« AnteriorContinua »
a more enduring monument in human invisible weight; the shadow of her institutions than any other man of his gray wings dims your page, and her age. Macaulay thus graphically de- throbbing hand upon your forehead scribes him: “The audacity of his admonishes you of her presence. Let spirit was the more remarkable, be- her visits be few and far between, and cause his physical organization was it is well; but you will never regret that unusually delicate. From a child be you entertained her even had been weak and sickly. In the You may avoid, but never resist her. prime of manhood, his complaints had She comes from Heaven to save life. been aggravated by a severe attack of But comes there never into your small-pox. He was
asthmatic and study a little imp of darkness, - of inconsumptive. His slender frame was tellectual darkness, we mean, — whose shaken by a constant hoarse cough. efforts to imitate the gentle interferHe could not sleep unless his head ence of fatigue are as grotesque as was propped by several pillows, and they are vexatious, and who does not could scarcely draw his breath in any succeed in deceiving, however readily but the purest air. Cruel headaches one may sometimes fall in with his frequently tortured him. Exertion humor? The heavy pen, the dull page, soon fatigued him. The physicians the wandering thoughts, sometimes inconstantly kept up the hopes of his terrupt the most successful currents enemies by fixing some date beyond of labor, in those morning hours, and which, if there were anything certain in the fresh days after vacations, when in medical science, it was impossible we cannot find the excuse of wearithat his broken constitution could hold ness. There is an indisposition to conout. Yet, through a life which was tinuous labor, which is utterly different one long disease, the force of his mind from fatigue. never failed, on any great occasion, John Foster declared : “I have no to bear up his suffering and languid power of getting fast forward in any body."
literary task; it costs me far more Let the weak and feeble of body, labor than any other mortal who has therefore, take courage of heart; and been in the habit so long. I have the let the robust student be admonished most extreme and invariable repugthat he cannot excuse all his inactive nance to all literary labors of any kind, days upon the ground of indisposition. and almost all mental labor. When I
Fatigue is an enemy which every have anything of the kind to do, I hard-working brain knows of; but it linger hours and hours before I can is an enemy, not of the workman, but resolutely set about it, and days and only of the taskmaster. The student weeks if it is some task more than may resort to what healthful contri- ordinary.” vances he pleases to avoid fatigue ; but Dr. Humphrey recommends that the when it appears, he should not excuse unwilling thoughts be frightened to himself, but yield to its impulse. He their task by the same means which should learn to distinguish indolence, Lord Jeffrey used to drive out a headand other counterfeits, from that genu- ache. He says, in his letters to his ine weariness which makes the sleep son: “When you sit down to write, of a laboring man sweet. Weariness you sometimes will, no doubt, find is the best friend of labor, just as the it difficult to collect your scattered toothache is the best friend of sound thoughts at the moment, and fix them teeth. Weariness is an angel. When upon the subject. If, in these cases, the proper end of your day has come, you take up a newspaper, or whatever she hovers over your desk, and, if other light reading may happen to you are careless of the time, she be at hand, with the hope of luring the breathes a misty breath upon your truants back, you will be disappointed. eyelids, and loads your pen with an Nothing but stern and decided measures will answer. I would advise you justment, and room must be made for to resort at once to geometry or conic the needed supply of blood; and persections, or some other equally inex- haps a familiar demonstration in mathorable discipline to settle the business. ematics, which fixes the attention, and I have myself often called in the aid of will instantly detect any delinquency Euclid for a few moments, and always of that faculty, may often be one of the with good success. A little wholesome best modes of employing this transischooling of the mind upon lines and tion period, and aiding the change. angles and proportions, when it is not We may observe here the singular in the right mood for study, will com- paradox, which we believe that the monly make it quite willing to ex- philosophy of the mind and the exchange them for the labor of composi- perience of the scholar equally estabtion, as the easier task of the two." lish, that what are usually called the
There is sound philosophy perhaps heaviest or severest subjects of thought in this recommendation. Many per- are the least exhausting to the thinker. sons have observed that the prelim- How many students, like Chief Justice inary process of “composing the Parsons, have been accustomed, when thoughts" is one which requires a fatigued with the labor of deep research, little time and effort, especially where or exhausted by continued train of one comes to his subject from a period thought upon one subject, to relax the of exercise, or repose, or any other mind with arithmetical or geometrical condition in which the brain has not problems. Isaac Newton could, month been active. The functional activity after month, spend in the profoundest of the brain depends on the copious problems of pure mathematics twice as supply of the arterial blood, its activity many hours in the day as Walter Scott varying with that supply, increasing could give to the composition of what we as that supply is greater, and relaxing call light reading ; and it will be found when it is diminished. But unlike that mathematicians, theologians, and other organs of the body, the brain is metaphysicians have been able to susdensely packed in an unyielding cavity, tain more protracted labor, and with and there must be room made for this less injury, than have poets and novelincreased volume of circulation when ists. There are not wanting reasons ever it takes place. This is accom- which aid us to understand this paraplished, physiologists tell us, in the dox, but we will not enter upon them cerebro-spinal fluid, the quantity of here. which has been estimated at two Irregularities of habit will doubtless ounces. This fuid is readily absorbed disturb the action of the mind. The and as readily reproduced, and thus mental power that is thrown away and its quantity varies in a certain inverse wasted by recklessness in this respect proportion to the volume of the circula- is incalculable. But there are variation of blood in the brain ; and by this tions in mental power in the midst of means an equality of pressure is se- health, in the absence of fatigue, and cured throughout all the variations in under the most regular habits. Perthe force of the circulation, The act haps few authors have more carefully of adjustment between this balancing adapted their habits to their work, or fluid and the blood requires a little ordered their method of life with a more period for its completion, and there- quiet equality, than did Milton. He fore the brain cannot instantaneously went to bed uniformly at nine o'clock.* be brought to its maximum action. He rose in the summer generally at
Hence, where the circulation has four, and in winter at five. When, been diverted from the brain, and the contrary to his usual custom, he inproposed mental effort requires it to be vigorously revived in the brain, time
* In his youth he studied till inidnight; but, warned
by the early decay of sight and his disordered must be allowed for this process of ad- health, he afterwards changed his hours.
dulged himself with longer rest, he em- into spontaneous and abundant vegeployed a person to read to him from tation.” He seldom wrote any in the the time of his waking to that of his rising. The opening of his day was Cowper said that he composed best uniformly consecrated to religion. A in winter, because then he could find chapter of the Hebrew Scriptures be- nothing else to do but think; and he ing read to him as soon as he was up,
contrasted himself in this respect with he passed the subsequent interval till other poets, who have found an inspiraseven o'clock in private meditation. tion in the attractive scenes of the more From seven till twelve he either studied, genial seasons. listened while some author was read The biographer of Campbell has givto him, or dictated as some friendly en us the following anecdote with rehand supplied him with its pen. At spect to the oft-quoted lines, twelve commenced his hour of exercise, “'T is the sunset of life gives me mystical lore, which before his blindness was usually And coming events cast their shadows before." passed in his garden or in walking, and The happy thought first presented itafterward for the most part in the self to his mind during a visit at Minswing which he had contrived for the to. He had gone early to bed, and, purpose of exercise.
His early and still meditating on “ Lochiel's Warnfrugal dinner succeeded, and when it ing," fell fast asleep. During the was finished he resigned himself to the night he suddenly awoke, repeating, recreation of music, by which he found “Events to come cast their shadows his mind at once gratified and restored. before"! This was the very thought He played on the organ, and sang, or for which he had been hunting the his wife sang for him. From his mu- whole week. He rang the bell more sic he returned with fresh vigor to his than once with increasing force. At books or his composition. At six he last, surprised and annoyed by so unadmitted the visits of his friends; he seasonable a peal, the servant aptook his abstemious supper, of olives or peared. The poet was sitting with some light thing, at eight; and at nine, one foot in the bed, and the other on having smoked a pipe and drank a the floor, with an air of mixed imglass of water, he retired. Yet in the patience and inspiration. “Sir, are midst of this clock-like regularity his you ill ?" inquired the servant. “Ill! labors were broken by frequent unfruit- never better in my life.
Leave me ful seasons. Symmons says of him, the candle, and oblige me with a that "he frequently composed in the cup of tea as soon as possible.” He night, when his unpremeditated verse then started to his feet, seized hold of would sometimes flow in a torrent, un- his pen, and wrote down the happy der the impulse, as it were, of some thought, but as he wrote changed the strange poetical fury; and in these pe- words “events to come ” into “coming culiar moments of inspiration, his events," as it now stands in the text. amanuensis, who was generally his Looking at his watch he observed that daughter, was summoned by the bell to it was two o'clock, the right hour for arrest the verses as they came, and to a poet's dream ; and over his cup of commit them to the security of writing. tea he completed his first sketch of .... Some days would elapse undis- “ Lochiel." tinguished by a verse, while on others Nor is this capriciousness exclusivehe would dictate thirty or forty lines. ly the attribute of the poetic Muse. .... Labor would often be ineffectual Calvin, who studied and wrote in to obtain what often would be gratui- bed, if he felt his facility of composition tously offered to him ; and his imagina- quitting him, as not unfrequently he tion, which at one instant would refuse did, gave up writing and composing, a flower to his most strenuous cultiva- and went about his out-door duties tion, would at another time shoot up for days, weeks, and months together. But as soon as he felt the inspiration The poet Southey, who is said to again, he went back to his bed, and have been, perhaps, more continually his secretary set to work forthwith. employed than any other writer of his
Dr. Edward Robinson was always generation, was habitually an early under the necessity of waiting upon his riser, but he never encroached upon moods in composition. He wondered the hours of the night. He gives the at the men who can write when they following account of his day, as he will. Sometimes for days together he employed it at the age of thirty-two: could make no headway in his higher “ Three pages of history after breaktasks.
fast (equivalent to five in small quarto There are avocations, like those of printing), then to transcribe and copy the advocate, the preacher, the journals for the press, or to make my selecist, which must be pursued continuously, tions and biographies, or what else well or ill, and in spite of such varia- suits my humor, till dinner-time. From tions of feeling In these labors men dinner till tea, I write letters, read, see doubtless learn to disregard in some the newspaper, and very often indulge degree these moods of mind; but the in a siesta, for sleep agrees with me, variable quality of the productions of and I have a good substantial theory one man on different days confirms what to prove that it must; for as a man testimony we have of their existence. who walks much requires to sit down
The zeal or the indifference, the clear- and rest himself, so doe's the brain, if it ness or the dulness, the quickness or be the part most worked, require its the sluggishness of thought, are doubt- repose. Well, after tea I go to poetry, less to some degree determined by the and correct and rewrite and copy till I methods of labor into which the per- am tired, and then turn to anything son falls, and by the incidental habits else till supper.” At the age of fiftyand circumstances of his life. It is five, his life varied but little from this wonderful what a vast fund of informa- sketch. When it is said that his breaktion and suggestion upon these and fast was at nine, after a little reading, kindred points of mental phenomena is his dinner at four, tea at six, and supfound in the experience of the great in- per at half past nine, and that the interdustrial class of the intellectual world vals, except the time regularly devoted recorded in biographical and historical to a walk, between two and four, and a literature. Let us then visit some of short sleep before tea, were occupied the busiest and most successful schol- with reading and writing, the outline ars, philosophers, poets, writers, and of his day during those long seasons preachers; let us peep through the win- when he was in full work will have dow of biography into the library, the been given. After supper, when the cabinet, and the office. Let us watch business of the day seemed to be over, the habits of some of these busy-brained though he generally took a book, he men, these great masters of the intel- remained with his family, and was lectual world. Let us note what helps ready to enter into conversation, to and what hindrances they have found; amuse and to be amused. During the how they have driven their work, or several years that he was partially emhow they have been driven by it, and ployed upon the life of Dr. Bell, he what is the nature and degree of the devoted two hours before breakfast to systems which they have adopted in it in the summer, and as much time as ordering their hours of labor and of there was daylight for during the winter relaxation.
months, that it might not interfere with We will visit them as we find them, the usual occupations of the day. Of without looking for examples of excel- himself, at the age of sixty, at a time lence or warnings of carelessness, and when he was thus engaged every mornwill leave the reader to make his own ing at work away from his · home, he inferences.
says: “I get out of bed as the clock - NO. 121.
strikes six, and shut the house door and read the newspapers till twelve. after me as it strikes seven. After two Then I sit down to my studies, and, hours' work, home to breakfast; after with many interruptions, do what I can which my son engages me till about till four. I'then walk round the Park half past ten, and, when the post brings and generally dine out at six. Between no letters that interest or trouble me, nine and ten I return to chambers, read by eleven I have done with the news- a book or write a letter, and go to bed paper, and can then set about what is always before twelve." • His correo properly the business of the day. But spondence," says his biographer, “ocI am liable to frequent interruptions, cupied four hours every morning, in so that there are not many mornings in French, German, and Latin. He could which I can command from two to three seldom act with the moderation necesunbroken hours at the desk. At two sary for his health. Whatever object I take my daily walk, be the weather he once took in hand, he determined what it may, and when the weather to carry out, and found no rest until permits, with a book in my hand. Din- it was accomplished.” Whatever he ner at four, read about half an hour, wrote during his connection with the then take to the sofa with a different New Monthly and the Metropolitan was book, and after a few pages get my written hurriedly. If a subject was soundest sleep, till summoned to tea at proposed for the end of a month, he six. My best time during the winter is seldom gave it a thought until it was by candlelight; twilight interferes with no longer possible to delay the task. it a little, and in the season of company He would then sit down in the quietI can never count upon an evening's est corner of his chambers, or, if quiet work. Supper at half past nine, after was not to be found in town, he would which I read an hour, and then to bed. start off to the country, and there, shut The greatest part of my miscellaneous in among the green fields, complete his work is done in the odds and ends of task. When sixty-two years old, he time.”
says: “I am only six hours out of the Shelley rose early in the morning, twenty-four in bed. I study twelve,
, walked and read before breakfast, took and walk six. Oranges, exercise, and that meal sparingly, wrote and studied early rising serve to keep me flourishthe greater part of the morning, walked ing.” and read again, dined on vegetables “ Procter (Barry Cornwall) usually (for he took neither meat nor wine), writes,” says Willis, “in a small closet conversed with his friends (to whom adjoining his library. There is just his house was ever open), again walked room enough in it for a desk and two out, and usually finished with reading chairs, and his favorite books, ininiato his wife till ten o'clock, when he ture likenesses of authors, manuscripts, went to bed. This was his daily exist- &c., piled around in true poetical conence. His book was generally Plato, fusion.” He confines his labors to the or Homer, or one of the Greek tragedi- daytime, eschewing evening work. In ans, or the Bible, in which last he took a letter to a friend, some years ago, he a great interest. Out of twenty-four wrote: “I hope you will not continue hours he frequently read sixteen. “He to give up your nights to literary unwrote his Prometheus,” says Willis, dertakings. Believe me (who have suf“in the baths of Caracalla, near the fered bitterly for this imprudence) that Coliseum.” It was his favorite haunt nothing in the world of letters is worth in Rome.
the sacrifice of health and strength The poet Campbell thus describes and animal spirits which will certainly his labors, when in London, at the age follow this excess of labor." of fifty-five: “I get up at seven, write Cowper, at the age of fifty-three, letters for the Polish Association until and at a busy period of his life, says: half past nine, breakfast, go to the club “The morning is my writing time, and