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Early, however, or rather precocious as were the feelings I have described, scarcely intelligible even to myself, they were attended with effects upon my character which demonstrated them to be of the most pure and genuine cast. Not only I felt a sensible increase of manliness within me, but an elevation and refinement of spirit that was to myself surprising. My age had advanced seemingly half-a-dozen years. I felt like a man, and I thought like a man; and, above all, I felt and thought nothing but what a highminded man would have allowed himself to think and feel. I spurned every thing mean, gross, or indelicate. I was alive only to sentiments that were honourable, polished, and liberal; not merely because they were estimable in themselves, but because they alone could be esteemed by her. I trust, I was not naturally disposed to their opposites, but if I was, my nature was changed, and I felt the force of an observation (I think, of Sterne), that a man in love can never condescend to a shabby thing.
The matter did not stop here, for I never now thought of myself so much the son of a decayed gentleman, as the descendant of the De Cliffords, whose ancient lineage and high renown I traced with heightened avidity in the library of the Hall Place.
About this time, too, I first met with the tragedy of Douglas, and, be sure, likened myself to young Norval ; for, like him, though apparently a shepherd's son, I had in reality a high descent, and, like him,
“ I had heard of battles, and I longed
To follow to the field some warlike lord.”
When also I came to the line,
“ The blood of Douglas will protect itself.”
my heart leaped; for, of course, I felt convinced that the blood of Clifford would do the same.
How soon was all this fine romance dissipated by sober and homely reality, when, in the character of a poor
exhibitioner who had his bread to procure, I was summoned to the venerable and venerated seats of science at Oxford, whose towers now rise to my view, and open a new world to my recollections.
OXFORD SOCIETY AND MANNERS.-CHARACTER
Do you not grieve at this. I shall be sent for in private to him; look you, he must seem thus to the world.-SHAKSPEARE, Henry IV., Second Part.
It was indeed a new world that greeted me in these celebrated temples of learning, which every one that has been among them has cause to remember, either for joy or sorrow.
I shall not, however, attempt any minute account either of my impressions on my first arrival, or my occupations afterwards, chiefly those of study. I shall not record, because they will hereafter speak for themselves, the connections I formed; the manners I observed; the acquirements I made; the pleasures I enjoyed; the mortifications I endured.
These last, as a discipline for the mind, and as leading to the true knowledge, and therefore true appreciation of things (by which I mean of the world and human nature), did me more essential service in fitting me for after life than any other occurrences in my
At first, novelty and a semblance of independence, such as I had never felt before, promised happiness. The men of my own College were superior to me in nothing but experience, for I found myself by no
means behind them in academical lore. Had distinction therefore been confined to those acquisitions of knowledge for which I supposed we all of us were sent to the place, I thought my chance of obtaining it equal to that of another, and therefore felt satisfied. Distinction was my object for more causes than one; for every page I read, every prize I obtained, and every acquaintance I cultivated, all resolved themselves into the one absorbing ambition that now filled my soul. To be one day worthy of the notice of Bertha was by far the most exciting, if not the only stimulus that prompted me to shut myself up, “ forego all custom of exercise ;" and thinking
In short, as I had neither wealth nor other distinction, I fëlt that severe study alone would give me that after which my heart panted, in order
“ To win her grace whom all commend.”
If I can accomplish high academical honours, I said to myself, they will certainly be heard of at Foljambe Park.
Precious, sanguine, and most sagacious youth! to suppose that to construe Pindar, or even Lycophron, to have Aristotle at your fingers' ends, or to square the circle, if you could, would recommend at best a decayed gentleman and homely gownsman of Queen's to the bright eyes of a girl of sixteen, born of the aristocracy, and of a family as fastidious as they were ancient.
Such, however, is the all-stimulating power of this mightiest of our passions, mightiest at least in the
bosom of a youth of eighteen. Thus I overleaped seeming impossibilities in the recollection of a single smile of Bertha. I forgot her superior fortune, her high descent, and aristocratic father.
All this, added to the recollection that I was the bosom friend of her brother, kept me up in my own estimation as long as I remained within my college; but out of it, alas! every thing taught me another lesson. For the moment I sallied beyond the gates, and mingled with, or rather looked at the world, I found that an English University was anything but a place where English freedom, or English equality, and independence of prerogative were practised. On the contrary, prerogative was every thing, independence nothing. There was the prerogative of birth ; the prerogative of riches; the prerogative of fashion. There were silk gowns and gold tufts that lorded it over the humble crape or bombazine, and ate at the tables of masters and doctors, while the poor commoners were denominated - inferioris ordinis."
This, I own, stung me with the sense it gave of my own littleness; but only because it seemed to increase my distance from Bertha. Every disparity was heightened, and caused tenfold mortification, from this cause alone. I hated grand compounders, not because they were men of a certain estate, but because I was a
and therefore could not pretend to Bertha.
For the same reason I hated all the happy (as I then thought them) who took degrees Honoris causâ ; as if nobility, or royal descent, made a road to science easier and smoother than with the ordinary ranks. These things astounded, and almost made me a democrat, though Thucydides and Plutarch soon brought