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from the torment of these restless passions. I recollect, as if it was yesterday, such a morning in Spring, when I was a school-boy, not yet seventeen. Then it was, that the Morning description in “The Minstrel” fixed itself in indelible impressions on my fancy. At that period, my favourite studies were the Latin poems of Buchanan and Milton; of which I had every glowing passage which delineated rural scenery, by heart. I struggled to emulate them, with strength how very unequal!
But soon after came Cambridge, with her idols Euclid, Newton, and Locke; and the spirit of the Muse was enveloped and stifled in the fogs of uncon
genial dullness. I sunk into langour and desponkdence; threw away my books, and lost the ambition
of scholarship, which had hitherto animated my days, and cheered “the midnight oil!"
Years ensued of chagrin, and transient, feeble, unavailing efforts. A vernal sun, an autumnal tint, occasionally waked my soul into visions of poetry. But I had not the strength, or the steadiness to delineate them; and they vanished like the flashes of lightning that only for a moment trace their path through the darkness of night.
In that sad sterile period of blighted hopes, and suppressed fires, I amused the dreary days by poring over musty records and lifeless antiquities; my dull fancy entertained itself with the pedantry of heraldric jargon; and my memory became loaded with blazonry and funeral inscriptions: the triflings of a low creep
ing spirit; the rivalry of such minute-minded, tasteless men as ******** or *****!
But the votary of Nature as I was formed to be, charms of rural solitude, forest enchantments, and castles frowning over precipitous rocks, or lifting their turrets over deep woods, peopled with feudal splendour, and animating the wild and picturesque scenes over which they ruled, still broke in by fits upon the gloom of this my early and unpropitious manhood. The lyre was now and then seized with a careless and despairing hand; but it was held not
long: fatigue and disgust soon followed; and I sunk 3 again into an humiliated, dejected, over-awed, uncontending wretch!
The lonely vallies of D , the voice of Spring that spoke from the new-budding leaves of the impending woodlands, and her beauty and fresh odours that opened upon the primrose banks, revived about the year 179... some of those seeds of warm imagination, which, though buried almost from the age of seventeen, had been thickly strewn upon my infants brain, and were the only plants congenial to it.
Painful as no inconsiderable portion of my existence has been, O how intense have been the delights of its few days of pleasure! It is the Vernal and the Autumnal hour, spent away from that society for which my irritable temperament is unfitted; it is the calm of Solitude; it is the varied hue of Nature, which to me is virtue, wisdom, enthusiasm, and ecstacy!
A singular Character, described by himself.
................“Fling away ambition,
September 1, 1813. I insert the following letter as I received it, without any com
ment, for it is perfectly congenial to my work.
TO THE EDITOR OF “THE SYLVAN WANDERER.”
August 31, 1818. “I have seen your · Sylvan Wanderer' announced; and am anxious to be enrolled among its Correspondents. Like you, Sir, I have roamed wildly in the fields of Literature; but, unlike you, I have dressed myself in the feathers of worldly fashion, and incurred the marks of worldly folly; which now I disdain, and loathe with inexpressible hatred and horror.
“To many of the extraordinary circumstances of my life I will not allude; but from the depth of the far-spreading woods where I now pass most of my days, I will unload my bursting heart of some of the melancholy thoughts which oppress it, in letters which I am sure your sympathy will not utterly reject.
“I never, even in my days of youthful gaiety, 3 could endure the flatness and coarseness of ordinary society. Mighty conflicts and perilous ambitions suited the tumult of my daring temper; and I lived alternately in the agony of emulous hope and new 3 enjoyment, or of languid exhausture. Dark, frowning, capricious, jealous of affront or neglect; with mounting pride, which ill-success only made more fierce, I was the object of general, though not universal, aversion! To occasional kindness, or occasional congeniality of sentiment, my heart was opened with double warmth, or double desire to please.
“But while I thus appeared the most gloomy of the wretched, I am not sure that I was less happy than those who wore perpetual smiles on their faces. If my pains were acute, my pleasures also were intense. Light and shade relieved each other in all the surrounding objects of life; and the visions of 3 my many-coloured fancy were as realities to me.
“ Careless of moner; sometimes profuse and splendid in my mode of living, and sometimes plain, negligent, and without the means or the wish for any establishment at all, my outward appearance has been as changeable as my mind
“For early intercourse with peblie lite I had no advantages. I was left an orphan ar two years old; and being committed to the guardianship of a respectable old clergyman, who base neither alliance nor habits of intercourse with the great world the acquaintance with all my on a Zerves me high con
Knections was dropped; and when I was old enough
to emerge into society, I was too shy, too reserved; and, above all, too proud to renew it. I had no titles to facilitate my introduction; and for name, they who impudently called themselves the circles of fashion, were too ignorant, too stupid, and too ungenerous to fasten round it what belonged to it.
“Then broke forth the inextinguishable desire of a noble distinction; the hope to delight by my eloquence, and to astonish by my fancy; to maintain the empire of the mind; and to trample vulgar marks of honour under my feet. Cold vapoury blasts of scorn, the exhalations of mushroom conceit, generated by new-sprung prosperity, combined with stupid or base natures, almost constantly followed to palsy, and nearly deaden these mighty and prolific ardours. The flowings of the heart turned inwards on their source; there stagnated; and produced during long intervals a lifeless debility and despondence.
“O beloved, soothing Woods, how grateful were ye then to my sick and dejected bosom! With you I by degrees recovered the tone and vigour of my intel
lect! The withering form of a prosperous fool no K longer crossed my sight. The irritating scowl of
ideotic rank no more inflamed my abhorrence! I heard not the stupid dogma of despotic power! I saw not the hollow smiles of deceitful and unfeeling office! If when the mild sun of Autumn shone through a haze, which contributed to add tints to the gentle, and serene splendour, a little breeze by fits just stirred