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its vices. So does an officer at Bow-street, or the turnkey at Newgate. This would be a claim to knowledge of the world, if there were but rogues in it. But these are as bad judges of our minds as a physician would be of our bodies, if he had never seen any but those in a diseased state. Such a man would fancy health itself a disease. We generally find, indeed, that men are governed by their weaknesses, not their vices, and those weaknesses are often the most amiable part about them. The wavering Jaffier betrays his friend through a weakness, which a hardened criminal might equally have felt, and which, in that criminal, might have been the origin of his guilt. It is the knowledge of these weaknesses, as if by a glance, that serves a man better in the understanding and conquest of his species, than a knowledge of the vices to which they lead—it is better to seize the one cause than ponder over the thousand effects. It is the former knowledge which I chiefly call the knowledge of the world. It is this which immortalised Moliere in the drama, and distinguishes Talleyrand in action.
It has been asked whether the same worldly wisdom which we admire in a writer would, had occasion brought him prominently forward, have made him equally successful in action ? Certainly not, as a necessary consequence. Swift was the most sensible writer of his day, and one of the least sensible politicians, in the selfish sense--the only sense in which he knew it of the word. What knowledge of the world in “Don Juan” and in Byron's “Correspondence"-what seeming want of that knowledge in the great poet's susceptibility to attack, on the one hand, and his wanton trifling with his character on the other ! How is this difference between the man and the writer to be accounted for? Because, in the writer, the infirmities of constitution are either concealed or decorated by genius—not so in the man : fretfulness, spleen, morbid sensitiveness, eternally spoil our plans in life—but they often give an interest to our plans on paper. Byron, quarrelling with the world, as Childe Harold, proves his genius; but Byron quarrelling with the world in his own person betrays his folly ! To show wisdom in a book, it is but necessary that we should possess the theoretical wisdom; but in life, it requires not only the theoretical wisdom, but the practical ability to act up to it. We may know exactly what we ought to do, but we may not have the fortitude to do it. “ Now," says the shy man in love, “I ought to go and talk to my mistress—my rival is with her-I ought to make myself as agreeable as possible-I ought to throw that fellow in the shade by my bons mots and my compliments.” Does he do so? No! he sits in a corner and scowls at the lady. He is in the miserable state described by Persius. He knows what is good and cannot perform it. Yet this man, if an author, from the very circumstance of feeling so bitterly that his constitution is stronger than his reason, would have made his lover in a book all that he could not be himself in reality.
There is a sort of wit peculiar to knowledge of the world, and we usually find that writers, who are supposed to have the most exhibited that knowledge in their books, are also commonly esteemed the wittiest authors of their country-Horace, Plautus, Moliere, Le Sage, Voltaire, Cervantes, Shakspeare, Fielding, Swift ;* and this is, because
Let me mention two political writers of the present day—men equally remarkable for their wit and wisdom—Sidney Smith, and the Editor of the “ Examiner,” Mr. Fon
the essence of the most refined species of wit is truth. Even in the solemn and grave Tacitus, we come perpetually to sudden turnsstriking points, of sententious brilliancy, which make us smile, from the depth itself of their importance-an aphorism is always on the borders of an epigram.t
It is remarkable that there is scarcely any very popular author of great imaginative power, in whose works we do not recognise that common sense which is knowledge of the world, and which is so generally supposed by the superficial to be in direct opposition to the imaginative faculty. When an author does not possess it eminently, he is never eminently popular, whatever be his fame. Compare Scott and Shelley, the two most imaginative authors of their time. The one, in his wildest flights, never loses sight of common sense--there is an affinity between him and his humblest reader ; nay, the more discursive the flight, the closer that affinity becomes. We are even more wrapt with the author when he is with his spirits of the mountain and fell—with the mighty dead at Melrose, than when he is leading us through the humours of a guard-room, or confiding to us the interview of lovers. But Shelley disdains common sense. Of his “ Prince Athanase," we have no early comprehension—with his “Prometheus " we have no human sympathies; and the grander he becomes, the less popular we find him. Writers who do not in theory know their kind, may be admired, but they can never be popular. And when we hear men of unquestionable genius complain of not being appreciated by the herd, it is because they are not themselves skilled in the feelings of the herd. For what is knowledge of mankind, but the knowledge of their feelings, their humours, their caprices, their passions; touch these, and you gain attention—develope these, and you have conquered your audience.
Among writers of an inferior reputation we often discover a sufficient shrewdness and penetration into human foibles--to startle us in points, while they cannot carry their knowledge far enough to please us on the whole. They can paint nature by a happy hit, but they violate all the likeness before they have concluded the plot—they charm us with a reflection and revolt us by a character. Sir John Suckling is one of these writers—his correspondence is witty and thoughtful, and his plays—but little known in comparison to his songs—abound with just remarks and false positions, the most natural lines and the most improbable inventions. Two persons in one of these plays are
under sentence of execution, and the poet hits off the vanity of the one by a stroke worthy of a much greater dramatist.
“ I have something troubles me," says Pellagrin. “ What's that?" asks his friend.
“ The people,” replies Pellagrin, “will say, as we go along, thou art the properer fellow !'”*
Had the whole character been conceived like that sentence, I should not have forgotten the name of the play, and instead of makblanque ; barring, may I say it? a little affectation of pithiness—the latter writer is one of the greatest masters of that art which makes “ words like sharp swords,” that our age has produced. And I cannot help adding, in common with many of his admirers, an earnest hope that he may leave the world a more firm and settled monument of his great abilities, than the pages of any periodical can afford.
† And every one will recollect the sagacious sneer of Gibbon.
ing a joke, the author would have consummated a creation. Both Madame de Stael and Rousseau appear to me to have possessed this sort of imperfect knowledge. Both are great in aphorisms, and feeble in realizing conceptions of flesh and blood. When Madame de Stael tells us “ that great losses, so far from binding men more closely to the advantages they still have left, at once loosen all ties of affection," she speaks like one versed in the mysteries of the human heart, and expresses exactly what she wishes to convey; but when she draws the character of Corinne's lover, she not only confounds all the moral qualities into one impossible compound, but she utterly fails in what she evidently attempts to picture. The proud, sensitive, generous, high-minded Englishman, with a soul at once alive to genius, and fearing its effect-daring as a soldier, timid as a man—the slave of love that tells him to scorn the world, and of opinion that tells him to adore it—this is the new, the delicate, the many-coloured character Madame de Stael conceived, and nothing can be more unlike the heartless and whining pedant she has accomplished.
In Rousseau, every sentence Lord Edouard utters is full of beauty, and sometimes of depth, and yet those sentences give us no conception of the utterer himself. The expressions are all soul, and the character is all clay-nothing can be more brilliant than the sentiments, or more heavy than the speaker.
In fact it is not often that the graver writers have succeeded in plot and character as they have done in the allurement of reflection, or the graces of style. While Goldsmith makes us acquainted with all the personages of his unrivalled story—while we sit at the threshold in the summer evenings and sympathize with the good Vicar in his laudable zeal for monogamy-while ever and anon we steal a look behind through the lattice, and smile at the gay Sophia, who is playing with Dick, or fix our admiration on Olivia who is practising an air against the young Squire comes-while we see the sturdy Burchell crossing the stile, and striding on at his hearty pace with his oak cudgel cutting circles in the air—nay, while we ride with Moses to make his bargains, and prick up our ears when Mr. Jenkinson begins with “ Ay, Sirl the world is in its dotage"-while in recalling the characters of that immortal tale, we are recalling the memory of so many living persons with whom we have dined, and walked, and chatted—we see in the gloomy Rasselas of Goldsmith's sager cotemporary, a dim succession of shadowy images without life or identity, mere machines for the grinding of morals, and the nice location of sonorous phraseology.
That delightful egotist-half good-fellow, half sage, half rake, half divine, the pet gossip of philosophy, the--in one word-inimitable and unimitated Montaigne insists upon it in right earnest, with plenty to support him, that continual cheerfulness is the most indisputable sign of wisdom, and that her estate, like that of things in the regions above the moon, is always calm, cloudless, and serene. And in the
Suckling's plays abound also in passages of singular beauty of diction and elegance of thought. I will quote one which seems to me to contain one of the most beautiful compliments a woman ever received. Orsabrin, a seaman if I recollect right, says to Reginella
“ Have you a name too ?
“ And save a ship from perishing sometimes !"
same essay he recites the old story of Demetrius the grammarian, who, finding in the Temple of Delphos a knot of philosophers chatting away in high glee and comfort, said, “I am greatly mistaken, gentlemen, or by your pleasant countenancès you are not engaged in any very profound discourse." Whereon Heracleon answered the grammarian with a Pshaw, my good friendl it does very well for fellows who live in a perpetual anxiety to know whether the future tense of the verb Ballo should be spelt with one l or two, to knit their brows and look solemn, but we who are engaged in discoursing true philosophy, are cheerful as a matter of course!" Ah, those were the philosophers who had read the world aright; give me Heracleon the magician, for a fellow who knew what he was about when he resolved to be wise. And yet,after all, it is our constitution and not our learning, that makes us one thing or the other-grave or gay, lively or severe ! For my own part I candidly confess that, in spite of all
endeavours, and though all my precepts run the contrary way, I cannot divest myself at times of a certain sadness when I recall the lessons the world has taught me. It is true that I now expect little or nothing from mankind, and I therefore forgive offences against me with ease, but that ease which comes from contempt is no desirable acquisition of temper. I should like to feel something of my old indignation at every vice, and my old bitterness at every foe.
After all, as we know, or fancy that we know mankind, there is a certain dimness that falls upon the glory of all we see. We are not so confiding of our trust and that is no petty misfortune to some of us; without growing perhaps more selfish, we contract the circle of our enjoyments. We do not hazard—we do not venture as we once did." The sea that rolls before us proffers to our curiosity no port that we have not already seen. About this time, too, our ambition changes its character—it becomes more a thing of custom than of ardour. We have begun our career--shame forbids us to leave it'; but I question whether any man moderately wise, does not see how small is the reward of pursuit. Nay, ask the oldest, the most hacknied adventurer of the world, and you will find he has some dream at his heart, which is more cherished than all the honours he seeks-some dream perhaps of a happy and serene retirement which has lain at his breast since he was a boy, and which he will never realize. The trader and his retreat at Highgate are but the type of Walpole and his palace at Houghton. The worst feature in our knowledge of the world is that we are wise to little purpose-we penetrate the hearts of others, but we do not satisfy our own. Every wise man feels that he ought not to be ambitious, nor covetous, nor subject to emotion—yet the wisest go on toiling, and burning to the last. Men who have declaimed most against ambition have been among the most ambitious; so that, at the best, we only get wise for the sake of writing books which the world seldom sees till we are dead-or of making laws and speeches, which, when dead, the world hastens to forget. ~ When all is done, human life is at the greatest and the best but like a froward child, that must be played with and humoured a little to keep it quiet till it falls asleep, and then the care is over.'
* Sir William Temple.
THE CHOLERA MORBUS. 1&1
It comes ! it comes ! from England's trembling tongue
jy By dawn of day, each journal is o'erhung
With starting eyes, to read what it revealeth,
From his throat-rattling trump a summons sounded,
Upon the nation's ear;mawe-struck, astounded,
Hush'd is the song, the dance, the voice of gladness,
With looks of confidence, but hearts of sadness,
Unseen, unmourn'd by our hard-hearted blindness,
Becomes the sudden object of our kindness,
“ What, though the hand of death be thus outstretched ;
But only strike the lowly and the wretched.
Thou ’rt brave, magnanimous, not mean and dastard;
In mastering those already overmaster'd
For death by quick atonement.–Stony-hearted
When the destroying angel's shaft is darted,
And learn, to broad philanthropy a stranger,
With whom thou sharest now an equal danger,
Not as a scourge alone, but as a teacher,
Of thy dread summons, thou death-dealing preacher!