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comparing the results of a confined, with that of a wider experience;—a more imperfect and crude theory, with one more cautiously framed, and based on a more copious induction.'''
'The experience of age in new things abuseth them.'
The old are more liable to the 'rashness of the horse,' and the younger to that of the moth; the distinction between which I have before pointed out. The old again are more likely than the young, to claim, and to give, an undue deference to the judgment, in reference to some new plan or system, of those who are the most thoroughly familiar with the old one. On this point I have already dwelt in my remarks on Innovation.
'Natures that have much heat are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their years.'
There is a strange difference in the ages at which different persons acquire such maturity as they are capable of, and at which some of those who have greatly distinguished themselves have done, and been, something remarkable. Some of them have left the world at an earlier age than that at which others have begun their career of eminence. It was remarked to the late Dr. Arnold by a friend, as a matter of curiosity, that several men who have filled a considerable page in history have lived but forty-seven years; (Philip of Macedon, Joseph Addison, Fielding the novelist, Sir William Jones, Nelson, Pitt,) and he was told in a jocular way to beware of the fortyseventh year. He was at that time in robust health; but he died at forty-seven! Alexander died at thirty-two : Sir Stamford Raffles at forty-five: Clive, one of the most extraordinary generals that ever existed, at forty-nine. Sir Isaac Newton did indeed live to a great age; but it is said that all his discoveries were made before he was forty; so that he might have died at that age, and been as celebrated as he is.
On the other hand, Herschel is said to have taken to astronomy at forty-seven. Swedenborg, if he had died at sixty, would have been remembered by those that did remember him, merely as a sensible worthy man, and a very considerable mathematician. The strange faucies which took possession of him, and which survive in the sect which goes by his name, all came on after that age.
1 Bee Element* uf llheturic. Part II., ch. iii., § 5, pp. 211—224.
Some persons resemble certain trees, such as the nut, which flowers in February, and ripens its fruit in September; or the juniper and the arbutus, which take a whole year or more to perfect their fruit; and others the cherry, which takes between two and three mouths.
'There be some have an over early ripeness in their years, which fadeth betimes.'
One may meet with some who are clever as children, and without falling back, remain stationary at a certain age, and thus are neither more nor less than clever children all their life. You may find one who has thus stood still at about nine or ten; another at about fourteen; another at about seventeen or eighteen, and so on. And it is a curious thing to meet, at pretty long intervals, a person whom one has known as a remarkably forward, and (supposed) promising youth, and to find that at forty, fifty, sixty, he has hardly either gained or lost anything since he was in his teens. An elder-tree will grow as much in the first three or four years as an oak in ten or twelve; but at thirty years the oak will have outgrown the elder, and will continue gaining on it ever after.
As for the decay of mental faculties which often takes place in old age, every one is aware of it; but many overlook one kind of it which is far from uncommon; namely, when a man of superior intelligence, without falling into anything L'ke dotage, sinks into an ordinary man. Whenever there is a mixture of genius with imbecility, every one perceives that a decay has taken place. But when a person of great intellectual eminence becomes (as is sometimes the case) an ordinary average man, just such as many have been all their life, no one is likely to suspect that the faculties have been impaired by age, except those who have seen much of him in his brighter days.
Even so, no one, on looking at an ordinary dwelling-house in good repair, would suspect that it had been once a splendid palace; but when we view a stately old castle, or cathedral, partly in ruins, we see at once that it cannot be what it originally was.
This kind of decline is furthered, and sometimes perhaps in great measure caused, by a man's associating for a long time chiefly with persons of inferior mind, and gradually imbibing their prejudices, and discontinuing such studies and such mental exercise as they have no sympathy with. He thus becomes what has been called a Palimpsest. A literal 'palimpsest' is— as is generally known—a parchment from which the original manuscript—perhaps some precious work of an ancient classic— has been scraped off, to make room for some monkish legend, or mediaeval treatise. But by holding it in a strong light, a person of good eyes, may, by great patience, make out (as Signor Angelo Maio has') the faint traces of the old writing.
A man who in early life has resided in a University, or a Metropolis, among men of superior mind, and of literary and scientific tastes, will sometimes retire for the rest of his life to some locality where he is surrounded by persons comparatively unintellectual and narrow-minded; and will then perhaps have so completely let himself down to their level, that one of his former associates would hardly recognise him: though in the course of conversation he may by degrees recall some portion of the former man. He may, as it were, gaze steadily on the Palimpsest till he perceives the traces of the original writing, which had been nearly obliterated, and replaced by a legend.
The decay which is most usually noticed in old people, both by others and by themselves, is a decay of memory. But this is perhaps partly from its being a defect easily to be detected and distinctly proved. When a decay of judgment takes place —which is perhaps oftener the case than is commonly supposed —the party himself is not likely to be conscious of it; and his friends are more likely to overlook it, and even when they do perceive it, to be backward in giving him warning, for fear of being met with such a rebuff as Gil Bias received in return for his candour, from the Archbishop, his patron.
It is remarkable, that there is nothing less promising than, in early youth, a certain full-formed, settled, and, as it may be called, adult character. A lad who has, to a degree that excites wonder and admiration, the character and demeanour of an intelligent man of mature age, will probably be that, and nothing more, all his life, and will cease accordingly to be anything remarkable, because it was the precocity alone that eTer made him so. It is remarked by greyhound-fanciers that a well-formed, compact-shaped puppy never makes a fleet dog. They see more promise in the loose-jointed, awkward, clumsy ones. And even so, there is a kind of crudity and unsettledness in the minds of those young persons who turn out ultimately the most eminent.
'Some natural dispositions which have better grace in youth than in age, such as is a fluent and luxuriant speech.'
It is remarkable, that, in point of style of writing, Bacon himself, at different periods of life, showed differences just opposite to what most would have expected. His earlier writings are the most unornamented; and he grew more ornate as he advanced. So also Burke. His earliest work, On the Sublime, is in a brief, dry, philosophical style; and he became florid to an excess as he grew older.
ESSAY XLIII. OF BEAUTY.
YIRTUE is like a rich stone, best plain set; and surely virtue is best in a body that is comely, though not of delicate features, and that hath rather dignity of presence than beauty of aspect; neither is it almost' seen that very beautiful persons are otherwise of great virtue, as if nature were rather busy not to err, than in labour to produce excellency,* and therefore they prove accomplished, but not of great spirit, and study rather behaviour than virtue. But this holds not always; for Augustus Caesar, Titus Vespasianus, Philip le Bel of France, Edward IV. of England, Alcibiades of Athens, Ismael the sophy3 of Persia, were all high and great spirits, and yet the most beautiful men of their times. In beauty, that of favour4 is more than that of colour, and that of decents and gracious6 motion more than that of favour. That is the best part of beauty which a picture cannot express, no, nor the first sight of the life. There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. A man cannot tell whether Apelles or Albert Durer were the more7 trifler; whereof the one
1 Almost. For the most part; generally. 'Who is thero almost, whose mind at some time or other, love or anger, fear or grief, has not fastened to some clog, that it could not turn itself to any other object Y
J Excellency. Excellence. 'That the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.'— i Cor. iv. 7.
* Sophy. Sultan.
'With letters, him in cautious wise,
—St. George and Oie Dragon. 4 Favour. Countenance.
'I know your favour well, Percy,
* Decent. Becoming; fit. 'All pastimes, generally, which bo joyned with labour and in open place, and on the day-lighte, be not only comelie and decent, but verie necossorie for a courtly gentleman.'—Roger Aseham.
'Those thousand decencies that daily flow
* Gracious. Graceful.
'Theru was ne'er such a gracious creature born.'—Shakespere. 7 More. Greater; gri-at. 'The, moreness of Christ's virtues aro not measured by worldly moreness.'— Wicklijf.