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August 24. 1833. CONSOLATION IN DISTRESS. – MOCK
EVANGELICALS. - AUTUMN DAY.
I am never very forward in offering spiritual consolation to any one in distress or disease. I believe that such resources, to be of any service, must be self-evolved in the first instance. I am something of the Quaker's mind in this, and am inclined to wait for the spirit.
The most common effect of this mock evangelical spirit, especially with young women, is self-inflation and busy-bodyism.
How strange and awful is the synthesis of life and death in the gusty winds and falling leaves of an autumnal day!
August 25. 1833.
ROSETTI ON DANTE. – LAUGHTER:
FARCE AND TRAGEDY.
ROSETTI's view of Dante's meaning is in great part just, but he has pushed it beyond all bounds of common sense. How could a poet — and such a poet as Dante — have written the details of the allegory as conjectured by Rosetti? The boundaries between his allegory and his pure picturesque are plain enough, I think, at first reading
To resolve laughter into an expression of contempt is contrary to fact, and laughable enough. Laughter is a convulsion of the nerves; and it seems as if nature cut short the rapid thrill of pleasure on the nerves by a sudden convulsion of them, to prevent the sensation becoming painful. Aristotle's de
finition is as good as can be : - surprise at perceiving any thing out of its usual place, when the unusualness is not accompanied by a sense of serious danger. Such surprise is always pleasurable; and it is observable that surprise accompanied with circumstances of danger becomes tragic. Hence farce may often border on tragedy; indeed, farce is nearer tragedy in its essence than comedy is.
August 28. 1833.
BARON VON HUMBOLDT.-- MODERN :
BARON VON HUMBOLDT, brother of the great traveller, paid me the following compliment at Rome. “I confess, Mr. Coleridge, I had my suspicions that you were here in a political capacity of some sort or other; but upon reflection I acquit you. For in Germany and, I believe, elsewhere on the Continent, it is generally understood that the English government, in order to divert the envy and jealousy of the world at the power, wealth, and ingenuity of your nation, makes a point, as a ruse de guerre, of sending out none but fools of gentlemanly birth and connections as diplomatists to the courts abroad. An exception is, perhaps, sometimes made for a clever fellow, if sufficiently libertine and unprincipled.” Is the case much altered now, do you know?
What dull coxcombs your diplomatists at home generally are. I remember dining at Mr. Frere's once in company with Canning and a few other interesting men. Just before dinner Lord — called on Frere, and asked himself to dinner. From the moment of his entry he began to talk to the whole party, and in French — all of us being genuine English — and I was told his French was execrable. He had followed the Russian army into France, and seen a good deal of the great men concerned in the war: of none of those things did he say a word, but went on, sometimes in English and sometimes in French, gabbling about cookery and dress and the like. At last he paused for a little - and I said a few words remarking how a great image may be reduced to the ridiculous and contemptible by bringing the constituent parts into prominent detail, and mentioned the grandeur of the deluge and the preservation of life in Genesis and the Paradise Lost*, and the ludicrous effect produced by Drayton's description in his Noah's Flood :
“ And now the beasts are walking from the wood, As well of ravine, as that chew the cud. The king of beasts his fury doth suppress, And to the Ark leads down the lioness; The bull for his beloved mate doth low, And to the Ark brings on the fair-eyed cow," &c. Hereupon Lord resumed, and spoke in raptures of a picture which he had lately seen of Noah's Ark, and said the animals were all marching two and two, the little ones first, and that the elephants came last in great ma
* Genesis, c. vi, vii. Par. Lost, book xi. v. 728, &c.