Page images
PDF
EPUB

who stand self-convicted as the idlest, the most unfeeling, the least meritorious.class' of the whole community ?

The good sense and humanity of the lower orders have induced them to forego bear and badger-baiting altogether; bullbaiting and cock-throwing are falling fast into desuetude, and most of their other cruel pastimes are discontinued; an improvement which, it is to be hoped, will not be altogether thrown away upon those patrician sportsmen, who ought to have set the example which they are now called upon to follow.

GAMING-See Beggar and Suicide.—The gamester begins by being a dupe, speedily becomes a knave, and generally ends his career as a pauper. A dicebox, like that of Pandora, is full of all evils, with a deceitful Hope at the bottom, which generally turns into Despair. There is but one good throw upon the dice, which is, to throw them away,

GENIUS-A natural aptitude to perform well and easily that which others can do but indifferently, and with pains. Locke has exploded the theory of innate ideas. The mind of a newly-born infant is as a new mirror, which with a capacity to reflect all objects, is, in itself, objectless. There is nothing innate or original in either case, except the capacity to reflect, which will vary according to the peculiar construction of the mind or the mirror; some presenting objects with a true or a false, with a beautifying or a discoloured and unbecoming hue; while others will enlarge, diminish, distort, or absolutely reverse the forms presented to them. These different tendencies of minds, originally idealess, constitute the diversities of human character, or form what is commonly called genius.

GHOSTS.—There is more meaning and philosophy than at first sight appears in Coleridge's answer to Lady Beaumont, when she asked him whether he believed in ghosts_“O no, Madam, I have seen too many to believe in them.” He had sense enough to see that his senses had been deceived.

GLORY-Military. --Sharing with plague, pestilence, and famine, the honour of destroying your species; and participating with Alexander's horse the distinction of transmitting your name to posterity.

GLUTTONY—Pope's line

[ocr errors]

Is there no help then, Helluo, bring the jowl,"

was suggested by what Athenæus records of Philoxenus, the Dithyrambic poet, who, having nearly completed, at one meal, an enormous polypuš, was seized with convulsive

spasms,

and being told his last hour was at hand, exclaimed—“Since Charon and Atropos are come to call me away from my delicacies, it is best to leave nothing behind, so bring the remainder of the polypus.” According to the same veracious author, Cambles, being given to gastromargism, ate up his wife, and in the morning, found her hands in his throat! Many a poor man now-a-days, when he finds the hands of his shrewish wife in his throat, would be glad to dispose of the rest of her body after the fashion of Cambles.

GNATS—" To what base uses may we not return !” exclaims Hamlet, Imperial Cæsar dead and turned to clay," &c. It is a humiliating fact, which cannot be denied; but, on the other hand, there are many forms of matter, which, in their decomposition, are as much elevated, as the ingredients of Cæsar's body were temporarily degraded. Gnats, for instance, and other annoying insects devoured by birds, are ultimately converted into music; their importunate buzzings being but an inharmonious prelude, or tuning of instruments for the warbling of the nightingale, the cheerful song of the thrush, and the full concert of the winged choristers, who turn the summer air into melody. Our own daily food, ministering to the spirit of which the body is only the shrine, may be sublimised into wit, wisdom, and poetry. In the economy of na

ture, there is a perpetual interchange of life and death, of mind and matter. We draw existence and intellect from the earth; we return to it, and contribute, by resolving into our first elements, to supply life and intellect to our successors.

GOETHE-said that he considered no work complete, unless it involved some mystery which the author left unexplained, for the express purpose of stimulating the curiosity and the faculties of the reader. in this confession we have a key to his Faust, to much of the Kantian philosophy, and to a portion of the German literature in general. The mystical—the obscure—the enigmatical, where there is no real riddle to be solved, as in the case of Faust, Coleridge's Christabel, and similar productions, are so much sheer impertinence, and one feels a contemptuous pity for those laborious Edipi, who puzzle their brains in endeavouring to solve the imaginary enigma of a sham Sphynx. German writers and readers seem to find a delight in thus stultifying each other, but it is foreign to the plain, straightforward, intelligible, useful, matter-of-fact character of England,—and therefore is it, that German literature will never become popular among us. GOETHE-the Shakspeare and Voltaire of Germany, is little known in this country, except by his Werther and his Faust.

GOOD—in things evil.

“ There is a soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distil it out."

“So with equal wisdom and good-nature, does Shakspeare make one of his characters exclaim-Suffering gives strength to sympathy. Hate of the particular may have a foundation in love for the general. The lowest and most wilful vice may plunge deeper out of a regret of virtue. Even in envy may be discerned something of an instinct of justice, something of a wish to see universal fair-play, and things on a level.” Leigh

[ocr errors]

Hunt, from one of whose delightful papers in the Indicator this passage is extracted, might easily have expanded his idea, and illustrated it by further examples; for while body and soul retain their alliance, their joint offspring will ever bear a likeness to either parent. The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together; our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues.” To begin with the latter ;-what we call patriotism, is often a blind and mischievous prejudice against other nations, rather than an enlightened preference of our own. Love is as often sensual as sentimental. Parental affection, where it is not instinctive, is only reflected self-love. Charity not seldom proceeds from pride, from our desire to get rid of an uneasy sensation, or from the hope of being repaid with usurious interest what we “ lend to the Lord.” Dispensing justice may spring from the thirst of domination over our fellow creatures; and religion itself, even when sincere, may be instigated by that selfish regard to future reward, which has been termed-other-worldliness.

As our virtues are tainted occasionally by degrading associations, so may our vices be mingled with redeeming ones., Conjugal jealousy and the hatred of a rival, spring from the intensity of our love. Revenge, which, like envy, is an instinct of justice, does but take into its own hands the execution of that natural law which preceded the social. Avarice is only prudence and economy pushed to excess; intemperance has its source in fellowship and hospitality; and wasteful extravagance springs from an unregulated generosity. These considerations are not urged to encourage moral Pyrrhonism and doubt ; still less to confound the barriers of right and wrong; but to inculcate humility as well as forbearance, to teach us that we should neither be too overweening in estiinating our own virtues, nor too severe in condemning the failings of others.

GOODNESS-A synonyme for Deity.

* When all the

can

good of a system,” says G. L. Le Sage, of Geneva, “ easily be traced to general principles, and when all the evils appear to be exceptions, closely connected with some good, the excess being evidently, though, perhaps, but in a small degree, on the side of good, the contriver must be regarded as beneficent." If the existence of pain and evil render it difficult for a reflecting man to be an optimist, there is no reason why he should not, at all events, be an agathist. It is an observation of Dr. Johnson, that as the greatest liar tells more truth than falsehood, so may it be said of the worst man, that he does more good than evil.

" When a common soldier," observes Adam Smith, “is ordered upon a forlorn hope, his courage, and his sense of duty, will make him march to his doom with alacrity ; but how few are philosophers enough to imitate this brave devotion, when they are ordered out upon the forlorn hope of the universe.” The moral courage that will face obloquy in a good cause, is a much rarer gift than the bodily valour that will confront death in a bad one.

With a double vigilance should we watch our actions, when we reflect, that good and bad ones are never childless; and that, in both cases, the offspring goes beyond the parent, -every good begetting a better, every bad a worse.

GOOSE-A bird, and word of reproach, but I know not why. M. de Cottu, the French jurist, who came to this country to digest our laws and our dinners, and who pronounced our cuisine to be fade et bornée, records, with an affectation of delicate disgust, that even at decent tables he had often seen a goose !–Gadso! I can easily believe it, if he sat opposite the mirror. Why this calumniated fowl should be á byeword for ridicule in our discourse, or an object of abomination at polite tables, is an enigma, which it might puzzle Edipus to solve. Every one knows that the Roman State was saved by the cackling of geese; a hint which has by no means been thrown away upon some of our own short

16

VOL. I.

« PreviousContinue »