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To whom, then, do we owe our ameliorated condition ? To the successive few in every age (more, indeed, in one generation than in another, but relatively to the mass of mankind, always few), who, by the intensity and permanence of their action, have compensated for the limited sphere within which it is at any one time intelligible, and whose good deeds posterity reverence in their results, though the mode in which we repair the inevitable waste of time, and the style of our additions, too generally furnish a sad proof how little we understand the principles.
Still, however, there are truths so self-evident, or so immediately and palpably deduced from those that are, or are acknowledged for such, that they are at once intelligible to all men who possess the common advantages of the social state ; although by sophistry, by evil habits, by the neglect, false persuasions, and the impostures of an anti-Christian priesthood, joined in one conspiracy with the violence of tyrannical governors, the understandings of men may become so darkened, and their consciences so lethargic, that there may arise a necessity for the republication of these truths, and this, too, with a voice of loud alarm and impassioned warning. Such were the doctrines proclaimed by the first Christians to the Pagan world ; such were the lightnings flashed by Wickliffe, Huss, Luther, Calvin, Zuinglius, Latimer, and others, across the papal darkness; and such, in our own times, the agitating truths with which Thomas Clarkson and his excellent confederates, the Quakers, fought and conquered the legalized banditti of men-stealers, the numerous and powerful perpetrators and advocates of rapine, murder, and (of blacker guilt than either) slavery. Truths of this kind being indispensable to man, considered as a moral being, are above all experience, all accidental consequences; for, as sure as God is holy, and man immortal, there can be no evil so great as the ignorance or disregard of them. It is the very madness of mock prudence to oppose the removal of a poisoned dish on account of the pleasant sauces or nutritious viands which would be lost with it! The dish contains destruction to that, for which alone we ought to wish the palate to be gratified or the body to be nourished.
Luther felt, and preached, and wrote, and acted, as beseemed a Luther to feel, and utter, and act. The truth, which had been outraged, he re-proclaimed in the spirit of outraged truth, at the behest of his conscience and in the service of the God of Truth. He did his duty, come good, come evil ; and made no question on which side the preponderance would be. In the one scale there was gold, and the impress thereon the image and superscription of the Universal Sovereign. In all the wide and everwidening commerce of mind with mind throughout the world, it is treason to refuse this gold. Can this have a counterweight ? The other scale indeed might have seemed full up to the very balance-yard ; but of what worth and substance were its contents ? Were they capable of being counted or weighed against the former ? The conscience, indeed, is already violated, when to moral good or evil we oppose things possessing no moral interest. Even if the conscience dared wave this her preventive veto, yet before we could consider the two-fold results in the relations of loss and gain, it must be known whether their kind is the same or equivalent. They must first be valued, and then they may be weighed or counted, if they are worth it. But in the particular case at present before us, the loss is contingent and alien, the gain essential, and the tree's own natural produce. The gain is permanent, spreads through all times and places; the loss but temporary, and, owing its very being to vice or ignorance, vanishes at the approach of knowledge and moral improvement. The gain reaches all good men, belongs to all that love light, and desire an increase of light; to all, and of all times, who thank heaven for the gracious dawn, and expect the noon-day ; who welcome the first gleams of spring, and sow their fields in confident faith of the ripening summer and the rewarding harvest-tide! But the loss is confined to the unenlightened and the prejudiced,-say, rather, to the weak and the prejudiced of a single generation. The prejudices of one age are condemned even by the prejudiced of the succeeding ages : for endless are the modes of folly, and the fool joins with the wise in passing sentence on all modes but his own. Who cried out with greater horror against the murderers of the prophets than those who likewise cried out, “Crucify him! crucify him!” The truth-haters of every future generation will call the truthhaters of the preceding ages by their true names; for even these the stream of time carries onward. In fine, truth, considered in itself, and in the effects natural to it, may be conceived as a gentle spring or water-source, warm from the genial earth, and bubbling up into the snow-drift that is piled over and around its outlet. It turns the obstacle into its own form and character, and, as it makes its way, increases its stream. And should it be arrested in its course by a chilling season, it suffers delay, not loss, and awaits only for a change in the wind to awaken and again roll onwards.
THE AMERICAN IN ENGLAND.
WASHINGTON IRVING. HAVING been born and brought up in a new country, yet educated from infancy in the literature of an old one, my mind was early filled with historical and poetical associations, connected with places, and manners, and customs of Europe ; but which could rarely be applied to those of iny own country. To a mind thus peculiarly prepared, the most ordinary objects and scenes, on arriving in Europe, are full of strange matter and interesting novelty. England is as classic ground to an American, as Italy is to an Englishman ; and old London teems with as much historical association as mighty Rome.
Indeed, it is difficult to describe the whimsical medley of ideas that throng upon his mind, on landing among English scenes. He, for the first time, sees a world about which he has been reading and thinking, in every stage of his existence. The recollected ideas of infancy, youth, and manhood ; of the nursery, the school, and the study, come swarming at once upon him, and his attention is distracted between great and little objects ; each of which, perhaps, awakens an equally delightful train of remembrances.
But what more especially attracts his notice, are those peculiarities which distinguish an old country, and an old state of society from a new one. I have never yet grown familiar enough with the crumbling monuments of past ages, to blunt the intense interest with which I at first beheld them. Accustomed always to scenes where history was, in a manner, in anticipation ; where everything in art was new and progressive, and pointed to the future rather than to the past ; where, in short, the works of man gave no ideas but those of young existence, and prospective improvement; there was something inexpressibly touching in the sight of enormous piles of architecture, gray with antiquity, and sinking to decay. I cannot describe the mute but deep-felt enthusiasm with which I have contemplated a vast monastic ruin like Tintern Abbey, buried in the bosom of a quiet valley, and shut up from the world, as though it had existed merely for itself; or a warrior pile, like Conway Castle, standing in stern loneliness on its rocky height, a mere hollow, yet threatening phantom, of departed power. They spread a grand and melancholy, and, to me, an unusual charm over the landscape ; I, for the first time, beheld signs of national old age, and empire's decay, and proofs of the transient and perishing glories of art, amidst the ever-springing and reviving fertility of nature.
But, in fact, everything to me was full of matter; the footsteps of history were everywhere to be traced ; and poetry had breathed over and sanctified the land. I experienced the delightful freshness of feeling of a child, to whom everything is new. I pictured to myself a set of inhabitants and a mode of life for every habitation that I saw, from the aristocratical mansion, amidst the lordly repose of stately groves and solitary parks, to the straw-thatched cottage, with its scanty garden and its cherished woodbine. I thought I never could be sated with the sweetness and freshness of a country so completely carpeted with verdure, where every air breathed of the balmy pasture and the honeysuckled hedge. I was continually coming upon some little document of poetry, in the blossomed hawthorn, the daisy, the cowslip, the primrose, or some other simple object that has received a supernatural value from the muse. The first time that I heard the song of the nightingale, I was intoxicated more by the delicious crowd of remembered associations, than by the melody of its notes ; and I shall never forget the thrill of ecstacy with which I first saw the lark rise, almost from beneath my feet, and wing its musical flight up into the morning sky.
In this way I traversed England, a grown-up child, delighted by every object great and small, and betraying a wondering ignorance and simple enjoyment, that provoked many a stare and a smile from my wiser and more experienced fellow-travellers. Such, too, was the odd confusion of associations that kept breaking upon me as I first approached London, One of my earliest wishes had been to see this great metropolis. I had read so much about it in the earliest books that had been put into my infant hands, and I had heard so much about it from those around me who had come from the “old countries.” I was familiar with the names of its streets and squares, and public places, before I knew those of my native city. It was to me the great centre of the world, round which everything seemed to revolve. I recollect contemplating so wistfully, when a boy, a paltry little print of the Thames, and London Bridge, and St. Paul's, that was in front of an old magazine ; and a picture of Kensington Gardens, with gentlemen in three-cornered hats and broad skirts, and ladies in hoops and lappets, that hung up in my bedroom ; even the venerable cut of St. John's Gate, that has stood, time out of mind, in front of the Gentleman's Magazine, was not without its charms to me; and I envied the odd-looking little men that appeared to be loitering about its arches.
How then did my heart warm when the towers of Westminster Abbey were pointed out to me, rising above the rich groves of St. James's Park, with a thin blue haze about their gray pinnacles ! I could not behold this great mausoleum of what is most illustrious in our paternal history, without feeling my enthusiasm in a glow. With what eagerness did I explore every part of the metropolis !. I was not content with those matters which occupy the dignified research of the learned traveller ; I delighted to call up all the feelings of childhood, and to seek after those objects which had been the wonders of my infancy. London Bridge, so famous in nursery song; the far-famed Monument; Gog and Magog; and, the lions in the Tower, all brought back many a recollection of infantine delight, and of good old beings, now no more, who had gossipped about them to my wondering ear. Nor was it without a recurrence of childish interest, that I first peeped into Mr. Newberry's shop in St. Paul's Churchyard, that fountain-head of literature. Mr. Newberry was the first that ever filled my infant mind with the idea of a great and good man. He published all the picture-books of the day ; and, out of his abundant love for children, he charged “ nothing for either paper or print, and only a penny-halfpenny for the binding !"
I have mentioned these circumstances to show the whimsical crowd of associations that are apt to beset my mind on mingling among English scenes. I know it is the humour, not to say cant, of the day, to run riot about old times, old books, old customs, and old buildings ; with myself, however, as far as I have caught the contagion, the feeling is genuine. To a man from a young