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SECTION II. - REMINISCENCES OF CHARACTER.
454. REMINISCENCES OF CHARACTER imply certain recollections which we retain respecting some absent or departed friend; or of some individual remarkable for his deep Christian principles, his moral worth, or philanthropical exertions; or eminent as a poet, author, philosopher, navigator, statesman, &c.
455. Sometimes in noticing the actions for which an individual was remarkable, our reminiscences tend to develop the most important features of the mental or moral character, the springs, as it were, of action.
Sometimes the reminiscences refer to the parentage and early associates of the individual, — or the triumphs which he may have achieved over difficulties; or, perhaps only to some conversation.
Sometimes, again, they may refer to the fortitude displayed on some trying occasion, as in sickness, or in the hour of death.
456. Mode of Exercise. — 1. An Analysis of the leading points or facts which the writer wishes to exhibit.
2. Reproduction of the Example from recollection.
3. A Comparison between the two, in which all deviations must be noticed.
457. MODEL. CHARACTER OF MR. JAMES Wart. 1. Mr. James Watt, the great improver of the steamengine, died on the 25th of August 1819, at his seat at Heathfield, near Birmingham, in the 84th year of his age. This name fortunately needs no commemoration of ours, for he that bore it, survived to see it crowned with undisputed and unenvied honours ; and many generations will probably pass away, before it shall have gathered all its fame. We have said that Mr. Watt was the great improver of the steamengine ; but, in truth, as to all that is admirable in its structure, or vast in its utility, he should rather be described as its inventor. It was by his inventions that its action was so regulated, as to make it capable of being applied to the finest and most delicate manufactures, and its power so increased as to set weight and solidity at defiance. By his admirable contrivances, it has become a thing stupendous, alike for its force and flexibility, for the prodigious power which it can exert, and the ease, precision, and ductility with which it can be varied, distributed, and applied.
2. Independently of his great attainments in mechanics, Mr. Watt was an extraordinary, and, in many respects, a wonderful man. Perhaps, no individual in his age possessed so much and such varied and exact information, had read so much, or remembered what he read so accurately and well. That he should have been minutely and extensively skilled in chemistry and the arts, and in most of the branches of physical science, might, perhaps, have been conjectured ; but it could not have been inferred from his usual occupations, and probably is not generally known, that he was curiously learned in many branches of antiquity, metaphysics, medicine, and etymology; and perfectly at home in all the details of architecture, music, and law. He was well acquainted, too, with most of the modern languages, and familiar with their most recent literature,
3. His astonishing memory was aided, no doubt, in a great
measure, by a still higher and rarer faculty, — by his power of digesting and arranging, in its proper place, all the information he received, and of casting aside, and rejecting. as it were, instinctively, whatever was worthless or imm:terial. He never appeared, therefore, to be at all encum. bered or perplexed with the verbiage of the dul] books he may have perused, or the idle talk to which he listened: but to have at once extracted, by a kind of intellectual alchemy, all that was worthy of attention, and to have reduced it for his own use, to its true value, and to its simplest form.
4. It its needless to say, that, with these vast resources, his conversation was, at all times, rich and instructive, in no ordinary degree ; but it was, if possible, still more pleasing than wise, and had all the charms of familiarity, with all the substantial treasures of knowledge. No man could be more social in his spirit, less assuming and fastidious in his manners, or more kind or indulgent towards all who approached him. He rather liked to talk, at least in his latter years ; but, though he took a considerable share of the conversation, he rarely suggested the topics on which it was to turn, but readily and quietly took up whatever was presented by those around him, and astonished the idle and barren propounders of an ordinary theme, by the treasures which he drew from the mine they had unconsciously opened.
He generally seemed, indeed, to have no choice or predilection for one subject of discourse rather than another ; but allowed his mind, like a great cyclopædia, to be opened at any letter his associates might choose to turn up, and only endeavoured to select, from his inexhaustible stores, what might be best adapted to the taste of his present hearers. He had a certain quiet and grave humour, which ran through most of his conversation, and a vein of temperate jocularity, which gave infinite zest and effect to the condensed and inexhaustible information, which formed its main staple and characteristic.
5. He had in his character the utmost abhorrence for all
sorts of forwardness, parade, and pretensions ; and, indeed, never failed to put all such impostors out of countenance, by the manly plainness and honest intrepidity of his language and deportment. — In his temper and disposition, he was not only kind and affectionate, but generous and considerate of the feelings of all around him, and gave the most liberal assistance and encouragement to all young persons, who showed any indications of talent, or applied to him for patronage or advice.
6. He preserved, almost to the last moment of his existence, not only the full command of his extraordinary intellect, but all the alacrity of spirit, and the social gaiety, which had illuminated his happiest days. At last, this happy and useful life came to a gentle close. He had suffered some incon.. venience through the summer, but was not seriously indisposed till within a few weeks of his death. He then became perfectly aware of the event which was approaching, and expressed his sincere gratitude to Providence for the length of days with which he had been blessed, and his exemption from most of the infirmities of age, as well as for the calm and cheerful evening of life that he had been permitted to enjoy. And thus, full of years and honours, in all calmness and tranquillity, he yielded up his soul without pang or struggle, and passed from the bosom of his family to that of his God !
458. In the following Example, the writer records his impressions with regard to the appearance, sentiments, and principles of an individual of whom he had entertained a high opinion, but with whom he had never before had a personal interview. From the imperfections observable in the style, the sketch appears to have been drawn up in a rather hurried manner.
459. Mode of Exercise. - 1. An Analysis of the leading points or facts which the writer wishes to exbibit.
2. Reproduction of the Example from recollection.
3. A Comparison between the two, in which all deviations are noticed.
460. REMINISCENCES OF NIEBUHR BY DR. ARNOLD. 1. In person Niebuhr is short, not above five feet six, or seven, I should think, at the outside ; his face is thin, and his features rather pointed, his eyes remarkably lively and benevolent. His manner is frank, sensible, and kind, and what Bunsen calls the Teutonic character of benevolence, is very predominant about him, yet with nothing of what Jeffrey called, on the other hand, the beer-drinking heaviness of a mere Saxon. He received me very kindly, and we talked in English, which he speaks very well, on a great number of subjects. I was struck with his minute knowledge of the text and MSS. of Thucydides, and with his earnest hope, several times repeated, that we might never do away with the system of classical education in England. I told him of
-'s nonsense about Guernsey and Jersey, at which he was very much entertained, but said that it did not surprise him. He said that he was now much more inclined to change old institutions, than he had been formerly - but “ possibly,” said he, “I may see reason in two or three years to go back more to my old views." Yet he anticipated no evil consequence to the peace of Europe, even from a Republic in France, for he thought that all classes of people had derived benefit from Experience.
2. Niebuhr spoke with great admiration of our former great men, Pitt and Fox, &c., and thought that we were degenerated ; and he mentioned as a very absurd thing a speech of who visited him at Bonn, that if those men