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paltry artifice and idle rhodomontade, which are in every
power who has never known the value or undergone the labour of discovering a single truth. Gross personal and local interests bear the principal sway with the ignorant or mere man of the world, who considers not what things are in themselves, but what they are to him: the man of science attaches a higher importance to, because he finds a more constant pleasure in the contemplation and pursuit of general and abstracted truths. Philosophy also teaches self-knowledge ; and self-knowledge strikes equally at the root of any inordinate opinion of ourselves, or wish to impress others with idle admiration. Mathematicians have been remarked for persons of strict probity and a conscientious and somewhat literal turn of mind. But are poets and romance-writers equally scrupulous and severe judges of themselves, and martyrs to right principle? I cannot acquit them of the charge of vanity, and a wish to aggrandise themselves in the eyes of the world, at the expense of a little false complaisance (what wonder when the world are so
* I have heard it said that carpenters, who do every thing square
and line, are honest men, and I am willing to suppose it. Shakspeare, in the · Midsummer Night's Dream,' makes Snug the Joiner the moral man of the piece.
prone to admire, and they are so spoiled by indulgence in self-pleasing fancies ?)—but in general they are too much taken up with their ideal creations, which have also a truth and keeping of their own, to misrepresent or exaggerate matters of fact, or to trouble their heads about them. The poet's waking thoughts are dreams: the liar has all his wits and senses about him, and thinks only of astonishing his hearers by some worthless assertion, a mixture of impudence and cunning. But what shall we say of the clergy and the priests of all countries ? Are they not men of learning ? And are they not, with few exceptions, noted for imposture and time-serving, much more than for a love of truth and candour ? They are good subjects, it is true; bound to keep the peace, and hired to maintain certain opinions, not to inquire into them. So this is an exception to the rule, such as might be expected. I speak of the natural tendencies of things, and not of the false bias that may be given to them by their forced combination with other principles.
The worst effect of this depression of spirits, or of the “scholar's melancholy," here spoken of, is when it leads a man, from a distrust of himself, to seek for low company, or to forget it by matching below himself. Gray is to be
pitied, whose extreme diffidence or fastidiousness was such as to prevent his associating with his fellow collegians, or mingling with the herd, till at length, like the owl, shutting himself up from society and daylight, he was hunted and hooted at like the owl whenever he chanced to appear, and was even assailed and disturbed in the haunts in which “he held his solitary reign.” He was driven from college to college, and subjected to a persecution the more harrassing to a person of his indolent and retired habits. But he only shrunk the more within himself in consequence-read over his favourite authors-corresponded with his distant friends
was terrified out of his wits at the bare idea of having his portrait prefixed to his works; and probably died from nervous agitation at the publicity into which his name had been forced by his learning, taste, and genius. This monastic seclusion and reserve is, however, better than a career such as Porson's; who from not liking the restraints, or not possessing the exterior recommendations of good society, addicted himself to the lowest indulgences, spent his days and nights in cider-cellars and pot-houses, cared not with whom or where he was, so that he had somebody to talk to and something to drink,
“ from humble porter to imperial tokay”
(a liquid, according to his own pun), and fell a martyr, in all likelihood, to what in the first instance was pure mauvaise honte. Nothing could overcome this propensity to low society and sotting, but the having something to do, which required his whole attention and faculties; and then he shut himself up for weeks together in his chambers, or at the University, to collate old manuscripts, or edite a Greek tragedy, or expose a grave pedant, without seeing a single boon-companion, or touching a glass of wine. I saw him once at the London Institution with a large patch of coarse brown paper on his nose, the skirts of bis rusty black coat hung with cobwebs, and talking in a tone of suavity, approaching to condescension, to one of the managers. It is a pity that men should so lose themselves from a certain awkwardness and rusticity at the outset. But did not Sheridan make the same melancholy ending, and run the rame fatal career, though in a higher and more brilliant circle? He did ; and though not from exactly the same cause (for no one could accuse Sheridan's purple nose and flashing eye of a bashfulness—“modest as morning when she coldly eyes the youthful Phæbus !")—yet it was perhaps from one nearly allied to it, namely, the want of that noble independence and confi
dence in its own resources which should distinguish genius, and the dangerous ambition to get sponsors and vouchers for it in persons of rank and fashion. The affectation of the society of lords is as mean and low-minded as the love of that of coblers and tapsters. It is that coblers and tapsters may admire, that we wish to be seen in the company of their betters. The tone of literary patronage is better than it was a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago. What dramatic author would think now of getting a lady of quality to take a box at the first night of a play to prevent its being damned by the pit? Do we not read the account of Parson Adams taking his ale in Squire Booby's kitchen with mingled incredulity and shame? At present literature has, to a considerable degree, found its level, and is hardly in danger, “ deprived of its natural patrons and protectors, the great and noble, of being trodden in the mire, and trampled under the hoofs of a swinish multitude "—though it can never again hope, to be what learning once was in the persons of the priesthood, the lord and sovereign of principalities and powers. Fool that it was ever to forego its privileges, and loosen the strong hold it had on opinion in bigotry and superstition !