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or having been told that it was most commendable to follow some profession, I conquered, in idea, every obstacle, and established my abode in cities, amid the hum of men,' with as little difficulty as I had before entered the court of the Fairy Queen, or quaffed ale along with warriors, in the hall of Odin. But the time has at last arrived, when these threats were to be put into execution; and when that which is commonly called life began to dawn -Alas, Mr. Ruminator! I have here found a brilliant imagination to be but a deceitful guide. My gulden visions have fled like the morning cloud: I have entered the crowded ball-rooni, mingled with the train of orators and statesmen; and returned fevered with disappointment, to search again for repose in the bosom of the forest, where alone it could be found. In this situation I now am. After having once given the reins to poetical fancy, it is difficult indeed to stop its career; and I remain at present in doubt whether to struggle against its influence, by mingling again with the world, or to follow, without furiher hesitation, the precepts contained in an epigram of Martial, elegantly translated in a late number of
your essays. It was my intention to wind up this letter with a very
. juvenile effusion in verse, which seemed not inapplicable to the present subject; but recollecting that
copy of these verses may exist in the possession of a friend, I dread the risk, (notwithstanding my insignificance) of becoming in any degree known, until I find what reception you may give to this feeble and hurried transcript of my feelings.
MUSARUM AMATOR. May 9, 1809.
N N° LXXIV.
Farewell of the
On the deceitfulness of Hope.
The delusions of hope have been among the most urite topics of the moralist. The Ruminator feels them on the present occasion with no common force. He had flattered himself that his lucubrations might have proceeded to at least double their present length. But to plan and to act are widely different. He has deferred the execution of half his purposes till it is too late, and the close of the CENSURA brings them to a termination before heir time.
Thus disheartened, he has wanted energy sufficient to perform the little that might still have been done, and passed two or three months in a state of listlessness and idleness such as he has not experienced for years. A number of favourite subjects remain untouched; and a number of fragnients unused.
Even this last paper has been deferred, from the wish to execute it well, till the languor of over wearied thought has diminished the usual degree of ability; and time scarcely remains to e:ecute it at all.
To look back on what is past, is an employment too fearful for the present spirits of the Author. "The toil,” says Johnson, “with which performance struggles after idea, is so irksome and disgusting, and so frequent is the necessity of resting below that perfection, which we imagined within our reach, that seldom any man obtains more from his endeavours, than a painful conviction of his defects, and a continual resusDD 2
citation of desires, which he feels himself unable to gratify."
But he who declines to act till he can reach ideal excellence, is a selfish coward; and surely he, who by a generous venture attains a very moderate degree of merit, is at least far preferable to him who wraps himself up in conceit of his own importance, because he never made an attempt.
Of many of the defects of the series of moral and critical essays the Ruminator is too sensible, to add his aid to the discernment of others in discovering them. Almost all the interest which they lay claim to is, that they are (such of them he means as were written by himself) the undisguised pictures of his own mind. And we have many high authorities for asserting, that there are scarce any minds, however small their pretensions may be to extraordinary endowment, of which genuine and unsophisticated delineations will not afford either instruction or amusement.
To say the same things as have been said a thousand times before, not from individual feeling or individual conviction, but merely by drawing from the stores of the memory, may perhaps be fairly deemed an hollow and unavailing echo. But it is far otherwise with ibat, which springs from the inmost recesses of the heart or the intellect. There is a strength, a distinctness, a raciness, in what thus issues from the fountain-head, which is never brought forth in vain.
All the varieties of the human understanding, the different lights in which the same objects appear to different faculties and dispositions, the minute shades of distinction which the complex operations of head and
temper suggest, afford inexhaustible subjects of description for the use of the moral philosopher, and the metaphysician, to whom such descriptions possess the merit and use of original evidence, while the transmissions of the memory are, like hear-say testimony, of little value.
If the flow of feeling have ever given to these Essays any approach to eloquence, if the movements of the heart have produced any thing of more permanent interest than the capricious and uncertain operations of the head, the writer's time and endeavours will not have been spent totally in vain.
If it be complained that the same topics more often recur than is consistent with the love of diversity, which characterizes the public taste, Ich it be recollected, that nothing much above the common can be hoped, even from the most powerful talents, without long meditation and mental digestion ; and surely it is better to dwell on that which gives the chance of displaying depth and novelty of thought, than to skim the surface for the sake of a greater change of views; for it cannot be expected that the same person should have leisure, or inclination for both.
The generality of mankind indeed spend their days in a kind of twilight of thought: ideas pass indistinctly before them, without examination, or being tried by the test of language; or at least by any other language than that which in oral delivery does not sufficiently betray their imperfectness. But as he, in whom the flame of the better part of our nature burns, can never be content to dream away his life without leaving some memorial of those faculties with which he has been endowed, and as the mind can only acquire facility
and strength by incessant exercise, he becomes dis. contented and miserable while he omits the requisite labour.
Could the Author have attained the delicate and serenely rich beauties of Addison, or the overflowing strength and philosophical perspicuity of Johnson, he would not now have to look back with
and anxiety on the inefficacy of his own endeavours. But wbile it is better to have reached even mediocrity than 10 have done nothing, he may, on a few themes, which have for years been revolving in his mind, still flatter himself with the hope of exciting the sympathy of readers of cultivated taste.
In the retirement of a studious life, in the bosom of fields and woods, he is often so filled with the realities of natural beauty, as to rest contented with passive admiration. The repose of delight would only be disturbed by the attempt at description; and the colourings of fancy would be more than superfluous. In the tumult of present joys our ideas are often too confused to be analysed. It is from a certain distance that they are best reflected by the mind. It is then that the prominent features remain, while all that tended only to dazzle, has faded
away. Such perhaps may be amongst the reasons why he has been able to transfuse into these essays so little of the spirit or the tints of the enchanting scenery which surrounds him.
But to waste more words in apology is vain. The attempt to conciliate the public, or even himself, to these Essays, if the Essays themselves do not produce that conciliation, is without hope, and would, even were it not hopeless, be without final use. They are