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He would not taste, but swallowed life at once ;
It was the opinion of an ancient philosopher, that we can have no want for which Nature does not provide an appropriate gratification. As it regards our physical wants, this appears to be true. But there are moral cravings which extend beyond the world we live in; and, were we in a heathen age, would serve us with an unanswerable argument for the immortality of the soul. That these cravings are felt by all, there can be no doubt; yet that all feel them in the same degree would be as absurd to suppose, as that every man possesses equal sensibility or understanding. Boswell's desires, from his own account, seem to have been limited to reading Shakspeare in the other world, whether with or without his commentators, he has left us to guess; and Newton probably pined for the sight of those distant stars whose light has not yet reached us.
* First printed in 1821, in “ The Idle Man,” No. II. p. 38. † A feigned name. - Editor.
What originally was the particular craving of my own mind I cannot now recall; but that I had, even in my boyish days, an insatiable desire after something which always eluded me, I well remember. As I grew into manhood, my desires became less definite; and by the time I had passed through college, they seemed to have resolved themselves into a general passion for doing.
It is needless to enumerate the different subjects which one after another engaged me. Mathematics, metaphysics, natural and moral philosophy, were each begun, and each in turn given up in a passion of love and disgust.
It is the fate of all inordinate passions to meet their extremes; so was it with mine. Could I have pursued any of these studies with moderation, I might have been to this day, perhaps, both learned and happy. But I could be moderate in nothing. Not content with being employed, I must always be busy; and business, as every one knows, if long continued, must end in fatigue, and fatigue in disgust, and disgust in change, if that be practicable, — which unfortunately was my case.
The restlessness occasioned by these half-finished studies brought on a severe fit of self-examination. Why is it, I asked myself, that these learned works, which have each furnished their authors with sufficient excitement to effect their completion, should thus weary me before I get midway into them? It is plain enough. As a reader I am merely a recipient, but the composer is an active agent; a vast difference! And now I can account for the singular pleasure, which a certain bad poet of my acquaintance always took in inflicting his verses on every one who would listen to him ; each perusal being but a sort of mental echo of the original bliss of composition. I will set about writing immediately.
Having, time out of mind, heard the epithet great coupled with Historians, it was that, I believe, inclined me to write a history. I chose my subject, and began collating, and transcribing, night and day, as if I had not another hour to live; and on I went with the industry of a steam-engine; when it one day occurred to me, that, though I had been laboring for months, I had not yet had occasion for one original thought. Pshaw! said I, 't is only making new clothes out of old ones. I will have nothing more to do with history.
As it is natural for a mind suddenly disgusted with mechanic toil to seek relief from its opposite, it can easily be imagined that my next resource was Poetry. Every one rhymes now-a-days, and so can I Shall I write an Epic, or a Tragedy, or a Metrical Romance? Epics are out of fashion ; even Homer and Virgil would hardly be read in our time, but that people are unwilling to admit their schooling to have been thrown away. As to Tragedy, I am a modern, and it is a settled thing that no modern can write a tragedy; so I must not attempt that. Then for Metrical Romances, — why, they are now manufactured; and, as the Edinburgh Review says, may be “imported" by us “in bales." I will bind myself to no particular class, but give free play to my imagination. With this resolution I went to bed, as one going to be inspired. The morning came; I ate my breakfast, threw up the window, and placed myself in my elbow-chair before it. An hour passed, and nothing occurred to me. But this I ascribed to a fit of laughter that seized me, at seeing a duck made drunk by eating rum-cherries. I turned my back on the