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side of the world, and left to bustle for ourselves, we have fought out many a battle for truth and freedom. That is our natural style, and it were to be wished we had in no instance departed from it.
Our situation has given us a certain cast of thought and character, and our liberty has enabled us to make the most of it. We are of a stiff clay, not moulded into every fashion, with stubborn joints not easily bent. We are slow to think, and therefore impressions do not work upon us till they act upon us in masses. We are not forward to express our feelings, and therefore they do not come from us till they force their way in impetuous eloquence.
Our language has, as it were, to begin anew, and we make use of the most singular and the boldest combinations to explain ourselves. Our wit comes from us “like bird-lime, brains and all.” We pay too little attention to form and method, leave our works in an unfinished state, but still the materials we work in are solid, and of nature's mint; we do not deal counterfeits. We both under and over-do; but we keep an eye to the main chance, the most prominent features. We are more for weight than show ; care only about what interests ourselves, instead of trying to impose upon others by plausible representations; and are obstinate and intractable in not conforming to common rules, by which many arrive at their ends with half the real waste of thought and labour. We neglect all but the principal object, gather our force to make one great blow, bring it down, and then relapse into sluggishness and indifference again. “Materiam superabat opus” cannot be said of us. We may be accused of grossness, but not
flimsiness; of extravagance, but not of affectation; of want of art and refinement, but not of want of truth and nature.
Our literature, in a word, is Gothic and grotesque ; unequal and irregular; not cast in a previous mould, nor of one uniform texture, but of great weight on the whole, and of incomparable value in the best parts. It aims at an excess of beauty or power, hits or misses, and is either very good indeed, or absolutely good for nothing. This character applies in particular to our literature in the age of Elizabeth, which, indeed, is its best period, before the introduction of a rage for French rules and French models; for whatever may be the value of our original style of composition, there can be neither offence nor presumption in saying that it is at least better than our second-hand imitation of others. Our understanding, such as it is, and must remain, to be good for anything, is not a thoroughfare for commonplaces, smooth as the palm of one's hand, but full of knotty joints and jutting excrescences, rough, uneven, overgrown with brambles; and I like this aspect of the mind, as some one has said of the country, where nature keeps a good deal of the soil in her own hands. Perhaps the genius of our poetry has more of Pan than of Apollo; but “Pan is a god, Apollo is no more.”
I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward. Instead of the gong for dinner, let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife. Let us bow and apologize never more. Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor moving wherever moves a man; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature. He measures you, and all men, and all events. You are constrained to accept his standard. Ordinarily, everybody in society reminds us of somewhat else or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else. It takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much that he must make all circumstances indifferent-put all means into the shade. This, all great men are, and do. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age ; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his thought;-and posterity seems to follow his steps as a procession. A man Cæsar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; as, the Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of Wesley; Abolition, of Clarkson. Scipio, Milton called “the height of Rome;” and all history resolves itself very .easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.
Let a man, then, know his worth, and keep things under his feet. Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity boy, a bastard, or an interloper, in the world which exists for him. But the man in the street, finding no worth in himself which corresponds to the force which built a tower or sculptured a marble god, feels poor when he looks on these. To him a palace, a statue, or a costly book, have an alien and forbidding air, much like a gay equipage, and seem to say, like that,
" Who are you, sir?” Yet they are all hissuitors for his notice, petitioners to his faculties that they will come out and take possession. The picture waits for my verdict; it is not to command me, but I am to settle its claims to praise. That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead-drunk in ihe street, carried to the duke's house, washed and dressed, and laid in the duke's bed, and on his waking treated with all obsequious ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been insane, owes its popularity to the fact, that it symbolizes so well the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason, and finds himself a true prince.
Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. In history, our imagination makes fools of us, plays us false. Kingdom and lordship, power and estate, are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small house, and common day's work; but the things of life are the same to both, the sum total of both is the same. Why all this deference to Alfred, and Scanderbeg, and Gustavus ? Suppose they were virtuous ; did they wear out virtue ? As great a stake depends on your private act to-day, as followed their public and renowned steps.