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NOTES FROM THE POCKET-BOOK OF A LATE OPIUM-EATER.
MR. Stewart the traveller, com- characters throughout Europe. In monly called “ Walking Stewart,' particular he was the first, and so was a man of very extraordinary ge- far as I know the only writer who nius. He has generally been treated had noticed the profound error of by those who have spoken of him in ascribing a phlegmatic character print as a madman. But this is a to the English nation. « English mistake ; and must have been found- phlegm” is the constant expression of ed chiefly on the titles of his books. authors when contrasting the EngHe was a man of fervid mind and lish with the French. Now the truth of sublime aspirations: but he was is, that, beyond that of all other nano madman ; or, if he was, then I tions, it has a substratum of prosay that it is so far desirable to be found passion: and, if we are to rea madman. In 1798 or 1799, when cur to the old doctrine of temperaI must have been about thirteen years ments, the English character must old, Walking Stewart was in Bath— be classed not under the phlegmatic where my family at that time re- but under the melancholic temperasided. He frequented the pump- ment; and the French under the sanroom, and I believe all public guine. The character of a nation places-walking up and down, and may be judged of in this particular dispersing his philosophic opinions by examining its idiomatic language. to the right and the left, like a Gre- The French, in whom the lower cian philosopher. The first time I forms of passion are constantly bubsaw him was at a concert in the Up- bling up from the shallow and superper Rooms; he was pointed out to ficial character of their feelings, have me by one of my party as a very ec- appropriated all the phrases of pascentric man who had walked over sion to the service of trivial and the habitable globe. I remember ordinary life: and hence they have that Madame Mara was at that mo- no language of passion for the service ment singing : and Walking Stewart, of poetry or of occasions really dewho was a true lover of music (as Í manding it: for it has been already afterwards came to know), was enfeebled by continual association hanging upon her notes like a bee with cases of an unimpassioned orupon a jessamine flower. His coun- der. But a character of deeper pastenance was striking, and expressed sion has a perpetual standard itthe union of benignity with philoso- self, by which as by an instinct it phic habits of thought. In such tries all cases, and rejects the lanhealth had his pedestrian exercises guage of passion as disproportionate preserved him, connected with his and ludicrous where it is not fully abstemious mode of living, that justified. « Ah Heavens!” or “Oh though he must at that time have my God!” are exclamations with us been considerably above forty, he so exclusively reserved for cases of did not look older than twenty-eight; profound interest,—that on hearing a at least the face which remained woman even (i. e. a person of the sex upon my recollection for some years most easily excited) utter such words, was that of a young man. Nearly ten we look round expecting to see her years afterwards I became acquainta, child in some situation of danger. ed with him. During the interval But, in France, “ Ciel!” and “ Oh I had picked up one of his works in mon Dieu !” are uttered by every Bristol,-viz. his Travels to discover woman if a mouse does but run across the Source of Moral Motion, the the floor. The ignorant and the second volume of which is entitled thoughtless however will continue The Apocalypse of Nature. I had to class the English character under been greatly impressed by the sound the phlegmatic temperament, whilst and original views which in the first the philosopher will perceive that it volume he had taken of the national is the exact polar antithesis to a Sept. 1823.
phlegmatic character. In this con- I could introduce them here, as they clusion, though otherwise expressed would interest the reader. Occaand illustrated, Walking Stewart's sionally in these conversations, as in view of the English character will be his books, he introduced a few nofound to terminate : and his opinion tices of his private history: in paris especially valuable-first and ticular I remember his telling me chietly, because he was a philoso- that in the East Indies he had been pher; secondly, because his acquaint- a prisoner of Hyder's; that he had ance with man civilized and uncivi- escaped with some difficulty; and lized, under all national distinctions, that, in the service of one of the nawas absolutely unrivalled. Mean- tive princes as secretary or intertime, this and others of his opinions preter, he had accumulated a small were expressed in language that if fortune. This must have been too literally construed would often appear small, I fear, at that time to allow insane or absurd. The truth is, his him even a philosopher's comforts : long intercourse with foreign nations for some part of it, invested in the had given something of a hybrid tinc- French funds, had been confiscated. ture to his diction : in some of his I was grieved to see a man of so works for instance he uses the much ability, of gentlemanly manFrench word hélas ! uniformly for ners, and refined habits, and with the English alas! and apparently the infirmity of deafness, suffering with no consciousness of his mistake. under such obvious privations; and He had also this singularity about I once took the liberty, on a fit ochim—that he was everlastingly me- casion presenting itself, of requesttaphysicizing against metaphysics. ing that he would allow me to send To me, who was buried in metaphy- him some books which he had been sical reveries from my earliest days, casually regretting that he did not this was not likely to be an attrac- possess; for I was at that time in tion; any more than the vicious struc- the hey-day of my worldly prosperiture of his diction was likely to please ty. This offer however he de. my scholarlike taste. All grounds of clined with firmness and dignity, disgust however gave way before my though not unkindly. And I now sense of his powerful merits; and, mention it, because I have seen him as I have said, I sought his acquaint- charged in print with a selfish regard ance. Coming up to London from to his own pecuniary interest. On Oxford about 1807 or 1808 I made the contrary, he appeared to me a inquiries about him; and found that very liberal and generous man: and he usually read the papers at a cof- I well remember that, whilst he refee-room in Piccadilly: understand- fused to accept of any thing from ing that he was poor, it struck me me, he compelled me to receive as that he might not wish to receive presents all the books which he pubvisits at his lodgings, and therefore lished during my acquaintance with I sought him at the coffee-room. him: two of these, corrected with Here I took the liberty of introdu- his own hand, viz. the Lyre of Apolcing myself to him. He received me lo and the Sophiometer, I have latecourteously, and invited me to his ly found amongst other books left in rooms—which at that time were in London; and others he forwarded to Sherrard-street, Golden-square - a me in Westmoreland. In 1809 I saw street already memorable to me. I him often: in the spring of that year, was much struck with the eloquence I happened to be in London; and, of his conversation ; and afterwards Mr. Wordsworth's tract on the ConI found that Mr. Wordsworth, him- vention of Cintra being at that time self the most eloquent of men in con- in the printer's hands, 1 superintendversation, had been equally struck ed the publication of it; and, at Mr. when he had met him at Paris be- Wordsworth’s request, I added a tween the years 1790 and 1792, dur- long note on Spanish affairs which ing the early storms of the French is printed in the Appendix. The revolution. In Sherrard-street I vi- opinions I expressed in this note on sited him repeatedly, and took notes the Spanish character at that time of the conversations I had with him much calumniated, on the retreat to on various subjects. These I must Corunna then fresh in the public have somewhere or other; and I wish mind, above all, the contempt I expressed for the superstition in re- that he applied this money most spect to the French military prowess wisely to the purchase of an annuity, which was then universal and at its and that he “ persisted in living height, and which gave way in fact too long for the peace of an annuity only to the campaigns of 1814 and office. So fare all companies East 1815, fell in, as it happened, with and West, and all annuity offices, Mr. Stewart's political creed in those that stand opposed in interest to points where at that time it met philosophers ! In 1814 however, to with most opposition. In 1812 it my great regret, I did not see him; was I think that I saw him for the for I was then taking a great deal last time : and by the way, on the of opium, and never could contrive day of my parting with him, I had to issue to the light of day soon an amusing proof in my own experi- enough for a morning call upon a ence of that sort of ubiquity ascrib- philosopher of such early hours ; ed to him by a witty writer in the and in the evening I concluded that London Magazine: I met him and he would be generally abroad, shook hands with him under Somer- from what he had formerly commuset-house, telling him that I should nicated to me of his own habits. It leave town that evening for West- seems however that he afterwards moreland. Thence I went by the held conversaziones at his own rooms; very shortest road (i. e. through and did not stir out to theatres Moor-street, Soho--for I am learned quite so much. From a brother of in many quarters of London) towards mine, who at one time occupied a point which necessarily led me rooms in the same house with him, through Tottenham-court-road: 1 I learned that in other respects he stopped nowhere, and walked fast: did not deviate in his prosperity from yet so it was that in Tottenham- the philosophic tenor of his former court-road I was not overtaken by life. He abated nothing of his peri(that was comprehensible), but over patetic exercises; and repaired duly took, Walking Stewart. Certainly, in the morning, as he had done in as the above writer alleges, there former years, to St. James's Park,must have been three Walking Stew- where he sate in contemplative ease arts in London.
He seemed no amongst the cows, inhaling their ways surprised at this himself, but balmy breath and pursuing his phiexplained to me that somewhere or losophic reveries. He had also purother in the neighbourhood of Tot- chased an organ, or more than one, tenham-court-road there was a little with which he solaced his solitude theatre, at which there was dancing and beguiled himself of uneasy and occasionally good singing, be- thoughts if he ever had any. tween which and a neighbouring The works of Walking Stewart coffee-house he sometimes divided must be read with some indulgence: his evenings. Singing, it seems, he the titles are generally too lofty and could hear in spite of his deafness. pretending and somewhat extravaIn this street I took my final leav gant; the composition is lax and unof him; it turned out such; and, precise, as I have before said ; and anticipating at the time that it the doctrines are occasionally very would be so, I looked after his white bold, incautiously stated, and too hat at the moment it was disappear- hardy and high-toned for the nervous ing and exclaimed—“Farewell, thou effeminacy of many modem moralhalf-crazy and most eloquent man! ists. But Walking Stewart was a I shall never see thy face again.” I man who thought nobly of human did not intend, at that moment, to nature: he wrote therefore at times visit London again for some years: in the spirit and with the indignaas it happened, I was there for a tion of an ancient prophet against short time in 1814: and then I heard, the oppressors and destroyers of the to my great satisfaction, that Walk- time. In particular I remember that ing Stewart had recovered a con- in one more of the pamphlets siderable sum (about 14,0001. I be- which I received from him at Graslieve) from the East India Company; mere he expressed himself in such and from the abstract given in the terms on the subject of Tyrannicide London Magazine of the Memoir by (distinguishing the cases in which it his relation I have since learned was and was not lawful) as seemed
to Mr. Wordsworth and myself every almost laughable to see how invariaway worthy of a philosopher : but, bly he prefaces his counsels with such from the way in which that subject plain truths uttered in a manner so was treated in the House of Com- offensive as must have defeated his mons, where it was at that time oc- purpose if it had otherwise any casionally introduced, it was plain chance of being accomplished. For that his doctrine was not fitted for instance, in addressing America, he the luxurious and relaxed morals of begins thus :-“ People of America ! the age. Like all men who think since your separation from the monobly of human nature, Walking ther-country your moral character has Stewart thought of it hopefully. In degenerated in the energy of thought some respects his hopes were wisely and sense; produced by the absence grounded; in others they rested too of your association and intercourse much upon certain metaphysical spe- with British officers and merchants : culations which are untenable, and you have no moral discernment to which satisfied himself only because distinguish between the protective his researches in that track had been power of England and the destrucpurely self-originated and self-disci- tive power of France.” And his letplined. He relied upon his own na- ter to the Irish nation opens in this tive strength of mind : but in ques- agreeable and conciliatory mannertions, which the wisdom and philo- “ People of Ireland ! I address you sophy of every age building succes- as a true philosopher of nature, foresively upon each other have not been seeing the perpetual misery your irable to settle, no mind however reflective character and total abstrong is entitled to build wholly sence of moral discernment are preupon itself. In many things he paring for” &c.
The second senshocked the religious sense especi- tence begins thus" You are sacri. ally as it exists in unphilosophic legiously arresting the arm of your minds: he held a sort of rude and parent kingdom fighting the cause unscientific Spinosism; and he ex- of man and nature, when the triumph pressed it coarsely and in the way of the fiend of French police-terror most likely to give offence. And would be your own instant extirpaindeed there can be no stronger proof tion-” And the letter closes thus: of the utter obscurity in which his _“I see but one awful alternativeworks have slumbered than that that Ireland will be a perpetual mothey should all have escaped prose- ral volcano, threatening the destruccution. He also allowed himself to tion of the world, if the education look too lightly and indulgently on and instruction of thought and sense the afflicting spectacle of female shall not be able to generate the faprostitution as it exists in London culty of moral discernment among a and in all great cities. This was the very numerous class of the populaonly point on which I was disposed tion, who detest the civic calm as to quarrel with him ; for I could not sailors the natural calm-and make but view it as a greater reproach to civic rights on which they cannot human nature than the slave-trade reason a pretext for feuds which or any sight of wretchedness that they delight in." As he spoke freely the sun looks down upon. I often and boldly to others, so he spoke told him so; and that I was at a loss loftily of himself: at p.313, of “The to guess how a philosopher could Harp of Apollo," on making a comallow himself to view it simply as parison of himself with Socrates (in part of the equipage of civil life, and which he naturally gives the preferas reasonably making part of the ence to himself) he styles The establishment and furniture of a Harp,' &c. “ this unparalleled work great city as police-offices, lamp- of human energy." At p. 315, he lighting, or newspapers. Waiving calls it “ this stupendous work :" however this one instance of some and lower down on the same page he thing like compliance with the bru- says—" I was turned out of school tal spirit of the world, on all other at the age of fifteen for a dunce or subjects he was eminently unworld- blockhead, because I would not stuff ly, child-like, simple-minded, and into my memory all the nonsense of upright. He would flatter no man: erudition and learning; and if future even when addressing nations, it is ages should discover the unparalleled energies of genius in this work, it or contact of other men's follies and will prove my most important doc- passions, by avoiding all family contrine--that the powers of the human nexions and all ambitious pursuits mind must be developed in the edu- of profit, fame, or power." On readcation of thought and sense in the ing this passage I was anxious to study of moral opinion, not arts and ascertain its date; but this, on turnscience.” Again, at p. 225 of his ing to the title-page, I found thus Sophiometer, he says:-"
-“The para- mysteriously expressed : “ In the mount thought that dwells in my 7000th year of Astronomical History, mind incessantly is a question I put and the first day of Intellectual Life to myself
whether, in the event of or Moral World, from the æra of this my personal dissolution by death, I work.” Another slight indication of have communicated all the dis- craziness appeared in a notion which coveries my unique mind possesses obstinately haunted his mind that in the great master-science of man all the kings and rulers of the earth and nature.” In the next page he would confederate in every age determines that he has, with the ex- against his works, and would hunt ception of one truth,—viz.“ the latent them out for extermination as keenly energy, physical and moral, of hu- as Herod did the innocents in Bethman nature as existing in the British lehem. On this consideration, fearpeople.” But here he was surely ing that they might be intercepted accusing himself without ground : for by the long arms of these wicked to my knowledge he has not failed in princes before they could reach that any one of his numerous works to remote Stewartian man or his preinsist upon this theme at least a cursor to whom they were mainly billion of times. Another instance of addressed, he recommended to all his magnificent self-estimation is those who might be impressed with that in the title pages of several of a sense of their importance to bury a his works he announces himself as copy or copies of each work pro"John Stewart, the only man of na- perly secured from damp, &c. at a ture that ever appeared in the world.” depth of seven or eight feet below
By this time I am afraid the reader the surface of the earth; and on begins to suspect that he was crazy: their death-beds to communicate the and certainly, when I consider every knowledge of this fact to some conthing, he must have been crazy fidential friends, who in their turn when the wind was at NNE: for were to send down the tradition to who but Walking Stewart ever dated some discreet persons of the next gehis books by a computation drawn neration; and thus, if the truth was -not from the creation, not from the not to be dispersed for many ages, flood, not from Nabonassar, or ab yet the knowledge that here and urbe conditâ, not from the Hegira— there the truth lay buried on this but from themselves, from their own and that continent, in secret spots on day of publication, as constituting Mount Caucasus—in the sands of the one great æra in the history of Biledulgerid—and in hiding-places man by the side of which all other amongst the forests of America, and æras were frivolous and impertinent ? was to rise again in some distant Thus, in a work of his given to me age and to vegetate and fructify for in 1812 and probably published in the universal benefit of man,--this that year, I find him incidentally re- knowledge at least was to be whiscording of himself that he was at pered down from generation to gethat time “ arrived at the age of neration; and, in defiance of a mysixty-three, with a firm state of riad of kings crusading against him, health acquired by temperance, and Walking Stewart was to stretch out a peace of mind almost independent the influence of his writings through of the vices of mankind—because my a long series of lapradoqopoi to that knowledge of life has enabled me to child of nature whom he saw dimly place my happiness beyond the reach through a vista of many centuries.
* In Bath he was surnamed “the Child of Nature ; "--which arose from his contrasting on every occasion the existing man of our present experience with the ideal or Stewartian man that might be expected to emerge in some myriads of ages ; to which latter man he gave the name of the Child of Nature.