Изображения страниц

or Sir Thomas Biowne, prose is so tion will stand out Imagine, at the mnch run over by poetry, that it covers same time, what a í ld this furm of its narrative with images, and hides mind has on objects, how many facts ideas under its pictures. They load it condenses in each conception; what their style with Aowery comparisons, a mass of personal judgments, foreign which produce one another, and mount authorities, suppositions, guesses, im une above another, so that sense dis- aginations, it spreds over every sub appears, and ornament only is visible. ject; with what venturesome and crea In short, they are generally pedants, tive fecundity it engenders both truth st 11 stiff with the rust of the school; and conjecture. It is an extraordinary they divide and subdivide, propound chaos of thoughts and forms, often theses, definitions; they argue solidly abortive, still more often barbarous, and heavily, and quote their authors in sometimes grand. But from this supe: Latin, and even in Greek; they square fluity something lasting and great is their massive periods, and learnedly produced, namely science, and we havo knock their adversaries down, and only to examine more closely into one their readers too, as a natural conse- or two of these works to see the new quence. They are never on the prose- creation emerge from the blocks and level, but always above or below the debris. above by their poetic genius, below by the weight of their education and the

III. barbarism of their manners. But they think seriously and for themselves; Two writers especially display this they are deliberate; they are convinced state of mind. The first, Robert Bur. and touched by what they say. Even ton, a clergyman and university recluse, in the compiler we find a force and who passed his life in libraries, and loyalty of spirit, which give confidence dabbled in all the sciences, as learn. and cause pleasure. Their writings ed as Rabelais, having an inexhausti. are like the powerful and heavy en- ble and overflowing memory ; unequal, gravings of their contemporaries, the moreover, gifted with enthusiasm, and maps of Hofnagel for instance, so harsh spasmodically gay, but as a rule sad and so instructive; their conception and morose, to the extent of confessing is sharp and clear ; they have the gift in his epitaph that melancholy made of perceiving every object, not under up his life and his death; in the first a general aspect, like the classical place original, liking his own common writers, but specially and individually. sense, and one of the earliest models It is not man in the abstract, the citi- of that singular English mood which, zen as he is everywhere, the countryman withdrawing man within himself, deas such, that they represent, but James velops in him, at one time imaginaor Thomas, Smith or Brown, of such tion, at another scrupulosity, at an. a parish, from such an office, with such other oddity, and makes of him, accord. and such attitude or dress, distinct from ing to circumstances, a poet, an ecall others; in short, they see, not the centric, a humorist, a madman, or a idea, but the individual.' Imagine the puritan. He read on for thirty years, disturbance that such a disposition put an encyclopædia into his head, produces in a man's head, how the and now, to amuse and relieve himself, regular order of ideas becomes deranged takes a folio of blank paper. Twenty by it; how every object, with the in- lines of a poet, a dozen lines of a tiek finite medley of its forms, properties, tise on ag-iculture, a folio page of appendages, will thenceforth fasten heraldry, a description of rare fishes, itself by a hundred points of contact a paragraph of a sermon on patience. anforeseen to other objects, and bring the record of the fever fits of hypochonbefore the mind a series and a family; dria, the history of the particle that, a what boldness language will derive scrap of metaphysics, - this is what .rom it; what familiar, picturesque, passes through his brain in a quarter absurd words, will break forth in suc-of an hour: it is a carnival of ideas cession ; how the dash, the unforeseen, and phrases, Greek, Latin, German, the originality and inequality of inven- French, Italian, philosophical, geor et

rical, medical, poetical, astrological, 1 then again, as in a new shifted scene, treasons musical, pedagogic, heaped one on the cheating tricks, robberies, enormous villania other; an enormous medley, a prodig. in all kinds, funerals, burials, death of princes

new discoveries, expeditions; now comical, lous mass of jumbled quotations, jost. then tragical matters. Today we hear of new ling thoughts, with the vivacity and lords and officers created, to-inorrow of somo the transport of a feast of unreason. great men deposed, and then again of fresli

honours conferred: one is let loose, another “ This roving humour (though not with like imprisoned: one purchaseth, another breaketh : success) I have ever had, and, like a ranging he thrives, his neighbour turns bankrupt ; now spaniel t'hat barks at every bird'he sees, leaving plenty, then again dearth and famine ; one his game, I have followed all, saving that which runs, another rides, wrangles, laughs, weers, I should, and may justùy complain, and truly, etc. Thus I daily ear, and such like, bork gui ubique esi, nusquam est, which Gesner diá | private and publick news.” . in modi ty, that I have read many books, but

“For what a world of books offers itself, in to little urose, for want of good method, I

all subjects, arts, and sciences, to the sweet have coulusedly tumbled over divers authors in content and capacity of the reader? In arithour libraries with small profit, for want of art, metick, geometry, perspective, optick, astrono arder, memory, judgment. I never travelled my, architecture, sculptura, pictura, of which but in map or card, in which my uncunfined so many and such elaborate treatises are of late ci oughts have freely expatiated, as having ever

written : in mechanicks and their mysteries, Seen especially delighted with the study of cos military matters, navigation, riding of horses, mography. Saturn was lord of my geniture, fencing, swimming, gardening, planting, grea' wulminating, etc., and Mars principal significa- tomes of husbandry, cookery, faulconry, hunt. for of manners, in partile conjunction with mine ing, fishing, fowling, etc., with exquisite pic ascendent; both fortunate in their houses, etc. tures of all sports, games, and what not. In I am not poor, I am not rich ; nihil est, nihil musivk, metaphysicks, natural and moral phideest; I have little; I want nothing: all my losophy, philologie, in policy, heraldry, genetreasure is in Minerva's tower. Greater prefer- alogy, chronology, etc., they afford great tomes, ment as I could never get, so am I not in debt or those studies of antiquity, etc., et quid saab for it. I have a competency (laus Deo) from

tilius arithmeticis inventionibus ? quid jucun my noble and munificent patrons. Though I dius musicis rationibus ? quid divinius astron live still a collegiat student, as Democritus in omicis ? quid rectius geometricis demonstrahis garden, and lead a monastique life, ipse tionibus ? What so sure, what so pleasant? mihi theatrum, sequestred from those tumults He that shall but see the geometrical tower of and troubles of the world, et tanquam in spec-Garezenda at Bologne in Italy, the steeple and ulâ positus (as he said), in some high place clock at Strasborough, will admire the effects above you all, like Stöïcus sapiens, omnia of art, or that engine of Archimedes to remove sæcula præterita præsentia que videns, uno

the earth itself, if he had but a place to fasten velut intuitu, I hear and see what is done his instrument. Archimedis cochlea, and rare abroad, how others run, ride, turmoil, and

devises to corrivate waters, musick instruments, macerate themselves in court and countrey: and trisyllable echoes again, again, and again Far from these wrangling lawsuits, aula vani- repeated, with miriades of such. What vas* tatem, fori ambitionem, ridere mecum soleo : tomes are extant in law, physick, and divinity I laugh at all, only, secure, lest my suit go for profit, pleasure, practice, speculation, in amiss, my ships perish, cor and cattle mis- verse or prose, etc.! Their names alone are carry, trade decay ; I have no wife nor chil- the subject of whole volumes ; we have thou. dren, good or bad, to provide for; a mere spec

sands of authors of all sorts, many great libra. tator of other men's fortunes and adventures, ries, full well furnished, like so many dishes of and how they act their parts, which methinks meat, served out for several palates, and he is are diversely presented unto me, as from a a very block that is affected with none of them. common theatre or scene.

Some take an infinite delight to study the very day: and those ordinary rumours of war, languages whers in these books are writtenplagues, fres, inundations, thefts, murders, Hebrew, Greek Syriack, Chalde, Arabick, etc. massacres, meteors, comets, spectrums, prodi- Methinks it wou. I well please any man to look gies, apparitions; of towns taken, cities be- upon a geographical map (suavi animum delea sieged in France, Germany, Turkey, Persia, tatione allicera, ob incredibilem rerum varie: Poland, etc., daily musters and preparations, tatem et jucunditatem, et ad pleniorem sui cogn and such like, which these tempestuous times

I hear news every

nitionem excitare), chorographical, topograph afford, batt'es fought, so many men slain, ical delineations; to behold, as it were, al the monomachies, shipwracks, piracies, and sea- remote provinces, towns, cities of the word, an! fights, peace, leagues, stratagems and fresh never to go forth of the limits of his study, to alarms-a vast confusion of vows, wishes, ac- measure, by the scale and compasse, their extent tions, edicts, petitions, lawsuits, pleas, laws, distance, examine their site. Charles the Great proclamations, complaints, grievances, — are (as Platina writes) had three faire silver tables, daily brought to our ears: new books every

in one of which superficies was a large map of day, pamphlets, currantoes, stories, whole cata- Constantinople, in the second Rome neatly en. logues of volumes of all sorts, new paradoxes graved, in the third an exquisite description of the opinions, schisms, heresics, controversies in whole world ; and much delight he took in the philosophy, religion, etc. Now come tidings What greater pleasure can there now be, than of weddings, maskings, mummeries, entertainments, jubilies, embassies, tilts and tourna- A natomy of Melancholy, 12th ed. 182. merts, trophies, triumphs, revels, sports, playes: 1 vols.: Democrítus to the Reader, i. 4.


10 u ew those elaborate maps of Ortelius, Mer- , in cne hour, with his team of hippopot atr, Hondius, etc. ? to peruse those books of ami, makes the circuit of the ocean. itios put out by Braunus and Hogenbergius? to i zad those exquisite descriptions of Maginus,

What subject does he take? Melan Munster, Herrera, Laet, Merula, Boterus, Le choly, his own individual mood; ana ander Albertus, Camden, Leo Afer, Adricom- he takes it like a schoolman. None of ius, Nic. Gerbelius, etc.? those famous expe- St. Thomas Aquinas' treatises is more ditions of Christopher Columbus, Americus Vespucius, Marcus Pulus the Venetian, Lod. regularly constructed than his. This Vertomannus, Aloysius Cadamustus, etc.? those torrent of erudition flows in geometri. accurate diaries of Portugals, Hallanders, of cally planned channels, turning off at kartison, Oliver a Nort, etc., Hacluit's Voypes, Pet. Martyr's Decades, Benzo, Lerius, right angles without deviating by a

insc:hoten's relations, those Hodæporicons of line. At the head of every part you Jod. a Meggen, Brocarde the Monke, Breden- will find a synoptical and analytical bach as, Jo. Dublinius, Sands, etc., to Jerusa- table, with hyphens, brackets, each em, Egyp, and other remote places of the division begetting its subdivisions, each world? those pleasant itineraries of Paulus Hentzerus, Jodocus Sincerus, Dux Polonus, subdivision its sections, each section etc.? to read Bellonius observations, P. Gillius its subsections : of the malady in genhis survayes ; those parts of America, set

out; eral, of melancholy in particular, of its and curiously cut in pictures, by Fratres a Bry? To see a well cut herbal, hearbs, trees, flowers, nature, its seat, its varieties, causes, plants, all vegetals, expressed in their proper symptoms, prognosis; of its cure by colours to the life, as that of Matthiolus upon permissible means, by forbidden means, Dioscorides, Delacampius, Wwbel, Bauhinus, by dietetic means, by, pharmaceutical and that last voluminous and mighty herbal of Besler of Noremberge, wherein almost every

After the scholastic process, plant is to his own bignesse. To see birds, he descends from the general to the beasts, and fishes of the sea, spiders, gnats, particular, and disposes each emotion serpents, flies, etc., all creatures set out by the and idea in its labelled case. In this same art, and truly expressedhi ili welures, oues framework, supplied by the middle with an of naturesvertues, qualities, etc., as hath been accurately age, he heaps up the whole, like a man performed by Ælian, Gesner, Ulysses Aldro of the Renaissance,--the literary de vaudus, Bellonius, Rondoletius, Hippolytus scription of passions and the medica: Salvianus, etc." *

description of madness, details of the He is never-ending ; words, phrases, hospital with a satire on human follies, overflow, are heaped up, overlap each physiological treatises side by side other, and flow on, carrying the reader with personal confidences, the recipes along, deafened, stunned, half-drown- of the apothecary with moral counsels, ed, unable to touch ground in the del remarks on love with the history of ige. Burton is inexhaustible. There

evacuations. The discrimination of are no ideas which he does not iterate ideas has not yet been effected; doctor under fifty forms; when he has ex

and poet, man of letters and savant, hausted his own, he pours out upon

he is all at once ; for want of dams, us other men's--the classics, the rarest ideas pour like different liquids into authors, known only by savants-au- the same vat with strange spluttering tbors rarer still, known only to the and bubbling, with an unsavory smell learned; he borrows from all. Un and odd effect. But the vat is full, derneath these deep caverns of erudi- and from this admixture are produced tion and science, there is one blacker potent compounds which no preceding and more unknown than all the others, age has known. filled with forgotten authors, with Tackjaw names, Besler of Nuremberg,

Adı icomius, Linschoten, Brocarde,
Bredenbachius. Amidst all these ante-

For in this mixture there is an ef. diluvian monsters, bristling with Latin fectual leavers, the poeti. sentiment, terminations, he is at his ease; he sports which stirs up and animates the vast with them, laughs, skips from one to the erudition, which will not be confined other, drives them all abreast. He is to dry catalogues; whic! interpretiig like old Proteus, the sturdy rover, who every fact, every object, disentangles

or divines a mysterious soul within it, * Anatomy of Melancholy, i. qart 2, 8Cc. 2,

and agitates the whole inind of man, Mem. 4, p. 420, et passim.

by representing to him the restica


one moment.

world within and without him as a names make the first story before the looing grand enigma. Let us conceive a

and the recorded names ever since conta:n not kindred mind to Shakspeare's, a scholar long exceedeth all that shall live. The nigh

one living century. The number of the dead and an observer instead of an actor of time far surpasseth the day, and who knows and a poet, who in place of creating is when was the equinox? Every hour adds unto occupied in comprehending, but who, the current arithmetick which scarce stands

And since death must be the like 'Shakspeare, applies himself to Lucina of life, and even Pagans could doubt, living things, penetrates their inte: nal whether thus to live were to die ; si ice oui structure, puts himself in communica- longest sun sets at right declensions, and tion with their actual laws, imprints in makes but winter arches and therefore it car himself fervently and scrupulously the and have our light in ashes; since the brythe

not be long before we lie down in darkness smallest details of their outward ap- of death daily haunts us with dying. mementos, pearance; who at the same time ex- and time, that grows old in itself, Bids us hopi tends his penetrating surmises beyond folly

Follongedpratiario. diuturnity is a dream, and the region of observation, discerns be- “Darkness and light divide the course of hind visible phænomena some world time, and oblivion shares with memory a great obscure yet sublime, and trembles with part even of our living beings; we slightly rea kind of veneration before the vast, of affliction leave but short smart upon us.

member our felicities, and the smartest strokes indistinct, but peopled darkness on Sense endureth no extremities, and sorrows whose surface our little universe hangs destroy us or themselves. To weep into stones quivering. Such a one is Sir Thomas miseries are slippery, or fall like snow upon

fables. Afflictions induce callosities; Browne, a naturalist, a philosopher, a us, which notwithstanding is no unhappy stu. scholar, a physician, and a moralist, pidity. To be ignorant of evils to come. and almost the last of the generation which forgetful of evils past, is a merciful provision produced Jeremy Taylor and Shak- of nature, whereby we digest the mixture of

our few and evil days; and our delivered senses speare. No thinker bears stronger not relapsing into cutting remembrances, our witness to the wandering and inven- sorrows are not kept raw by the edge of tive curiosity of the age. No writer repetitions. ,

:: All was vanity, feeding the has better displayed the brilliant and wind, and folly. The Egyptian mummies, sombre imagination of the North. No

which Cambyses or time hath spared, avarice

now consume:... Mummy is become mer. one has spoken with a more eloquent chandise, Mizriam cures wounds, and Pharaoh

Man is a noble emotion of death, the vast night of is sold for balsams. . : forgetfulness, of the all-devouring pit, grave, 'solemnizing nativities and deaths with

animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the of human vanity, which tries to create equal lustre, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery an ephemeral immortality out of glory in the infancy of his nature. ::. Pyramids, or sculptured stones. No one has re- arches, obelisks, were but the irregularities

of vealed, in more glowing and original magnanimity.” •

vain glory, and wild enormities of ancient expressions, the poetic sap which łows through all the minds of the age.

These are almost the words of a

poet, and it is just this poet's imagi“But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scat- nation which urges him onward into tereth her poppy, and deals with the memory science.t Face to face with the pro of men without distinction to merit of per- ductions of nature he abounds in detuity. Who can but pity the founder of the Jyramids? Herostratus lives that burnt the conjectures, comparisons; he gropes emple of Diana, he is almost lost that built it. | about, proposing explanations, making Time hath spared the epitaph of Adrian's trials, extending his guesses like so norse, confounded that of himself. In vain we compute our felicities by the advantage of many flexible and vibrating feelers our good names, since bad have equal duration; into the four corners of the globe and Thersites is like to live as long as Aga- into the most distant regions of fancy

Who knows whether the best of and truth. As he looks upon the tree men be known, or whether there be not more like and foliaceous crusts which are remarkable persons forgot than any that stand remembered in the known account of time? formed upon the surface of freezing W hout the favour of the everlasting register, liquids, he asks himself if this be not 3 the first man had been as unknown as the last, regeneration of vegetable essences, dis and Methuselah's long life had been his only chronicle.

* The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, ed. “Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater Wilkin, 1852, 3 vols. Hydriotaphia, iii. ch. * part must be content to be as though they had 44, et passim.

ein, to be found in the register of God, + See Milsand, Etude sur Sir Thoma

the record of man. Twenty-seven | Browne, Revue des Deux Monde, 1858.

[ocr errors]


00 ag

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

solved in the liquid. At the sight of which he is not pass nately interested, curdling blood or milk, he inquires which does not cause his me:nory and whether there be not something anal- his inventive powers :o overflow, which igous to the formation of the bird in does not summon up within him the the egg, or to that coagulation of chaos idea of some force, certainly admirable, which gave birth to our world. In possibly infinite. But what completes presence of that impalpable force his picture, what signalizes the advance which makes liquids freeze, he asks if of science, is the fact that his imaginaapoplexy and cataract are not the tion provides a counterbalance against effects of a like power, and do not itself. He is as fertile in doubts as he indicate also the presence of a con- is in explanations. If he sees a thou. gealing agency. He is in presence of sand reasons which tend to one view, a ature as an artist, a man of letters in he sees also a thousand which tend to presence of a living countenance, mark. the contrary. At the two extremities ing every feature, every movement of of the same fact, he raises up to the Physiognomy, so as to be able to divine clouds, but in equal piles, the scaffold. the passions and the inner disposition, ing of contradictory arguments. Hav. ceaselessly correcting and undoing his ing made a guess, he knows that it is interpretations, kept in agitation by but a guess; he pauses, ends with a thought of the invisible forces which perhaps, recommends verification. His operate beneath the visible envelope. writings consist only of opinions, given The whole of the middle age and of as such ; even his principal work is a antiquity, with their theories and im- refutation of popular errors. In the aginations, Platonism, Cabalism, Chris- main, he proposes questions, suggests tian theology, Aristotle's substantial explanations, suspends his judgments, forms, the specific forms of the al- nothing more; but this is enough: chemists,—all human speculations, en when the search is so eager, when the tangled and transformed one within paths in which it proceeds are the other, meet simultaneously in his numerous, when it is so scrupulous in brain, so as to open up to him vistas securing its hold, the issue of the pur. of this unknown world. The accu- suit is sure ; we are mt a few steps mulation, the pile, the confusion, the from the truth. fermentation and the inner swarming,

V. mingled with vapors and flashes, the tumultuous overloading of his imagina

In this band of scholar3, dreamers tion and his mind, oppress and agitate and inquirers, appears the most com. him. In this expectation and emotion prehensive, sensible, originative of the his curiosity takes hold of every thing; minds of the age, Francis Bacon, a in reference to the least fact, the most great and luminous intellect, one of the special, the most obsolete, the most finest of this poetic progeny, who, like chimerical, he conceives a chain of his predecessors, was naturally discomplicated investigations, calculating posed to clothe his ideas in the most now the ark could contain all creatures, splendid dress: in this age, a thought with their provision of food ; how did not seem complete until it had Perpenna, at a banquet, arranged the assumed form and color. But what guests so as to strike Sertorius; what distinguishes him from the others is, Trees must have grown on the banks of that with him an image only serves to Acheron, supposing that there were concentrate meditation. He reflected any; whether quincunx plantations had long, stamped on his mind all the parts not their origin in Eden, and whether and relations of his subject; he is mas. the numbers and geometrical figures ter of it, and then, instead of exposing contained in the lozenge-form are not this complete idea in a graduated chain met with in all the productions of of reasoning, he embodies it in a comnature and art. You may recognize parison so expressive, exact, lucid, that here the exuberance and the strange ca- behind the figure we perceive all the prices of an inner development too am- details of te idea, like liquor in a ple and too strong. Archæology, chem- fine crystal vase. Judger istry, history, nature, there is nothing in ) by a single example:

his style

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »