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A madrigal,” or some such device, not over abundant in sense--young Love disclaims it—and not quite silly-something between wind and water, a chorus where the sheep might almost join the shepherd, as they did, or as I apprehend they did, in Arcadia.
All Valentines are not foolish ; and I shall not easily forget thine, my kind friend (if I may have leave to call you so) E. B. E. B. lived opposite a young maiden, whom he had often seen, unseen, from his parlour window in C- e-street. She was all joyousness and innocence, and just of an age to enjoy receiving a Valentine, and just of a temper to bear the disappointment of missing one with good humour. E. B. is an artist of no common powers ; in the fancy parts of designing, perhaps inferior to none ; his name is known at the bottom of many a well-executed vignette in the
profession, but no further ; for E. B. is modest, and the world meets nobody halfway. E. B. meditated how he could repay this young maiden for many a favour which she had done him unknown; for when a kindly face greets us, though but passing by, and never knows us again, nor we it, we should feel it as an obligation ; and E. B. did. This good artist set himself at work to please the damsel. It was just before Valentine's day, three years since. He wrought, unseen and unsuspected, a wondrous work. We need not say it was on the finest gilt paper with borders--full, not of common hearts and heartless allegory, but all the prettiest stories of love from Ovid, and older poets than Ovid—(for E. B. is a scholar.) There was Pyramus and Thisbe, and be sure Dido was not forgot, nor Hero and Leander, and swans more than sang in Caïster, with mottoes and fanciful devices, such as beseemed, in short, a work of magic. Iris dipped the woof. This on Valentine's eve he commended to the all-swallowing indiscriminateing orifice-(oh ignoble trust !)-of the common post; but the humble medium did its duty, and from his watchful stand, the next morning, he saw the cheerful messenger knock, and by-and-by the precious charge delivered. He saw, unseen, the happy girl unfold the Valentine, dance about, clap her hands, as one after one the pretty emblems unfolded themselves. She danced about, not with light love, or foolish expectations, for she had no lover; or, if she had, none she ‘knew that could have created those bright images which delighted her. It was more like some fairy present; a Godsend, as our familiarly pious ancestors termed a benefit received, where the benefactor was unknown. It would do her no harm. It wonld do her good for ever after. It is good to love the unknown. I only give this as a specimen of E. B. and his modest way of doing a concealed kindness.
Good-morrow to my Valentine, sings poor Ophelia ; and no better wish, but with better auspices, we wish to all faithful lovers, who are not too wise to despise old legends, but are content to rank themselves humble diocesans of old Bishop Valentine and his true church.
I am of a constitution so general, that it consorts and sympathizeth with all things. I have no antipathy, or rather idiosyncrasy, in anything. Those national repugnances do not touch me, nor do I behold with predjudice the French, Italian, Spaniard, or Dutch.-Religio Medici.
That the author of the Religio Medici, mounted upon
the airy stilts of abstraction, conversant about notional and conjectural essences-in whose categories of being the possible touk the upper hand of the actual—should have overlooked the impertinent individualities of such poor concretions as mankind, is not much to be admired. It is rather to be wondered at, that in the genus of animals he should have condescended to distinguish that species at all. For myself, earthbound and fettered to the scene of my activities,
“ Standing on earth, not rapt above the sky,” I confess that I do feel the differences of mankind, national or individual, to an unhealthy excess. I can look with no indifferent eye upon things or persons.
Whatever is, is to me a matter of taste or distaste ; or when once it becomes indifferent, it begins to be disrelishing. I am, in plainer words, a bundle of prejudices-made up of likings and dislikingsthe veriest thrall to sympathies, apathies, and antipathies. In a certain sense, I hope it may be said of me that I am a lover of my species. I can feel for all indifferently, but I cannot feel towards all equally. The more purely English word that expresses sympathy will better explain my meaning. I can be a friend to a worthy man, who upon another account cannot be my mate or fellow. I cannot like all people alike.*
* I would be understood as confining myself to the subject of imperfect sympathies. To nations or classes of men there can be no direct antipathy.
I have been trying all my life to like Scotchmen, and am obliged to desist from the experiment in despair. They cannot like me—and, in truth, I never knew one of that nation who attempted to do it. There is something more plain and ingenuous in their mode of proceeding. We know one another at first sight. There is an order of imperfect intellects, (under which mine must be content to rank,) which in its constitution is essentially anti-Caledonian. The owners of the sort of faculties I allude to, have minds rather suggestive than comprehensive. They have no pretences to much clearness or precision in their ideas, or in their manner of expressing them. Their intellectual wardrobe (to confess fairly) has few whole pieces in it. They are content with fragments and scattered pieces of truth. She presents no full front to them - a feature or a side face at the most. Hints and glimpses, germs and crude essays at a system, is the utmost they pretend to. They beat up a little game peradventure—and leave it to knottier heads, more robust constitutions, to run it down
The light that lights them is not steady and polar, but mutable and shifting : waxing, and again waning. Their conversation us accordingly. They will throw out a random word in or out of season, and be content to let it pass for what it is worth. They cannot speak always as if they were upon their oath, but must be understood, speaking or writing, with some abatenent. They seldom wait to mature a proposition, but e'en bring it to market in the green ear. They delight to impart their defective discoveries as they arise, without waiting for their full development. They are no systematizers, and would but err more by attempting it. Their minds, as I said before, are suggestive merely. The brain of a true Caledo
There may be individuals born and constellated so opposite to another indi. vidual nature, that the same sphere cannot hold them. I have met with my moral antipodes, and can believe the story of two persons meeting (who never saw one another before in their lives) and instantly fighting.
“We by proof find there should be
Yet notwithstanding hates him as a devil.” These lines are from old Heywood's “Hierarchie of Angels," and he sub joins a curious story in confirmation, of a Spaniard who attempted to assassin ate a King Ferdinand of Spain, and, being put to the rack, could give no other reason for the deed than an inveterate antipathy which he had taken to the first sight of the king.
“The cause which to that act compelld him, Was, he ne'er loved him since he first beheld him.”
nian (if I am not mistaken) is constituted upon quite a different plan. His Minerva is born in panoply. You are never admitted to see his ideas in their growth—if, indeed, they do grow, and are not rather put together upon principles of clockwork. You never catch his mind in an undress. He never hints or suggests anything, but unlades his stock of ideas in perfect order and completeness. He brings his total wealth into company, and gravely unpacks it. His riches are always about him. He never stoops to catch a glittering something in your presenco, to share it with you, before he quite knows whether it be true touch or not. You cannot cry hulves to anything that he finds. He does not find, but bring. You never witness his first apprehension of a thing. His understanding is always at its meridian—you never see the first dawn, the early streaks. He has no falterings of self-suspicion. Surmises, guesses, misgivings, half intuitions, semiconsciousnesses, partial illuminations, dim instincts, embryo conceptions, have no place in his brain or yocabulary. The twilight of dubiety never falls upon him. Is he orthodoxhe has no doubts. Is he an infidel-he has none either. Between the affirmative and the negative there is no border land with him. You cannot hover with him upon the confines of truth, or wander in the maze of a probable argument. He always keeps the path. You cannot make excursions with him—for he sets you right. His taste never fluctuates. His morality never abates. He cannot compromise, or understand middle actions. There can be but a right and a wrong. His conversation is as a book. His affirmations have the sanctity of an oath. You must speak upon the square with him. He stops a metaphor like a suspected person in an enemy's country. A healthy book !” said one of his countrymen to me, who had ventured to give that appellation to John Buncle—“did I catch rightly what you
said ? I have heard of a man in health, and of a healthy state of body, but I do not see how that epithet can be properly applied to a book.” Above all, you must beware of indirect expressions before a Caledonian. Clap an extinguisher upon your irony, if you are unhappily blessed with a vein of it. Remember you are upon your oath. I have a print of a graceful female, after Leonardo da Vinci, which I was showing off to Mr. After he had examined it minutely, I ventured to ask him how he liked my BEAUTY
(a foolish name it goes by among my friends)—when he very gravely assured me, that “ he had considerable respect for my character and talents,” (so he was pleased to say,) “but had not given himself much thought about the degree of my personal pretensions.” The misconception staggered me, but
did not seem much to disconcert him. Persons of this nation are particularly fond of affirming a truth--which nobody doubts. They do not so properly affirm, as annunciate it. They do indeed appear to have such a love of truth (as if, like virtue, it were valuable for itself) that all truth becomes equally valuable, whether the proposition that contains it be new or old, disputed or such as is impossible to become a subject of disputation. I was present not long since at a party of North Britons, where a son of Burns was expected, and happened to drop a silly expression, (in my South British way,) that I wished it were the father instead of the son- -when four of them started up at once to inform me, that “ that was impossible, because he was dead.” An impracticable wish, it seems, was more than they could conceive. Swift has hit off this part of their character, namely, their love of truth, in his biting way, but with an illiberality that necessarily confines the passage to the margin.* The tediousness of these people is certainly provoking. I wonder if they ever tire one another ! In my early life I had a passionate fondness for the poetry of Burns. I have sometimes foolishly hoped to ingratiate myself with his countrymen by expressing it. But I have always found that a true Scot resents your admiration of his compatriot, even more than he would your contempt of him. The latter he imputes to your “ imperfect acquaintance with many of the words which he uses ;” and the same objection makes it a presumption in you to suppose you can admire him. Thomson they seem to have forgotten. Smollet they have neither forgotten nor forgiven, for his delineation of Rory and his companion upon their first introduction into our metropolis. Speak of Smollet as a great genius, and they will retort upon you Hume's History compared with his continuation of it. What if the historian had continued Humphrey Clinker?
I have, in the abstract, no disrespect for Jews. They are a piece of stubborn antiquity, compared with which Stonehenge is in its nonage. They date beyond the pyramids. But I should not care to be in habits of familiar intercourse with any of that nation. I confess that I have not the nerves to enter their synagogues. Old prejudices cling about me. I cannot shake off the story of Hugh of Lincoln Centuries
* There are some people who think they sufficiently acquit themselves, and er tertain their company, with relating facts of no consequence, not at all out of the road of such common incidents as happen every day ; and this I have observed more frequently among the Scotch than any other nation, who are very careful not to omit the minutest circumstances of time or place ; which kind of discourse, if it were not a little relieved by the uncouth terms and phrases, as well as accent and gesture peculiar to that country, would bo hardly tolerable.--Hints towards an Essay on Conversation.