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at Hampstead quarreling with all the world; he is in the wrong by this same token; when the black cloth was put up in the church, for the Queen's mourning, he asked the workmen to hang it wrong side outwards, that it might be better when taken down, it being his perquisite.
Friday, 19th March.-This morning I have been reading "The False One." Shameful to say, I was in bed at ten-I mean, this morning. The "Blackwood's Reviewers" have committed themselves to a scandalous heresy; they have been putting up Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, against Burns: the senseless villains! The Scotch cannot manage themselves at all, they want imagination; and that is why they are so fond of Hogg, who has so little of it. This morning I am in a sort of temper, indolent and supremely careless; I long after a stanza or two of Thomson's "Castle of Indolence;" my passions are all asleep, from my having slumbered till nearly eleven, and weakened the animal fibre all over me, to a delightful sensation, about three degrees on this side of faintness. If I had teeth of pearl, and the breath of lilies, I should call it languor; but, as I am, I must call it laziness. In this state of effeminacy, the fibres of the brain are relaxed, in common with the rest of the body, and to such a happy degree, that pleasure has no show of enticement, and pain no unbearable frown; neither Poetry, nor Ambition, nor Love, have any alertness of countenance; as they pass by me, they seem rather like three figures on a Greek vase, two men and a woman, whom no one but myself could distinguish in their disguisement. This is the only happiness, and is a rare instance of advantage in the body overpowering the mind.
I have this moment received a note from Haslam, in which he writes that he expects the death of his father, who has been for some time in a state of insensibility; I shall go to town to-morrow to see him. This is the world; thus we cannot expect to give away many hours to pleasure; circumstances are like clouds, continually gathering and bursting; while we are laughing, the seed of trouble is put into the wide arable land of events; while we are laughing, it sprouts, it grows, and suddenly bears a poisonous fruit, which we must pluck. Even so we have leisure to reason on the misfortunes of our friends: our own touch us too
nearly for words. Very few men have ever arrived at a complete disinterestedness of mind; very few have been interested by a pure desire of the benefit of others: in the greater part of the benefactors of humanity, some meretricious motive has sullied their greatness, some melo-dramatic scenery has fascinated them. From the manner in which I feel Haslam's misfortune I perceive how far I am from any humble standard of disinterestedness; yet this feeling ought to be carried to its highest pitch, as there is no fear of its ever injuring society. In wild nature, the Hawk would lose his breakfast of robins, and the Robin his worms; the Lion must starve as well as the Swallow. The great part of men sway their way with the same instinctiveness, the same unwandering eye from their purposes, the same animal eagerness, as the Hawk: the Hawk wants a mate, so does the Man; look at them both; they set about it, and procure one in the same manner; they want both a nest, and they both set about one in the same manner. The noble animal, Man, for his amusement, smokes his pipe, the Hawk balances about the clouds: that is the only difference of their leisures. This is that which makes the amusement of life to a speculative mind; I go among the fields, and catch a glimpse of a stoat or a field-mouse, peeping out of the withered grass; the creature hath a purpose, and its eyes are bright with it; I go amongst the buildings of a city, and I see a man hurrying along— to what?-the creature hath a purpose, and its eyes are bright with it but then, as Wordsworth says, "We have all one human heart!" There is an electric fire in human nature, tending to purify; so that, among these human creatures, there is continually some birth of new heroism; the pity is, that we must wonder at it, as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish. I have no doubt that thousands of people, never heard of, have had hearts completely disinterested. I can remember but two, Socrates and Jesus. Their histories evince it. What I heard Taylor observe with respect to Socrates is true of Jesus: that, though he transmitted no writing of his own to posterity, we have his mind, and his sayings, and his greatness, handed down to us by others. Even here, though I am pursuing the same instinctive course as the veriest animal you can think of-I am, however, young and writing at random, straining after particles of light in the midst of a
great darkness, without knowing the bearing of any one assertion, of any one opinion-yet, in this may I not be free from sin? May there not be superior beings, amused with any graceful, though instinctive, attitude my mind may fall into, as I am entertained with the alertness of the stoat, or the anxiety of the deer? Though a quarrel in the street is a thing to be hated, the energies displayed in it are fine; the commonest man shows a grace in his quarrel. By a superior Being our reasonings may take the same tone; though erroneous, they may be fine. This is the very thing in which consists Poetry, and if so, it is not so fine a thing as Philosophy, for the same reason that an eagle is not so fine a thing as truth. Give me this credit, do you not think I strive to know myself? Give me this credit, and you will not think, that on my own account I repeat the lines of Milton :
"How charming is divine philosophy,
Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose,
No, not for myself, feeling grateful, as I do, to have got into a state of mind to relish them properly. Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced; even a proverb is no proverb to you till life has illustrated it.
I am afraid that your anxiety for me leads you to fear for the violence of my temperament, continually smothered down for that reason, I did not intend to have sent you the following Sonnet; but look over the two last pages, and ask yourself if I have not that in me which will bear the buffets of the world. It will be the best comment on my Sonnet; it will show you that it was written with no agony but that of ignorance, with no thirst but that of knowledge, when pushed to the point; though the first steps to it were through my human passions, they went away, and I wrote with my mind, and, perhaps, I must confess, a little bit of my heart.
"Why did I laugh to-night? No voice will tell," &c.*
I went to bed and enjoyed uninterrupted sleep: sane I went to bed, and sane I arose.
* See the "Literary Remains."
15th April.-You see what a time it is since I wrote; all that time I have been, day after day, expecting letters from you. I write quite in the dark. In hopes of a letter to-day I deferred till night, that I might write in the light. It looks so much like rain, I shall not go to town to-day, but put it off till to-morrow. Brown, this morning, is writing some Spenserian stanzas against Miss B and me: so I shall amuse myself with him a little, in the manner of Spenser.
"He is to weet a melancholy carle :
Thin in the waist, with bushy head of hair,
No brush had touched his chin, or razor sheer;
No care had touched his cheek with mortal doom,
"Ne cared he for wine or half-and-half;
Ne cared he for fish, or flesh, or fowl;
And sauces held he worthless as the chaff;
"The slang of cities in no wise he knew,
Tipping the wink to him was heathen Greek;
For curled Jewesses, with ankles neat,
This character would insure him a situation in the establishment of the patient Griselda. Brown is gone to bed, and I am tired of writing; there is a north wind playing green-gooseberry with the
trees, it blows so keen. I don't care, so it helps, even with a sidewind, a letter to me.
The fifth canto of Dante pleases me more and more; it is that one in which he meets with Paulo and Francesca. I had passed many days in rather a low state of mind, and in the midst of them I dreamt of being in that region of Hell. The dream was one of the most delightful enjoyments I ever had in my life; I floated about the wheeling atmosphere, as it is described, with a beautiful figure, to whose lips mine were joined, it seemed for an age; and in the midst of all this cold and darkness I was warm ; ever-flowery tree-tops sprung up, and we rested on them, sometimes with the lightness of a cloud, till the wind blew us away again. I tried a Sonnet on it: there are fourteen lines in it, but nothing of what I felt. Oh! that I could dream it every night.
"When lulled Argus, baffled, swooned and slept," &c.*
I want very much a little of your wit, my dear sister-a letter of yours just to bandy back a pun or two across the Atlantic, and send a quibble over the Floridas. Now, by this time you have crumpled up your large bonnet, what do you wear?-a cap! Do you put your hair in paper of nights? Do you pay the Misses Birkbeck a morning visit? Have you any tea, or do you milk-and-water with them? What place of worship do you go to the Quakers, Moravians, the Unitarians, or the Methodists ? Are there any flowers in bloom you like? Any beautiful heaths? Any streets full of corset-makers? What sort of shoes have you to put those pretty feet of yours in? Do you desire compliments to one another? Do you ride on horseback? What do you have for breakfast, dinner, and supper, without mentioning lunch and bite, and wet and snack, and a bit to stay one's stomach? Do you get any spirits? Now you might easily distil some whisky, and, going into the woods, set up a whisky-shop for the monkeys! Do you and the other ladies get groggy on any thing? A little so-so-ish, so as to be seen home with a lanthorn? You may perhaps have a game at Puss-in-the-corner: ladies are
* See the "Literary Remains."