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tion. It is by these memoranda principally that I have been guided in bringing together this compilation. I have, in so far as the greater portion—indeed I might say the whole —of its contents are concerned, the Professor's own authority for sending it forth.
At the same time I have to regret, as I had in the case of the Noctes Ambrosiance, that the Collection has not received the benefit of his final emendations. It has the seal of his imprimatur, but not the stamp of his corrections. To some extent, however, this disadvantage may be balanced by the compensating fact that, if these Essays have lost something in not having obtained the benefit of their Author's maturer judgment, they may also have gained something in having preserved, entire and undisturbed, the buoyancy and freshness of their original projection. The train of thought and feeling and humour which arose in Professor Wilson's mind under the fervent impulse of the moment, was generally such as no subsequent reflection could have inspired, and no subsequent criticism improved.
Short explanatory notices have been prefixed to such of the Essays as appeared to require them.
In this place, therefore, I need only say that the chronological order in which the articles were originally published, has been adhered to as the rule. Where exceptions occur, the reason will either be assigned at its proper place, or will be sufficiently obvious to the reader. This may be added, that although Professor Wilson was a contributor (and a very efficient one) to Blackwood's Magazine from its commencement in 1817, the Essays contained in this collection are (with a few exceptions) of not older date than the year 1826 : for this was the period about which he began to put forth his full strength, and to rejoice in the untrammelled exercise of his varied and peculiar powers.
J. F. F. LONDON, 14th July 1856.
CRITICAL AND IMAGINATIVE.
[ APRIL 1826.]
How delightful, even to elders like us, to feel Spring breathing once more over air and earth! We have been quite happy and contented with Winter, however severe; nor have we ever felt the slightest inclination to be satirical on that hoary personage. On the contrary, there is not a Season of them all whom we love better than hale, honest, old Winter. But when he has migrated from the lengthening days, we think cheerfully on the last time we shook hands with him; and knowing that he is as regular as clockwork, have no doubts of his return as soon as he hears that we have again laid in our November stock of coals and corned beef. Indeed, his son, Spring, has so strong a family resemblance to his father, that were it not for the difference of their complexion, and a totally dissimilar style of dress, we should frequently mistake the one for the other. The likeness, however, wears off as we become better acquainted with the young heir-apparent, and find that, with most of his father's virtues, he possesses many peculiar to himself; while in every point of manners or lesser morals, he bears away both the bell and the palm from his sire. Like the old gentleman, he is occasionally cold to strangers—biting
in his remarks—or wrapt up within himself; but his iciness soon thaws—his face becomes animated in the extreme-his language is even flowery—and putting his arm kindly within yours, there is nothing he likes so well as to propose a walk among the pleasant banks and braes, now alive with the newborn lambs, through whose bleating you can but faintly hear the lark returning from heaven.
We seldom are exposed to any very strong temptation to leave town till about the second week in April. Up to that time the dinners have complete power over us, and we could not tear ourselves away without acute anguish. Lamb (see last paragraph) has been exquisite for weeks; and when enjoyed at the table of a friend, not expensive. Garden stuffs, too, have purified our blood, and, if that be possible, increased our appetite. Spring has agreeably affected our animal being, without having as yet made any very forcible appeal to our intellectual or moral system. To leave town during such a crisis of private affairs, would obviously be inconsistent with our judicious character. Take them on the whole, and the best dinners of a cycle of seven years will be found to fall in the months of March and April. We have verified this fact by tables of observation kept for eight-and-twenty years, now in the temporary possession of Dr Kitchener, who has been anxiously collating them with his own private Gastronomical Journal.
Yet in spite of such tender ties, by which we are bound to the urbane board well on into April, our poetical imagination is frequently tempting us away into the country. All such temptations we manfully resist; and to strengthen us in the struggle, we never refuse a dinner invitation, except when we have reason to know that we shall be asked to eat patés. Mr Coleridge, meaning to be very severe on Mr Jeffrey for having laughed at some verses of Mr Wordsworth's, about “ the child being father of the man," declares somewhere or other, that not willingly would he gaze on a setting sun with a man capable of the enormity of such a criticism. On the same principles precisely, not willingly would we gaze on the setting sun with any man who, in his own house, had ever asked us to begin dinner with a paté. Such a request shows a littleness of soul and stomach, that could comprehend the glory