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perficial, vísible portion of the public would wheel round once more, so rapidly and with so clamorous a welcome on their tongues, that the transported lecturer would bless his stars which had guided him over to a country whose inhabitants are so candid, so enlightened, so ravenous for truth. Before five years are out, however, the lecturer will find himself superseded by some professor of animal magnetism, some preacher of homeopathy, some teacher who will undertake to analyze children, prove to them that their spirits made their bodies, and elicit from them truths fresh from heaven. All this is very childish, very village-like ; and it proves anything rather than originality in the persons concerned. But it does not prove that there is not originality in the bosom of a society whose superficial movement is of this kind ; and it does not prove that national originality may not arise out of the very tendencies which indicate that is does not at present exist.
The Americans appear to me an eminently imaginative people. The unprejudiced traveller can hardly spend a week among them without being struck with this every day. At a distance it is seen clearly enough that they do not put their imaginative power to use in literature and the arts; and it does certainly appear perverse enough to observers from the Old World that they should be imitative in fictions (whether of the pen, the pencil
, stone, or marble), and imaginative in their science and philosophy, applying their sober good sense to details, but being sparing of it in regard to principles. This arbitrary direction of their imaginative powers, or, rather, its restriction to particular departments, is, I believe and trust, only temporary. As their numbers increase and their society becomes more delicately organized; when, consequently, the pursuit of literature, philosophy, and art shall become as definitely the business of some men as politics and commerce now are of others, I cannot doubt that the restraints of imitation will be burst through, and that a plenitude of power will be shed into these departments as striking as that which has made the organization of American commerce (notwithstanding some defects) the admiration of the world, and vindicated the originality of American pol. itics in theory and practice.
However this may be, it is certain that there are individuals existing everywhere, in the very heart of Boston itself, as original as Sam Weller and David Crockett, or any other
self-complacent mortal who finds scope for his humours amid the kindly intricacies of London or the canebrakes of Tennessee.
Some of the most extraordinary instances I met with of persons growing mentally awry were among the scholars who are thinly sprinkled ihrough the Southern and Western settlements. When these gentlemen first carried their accomplishments into the wilderness, they were probably wiser than any living and breathing being they encountered. The impression of their own wisdom was deep from the beginning, and it continues to be deepened by every accident of intercourse with persons who are not of their way of thinking; for to differ from them is to be wrong. At the same time their ways of thinking are such as are not at all likely to accord with other people's ; so that their case of delusion is complete. I saw a charming pair of professors in a remote state most blessed in their opinions of themselves. They were able men, or would have been so amid the discipline of equal society ; but their self-esteem had sprouted out so luxuriantly as to threaten to exhaust all the better part of them. One of the most remarkable circumstances in the case was that they seemed aware of their self-complacency, and were as complacent about it as about anything else. One speaking of the other, says, " A. has been examining my cranium. He
I am the most conceited man in the States, except himself.”
The exception was a fair one. When I saw B., I thought that I had seen the topmost wonder of the world for selfcomplacency; but upon this Alp another was to arise, as I found when I knew A. The only point of inferiority in A. is that he is not quite immoveably happy in himself. His feet are far from handsome, and no bootmaker at the West End could make them look so. This is the bitter drop in A.'s cup. This is the vulnerable point in his peace. His pupils have found it out, and have obtained a hold over him by it. They have but to fix their eyes upon his feet to throw him into disturbance; but, if they have gone too far, and desire to grow into favour again, they need only compliment his head, and all is well again. He lectures to them on Phrenology; and, when on the topic of Galen's scull, declares that there is but one head known which can compare with Galen's in its most important characteristics. The students all raise their eyes to the professor's bald crown, and the professor bows. He exhibits a cast of Burke's head, mentioning that it combines in the most perfect manner conceivable all grand intellectual and moral characteristics; and adding that only one head has been known perfectly to resemble it. Again the students fix their gaze on the summit of the professor, and he congratulates them on their scientific discernment.
This gentleman patronises Mrs. Somerville's scientific reputation. He told me one morning, in the presence of several persons whom he wished to impress with the highest respect for Mrs. Somerville, the particulars of a call he once made upon her during a visit to England. It was a long story; but the substance of it was, that he found her a most extraordinary person, for that she knew more than he did. He had always thought himself a pretty good mathematician, but she had actually gone further. He had prided himself upon being a tolerable chymist, but he found she could teach him something there. He had reason to think himself a good mineralogist ; but, when he saw her cabinet, he found that it was possible to get beyond him. On entering her drawing-room he was struck by some paintings which he ascertained to be done by her hand, while he could not pretend to be able to paint at all. He acknowl. edged that he had, for once, met his superior. Two days after, among a yet larger party, he told me the whole story over again. I fell into an absent fit in planning how I could escape from the rest of his string of stories, to talk with some one on the opposite side of the room. When he finally declared, “In short, I actually found that Mrs. Somerville knows more than I do," I mechanically answered, 6 I have no doubt of it." A burst of laughter from the whole party roused me to a sense of what I had done in taking the professor at his word. His look of mortification was pitiable.
It was amusing to see him with the greatest statesman in the country, holding him by the button for an hour together, while lecturing in the style of a master to a hopeful school. boy. The pompous air of the professor and the patient snufftaking of the statesman under instruction made a capital caricature subject. One of the professor's most serious declarations to me was, that the time had long been past when he believed he might be mistaken. He had once thought that he might be in the wrong like other people, but experience had taught him that he never erred. As, therefore, he and I did not agree on the point we were conversing about, I must be mistaken. I might rely upon him that it
It is not to be expected that women should resist dangers of position which men, with their wider intercourses, cannot withstand. The really learned and able women of the United States are as modest and simple as people of sound learning and ability are; but the pedantry of a few bookish women in retired country situations exceeds anything. I ever saw out of novels and farces.
In a certain region of the United States there are two sis. ters, living at a considerable distance from each other, but united (in addition to their undoubted sisterly regard) by their common belief that they are conspicuous ornaments of their country. It became necessary for me to make a call on one of these ladies. She knew when I was going, and had made preparation for my reception. I was accompanied by three ladies, one of whom was an avowed authoress; a second was a deep and thoroughly-exercised scholar, and happened to have published, which the pedantic lady did not know. The third was also a stranger to her, but a very clever woman. We were treated with ludicrous precision, according to our supposed merits; the third-mentioned lady being just honoured with a passing notice, and the fourth totally neglected. There was such an unblushing insolence in the manner in which the blue-stocking set people who had written books above all the rest of the world, that I could not let it pass unrebuked ; and I treated her to my opinion that they are not usually the cleverest women who write ; and that far more general power and wisdom are required to conduct life, and especially to educate a family of children well, than to write any book or number of books. As soon as there was a pause in the conversation, I rose to go. Some weeks afterward, when I was on a journey, a lady drove up from a distance of two miles to make an afternoon call upon me. It was the sister. She told me that she came to carry me home with her for the night, " in order," said she, “that you may see how we who scribble can keep house." As I had never had any doubt of the compatibility of the two things, it was of little consequence that I could not go. formed me that she lectured on Mental and Moral Philosophy to young ladies. She talked with much admiration of Mr. Brown as a metaphysician. I concluded this gentle
man to be some American worthy with whom I had to become acquainted ; but it came out to be Dr. Thomas Brown whom she was praising. She appeared not to know even the names of metaphysicians out of the Scotch school ; and if the ghosts of the Scotch schoolmen were present, they might well question whether she understood much of them. She told me that she had a great favour to ask of me: she wanted permission to print, in a note to the second edition of her Lectures on Mental and Moral Philosophy, a striking observation of mine made to her sister, which her sister had transmitted to her by the next post. I immediately assured her that she might print anything that I had said to her sister. She then explained that the observation was that they • are not usually the cleverest women who write. I recommended her to make sure of the novelty of the remark before she printed it; for I was afraid that Shakspeare or somebody had had it first. What was the fate of the opinion I do not know ; but it may be of use to the sisters themselves if it suggests that they may be mistaken in looking down upon all their sex who do not " scribble."
I think it must have been a pupil of theirs who wrote me a letter which I threw into the fire in a fit of disgust the moment I had read it. A young lady, who described herself as “ an ambitious girl," sent me some poetry in a magazine, and an explanation in writing of her own powers and aspirations. No one likes aspiration better than I, if only there be any degree of rational self-estimate connected with it. This young lady aspired to enter the hallowed precincts of the temple where Edgeworth, More, and others were immortalized. As for how she was to do it, her case seemed to be similar to that of a West Indian lady, who once complained to me that, while she was destined by her innate love of the sublime and the beautiful to be distinguished, Provi. dence would not let her. The American young lady, however, hoped that a friendship with me might persuade the world to recognise her powers; and she informed me that she had come to town from a distance, and procured an invitation to a house where I was to spend the evening, that we might begin our friendship. The rooms happened to be 80 tremendously crowded that I was not obliged to see any more persons than those immediately about me. I was told that the “ ambitious girl” was making herself very conspicuous by standing on tiptoe, beaming and fluttering ; but