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LIFE AND REMAINS OF JOHN STERLING.*
The gifted person of whom Archdeacon Hare, and memory of John, which years did not efface. has drawn so pleasing a portrait was born at He used to say to himself, “ Edward is near me Kames Castle, in the Isle of Bute, July 20, now. Edward is watching me. He knows what 1806, from whence his parents removed to I am doing and thinking; is sad for my faults. Llanblithian, in Glamorganshire, a region of I must, I will strive to do what he would apmuch beauty and interest, where they resided prove of.” This feeling has been often recog. four years. Sterling has touchingly described nized in riper and thoughtfuller years, but selthe influence of these scenes upon his childish dom obtains so early a manifestation. feelings,— “There are places that I love more Having gone up to Cambridge in 1824, and for the persons I have known in them; but still commenced bis residence at Trinity, Sterling they are places, externals, accidents. That became a pupil of Archdeacon Hare, at that green, silent valley, with its baby brooklet, is time one of the classical lecturers of the college, very differently infused and incorporated in me; by whom his fine taste and generous disposiits grass, to me the symbol and archetype of all tion were quickly observed. This appreciation verdure and tranquillity, a spiritual, not mate on one side and high respect on the other gradrial thing. For it was from these objects that I ually expanded, and ripened into a friendship learned to read and love the essential forms of that braved the inclemency of later years. The Nature and Life.”
pupil found more to love in the tutor than in the In the autumn of 1814, when the war-storm system. The remarks of his biographer on this had cleared away, Sterling's family went over to subject are recommended by force and candor. France, and took up their abode at Passy. They He acknowledges the cramped and cramping were enjoying the quiet of the place and the course of education imposed by the University, novelties of continental life, when the sudden and the general want in eminent men of any return of Napoleon again convulsed the country. filial affection towards the intellectual mother Escaping with some difficulty, and more alarm, of their youth. From Milton down to Gray, in the following year they settled in London. and from Gray to the present hour, the sentiThe health of John, always a tender and deli- ment has prevailed, and is likely to continue, cate child, did not enable him to undergo a reg- while mathematical book-work and Greek and ular and protracted course of instruction. His Latin “cram” are the only attainments, for parents watched each little interval of sunshine, which the Muses of Camus weave or offer and made the most of it, casting in a handful of crowns.
Even when a true scholar appears, he seed as opportunity served. His schools, accor- is generally deficient in catholic taste. Porson dingly, were often changed. But, in all this considered the study of Pindar a mere waste of rough and uncertain weather, the plant grew, time; the dullest chorus excelled his noblest ode. and put forth leaves and bloom. In his elev- Sterling's academic career was profitable to enth year the literary faculty showed itself in a him from outward and independent causes. He charming manner. He had a younger brother, gained friends if not honors, and to some of Edward, to whom he was devotedly attached, them he continued bound through life. When and who had been taken home on account of ill he came to London, he found one remarkable
John turned over in his mind how he person rising into fame, who was destined to inmight contribute to his brother's amusement dur-fluence, for good and evil, and in a very wide ing his sickness, and, recollecting his fondness circumference, some of the noblest spirits of the for tales," he made a book by folding up a
age. This was Coleridge, whose Aids to Reflecsheet of paper to the size of half a card, and on tion — his most remarkable book — had not long these tiny pages began to write out the story of been published. We speak of his influence as Valentine and Orson, after a version of his own." being of a chequered description. Arnold indiTo render the resemblance more striking he em- rectly alludes to the large rents in the poet's ployed Roman letters. His affectionate toil character when writing to his nephew :—"What proved to be unavailing, for little Edward was a great man your uncle was,— that is, intellecsinking too rapidly to regard it. The death of tually; for something, I suppose, must have his brother left a solemn impression on the mind been wanting to hinder us from calling him a
great man, ùthüs. * Essays and Tales, by John Sterling; Collected Sterling seized the first opportunity of seekand Ediled, with a Memoir of his Life, by Julius Charles Hare, M. A., Rector of Herstmonceux. 2 ing out the old man in his oracular shrine at vols. post Svo. John W. Parker, West Strand. 1848. Highgate ;” and the archdeacon thinks that he
might, with happiness beyond any competitor, , and pursued his high argument just the same, have preserved to us the ever varying hues, never recurring to yours."* sparkling lights, and what he calls the oceanic Luther was a favorite theme of Coleridge, ebb and flow of the master's conversation. The and he always treated it with affectionate eloshort specimen contained in these volumes leaves quence :a relish on the car and memory. Before we listen to the speaker, a sketch of his appearance
Mr. Coleridge happened to lay his hand upon may be acceptable
a little old engraving of Luther, with four German verses above it. He said, “How much
better this is than many of the butcher-like porMr. Coleridge is not tall, and rather stout; his traits of Luther, which we commonly see ! He features, though not regular, are by no means is of all men the one whom I especially love and disagreeable ; the hair quite gray; the eye and admire.” Pointing to the first words of the Gerforehead very fine. His appearance is rather man verses, he explained them, Luther, the dear old-fashioned, and he looks as if he belonged not hero. “ It is singular (he said), how all men so much to this or to any age as to history. His have agreed in assigning to Lúther the heroic manner and address struck me as being rather character; and indeed it is certainly most just. formally courteous. He always speaks in the Luther, however wrong in some of his opinions, tone and in the gesture of common conversation, was always right in design and spirit. In transand laughs a good deal, but gently. His empha- lating his ideas into conceptions, he always unsis, though not declamatory, is placed with re- derstood something higher and more universal markable propriety. He speaks, perhaps, rather than he had the means of expressing. He did slowly, but never stops, and seldom even hesi- not bestow too much attention on one part of tates. There is the strongest appearance of man's nature to the exclusion of the others; but conviction, without any violence in his manner. gave its due place to each,- the intellectual, His language is sometimes harsh, sometimes the practical, and so forth. He is great, even careless, often quaint, almost always, I think, where he is wrong,- even in the sacramental drawn from the fresh, delicious fountains of our controversy, the most unhappy in which he enolder eloquence.
gaged; for his idea of Christ's body becoming
infinite by its union with the Godhead, is enHe adds a little further on, that it was painful He said, “ Calvin was undoubtedly a man of
tirely wrong.' Some one mentioned Calvin. to observe in the poet's eye, a glare, half-un- talent; I have a great respect for him; he had earthly, half-morbid, while his cheek showed a
a very logical intellect; but he wanted Luther's flush of over-excitement. We are enabled to powers.” illustrate this melancholy indication of the inward He then began to speak of landscape gardenfire, by a much earlier letter of John Foster, ing, in consequence of some remark about the who heard one of Coleridge's lectures at Bristol. beautiful view behind the house in which he re
sides. The impression he made on the vigorous mind the old style of gardens and parks. There was
“We have gone too far in destroying of Foster, seems to have been singularly deep
a great deal of comfort in the thick hedges, and lasting; coming up to the highest imaginary which always gave you a sheltered walk during standard of genius. He speaks significantly of winter. There is certainly a propriety in the the luxury of his conversation ; and, perhaps gradual passing away of the works of man in the that word gives the liveliest description of the neighbourhood of a home. The great thing is to wonderful monologue, which flowed from his lips discover whether the scenery is such that the in an unceasing stream. On another occasion country seems to belong to man, or man to the Foster called him the prince of magicians.
country. Now among the lakes of Westmore
land man evidently belongs to the country: the A recent writer, of whose anonymous author- very cottages seem merely to rise out of, and to be ity we know not the value, furnishes a pleasant growths of, the rock. But the case is different sketch of a first visit to the same philosopher's in a country where every thing speaks of man, hermitage at Highgate : “ The bees that clus- houses, corn-fields, cattle. There your improvetered round his lips (no doubt) in infancy, could ments ought to be in conformity with the charnot, however, have deposited sweets inexhausti-acter of the place. Man is so in love with intelble ; and the vast flow of his eloquence hence ligence, that where he is not intelligent enough
to discover it, he will impress it. Some of the sometimes brawled roughly among metaphysical finest views about here (Highgate), are only to rocks of the strangest form, or wandered away be seen from among the most wretched habitafairly out of the sight of vulgar, mortal, intellec- tions. tual eyes. As to any interjected obstacle that his hearer might venture to edge in –
Sterling had the courage to think and say,
å suge that Johnson's talk, though better balanced and gested flaw in his argument, or doubt to be resolved — caused not a ripple. He smiled, ges-ed not only the flavor and fragrance, but the
scrubbed, and more ponderous in epithets, wantticulated seeming assent (with too much an air of adult indulgence to innocent child's prattle), * Pen and Pencil Sketches, p. 133.
genius and knowledge which animated Cole-, is a shuttlecock; if it be struck only at one ridge's. That one was a house of brick, and the end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. other of jasper. We should not be much in- To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends. clined to quarrel with the last definition; because Johnson was essentially practical, and
3. adapted his sayings to the comfort, convenience, and decoration of life. So that a fine old Eliza
Wasting a fortune is evaporation by a thou
sand imperceptible means. If it were a stream, bethan mansion of gray brick, weather-beaten and stained by time, with its warm rooms, its be said he had hopes of winning. Were he
they'd stop it. Were he a gamester, it would twilight of dim windows, its massiveness and se- bankrupt in trade, he might have grown rich; curity, supplies no inexpressive or unpleasing but he has neither spirit to spend, nor resolution emblem. But we deny the inferiority altogether. to spare. He does not spend fast enough to Where is it to be found ? Was it in literary have pleasure from it. He has the crime of knowledge? Windham, a most accomplished prodigality, and the wretchedness of parsimony.
If a man is killed in a duel, he is killed as many judge, believed Johnson to have had the largest
a one has been killed; but it is a sad thing for a acquaintancc with books possessed by any man
man to lie down and die, to bleed to death, bein Europe ; and an acquaintance chiefly ob cause he has not fortitude enough to sear the tained by the practice he recommended to others, wound, or even to stitch it up. of always having a book in his pocket, to read at “ by-times;” and going about with eyes open, Foster, without intending or thinking of it, wits awake, and tongue ready. Was it in ob- laid his finger on the true mark of difference beservation of life, and searching scrutiny into the tween the two Sams of Highgate and Bolt motives and dealings of men ? Every page of Court; when, contrasting Coleridge with Robert his recorded sayings looks like a quotation from Hall, he said that the poet carried on his mental some Christian Epictetus. Was it in sarcasm operations at a distance, while the preacher or that enchiridion of a picturesque wit, which worked his machinery close by you, so as to enis the most attractive manifestation of humour ? danger the being caught and torn by any of the But where has Coleridge said any thing equal wheels. This was really the case, and in a much to the reply to a physician, who sought to recall higher degree, with Johnson. The streams of himself to Johnson's memory by mentioning the imagination, learning, and eloquence poured splendor of the coat he wore on a particular down, not as in Coleridge, to overflow and inunoccasion ? “Sir, had you been dipped in Pac-date the argument, but to turn a mill and grind tolus I should not have noticed you.” Was it corn. Coleridge very seldom did this. The even in that brilliancy of figurative diction which hunger of the soul was unsatisfied. He fed the encircles the image or illustration with a frame- eye and ear, rather than the understanding. work of splendor ?
This sense of uncertainty affects the reader of We will insert these specimens; not looked his remains. He succeeds in separating and inafter with any anxious eye, but immediately re- dividualizing few objects. The way cannot be curring to the memory, and set them unhesitat- found for the haze; and while all is luminous, ingly against any parallel passages to be drawn there is little light. from the Table- Talk of Coleridge. The first At a later period, Sterling had the advantage aim of language is to communicate our thoughts; of meeting Mr. Wordsworth, of whom he speaks the second, to do it with despatch. The remark with much affection, as preserving in age the is Tooke's. The conversation of Johnson ex-companionable sympathies of earlier and more plains it. What he says, he says quickly. But joyous life. The parallel suggested with his cellook at the richness and variety of the language ebrated friend is very interesting. His converemployed, each word being a picture, as we sation is admitted to be distinguished chiefly have occasion to observe in Shakspeare: by delicate taste, good sense, and masculine lan
guage. We remember that when the late Mr. 1.
Wilberforce visited the Lakes many years ago, This petitioning is a new mode of distressing he thought the poet of Rydal " independent government. There must be no yielding to en- even to rudeness.” And there is extant a curicourage this. The object is not important enough. ous letter from Southey to Taylor of Norwich, We are not to blow up half-a-dozen palaces, be inviting him to come and “ mountaineer ” for a cause one cottage is burning.
few weeks, which appears to take a similar,
though more playful view, of the venerable lau. 2.
reate's robust and uncompromising character. It is advantageous to an author that his book He tells Taylor that Wordsworth, “ the wildest should be attacked, as well as praised. Fame of all wild beasts,” will be ready to greet him.
After residing one year at Trinity College, He came to me at a time of heavy affliction, Sterling migrated to Trinity Hall, with the in- just after I had heard that the brother, who had tention of proceeding in law; but he left the been the sharer of all my thoughts and feelings University without taking a degree. Several from my childhood, had bid farewell to his subsequent years were spent in London, in the earthly life at Rome; and thus he seemed given
to me to make up in some sort for him whom I turmoil and fever of literary exertion. In 1828 had lost. Almost daily did I look out at his he was a large contributor to the Athenæum, usual hour for coming to me, and watch his tall and helped to raise it in tone and feeling. In slender form walking rapidly across the hill in this work his • Shades of the Dead," "Travels of front of my window, with the assurance that he Elbert,' and various tales, appeared. As the
was coming to cheer and brighten, to rouse and compositions of a youth of twenty-two, they are
stir me, to call me up to some height of feeling, certainly remarkable. At the same time he was spirit responding instantaneously to every im
or down into some depth of thought. His lively conscious of the hurtful influences of periodical pulse of nature or of art, his generous ardor in writing on an immature intellect, drying up and behalf of whatever is noble and true, his scorn exhausting the root, and, by its very heat, de- of all meanness, of all false pretences and constroying the freshness and verdure of the imagi- ventional beliefs, softened as it was by compasnation, and dwarfing its growth.
sion for the victims of those besetting sins of a
cultivated After a visit to France, and some rather ab
age, his never-flagging impetuosity in surd adventures in Spanish politics, Sterling duty or of knowledge, along with his gentle,
pushing onward to some unattained point of married, in 1830, Susannah, the eldest daughter almost reverential, affectionateness towards his of Lieutenant-General Barton; and soon after, former tutor, rendered my intercourse with him in consequence of some pulmonary symptoms, an unspeakable blessing; and time after time sailed to the West Indies. He happened to be has it seemed to me that his visit had been like at St. Vincent when the hurricane ravaged the
a shower of rain, bringing down freshness and island in 1831. He was at this time turning his too, the recollection of these our daily meetings
brightness on a dusty roadside hedge. By him, thoughts towards the Church. His philosophical
was cherished till the last. In a letter to his opinions had assumed, we are told, a more theo- eldest boy, who was at school, and to whom he logical and practical character. He attributed
used to write daily, about two months before his his spiritual improvement to three causes, death, after speaking of various flowers in his sufficiently singular and discordant, - his mar- garden, especially of some gum cistuses, he says; riage, Coleridge, and Edward Irving. We
"I think I like them chiefly because I remember
a large bush of the kind, close to the greenhouse should scarcely have been prepared to receive a candidate for the ministry from such training. ry. The ground used to be all white with the
through which one passed into Mr. Hare's libraBut the unfavorable impression is diminished by fållen flowers. I have so often stood near it, this interesting confession, —“Aided by these, talking to him, and looking away over the Pevdisciplined by many grave events, and not, i ensey Level to the huge old Roman Castle, and trust, unguided by the Holy Spirit, I have be- the sea, and Beachy Head beyond. The thought gun of late to read the Bible with diligence and
of the happy hours I have so spent in talking unfailing interest, and have in some degree
with him is and always will be very pleasant.” learnt by experience the power and advantage This was the sunniest and fruitfullest season of prayer, and enjoy what I never knew before, in the life of Sterling. He had a central light and what even now is chequered with many for his busy thoughts to move round; and the fears a lively and increasing hope that I may sad and bewildering dreams of later years had be able to overcome the world.” In this cheering scarcely, if at all, begun to cast their shadows. temper of mind he was found by Archdeacon The only mournful circumstance connected with Hare at Bonn, in the summer of 1833, and
page of his life is the brevity of it. He put the interview led to his ordination at Chichester, his hand to the plough in June, 1834, and went in the following year, to the curacy of Herst- struggling through his appointed and promising monceux, in Sussex.
field of labor until February in the following He entered on his new field of labor with the year, when he was obliged to seek medical adzeal and generosity that were natural to him, vice in London. The opinion of his physician visiting the parishioners in all weathers, to the forbade all public exertion; and at the churchutter neglect of his own health. He felt what doors of that romantic village“ the one Sabbath Chalmers has so forcibly urged, that a house of his life” might be truly said to have closed. visiting clergyman makes a church-going people. He continued to reside at Herstmonceux until Archdeacon Hare's account of his pastoral con the autumn of 1835, when he took a house at nexion and intercourse with Sterling seems to Bayswater. In the absence of his good genius, us one of the most beautiful passages in these the speculative character of his mind rapidly interesting volumes:
developed itself. Essays on God, and Sin, and
Inspiration, and Prophecy, grew up too rapidly tinually making itself heard. He rejoiced in the beneath his pen; and the more he descended Bishop of London's noble project to build fifty into the Old Testament, the more unstable its churches — a work now nearly completed — and divine foundation became in his troubled and longed to see it taken up and pressed to the disordered eyes.
heart in the spirit of an old crusade, not as a We are informed that the great Christian idea paltry calculating adjustment of pounds and that now engaged and oppressed him was that shillings, but with all the generosity and selfof Sin, and the consequent necessity of Redemp- abandonment of faith and charity. tion. His letters constantly recur to it as to the black and dreadful mystery that most appalled in the spirit of the Crusaders,
I wish men could be persuaded to take it up him — the precipice that he chiefly loved, with his plate, another his horses, a third his super
one man give a sickening and ghastly curiosity, to hang over. fluous books, and so forth; and that every man It was his melancholy fortune to fall among those who cares for Christianity, or even for the diffuauthors to whose daring footsteps the perilous sion of the faith that men are not beasts, would gaps and declivities of this precipice are familiar, remember how little any outward sacrifice is
- explorers of God's secrets, who swing them- compared with the object of raising mankind, selves down by a twig, and fearlessly gather a
and one's self with them, out of the world of
dreams and sensations into the region of the rank, starving weed, here and there. It is a
Universal and Personal. Of course no heaps “dreadful trade” beyond any that the poet ever
of bricks, or the incomes attaching to them by imagined. Sterling appears to have been haunt- way of souls, can do this without a deepening ed by the strange relationship of faith and works, and refining of life and affection on those who or, as he calls it, the wicked fiction of our having minister at the new altars. Still, I am sure, claims against God, on the principle of good that this latter and higher life will be helped to deeds meriting certain returns.
We do not
fulfilment, instead of being retarded, by the out
ward means. presume to touch, in a few paragraphs, an argument, of which the channels of folios have been
His desire for the improved education of the found insufficient to convey the many turbid clergy was also warm and enlightened. and discolored streams. Nor are these columns Archdeacon Hare dwells on this period of his the fit arena for a controversy, already flaming friend's life with affectionate interest; not only up in the Apostolic age; and which eighteen because it was marked by richer fruits of friendhundred years have only helped to feed. But ly intercourse and confidence, but because the it may be profitable to refer the reader to a dis- intellectual engine worked with a vigor it never course by Donne (Matt. v. 16), where the whole afterwards attained. For the same reason we question is investigated with the skill and ani- linger on the scene with a patient and loving mation of that superb preacher; perhaps the eye. The stream was soon to wind into a most thoughtfully eloquent and suggestive in the drearier country ; and the church steeple to rise entire circuit of our theology.
seldomer above the thick trees and mist of GerSterling's growing liberalism was amusing in man philosophy. In the spring of 1836, his conits expansive benevolence of interpretation. In sumptive symptoms put on a more alarming asreading the Koran he began to doubt the pro-pect; and as work was interdicted, he spent priety of regarding Mahomet as an impostor; large portions of each day upon his sofa, “ readlooked upon him as an Arabian Socrates writing ing all manner of idlenesses.” Pindar he looked his lessons with the sword, and believing himself at with deep reverence, for he thought that the 'to hold a divine commission. Those who re old Theban would have been a grand prophet if member the recent beatification of Cromwell, he had been born in Judæa, — Herodotus, and how the usurping regicide has been illumi- Thucydides, and Philip de Comines, helped to nated into the heroic saint, will find their aston- people his solitude :ishment considerably subdued. For our own
I own that I cannot conceive any grounds for parts, we consider the former theory to be much more admissible than the latter; yet both, per- sive intellect, with Thucydides. But the Ionian,
comparing Herodotus, as a deep and comprehenhaps, lead to consequences more serious than the by his childlike receptivity, catches many traits unthinking might anticipate. They are trains of human nature, which Thucydides would overof fire, running under ground; of which the look. By the way, look at the story of Rhampwork and the end are only known by the explo- sinitus in the second Book, and see if it is not sion and overthrow of the national creeds which precisely in the manner of the Arabian Nights. they demolish. The massiveness of the structure matic filling up, which is all it wants.
No doubt, as told to Herodotus, it had the drashows the ruinous force of the agent. In the midst of these and other similar weaknesses of He was probably ignorant that Coleridge had judgment, the voice of his holier nature was con- | already assigned a Greek origin to the Arabian