Page images
PDF
EPUB

effect, as they call it, by artificial trickery, or by a stately, stilted march of language. An artificial style of composition can please only when it has the exquisite grace, and finish, and clear-pointed thought of Pope, or the power and dignity of Milton. One does not forget Johnson's observation, that Cato's Soliloquy is an instance to prove, that the most solemn and elevated thought may be, in the most impressive manner, conveyed in language of the utmost simplicity.

. . It does always appear to me very unaccountable (among, indeed, so many other inexplicable things), that the state of the soul, after death, should be so completely veiled from our serious inquisitiveness. That in some sense it is proper that it should be so, needs not be said. But is not the sense in which it is so, the same sense in which it is proper there should be punitive circumstances, privations, and inflictions, in this our sinful state? For one knows not how to believe, that some revelation of that next stage of our existence would not be more influential to a right procedure in this first, than such an absolute unknown. It is true, that a profound darkness, which we know we are destined ere long to enter, and soon to find ourselves in an amazing light, is a striking object of contemplation. But the mind still, again and again, falls back from it, disappointed and uninstructed, for want of some defined forms of reality, to seize, retain, and permanently occupy it. In default of revelation, we have to frame our conjectures on some principle of analogy which is itself arbitrary, and without any means of bringing it to the test of reason.

. . . . It is a subject profoundly interesting to myself; my own advance into the evening of life is enough to make it so; and then the recent events! You have your own special remembrances, though, as to several of the objects, going to a considerable time back. I have one most interesting recent object: and there are

Hall, Anderson, Hughes ; where, and what are they now ? at this very instant how existing, how employed ? ....I have but just room for kind remembrances to the yet living. . . . . The rapid passing away of life! In looking back last week, into one of my early letters, to her who has

were

left me, I found that it is exactly thirty years since I became acquainted with vou and them.

CLXXVII.

TO THE REV. DR. LEIFCIIILD.

March 15, 1834. I passed some time with him [Mr. Hughes] in the Academy, ending 1791, 1792. We both had all the spirit of youth, and were very confidentially intimate. I then went away to various distances, and did not see him for some years, nor exchange with him but the fewest letters. I hardly know how this happened, but I was led into widely different associations, though hardly into any equally intimate friendship. I subsequently passed some months at Battersea, chiefly in his house ; but since that period have rarely seen him, and that only in short snatches of time, which occurred in his Bible Society journeys. Nor was our correspondence more frequent than those brief interviews. All this time, nevertheless, we maintained (I can answer for myself, and I think for him also) a fixed sincere regard for each other, not altered by time or absence. It may be necessary to add, that though invincibly amiable to each other, we differed on various points, and good humouredly rated each other upon them when we met. This did not at all unsettle the firmly established mutual esteem, whatever it might do with the complacency of an occasional short season of intercourse. But I shall convey a wrong impression, if anything I have suggested should seem to say that the friendship between us was slight. It was firm, cordial, unalterable, in spite of personal non-intercourse and slight shades of difference.

He had great mental activity, quickness of apprehension, and discriminate perception. He had considerable ambition of intellectual superiority, but less I think for any purpose of ostentation than for the pleasure of mental liberty and power. He was apt, like other young men, to be somewhat dazzled by the magniloquent style in writing; but at the same time always justly appreciated plain, strong, good sense, whether in books, sermons, or conversation. A defect of simplicity and obvious directness in his own writing and preaching, was I think not a little owing to his admiration at the time in question (and I suppose an earlier one) of certain writers of the eloquent class whose style was somewhat stilted—too artificial and rhetorical. His preaching, as a young man, was often very animated, rather unmethodical and diffuse, and extremely rapid ; in this last respect in perfect contrast to his pulpit exercises towards the close of life. His temperament was what is called mercurial; lively, hasty, earnest, versatile, and variable. He was kind and candid, yielding the sympathies of friendship, warm in its feelings, and prompt in its appropriate offices; free from acrimonious and resentful feelings, and from those minor perversities of temper or whim, which, without being regarded as great faults, are very annoying in social life. There is nothing I retain a stronger impression of, than the proofs he habitually manifested of a sincere and firmly established piety, which so attempered his youthful vivacity as to restrain it in its gayest indulgences and sallies from degenerating into an irreligious, or in any other way offensive levity. I can remember that in hours when we gave the greatest social indulgence to our youthful spirits, he would fall on serious observations and reflections, in the unforced and easy manner which indicated the prevalence of serious interest in his mind. The hold which the great and vital principles of religion had upon him was not slackened by his indecision, his incompleteness of theological system, respecting secondary points of doctrine. His public discourses were too little in obvious and studied conformity to any established model to be acceptable to a considerable portion of his hearers. In addition, his voice would sometimes, independently of his will and almost of his consciousness, take and retain through the whole service a pitch above its natural tone, necessarily causing an unpleasant monotony, which had a disadvantageous effect, as it always must, for attraction and impression. But I think that he was oftener in possession of his natural voice.

.

[blocks in formation]

a

Stapleton, the longest dãy 1834. The thing most on my mind just at this instant is ---chagrin, vexation, mortification, self-accusation, for a chief folly of my life-having bought so many books; which are looking insultingly at me from their crowded shelves all round the room; and I seem to hear note of scorn from within sundry boxes, in which are immured a score or two of the splendid and costly ones—in which score or two is sunk a sum which would have furnished a very decent whole library for a dissenting, or even a Methodist preacher.

I am the more irritably sensitive to this mockery of theirs from the condition of my eyes, which, during all the summer part of the year and this year especially) canno endure the business of reading, without a very painful force put on them.

When to this disablement of the reading organ, I add the consideration that, however good that organ were, a whole century of years from this time would not suffice to read once through all these volumes—and then the other circumstance, that I forget every thing I read or have read—and then cap this accumulation of considerations with one more, or rather the double, consideration of what has been expended, not only of income, but of hundreds of pounds of principal sunk -and the difference between what they cost and what the very same books might be had for now—when I put al these items of mortification together, the result is a very hot caustic on my conscience as well as on other parts of the mental sensorium.

To be sure, some of those things may have been of some little value, for pleasure or perhaps a certain kind of instruction, in the mean time, but nothing like enough to compensate the difference. A rich man would not need to care, but when I consider how straitened, during a whole quarter of a century, my limited means have been, by the indulgence in the fine sort of literature, I cannot help feeling mortification and self-reproach. Especially I feel so at the thought how much better it would have been for a considerable part of this expenditure, if I could really spare it, to have gone to the service of charitable and religious

objects. Not that I have not managed to do my share in that way also; perhaps beyond some of my better endowed neighbours ; but I should most willingly have done more in that way but for the unfortunate drain aforesaid. And so too would

my late beloved associate, one of the most liberalminded of human beings. It is indeed, one of my regrets in the remembrance of her, that this imprudent expenditure imposed too hard an economy on her benevolence. But for a very unexpensive manner of life (the preclusion of luxury, travelling, &c.) the expenditure in question would have been impossible. I am reminded of— Whose shall those things be which thou hast provided ?The book-andprint fineries will most likely, as in all other cases, go to the auction room one day or other, and will bring for—who can tell whom? perhaps a fourth part of what they cost. As to the crowd of the common order of books, I should willingly make presents of some hundreds of volumes ; but I find that, excepting such as I am still unwilling to dislodge from the shelves, they are for the most part, not of a kind to be of any use to the persons I would give them to. Sundry useful and some valuable ones I have, for several years past, given to some of the most meritorious of the students in the Academy; and a number (such as the late Anderson judged to be necessary and useful) have gone to its library.

.... Do you stand quite aloof from the grand dissenting commotion? They—(I say not we, for I should not have been a concurring particle in the dust the dissenters have raised,—I mean as to the extent of their demands) have mistaken their policy in calling out (at present) for the "separation," a thing most palpably impracticable, till a few more Olympiads have passed over us.

a

[blocks in formation]

Stapleton, December 22, 1834. From time to time we have heard, with sincere sympathy, of the increasing debility and sufferings of her who now suffers no more. It was painful but to think of

« PreviousContinue »