« PreviousContinue »
more comprehensive the range of intellectual view, and the more minute the perception of its parts, the greater will be the simplicity of conception, the aptitude for exposition, and the directness of access to the open and expectant mind. This adaptation to the humblest wants is the peculiar trimph of the highest spirit of knowledge. MARTINEAU.
4. Value of Books. No knowledge is more useful in life, nor is any furnished by human science more fitted to raise the mind to worthy thoughts of the Creator, than the knowledge of our nature. This knowledge we obtain in part by consciousness; that is, by observing and reflecting upon the operations of our own minds.
But, as we can become acquainted in this way with our own minds only, and can learn nothing of the respects in which other minds may differ from our own, nor determine how far the characteristics observed belong to man as man, it becomes necessary to enlarge our acquaintance with our species. Hence the advantage of intercourse with others; and the more extensive this intercourse is, the better shall we discriminate between what is personal, local, or accidental in human character, and what is permanent, essential, and universal.
He who mixes promiscuously with men of various pursuits and parties, or who travels and observes men as they develop themselves in different countries and under different systems of government and religion, must have a much more liberal and enlightened acquaintance with man's nature, than if he had always associated with one class or lived only in one place.
Now, books serve, in a good degree, as substitutes for
Characteristics, those traits which distinguish one thing from another of its kind, or that which constitutes the difference between two similar objects. — Essential, literally, belonging to the being, al, 68; that quality or attribute of any object, which is necessary to its constitution or existence
traveling, and for other methods of studying mankind. They introduce us to men of different stations and employments. They present us with the results of voyages and travels in distant parts of the earth, and among nations and tribes wholly unlike our own. They even take us back to'past ages, and enable us to look on the manners, the arts,
the modes of government, and the vicissitudes in power and influence, of the most remarkable nations of antiquity.
Thus, while sitting quietly in our chamber, we are able, if supplied with a few good volumes, to take a more enlarged and thorough survey of our race, than could be gained by a life spent in travelling merely; and though, doubtless, the information thus gained by reading must be coupled with observation and reflection in order to make it just or practically useful, it is, on that account, none the less necessary or valuable.
Biography makes us acquainted with individuals, especially with those who have been eminent for talent or usefulness. Voyages and travels introduce us to communities which we cannot survey personally. History instructs us in regard to the progress of science and the arts; the condition of men in former times and under various systems of government; the great events which have occupied the thoughts and called forth the energies of other generations; the course of moral and social revolutions; and that varying, but, on the whole, progressive movement, which is gradually carrying forward our race towards a higher civilization.
And, besides such works, which propose to exhibit man through his acts, and as he has really been seen at different periods and in different countries, we have other books, in which the wisest and most sagacious minds have set forth their conclusions respecting our nature, drawn from a long and intimate survey of it.
Especially, in a great degree, particularly. - Revolutions, a turning over, or rolling back: re, 48; ion, 96; overturning existing forms and gubsti tuting others in their stead. — Moral, relating to intellectual and religious character : al, 68. — Social, relating to political condition and personal freedom. – Progressive, going forward : pro, 46; ive, 103
We have, for instance, essays, like those of Addison, which dissect, with a most delicate but skilful hand, the workings of the heart, analyzing feeling, exposing folly, rebuking affectation, and correcting vice.
We have philosophical works, which discuss matters of higher import, anc. attempt to unfold the laws that govern the development and operation of all our faculties.
We have poetry of every grade, from the lofty drama or epic to the sonnet and stanza, all proposing to “hold the mirror up to nature, to show Vice her own features, Scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time, its form and pressure." Each one of these is a source, from which he, who would sound all the depths and shoals of our nature, can derive hints and lessons of inestimable value.
Answer me, burning stars of night!
Where is the spirit gone,
As a swift breeze has flown?
" We roll
Ask that which cannot die."
0, many-toned and chainless wind!
Thou art a wanderer free ;
Far uver mount and sea ?
“ The blue deep I have crossed,
But not what thou hast lost."
Ye clouds that gorgeously repose
Around the setting sun,
Whose earthly race is run ?
We vanish from the sky;
For that which cannot die."
Speak, then, thou voice of God within,
Thou of the deep, low tone ;-
Where is the spirit flown?
Enough to know is given;
Thine is to trust in Heaven.”
Mrs. Felicia Hemans, born 1793, in Liverpool moved to Wales, and there imbibed the love of nature displayed in her works. She commenced pubfishing in her fifteenth year. After the death of her husband, she continued to study and write while educating her children.
This admirable woman and sweet poetess died in May, 1835, aged fortyone. Though highly popular and in many respects excellent, we do not think much of the poetry of Mrs. Hemans will descend to posterity. Scott lias hinted that there are " too many flowers for the fruit; that there is more for the ear and fancy than for the heart and the intellect.” Some of her shorter pieces and her lyrical productions are touching and beautiful both in sentiment and expression. Her versification is always melodious; but there is an oppressive sameness in her longer poems, which fatigues the reader; and when the volume is closed, the effect is only that of a mass of glittering images and polished words, a graceful melancholy, and feminine tenderness, but no strong or permanent impression. The passions are seldom stirred, however the fancy may be soothed or gratified. In description Mrs. Hemans had considerable power; she was both copious and exact; and often, as Jeffrey has observed," a lovely picture serves as a foreground to some deep or lofty emotion.” The purity of her mind is seen in all her works; and her love of nature, like Wordsworth's, was a delicate blending of our deep inward emotions with their splendid symbols and emblems without.
A complete collection of the works of Mrs. Hemans, with a memoir by her sister, has been published in six volumes.
Chambers's Encyclopedia of English Literature.
6. Gospel Benevolence and Human Feeling.
The benevolence of the gospel lies in actions; the henevolence of our writers of fiction, in a kind of high-wrought delicacy of feeling and sentiment. The one dissipates all its fervor in sighs, and tears, and idle aspirations; the other reserves its strength for efforts and execution.
The one regards it as a luxurious enjoyment for the heart; the other, as a work and business for the hand. The one sits in indolence, and broods, in visionary rapture, over its schemes of ideal philanthropy; the other steps abroad, and enlightens by its presence the dark and pestilential hovels of disease. The one wastes away in empty ejaculation; the other gives time and effort to the work of beneficence; gives education to the orphan; and provides clothes for the naked, and lays food on the table of the hungry. The one is indolent and capricious, and often does mischief by the occasional overflowings of a whimsical and ill-directed charity; the other is vigilant and discerning, and takes care lest his distributions be injudicious, and the effort of benevolence be unsupplied. The one is soothed with the luxury of feeling, and reclines in easy and indolent satisfaction; the other shakes off the deceitful languor of contemplation and solitude, and delights in a scene of activity.
Remember that virtue, in general, is not to feel, but to do; not merely to conceive a purpose, but to carry that purpose into execution ; not merely to be overpowered by the impression of a sentiment, but to practise what it loves, and to imitate what it admires.
Aspiration, a breathing after: ad, 10; ion, 96; the act of ardently desiring what is noble or spiritual. — Indolence, inaction, or want of exertion of body or mind, proceeding from love of ease or aversion to toil: ence 82. — Visionary, relating to visions : ary, 75; existing in imagination only not real. — Philanthropy, the love of mankind, benevolence towards the whole human family. - Ejaculation, the act of throwing or darting out: e, 26 ; ion, 96; the uttering of a short prayer. — Whimsical, full of whims, having odd fancies : ical, 68.