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the street-door steps into something rich and rare, in itself and its accessories. “Where will you dine, father ? on the post, or on the steps ? Dear, dear, how grand we are! Two places to choose from.” “I'll lay the cloth at once, father; for I have brought the tripe in a basin, and tied the basin up in a pocket-handkerchief; and if I like to be proud for once, and call it a cloth, there's no law to prevent me; is there, father ?"* There are some quaint stanzas of George Herbert's that indirectly bear on the subject:
Hungry I was, and had no meat :
As ever did a welcome guest.
There is a rare outlandish root,
That I can walk to heaven well near.
I owed thousands and much more:
Believes so too, and lets me go. Admired among the “caustic sallies" of Erasmus, by good polemical Protestants at least, is the quatrain he is alleged to have sent to Sir Thomas More, after leaving England, in reference to a discussion with him on the vext question of transubstantiation, when Sir Thomas had said to him, “ Believe that
have it." At the moment, Erasmus made no answer; and not long afterwards, he left for the Continent, taking with him a horse which his host lent to carry him to the sea-coast only, but which Erasmus transported to a foreign shore. The owner wrote a sharp epistle on this conveyancing extraordinary ; in reply to which came the quatrain, in Latin, which has been Englished thus :
Of the Bodily Presence, you told me, your creed
Was-Think that you have, and you have it :
you have, and
you Apply the same formula in all directions, and optimism or pessimism is the result, thereafter as may be. The ruined Scotch baronet in Scott's “Antiquary” tries for once to be cheerful, at the immediate prospect of a jail. "To jail,” says Sir Arthur Wardour to Oldbuck; “and what of that ? it is only a house we can't get out of, after all-Suppose a fit of the gout, and Knockwinnock [his estate] would be the same—Ay, ay, Monk barns, we'll call it a fit of the gout, without the pain."
With a trifle, sadder, blither,
Which is rapture, which is woe ?
If you only think them so.||
Paravicini Singularia : (Quod mihi dicisti nuper, etc.)
have it. I
“La cassette était-elle grande ?" asks Harpagon.--"Oui,” replies Maître Jacques.-—"Non, ma cassette était petite.”—“Elle est petite aussi, si vous le prenez par Et en effet, as M. Jules Simon philosophically observes, tout depend de la manière dont vous le prendrez.
All the difference between the conditions of life, according to one metaphysical philosopher, depends upon the mind; nor will he admit any one situation of affairs to be, in itself, preferable to another. Good and ill, writes David Hume, “both natural and moral, are entirely relative to human sentiment and affection. No man would ever be unhappy, could he alter his feelings. Proteus-like, he would elude all attacks, by the continual alterations of his shape and form.”+ According to Berkeley, the esse of things is percipi : they exist as they are perceived ; be that
may, Mr. Peacock's transcendentalist assumes himself perfectly safe in asserting that, at any rate, the esse of happiness is percipi: it exists as it is perceived. It is the mind that maketh good or ill.” The elements of pleasure and pain are everywhere. The degree of happiness that any circumstances or objects can confer on us depends on the mental disposition with which we approach them. “ If you consider what is meant by the common phrases, a happy disposition and a discontented temper, you will perceive that the truth for which I am contending is universally admitted."! And here the transcendentalist of Nightmare Abbey suddenly stops ; for he finds himself unintentionally trespassing within the limits of common sense.
It is the common sense, after all, of Chaucer as modernised by Dryden, on the text of philosophers having said and poets sung, that a glad poverty's an honest thing :
Content is wealth, the riches of the mind,
Sits sadly pining, and believes he's poor. || That is a sombre entry in Sir Walter Scott's Diary, where he takes note of certain significant indications of broken health, and adds: “I incline to hold that these ugly symptoms are the work of imagination; but, as Dr. Adam Ferguson-a firm man, if ever there was one in the world—said on such an occasion, what (the italics are Scott's own] is worse than imagination ?"'T How often this sort of self-communing, alternately depressing and consoling, becomes a habit with those in the like case; or again with those who begin to suspect themselves of growing old. In the latter case there is the poet's resource, based on the text of this present commentary, the resource, namely, of determining still to think of oneself as young: * Molière, L'Avare.
Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, by David Hume.
Nightmare Abbey, ch. vii. Ś The topic is a favourite one for discussion with Mr. Peacock. In another of his works, for instance, we have another philosopher saying: “Good and evil exist only as they are perceived. I cannot therefore understand, how that which a man perceives to be good can be in reality an evil to him: indeed, the word reality only signifies strong belief."-Headlong Hall, ch. vii.
|| The Wife of Bath's Tale.
Life is but thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are housemates still.*
O Youth ! for years so many and sweet,
It cannot be, that Thou art gone! F? An eccentric friend of Mr. Helps', of the Johnsonian kind, maintains that all kinds of weather may be subjectively treated as charming: he says that if a man will go out in the rain without any defence, and pretend to know nothing about the showers, the rain will cease for him, each drop exclaiming, "It is no use raining upon that man, he does not mind it.”+ Whereby hangs a moral, to those that have the wit and the will discerningly to distil it out.
Some caught at bright words floating in the air,
Which e'en to look on seemed mankind to please :
Shadows, that comfort, are true substances. I What though Mr. Falkland be a murderer? argues Caleb Williams ; he might yet be a most excellent man, if he did but think so. “ It is the thinking ourselves vicious, that principally contributes to make us vicious !"'S
There is a mythological story told in Montesquieu's Lettres Persanes, of an enterprising stranger who exhorts the realm of Saturn to become denizens instead of the empire of imagination, and thus harangues the assembled listeners : “ Peuples de Bétique, voulez-vous être riches? Imaginez-vous que je le suis beaucoup, et que vous l'êtes beaucoup aussi : mettez-vous tous les matins dans l'esprit que votre fortune a doublé pendant la nuit: levez-vous ensuite : et, si vous avez des créanciers, allez les
payer que vous aurez imaginé; et dites-leur d'imaginer à leur tour."|| Barmecides might feast, after this manner, every day in the year. It only wants a strong velle for the percipi to become a realised Wide is the application of such philosophy.
Quoth Hudibras, " This thing call'd pain,
It follows we can ne'er be sure
As by the fancy is believed.”
Lettres Persanes: Fragment d'un ancien Mythologiste. | Hudibras, part ii. canto i.
Stones are hard, and cakes of ice are cold, and all who feel them, feel them alike, writes Bolingbroke (after Seneca); but the good or the bad events, he goes on to say, which fortune brings upon us, are felt, according to what qualities we, not they, have : they are in themselves indifferent and common accidents, and they acquire strength by nothing but our vice or our weakness. “Fortune can dispense neither felicity nor infelicity, unless we co-operate with her.”* To cite Spenser's old Melibæe :
It is the mind that maketh good or ill,
Sith each unto himself his life may fortunise. “Nous trouvions l'autre jour," Madame de Sévigné writes to her daughter, “ qu'il n'y avait de véritable mal dans la vie que les grandes douleurs ; tout le reste est dans l'imagination, et dépend de la manière dont on conçoit les choses : tous les autres maux trouvent leur remède, ou dans le temps, ou dans la modération, ou dans la force de l'esprit." I Epictetus says, you cannot be hurt by another, except you are yourself consenting to it: you are then only injured, when you fancy yourself to be injured. Marcus Antoninus almost over-informs his Meditations with monitions to the same effect. Don't suppose you are hurt, says he in one place, and your complaint ceases, and no harm done. Iu another, he asks, is it not the mind that causes disturbance in the manbringing fears and fits of the spleen upon herself? let any external agent try to disquiet her if they can ; when they have done their worst, it is in her power to prevent any real impression being made. He repeats himself: “ 'Tis opinion which gives being to misfortune : don't fancy yourself hurt, and nothing can touch you."** “ If externals put you into the spleen, observe that 'tis not the thing which disturbs you,
your notion about it ; which notion you may dismiss if you please.”. “Today,” he records on one occasion, “I rushed clear out of all misfortune; or rather I threw misfortune from me; for to speak truth, it was no outlier, nor ever any farther off than my own fancy." Again : member that to think a thing tolerable is the way to make it so. Things are as our fancy makes them : according to it they "operate and gall us ; 'tis we that rate them and give them their bulk and value." And once more : “'Tis not other people's actions which disturb
but only our own opinions about them." Do but dismiss these notions, and don't fancy the thing a grievance, and your passion will cease immediately.”tt
* Reflections upon Exile.
† The Faerie Queene, book vi. canto ix. I Lettres de Mme. de Sévigné, 4 mai, 1672.
Enchiridion, \ 37.
Meditations of Marcus Antoninus, book iv. $ 7. ( Book vii. s 16.
** Book viii. § 40. ft Ibid., passim. Jeremy Collier's Translation.
-The same things
We take of them.*
Let's think this prison holy sanctuary,
What worthy blessing
May make it ours ?+
But if by Error led astray,
Nor can I hold that man a friend
Is to believe that we are so.
Witness the confession of a sparrow in one of Prior's metrical tales :
My fourth, a mere coquette, or such
More from the fancy than the thing. I