« AnteriorContinuar »
Scarcely on any bough is heard
The whole wood through.
Where old friends meet.
And all things sweet.
Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.2
WILLIAM HAZLITT (1778–1830) IF F I had few real pleasures or advantages, my ideas,
from their sinewy texture, have been to me in the nature of realities, and if I should not be able to add to the stock, I can live by husbanding the interest. As to my speculations, there is little to admire in them but my admiration of others; and whether they have an echo in time to come or not, I have learned to set a grateful value on the past, and am content to wind
the account of what is personal only to myself and the immediate circle of objects in which I have moved, with an act of easy oblivion,
And curtain-close such scene from every future view. For myself I do not complain of the greater thickness of the atmosphere as I approach the narrow house. I
1 Miscellaneous Poems (1846).
felt it more formerly, when the idea alone seemed to suppress a thousand rising hopes, and weighed upon the pulses of the blood. . . . At present I rather feel a thinness and want of support; I stretch out my hand to some object, and find none; I am too much in a world of abstraction; the naked map of life is spread out before me, and in the emptiness and desolation I see Death coming to meet me.
In my youth, I could not behold him for a crowd of objects and feelings, and Hope stood always between us, saying, “Never mind that old fellow!” If I had lived, indeed, I should not care to die. But I do not like a contract of pleasure broken off unfulfilled, a marriage with joy unconsummated, a promise of happiness rescinded. My public and private hopes have been left a ruin, or remain only to mock me. I would wish them to be re-edified. I should like to see some prospect of good to mankind, such as my life began with. I should like to leave some sterling work behind me. I should like to have some friendly hand to consign me to the grave. On these conditions I am ready, if not willing, to depart. I shall then write on my tomb— GRATEFUL AND CONTENTED. But I have thought and suffered too much to be willing to have thought and suffered in vain.1
(1782-1853) MY Y wish is to be clear of public life altogether.
Am I doing good thereby ? God knows the life of this world is hateful to me, and but for those 1 From Autobiography in the Memoirs by his grandson (1828).
in it with me should not be mine. A tent and a desert, with little food and drink, is the life for which I was made. 1
Vanity! all is vanity! said Solomon, and I have never doubted it, and have so little that if I could at once undo my battles and destroy all knowledge of my name this minute it would be done; but having studied war and mischief all my life, the “ love of trade” is in me, and I am indifferent to success. 2
This is the twelfth anniversary of my marriage with my present wife, who is all goodness and virtue. God spare her to me till He takes me out of this world. She will rejoin me hereafter in the central sun, where I suppose we shall all go. For there must be a centre to the heavens as to all things, and in that centre we may believe the Deity dwells, and there receives his creatures after death. May my sins not prevent my being there, with all of mine who have gone before in recognition and love. What is to happen to us? ... I do not think my balance sheet will be white; no man's is. I try hard to do my duty, but do not satisfy myself, and God will not make me judge my own soul, or I am a lost man.
Yet if so, there must be a purgatory, for I could not honestly pronounce myself worthy of heaven, not altogether of eternal damnation.3
Content is all, and content men can be if their minds are firm and convinced, as mine is, that there is a future state. I believe that, because it is not in me
1 From Journal, November 13, 1844.
2 Ibid. November 28, 1844.
3 lbid. April 19, 1847
to think such a large workshop is made for nothing ! Oh! thou central sun! when shall I see thee, live in thee, and defy the evil genius which pulls us down to baseness ? ... Perhaps thou, oh sun! art but one of an infinity of worlds which whirl round the God! He has given us a minute part to act, and such smallness seems to argue that we are too small to be of importance in that machine to conceive the vastness of which even thought falls short and hopeless. But look below! Are there not things in myriads as much less than us, as we are less than the globe in which we are shut up? Are not their bones, fibres, muscles, all made with a perfection of attention ? May not death give us a huge form in spirit? May we not go higher or lower as we have served under the banner of the good or evil Spirit? I may become a horse, a dog, a rat, an insect most minute after death, and be conscious of my degraded state. And I may rise to something as much above what I now am, as much as I now am above the insect, and so get nearer to the central sun; yet perhaps to our sun, or our moon, or some other planet, or the secret of death may burst at once upon me! The grave is the entrance to life; to a life of further trials, and more or less happiness as we are more or less in the hands of the good spiritual God, or those of the evil material God—if God means power. For that two Gods, a bad and a good, exist and struggle for us and for all things, I believe, and that in exact proportion to our virtue are we freed from the evil spirit, whereas our crimes cast us bound at his feet.
1 From Journal, May 20, 1847.
LEIGH HUNT (1784–1859) MUST therefore end life as I began it, in what is
perhaps my only true vocation, that of a love of nature and books ;-complaining of nothing; grateful if others will not complain of me; a little proud, perhaps (nature allows such balm to human weakness), of having been found not unworthy of doing that for the Good Cause, by my sufferings, which I can no longer pretend to do with my pen ; and possessed of one golden secret, tried in the fire, which I still hope to recommend in future writings; namely, the art of finding as many things to love as possible in our path through life, let us otherwise try to reform it as we may."
The reader will see at once how “ unorthodox” is
my version of Christianity when I declare that I do not believe one single dogma which the reason that God has put in our heads, or the heart that he has put in our bosoms, revolts at. For though reason cannot settle many undeniable mysteries that perplex us, and though the heart must acknowledge the existence of others from which it cannot but receive pain, yet that is no reason why mysteries should be palmed upon reason of which it sees no evidences whatever, or why pain should be forced upon the heart for which it sees grounds as little. . . . What evils there are, I find, for the most part, relieved with many consolations; some I find to be necessary to the requisite amount of good. 2
1 From "Farewell Address” in the Monthly Repository (1838).
2 From the Autobiography.