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Alone in the acuteness of its general sensibility-unsympathised with in its peculiar view of nature ; its heart without utterance, and its intellect a mind penetrated by the warmth of the dawning sun, but unopened by it's meridian beams,—the child of genius wanders forth into the fields and woods, an embodied imagination; an elemental being yearning for operation, but knowing not its mission. A powerful destiny heaves for development in its bosom ; it feels the prophetic waves surging to and fro; but all is indistinct and vast : caverned, spell-bound, aimless and rife with sighs. It has little retrospection, and that little of no importance ; its heart and soul are in the future, a glorified dream. Memory, with all its melancholy pleasures and countless pains, is for the old, and chiefly for the prematurely old ; but youth is a vision of the islands of the blest ; it tells its own fairy-tale to itself, and is at once the hero and inventor. It revels in the radiance of years to come, nor ever dreams that the little daisy on the lawn, so smilingly beheld, or so tenderly gathered from its green bed, shall make the whole heart ache with all the past, when it meets the eye some years hence. If this be more or less the case with youth in general, it is so in a pre-eminent degree with the youth of genins. At this early period of the life of such a being, impressions of moral and physical beauty exist in ecstatic sensation rather than in sentiment: a practical feeling and instinct, not a theory or rule of right. Conscious only of its everworking sensibility, and dim aspirations, boundless as dim,-utterly unconscious of its talent, powers, or means of realizing its feelings, the child of genius yearns with a deep sense of the divinity of imperishable creation, with hopes that sweep high over the dull earth and all its revolving graves; and lost in beatific abstraction, it has a positive foretaste of immortality.
“Such we may affirm-if the reader will add that intensity of comprehension which pierces beneath the deepest roots of the heart, and to which all words are but the earth-like signs, the finger-marks of mortality pointing to the profound elements of human nature,—such was the early William Hazlitt.”
In 1787 the future teacher of mankind was put to a day-school in Wem, of his proceedings at which I shall leave him to speak for himself in the following letter to his brother in London, written early in the next year, and which appears to me a very characteristic and delightful one. I only regret that I have so few of his letters, but his own correspondence was at all times very limited, and the exceptions to his throwing the letters he received into the fire as soon as read, were very rare :
Wem, Saturday morning,
“ March-, 1788. * Dear BROTHER,
“I received your letter this morning. We were all glad to hear that: you were well, and that you have so much business to do.* We cannot be happy without being employed. I want you to tell me whether you go to the Academy or not and what pictures you intend for the exhibition. Tell the exhibitioners to finish the exhibition soon that you may soon come and
* My uncle John had recently established himself in London, in Great Russell street, as a portrait-painter, in which profession he very rapidly attained considerable eminence and an extensive practice.
shall therefore answer all questions in your letter, which I received this morning, which I have not already answered. And in the first place. I have not seen Mr. Kingston since. I am glad that you liked my letter to Joe, which I was afraid he had not received, as you said nothing about it, Does he intend to answer me? Miss Shepherd will go on Monday I believe, and I shall go with her. I have not seen Mr. Yates since I wrote last. I do not converse in French; but I and Miss Tracey have a book, something like a vocabulary, where we get the meanings of words. Miss Tracey never does accounts, but I take an hour or two every other day. I will follow your Greek precept. Give my best love to mamma, and tell her I shall 'write to her next time, and hope she will write to me in answer to it, Give my respects to Mr. and Miss Cottons, and to every other inquirer, not forgetting Kynaston. I wish people made larger paper. I shall put this in the post-office to-night Monday evening."
I am your affectionate son,
66 WILLIAM HAZLITT."
Wem, March —, 1790. 46 MY DEAR WILLIAM,
Your brother said, that your letter to him was very long, very clever, and very entertaining. On Wednesday evening, we had your letter, which was finished on the preceding Monday. The piety displayed in the first part of it was a great refreshment to me; continue to cherish those thoughts which then occupied your mind; continue to be virtuous, and you will finally be that happy being whom you describe; and, to this purpose, you have nothing more to do than to pursue that conduct, which will always yield yol the highest pleasures even in this present life. But he who once gives way to any known vice, in the very instant hazards his total depravity and total ruin. You must, therefore, fixedly resolve never, through any possible motives, to do any thing which you believe to be wrong. This will be only resolving never to be miserable ; and this I rejoicingly expect will be the unwavering resolution of my William. Your conversation upon the Test Act did you honor. If we only think justly, we shall always easily foil all the advocates of tyranny. The inhospitable ladies, whom you mention, were perhaps treated by you with too great severity. You know not how people may be circumstanced at a particular moment, whose disposition is generally friendly. They may, then, happen to pass under a cloud, which unfits them for social intercourse. We must see them more than once or twice to be able to form a tolerable judgment of their characters. There are but few like Mrs. Tracey, who can always appear what they really are. I do not say, however, that the English ladies, whom you mentioned, are not exactly as you described them. I only wish to caution you against forming too hasty a judgment of characters, who can seldom be known at a single interview. I wish you, if you can, to become master of the gamut while you are there. I am glad that you have made so great a progress in French, and that you are so very anxious to hear Mr. Clegg's lectures. It is a pity that you cannot have another month at the French, &c. But, as matters are, I hope you will be soon able to