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AN APOLOGY FOR AN ESSAY.
“ Out upon time!" (albeit a sage reviewer of the East, or North, or Northeast, quarrels with the phrase, as quaint, and low, and antiquated)-out upon time, and the Reviewer toothe one for a thief, and the other for a jackass. Time was, when the writing of an essay or a story, of an ode or an elegy, cost no more labour than that of directing the goosequill over the foolscap; and happy was the compositor who could read, happy the reader who could understand, happy, thrice happy the author who had created the buoyant extempore product. But Time, the superannuated old felon,-will steal
“ Fire from the nind, as vigour from the limb;" or, in other words, judgment, that some persons, (such as Yankee schoolmasters, and new fledged dominies and doctors,) are said to have from childhood, and which others acquire at earlier or later periods, or perhaps never-sober judgment has got on her gown and wig; and will hear no motions, not fortified by sufficient facts, properly attested. She values not a rush the most forgetive ingenuity, employed upon untenable premises ; but dismisses the subject as the court does a frivolous demurrer. She cares no more for tropes and similies, than Æsop's rooster did for the pearl on the dunghill; but knits her brows, and looks as ugly as Sam Johnson, in the Dublin edition of his lives of the poets; and declares, in his own language, that a “metaphor is no argument.” Oh sober judgment! what have I to do with thee? To mos nas cos yuun; (for feminine thou must be, according to all the rules and practice of legitimate personification—so that the wisest of us are under petticoat government after all.) What hast thou done for me, or mine outward estate, or mine inward intellectual economy, that thou shouldest thus tyrannize over the exercitations of fancy, clap thine injunctions on the cacoethes scribendi, and issue thy ne exeats against the most formidable conceptions, that ever shook the diaphragm of a sensible man with laughter, or fulmined over the heads of the groundlings, to their utter dismay and consternation? I say, what have I gained, and what have I lost by thee? Hast thou put money in my purse; or passed over to me the fee simple of lands and tenements? Do people come to me to borrow money on good security-or go to the register's office to search for titles through or in me? Too well thou knowest what a waste of time and trouble that would be! Or hast thou produced in me any near approximation to the philosophical desideratum--the sublime quietude of the soul-the mens sana in corpore sano? Hast VOL. II.
thou bade "peace of mind” to “ build her downy nest” in the tabernacle of my thoughts, or even provided lodgings there for the interesting nymph, indifference? Right well thou knowest, that, though the visions of childhood have vanished like a dream of the morning, or the sparkling dew, or glittering hoar frost, or any other evanescent particulars, to which they have ever been compared for the sake of rhyme or reason, no more tangible objects bave succeeded, to embellish the dim perspective of hope. Right well thou knowest how, though thy sage visage scowls at and disapproves many an action, yet in defiance of thy jurisdiction, I am drawn still like a child by the magnetism of the momentary power
“ Video meliora proboque,
Deteriora sequor.” Thou hast provided a compass—but the will, that untrustworthy pilot, still holds the helm; thou hast given me no anchors to heave out in a squall; and the star that should be an unerring guide, burns yet for me with pale, and ineffectual, and often overclouded fire. But I have no right to twit thee with that-the quarrel is with Beelzebub and the flesh—and my apostrophe
" To subjects too solemn insensibly tends." How much have I not lost by thee, then, O judgment, matron stern--who, sitting in thy curule chair, art as indifferent to coming contingencies, as the Roman senator in the empty forum, when the barbarians were thronging through the gatesor, as he in the sable cap, who announces thy penal requisitions to the convicted felon; and commends the ingredients of the poisoned chalice to his lips-now with a stale joke, and now with a staler scrap of morality, as he happens to be in the mood. What have. I not lost by thee, O judgment?
I am sorry that I began by railing at father Time. I acquit him of half the charge I intended to bring against him. He has stolen, to be sure, “ i fiori di miei bei anni," swept away the garlands of childhood--lifted up the veil from the scenes where innocence was bliss—taken away the privileges of those, perhaps, happier hours, when the half-initiate romps and frolics in the gardens and pleasure-houses, to which he is admitted by aceident, or on probation, or out of curiosity in the keepers---destroyed the illusions of those fairy scenes, and written his Ichabod on the gate of the enchanted palace. Aye, he has done worse-he has sent to the cold and unanswering grave, those whom we loved best, and for best cause. Over some the green turf and the recording stones have been heaped, and
over some the great ocean roars, with his “big base"--and of all alike it can only be said, that “the places which once knew them shall know them no more for ever. Still can we bid them pass over the shadowed mirror of memory, with their wan and sadly smiling features-but they glide away as their disembodied essences may. flit through the dim fields of eternity—“the spirit is not here !"
Time has done worse than this. He has more baleful colleagues than disease and death. There are some whom we have loved, and who yet live-each to the mind's eye as a “ nominis umbra;") for shame has marked them for her own, and disgrace has invested them in the sheet of penance. Her dreadful sentence has passed, and the charity of the world excludes them from “fire and water."
6 Hæret laterı lethalis arundo." The herd pass by, and the stricken deer must go weep in its covert-good for nothing, but the moralities of some melancholy Jaques—but dead to the world and its sympathies.
Time has done all this -but what right have we to traduce him for not standing still, while the ordinary course of events is going on? Shall we quarrel with the horologe, because the time of an unfulfilled engagement is passed ? Joshuas would arise, if this were worth while, to bid the hour and minute hands stand still, that their notes might not be protested, or even that their dinners might not grow cold.
But thou, yet once again invoked, O judgment! who assumest the sway over time and circumstance, what do we not lose by thee, wher, without a substitute for the fluency and the fearlessness of early conception, we are taught by thee how fantastical is their exhibition. I ask thee, why I should now be at a loss for matter, when ten long years ago I could have outwatched the moon and stars, in pouring forth speculations " de omni scibili ?! I am under indentures to write for this number of the Magazine, and I am not supplied with any bricks or straw for the purpose. Why cannot I put into the mill of my understanding, a few pages of Ricardo, or Say, or Adam Smith, and grind out a lecture upon political economy, which my friends can certify is very fine-a proposition which it would be cheaper to assent to than to read the article ? Because, O judgment! thy solemn voice would inform me, that all my blarney about values, and wealth, and reproductive industry, was thine eye and Betty Martin ; and so far from enlightening the senate of our country, could be of no use even to the
corporation, in making a new contract for sweeping the streets. Why cannot I too uplift my testimony on the fertile topic of codification, and legislate for the new continent ? Because, O judgment! thou knowest that half of the smaller fry, who sing chorus to Jeremy Bentham, have not yet found out what the meaning of codification is, and never could, and cannot now explain, what they want. And, moreover, thou assurest me, that had these same Solons, who are the men, and with whom wisdom will die, been born under the Old Testament dispensation, and raised in the land of promise, they would have been equally uproarious for codifying the moral law, and appointing a committee to revise Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Why cannot I review a book, and talk long and learnedly, eviscerating my information from the author himself, and despatching the poor devil with faint praise, in the catastrophe of my article, or letting him pass sub silentio altogether? Why cannot I plunder some forgotten antiquarian researches, or boldly pilfer even from some laborious, but unknown modern ; and attain the praise of deep erudition, and great consumption of what poets call the midnight taper? All these things I could do, and did do once, when I had not got my growth; and column after column, in long array, of newspaper wisdom, now rises up in judgment against me. And yet, although the re. buke of these phantoms is very severe, I find the round periods and sonorous nonsense, which I then concocted, not half so exquisitely absurd, as that which is supplied by the garçons, who scribble at present for the diurnal. press. There is a fall. ing off since my time, or else the gullibility or indifference of the community is becoming greater. It cannot be that their lights are burning less bright; for we know that we live in an age
of still increasing information. Every new graduate has a trifling addition to make to the combustible matter, by the ignition of which we walk in the purified gas-light of reason. Every young gentleman who returns from a brief lionizing on the old continent, if he does not bring with him the secret of the opus magnum, is at least able to new model the constitution, and fill the place of secretary of state or of the treasury. It is not for your Raphaels, Corregios, and stuff—though of them they can discourse upon occasion—that we must be on the look out; but for your political economy-ye gods! what a power of it they pick up! Let no dogs bark when they speak. In short, th AGE IS ILLUMINATED.
But I have rambled from my apostrophe; I have filled the requisite number of pages. The devil is at my elbow, ha
ving the influenza to a great degree, requiring my contribution. I ask thee, last of all then, O judgment ! bast thou fled to brutish beasts, or have I lost my reason, that I can come to no better conclusion on the premises which I have stated ?
Until I have settled this problem satisfactorily to myself, I remain, gentlemen, Your most obedient servant,
Flora of Brazil.-A new scientific work, under this title, by M. Auguste de St. Hilaire, is about to appear at Paris. Baron Humboldt has made his report on it to the Institute in the most flattering terms.
New Literary and Scientific Institution.-In November last, a meeting was held in London, the object of which was to establish a public library, reading-rooms, and scientific lectures, on the western side of the metropolis, for the use of commercial and professional persons. It was respectably attended, and a series of resolutions relating to the purposes of the meeting were agreed to, after speeches from Mr. Drummond, Sir John Paul, Mr. Thomas Campbell, Mr. J. Wright the Roman Catholic banker, Mr. J. C. Hobhouse, Mr. Brougham, and others.
New Work on Greece. A new work on Greece is about to be published in England, which may be expected to present a true and decisive picture of that interesting country, not only as respects its political condition, but also in regard to the character, manners, and habits of the people. The work is to be entitled “Greece in 1825.” It will contain the journals of James Emerson, Esq. Count Pecchio, and W. H. Humphreys, Esq., all of whom were actively engaged in the late important proceedings. Mr. Emerson was engaged not only in the land service, but in some of the naval engagements between the Greeks and their enemies. His journal is brought down so late as to last August. Count Pecchio was a commissioner authorized by the Greek deputies; his narrative, in addition to the historical details, contains valuable incidental sketches of the scenery of Greece. Mr. Humphreys held a captain's commission in the Greek service, and is respectfully mentioned by Colonel Stanhope and Lord Byron.