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how far genius, if properly regulated, is, like virtue, its own reward. Riches, and power, and rank, too frequently fall on the meanest and most stupid and profligate of mankind. These beings, who turn into curses the blessings which have been conferred upon them, are perfectly insensible to the charms of literature; or if they know any thing of it, know it only to hate those who excel in it. In their coarser minds a different estimate of eminence is encouraged; skill in intrigue, an oily tongue, a power of suppressing and concealing all emotions, which it is contrary to a selfish interest to betray; a conscience, which no nice scruples perplex; a brazen countenance, and an unfeeling heart! these are the qualities, which are acceptable to vulgar greatness. of men, whose whole lives have been spent in schemes of ordinary ambition, the mere puppets of fortune, such are the only traits which excite the notice, or the comprehension.
If these observations be just, genius will be miserably disappointed in the expectation of worldly favour or advancement; and must turn inward, and look to itself for its principal, if not only, gratifications. It must elevate its sentiments « above this visible diurnal sphere;” it must learn to despise those gew-gaws and baubles, which corrupt and undiscerning Power heaps upon the unworthy, and which the foolish multitude pursues and worships with a base idolatry; it must learn to bear with for. titude the neglects and insults of those, whose heads are overset by prosperity and upstart command; and retire with a smile of placid or indignant contempt
from the half-witted dispensers of political trust, or honour, or emolument.
But is it in the power of minds thus endowed with a keener sensibility, to tranquillize, at all times, their emotions, and extract a balm for their wounded spirits, from a due estimate of their own dignity? I am fearful that, in the frailty of poor human nature, it is not ! Much may undoubtedly be done by a virtuous exertion; low and degrading desires may gradually be nearly extinguished; and a calm loftiness of thought succeeding, may become habitual, and at last lift the possessor, as it were, into a higher order of existence.
A head and a heart thus modified, may in truth find an ample fund of satistaction in their own resources. For them the morning unbars her gates, and opens all the glories of nature to their view, unalloyed by the folly and wickedness, which are prevalent in the principal haunts of human life; at such prospects their bosoms expand, and their fancies glow with unutterable pleasure; they see not, or see with pity, the major part of mankind grovelling at a distance from them in paths of dirt and danger, actuated by restless and disgraceful passions, and sinking at last, without even momentary enjoyment, into quagmires, and irrecoverable pits. At the same time, “their” own“ minds are kingdoms to themselves;"* and kingdoms not only of power, but of virtuous power. Time and space are at their com, mand; the pomp of thrones, and the most ingenious splendour of human hands, are insignificant coma pared with the creations of their ideas; they can call forth a paradise in a desert with the wand of a magician; and people the earth with angelic beauty and wisdom.
* Alluding to the beautiful words of the old song, “ My mind te me a kingdom is.”
If such be the powers of genius when rightly directed, do its operations produce no recompense to itself? The sensual wretch, whose whole soul is imbruted, will deem these shadowy enjoyments worse than insipid; he will consider them as the play-things of insanity; and behold with ignorant contempt, or affected pity, the unhappiness of him, whom he will denominate a moon-struck visionary. Far different will be the opinion of the man of taste, and the sound philosopher. They well know, that " to advance ourselves in the order of intellectual beings” is next to virtue, probably one of the first purposes for which we are destined to a trial in this state of existence; and is indeed itself a very high degree of virtue. I have heard that a celebrated poet, now living, lately said, that “the only things he values in this world are virtue and genius;" and, giving credit to the report, I have admitted him to a still higher rank (if possible) in my admiration than before.
He who imagines that the best proof of talent is the worldly fruit it brings forth; and that our mental faculties are only given us for the purpose of accumulating wealth and titles, and carrying on with acuteness and success the ordinary business of society, must behold the frequent failure of genius in these points with wonder. He must hear the evidence of fame with doubt; and refuse conviction to his own observations; because he will generally see
men of the most brilliant capacities not only unwilling but unable to do the drudgery of practical affairs; because he will find men of subordinate and plodding parts, and not those who have pretensions to great intellectual preeminence, at the head of senates and councils; and neglect and insult pursue those of splendid endowments, even when they descend to a contest in these ambitious paths.
There is nothing, therefore, more necessary to be impressed on Genius, than to know how to set a proper estimate on itself.
Till it can survey the objects of vulgar flattery with a calm and dignified scorn; till it can raise itself above a competition for those distinctions, which coarse minds are better qualified to obtain; till a rivalry of its sharp and delicate-edged wit, with heads of block and hearts of stone, can be withdrawn, it will, it must be miserable. Defeated by those it' despises, its irritable feelings generate poisonous vapours, which envelop in clouds of gloom and dissatisfaction all its golden visions.
Let the poet“ reverence the lyre,” to which his propitious nativity has consecrated him. Let him look to its charms to soothe away his angry passions; or to strike from its chords the tones of indignation, by which mean-spirited, or stupid greatness
is held up,
“ Fit garbage for the hell-hound Infamy!"
The scenery of inanimate creation is at his command; “ the breath of heaven, fresh-blowing;" meadows, and hills, and vallies, and woods, and streams, are open to his rambles, where vanity and ostentation will seldom insult him, and the drunkenness of puft-up prosperity will have little opportunity to spit her loathsome jokes on his humble fortune!
Such are the firm convictions of the present writer; and, if he does not always act up to these sentiments, let no one question his sincerity. There are those who too well know that his ardent passions sometimes mislead him; and that he cannot always suppress the seduction of views of ambition, which, he trusts, are far below him. These delusive flames, which occasionally emit their dancing lights to draw him over quagmires and precipices, he has too much reason to dread and abhor. Every step thus set is accompanied by anxiety, and toil, and followed by regret, and disappointment.
May 12, 1807.
No. XI. Hints for the Ruminator, and remarks on
his style, and gravity and candour of manner and
VIRG. I have had some doubt whether it would be prudent to print the following paper of my new correspondent, Mr. Random, who seems to have some knowledge of my personal history. But as my impartiality is to depend on the test of its insertion, I have at last determined to publish it; since its allusions seem barmless: but if there should be any thing in it at all pointed, no one has
much reason to complain as myself. The post imark is Bath; but this circumstance gives no clue to guess at the author