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A palace when 'tis that which it should be
Our bodies had their morning, have their noon,
The noble soul by age grows lustier,
Provide you manlier diet!
I AM fully aware, that what I am writing and have written (in these latter essays at least) will expose me to the censure of some, as bewildering myself and readers with metaphysics; to the ridicule of others as a school-boy declaimer on old and wornout truisms or exploded fancies; and to the objection of most as obscure. The last real or supposed
* Letter to Sir Henry Goodere. The words in italics are substituted for the original.-Ed.
defect has already received an answer both in the preceding essays, and in the appendix to my first Lay-Sermon, entitled The Stateman's Manual. Of the former two, I shall take the present opportunity of declaring my sentiments; especially as I have already received a hint that my idol, Milton, has represented metaphysics as the subject which the bad spirits in hell delight in discussing. And truly, if I had exerted my subtlety and invention in persuading myself and others that we are but living machines, and that, as one of the late followers of Hobbes and Hartley has expressed the system, the assassin and his dagger are equally fit objects of moral esteem and abhorrence; or if with a writer of wider influence and higher authority, I had reduced all virtue to a selfish prudence eked out by superstition,*-for, assuredly, a creed which takes its central point in conscious selfishness, whatever be the forms or names that act on the selfish passion, a ghost or a constable, can have but a distant relationship to that religion, which
"And from this account of obligation it follows, that we are obliged to nothing but what we ourselves are to gain or lose something by; for nothing else can be a violent motive to us. As we should not be obliged to obey the laws, or the magistrate, unless rewards or punishments, pleasure or pain, somehow or other, depended upon our obedience ; so neither should we, without the same reason, be obliged to do what is right, to practise virtue, or to obey the commands of God." Paley, Moral and Political Philosophy, B. II. c. 2. et passim.-Ed.
places its essence in our loving our neighbour as ourselves, and God above all,-I know not, by what arguments I could repel the sarcasm. But what are my metaphysics ?-Merely the referring of the mind to its own consciousness for truths indispensable to its own happiness! To what purpose do I, or am I about to, employ them? To perplex our clearest notions and living moral instincts? To deaden the feelings of will and free power, to extinguish the light of love and of conscience, to make myself and others worthless, soulless, God-less? No! to expose the folly and the legerdemain of those who have thus abused the blessed machine of language; to support all old and venerable truths; and by them to support, to kindle, to project the spirit; to make the reason spread light over our feelings, to make our feelings, with their vital warmth, actualize our reason: -these are my objects, these are my subjects; and are these the metaphysics which the bad spirits in hell delight in?
But how shall I avert the scorn of those critics who laugh at the oldness of my topics, evil and good, necessity and arbitrement, immortality and the ultimate aim? By what shall I regain their favour? My themes must be new, a French constitution; a balloon; a change of ministry; a fresh batch of kings on the Continent, or of peers in our happier island; or who had the best of it of two parliamentary gladiators, and whose speech, on the
subject of Europe bleeding at a thousand wounds, or our own country struggling for herself and all human nature, was cheered by the greatest number of laughs,'' loud laughs,' and 'very loud laughs:' -(which, carefully marked by italics, form most conspicuous and strange parentheses in the newspaper reports.) Or if I must be philosophical, the last chemical discoveries, provided I do not trouble my reader with the principle which gives them their highest interest, and the character of intellectual grandeur to the discoverer; or the last shower of stones, and that they were supposed, by certain philosophers, to have been projected from some volcano in the moon,-care being taken not to add any of the cramp reasons for this opinion! Something new, however, it must be, quite new and quite out of themselves! for whatever is within them, whatever is deep within them, must be as old as the first dawn of human reason. But to find no contradiction in the union of old and new, to contemplate the Ancient of days with feelings as fresh, as if they then sprang forth at his own fiat-this characterizes the minds that feel the riddle of the world, and may help to unravel it! To carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers.. of manhood, to combine the child's sense of wonder and novelty with the appearances which every day for perhaps forty years has rendered familiar,
With sun and moon and stars throughout the year,
this is the character and privilege of genius, and one of the marks which distinguish genius from talent. And so to represent familiar objects as to awaken the minds of others to a like freshness of sensation concerning them—that constant accompaniment of mental, no less than of bodily, health -to the same modest questioning of a self-discovered and intelligent ignorance, which, like the deep and massy foundations of a Roman bridge, forms half of the whole structure-(prudens interrogatio dimidium scientia, says Lord Bacon)-this is the prime merit of genius, and its most unequivocal mode of manifestation. Who has not, a thousand times, seen it snow upon water? Who has not seen it with a new feeling, since he has read Burns's comparison of sensual pleasure,
To snow that falls upon a river,
A moment white-then gone for ever ! *
In philosophy equally, as in poetry, genius produces the strongest impressions of novelty, while it rescues the stalest and most admitted truths from the impotence caused by the very circumstance of - their universal admission. Extremes meet ;-a pro
verb, by the by, to collect and explain all the instances and exemplifications of which, would constitute and exhaust all philosophy. Truths, of all others the most awful and mysterious, yet being