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lenient effect of female influence. With this and a few other provisoes I should enter your house (castle) with very great interest, and, by the time I was certain of safety; should stay some time there, and thereabout, with very great pleasure. I thank you sincerely for your kind invitation. I have never quite surrendered the idea and the hope of revisiting Dublin; but I am become to a strange degree a sort of local fixture; not having, for instance, till last summer, reached so far as London for sixteen years. And now the recent indications as to health tend to throw doubtfulness on all projects and prospects.
Every body in his right senses here deplores the state of Ireland, and abhors that Ascendency which has hitherto been its plague, and has yet a formidable power to frustrate the endeavours at a better policy. Our government is in a strangely anomalous and perilous position. There will be a long protracted and mortal conflict.
I have just heard of the death of Mrs. Osborn of Cork, for whom, as Ann Richards, I had a great partiality. [ have regretted to understand that she was a confirmed Socinian; greatly regretted it; for it does appear to me a tremendous hazard to go into the other world in that character. The exclusion from Christianity of that which a Socinian rejects would reduce me instantly to black despair.
Stapleton, June 2, 1837. It must be since I wrote to you that I had a long, conversation with Mrs. J., lately of Hebden Bridge, in which I obtained several points of information concerning the terra incognita of that neighbourhood. As to Hebden Bridge itself, she described it as stretched out into a long continuity of houses, reaching I forget how far. This, on a more moral account than its breaking up the old picture in my imagination, did not please me at all
. It was just saying there were so many more sinners in the locality. Unless mankind were better, an augmented number is nothing to be pleased with. On the contrary I am always apt to be
pleased at seeing vacated sites, and houses deserted and in ruins. This gratification is too seldom afforded in these times. It is a considerable number of years since I had it to my full contentment, at a place a good way down on the west coast, where a score or two of houses, visited some years before by the reform of a fire, remained as dilapidated walls going fast to decay. I have always a restive feeling that knows not how to go into pleasure, at the promises sometimes made to the Jews in the Old Testament, of a prodigiously multiplied posterity. Now you are smiling (or affecting to smile) at all this as a cynical whim, a wanton perversity. But pray now, do look at the collective moral and religious state of the species, even in this so vaunted nation, exhibiting so bad a preponderance of what is not good, in the high and alone satisfactory sense; and soberly consider whether an augmentation of such an existence be really a cause for exultation.
A better age, both for this and every other country, will come, assuredly. But do you not sometimes muse in a kind of gloomy wonder on the present dark aspect of the world, --in which even the precursory signs of the approach are so faint or dubious ? You were not, I think, quite so sanguine in early life as I was. Recollecting my morning crude prospective dreams, I can imagine what a damp it would have been, what a heavy snow in May, if I could have foreseen, at the distance of about half a century forward, the state of the world just as it actually is at this day. In those visions there was, no doubt, much of what a sound mature judgment might at the time have convicted of folly. The grand excitement had far too little in it of a moral and religious principle, far too little recognition of the Governor of the world, to authorize such magnificent anticipations of moral and political good. But still
, methinks, it might (before the proof) have been assumed as probable that such a prodigious awakening of human energy would be directed by that sovereign Power to the destruction of a much larger portion of the fearful system of evils that still lies and tyrannizes on the human race. On every field of thought the awful mystery of the Divine Government surrounds us with its darkness, and abases our speculations and presumptions.
The political state of this nation is becoming formidable, the war being mortal between the two orders of principles, with their respectively arrayed masses. No peace but by the subjugation of one of the antagonist powers. Which is it to be ? Not the democratic certainly, for it is in a process of continually augmenting force, notwithstanding any temporary interruptions and defeats. But it is in vain to calculate the duration of the conflict before the other can be prostrated, possessed as it is of such vast advantages.
How do the affairs among you as between the Church and Dissenters shape themselves ? I hope the latter will not be wanting in spirit to assert themselves. They see clearly now that they have no other remedy but what is in their own hands. Let them every where avail themselves of that, and the government will at last be forced, even for the Church's sake, to do them justice. Our great desideratum is (what we cannot have yet, nor for a long time) a genuine House of Commons. In the present thing so called there are many scores of knaves and fools who got there by the vilest means.
We (you, your wife, and I) shall not live to see any great amendment in the world. Shall we, when in that other to which we are going, receive any information of the changes on that which we shall have left ? But think of the stupendous change and novelty of being in another world! and it will not be very long before. Each of us in near approach to seventy! I believe you have both had good health. I hope you still have—for that age. I have been in this respect highly favoured through life. But recently, I may say at this hour, I have some very monitory omens, being under rigid medical treatment in consequence of the rupture of some vessel in the neighbourhood of the throat, indicated by a very considerable effusion of blood twice within ten days. I am told that great and protracted care may arrest the evil. But it is a formidable intimation; and will, I hope, have the effect, under divine influence, of rendering me more earnest in preparation for the demolition, at whatever time, of the whole tabernacle. A circumstance of the same kind, but not in the same degree, occurred to me about half a year since. So long exempt from
any recurrence, I have not been duly careful.
CXCVI. TO B. STOKES, ESQ.
June 9, 1837. It often occurs to me, when thinking of striking spectacles here and there on the earth that I can never see, “But I shall infallibly behold, at no distant time, something incomparably more striking, new, and marvellous." To behold, to be in the midst of, another economy, another world! And with an amazing change, of the very manner, personally, of existence; to be in communication with a new order of realities by a totally different medium of perception; having, in relinquishing this world, relinquished also the entire organization by which the spirit maintained its connection with it.
Imagine a very brief, as nearly as might be a sudden, transition from the ordinary state of feeling, to that which would be caused at sight of the most striking phenomenon on earth; and then imagine, just at that highest excitement of emotion, an instant transition by death into the other world;--would not this second rush of amazement on the soul transcend the previous one to a far mightier degree than that previous one would have surpassed the ordinary state of feeling ?
But again, and again, comes the thought, “Though I shall never behold the supposed grand phenomena of this world, that other transcendent amazement I am certain to experience; and the more mighty will it be that I have no previous knowledge or conjecture concerning the manner of it.”
And how mortifying, what reason for intense selfreproach, that with this certainty before me, and in a continual approximation, the mysterious prospect should not have a more habitually commanding influence over me;over my thoughts, devotions, and habits of life! A correction, a reformation, a renovation of feeling, is the thing imperatively demanded. .
CXCVII. TO THE REV. JOSIAH HILL.
September 23, 1837. This is All-Saints' day with the Independent tribe in Bristol;—speeches by exhibiters fresh from all nations, peoples, and languages. I was something like disposed to force my inclination, and go to see and hear,—for the useful sake, to myself I mean, of witnessing the character and varieties of the spectacle; but the inveterate repugnance was invincible. But really I wish it had not. For I am so totally secluded here that I have no immediate impression of what men are, or are doing.
It seems that even you . could not keep the soul of which you are the owner from getting a whirl in the late great vortex; wishing, hoping, fearing; disappointed, mortified, indignant;—just all the same unhallowed emotions as one's self. It is truly a grievous result, and a disastrous predicament. Interminable war, now; with very small and dearly-bought successes to the liberal cause; merely an exemption from absolute defeat; the grand measures of national improvement (education among the rest) either not (from hopelessness) attempted, or contemptuously quashed. Why is this suffered to be under the government of the Supreme Authority, the only Potentate? Just because the nation is wicked and is to be plagued. It is a judicial dispensation. This is the idea often enforced on one's mind, in looking over the state of the world. What a most glaring instance is Spain! One would think that it is beyond mere human stupidity and perversity to manage the nation's affairs so wretchedly. There must be a special Divine malediction, dooming that barbarous, cruel, superstitious, and bigoted people to miseries from which there seems no escape; their counsels and proceedings under a continual infatuation; the most favourable occasions lost; the efficient means systematically thrown away; the whole condition of life's interests in distraction.