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is probable that their deep afflictions heightened the strong colours with which Nature had imbued the materials of their rich minds.
These peculiar faculties therefore are, beyond doubt, a dangerous and fearful gift; and we may forgive, though we may sometimes indulge a smile of contempt at, the cold and prudential, who shake their heads and bless themselves for having escaped it. But he, who is so stupid and so brutal-hearted as not to behold it with pity and reverence, even in its errors and its misfortunes, is a wretch who scarcely deserves the name of an intellectual being. I never contemplate the fate of poor Collins without a mixture of indescribable grief, and awe, and admiration. How eloquently and affectingly has Johnson said, "How little can we venture to exult in any intellectual powers, or literary attainments, when we consider the condition of poor Collins! I knew him a few years ago, full of hopes and full of projects, versed in many languages, high in fancy, and strong in retention. This busy and forcible mind is now under the government of those who lately would not have been able to comprehend the least and most narrow of its designs.”man is no common loss. The moralists all talk of the uncertainty of fortune, and the transitoriness of beauty; but it is yet more dreadful to consider, that the powers of the mind are equally liable to change; that understanding may make its appearance and depart; that it may blaze and expire!"*
It cannot be denied that this excessive sensibility is a blessing or a curse according to its direction. See CENS. LIT. IV. p. 351.
But the good and the evil are so nicely and imperceptibly intermixed, that rash or at least very bold is the hand, that will venture to attempt the separation of them, without fearing to destroy the good and the evil together.
Of our old poets the minuter shades of character have not been preserved.. Of those of our days, of most of whom the curiosity of modern literature has drawn forth a more familiar and private account, all the existing memorials furnish ample demonstration of the truth of my remarks. I have learned from several who knew him intimately, that the sensibility of Gray was even morbid; and often very fastidious, and troublesome to his friends. He seemed frequently overwhelmed by the ordinary intercourse, and ordinary affairs of life. Coarse manners, and vulgar or unrefined sentiments overset him; and it is probable that the keenness of his sensations embittered the evils of his frame, and aggravated the hereditary gout which terminated his life at a middle age. He perhaps gave his feelings too little vent through the channels of composition, and brooded in too much indolence over the unarrested workings of his mind.
The sensibility of Rousseau was indulged to a selfish and vicious excess. But still it would be a narrow and despicable prejudice to deny, that it exhibited in its ebullitions a high degree of genius. Burke flaming with resentment at the political evils produced by this eloquent writer's delusive lights, has drawn a just but most severe character of him. Yet Burke himself, whose radiant mind was illuminated by all the rich colours of the rainbow, had
nerves tremulous at every point with incontrolable irritability.
There are many, who require to be convinced of these important truths; who ought to be shamed out of their mean censures of the singularities or the weaknesses of genius; and who should learn, if they draw comfort from them to suppress their triumph, at the mingled qualities of the most exalted of human beings!
August, 8, 1807.
No. XV. Harry Random's Second Letter to the
"Quid æternis minorem Consiliis animum fatigas ?
TO THE RUMINATOR.
You have shewn both courage and good sense by the insertion of my former letter; and I trust you. will not lose your credit with me by refusing admission to this. Though my pace is not always equally rapid, you must allow me to be excursive and superficial. I laugh sometimes in bitterness of heart; but I will never expose myself to the accusation of weeping, when I ought to laugh. I leave it to you to be angry with those at whom you ought to smile; and to be indignant where you should despise. You remember that extraordinary passage in the epitaph which Swift wrote for himself:
“Ubi sæva indignatio ulterius cor lacerare nequit !"
But yet I will do you the justice to say, that you have not the spleen and misanthropy of Swift: wit
ness those glowing passages of praise which often appear upon your pages; and which, in my opinion, would frequently admit of some abatement.
For me, who wander over the wide world with a determination to let nothing dwell seriously on my mind; but skimming the surface of every thing, to enjoy its sweets, and lightly reject its bitters; for me, the world appears a comedy; and, to own the truth, too much of a comedy! If it does not call forth my resentment, alas! it too little generates my love. You haters have the advantage of us there: I perceive you can love too, with violence! You remind me too acutely of the words of a common song:
"A generous friendship no cold medium knows; Glows with one love, with one resentment glows!"
HARRY RANDOM, with all his carlessness and gaiety, and all his attempts to "set the table in a roar," knows not these gratifying extremes!
Look, however, around you on the world; or if you must confine yourself to literature, look on your brother authors, and observe how little there is worthy either of affection or disgust. I wish, therefore, you would learn to treat your subjects with a little more complacency; with a little more of that playfulness of ideas, which generates ease and cheerfulness; instead of assuming the character of
"Wisdom in sable garb array'd,
Immers'd in rapturous thought profound;
With leaden eye, that loves the ground!"
I had written thus far, when your two last num
bers reached me; having been for some time absent from this place on a tour. Your last proves to me how little you are affected by my advice; or, perhaps, how little capable you are of variation! O Sir, do not, I beseech you, indulge so much in these dull sermonizing essays! You infect even me with your gravity! Instead of moving with my wonted elasticity, I shall become as soporific as yourself!
Why should you argue with such solemn earnestness for the privileges of poets? I do not know in what they differ from other men, unless in their imprudence and their folly! If an author makes me laugh, I am grateful to him; but 1 cannot forgive his troublesome eccentricities, because, forsooth, he makes not only himself, but his readers, miserable ! It is said that Dulce est decipere in loco; and what is the place, in which this is not desirable?
You are told by your correspondent, Londinensis, "to unmask pretended patriotism, and detect the empiricism of ministers." Do it then with a playful hand, if you can: gently and smilingly draw off the disguise; but tear it not open with rude indignation, leaving wounds by the violence of the rent; nor probe the sore to the bottom with a rough and unsparing lancet. The man, who makes us smile is forgiven even while he exposes us; but severity, harshness, and insult no one ever forgets. And are you in such conscious security yourself, as undauntedly to incur the hazard of revenge? I have heard that you have enemies enough without wantonly provoking more; or whetting the appetites of those, to whose malice you have been already exposed! You have been guilty of unpardonable offences among your neighbouring squires :