The Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories and Fantasies by Mrs. Jameson - HTML preview

PLEASE NOTE: This is an HTML preview only and some elements such as links or page numbers may be incorrect.
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.

COMMONPLACE BOOK

OF

Thoughts, Memories, and Fancies.

A COMMONPLACE BOOK

OF

Thoughts, Memories, and Fancies.

ORIGINAL AND SELECTED.

PART I.—ETHICS AND CHARACTER.
 PART II.—LITERATURE AND ART.

BY MRS. JAMESON.

“Un peu de chaque chose, et rien du tout,—à la française!”—Montaigne.

With Illustrations and Etchings.

SECOND EDITION, CORRECTED.

LONDON:
 LONGMAN, BROWN, GREEN, AND

LONGMANS.
 1855.

v

PREFACE.

I

must be allowed to say a few words in explanation of the contents of

this little volume, which is truly what its name sets forth—a book of

common-places, and nothing more. If I have never, in any work I

have ventured to place before the public, aspired to teach, (being

myself a learner in all things,) at least I have hitherto done my best to

deserve the indulgence I have met with; and it would pain me if it

could be supposed that such indulgence had rendered me

presumptuous or careless.

For many years I have been accustomed to make a memorandum of

any thought which might come across me—(if pen and paper were at

hand), and to mark (and remark) any passage in a book which

excited either a sympathetic or an antagonistic feeling. This collection

of notes accumulated insensibly from day to day. The volumes on

Shakspeare’s Women, on Sacred and Legendary Art, and various

other productions, sprung from seed thus lightly and casually sown,

which, I hardly know how, grew up and expanded into a regular,

readable form, with

vi

a beginning, a middle, and an end. But what was to be done with the

fragments which remained—without beginning, and without end—

links of a hidden or a broken chain? Whether to preserve them or

destroy them became a question, and one I could not answer for

myself. In allowing a portion of them to go forth to the world in their

original form, as unconnected fragments, I have been guided by the

wishes of others, who deemed it not wholly uninteresting or profitless

to trace the path, sometimes devious enough, of an “inquiring spirit,”

even by the little pebbles dropped as vestiges by the way side.

A book so supremely egotistical and subjective can do good only in

one way. It may, like conversation with a friend, open up sources of

sympathy and reflection; excite to argument, agreement, or

disagreement; and, like every spontaneous utterance of thought out

of an earnest mind, suggest far higher and better thoughts than any

to be found here to higher and more productive minds. If I had not the

humble hope of such a possible result, instead of sending these

memoranda to the printer, I should have thrown them into the fire; for

I lack that creative faculty which can work up the teachings of heart-

sorrow and world-experience into attractive forms of fiction or of art;

and having no intention of leaving any such memorials to be

published after my death, they must have gone into the fire as the

only alternative left.

The passages from books are not, strictly speaking, selected; they

are not given here on any principle of choice, but simply because that

by some process of assimilation they became a part of the individual

mind. They “found me,”—to borrow Coleridge’s expression,—“found

me in some depth of my being;” I did not “find them.”

vii

For the rest, all those passages which are marked by inverted

commas must be regarded as borrowed, though I have not always

been able to give my authority. All passages not so marked are, I

dare not say, original or new, but at least the unstudied expression of

a free discursive mind. Fruits, not advisedly plucked, but which the

variable winds have shaken from the tree: some ripe, some “harsh

and crude.”

Wordsworth’s famous poem of “The Happy Warrior” (of which a new

application will be found at page 87.), is supposed by Mr. De Quincey

to have been first suggested by the character of Nelson. It has since

been applied to Sir Charles Napier (the Indian General), as well as to

the Duke of Wellington; all which serves to illustrate my position, that

the lines in question are equally applicable to any man or any woman

whose moral standard is irrespective of selfishness and expediency.

With regard to the fragment on Sculpture, it may be necessary to

state that it was written in 1848. The first three paragraphs were

inserted in the Art Journal for April, 1849. It was intended to enlarge

the whole into a comprehensive essay on “Subjects fitted for Artistic

Treatment;” but this being now impossible, the fragment is given as

originally written; others may think it out, and apply it better than I

shall live to do.

August, 1854.

viii

ix

CONTENTS.

PART I.

Ethics and Character.

Ethical Fragments.

Page

Vanity

1

Truths and Truisms

3

Beauty and Use

5

What is Soul?

7

The Philosophy of Happiness

9

Cheerfulness a Virtue

10

Intellect and Sympathy

11

Old Letters

12

The Point of Honour

13

Looking up

14

Authors

14

Thought and Theory

15

Impulse and Consideration

16

Principle and Expediency

16

Personality of the Evil Principle

17

The Catholic Spirit

18

Death-beds

19

x

Thoughts on a Sermon

20

Love and Fear of God

22

Social Opinion

23

Balzac

23

Political

24

Celibacy

25

Landor’s Wise Sayings

26

Justice and Generosity

27

Roman Catholic Converts

28

Stealing and Borrowing

28

Good and Bad

29

Italian Proverb. Greek Saying

30

Silent Grief

31

Past and Futur

32

Suicide. Countenance

33

Progress and Progression

34

Happiness in Suffering

35

Life in the Future

36

Strength. Youth

38

Moral Suffering

40

The Secret of Peace

41

Motives and Impulses

42

Principle and Passion

43

Dominant Ideas

44

Absence and Death

45

Sydney Smith. Theodore Hook

46

Werther and Childe Harold

50

Money Obligations

52

Charity. Truth

53

Women. Men

55

Compensation for Sorrow

57

Religion. Avarice

57

Genius. Mind

59

Hieroglyphical Colours

60

xi

Character

61

Value of Words

62

Nature and Art

64

Spirit and Form

67

Penal Retribution. The Church

68

Woman’s Patriotism

70

Doubt. Curiosity

71

Tieck. Coleridge

71

Application of a Bon Mot of Talleyrand

73

Adverse Individualities

75

Conflict in Love

76

French Expressions

77

Practical and Contemplative Life

78

Joanna Baillie. Macaulay’s Ballads

80

Cunning

80

Browning’s Paracelsus

81

Men, Women, and Children

84

Letters

100

Madame de Staël. Dejà

103

Thought too free

105

Good Qualities, not Virtues

106

Sense and Phantasy

107

Use the Present

108

Facts

109

Wise Sayings

111

Pestilence of Falsehood

112

Signs instead of Words. Relations with the World

113

Milton’s Adam and Eve

115

Thoughts, sundry

116

A Revelation of Childhood

117

The Indian Hunter and the Fire; an Allegory

147

Poetical Fragments

152

xii

Theological.

The Hermit and the Minstrel

155

Pandemonium

158

Southey on the Religious Orders

162

Forms in Religion—Image Worship

164

Religious Differences

165

Expansive Christianity

169

Notes from various Sermons:—

A Roman Catholic Sermon

172

Another

176

Church of England Sermon

178

Another

181

Dissenting Sermon

187

Father Taylor of Boston

188

PART II.

Literature and Art.

Notes from Books:—

19

Dr. Arnold

8

22

Niebuhr

0

23

Lord Bacon

0

24

Chateaubriand

0

24

Bishop Cumberland

7

Comte’s Philosophy

25

0

26

Goethe

1

Hazlitt’s “Liber Amoris”

26

3

Francis Horner, “The Nightingale”

26

7

Thackeray’s “English Humourists”

27

1

Notes on Art:—

27

Analogies

6

xiii

27

Definition of Art

9

28

No Patriotic Art

0

28

Verse and Colour

0

28

Dutch Pictures

1

28

Morals in Art

3

28

Physiognomy of Hands

8

28

Mozart and Chopin

9

29

Music

3

29

Rachel, the Actress

4

English and German Actresses

29

8

30

Character of Imogen

3

30

Shakspeare Club

5

“Maria Maddalena”

30

5

30

The Artistic Nature

7

Woman’s Criticism

30

9

31

Artistic Influences

0

31

The Greek Aphrodite

1

31

Love, in the Greek Tragedy

2

Wilkie’s Life and Letters

31

3

31

Wilhelm Schadow

7

32

Artist Life

1

32

Materialism in Art

3

A Fragment on Sculpture, and on certain Characters in History and Poetry, considered

32

as Subjects for Modern Art

6

33

Helen of Troy

2

33

Penelope—Laodamia

6

33

Hippolytus

9

34

Iphigenia

3

34

Eve

7

35

Adam

0

Angels

35

1

35

Miriam—Ruth

4

35

Christ—Solomon—David

5

xiv

35

Hagar—Rebecca—Rachel—Queen of Sheba

6

35

Lady Godiva

7

35

Joan of Arc

9

36

Characters from Shakspeare

4

36

Characters from Spenser

6

36

From Milton. The Lady—Comus—Satan

7

37

From the Italian and Modern Poets

0

LIST OF ETCHINGS.

1 Fruits and Flowers. After an old drawing.

.

2 Out of my garden.

.

3 Virgin Martyrs. Thought. Memory. Fancy. After Benedetto

.

4 La Penserosa. After Ambrogio Lorenzette.

.

5 La Fille du Feu. From a sketch by Von Schwind.

.

6 Laus Dei. Angel after Hans Hemmeling.

.

7 Eve and Cain. After Steinle.

.

8 Study. After an old print.

.

9 The Parcæ. From a sketch by Carstens.

.

1

0 Antique Owlet. In Goethe’s collection at Weimar.

.

* *

* The woodcuts are inserted to divide the paragraphs and subjects, and are ornamental rather than

illustrative. Where the same vignette heads several paragraphs consecutively, it is to signify that the

ideas expressed stand in relation to each other.

PART I.

Ethics and Character.

1

Ethical Fragments.

1.

B

acon says, how wisely! that “there is often as great vanity in

withdrawing and retiring men’s conceits from the world, as in

obtruding them.” Extreme vanity sometimes hides under the garb of

ultra modesty. When I see people haunted by the idea of self,—

spreading their hands before their faces lest they meet the reflection

of it in every other face, as if the world were to them like a

2

French drawing-room, panelled with looking glass,—always fussily

putting their obtrusive self behind them, or dragging over it a scanty

drapery of consciousness, miscalled modesty,—always on their

defence against compliments, or mistaking sympathy for compliment,

which is as great an error, and a more vulgar one than mistaking

flattery for sympathy,—when I see all this, as I have seen it, I am

inclined to attribute it to the immaturity of the character, or to what is

worse, a total want of simplicity. To some characters fame is like an

intoxicating cup placed to the lips,—they do well to turn away from it,

who fear it will turn their heads. But to others, fame is “love

disguised,” the love that answers to love, in its widest most exalted

sense. It seems to me, that we should all bring the best that is in us

(according to the diversity of gifts which God has given us), and lay it

a reverend offering on the altar of humanity,—if not to burn and

enlighten, at least to rise in incense to heaven. So will the pure in

heart, and the unselfish do; and they will not heed if those who can

bring nothing or will bring nothing, unless they can blaze like a

beacon, call out “VANITY!”

3

2.

T

here are truths which, by perpetual repetition, have subsided into

passive truisms, till, in some moment of feeling or experience, they

kindle into conviction, start to life and light, and the truism becomes

again a vital truth.

3.

I

t It is well that we obtain what we require at the cheapest possible

rate; yet those who cheapen goods, or beat down the price of a good

article, or buy in preference to what is good and genuine of its kind an

inferior article at an inferior price, sometimes do much mischief. Not

only do they discourage the production of a better article, but if they

be anxious about the education of the lower classes they undo with

one hand what they do with the other; they encourage the mere

mechanic and the production of what may be produced without effort

of mind and without education, and they discourage and wrong the

skilled workman for whom education has done much more and

whose education has cost much more.

Every work so merely and basely mechanical, that a man can throw

into it no part of his own life

4

and soul, does, in the long run, degrade the human being. It is only

by giving him some kind of mental and moral interest in the labour of

his hands, making it an exercise of his understanding, and an object

of his sympathy, that we can really elevate the workman; and this is

not the case with very cheap production of any kind. (Southampton,

Dec. 1849.)

Since this was written the same idea has been carried out, with far

more eloquent reasoning, in a noble passage which I have just found

in Mr. Ruskin’s last volume of “The Stones of Venice” (the Sea

Stories). As I do not always subscribe to his theories of Art, I am the

more delighted with this anticipation of a moral agreement between

us.

“We have much studied and much perfected of late, the great

civilised invention of the division of labour, only we give it a false

name. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided, but the

men:—divided into mere segments of men,—broken into small

fragments and crumbs of life; so that all the little piece of intelligence

that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin or a nail, but

exhausts itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail. Now,

it is a good and desirable thing truly to make many pins in a day, but

if we could only see with what crystal sand their points are polished—

sand of human soul, much to be magnified before it can be

5

discerned for what it is,—we should think there might be some loss in

it also; and the great cry that rises from all our manufacturing cities,

louder than their furnace-blast, is all in very deed for this,—that we

manufacture everything there except men,—we blanch cotton, and

strengthen steel, and refine sugar, and shape pottery; but to brighten,

to strengthen, to refine, or to form a single living spirit, never enters

into our estimate of advantages; and all the evil to which that cry is

urging our myriads, can be met only in one way,—not by teaching nor

preaching; for to teach them is but to show them their misery; and to

preach to them—if we do nothing more than preach,—is to mock at it.

It can be met only by a right understanding on the part of all classes,

of what kinds of labour are good for men, raising them and making

them happy; by a determined sacrifice of such convenience, or

beauty or cheapness, as is to be got only by the degradation of the

workman, and by equally determined demand for the products and

results of a healthy and ennobling labour.” ...

“We are always in these days trying to separate the two (intellect and

work). We want one man to be always thinking, and another to be

always working; and we call one a gentleman and the other an

operative; whereas, the workman ought to be often thinking, and the

thinker often working,

6

and both should be gentlemen in the best sense. It is only by labour

that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labour

can be made happy; and the two cannot be separated with impunity.”

Wordsworth, however, had said the same thing before either of us:

“Our life is turn’d

Out of her course wherever man is made

An offering or a sacrifice,—a tool

Or implement,—a passive thing employed

As a brute mean, without acknowledgment

Of common right or interest in the end,

Used or abused as selfishness may

prompt.

Say what can follow for a rational soul

Perverted thus, but weakness in all good

And strength in evil?”

And this leads us to the consideration of another mistake, analogous

with the above, but referable in its results chiefly to the higher, or

what Mr. Ruskin calls the thinking, classes of the community.

It is not good for us to have all that we value of worldly material things

in the form of money. It is the most vulgar form in which value can be

invested. Not only books, pictures, and all beautiful things are better;

but even jewels and trinkets are

7

sometimes to be preferred to mere hard money. Lands and

tenements are good, as involving duties; but still what is valuable in

the market sense should sometimes take the ideal and the beautiful

form, and be dear and lovely and valuable for its own sake as well as

for its convertible worth in hard gold. I think the character would be

apt to deteriorate when all its material possessions take the form of

money, and when money becomes valuable for its own sake, or as

the mere instrument or representative of power.

4.

W

e are told in a late account of Laura Bridgeman, the blind, deaf, and

dumb girl, that her instructor once endeavoured to explain the

difference between the material and the immaterial, and used the

word “soul.” She interrupted to ask, “What is soul?”

“That which thinks, feels, hopes, loves,——”

“And aches?” she added eagerly.

8

5.

I

was reading to-day in the Notes to Boswell’s Life of Johnson that “it is

a theory which every one knows to be false in fact, that virtue in real

life is always productive of happiness, and vice of misery.” I should

say that all my experience teaches me that the position is not false

but true: that virtue does produce happiness, and vice does produce

misery. But let us settle the meaning of the words. By happiness, we

do not necessarily mean a state of worldly prosperity. By virtue, we

do not mean a series of good actions which may or may not be

rewarded, and, if done for reward, lose the essence of virtue. Virtue,

according to my idea, is the habitual sense of right, and the habitual

courage to act up to that sense of right, combined with benevolent

sympathies, the charity which thinketh no evil. This union of the

highest conscience and the highest sympathy fulfils my notion of

virtue. Strength is essential to it; weakness incompatible with it.

Where virtue is, the noblest faculties and the softest feelings are

predominant; the whole being is in that state of harmony which I call

happiness. Pain may reach it, passion may disturb it, but there is

always a glimpse

9

of blue sky above our head; as we ascend in dignity of being, we

ascend in happiness, which is, in my sense of the word, the feeling

which connects us with the infinite and with God.

And vice is necessarily misery: for that fluctuation of principle, that

diseased craving for excitement, that weakness out of which springs

falsehood, that suspicion of others, that discord with ourselves, with

the absence of the benevolent propensities,—these constitute misery

as a state of being. The most miserable person I ever met with in my

life had 12,000 l. a year; a cunning mind, dexterous to compass its

own ends; very little conscience, not enough, one would have

thought, to vex with any retributive pang; but it was the absence of

goodness that made the misery, obvious and hourly increasing. The

perpetual kicking against the pricks, the unreasonable exigéance with

regard to things, without any high standard with regard to persons,—

these made the misery. I can speak of it as misery who had it daily in

my sight for five long years.

I have had arguments, if it be not presumption to call them so, with

Carlyle on this point. It appeared to me that he confounded happiness

with pleasure, with self-indulgence. He set aside with a towering

scorn the idea of living for the sake of happiness, so called: he styled

this philosophy of happiness, “the philosophy of the frying-pan.” But

this was like

10

the reasoning of a child, whose idea of happiness is plenty of sugar-

plums. Pleasure, pleasurable sensation, is, as the world goes,

something to thank God for. I should be one of the last to undervalue

it; I hope I am one of the last to live for it; and pain is pain, a great

evil, which I do not like either to inflict or suffer. But happiness lies

beyond either pain or pleasure—is as sublime a thing as virtue itself,

indivisible from it; and under this point of view it seems a perilous

mistake to separate them.

6.

D

ante places in his lowest Hell those who in life were melancholy and

repining without a cause, thus profaning and darkening God’s

blessed sunshine— Tristi fummo nel’ aer dolce; and in some of the

ancient Christian systems of virtues and vices, Melancholy is unholy,

and a vice; Cheerfulness is holy, and a virtue.

Lord Bacon also makes one of the characteristics of moral health and

goodness to consist in “a constant quick sense of felicity, and a noble

satisfaction.”

What moments, hours, days of exquisite felicity must Christ, our

Redeemer, have had, though it has

11

become too customary to place him before us only in the attitude of

pain and sorrow! Why should he be always crowned with thorns,

bleeding with wounds, weeping over the world he was appointed to

heal, to save, to reconcile with God? The radiant head of Christ in

Raphael’s Transfiguration should rather be our ideal of Him who

came “to bind up the broken-hearted, to preach the acceptable year

of the Lord.”

7.

A

profound intellect is weakened and narrowed in general power and

influence by a limited range of sympathies. I think this is especially

true of C——: excellent, honest, gifted as he is, he does not do half

the good he might do, because his sympathies are so confined. And

then he wants gentleness: he does not seem to acknowledge that

“the wisdom that is from above is gentle.” He is a man who carries his

bright intellect as a light in a dark-lantern; he sees only the objects on

which he chooses to throw that blaze of light: those he sees vividly,

but, as it were, exclusively. All other things, though lying near,

12

are dark, because perversely he will not throw the light of his mind

upon them.

8.

W

ilhelm von humboldt says, “Old letters lose their vitality.”

Not true. It is because they retain their vitality that it is so dangerous

to keep some letters,—so wicked to burn others.

9.

A

man thinks himself, and is thought by others to be insulted when

another man gives him the lie. It is an offence to be retracted at once,

or only to be effaced in blood. To give a woman the lie is not

considered in the same unpardonable light by herself or others,—is

indeed a slight thing. Now, whence

13

this difference? Is not truth as dear to a woman as to a man? Is the

virtue itself, or the reputation of it, less necessary to the woman than

to the man? If not, what causes this distinction,—one so injurious to

the morals of both sexes?

10.

I

t is good for us to look up, morally and mentally. If I were tired I would

get some help to hold my head up, as Moses got some one to hold

up his arms while he prayed.

“Ce qui est moins que moi m’éteint et m’assomme; ce qui est à côté

de moi m’ennuie et me fatigue. II n’y a que ce qui est au-dessus de

moi qui me soutienne et m’arrache à moi-même.”

11.

T

here is an order of writers who, with characters perverted or

hardened through long practice of

14

iniquity, yet possess an inherent divine sense of the good and the

beautiful, and a passion for setting it forth, so that men’s hearts glow

with the tenderness and the elevation which live not in the heart of

the writer,—only in his head.

And there is another class of writers who are excellent in the social

relations of life, and kindly and true in heart, yet who, intellectually,

have a perverted pleasure in the ridiculous and distorted, the

cunning, the crooked, the vicious,—who are never weary of holding

up before us finished representations of folly and rascality.

Now, which is the worst of these? the former, who do mischief by

making us mistrust the good? or the latter, who degrade us by

making us familiar with evil?

12.

“T

hought and theory,” said Wordsworth, “must precede all action that

moves to salutary purposes. Yet action is nobler in itself than either

thought or theory.”

15

Yes, and no. What we act has its consequences on earth. What we

think, its consequences in heaven. It is not without reason that action

should be preferred before barren thought; but all action which in its

result is worth any thing, must result from thought. So the old

rhymester hath it:

“He that good thinketh good may

do,

And God will help him there unto;

For was never good work

wrought,

Without beginning of good

thought.”

The result of impulse is the positive; the result of consideration the

negative. The positive is essentially and abstractedly better than the

negative, though relatively to facts and circumstances it may not be

the most expedient.

On my observing how often I had had reason to regret not having

followed the first impulse, O. G. said, “In good minds the first

impulses are generally right and true, and, when altered or

relinquished from regard to expediency arising out of complicated

relations, I always feel sorry, for they remain right. Our first impulses

always lean to the positive, our second thoughts to the negative; and

I have no respect for the negative,—it is the vulgar side of every

thing.”

On the other hand, it must be conceded, that one who stands

endowed with great power and with great responsibilities in the midst

of a thousand duties and

16

interests, can no longer take things in this simple fashion; for the

good first impulse, in its flow, meets, perhaps, some rock, and splits

upon it; it recoils on the heart, and becomes abortive. Or the impulse

to do good here becomes injury there, and we are forced to calculate

results; we cannot trust to them.

I

have not sought to deduce my principles from conventional notions of

expediency, but have believed that out of the steady adherence to

certain fixed principles, the right and the expedient must ensue, and I

believe it still. The moment one begins to solder right and wrong

together, one’s conscience becomes like a piece of plated goods.

I

t requires merely passive courage and strength to resist, and in some

cases to overcome evil. But it requires more—it needs bravery and

self-reliance and surpassing faith—to act out the true inspirations of

your intelligence and the true impulses of your heart.

O

ut of the attempt to harmonise our actual life

17

with our aspirations, our experience with our faith, we make poetry,—

or, it may be, religion.

F—— used the phrase “stung into heroism” as Shelley said, “cradled

into poetry,” by wrong.

13.

C

oleridge calls the personal existence of the Evil Principle, “a mere

fiction, or, at best, an allegory supported by a few popular phrases

and figures of speech, used incidentally or dramatically by the

Evangelists.” And he says, that “the existence of a personal,

intelligent, Evil Being, the counterpart and antagonist of God, is in

direct contradiction to the most express declarations of Holy Writ.

Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? ’—Amos,

iii. 6. ‘ I make peace and create evil. ’—Isaiah, xlv. 7. This is the deep

mystery of the abyss of God.”

Do our theologians go with him here? I think not: yet, as a theologian,

Coleridge is constantly appealed to by Churchmen.

18

14.

“W

e find (in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians), every where

instilled as the essence of all well-being and well-doing, (without

which the wisest public and political constitution is but a lifeless

formula, and the highest powers of individual endowment profitless or

pernicious,) the spirit of a divine sympathy with the happiness and

rights,—with the peculiarities, gifts, graces, and endowments of other

minds, which alone, whether in the family or in the Church, can impart

unity and effectual working together for good in the communities of

men.”

“The Christian religion was, in fact, a charter of freedom to the whole

human race.”— Thom’s Discourses on St. Paul’s Epistle to the

Corinthians.

And this is the true Catholic spirit,—the spirit and the teaching of

Paul,—in contradistinction to the Roman Catholic spirit,—the spirit

and tendency of Peter, which stands upon forms, which has no

respect for individuality except in so far as it can

19

imprison this individuality within a creed, or use it to a purpose.

15.

D

r. Baillie once said that “all his observation of death-beds inclined him

to believe that nature intended that we should go out of the world as

unconscious as we came into it.” “In all my experience,” he added, “I

have not seen one instance in fifty to the contrary.”

Yet even in such a large experience the occurrence of “one instance

in fifty to the contrary” would invalidate the assumption that such was

the law of nature (or “nature’s intention,” which, if it means any thing,

means the same).

The moment in which the spirit meets death is perhaps like the

moment in which it is embraced by sleep. It never, I suppose,

happened to any one to be conscious of the immediate transition

from the waking to the sleeping state.

20

16.

Thoughts on a Sermon.

H

e is really sublime, this man! with his faith in “the religion of pain,” and

“the deification of sorrow!” But is he therefore right? What has he

preached to us to-day with all the force of eloquence, all the

earnestness of conviction? that “pain is the life of God as shown forth

in Christ;”—“that we are to be crucified to the world and the world to

us.” This perpetual presence of a crucified God between us and a

pitying redeeming Christ, leads many a mourner to the belief that this

world is all a Golgotha of pain, and that we are here to crucify each

other. Is this the law under which we are to live and strive? The

missionary Bridaine accused himself of sin in that he had preached

fasting, penance, and the chastisements of God to wretches steeped

in poverty and dying of hunger; and is there not a similar cruelty and

misuse of power in the servants of Him who came to bind up the

21

broken-hearted, when they preach the necessity, or at least the

theory, of moral pain to those whose hearts are aching from moral

evil?

Surely there is a great difference between the resignation or the

endurance of a truthful, faithful, loving, hopeful spirit, and this dreadful

theology of suffering as the necessary and appointed state of things!

I, for one, will not accept it. Even while most miserable, I will believe

in happiness; even while I do or suffer evil, I will believe in goodness;

even while my eyes see not through tears, I will believe in the

existence of what I do not see—that God is benign, that nature is fair,

that the world is not made as a prison or a penance. While I stand

lost in utter darkness, I will yet wait for the return of the unfailing

dawn,—even though my soul be amazed into such a blind perplexity

that I know not on which side to look for it, and ask “where is the

East? and whence the dayspring?” For the East holds its wonted

place, and the light is withheld only till its appointed time.

God so strengthen me that I may think of pain and sin only as

accidental apparent discords in his great harmonious scheme of

good! Then I am ready—I will take up the cross, and hear it bravely,

while I must; but I will lay it down when I can, and in any case I will

never lay it on another.

22

17.

I

f I fear God it is because I love him, and believe in his love; I cannot

conceive myself as standing in fear of any spiritual or human being in

whose love I do not entirely believe. Of that Impersonation of Evil,

who goes about seeking whom he may devour, the image brings to

me no fear, only intense disgust and aversion. Yes, it is because of

his love for me that I fear to offend against God; it is because of his

love that his displeasure must be terrible. And with regard to human

beings, only the being I love has the power to give me pain or inspire

me with fear; only those in whose love I believe, have the power to

injure me. Take away my love, and you take away my fear: take away

their love, and you take away the power to do me any harm which

can reach me in the sources of life and feeling.

23

18.

S

ocial opinion is like a sharp knife. There are foolish people who

regard it only with terror, and dare not touch or meddle with it. There

are more foolish people, who, in rashness or defiance, seize it by the

blade, and get cut and mangled for their pains. And there are wise

people, who grasp it discreetly and boldly by the handle, and use it to

carve out their own purposes.

19.

W

hile we were discussing Balzac’s celebrity as a romance writer, she

(O. G.) said, with a shudder: “His laurels are steeped in the tears of

women,—every truth he tells has been wrung in tortures from some

woman’s heart.”

24

20.

S

ir Walter Scott, writing in 1831, seems to regard it as a terrible

misfortune that the whole burgher class in Scotland should be

gradually preparing for representative reform. “I mean,” he says, “the

middle and respectable classes: when a borough reform comes,

which, perhaps, cannot long be delayed, ministers will no longer

return a member for Scotland from the towns.” “The gentry,” he adds,

“will abide longer by sound principles, for they are needy, and desire

advancement for themselves, and appointments for their sons and so

on. But this is a very hollow dependence, and those who sincerely

hold ancient opinions are waxing old,” &c. &c.

With a great deal more, showing the strange moral confusion which

his political bias had caused in his otherwise clear head and honest

mind. The sound principles, then, by which educated people are to

abide,—over the decay of which he laments,—are such as can only

be upheld by the most vulgar self-interest! If a man should utter

openly such sentiments in these days, what should we think of him?

I

n the order of absolutism lurk the elements of change and

destruction. In the unrest of freedom the spirit of change and

progress.

25

21.

“A

single life,” said Bacon, “doth well with churchmen, for charity will

hardly water the ground where it must first fill a pool.”

Certainly there are men whose charities are limited, if not dried up, by

their concentrated domestic anxieties and relations. But there are

others whose charities are more diffused, as well as healthier and

warmer, through the strength of their domestic affections.

Wordsworth speaks strongly of the evils of ordaining men as

clergymen in places where they had been born or brought up, or in

the midst of their own relatives: “Their habits, their manners, their

talk, their acquaintanceships, their friendships, and let me say, even

their domestic affections, naturally draw them one way, while their

professional obligations point out another.” If this were true

universally, or even generally, it would be a strong argument in favour

of the celibacy of the Roman Catholic clergy, which certainly is one

element, and not the least, of their power.

26

22.

L

andor says truly: “Love is a secondary passion in those who love

most, a primary in those who love least: he who is inspired by it in the

strongest degree is inspired by honour in a greater.”

“Whatever is worthy of being loved for any thing is worthy to be

preserved.”

Again:—“Those are the worst of suicides who voluntarily and

prepensely stab or suffocate their own fame, when God hath

commanded them to stand on high for an example.”

“Weak motives,” he says, “are sufficient for weak minds; whenever

we see a mind which we believed a stronger than our own moved

habitually by what appears inadequate, we may be certain that there

is—to bring a metaphor from the forest— more top than root.”

Here is another sentence from the same writer—rich in wise sayings:

27

“Plato would make wives common to abolish selfishness; the very

mischief which, above all others, it would directly and immediately

bring forth. There is no selfishness where there is a wife and family.

There the house is lighted up by mutual charities; everything

achieved for them is a victory; everything endured a triumph. How

many vices are suppressed that there may be no bad example! How

many exertions made to recommend and inculcate a good one.”

True: and I have much more confidence in the charity which begins in

the home and diverges into a large humanity, than in the world-wide

philanthropy which begins at the outside of our horizon to converge

into egotism, of which I could show you many and notable examples.

A

ll my experience of the world teaches me that in ninety-nine cases out

of a hundred, the safe side and the just side of a question is the

generous side and the merciful side. This your mere worldly people

do not seem to know, and therein make the sorriest and the vulgarest