doing nothing more than 'Tis I thy truo-love call.
pronouncing a censure wbich Macphersou defied; when Which is thus tricked out and dilated:
with the steeps of Morven before his eyes, he could talk
so familiarly of his Car-borne heroes ;-of Morven, Als nun die Nacht Gebirg'und Thal Vermummt in Ratenschaften,
which if one may judge of its appearance at the distance Und flochburgs Lampen uber-all
of a few miles, contains scarcely an acre of ground sufSchon ausgeflimmert hatten,
ficiently accommodating for a sledge to be trailed along Und alles tief entschlafen war;
its surface. - Mr Malcolm Laing has ably shown that Doch nur das Fraulein immerdar,
the diction of this pretended translation is a motley asVoll Fieberangst, noch wachte, Und seinen Ritter dachte:
semblage from all quarters; but he is so fond of making Da borch! Ein süsser Liebeston
out parallel passages as to call poor Macpherson to acKam leis'empor geflogen.
count for his very «ands » and his « buts ! » and he has llo, Trudchen, bo! Da bin ich schon ! Frisch auf! Dich angezogen !.
weakened his argument by conducting it as if he thought
that every striking resemblance was a conscious plaBut from humble ballads we must ascend to heroics. giarism. It is enough that the coincidences are too
All hail, Macpherson! hail to thee, Sire of Ossian! remarkable for its being probable or possible that they The Phantom was begotten by the soug embrace of an could arise in different minds without communication impudent Lighlander upon a cloud of tradition-it tra- between them. Now as the Translators of the Bible, velled southward, where it was greeted with acclama-Shakspeare, Milton, and Pope, could not be indebted tion, and the thin Consistence took its course through to Macpherson, it follows that he must have owed his Europe, upon the breath of popular applause. The fine feathers to them; unless we are prepared gravely Editor of the « Rcliques» had indirectly preferred a to assert, with Madame de Stael, that many of the chaclaim to the praise of invention, by not concealing that racieristic beauties of our most celebrated English his supplementary labours were considerable: how self- Poets are derived from the ancient Fingallian; in which ish his conduct, contrasted with that of the disinterested case the modern trauslator would have been but giving
back to Ossian his own.- It is consistent that Lucien • Shenstone, in his Schoolmistress, gives a still more remarkable Bonaparte, who could censure Milton for having surinstance of this timidity. On its first appearance (Seo D'Israeli's Second Series of the Curiosities of Literature), ibe Poem was ac
rounded Satan in the inferual regions with courtly and companied with an absurd prose commentary, sbewing, as indeed regal splendour, should pronounce the modern Ossian some incongruous expressions in the text imply, that the whole was to be the glory of Scotland ;-a Country that has prointended for burlesque. In subsequent editions, the commentary | Juced a Dunbar, a Buchanan, a Thomson, and a Burns! was dropped, and tho People bave since continued to read in seriousness, doing for tho Author what bu bad not courago openly to
These opinions are of ill omen for the Epic ambition of venture upon for himself.
bim who has given them to the world.
Yet, much as these pretended treasures of antiquity siderable stock of admiration, provided the aspirant have been admired, they have been wholly uninfluen- will accommodate himself to the likings and fashions tial upon the literature of the Country. No succeeding of his day. Writer appears to have caught from them a ray of in- As I do not mean to bring down this retrospect to spiration; no Author, in the least distinguished, bas our own times, it may with propriety be closed at the ventured formally to imitate them-except the Boy, era of this distinguished event. From the literature of Chatterton, on their first appearance. He had per- other ages and countries, proofs equally cogent might ceived, from the successful trials which he himself had have been adduced, that the opinions announced in the made in literary forgery, low few critics were able to former part of this Essay are founded upon truth. It distinguish between a real ancient medal and a coun- was not an agreeable office, nor a prudent undertaking, terfeit of modern manufacture; and he set himself to to declare them; but their importance seemed to render the work of filling a Magazine with Saxon poems, it a duty. It may still be asked, where lies the particounterparts of those of Ossian, as like his as one of cular relation of what has been said to these Poems ? liis misty stars is to another. This incapability to amal - The question will be easily answered by the discerngamate with the literature of the Island, is, in my esti-ing Reader who is old enough to remember the taste mation, a decisive proof that the book is essentially that prevailed when some of these Pieces were first unnatural; nor should I require any other to demon- published, 17 years ago; who has also observed to what strate it to be a forgery, audacious as worthless.-Con. | degree the Poetry of this Island has since that period trast, in this respect, the effect of Macpherson's publi- been coloured by them; and who is further aware of cation with the Reliques of Percy, so unassuming, so the unremitting hostility with which, upon some priomodest in their pretensions! - I have already stated ciple or other, they have each and all been opposed. A how much Germany is indebted to this latter work; sketch of my own notion of the constitution of Fame aod for our own Country, ils Poetry has been abso- has been given; and, as far as concerns myself, I have lutely redeemed by it. I do not think that there is an able cause to be satisfied. The love, the admiration, the Writer in verse of the present day who would not be indifference, the slight, the aversion, and even the proud to acknowledge his obligations to the Reliques; contempt, with which these Poems have been received, I know that it is so with my friends; and, for myself, knowing, as I do, the source within my own mind, from I am happy in this occasion to make a public avowal of which they have proceeded, and the labour and pains my own.
which, when labour and paios appeared needful, have Dr Johnson, more fortunate in his contempt of the been bestowed upon them, must all, if I think consislabours of Macpherson than those of his modest friend, tently, be received as pledges and tokens, bearing the was solicited not long after to furnisli Prefaces biogra- same general impression, though widely different in va. ptical and critical for the works of some of the most lue;—they are all proofs that for the present time I eminent English Poets. The Booksellers took upon have not laboured in vain; and afford assurances, more themselves to make the collection; they referred or iess authentic, that the products of my industry will luably to the most popular miscellanies, and, unques- endure. tiouably, to their books of accounts; and decided upon If there be one conclusion more forcibly pressed the claim of Authors to be admitted into a body of the upon us than another by the review which has been gimosi Eminent, from the familiarity of their names with ven of the fortunes and fate of Poetical Works, it is the readers of that day, and by the profits, which, from this,—that every Author, as far as he is great and at the the sale of his works, cach had brought and was bring same time original, has had the task of creating the ing to the Trade. Thc Editor was allowed a limited taste by which he is to be enjoyed: so bas
been, so exercise of discretion, and the Authors whom he re- will it continue to be. This remark was long since commended are scarcely to be mentioned without a made to me by the philosophical Friend for the sepa. smile. We open the volume of Prefatory Lives, and ration of whose Poems from my own I have previously in our astonishment the first name we find is that of expressed my regret. The predecessors of an original Cowley! - What is become of the Morning-star of En-Genius of a high order will have smoothed the way for glish Poetry? Where is the bright Elizabethan Constel- all that he has in common with them ;-and much he bation? Or, if Names be more acceptable than images, will have in common; but, for what is peculiarly his where is the ever-to-be-honoured Chaucer? where is Spen- own, he will be called upon to clear and often to shape ser? where Sidney? and, lastly, where he, whose rights his own road:-he will be in the condition of Hannibal as a Poel, contradistinguished from those which he is among the Alps. poiversally allowed to possess as a Dramatist, we have And where lies the real difficulty of creating that vindicated. -- where Sbakspearc?—These and a multi-taste by which a truly original Poet is to be relished ? tude of others not unwortlıy to be placed near them, Is it in breaking the bonds of custom, in overcoming their contemporaries and successors, we have not. But the prejudices of false refinement, and displacing the in their stead, we have (could better be expected when aversions of inexperience ? Or, if he labour for an obprecedence was to be settled by an abstract of reputa-ject which here and elsewhere I have proposed to myLim at any given period made, as in this case before self, does it consist in divesting the Reader of the pride us?) Roscommon, and Stepney, and Phillips, and Walsh, ihat induces him to dwell upon those points wherein aod Smith, aod Duke, and King, and Sprall — Halifax, Men differ from each other, 10 the exclusion of those in Granville, Sheffield, Congreve, Broome, and other re- which all Men are alike, or the same; and in making putel Maguates; Writers io metre utterly worthless him ashamed of the vanity that renders him insensible and useless, except for occasions like the present, when of the appropriate excellence which civil arrangements, their productions are referred to as evidence what a less unjust than might appear, and Nature illimitable in still quantity of brain is necessary to procure a con- her bounty, bave conferred on Mea who stand below
him in the scale of society? Finally, does it lie in esta ance in the world.--Of genius the only proof is, the act blishing that dominion over the spirits of Readers by of doing well what is worthy to be done, and what was which they are to be humbled and humanised, in order never done before : Of genius, in the fine arts, the only that they may be purified and exalted ?
infallible sign is the widening the sphere of human senIf these ends are to be attained by the mere commu-sibility, for the delight, honour, and benefit of human nication of knowledge, it does not lie here.— Taste, I
Genius is the introduction of a new element would remind the Reader, like IMAGINATION, is a word into the intellectual universe : or, if that be not alloswhich has been forced to extend its services far beyond ed, it is the application of powers to objects on which the point to which philosophy would have confined they had not before been exercised, or the employment them. It is a metaphor, taken from a passive sense of of them in such a manner as to produce effects hitherto the human body, and transferred to things which are unknown, What is all this but an advance, or a in their essence not passive, -to intellectual acts and conquest, made by the soul of the Poet? Is it to be operations. The word, imagination, has been over- supposed that the reader can make progress of this strained, from impulses honourable to mankind, to kind, like an Indian Prince or General-stretched on meet the demands of the faculty which is perhaps the his Palanquin, and borne by his Slaves? No, he is innoblest of our nature. In the instance of taste, the pro- vigorated and inspirited by his Leader, in order that he cess has been reversed ; and from the prevalence of dis- may exert himself, for he cannot proceed in quiescence, positions at once injurious and discreditable,-being no he cannot be carried like a dead weight. Therefore to other than that selfishness which is the child of apathy, create taste is to call forth and bestow power, of which
- which, as Nations decline in productive and creative knowledge is the effect; and there lies the true diftipower, makes them value themselves upon a presumed cully. refinement of judging. Poverty of language is the pri As the pathetic participates of an animal sensation, mary cause of the use which we make of the word, it might seem -thal, if the springs of this emotion were imagination; but the word, Taste, has been stretched to genuine, all men, possessed of competent kuowledge of the sense which it bears in modern Europe by habits of the facts and circumstances, would be instantaneously self-conceit, inducing that inversion in the order of affected. And, doubtless, in the works of every true things whereby a passive faculty is made paramount Poet will be found passages of that species of excellence, among the faculties conversant with the fine arts. Pro- which is proved by effects immediate and universal. portion and congruity, the requisite knowledge being But there are emotions of the pathetic that are simple supposed, are subjects upon whiclı taste may be trust and direct, and others that are complex and revolued; it is competent to this office;—for in its intercourse tionary; some-to which the heart yields with gentlewith these the mind is passive, and is affected painfully ness, others-against which it struggles with pride : or pleasurably as by an instinct. But the profound these varieties are infinite as the combivalions of cirand the exquisite in feeling, the lofty and universal in cumstance and the constitutions of character. Remem. thought and imagination; or in ordinary language the ber, also, that the medium through wbich, in poetry, pathetic and the sublime;-are neither of them, accu- the heart is to be affected—is language; a thing subject rately speaking, objects of a faculty which could ever to endless fluctuations and arbitrary associations. The without a sinking in the spirit of Nations have been de- genius of the Poet melts these down for his purpose; signated by the metaphor- Taste. And why? Because but they retain their shape and quality to him who is without the exertion of a co-operating power in the vot capable of exerting, within his own mind, a cormind of the Reader, there can be no adequate sympa- responding energy. There is also a meditative, as well thy with either of these emotions: without this auxiliar as a human, pathos; an enthusiastic, as well as an orimpulse elevated or profound passion cannot exist. dinary, sorrow; a sadness that has its scat in the depths
Passion, it must be observed, is derived from a word of reason, to which the mind cannot sink gently of itself which siguifies suffering; but the connection which — but to which it must descend by treading the steps suffering has with effort, with exertion, and action, is of thought. And for the sublime, – if we consider immediate and inseparable. How strikingly is this what are the cares that occupy the passing day, and property of human nature exhibited by the fact, that, how remote is the practice and the course of life from in popular language, to be in a passion, is to be angry! the sources of sublimity, in the soul of man, can it be -But,
wondered that there is little existing preparation for a Anger in basty words or blows
Poet charged with a new mission to extend its kiogdom, Itself discharges on its foes.
and to augment and spread its enjoyments?
Away, then, with the senseless iteration of the word, To be moved, then, by a passion, is to be excited, popular, applied to new works in Poetry, as if there often to external, and always to internal, effort ; whe were no lest of excellence in this first of the fine arts but ther for the continuance and strengthening of the pas- that all Men should run after bis productions, as if sion, or for its suppression, accordingly as the course urged by an appetite, or constrained by a spell !—The which it takes may be painful or pleasureable. If the qualities of writing best fitted for eager reception are latter, the soul must contribute to its support, or either such as startle the world into attention by it never becomes vivid, -and soon languishes, and their audacity and extravagance; or they are chiefly dies. And this brings us to the point. If every of a superficial kind, lying upon the surfaces of Great Poet with whose writings men are familiar, manders; or arising out of a selection and arrangein the highest exercise of his genius, before he can ment of incidents, by which the mind is kept be thoroughly enjoyed, has to call forth and to upon the stretch of curiosity, and the fancy amused communicate power, this service, in a still greater without the trouble of thought. But in every thing degree, falls upon an original Writer, at his first appear- which is to send the soul into herself, to be admonish
ed of hier weakness, or to be made conscious of her with indignation. The people have already been juspower ;-wherever life and nature are described as tified, and, their culogium pronounced by implication, operated upon by the creative or abstracting virtue of when it was said, above-that, of good Poetry, the indithe imagination; wherever the instinctive wisdom of vidual, as well as the species, survives. And how does antiquity and her heroic passions uniting, in the heart it survive but through the People? what preserves it of the Poel, with the meditative wisdom of later ages, but their intellect and their wisdom? bave produced that accord of sublimated humanity,
Past and future, are the wings which is at once a history of the remote past and a
On whose support, harmoniously conjoin'd, prophetic annunciation of the remotest future, there,
Moves the great Spirit of human knowledge— the Poet must reconcile himself for a season to few and scattered hearers.-- Grand thoughts, (and Shak. The voice that issues from this Spirit, is that Vox pospeare must often have sighed over this truth) as they puli which the Deity inspires. Foolish must he be are most naturally and most filly conceived in solitude, who can mistake for this a local acclamation, or a so can they not be brought forth in the midst of plau- transitory outcry-transitory though it be for years, dits, without some violation of their sanctity. Go to a
local though from a Nation. Still more lamentable is silent exhibition of the productions of the Sister Art, Lois error who can believe that there is any thing of and be convinced that the qualities which dazzle at first divide infallibility in the clamour of that small though sichi, and kindle the admiration of the multitude, are loud portion of the community, ever governed by facessentially different from those by which permanent litious influence, which, under the name of the Public, influence is secured. Let us pot shrink from following passes itself, upon the unthinking, for the People.
up these principles as far as they will carry us, and Towards the Public, the Writer hopes that he feels as i conclude with observing-that there never has been a much deference as it is entitled to: but to the People, | period, and perhaps never will be, in which vicious philosophically characterized, and to the embodied
poetry, of some kind or other, has not excited more spirit of their knowledge, so far as it exists and moves, iealous admiration, and been far more generally read, at the present, faithfully supported by its two wings, than good; but this advantage attends the good, that the past and the future, his devout respect, his revethe individual, as well as the species, survives from age rence, is due. He offers it willingly and readily; and, to age: whereas, of the depraved, though the species be this done, takes leave of his Readers, by assuring them immortal, the individual quickly perishes; the object of that, if he were not persuaded that the Contents of preseot admiration vanishes, being supplanted by some bis Works, evinced something of the « Vision and the other as easily produced; which, though no better, Faculty divine ;” and that, both in words and things, brings with it at least the irritation of novelty,—with they will operate in their degree, to extend the domain adaptation, more or less skilful, 10 the changing hu- of sensibility for the delight, the honour, and the mours of the majority of those who are most at lei- benefit of human nature, notwithstanding the many sure 10 regard poetical works when they first solicit happy hours which he has employed in their compositheir attention.
tion, and the manifold comforts and enjoyments they Is it the result of the whole, that, in the opinion of have procured to him, he would not, if a wish could do the Writer, the judgment of the People is not to be it, save them from immediate destruction ;--from respected? The thought is most injurious; and, could becoming at this moment, to the world, as a thing the charge be brought against him, he would repel it that had never been.