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glory, they are wearied by the sullen resistance of his character.
The love of repose and of musing generally attends the "Youth of Genius," and Mr D'Israeli asserts that it is retained through life. He asserts too, that a man of fine genius is rarely enamoured of common amusements or robust exercises. Beattie has express ly told us of his Minstrel,
"The exploit of strength, dexterity, or speed To him nor vanity nor joy could bring." Alfieri could never be taught to dance -Horace was a bad rider-Metastasio a bad shot-the younger Pliny was eharmed by the Roman mode of fowl ing, which admitted him to sit a whole day with his tablets and stylus-and Thomson was the hero of his own Castle of Indolence. All this is very inconclusive. Beattie, though a man of real poetical genius, was sadly deficient in strength and vigour, both of intellect and passion-and young Edwin," though assuredly "no vulgar boy," is very far indeed from being a fine ideal impersonation of a young po
He is much too effeminate and timid, and too much troubled with delicate nerves. There can be no reason in nature why a man of imagination and passion (and that man is a Poet) should not, in the exuberance of ani mal spirits and delight, pour out his very soul in the ardent enjoyment of all those pursuits, for which young Edwin, who was probably but weak and sickly, had no relish. Much depends on his bodily frame-much on the age in which he lives-much on his country-much on his early reading-much on his rank in life. Nothing can be asserted generally, on this point, of the Youth of Genius, nor indeed of its manhood. Poets, philosophers, statesmen, divines, there have been, who loved and excelled in all manly accomplishments. In those objects and pursuits which Beattie and Mr D'Israeli would exclude from the thoughts and passions of a youth of genius, there is much to kindle and to feed those very powers and feelings most essential to the character of genius. There can be no doubt that the greatest poets of all countries have been men eminently endowed with bodily powers, and that they rejoiced and excelled in all manly exercises or pursuits. So has it been with the greatest poets of Greece, Italy, and Eng land.
The Youth of Genius assumes so many forms that, from the habits of mere boys, it is impossible to prognosticate with much certainty any thing of the future character. The natures of men, Mr D'Israeli well says, are as varied as their fortunes. Some like diamonds must receive their splendour from the slow touches of the polisher, while others, resembling pearls, appear at once born with their beauteous lustre. It is delightful, however, when a great man has reached his glory, to look back on little trifling circumstances, by which he, in his boyhood, strove to anticipate it. Ariosto, when a boy, composed a tragedy from the story of Pyramus and Thisbe; and Pope indicated his passion for Homer in these rough verses, which he drew up from Ogilby's version. Sir William Jones, at Harrow, divided the fields according to a map of Greece, and portioned out to each school-fellow a dominion.
The first efforts of genius are often wholly inauspicious. Indeed, though some great men have, in very early youth, produced perfect specimens of composition, it may în general be remarked, that their early writings have been worse than the early writings of very inferior minds. They are troubled and overmastered by their own conceptions or it may be that great and glorious visions are seen by them dimly and at a distance then, which afterwards burst upon them in perfect splendour. The causes of this Mr D'Israeli has not even alluded to, but has merely given some examples. The first attempts of Dryden and Swift were hopeless-Racine's earliest compositions abounded in all the faults from which his later productions were so remarkably freeGibbon, in his "Essay on Literature," is but a feeble person-and Raphael, under Perugino, drew meagre and miserable forms, though afterwards the sole master of ideal beauty.
Genius has even proceeded to manhood without its splendour.Goldsmith had no love of poetry till he was thirty. It was said of Johnson, that he would never offend in conversation, and of Boileau, that he had no great understanding, but would never speak ill of any one. The great Isaac Barrow's father used to say of him, that if it pleased God to take from him any of his children, he hop
ed it might be Isaac, as the least promising. Unfortunately for our knowledge of the human soul, men of genius do not themselves attend philosophically to all the numberless causes that from childhood are constantly affecting, forming, and moulding their characters. There is not much autobiography in the world, and but a small part of it is valuable. It is a difficult thing to live over again a lifetime, without losing either its lights or shadows. It is also a formidable thing. But if inen of genius will not do it for themselves, none else can do it for them; and in the very best memoir that ever was written of a man of genius by another mind, how little is there in which we can discover the cause of any one part of his character. Mr D'Israeli, we think, might have entered a little more into the philosophy of this matter; for, from the multitude of his anecdotes, conclusions the most contradictory might be drawn. One good remark he does make," that it has happened to some men of genius during a long period of their lives, to have an unsettled impulse, without having discovered the object of its aptitude, a thirst and fever in the temperament of a too sentient being, which cannot find the occupation to which it can only attach itself," but that the instant the latent talent has declared itself, they have at once shone forth as men of genius.
Mr D'Israeli says, that in general, perhaps a master-mind exhibits preoocity, and we are inclined to agree with him. He gives a great many instances of this in his usual way, but undoubtedly, as many might be given to the contrary, according to imperfect biographies. We conceive that if a mind of genius were accurately observed in boyhood, it would always exhibit that genius in some form of expression. All the truly great spirits of whose youth we know any thing authentic, have done so. Traits of such thought in boys of genius are not to be seen by common eyes; nay, often seem to ordinary observers to denote dulness or stupidity. The common remark that boys of great talents seldom turn out first-rate men, is good for nothing, because by great talents, no more is meant than some of the most unimportant qualities of the mind, by which clever boys are enabled to make a figure at school. That such boys should
prove very dull men, is not at all surprising. But the fact is, that even at school, their superiority over boys of genius was not real, but apparent. There can be nothing that is not encouraging and hopeful in the exhibition of early genius, if we are assured that it is genius. Disappointment only follows mistake. We misconceive the nature and essence of the qualities exhibited by some favourite boy,-we anticipate a glorious future from an erroneous view of the present, and then we very wisely lay it down as a grand truth, that nature is often not true to her promises, when her operations have only falsified our hasty and unauthorised prophecies.
Mr D'Israeli then gives us a chapter on the first studies of genius. Many of those peculiarities, he observes, of men of genius, both fortunate and un-. fortunate, may be easily traced to them. As physicians tell us that there is a certain point in youth at which the constitution is formed, and on which the sanity of life revolves, so is it with the mind of genius. Johnson's early attachment to the works of Sir Thomas Brown, produced his excessive admiration of Latinized English. Rembrandt's father had a mill which received light from an aperture at the top, and this habituated that great artist to view all objects as if seen in that magical light. Pope, when a child, read a small library of mystical devotion, which he found in his mother's closet; and from the se raphic raptures of these erotic mystics, he partly conceived the feelings of He loise; and to speak of great living men,-from the perusal of Rycaut's folio of Turkish History in childhood, Lord Byron, it is said, derived impressions which gave life and motion to the Giaour, the Corsair and Alp.
The education of genius must, in a great measure, be its own work. But too often men of genius have through half their lives held a contest with bad or no education. Men of genius who have been late taught, with powers capable of placing them in the first rank, are mortified to discover themselves only on a level with those by nature much their inferiors. They have of necessity to go through in manhood, that discipline which others have undergone in boyhood. This alone is an evil never wholly to be surmounted, for it disarranges the fa
culties of the soul, and perplexes nature herself. "I am unfortunately," says Winkleman, one of those whom the Greeks named ossero sapientes, the late-learned, for I have appeared too late in the world and in Italy. To have done something, I should have had an education analagous to my pursuits, and this at your age."
The self-educated are accordingly marked by strong peculiarities. Sometimes the greater portion of their lives is past before they can throw themselves out of that world of mediocrity to which they have been confined. They are constantly struggling to realize their conceptions against many difficulties, which, with other persons, education has removed. They are apt to become stubborn-hard-cynical. But their enthusiasm is great, for it kindles equally at the sight of difficulties overcome, and those yet to be surmounted. No self-educated man ever sunk into despair with his art. "This race of the self-educated," says our Author, are apt to consider some of their own insulated feelings those of all; their prejudices are often invincible, and their tastes unsure and capricious; glorying in their strength, while they are betraying their weaknesses, yet mighty even in that enthusiasm which is only disciplined by its own fierce habits. Bunyan is the Spenser of the people. The fire burned towards heaven, although the altar was rude and rustic."
Friends who, in ordinary cases, are so valuable in youth, are, according to Mr D'Israeli, usually prejudicial in the youth of genius. Real genius, he says, has often been disconcerted and thrown into despair, by the ill judgments of his domestic circle. Taste is of such variety, that not one of ten thousand well-educated intelligent men, possess that prophetic kind of it which anticipates the public opinion. Had some of our first writers set their fortunes on the cast of their friend's opinion, we might have lost many precious compositions. Thomson's early friends saw little or no merit in his "Winter." Parnel was reckoned something of a dunce till Swift introduced him to Bolingbroke; and when Reynolds returned from Italy, with all the excellence of his art, his old teacher Hudson exclaimed, that he did not paint so well as when he left VOL. IV.
England. In short, Mr D'Israeli is of opinion, that it is equally dangerous for a young writer to resign himself to the opinions of his friends, and to pass them with inattention; so that he must be in a great embarrassment.
We are not sure if we understand Mr D'Israeli very distinctly, and he will pardon us for hinting, that he does not appear very distinctly to understand himself. If the youth of genius was likely to be blasted by the mere blindness of friends to its excellence, blasted it would indeed too often be. But we conceive that genius so exists for and in itself, and works in such a strong spirit of uncommunicated and uncommunicable delight, that the favourable or unfavourable opinion of others respecting its young productions, is not likely to have any bad effect whatever on its strength or happiness. The love of a young mind for its own creations, is not dependent on the love of others. Thomson, we dare say, cared little about the stu- pidity of his worthy friends. True genius, we conceive, may be, and often is, greatly benefited by wise, kind, and judicious friends,-rarely injured by the mere ignorance of duller spirits. We mean to apply this merely to their compositions, their early poems or pictures, as Mr D'Israeli has done.
But if we take a larger view of the friendship of young men of genius, and think of their friends as objects of love, tenderness, or veneration, then we do conceive, that so far from their being usually prejudicial," they are as breezes and stars to the soul of genius; that without deep, strong, pure, and intellectual friendship, for some mind similar to itself, genius would wither into desolate decay; and that almost all the first noble efforts of genius have been in the joy and the strength of human affections.
One of the best Chapters in the Book is that on the " Irritability of Genius." Mr D'Israeli, however, seems too broadly to admit, that men of genius are generally of an irritable temperament. He ought to have stated, a little more precisely, first, what is meant by irritability applied to them; and, secondly, how far the charge is a true one. Some sorts of genius there unquestionably are, which, so far from inclining their possessors to irritability, seem naturally
to lead to quiescence and repose. Extreme accuracy of distinction is, however, not a merit of this writer, and we must take him as we find him. He very justly remarks, that the modes of life of a man of genius are often in conflict with the monotonous and imitative habits of society; that his occupations and amusements even are discordant with its artificial character. This, undoubtedly, must be very much the case with every man of genius. Genius in society, therefore, even in the very best of it, must often be in apathy, and often in suffering. No wonder that irritation often ensues, even with those who have tamed themselves down to bear the dulness or impertinence of ordinary existence. A company of blockheads will all exclaim against the luckless genius who may have exhibited some symptoms of irritation when condemned to the talk of such foolish company; and that irritation is all laid to the score of his genius. But how would one blockhead feel in the company of ten men of genius? He too would be irritable, and very eccentric too, or we are much mistaken in such a situation. But the world, after all, will have the best of the argument; and they are quite right in attributing the sufferings, or the disgust of superior minds, to an irritable temperament, rather than to the folly, indelicacy, rudeness, or ignorance of those with whom they come into contact.
A man of genius cannot in a moment turn from his own delightful fancies and beautiful creations to the mere talk of the passing day. He may indeed acquire something of this power, but it is not natural to him; and though he may successfully adapt himself for a long time together to the most ordinary minds, in some unlucky moment he forgets himself, and a single sally may do away the effect of much sufferance and condescension. "Professional characters," says Mr D'Israeli," who are themselves so often literary, yielding to their predominant interests, conform to that assumed urbanity which levels them with ordinary minds; but the man of genius cannot leave himself behind in the cabinet he quits; the train of his thoughts is not stopt at will; and, in the range of conversation, his habits of thought will prevail."
The irritability of men of genius
arises, too, from the anxious and precarious occupation of making to themselves a great name. For the most part of his life, the fame of an author or of an artist is of an ambiguous nature. They find it in one place and lose it in another. Praise and blame come to them at one and the same time. They are often ignorant of the extent of their reputation. Admiration often exists, unknown to them, of them and their works. They are exposed to all the vague indefinite feelings of minds excited into a ferment by their works. They know that they are talked of, thought of, approved, condemned. The world thinks itself entitled to make free with them, either in its eulogies or its satire. They stand in a very singular kind of relationship with the world; and the feelings excited by that relationship are often of a feverish and disturbing kind. Each new work places them in a new state of mind. Hope is born, languishes, frets, or attains its object and dies. There is a constant alternation of strong emotions in their hearts. No wonder that they should be what the world in its good nature calls irritable.
Minds of the first order, and of the highest achievement, have in all countries been subjected to mortification and trial. Bacon was not at all understood in his day. Sir Thomas Bodley upbraided him with his new mode of philosophising. Sir Edward Coke wrote miserable and bitter verses on a copy of the Instauratio presented to him by Bacon. James I. declared, that, like "God's power, it passeth beyond all understanding." Kepler's work on Comets was by the learned condemned as extravagant; and Galileo abjured on his knees the philosophical truths he had ascertained. So has it been, too, with inferior spirits. Nothing can be more bitter to a man of genius, than to see the truth which he has discovered or beautified treated with indifference or scorn. A very slight want of personal respect to the most ordinary man who thinks himself entitled to it, awakens his irritability. What shall be said of the hourly and daily disrespect, or contumely, or indifference, which men of genius meet with from persons who would avenge every such offence to themselves with never-ending persecution? What is to be said of the shock which their feelings must be continually sustaining,
from hearing things and thoughts, to them most sacred, either misunderstood, undervalued, or profaned? There is no occasion to attribute to irritability that which often flows from the purest source; and before we censure the display of keen feelings, we should consider what it was that produced, and probably justified them.
The higher the imagination of a man of genius, the higher is the sphere of his constant thought above the ordinary sphere of human life. Much that is interesting, and even engross ing, to ordinary minds, passes below him like mists or clouds; and when, în his descent to the lower regions, he becomes enveloped in them, no wonder that he should exhibit impatience to regain the calm serenity of his native element. Mr D'Israeli concludes his chapter well. "Men of genius are often reverenced only where they are known by their writings; intellectual beings in the romance of life, in its history they are men. Erasmus compared them to the great figures in tapestry-work, which lose their effect when not seen at a distance. Their foibles and their infirmities are obvious to their associates, often only capable of discerning these qualities. The defects of great men are the consolation of dunces."
A great many important topics in the history of genius are discussed and illustrated in sixteen other chapters. To some of these we mean afterwards to return, and hope to lead our readers into several interesting fields of dis
A NIGHT IN THE CATACOMBS.
IF you consider the following pages as possessed of interest, I should be happy to see them inserted in your Miscellany. The story may not be so thrilling as some of those you have already given to the public, but I can answer for its truth; and I dare say if old Jerome, who used to shew the catacombs in Paris, be yet alive, he will recollect the handsome Englishman, with brown hair, and dark-blue eyes full of meaning, whom he released one morning from a night's imprisonment in those gloomy vaults. I shall only add, in behalf of my friend, whose letter I transcribe, that
THERE is nothing more baneful than the influence which privileged nurses and other attendants upon young children exercise over their untutored imaginations, through the medium of superstitious dread. You know that there are few who have suffered more from such cruelty than myself; that for the prime years of my youth I was the victim of a distempered fancy, which I in vain attempted to chasten or correct; and that it was only by a most singular and unexpected accident, that I was freed from the reign of terror. But I believe you have never been made acquainted with the full detail of that accident; and I therefore send you this account of it, impressed with the deepest gratitude to the providence which turned to so much benefit in my own case, that which, considering the peculiar state and temper of my mind, might have caused insanity or death, and wishing it to become, if possible, as useful to others. Superstition is not indeed an epidemic of the present age; yet there may be individuals, who cast their eyes upon my tale, that
will thank me for its lesson.
I never knew the fostering care of a father; and my mother, except by the boundless affection which I remember in my solitary tears, did not well supply his place. Inheriting a large domain in the wildest district of Wales, I was early taught to attach notions of dignity and importance to myself, and entertained a long train of more interesting thoughts than usually occupy the breast of boyhood. From the indulgence of my guardians to an only son, I was never sent to school, and thus had no opportunity of acquiring the prompt and active spirit that is generated in a public seminary, or that hard yet brilliant polish of the world, that repels from its surface all assaults of sanguine and romantic feeling. My domestic tutor enriched my mind with an extensive