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CHESTERFIELD. But in the opinion of you graver men would not some of his principles lead too far?
CHATHAM. The danger is, that few will be led by them far enough: most who begin with him stop short, and, pretending to find pebbles in their shoes, throw themselves down upon the ground, and complain of their guide.
CHESTERFIELD. What, then, can be the reason why Plato, so much less intelligible, is so much more quoted and applauded ?
CHATHAM. The difficulties we never try are no difficulties to us. Those who are upon the summit of a mountain know in some measure its altitude, by comparing it with all objects around: but those who stand at the bottom, and never mounted it, can compare it with few only, and with those imperfectly. Until a short time ago,
I could have conversed more fluently about Plato that I can at present; I had read all the titles to his dialogues, and several scraps of commentary, these I have now forgotten, and am indebted to long attacks of the gout for what I have acquired instead.
CHESTERFIELD. A very severe schoolmaster! I hope he allows a long vacation.
CHATHAM. Severe he is indeed, and although he sets no example of regularity, he exacts few observances, and teaches many things. Without him I should have had less patience, less learning, less reflection, less leisure; it short, less of everything but of sleep.
CHESTERFIELD. Locke, from a deficiency of fancy, is not likely to attract so many listeners as Plato.
CHATHAM. And yet occasionally his language is both metaphorical and rich in images. In fact all our great philosophers have also this property in a wonderful degree. Not to speak of the devotional, in whose writings one might expect it, we find it abundantly in Bacon, not sparingly in Hobbes, the next to him in range of inquiry and potency of intellect. And what would you think, my lord, if you discovered in the records of Newton a sentence in the spirit of Shakspeare?
CHESTERFIELD. I should look upon it as upon a wonder, not to say a miracle. Newton, like Barrow, had no feeling or respect for poetry.
CHATHAM. His words are these: 'I don't know what I may seem to the world; but as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell 'than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of Truth lay all undiscovered before me.'
CHESTERFIELD. Surely nature, who had given him the volumes of her greater mysteries to unseal; who had bent over him and taken his hand, and taught him to decipher the characters of her sacred language; who had lifted up before him her glorious veil, higher than ever yet for mortal, that she might impress her features and her fondness on his heart, threw it back wholly at these words, and gazed upon him with as much admiration as ever he had gazed upon her.
Conversation between William Penn and Lord Peterborough. PETERBOROUGH. The worst objection I myself could ever find against the theatre is, that I lose in it my original idea of such men as Cæsar and Coriolanus, and, where the loss affects me more deeply, of Juliet and Desdemona. Alexander was a fool to wish for a second world to conquer; but no man is a fool who wishes for the enjoyment of two; the real and the ideal; nor is it anything short of a misfortune, I had almost said of a calamity, to confound them. This is done by the stage: it is likewise done by engravings in books, which have a great effect in weakening the imagination, and are serviceable only to those who have none, and who read negligently and idly. I should be sorry if the most ingenious print in the world were to cover the first impression left on my mind of such characters as Don Quixote and Sancho: yet probably a very indifferent one might do it; for we cannot master our fancies, nor give them at will a greater or less tenacity, a greater or less promptitude in coming and recurring.
You Friends are no less adverse to representation by painting than by acting.
PENN. We do not educate our youth to such professions and practices. Thou, I conceive, art unconcerned and disinterested in this matter.
PETERBOROUGH. Nearly, but not quite, I am ignorant of the art, and prefer that branch of it which to many seems the lowest; I mean portraiture. I can find flowers in my garden, landscapes in my rides, the works of saints in the Bible, of great statesmen and captains in the historians, and of those who with equal advantages had been the same, in the Newgate Calendar. The best representation of them can only give me a high opinion of the painter's abilities fixed on a point of time. But when I look on a family picture by Vandyke; when I contemplate the elegant and happy father in the midst of his blooming progeny, and the partner of: his fortunes and his joy beside him, I am affected very differently, and much more. He who there stands meditating for them some delightful scheme of pleasure or aggrandisement, has bowed his head to calamity, perhaps even to the block. Those roses gathered from the parterre behind, those taper fingers negligently holding them, that hair, the softness of which seems unable to support the riot of its ringlets, are moved away from earth, amid the tears and aching hearts of the very boys and girls who again are looking at me with such unconcern.
Faithfulest recorder of domestic bliss, perpetuator of youth and beauty, vanquisher of time leading in triumph the Hours and Seasons, the painter here bestows on me the richest treasures of his enchanting art.
Grandiloquent Writing. , Magnificent words, and the pomp and procession of stately sentences, may accompany genius, but are not always nor frequently called out by it. The voice ought not to be perpetually, nor much, elevated in the ethic and didactic, nor to roll sonorously, as if it issued from a mask in the theatre. The horses in the plain under Troy are not always kicking and neighing; nor is the dust always raised in whirlwinds on the banks of Simois and Scamander; nor are the rampirés always in a blaze. Hector has lowered hls helmet to the infant of Andromache, and Achilles to the embraces of Briseis. I do not blame the prose-writer who opens his bosom occasionally to a breath of poetry; neither, on the contrary, can I praise the gait of that pedestrian who lifts up his legs as high on a bare heath as in a corn-field.
Milton. As the needle turns away from the rising sun, from the meridian, from the occidental, from regions of fragrancy and gold and gems, and moves with unerring impulse to the frosts and deserts of the North, so Milton and some few others, in politics, philosophy, and religion, walk through the busy multitude, wave aside the importunate trader, and, after a momentary oscillation from external agency, are found in the twilight and in the storm, pointing with certain index to the pole-star of immutable truth.
I have often been amused at thinking in what estimation the greatest of mankind were holden by their contemporaries. Not even the most sagacious and prudent one could discover much of them, or could prognosticate their future course in the infinity of space! Men like ourselves are permitted to stand near, and indeed in the very presence of Milton: what do they see? dark clothes, gray hair, and sightless eyes! Other men have better things : other men, therefore, are nobler! The stars themselves are only bright by distance; go close, and all is earthy. But vapours illuminate these; from the breath and from the countenance of God comes light on worlds higher than they; worlds to which he has given the forms and names of Shakespeare and Milton.
EDWIN ATHERSTONE. EDWIN ATHERSTONE (1788–1872) was author of "The Last Days of Herculaneum' (1821), and “The Fall of Nineveh' (1828), both poems in blank verse, and remarkable for splendour of diction and copiousness of description. The first is founded on the well-known
* A very few of Mr. Landor's aphorisms and remarks may be added: He says of fame: *Fame, they tell you, is air; but withoutair there is no life for any; without fame there is none for the best.' The happy man,' he says, is he who distinguishes the boundary between desire and delight, and stands firmly on the higher ground; he who knows that pleasure is not only not possession, but is often to be lost, and always to be endangered by it.' Of light wit or sarcasm, he observes: Quickness is amongst the least of the mind's properties. I would persuade you that banter, pun, and quibble are the properties of light men and shallow capacities; that genuine humour and true wit require a sound and capacious mind, which is always a grave one.'
destruction of the city of Herculaneum by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the first year of the emperor Titus, or the 79th of the Christian era. Mr. Atherstone has followed the account of this awful occurrence given by the younger Pliny in his letters to Tacitus, and has drawn some powerful pictures of the desolating fire and its attendant circumstances. There is perhaps too much of terrible and gloomy painting, yet it enchains the attention of the reader, and impresses the imagination with something like dramatic force. Mr. Atherstone's second subject is of the same elevated cast: the downfall of an Asiatic empire afforded ample room for his love of strong and magnificent description, and he has availed himself of this license so fully as to border in many passages on extravagance and bombast.
The following passage, descriptive of the splendour of Sardanapalus's state, may be cited as a happy specimen of Mr. Atherstone's style:
Banquet in Sardanapalus's Palace.
Like a mountain stream,
Sylph-like girls, and blooming boys,
Through all the city sounds the voice of joy
Then went the king,
From out its rest the Assyrian banner broad,
At that sight
CHARLES LAMB. CHARLES LAMB, a poet and a delightful essayist, of quaint peculiar humour and fancy, was born in London on the 10th February 1775. His father was in humble circumstances, servant and friend. to one of the benchers of the Inner Temple; but Charles was presented to the school of Christ's Hospital, and from his seventh to his fifteenth year he was an inmate of that ancient and munificent asylum. "Lamb was a nervous, timid, and thoughtful boy: 'while others were all fire and play, he stole along with all the self-concentration of a monk.' He would have obtained an exhibition at school, admitting him to college, but these exhibitions were given under the implied if not expressed condition of entering into holy orders, and Lamb had an impediment in his speech, which proved an insuperable obstacle. In 1792 he obtained an appointment in the accountant's office of the East India Company, residing with his parents; and 'on their death,' says Serjeant Talfourd, ‘he felt himself called upon by duty to repay to his sister the solicitude with which she had watched over his infancy, and well, indeed, he performed it. To her, from the age of twenty-one, he devoted his existence, seeking thenceforth no connection which could interfere with her supremacy in his affection, or impair his ability to sustain and to comfort her.' A sad tragedy was connected with the early history of this devoted pair. There was a taint of hereditary madness in the family; Charles had himself, at the close of the year 1795, been six weeks confined in an asylum at Hoxton, and in September of the following year, Mary Lamb, in a paroxysm of insanity, stabbed her mother to death with a knife snatched from the dinner-table. A verdict of lunacy was returned by the jury who sat on the coroner's inquest, and the un
happy young lady was placed in a private asylum at Islington. Rea-