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As I begin this article, I feel the vast difference between conceiving and executing an intellectual project. Who can do justice to his first vivid impressions of a subject? Whose pen can flee like the courser before the wind, and keep pace with the rapid evolutions of thought ? When some time has transpired since we experienced those impressions, the effort to recall them seems like bidding the bloom back to the faded rose. Can
revive the lustre of the meteor's track? Neither can you call back the brilliancy with which a novel thought streamed across your intellectual horizon. The mind's delirious whirl, in the moment of conception, is intensely exciting ; but we sit down to write with a placid brow and blood, the demeanor of which would be pronounced exemplary by a jury of ascetics. The difference between the freshness of conception and the coolness of execution, is like the difference between the gay and beautiful coquette of eighteen, and the superannuated miss who has just arrived at the knowledge of the solemn truth that she is marketless. The other night
lay on my bed,
Lay dreaming at my ease,' my mind 'took hold of the subject on which I am about writing, and in a very few minutes, I had compassed all the mysteries of the topic with an ease, and grace, and truth, which I feel I may not hope to
principle is so well established, that the mind must be disciplined by ihe study of polite literature to cultivate the taste, and by application to mathematics, to strengthen the reasoning powers, and to form habits of close attention, that it should be concluded these studies have no farther use when a collegiate or academic course is finished, and they are no longer forced upon us by the authority of a master. In military life, the success of an actual engagement is deemed dependant on the continuance of frequent discipline in the camp; and for a similar reason, the mind requires the frequent application to its early pursuits. It was the discernment of this which led Tully to exercise himself by declamation after he had become the first orator of Rome, and a former distinguished Chief Justice, of Massachusetts, to begin the day with a diagram, and frequently to preside on the bench, it is said, with Homer by his side. It is a neglect of such auxiliary studies as should sustain and give a persevering tone of high exertion to their minds, which had caused many who were scholars of high promise, and reckoned giants of intellect, to prove mere pigmies in their professions. One who had well considered this perversion, thus exclaims : ‘No wonder that lawyers, laying aside their rhetoric, become loquacious; or clergymen, forgetting their logic, turn enthusiasts.'
We shall consider, among other things, in another and concluding number, how far the increase of mental power is favored by attempts at originality ; the beneficial influence of religion upon the mind ; how its capabilities are strengthened by impediments ; why we should desire an increase of its power, and to what end direct it.
As I begin this article, I feel the vast difference between conceiving and executing an intellectual project. Who can do justice to his first vivid impressions of a subject? Whose pen can flee like the courser before the wind, and keep pace with the rapid evolutions of thought ? When some time has transpired since we experienced those impressions, the effort to recall them seems like bidding the bloom back to the faded rose. Can you revive the lustre of the meteor's track? Neither can you call back the brilliancy with which a novel thought streamed across your intellectual horizon. The mind's delirious whirl, in the moment of conception, is intensely exciting ; but we sit down to write with a placid brow and blood, the demeanor of which would be pronounced exemplary by a jury of ascetics. The difference between the freshness of conception and the coolness of execution, is like the difference between the gay and beautiful coquette of eighteen, and the superannuated miss who has just arrived at the knowledge of the solemn truth that she is marketless. The other night
'As I lay on my bed,
Lay dreaming at my ease,' my mind 'took hold of the subject' on which I am about writing, and in a very few minutes, I had compassed all the mysteries of the topic with an ease, and grace, and truth, which I feel I may not hope to VOL. XI.
recall as I write. But with Dr. Johnson for my mentor, (the Doctor told Boswell a man could write at any time, provided he went at it doggedly,) I will essay the task.
There is an old proverb, which teacheth that familiarity breeds contempt. This, like many other ‘fragments of former wisdom,' as D'Israeli denominates these sayings, contains scarcely enough truth to leaven it. Indeed, like many of the same family which Charles Lamb has shown up, in most cases to which it would seem applicable, it is a profound fib. Familiarity with the doings of many of our species may, with great propriety, inspire us with contempt for them; but it is also an indispensable preliminary to friendship, love, admiration, and a host of other feelings. But let us have done with general remarks, and come at once to individual instances.
Lying in bed of a boisterous, windy night, within ear-shot of the roar of the sea-gods, one's imagination is very apt to take advantage of the occasion, to fancy how the night fares with those who, like Lear, are exposed to the 'pelting of the pitiless storm.' The angry sea, with its wild garniture of foam and billows, heaves and tosses before the mind, and we see a ship reeling dreadfully to and fro, while the waters make a complete breach over her decks, and the tempest strains and splits the bellying canvass into tatters. One is quite apt, just then, to conclude that brave mariners' have a hard time of it, and to expend a very large and very useless amount of sympathy in their behalf. But what care they for the demons who are shrieking above and beneath them? They are accustomed to such scenes, and familiarity contemns the dangers of sky and sea. Our imaginations cause us lubbers, who are blanketted and wrapped up to the chin, more shuddering than the storm awakens in the breasts of the honest tars, who, “high upon the giddy mast,' sway as securely as doth the young bird in its leafy nest, when the winds shiver its native bough. So also may the same hardihood be affirmed of the soldier. We are not given to fancy much fun on a field of battle, when the bullets are whizzing like hail
, smiting to the earth the form of many a good fellow. But how is it with your old campaigner ? Does he quake, and is his step unsteady? No! It is his vocation, and after the first round, the blood courseth merrily on its 'winding way through his veins. He hath no dread of grim carnage; and it seemeth to him more fitting to die of a bullet than a doctor, and to send the soul to its long home to the music of artillery, a better way of 'shuffling off its mortal coil,' than to have it forced out of its fleshy tabernacle by a fever, while surrounded by the dolorous faces of one's kindred. Habit blunts the sense of danger, as well as the sensibility which hath controversy with mint-juleps, and of the sailor, the seaman, and the toper, it may be said, that famiJiarity hath bred contempt for what appears to us lookers on to be most imminent peril.
Who that has been entranced when hanging over the pages of an admired author, does not feel a sense of awe, similar to that felt by Boswell, when he first met Johnson, when he has been presented to bim for the first time ? In imagination, the form of a distinguished and as yet unseen writer looms before us like a demi-god. We fancy him a being of marvellous dignity, endowed with wit and intellec
tual powers, which would cause us to shrink to very pigmies in his presence. It would be pleasant, we think, to look on the god-like brow, and to drink in some of the heavenly eloquence which proceeds from the lips of the oracle. But then how awful to lift up one's own tiny voice, and to speak of one's own accord in such an inspired atmosphere! If Plato would befriend us, as he did Perseus by the loan of his helmet, which would confer invisibility on us, the meeting with such a superior being would be truly edifying. But voluntarily to assume the responsibility of placing our own dwarfish proportions where the sun-like eye of genius can look us through and through, is too dreadful to think of. After various conflicts, and shifting of purposes, however, curiosity gets the whip-end of our timidity, and with a palpitating heart and tremulous knee, we approach the great man. Our bewilderment, for a while, is overwhelmingly great, and would utterly overpower us, but for some resemblance to humanity which the illustrious individual kindly condescends to put forth. We take courage, and look up, and are speedily disenchanted. Then how quickly do our dreams of supernatural gifts vanish! What gay somersets do our expectations throw! We look upon the great man's brow, and it resembleth our own ; his voice hath .no peculiar music in its tones; and he even deigns to eat and blow his nose, much like other bipeds! We grow bold; we breathe more freely; we open our eyes wide, not fearing immediate blindness, for our temerity, in looking at the intellectual luminary. Our ears are not ravished with notes sweeter than the false syren's. Our minds are not left gazing into the dim distance, at the superior eagle-like thoughts of the genius. The scales fall from the eye ; we behold but a man, a compound of strength and weaknesses like ourselves; and we begin to converse with him, without any dread of annihilation. Thus doth familiarity with one whose fame has filled the land, and whose praises are on every lip, convince us that our awful conceptions relative to human greatness are romantic, and that a man of genius is but a modified combination of the very commonest materials that enter into the composition of mortal men,
With what quaking of heart and trembling of nerves do we, for the first time, in fresh-lipped youth, make our obeisance at the shrine of beauty? A beautiful woman is the ne plus ultra of all spectacles, to the young and fervid heart. We invest such a being with all the winning attributes of soul and sense. In our visions, we hang entranced on each blue vein that is seen on her transparent brow; her eye is a world of wonder; her cheek and its quick transitions form a visible, though unintelligible, mystery to our speculations ; the lips of the enchantress are all that symmetry and music can fashion and fill; and her form is a combination of grace and loveliness. Such an one's mind we deem of too elevated a caste to harbor a thought akin to impurity; and her heart, like some of those blissful regions in South America, is never visited by storms, but is a spot where spring ever smiles, and flowers ever bloom. How in. compatible the dross and defilement of common natures seem with such splendors! Our romantic visions reject the suspicion that dirt can defile such deity. We fancy her perfect. We think her heart