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all joyousness and innocence, and just of an age to
enjoy receiving a Valentine, and just of a temper to
bear the disappointment of missing one with good
humour. E. B. is an artist of no common powers ;
in the fancy parts of designing, perhaps inferior to
none ; his name is known at the bottom of many a
well executed vignette in the way of his profession,
but no further; for E. B. is modest, and the world
meets nobody half-way. E. B. meditated how he
could repay this young maiden for many a favour
which she had done him unknown ; for when a
kindly face greets us, though but passing by, and
never knows us again, nor we it, we should feel
it as an obligation ; and E. B. did. This good artist
set himself at work to please the damsel. It was
just before Valentine's day three years since. He
wrought, unseen and unsuspected, a wondrous work.
We need not say it was on the finest gilt paper with
borders full, not of common hearts and heartless
allegory, but all the prettiest stories of love from
Ovid, and older poets than Ovid (for E. B. is a
scholar.) There was Pyramus and Thisbe, and be
sure Dido was not forgot, nor Hero and Leander,
an 1 swans more than sang in Cayster, with mottos


and fanciful devices, such as beseemed, a work in
short of magic. Iris dipt the woof. This on Valen-
tine's eve he commended to the all- swallowing in-
discriminate orifice (O ignoble trust!) of the
common post ; but the humble medium did its duty,
and from his watchful stand, the next morning, he
saw the cheerful messenger knock, and by and by
the precious charge delivered. He saw, unseen, the
happy girl unfold the Valentine, dance about, clap
her hands, as one after one the pretty emblems un-
folded themselves. She danced about, not with light
love, or foolish expectations, for she had no lover;
or, if she had, none she knew that could have created
those bright images which delighted her. It was
more like some fairy present; a God-send, as our
familiarly pious ancestors termed a benefit received,
where the benefactor was unknown. It would do
her no harm. It would do her good for ever after.
It is good to love the unknown. I only give this as
a specimen of E. B. and his modest way of doing a
concealed kindness.

Good-morrow to my Valentine, sings poor Ophe-
lia ; and no better wish, but with better auspices, we
wish to all faithful lovers, who are not too wise to
despise old legends, but are content to rank them-
selves humble diocesans of old Bishop Valentine,
and his true church.


1 am of a constitution so general, that it consorts and sym-
pathizeth with all things, I have no antipathy, or rather idio-
syncracy in any thing. Those national repugnancies do not
touch me, nor do I behold with prejudice the French, Italian,
Spaniard, or Dutch. Religio Medici.

THAT the author of the Religio Medici, mounted
upon the airy stilts of abstraction, conversant about
notional and conjectural essences ; in whose catego-
ries of Being the possible took the upper hand of the
actual; should have overlooked the impertinent in-
dividualities of such poor concretions as mankind, is
not much to be admired. It is rather to be won-
dered at, that in the genus of animals he should
have condescended to distinguish that species at all.
For myself earth-bound and fettered to the scene
of my activities,

Standing on earth, not rapt above the sky,

I confess that I do feel the differences of mankind,
national or individual, to an unhealthy excess. I


can look with no indifferent eye upon things or per-
sons. Whatever is, is to me a matter of taste or dis-
taste ; or when once it becomes indifferent, it begins
to be disrelishing. I am, in plainer words, a bundle
of prejudices made up of likings and dislikings
the veriest thrall to sympathies, apathies, antipathies.
In a certain sense, I hope it may be said of me that
I am a lover of my species. I can feel for all in-
differently, but I cannot feel towards all equally.
The more purely- English word that expresses sym-
pathy will better explain my meaning. I can be a
friend to a worthy man, who upon another account
cannot be my mate or fellow. I cannot like all
people alike *.

* I would be understood as confining myself to the subject
of imperfect sympathies. To nations or classes of men there
can be no direct antipathy. There may be individuals born
and constellated so opposite to another individual nature, that
the same sphere cannot hold them. I have met with my moral
antipodes, and can believe the story of two persons meeting
(who never saw one another before in their lives) and instantly

We by proof find there should be

'Twixt man and man such an antipathy,
That though he can show no just reason why
For any former wrong or injury,
Can neither find a blemish in his fame,
Nor aught in face or feature justly blame,
Can challenge or accuse him of no evil,
Yet notwithstanding hates him as a devil.

The lines are from old Heywood's " Hierarchic of Angels,"
and he subjoins a curious story in confirmation, of a Spaniard


I have been trying all my life to like Scotchmen,
and am obliged to desist from the experiment in de-
spair. They cannot like me and in truth, I never
knew one of that nation who attempted to do it.
There is something more plain and ingenuous in
their mode of proceeding. We know one another
at first sight. There is an order of imperfect intel-
lects (under which mine must be content to rank)
which in its constitution is essentially anti-Caledo-
nian. The owners of the sort of faculties I allude to,
have minds rather suggestive than comprehensive
They have no pretences to much clearness or pre-
cision in their ideas, or in their manner of expressing
them. Their intellectual wardrobe (to confess fairly)
has few whole pieces in it. They are content with
fragments and scattered pieces of Truth. She pre-
sents no full front to them a feature or side-face
at the most. Hints and glimpses, germs and crude
essays at a system, is the utmost they pretend to.
They beat up a little game perad venture and leave
it to knottier heads, more robust constitutions, to
run it down. The light that lights them is not steady

who attempted to assassinate a King Ferdinand of Spain, and
being put to the rack could give no other reason for the deed
but an inveterate antipathy which he had taken to the first
sight of the King.

The cause which to that act compell'd him

Was, he ne'er loved him since he first beheld him.


and polar, but mutable and shifting : waxing, and
again waning. Their conversation is accordingly.
They will throw out a random word in or out of
season, and be content to let it pass for what it is
worth. They cannot speak always as if they were
upon their oath but must be understood, speaking
or writing, with some abatement. They seldom wait
to mature a proposition, but e'en bring it to market
in the green ear. They delight to impart their de-
fective discoveries as they arise, without waiting for
their full developement. They are no systematizers,
and would but err more by attempting it. Their
minds, as I said before, are suggestive merely. The
brain of a true Caledonian (if I am not mistaken) is
constituted upon quite a different plan. His Min-
erva is born in panoply. You are never admitted to
see his ideas in their growth if, indeed, they do
grow, and are not rather put together upon principles
of clock-work. You never catch his mind in an un-
dress. He never hints or suggests any thing, but
unlades his stock of ideas in perfect order and com-
pleteness. He brings his total wealth into company,
and gravely unpacks it. His riches are always about
him. He never stoops to catch a glittering some-
thing in your presence, to share it with you, before
he quite knows whether it be true touch or not.
You cannot cry halves to any thing that he finds.
He does not find, but bring. You never witness his


first apprehension of a thing. His understanding is
always at its meridian you never see the first dawn,
the early streaks. He has no falterings of self-
suspicion. Surmises, guesses, misgivings, half-intui-
tions, semi- consciousnesses, partial illuminations, dim
instincts, embryo conceptions, have no place in his
brain, or vocabulary. The twilight of dubiety never
falls upon him. Is he orthodox he has no doubts.
Is he an infidel he has none either. Between the
affirmative and the negative there is no border-land
with him. You cannot hover with him upon the
confines of truth, or wander in the maze of a prob-
able argument. He always keeps the path. You
cannot make excursions with him for he sets you
right. His taste never fluctuates. His morality
never abates. He cannot compromise, or understand
middle actions. There can be but a right and a
wrong. His conversation is as a book. His affir-
mations have the sanctity of an oath. You must
speak upon the square with him. He stops a meta-
phor like a suspected person in an enemy's country.
" A healthy book ! " said one of his countrymen to
me, who had ventured to give that appellation to
John Buncle, " did I catch rightly what you said ?
I have heard of a man in health, and of a healthy
state of body, but I do not see how that epithet can
be properly applied to a book." Above all, you
must beware of indirect expressions before a Cale-


donian. Clap an extinguisher upon your irony, if
you are unhappily blest with a vein of it. Remember
you are upon your oath. I have a print of a graceful
female after Leonardo da Vinci, which I was showing
off to Mr. * * * *. After he had examined it min-
utely, I ventured to ask him how he liked MY BEAUTY
(a foolish name it goes by among my friends) -
when he very gravely assured me, that " he had con-
siderable respect for my character and talents " (so
he was pleased to say) , " but had not given himself
much thought about the degree of my personal pre-
tensions." The misconception staggered me, but
did not seem much to disconcert him. Persons of
this nation are particularly fond of affirming a truth
which nobody doubts. They do not so properly
affirm, as annunciate it. They do indeed appear to
have such a love of truth (as if, like virtue, it were
valuable for itself) that all truth becomes equally
valuable, whether the proposition that contains it be
new or old, disputed, or such as is impossible to
become a subject of disputation. I was present not
long since at a party of North Britons, where a son
of Burns was expected ; and happened to drop a
silly expression (in my South British way), that I
wished it were the father instead of the son when
four of them started up at once to inform me, that
" that was impossible, because he was dead." An
impracticable wish, it seems, was more than they


could conceive. Swift has hit off this part of their
character, namely their love of truth, in his biting
way, but with an illiberality that necessarily confines
the passage to the margin *. The tediousness of
these people is certainly provoking. I wonder if
they ever tire one another ! In my early life I had
a passionate fondness for the poetry of Burns. I
have sometimes foolishly hoped to ingratiate myself
with his countrymen by expressing it. But I have
always found that a true Scot resents your admiration
of his compatriot, even more than he would your
contempt of him. The latter he imputes to your
" imperfect acquaintance with many of the words
which he uses;" and the same objection makes it
a presumption in you to suppose that you can ad-
mire him. Thomson they seem to have forgotten.
Smollett they have neither forgotten nor forgiven for
his delineation of Rory and his companion, upon
their first introduction to our metropolis. Speak of
Smollett as a great genius, and they will retort upon

* There are some people who think they sufficiently acquit
themselves, and entertain their company, with relating facts of
no consequence, not at all out of the road of such common
incidents as happen every day ; and this I have observed more
frequently among the Scots than any other nation, who are
very careful not to omit the minutest circumstances of time or
place ; which kind of discourse, if it were not a little relieved
by the uncouth terms and phrases, as well as accent and ges-
ture peculiar to that country, would be hardly tolerable.
Hints towards an Essay on Conversation.


you Hume's History compared with his Continuation
of it. What if the historian had continued Hum-
phrey Clinker?

I have, in the abstract, no disrespect for Jews.
They are a piece of stubborn antiquity, compared
with which Stonehenge is in its nonage. They date
beyond the pyramids. But I should not care to be
in habits of familiar intercourse with any of that
nation. I confess that I have not the nerves to
enter their synagogues. Old prejudices cling about
me. I cannot shake off the story of Hugh of Lin-
coln. Centuries of injury, contempt, and hate, on
the one side, of cloaked revenge, dissimulation,
and hate, on the other, between our and their
fathers, must, and ought, to affect the blood of the
children. I cannot believe it can run clear and
kindly yet ; or that a few fine words, such as can-
dour, liberality, the light of a nineteenth century,
can close up the breaches of so deadly a disunion.
A Hebrew is nowhere congenial to me. He is least
distasteful on 'Change for the mercantile spirit
levels all distinctions, as all are beauties in the dark.
I boldly confess that I do not relish the approxima-
tion of Jew and Christian, which has become so
fashionable. The reciprocal endearments have, to
me, something hypocritical and unnatural in them.
I do not like to see the Church and Synagogue kiss-
ing and congeeing in awkward postures of an affected


civility. If they are converted, why do they not come
over to us altogether? Why keep up a form of sepa-
ration, when the life of it is fled ? If they can sit with
us at table, why do they keck at our cookery? I do
not understand these half convertites. Jews chris-
tianizing Christians judaizing puzzle me. I like
fish or flesh. A moderate Jew is a more confounding
piece of anomaly than a wet Quaker. The spirit of

the synagogue is essentially separative. B would

have been more in keeping if he had abided by the
faith of his forefathers. There is a fine scorn in his

face, which nature meant to be of Christians.

The Hebrew spirit is strong in him, in spite of his
proselytism. He cannot conquer the Shibboleth.
How it breaks out, when he sings, " The Children of
Israel passed through the Red Sea ! " The auditors,
for the moment, are as Egyptians to him, and he
rides over our necks in triumph. There is no mis-
taking him. B has a strong expression of sense

in his countenance, and it is confirmed by his sing-
ing. The foundation of his vocal excellence is sense.
He sings with understanding, as Kemble delivered
dialogue. He would sing the Commandments, and
give an appropriate character to each prohibition.
His nation, in general, have not over-sensible coun-
tenances. How should they? but you seldom see
a silly expression among them. Gain, and the pur-
suit of gain, sharpen a man's visage. I never heard


of an idiot being born among them. Some admire
the Jewish female-physiognomy. I admire it but
with trembling. Jael had those full dark inscrutable

In the Negro countenance you will often meet
with strong traits of benignity. I have felt yearn-
ings of tenderness towards some of these faces
or rather masks that have looked out kindly upon
one in casual encounters in the streets and high-
ways. I love what Fuller beautifully calls these
"images of God cut in ebony." But I should
not like to associate with them, to share my meals
and my good- nights with them because they are

I love Quaker ways, and Quaker worship. I ven-
erate the Quaker principles. It does me good for
the rest of the day when I meet any of their people
in my path. When I am ruffled or disturbed by any
occurrence, the sight, or quiet voice of a Quaker,
acts upon me as a ventilator, lightening the air, and
taking off a load from the bosom. But I cannot like
the Quakers (as Desdemona would say) " to live
with them." I am all over sophisticated with
humours, fancies, craving hourly sympathy. I must
have books, pictures, theatres, chit-chat, scandal,
jokes, ambiguities, and a thousand whim-whams,
which their simpler taste can do without. I should
starve at their primitive banquet. My appetites are


too high for the salads which (according to Evelyn)
Eve dressed for the angel, my gusto too excited

To sit a guest with Daniel at his pulse.

The indirect answers which Quakers are often
found to return to a question put to them may be
explained, I think, without the vulgar assumption,
that they are more given to evasion and equivocat-
ing than other people. They naturally look to their
words more carefully, and are more cautious of com-
mitting themselves. They have a peculiar character
to keep up on this head. They stand in a manner
upon their veracity. A Quaker is by law exempted
from taking an oath. The custom of resorting to an
oath in extreme cases, sanctified as it is by all re-
ligious antiquity, is apt (it must be confessed) to
introduce into the laxer sort of minds the notion of
two kinds of truth the one applicable to the solemn
affairs of justice, and the other to the common pro-
ceedings of daily intercourse. As truth bound upon
the conscience by an oath can be but truth, so in
the common affirmations of the shop and the market-
place a latitude is expected, and conceded upon
questions wanting this solemn covenant. Something
less than truth satisfies. It is common to hear a
person say, " You do not expect me to speak as if I
were upon my oath." Hence a great deal of incor-
rectness and inadvertency, short of falsehood, creeps


into ordinary conversation ; and a kind of secondary
or laic-truth is tolerated, where clergy-truth oath-
truth, by the nature of the circumstances, is not re-
quired. A Quaker knows none of this distinction.
His simple affirmation being received, upon the most
sacred occasions, without any further test, stamps a
value upon the words which he is to use upon the
most indifferent topics of life. He looks to them,
naturally, with more severity. You can have of him
no more than his word. He knows, if he is caught
tripping in a casual expression, he forfeits, for him-
self, at least, his claim to the invidious exemption.
He knows that his syllables are weighed and how
far a consciousness of this particular watchfulness,
exerted against a person, has a tendency to produce
indirect answers, and a diverting of the question by
honest means, might be illustrated, and the practice
justified, by a more sacred example than is proper
to be adduced upon this occasion. The admirable
presence of mind, which is notorious in Quakers
upon all contingencies, might be traced to this im-
posed self- watchfulness if it did not seem rather
an humble and secular scion of that old stock of
religious constancy, which never bent or faltered, in
the Primitive Friends, or gave way to the winds of
persecution, to the violence of judge or accuser,
under trials and racking examinations. "You will
never be the wiser, if I sit here answering your ques-


tions till midnight," said one of those upright Justi-
cers to Penn, who had been putting law-cases with a
puzzling subtlety. " Thereafter as the answers may
be," retorted the Quaker. The astonishing compo-
sure of this people is sometimes ludicrously displayed
in lighter instances. I was travelling in a stage-
coach with three male Quakers, buttoned up in the
straitest non-conformity of their sect. We stopped
to bait at Andover, where a meal, partly tea appa-
ratus, partly supper, was set before us. My friends
confined themselves to the tea-table. I ' in my way
took supper. When the landlady brought in the
bill, the eldest of my companions discovered that she
had charged for both meals. This was resisted.
Mine hostess was very clamorous and positive. Some
mild arguments were used on the part of the Qua-
kers, for which the heated mind of the good lady
seemed by no means a fit recipient. The guard
came in with his usual peremptory notice. The
Quakers pulled out their money, and formally ten-
dered it so much for tea I, in humble imita-
tion, tendering mine for the supper which I had
taken. She would not relax in her demand. So
they all three quietly put up their silver, as did my-
self, and marched out of the room, the eldest and
gravest going first, with myself closing up the rear,
who thought I could not do better than follow the
example of such grave and warrantable personages


We got in. The steps went up. The coach drove
off. The murmurs of mine hostess, not very indis-
tinctly or ambiguously pronounced, became after a
time inaudible and now my conscience, which the
whimsical scene had for a while suspended, begin-
ning to give some twitches, I waited, in the hope
that some justification would be offered by these
serious persons for the seeming injustice of their
conduct. To my great surprise, not a syllable was
dropped on the subject. They sate as mute as at a
meeting. At length the eldest of them broke si-
lence, by inquiring of his next neighbour, "Hast
thee heard how indigos go at the India House?"
and the question operated as a soporific on my
moral feeling as far as Exeter.




WE are too hasty when we set down our ancestors in
the gross for fools, for the monstrous inconsistencies
(as they seem to us) involved in their creed of witch-
craft. In the relations of this visible world we find
them to have been as rational, and shrewd to detect
an historic anomaly, as ourselves. But when once
the invisible world was supposed to be opened, and
the lawless agency of bad spirits assumed, what mea-
sures of probability, of decency, of fitness, or propor-
tion of that which distinguishes the likely from the
palpable absurd could they have to guide them in
the rejection or admission of any particular testi-
mony ? That maidens pined away, wasting inwardly
as their waxen images consumed before a fire that
corn was lodged, and cattle lamed that whirlwinds
uptore in diabolic revelry the oaks of the forest or
that spits and kettles only danced a fearful-innocent
vagary about some rustic's kitchen when no wind was
stirring were all equally probable where no law of


agency was understood. That the prince of the
powers of darkness, passing by the flower and pomp
of the earth, should lay preposterous siege to the weak
fantasy of indigent eld has neither likelihood nor
unlikelihood a priori to us, who have no measure to
guess at his policy, or standard to estimate what rate
those anile souls may fetch in the devil's market.
Nor, when the wicked are expressly symbolized by a
goat, was it to be wondered at so much, that he should
come sometimes in that body, and assert his meta-
phor. That the intercourse was opened at all be-
tween both worlds was perhaps the mistake but
that once assumed, I see no reason for disbelieving
one attested story of this nature more than another
on the score of absurdity. There is no law to judge
of the lawless, or canon by which a dream may be

I have sometimes thought that I could not have
existed in the days of received witchcraft ; that I
could not have slept in a village where one of those
reputed hags dwelt. Our ancestors were bolder or
more obtuse. Amidst the universal belief 'that these
wretches were in league with the author of all evil,
holding hell tributary to their muttering, no simple
Justice of the Peace seems to have scrupled issuing,
or silly Headborough serving, a warrant upon them
as if they should subpoena Satan ! Prospero in
his boat, with his books and wand about him, suffers


himself to be conveyed away at the mercy of his
enemies to an unknown island. He might have
raised a storm or two, we think, on the passage. His
acquiescence is in exact analogy to the non-resistance
of witches to the constituted powers. What stops
the Fiend in Spenser from tearing Guyon to pieces

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays → online text (page 8 of 32)