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THOMAS DE QUINCEY.

“Mr. De Quincey was a man whose curious idiosyncrasy and whose influence upon literature will, we are confident, awaken more curiosity with future generations of Englishmen than they do with us to-day. He will, we venture to foretell, stand forth more and more prominently as the decades go by.”New Quarterly Magazine, July, 1875.

“But for dreams, that lay mosaic worlds tesselated with flowers and jewels before the blind sleeper, and surround the recumbent living with figures of the dead in the upright attitude of life, the time would be too long before we are allowed to join our brothers, parents, friends; every year we should become more and more painfully sensible of the desolation made around us by death, if sleep—the ante-chamber of the grave—were not hung by dreams with the busts of those who live in the other world.”— Jean Paul Richter.

THOMAS DE QUINCEY.

HE lives of philosophers, poets, and other literary I men, are mostly barren of incident. A life spent in the study is generally a quiet, subjective one. Though the men of thought inspire the men of action, yet it is the latter who reap the fruit from the seeds which the former have silently sown. The world owes an eternal obligation to its thinkers. For what a glorious kingdom such men as Homer, Plato, and Shakespeare have opened for us! They helped to bring the kingdom of literature on the earth, and to make the world habitable. Johnson says truly, “That the chief glory of a nation arises from its authors.”

If what we have said is true of the silent lives of most thoughtful men, we can take the subject of our present study as an exception to the general order. Here, at least in one part of De Quincey's life and experience, is there told a tale of strange endurance and sorrow-of temptation, dark and strong—of a struggle, the issue of which was either life or death-of a victory, which crowned its victor, not with laurels, but with thorns, and left him bleeding, maimed, and almost helpless. It is no easy task to give the characteristics of the many-sided mind of this man. Of his multifarious writings, all are strongly marked with the individuality of the author, and distinguished by the characteristic attractions of depth of scholarship, imagination, wit, and humour. He has written upon almost every conceivable subject, and what is more he has written well. At one time he gives us a little egotistical obtrusion in the shape of autobiography; at another, he is discoursing upon philosophy, and calling up the reverent shades of almost every philosopher under the sun, from Thales to Kant. Now he is erecting logical fortifications in which the gods themselves might take refuge; or he is giving lectures upon political economy. Then taking into consideration “murder as one of the fine arts.” Anon, he bursts out into beautiful strains of poetry. Then he is lashing with his critical whip, or roasting before the slow fire of his sarcasm some would-be scholar, philosopher, or poet.

Thus, like a restless lodger constantly shifting his apartments, does he wander from subject to subject, yet he makes himself perfectly at home in each, and what is more bis writings are invested with all the charms and graces of the scholar, whose richly stored and well-cultivated mind, whose genial, warm, and sympathetic nature, help to make his readers at home with him also. He is a complete master of the English language, even of its slang; and his writings are characterized by eccentricities of thought and manner. In them are constant jerks and changes, sharp angles, and electric points, running commentaries of foot notes, and bristling scholasticisms. Sometimes his thoughts and sentences flow evenly on, interrupted now and then by some contradiction or paradox, which but break their course to music, “as stones break summer rills ;" mixed up here and there, too, are exquisite bits of nonsense. Not many,

he says, can write first-rate nonsense. His writings remind us of those quaint fantastic carvings in Gothic architecture, where the imagination of the architect has been allowed to run riot, and in which are strangely blended the sublime and the ridiculous. Grotesque and fanciful shapes, with beautiful devices; faces of cherubims and archangels, side by side with goblin-like forms, and unearthly shapes of monstrous divinities.

There are some who object to the overflow of sportive huinour in De Quincey's writings, especially in the higher realms of thought. They think it is sacrilegious, and fit only for the novel and the farce; that a man professing himself a philosopher compromises his dignity by indulging in a joke, and would have him bury the stores of his learning and wisdom in the coffin of cold thought. A century ago there were cold, hard-headed philosophers, who sat apart in solemn state. Such Sydney Smith saw in Edinburgh, and of whom he said, “it required a surgical operation to get a joke into their heads.” They had no sympathy with the simple and unphilosophic, the ignorant and uneducated, who could only reason, according to the philosophy of Coran, “that the property of rain was to wet, and fire to burn; that good pasture made fat sheep, and that a great cause of the night is the lack of sun.” Feeding themselves upon the dry bones of logical facts, they suffered the warm, hearty, breathing spirit of life to dwindle into miserable dyspepsia. They lacked that secretion of good-humour which we might call

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