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Solitude.—HENRY K. WHITE.
It is not that my lot is low,
In woods and glens I love to roam,
The autumn leaf is sear and dead :
The woods and winds, with sudden wail,
Yet, in my dreams, a form I view,
Necessity of Industry, even to Genius -V. Knox.
FROM the revival of learning to the present day, every thing that labour and ingenuity can invent, has been produced to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge. But, notwithstanding all the Introductions, the Translations, the Annotations, and the Interpretations, I must assure the student, that industry, great and persevering industry, is absolutely necessary to secure any very valuable and distinguished improvement. Superficial qualifications are indeed obtained at an easy price of time and labour; but superficial qualifications confer neither honour, emolument, nor satisfaction.
The pupil may be introduced, by the judgment and the liberality of his parents, to the best schools, the best tutors, the best books; and his parents may be led to expect, from such advantages alone, extraordinary advancement. But these things are all extraneous. The mind of the pupil must be accustomed to submit to labour; sometimes to painful labour.
The poor and solitary student, who has never enjoyed any of these advantages, but in the ordinary manner, will, by his own application, emerge to merit, fame, and fortune; while the indolent, who has been taught to lean on the supports which opulence supplies, will sink into insignificance. His mind will have contracted habits of inactivity, and inactivity causes imbecility.
I repeat, that the first great object is, to induce the mind to work within itself, to think long and patiently on the same subject, and to compose in various styles, and in various metres. It must be led not only to bear, but to seek, occasional solitude. If it is early habituated to all these exereises, it will find its chief pleasure in them; for the energies of the mind affect it with the finest feelings.
But is industry, such industry as I require, necessary to genius? The idea, that it is not necessary, is productive of the greatest evils. We often form a wrong judgment in determining who is, and who is not, endowed with this noble privilege. A boy who appears lively and talkative, is often supposed by his parents to be a genius. He is suffered to be idle, for he is a genius; and genius is only injured by application.
Now it usually happens, that the very lively and talkative boy is the most deficient in genius. His forwardness arises from a defect of those fine sensibilities, which, at the same time, occasion diffidence and constitute genius. He ought to be inured to literary labour; for, without it, he will be prevented, by levity and stupidity, from receiving any valuable impressions.
Parents and instructers must be very cautious how they dispense with diligence, from an idea that the pupil possesses genius sufficient to compen'sate for the want of it. All men are liable to mistake in deciding on genius at a very early age; but parents more than all, from their natural partiality.
On no account, therefore, let them dispense with close application. If the pupil has genius, this will improve and adorn it; if he has not, it is confessedly requisite to supply the defect. Those prodigies of genius, which require not instruction, are rare phenomena : we read, and we hear of such ; but few of us have seen and known such.
What is genius worth without knowledge? But is a man ever born with knowledge? It is true, that one man is born with a better capacity than another, for the reception and retention of ideas; but still the mind must operate in colJecting, arranging, and discriminating those ideas, which it receives with facility. And I believe the mind of a genius is often very laboriously at work, when, to the common observer, it appears to be quite inactive.
I most anxiously wish, that a due attention may be paid to my exhortations, when I recommend great and ex'emplary diligence. All that is excellent in learning depends upon it. And how can the time of a boy or young man be better employed ? It cannot be more pleasantly; for I am sure, that industry, by presenting a constant succession of various objects, and by precluding the listlessness of inaction, renders life, at all stages of it, agreeable, and particularly so in the restless season of youth.
It cannot be more innocently; for learning has a connexion with virtue; and he, whose time is fully engaged, will escape many vices and much misery. It cannot be more usefully; for he, who furnishes his mind with ideas, and strengthens his faculties, is preparing himself to become a valuable member of society, whatever place in it he may
obtain ; and he is likely to obtain an exalted place.
Story of Matilda.-GOLDSMITH.
Our happiness is in the power of One, who can bring it about in a thousand unforeseen ways, that mock our foresight. If example be necessary to prove this, I'll give you a story, told us by a grave, though sometimes a romancing historian.
“Matilda was married, very young, to a Neapolitan nobleman of the first quality, and found herself a widow and a mother at the age of fifteen. As she stood one day caressing her infant son in the open window of an apartment which hung over the river Volturnus, the child, with a sudden spring, leaped from her arms into the flood below, and disappeared in a moment.
“The mother, struck with instant surprise, and making an effort to save him, plunged in after; but, far from being able to assist the infant, she herself
, with great difficulty, escaped to the opposite shore, just when some French soldiers were plundering the country on that side, who immediately made her their prisoner.
“As the war was then carried on between the French and Italians with the utmost inhumanity, they were going at once to perpetrate those two extremes suggested by appetite and cruelty. This base resolution, however, was opposed by a young officer, who, though their retreat required the utmost expedition, placed her behind him, and brought her in safety to his native city.
“Her beauty at first caught his eye, her merit, soon after, his heart. They were married : he rose to the highest posts : they lived long together, and were happy. But the felicity of a soldier can never be called permanent. After an interval of several years, the troops which he commanded having met with a repulse, he was obliged to ake shelter in the city where he had lived with his wife. Here they suffered a siege, and the city at length was taken.
Few histories can produce more various instances of cruelty, than those which the French and Italians, at that time, exercised upon each other. It was resolved by the victors, upon this occasion, to put all the French prisoners to death ; but particularly the husband of the unfortunate Matilda, as he was principally instrumental in protracting the siege. Their determinations were, in general, executed almost as soon as resolved upon.
“ The captive soldier was led forth, and the executioner with his sword stood ready, while the spectators in gloomy silence awaited the fatal blow, which was only suspended till the general, who presided as judge, should give the signal. It was in this interval of anguish and expectation, that Matilda came to take her last farewell of her husband and deliverer, deploring her wretched situation, and the cruelty of fate, that had saved her from perishing by a premature death in the river Volturnus, to be the spectator of still greater calamities.
“The general, who was a young man, was struck with surprise at her beauty, and pity at her distress; but with still stronger emotions, when he heard her mention her former dangers. He was her son—the infant, for whom she had encountered so much danger. He acknowledged her at once as his mother, and fell at her feet. The rest may be easily supposed : the captive was set free, and all the happiness that love, friendship, and duty, could confer on each, was enjoyed.”
The Man of Ross.~POPE.
But all our praises why should lords engross ?
Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows ?
Is any sick? The man of Ross relieves,