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The secret of his superiority in mathematical difficulties appears to have resided (as one of his competitors was of opinion) in his peculiar power of fixing and chaining down his attention, without the least deviation from the long-drawn line of argument to be pursued. This precious faculty of patient fixation in thought was, of course, united with a penetrating clearness of understanding, as the basis of its success. But perhaps it would be impossible to decide whether he felt himself more in his element of triumph with Shakspeare or with Newton; in the musings of Scadbury, or in the calculations of the Senate House. Yet, however he might shine in the latter scene, his heart was far more in the former; he addressed himself to the conquest of severer science as the duty and interest of a season; but, having finished his victorious career, he returned with new delight to his former and favourite studies in poetry and elegant literature.
The characteristic beauties of his poetry are, a chaste elegance of imagery and style; a vein of purified and affectionate sentiment; an impression of domestic tranquillity and repose. This last-mentioned characteristic is to be traced to its genuine source, his natural disposition. It is impossible to conceive a person more remarkably attached and adapted to the quiet and affectionate endearments of home; or one more exquisitely formed to relish and impart married happiness.
Having bade a cheerful adieu to Cambridge, which had proved no congenial abode to his do
mestic taste, he resided for some time with his aged mother in St. Paul's Church Yard; diversifying his summer-months by excursions to the picturesque scenery of the Lakes and Wales, and pursuing at home those studies in history, Metaphysics, Chemistry, &c., for which he had not hitherto found sufficient leisure. He had formed some idea of preparing for the sacred ministry, which he expressed in the same letter to me; but, besides that the bent of his mind, at this time, was much more literary than religious, he was deterred from the present choice of that office by an apprehension of weakness in the voice and lungs.
My interviews with him were few and brief, from the cessation of our college familiarity. In September 1812, he passed a few days at Clifton in 1814, I paid him an autumnal visit of a week at Lewisham: in 1815, I met him at Cambridge, whither we had gone for the purpose of taking our M.A. degree; and he returned with me to Clifton for a few days. Once, and only once more, I spent half a summer's day with him at a cottage near Bath, in the year 1819.
In September 1816, he married Susan, elder daughter of John Mason Good, M.D.; a person well known and highly appreciated both in the medical and literary world. Of his strong and tender affections in this new relation, my friend has left in his verses several faithful and most expressive memorials.
Not long after I had seen him at Bath, he removed, in the spring of 1820, to Eastbourne, for
the benefit of his partner's delicate health. It was here, and at this time, that it pleased God, through the medium of bodily affliction, to rouse him from his dangerous state, and visit his mind with effectual grace. He ruptured a blood-vessel; and this gave a shock to a frame that had never been firm. He announced to me the important effect produced on his heart in a letter, from which the following is an extract; it was written shortly after his recovery.
Southend, November 8th, 1820. "I have been very ill with a hæmorrhage; whether from the lungs or throat it is hard to say. I am, however, told that there is certainly nothing at present the matter with the lungs. I desire to be enabled to spend that life which God has spared, in the service and to the glory of God. In truth, dear friend, by the mercy of God, this illness has turned the tide of my thoughts and feelings and affections. Shall his providences never speak? No, never; till the Spirit of God speak by them. Mercies and chastenings go equally unregarded till then. And if you, or if I, have been led by this providence, or by that, to the seeking after God in Christ; to his Spirit be the glory, as much as if it had been done, without the intervention of any providence at all, by a direct revelation to the heart!"
Of all the multiplied letters which, during the sixteen years of our friendship, I had received from him, this was the first in which he had introduced a religious sentiment as his own. On
looking over the mass of his letters, of which I preserved nearly all, I am struck afresh by the easy elegance and playful vivacity of his epistolary style; but they manifest a mind and a heart idolatrously absorbed by literary pursuits, and (amidst a succession of family afflictions from the deaths of his parents, brothers, and sister) still unaffected by the solemn truths of revelation.
The next, and I regret to add, the last, letter I received from him, dated Southend, April 27, 1821, is too beautiful and too valuable to be wholly omitted. After alluding to the interesting situation of his family, recently increased by the birth of another little girl, he goes on to remark-"We are very anxious to begin a religious education as soon as it can be done; and if, by the blessing of God, it might be, so to stock the mind with real good, as to keep out evil. Human work though this be, yet it is in our own endeavours after good that we must look for the blessing of the Holy Spirit. And, further than this, and what I think of great importance—there are habits of mind, and there are materials of thought, which, when it shall please God really to touch their hearts, may be of incalculable importance. What would I give, could I now forget a great deal that I have diligently stored my mind with! I would always, in short, wish to educate them with an eye to the period, when they shall receive a new life from above.
"I am truly glad to find from your letter, that you also are more and more disposed to give
yourself wholly to those things, and shall be most happy that our correspondence may henceforward take a new type. I feel, indeed, that almost every thing about us draws us off from our great concern: let not friendship do so too! It may be, I am well persuaded, one of the happiest and most useful means to the contrary. A friendship that shall be renewed in another world, where the idem velle, et idem nolle' shall be perfect, -what an anticipation! And if people would but consider, what a dreary thing is friendship otherwise! What an end, eternal separation, or eternal enmity! Blessed be God, for the better hopes now given to ours; and for its stricter bonds in Christ Jesus, and for its higher object, in the infinite and eternal good of each other."