« PreviousContinue »
resembles in its effect, though not in hence it may be difficult to our minds, its character, those carlier struggles when they would turn themselves of a people maintaining warfare with again towards higher and more lasting men or with nature for the protection contemplations, to recover that zeal, of their existence. The result is that and those devout convictions of their spirit of manly strength which must value which have belonged to them of always be produced in the contests of old, and have been easy and habitual men with men.
to men who lived in calmer times of But besides the peculiar character the world. Even minds of superior of this internal activity in the heart of power have thus absolutely surrendered society throughout the country, there ihemselves to their interest in passing are other circumstances generally af- events, and have forgotten altogether fecting the spirit of our minds, which those thoughts of which the interest appear calculated to produce a like ef- arises in the silent mind—to which fect, and which require some separate their strong reflecting character would notice. The agitations of the late otherwise have called them, and which eventful years have occupied the minds their genius, full of wisdom, might in of all men with interests, which, though other times have illustrated. of the utmost importance and magni- Nor can it be doubted that these tude, were, nevertheless, in one re- events have, in another way, tended spect temporary. For every new to disqualify our minds for the highest event which arose, or was in prepar- speculations, inasmuch as they have ation, seemed as if the fate of a nation, given great intensity to those feelings or we would almost say, of mankind, which are at all times spread through were involved in its issue: and, there. the bosom of society, variously dividfore, no excess of passionate expecta- ing the members of a state. They tion which could be fixed on it, could have given to all momentary questions appear misplaced. But hence it has and feelings of this sort an intensity happened that through this whole pe- and magnitude derived from those riod the mind of the nation has been great interests which were at hazard continually held in suspense on events in the contentions of the world, and which, whatever might be their mag- have thus kept men's minds in a state nitude, were yet to pass away: and of keen and agitated debate, a temper we have been accustomed to live in the most hostile of any to contema succession of vivid emotions which plative philosophy. were all but the birth of the times, There are, however, other conseand could only have the duration of quences of such passions and pursuits the events with which they had arisen. which unavoidably force themselves
Now, even the strong and pervading upon our observation. The objects sympathy with the fortunes of nature which are thus sought after, though and humanity, however ennobling to to a certain extent good, honourable, the minds which it filled, and although and even necessary, are all of a temaccompanied with lessons of the high- porary and personal nature. As temest instruction, has nevertheless, in porary, they cannot be the fit objects this respect, been injurious to our of the most earnest and persevering highest faculties of thought, that they endeavours of minds framed like ours ; have withdrawn our imagination from as personal, it must be expected that those great objects which, to the self- long continued and passionate desire collected mind wrapped in meditation, directed upon them, will, as it is alhave at all times appeared of para- ways found to do, impair the more mount importance. That great sym- disinterested affections. We have no pathy, and those momentous expecta- difficulty in admitting these views in tions on which all men have been in- single examples. We may feel some tent, have made it appear, as if the hesitation in applying them to the case more thoughtful mind turning itself of a nation. Yet the injury to a nato those remoter objects and their tion may be more complete and cershadowy speculation, were deserting tain. For, to an individual, the effect the great hazards of mankind, to busy of his own pursuits upon his character itself in the dreams of a fantastic and may be mitigated by his intercourse indolent philosophy. We have found with other men. But in the case of a in the occurrences and scenes of a nation, all men concurring to justify shifting world, their full scope for all one another's passions, and to confirm our capacity of hope and desire; and those falso deceptions of the under.
standing which passion always sug- language, and with other claims to gests, it is to be apprehended that any their minds,-turning their thoughts effect naturally injurious will take in upon themselves, and proposing the place with stronger and more decisive faculties which it calls into activity effect.
as objects of a distinct regard, enIt seems impossible, then, with these titled on their own account to be conviews, to look without apprehension sidered excellent, and not merely into the future effect upon the character strumental to the relaxation of amuseof the country from so much of our ment of unoccupied hours; then it whole exertion and desire being de would appear that a new and importvoted to these objects. And if it is ant effect would follow. For the mind difficult for us, situated as we are, to cannot in any degree be turned to the recall ourselves in any great degree distinct consideration of its own from their pursuit, it appears desirable powers, without an immediate percepat least, that the intervals of leisure in tion of their dignity, and without which our minds are called back to being led on in some degree to specuthemselves, should be employed on late on the ends for which they are objects of an opposite character. Lite- designed in the constitution of our rature is one source of such employ- nature. But no sooner does it begin ment. The higher works which we to reason or conjecture upon the ends include under that name, bring objects which they are framed to insure, than of a different nature before the mind, it is necessarily drawn on to consider and awaken feelings and thoughts them in their full connexion with that which had slept in the midst of our life to which we are born, and which more eager occupations. The objects is the first great scene of their activity. with which we are thus led to converse, Now this is the very subject on which are even of the greatest magnitude and it seems most important, that the the highest kind; and we have no human mind should exercise its spefaculties of such dignity, and no affec- culation. · For the moment it begins tions so exalted, but they may here to compare the extensive reach and find room to act. But all these pur- high character of its inherent powers suits are in danger to become at last with the facilities which human life little else than a relaxation to the offers for their exertion, it is met by mind overstrained with more serious the conviction that the ordinary ememployment. They call up a mo- ployments to which it is required, are mentary play of sensibility and fancy, inadequate alike to their capacity and they amuse the tired faculty of thought dignity ; and it is driven on to enquire with new speculation. They renovate what nobler occupation it may find, on for fresh labour. But they scarcely which its largest faculties shall not be do more. They leave the man, as he lost, or its proudest misapplied. Now was, a being whose anxious and ear- the whole of a literature which the nest thoughts are fixed on interests spirit of a high Philosophy pervades, which each successive day brings will lead the minds of men in innumerbefore him, and which even his own able ways into these views and trains speculation carries on but a little way of speculation. But most of all those into futurity. They leave him to high works of Philosophy—which think that all his capacities of affec- speak of the mind alone, and by the tion and desire have found their suffi- mostopen and direct appeal-call
upon cient objects, and that there are no it to turn its thoughts upon itself—to disregarded faculties in his soul, plead- understand and to acknowledge its own ing in vain to be admitted, as they are high descent and indefeasible prerogaof higher birth, to their right of a tive. higher destination.
The direct application of such phiNow we cannot but believe that a losophy to remove the doubts with more serious cast given to the intel- which the over active mind possesses lectual pursuits of a people, might itself, may be made more apparent by add greatly to the importance of that some consideration of the manner in portion of their lives, in which the which it falls into such mistrust. It mind, from its accustomed labours, is will appear probably that some of the recovered to itself. If their literature most important labours of the mind in be not a literature of pleasure merely, science, and some of its purest laws of but by a high spirit of Philosophy in operation, tend to the production of fused, can address itself in another the doubts of which we have spoken.
Of the laws of intellect one most Hence, against that unwillingness essential to its nature is, " to know of cultivated intellect to admit belief the evidence of its own belief.” Hence drawn from such internal evidences there is naturally a favourable inclina. there seems no defence so ready to tion of intellect towards all truth, of have recourse to as that philosophy which the evidence is obvious to de. which founds its whole science on the monstration, and a natural disinclina- basis of such evidence, and which, tion to that truth of which the evi- while it is jealous to admit all reasondence is elusive and obscure. Now ing derived from imperfect knowledge the human mind is called upon to pur- of its own great and authentic princisue enquiry in two very distinct ples, is as strenuous in urging human spheres of speculation :-in a world nature to indulge the cultivation of external to itself where the evidence that whole inward world of affections of belief lies in sense : -- and in a and feelings, be they more distinct world within itself where the evidence and palpable, or more undefined and of belief consists in variable and inde- obscure. finite feclings and affections, many of Thus, then, it may appear that even which are to most minds, and some in those profound wonderful sciences perhaps to all, unfamiliar and obscure. which investigate the laws of nature It is apparent, then, to which of these through her mighty material universe, two spheres of investigation, a mind there may lurk danger to the human determined chiefly by its intellectual spirit, not as it pursues the for its faculties, will incline. The observa- individual delight, but when the mind tions now made may perhaps serve of a whole generation is given over to to explain the tendency of enquiry them with too exclusive desire. They whicla philosophy in these later times are the high and just, the useful and has discovered. To those sciences of the ennobling study of man, the obwhich the evidence lies in sense, the server, and, in his own domain, the human intellect has turned itself in master of nature. But they are not all its strength, and has built up an his only knowledge—and they must edifice of knowledge of which the not usurp the full measure of his caformer ages of the world entertained pacities. There is another knowledge no imagination. But it must almost that must divide with them the empire appear that it has given itself up to of his mind, and must hold at least its them with relinquishing, to a certain equal sway. extent, its other and more important Before we conclude, we wish to add a sphere. The knowledge which lies few words upon a subject, which, within, it seems too much to have though distinct from those of which we regarded with disfavour. Turning have now spoken, is not unconnected from the broad day in which the facts with them. We speak of a sort of pracof external science lie exposed, to this tical scepticism which is spread among dark and shadowy world, it has feared many as to all opinions which rest for to set its steps on unsubstantial ground; their evidence upon the highest feeland has often kept itself aloof from ings of our minds, and of explicit it altogether. So that while in the scepticism among others. Weconceive sciences of material nature, it has been that mind to be in a state of practical advancing in acquisition with giant disbelief in these respects, which, by strides, and lifting up its power beyond attachment to speculative or active all precedent, in the other it has some- pursuits of a different character, is times been losing knowledge that was kept in a habitual forgetfulness of the possessed perhaps by the earliest ages thoughts, and a habitual disuse of the of mankind.
feelings, if we may so express ourselves, But the evidence of belief from this which belong to such subjects. It is interior world is not necessarily un- a state of mind not adverse to the be. certain and obscure. It is our Mind lief, perhaps, from which it is thus that makes it more or less so. The habitually estranged, but certainly manifold affections incident to our divided from it. But there is among mind become clear and defined to many a scepticism explicit and deli. those who feel them strongly, and are berate, which we cannot help conceiv. accustomed attentively to consider ing is to be ascribed to the influence, them. To those only are they obscure unforeseen to themselves, of a course and inevident who imperfectly feel of life, and perhaps of speculation unand negligently consider them. favourable to the just use of some of their highest powers, rather than to a covery of moral truth--the powers of conviction following from investiga- our moral nature are pre eminently tions carried through with the full those by which all such discovery is use of those powers. To all scepti- made possible to us. That course of cism there can be but one answer, life, then, and those trains and methods Truth. But that knowledge which is of speculation which raise up our placed within the reach of our facul- moral faculties into strength, and do ties, is not a boon granted to the mere indeed open up within ourselves that
a desire of possessing it. It is a prize part of created nature which in these offered to steadfast and unwearied ex. cases must be the subject of enquiry, ertion of our best faculties.
can alone afford us reasonable expecask what those faculties are to which tation of attaining the knowledge in the attainment of the highest know. question, and exploring our way to ledge is given, it is evident that none just conclusions on those momentous can be passed over-that the full ef- topics, which, whatever conclusions it fort of our mind in all its powers is may rest in, will, more or less, visit required of us for that acquisition. every human mind with sorrow or with Our reasoning intellect is but a part hope, with thoughts of fear or of conof that constitution of our minds by solation. which we are enabled to make dis
REMARKS ON A PASSAGE IN COLERIDGE'S “ AIDS TO REFLECTION."
“ If Prudence, though practically in- and disturb their selfish enjoyments! Proseparable from Morality, is not to be vided the dunghill is not before their parconfounded with the Moral Principle ; lour window, they are well contented to still less may Sensibility, i. e. a constitu- know that it exists, and perhaps as the tional quickness of Sympathy with Pain hot-bed on which their own luxuries are and Pleasure, and a keen sense of the reared. Sensibility is not necessarily gratifications that accompany social inter- Benevolence. Nay, by rendering us tremcourse, mutual endearments, and recipro- blingly alive to trifling misfortunes, it frecal preferences, be mistaken, or deemed quently prevents it, and induces an effema Substitute for either. They are not inate Selfishness instead, even sure pledges of a GOOD HEART, though
pampering the coward heart among the most common meanings of that With feelings all too delicate for use. many-meaning and too commonly misap
Sweet are the Tears, that from a Howard's eye
Drop on the cheek of one, he lifts from earth, plied expression.
And He, who works me good with unmoved face “ So far from being either Morality, or
Does it but half. He chills me while he aids, one with the Moral Principle, they ought My Benefactor, not my Brother Man.
But even this, this cold benevolence, not even to be placed in the same rank with Seems Worth, seems Manhood, when there rise Prudence. For Prudence is at least an
The sluggard Pity's vision. weaving Tribe, offspring of the Understanding ; but Sen- Who sigh for Wretchedness yet shun the wretchsibility (the Sensibility, I mean, here
Nursing in some delicious Solitude spoken of) is for the greater part a quality Their slothful Loves and dainty Sympathies.' of the perves, and a result of individual
Sibylline Leaves, p. 189. bodily temperament.
“ Lastly, where Virtue is, Sensibility is “ Prudence is an active Principle, and the ornament and becoming Attire of Virimplies a sacrifice of Self, though only to tue. On certain occasions it may almost the same Self projected, as it were, to a be said to become Virtue. But Sensibility distance. But the very term Sensibility, and all the amiable Qualities may likewise marks its passive nature: and in its mere become, and too often have become, the self, apart from Choice and Reflection, pandars of Vice and the instruments of it proves little more than the coincidence Sedilotion. or contagion of pleasurable or painful “ So must it needs be with all qualities Sensations in different persons.
that have their rise only in parts and frag" Alas! how many are there in this ments of our nature. A man of warm over-stimulated age, in which the occur. opinions may sacrifice half his estate to rence of excessive and unhealthy sensitive- rescue a friend from Prison : for he is ness is so frequent, as even to have re- generally sympathetic, and the more soversed the current meaning of the word, ber part of his nature happened to be nervous,-bow many are there whose sen- uppermost. The same man shall aftersibility prompt them to remove those evils wards exhibit the same disregard of money alone, which by hideous spectacle or clam- in an attempt to seduce that friend's Wife orous outcry are present to their senses or Daughter.
All the evil achieved by Hobbes and This, on the whole, is a good pashis whole School of Materialists will ap- sage, spirited and eloquent, although pear inconsiderable if it be compared with not free from the vices incident to Mr the mischief effected and occasioned by Coleridge's style, especially the vice of the sentimental Philosophy of Sterne, exaggeration. For, in the first place, and his numerous Imitators. The vilest he has taken care so to degrade the appetites and the most remorseless in- character of Sensibility, that it is scarce. constancy towards their objects, acquired ly possible to imagine any writer, above the titles of the Heart, the irresistible Peel
the very lowest rank, considering it a ings, the too tender Sensibility : and if the substitute either for Prudence or the Frosts of Prudence, the icy chains of
Moral Principle. In the second place, Human Law thawed and vanished at the
even this kind of sensibility, though genial warmth of Human Nature, who could help it? It was an amiable weak- generally so ; and, supposing it to be
not a sure pledge of a good heart, is ness! “ About this time, too, the profanation
not altogether instinctive and unreaof the word, Love, rose to its height. soning, which scarcely any permanent The French Naturalists, Buffon and others, impulse is, but under some rational borrowed it from the sentimental Nove.
control and safeguard, if it were no lists; the Swedish and English Philoso- other than the experience of life frephers took the contagion ; and the Muse quently thwarting and rendering its of Science condescended to seek admis- undue indulgence disastrous or ridicu. sion into the Saloons of Fashion and Fri. lous—then such sensibility is amiable, volity, rouged like an Harlot, and with the and symptomatic (we do not fear to Harlot's wanton leer. I know not how the say so) of a good heart. It may be Annals of Guilt could be better forced into right to speak, even with some austethe service of Virtue, than by such a com- rity, of “a constitutional quickness of ment on the present paragraph, as would sympathy, and a keen sense of the be afforded by a selection from the senti- gratifications that accompany social mental Correspondence produced in Courts intercourse, mutual endearments, and of Justice within the last thirty years, fairly reciprocal preferences," when these are translated into the true meaning of the words, and the actual Object and Purpose character ; but it is not right to speak
represented as all in all in the moral of the infamous Writers. Do you in good of them with any disparagement in earnest aim at Dignity of Character ? By all the treasures of a peaceful mind, by indeed in the loftiest and most sublime
themselves, since without them, except all the charms of an open countenance, I conjure you, O youth 1 turn away from spirits of men, there is no such thing those who live in the Twilight between
as virtue. In the third place, though it Vice and Virtue. Are not Reason, Dis- be true that Prudence is an “offspring crimination, Law, and deliberate Choice, of the understanding," it is also no less the distinguishing Characters of Huma- true, that Prudence is often just as nity? Can aught then worthy of a human constitutional as sensibility, a quality Being proceed from a Habit of Soul, which too of the nerves, and a result of in. would exclude all these and (to borrow a dividual bodily temperament. The metaphor from Paganism) prefer the den cautious are often cold blooded ; and of Trophonius to the Temple and Oracles the prudent not unfrequently persons of the God of Light ? Can any thing manly, whose nerves are like nails, and who, I say, proceed from those, who for Law undisturbed by the agitations of those and Light would substitute shapeless feel- feelings which they ought to possess, ings, sentiments, impulses, which as far as make the head do the work of the they differ from the vital workings in the heart. Were a fair estimate to be brute animals owe the difference to their made of the comparative worth of the former connexion with the proper Virtues best kind of prudence and the best of Humanity ; as Dendrites derive the
kind of sensibility, or of the compaoutlines, that constitute their value above other clay-stones, from the casual neigh-rative worthlessness or danger of the bourhood and pressure of the Plants, the worst- and no other estimate is of names of which they assume ? Remem- any avail in moral disquisition—the ber, that Love itself in its highest earthly result would not be that at which Bearing, as the ground of the marriage Mr Coleridge has arrived in his union, becomes Love by an inward Fiat imperfect philosophy. Fourthly, of the Will, by a completing and sealing
we very much doubt the likelihood Act of Moral Election, and lays claim of the man of warm passions, who sato permanence only under the form of crificed half his estate to rescue a friend DUTY,”
from prison, afterwards exhibiting the