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of our own personal experience. Yet they will not have been wanting to our readers, nor will they have passed unobserved, though the great poet himself (8 to v éavioû yjuxny doel ülnu tiva docuarov uogpois noixinais uogovoas*) has more conveniently supplied the illustrations. To complete, therefore, the purpose aforementioned, that of presenting each of the two components as separately as possible, I chose an instance in which, by the surplus of its own activity, Hamlet's mind disturbs the arrangement, of which that very activity had been the cause and impulse.f
Thus exuberance of mind, on the one hand, interferes with the forms of method ; but sterility of mind, on the other, wanting the spring and impulse to mental action, is wholly destructive of method itself. For in attending too exclusively to the relations which the past or passing events and objects bear to general truth, and the moods of his own thought, the most intelligent man is sometimes in danger of overlooking that other relation, in which they are likewise to be placed to the apprehension and sympathies of his hearers. His discourse appears like soliloquy intermixed with dialogue. But the uneducated and unreflecting talker overlooks all mental relations, both logical and psychological; and consequently precludes all method which is not purely accidental. Hence the nearer the things and incidents in time and place, the more distant, disjointed, and impertinent to each other, and to any common purpose, will they appear in his narration : and this from the want of a staple, or starting-post, in the narrator himself; from the absence of the leading thought, which, borrowing a phrase from the nomenclature of legislation, I may not inaptly call the initiative. On the contrary, where the habit of method is present and effective, things the most remote and diverse in time, place, and outward circumstance, are brought into mental contiguity and succession, the more striking as the less expected. But while I would impress the necessity of this habit, the illustrations adduced give proof that in undue preponderance, and when the prerogative of the mind is stretched into despotism, the discourse may degenerate into the grotesque or the fantastical.
* He that moulded his own soul, as some incorporeal material, into vari. ous forms.—THEMISTIUS.
+ See the criticism on the character of Hamlet in the Lectures upon Shakspeare and other Dramatists. IV. p. 144.- Ed.
· With what a profound insight into the constitution of the human soul is this exhibited to us in the character of the Prince of Denmark, where flying from the sense of reality, and seeking a reprieve from the pressure of its duties in that ideal activity, the overbalance of which, with the consequent indisposition to action, is his disease, he compels the reluctant good sense of the high yet healthful-minded Horatio to follow him in his wayward meditation amid the graves !
Ham. To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander till he find it stopping a bunghole ?
HOR. 'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.
Ham. No, 'faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: As thus; Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam: And why of that loam whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel ?
Imperious Cæsar, dead, and turn’d to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away !* But let it not escape our recollection, that when the objects thus connected are proportionate to the connecting energy, relatively to the real, or at least to the desirable, sympathies of rnankind ; it is from the same character that we derive the genial method in the famous soliloquy, “ To be, or not to be”+—which, admired as it is, and has been, has yet received only the first-fruits of the admiration due to it.
We have seen that from the confluence of innumerable impressions in each moment of time the mere passive memory must needs tend to confusion ; a rule, the seeming exceptions to which (the thunder-bursts in Lear, for instance) are really confirmations of its truth. For, in many instances, the predominance of some mighty passion takes the place of the guiding thought, and the result presents the method of nature, rather than the habit of the individual. For thought, imagination (and I may add, passion), are, in 'their very essence, the first, connective, the latter coadunative: and it has been shown, that if the excess lead to method misapplied, and to connections of the moment, the absence, or marked deficiency, either precludes method altogether, both form and substance; or (as the following extract will exemplify) retains the outward form only. * Act v. sc. 1.
+ Act iii. sc. 1.
My liege and Madam, to expostulate s !!
QUEEN. More matter with less art.
Pol. Madam, I swear, I use no art at all.
Perpénd.* Does not the irresistible sense of the ludicrous in this flourish of the soul-surviving body of old Polonius's intellect, not less than in the endless confirmations and most undeniable matters of fact of Tapster Pompey or the hostess of the tavern prove to our feelings, even before the word is found which presents the truth to our understandings, that confusion and formality are but the opposite poles of the same null-point ?
It is Shakspeare's peculiar excellence, that throughout the whole of his splendid picture-gallery (the reader will excuse the acknowledged inadequacy of this metaphor), we find individuality everywhere, mere portrait nowhere. In all his various characters, we still feel ourselves communing with the same nature, which is everywhere present as the vegetable sap in the branches, sprays, leaves, buds, blossoms, and fruits, their shapes, tastes, and odors. Speaking of the effect, that is, his works themselves, we may define the excellence of their method as consisting in that just proportion, that union and interpenetration, of the universal and the particular, which must ever pervade all works of decided genius and true science. For method implies a progressive transition, and it is the meaning of the word in the original language. The Greek uédodos is literally a way or path
* Act ü. sc. 2.
of transit. Thus we extol the Elements of Euclid, or Socrates' discourse with the slave in the Menon of Plato,* aś methodical, a term which no one who holds himself bound to think or speak correctly, would apply to the alphabetical order or arrangement of a common dictionary. But as without continuous transition there can be no method, so without a preconception there can be no transition with continuity. The term, method, can not therefore, otherwise than by abuse, be applied to a mere dead arrangement, containing in itself no principle of progression.
Scientiis idem quod plantis. Si planta aliqua uti in animo habeas, de radice quid fiat, nil refert : si vero transferre cupias in aliud solum, tutius est radicibus uti quam surculis. Sic traditio, quce nunc in usu est, exhibet plane tanquam truncos (pulchros illos quidem) scientiarum ; sed tamen absque radicibus fábro lignario certe commodos, at plantatori inutiles. Quod si, disciplince ut crescant, tibi cordi sit, de truncis minus sis solicitus : ad id curam adhibe, ut radices illæsce, etiam cum aliquantulo terræ adhærentis, cxtrahantur : dummodo hoc pacto et scientiam propriam revisere, vestigiaque cognitionis tuæ remetiri possis ; et eam sic transplantare in animum alienum, sicut crevit in tuo.
It is with sciences as with trees. If it be your purpose to make some particular use of the tree, you need not concern yourself about the roots. But if you wish to transfer it into another soil, it is then safer to employ the roots than the scions. Thus the mode of teaching most common at present exhibits clearly enough the trunks, as it were, of the sciences, and those too of handsome growth ; but nevertheless, without the roots, valuable and convenient as they undoubtedly are to the carpenter, they are useless to the planter. But if you have at heart the advancement of education, as that which proposes to itself the general discipline of the mind for its end and aim, be less anxious concerning the trunks, and let it be your care, that the roots should be extracted entire, even though a small portion of the soil should adhere to them: so that at all events you may be able, by this mean, both to review your own scientific acquirements, re-measuring
as it were the steps of your knowledge for your own satisfaction, and at the same time to transplant it into the minds of others, just as it grew in your own.
It has been observed, in a preceding page, that the relations of objects are prime materials of method, and that the contemplation of relations is the indispensable condition of thinking methodically. It becomes necessary therefore to add, that there are two kinds of relation, in which objects of mind may be contemplated. The first is that of law, which, in its absolute perfection, is conceivable only of the Supreme Being, whose creative idea not only appoints to each thing its position, but in that position, and in consequence of that position, gives it its qualities, yea, gives it its very existence, as that particular thing. Yet in whatever science the relation of the parts to each other and to the whole is predetermined by a truth originating in the mind, and not abstracted or generalized from observation of the parts, there we affirm the presence of a law, if we are speaking of the physical sciences, as of astronomy for instance; or the presence of fundamental ideas, if our discourse be upon those sciences, the truths of which, as truths absolute, not merely have an independent origin in the mind, but continue to exist in and for the mind alone. * Such, for instance, is geometry, and such are the ideas of a perfect circle, of asymptotes, and the like.
I have thus assigned the first place in the science of method to law; and first of the first, to law, as the absolute kind which, comprehending in itself the substance of every possible degree, precludes from its conception all degree, not by generalization, but by its own plenitude. As such, therefore, and as the sufficient cause of the reality correspondent thereto, I contemplate it as exclusively an attribute of the Supreme Being, inseparable from the idea of God; adding, however, that from the contemplation of law in this its only perfect form, must be derived all true insight into all other grounds and principles necessary to method, as the science common to all sciences, which in each, in the words of Plato, τυγχάνει όν άλλο αυτής της επιστήμης. Alienated from this intuition or steadfast faith, ingenious men may produce
* Here I have fallen into an error. The terms, idea and law, are always correlative. Instead of geometrical ideas, I ought to have said theorems ;not theories—but Dewpňuara, the intelligible products of contemplation, intellectual objects in the mind, and of and for the mind exclusively.-1829. .