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ROBERTSON (1816-1853)

(OF BRIGHTON) A YEAR has passed, nearly, since I resolved to live

above this world. O God! how little has been done! High, bright, enthusiastic hopes of things impossible, and of things possible still, how they teemed in my imagination! The ideal, of course, always transcends the actual, and now experience of life again, with its manifold struggles, “fallings from us, vanishings," has left a sobered, saddened, but unconquerable resolve to live in earnest. ...

.. Farewell, all visions and wishes of distinctionfarewell to them for ever! But not farewell to something holier and better, far holier, and more worthy of beings whose divine spark is mixed with clay. I can hear in my heart the “still sad music of humanity," and selfishness seems to me even more contemptible than it did, now that I am more distinctly conscious of an end to live for. My career is done. And yet I do not look on life with any bitter or disappointed feeling, but gently and even gratefully.

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, or glory in the flower, etc.

I am not sorry that the wild throb of romantic, boyish anticipation of a future can never be felt again. I know the realities of a world of error now, but whose Maker's name I am profoundly convinced is Love. I

feel its grand, sad laws, and I bow myself to them submissively, not wishing them other than they are.!

What you

Be assured that there is little to be known here; much to be borne; something to be done. What are, and what your life means, you do not know. God only knows. You must be content with twilight, except when contrast with darkness makes the twilight seem, as it really is in comparison, a blaze of light.2

As to what our being in a future state shall be, what its enjoyments, or whether the affections here shall be those there, and whether they shall be, as here, mutable or progressive, I confess myself utterly without a clue to decide. To my mind and heart, the most satisfactory things that have been ever said on the future state are contained in the In Memoriam.3

Except in this conviction, the first and simplest, on which we have ever to fall back from more artificial and complicated theories—God is, and God is Love,— I can see nothing in this life but a hideous, waste, howling wilderness, with siroccos and sand - pillars, overwhelming everything, and scorching up everything. *

The life of Christ and His death, after all, are the only true solution of the mystery of human life ; to that, after all, all the discords of this world's wild music must be attuned at last. ... With God I cannot

1 Written February 1850.
2 From letter to a friend, May 21, 1851.

3 From letter written in 1851.
4 From letter written January 1852.

quarrel, for I recognise the beauty and justice of His conditions. It is a grand comfort to feel that God is right, whatever and whoever else may be wrong. I feel St. Paul's words, “ Let God be true, and every man a liar. 1

The truest view of life has always seemed to me to be that which shows that we are here not to enjoy but to learn.

you for


SMILE at you for supposing that I could be

annoyed by what you say respecting your religious and philosophical views; that I could blame not being able, when you look amongst sects and creeds, to discover any one which you can exclusively and implicitly adopt as yours. I perceive myself that some light falls on earth from Heaven—that some rays from the shrine of truth pierce the darkness of this life and world; but they are few, faint, and scattered, and who without presumption can assert that he has found the only true path upwards ? Yet ignorance, weakness, or indiscretion must have their creeds and forms; they must have their props; they cannot walk alone. Let them hold by what is purest in doctrine and simplest in ritual ; something, they must have.3

Believe all men, and women too, to be dust and ashes—a spark of the divinity now and then kindling

1 1852.

2 From letter written July 2, 1853. 3 From letter to W. S. Williams, July 31, 1848.

in the dull heap—that is all. When I looked on the noble face and forehead of my dead brother . . . and asked myself what had made him go ever wrong, tend ever downwards, when he had so many gifts to induce to, and aid in, an upward course, I seemed to receive an oppressive revelation of the feebleness of humanityof the inadequacy of even genius to lead to true greatness if unaided by religion and principle. In the value, or even the reality, of these two things he would never believe till within a few days of his end; and then all at once he seemed to open his heart to a conviction of their existence and worth.

When the struggle was over, and a marble calm began to succeed the last dread agony, I felt, as I had never felt before, that there was peace and forgiveness for him in heaven. All his errors—to speak plainly, all his vices—seemed nothing to me in that moment; every wrong he had done, every pain he had caused, vanished; his sufferings only were remembered; the wrench to the natural affections only was left. If man

can thus experience total oblivion of his fellow's imperfections, how nuch more can the Eternal Being, who made man, forgive His creature? Had his sins been scarlet in their dye, I believe now they are white as wool.1

Man, as he now is, can no more do without creeds and forms in religion than he can do without laws and rules in social intercourse. You and Emerson judge others by yourselves; all mankind are not like you, any more than every Israelite was like Nathaniel. Is there a human being,” you ask, “so depraved that an act of kindness will not touch—nay, a word melt him ? ”

1 From letter to W. S. Williams, October 6, 1848.

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There are hundreds of human beings who trample on acts of kindness and mock at words of affection. I know this though I have seen but little of the world. I suppose I have something harsher in my nature than you have, something which every now and then tells me dreary secrets about my race, and I cannot believe the voice of the Optimist, charm he never so wisely.

We saw Emily torn from the midst of us when our hearts clung to her with intense attachment. .. She was scarce buried when Anne's health failed. ... These things would be too much, if reason, unsupported by religion, were condemned to bear them alone. . . . The crisis of bereavement has an acute pang which goads to exertion; the desolate after-feeling sometimes paralyses. I have learnt that we are not to find solace in our own strength; we must seek it in God's omnipotence. Fortitude is good, but fortitude itself must be shaken under us, to teach us how weak we are 2


The two human beings who understood me, and whom I understood, are gone; I have some that love me yet, and whom I love, without expecting, or having a right to expect, that they shall perfectly understand

I am satisfied; but I must have my own way in the matter of writing. The loss of what we possess nearest and dearest to us in this world, produces an effect upon the character; we search out what we have yet left that can support, and, when found, we cling to it with a hold of new-strung tenacity. The faculty of imagination lifted me when I was sinking, three months 1 From letter to W. S. Williams, October 18, 1848.

2 From letter written March 24, 1849.

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