Biographia Literaria
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Part 3 out of 8

made a shoe the less, but had virtuously reared a large family by the
labour of his hands.

In Pindar, Chaucer, Dante, Milton, and many more, we have instances of
the close connection of poetic genius with the love of liberty and of
genuine reformation. The moral sense at least will not be outraged, if
I add to the list the name of this honest shoemaker, (a trade by the
by remarkable for the production of philosophers and poets).

His poem entitled THE MORNING STAR, was the very first publication
that appeared in praise and support of Luther; and an excellent hymn
of Hans Sachs, which has been deservedly translated into almost all
the European languages, was commonly sung in the Protestant churches,
whenever the heroic reformer visited them.

In Luther's own German writings, and eminently in his translation of
the Bible, the German language commenced. I mean the language as it is
at present written; that which is called the High-German, as contra-
distinguished from the Platt-Teutsch, the dialect on the flat or
northern countries, and from the Ober-Teutsch, the language of the
middle and Southern Germany. The High German is indeed a lingua
communis, not actually the native language of any province, but the
choice and fragrancy of all the dialects. From this cause it is at
once the most copious and the most grammatical of all the European

Within less than a century after Luther's death the German was
inundated with pedantic barbarisms. A few volumes of this period I
read through from motives of curiosity; for it is not easy to imagine
any thing more fantastic, than the very appearance of their pages.
Almost every third word is a Latin word with a Germanized ending, the
Latin portion being always printed in Roman letters, while in the last
syllable the German character is retained.

At length, about the year 1620, Opitz arose, whose genius more nearly
resembled that of Dryden than any other poet, who at present occurs to
my recollection. In the opinion of Lessing, the most acute of critics,
and of Adelung, the first of Lexicographers, Opitz, and the Silesian
poets, his followers, not only restored the language, but still remain
the models of pure diction. A stranger has no vote on such a question;
but after repeated perusal of the works of Opitz my feelings justified
the verdict, and I seemed to have acquired from them a sort of tact
for what is genuine in the style of later writers.

Of the splendid aera, which commenced with Gellert, Klopstock, Ramler,
Lessing, and their compeers, I need not speak. With the opportunities
which I enjoyed, it would have been disgraceful not to have been
familiar with their writings; and I have already said as much as the
present biographical sketch requires concerning the German
philosophers, whose works, for the greater part, I became acquainted
with at a far later period.

Soon after my return from Germany I was solicited to undertake the
literary and political department in the Morning Post; and I acceded
to the proposal on the condition that the paper should thenceforwards
be conducted on certain fixed and announced principles, and that I
should neither be obliged nor requested to deviate from them in favour
of any party or any event. In consequence, that journal became and for
many years continued anti-ministerial indeed, yet with a very
qualified approbation of the opposition, and with far greater
earnestness and zeal both anti-Jacobin and anti-Gallican. To this hour
I cannot find reason to approve of the first war either in its
commencement or its conduct. Nor can I understand, with what reason
either Mr. Perceval, (whom I am singular enough to regard as the best
and wisest minister of this reign,) nor the present Administration,
can be said to have pursued the plans of Mr. Pitt. The love of their
country, and perseverant hostility to French principles and French
ambition are indeed honourable qualities common to them and to their
predecessor. But it appears to me as clear as the evidence of the
facts can render any question of history, that the successes of the
Perceval and of the existing ministry have been owing to their having
pursued measures the direct contrary to Mr. Pitt's. Such for instance
are the concentration of the national force to one object; the
abandonment of the subsidizing policy, so far at least as neither to
goad nor bribe the continental courts into war, till the convictions
of their subjects had rendered it a war of their own seeking; and
above all, in their manly and generous reliance on the good sense of
the English people, and on that loyalty which is linked to the very
[40] heart of the nation by the system of credit and the
interdependence of property.

Be this as it may, I am persuaded that the Morning Post proved a far
more useful ally to the Government in its most important objects, in
consequence of its being generally considered as moderately anti-
ministerial, than if it had been the avowed eulogist of Mr. Pitt. The
few, whose curiosity or fancy should lead them to turn over the
journals of that date, may find a small proof of this in the frequent
charges made by the Morning Chronicle, that such and such essays or
leading paragraphs had been sent from the Treasury. The rapid and
unusual increase in the sale of the Morning Post is a sufficient
pledge, that genuine impartiality with a respectable portion of
literary talent will secure the success of a newspaper without the aid
of party or ministerial patronage. But by impartiality I mean an
honest and enlightened adherence to a code of intelligible principles
previously announced, and faithfully referred to in support of every
judgment on men and events; not indiscriminate abuse, not the
indulgence of an editor's own malignant passions, and still less, if
that be possible, a determination to make money by flattering the envy
and cupidity, the vindictive restlessness and self-conceit of the
half-witted vulgar; a determination almost fiendish, but which, I have
been informed, has been boastfully avowed by one man, the most
notorious of these mob-sycophants! From the commencement of the
Addington administration to the present day, whatever I have written
in THE MORNING POST, or (after that paper was transferred to other
proprietors) in THE COURIER, has been in defence or furtherance of the
measures of Government.

Things of this nature scarce survive that night
That gives them birth; they perish in the sight;
Cast by so far from after-life, that there
Can scarcely aught be said, but that they were!

Yet in these labours I employed, and, in the belief of partial friends
wasted, the prime and manhood of my intellect. Most assuredly, they
added nothing to my fortune or my reputation. The industry of the week
supplied the necessities of the week. From government or the friends
of government I not only never received remuneration, nor ever
expected it; but I was never honoured with a single acknowledgment, or
expression of satisfaction. Yet the retrospect is far from painful or
matter of regret. I am not indeed silly enough to take as any thing
more than a violent hyperbole of party debate, Mr. Fox's assertion
that the late war (I trust that the epithet is not prematurely
applied) was a war produced by the Morning Post; or I should be proud
to have the words inscribed on my tomb. As little do I regard the
circumstance, that I was a specified object of Buonaparte's resentment
during my residence in Italy in consequence of those essays in the
Morning Post during the peace of Amiens. Of this I was warned,
directly, by Baron Von Humboldt, the Prussian Plenipotentiary, who at
that time was the minister of the Prussian court at Rome; and
indirectly, through his secretary, by Cardinal Fesch himself. Nor do I
lay any greater weight on the confirming fact, that an order for my
arrest was sent from Paris, from which danger I was rescued by the
kindness of a noble Benedictine, and the gracious connivance of that
good old man, the present Pope. For the late tyrant's vindictive
appetite was omnivorous, and preyed equally on a Duc d'Enghien [41],
and the writer of a newspaper paragraph. Like a true vulture [42],
Napoleon with an eye not less telescopic, and with a taste equally
coarse in his ravin, could descend from the most dazzling heights to
pounce on the leveret in the brake, or even on the field mouse amid
the grass. But I do derive a gratification from the knowledge, that my
essays contributed to introduce the practice of placing the questions
and events of the day in a moral point of view; in giving a dignity to
particular measures by tracing their policy or impolicy to permanent
principles, and an interest to principles by the application of them
to individual measures. In Mr. Burke's writings indeed the germs of
almost all political truths may be found. But I dare assume to myself
the merit of having first explicitly defined and analyzed the nature
of Jacobinism; and that in distinguishing the Jacobin from the
republican, the democrat, and the mere demagogue, I both rescued the
word from remaining a mere term of abuse, and put on their guard many
honest minds, who even in their heat of zeal against Jacobinism,
admitted or supported principles from which the worst parts of that
system may be legitimately deduced. That these are not necessary
practical results of such principles, we owe to that fortunate
inconsequence of our nature, which permits the heart to rectify the
errors of the understanding. The detailed examination of the consular
Government and its pretended constitution, and the proof given by me,
that it was a consummate despotism in masquerade, extorted a
recantation even from the Morning Chronicle, which had previously
extolled this constitution as the perfection of a wise and regulated
liberty. On every great occurrence I endeavoured to discover in past
history the event, that most nearly resembled it. I procured, wherever
it was possible, the contemporary historians, memorialists, and
pamphleteers. Then fairly subtracting the points of difference from
those of likeness, as the balance favoured the former or the latter, I
conjectured that the result would be the same or different. In the
series of essays entitled "A comparison of France under Napoleon with
Rome under the first Caesars," and in those which followed "On the
probable final restoration of the Bourbons," I feel myself authorized
to affirm, by the effect produced on many intelligent men, that, were
the dates wanting, it might have been suspected that the essays had
been written within the last twelve months. The same plan I pursued at
the commencement of the Spanish revolution, and with the same success,
taking the war of the United Provinces with Philip II as the ground
work of the comparison. I have mentioned this from no motives of
vanity, nor even from motives of self defence, which would justify a
certain degree of egotism, especially if it be considered, how often
and grossly I have been attacked for sentiments, which I have exerted
my best powers to confute and expose, and how grievously these charges
acted to my disadvantage while I was in Malta. Or rather they would
have done so, if my own feelings had not precluded the wish of a
settled establishment in that island. But I have mentioned it from the
full persuasion that, armed with the two-fold knowledge of history and
the human mind, a man will scarcely err in his judgment concerning the
sum total of any future national event, if he have been able to
procure the original documents of the past, together with authentic
accounts of the present, and if he have a philosophic tact for what is
truly important in facts, and in most instances therefore for such
facts as the dignity of history has excluded from the volumes of our
modern compilers, by the courtesy of the age entitled historians.

To have lived in vain must be a painful thought to any man, and
especially so to him who has made literature his profession. I should
therefore rather condole than be angry with the mind, which could
attribute to no worthier feelings than those of vanity or self-love,
the satisfaction which I acknowledged myself to have enjoyed from the
republication of my political essays (either whole or as extracts) not
only in many of our own provincial papers, but in the federal journals
throughout America. I regarded it as some proof of my not having
laboured altogether in vain, that from the articles written by me
shortly before and at the commencement of the late unhappy war with
America, not only the sentiments were adopted, but in some instances
the very language, in several of the Massachusetts state papers.

But no one of these motives nor all conjointly would have impelled me
to a statement so uncomfortable to my own feelings, had not my
character been repeatedly attacked, by an unjustifiable intrusion on
private life, as of a man incorrigibly idle, and who intrusted not
only with ample talents, but favoured with unusual opportunities of
improving them, had nevertheless suffered them to rust away without
any efficient exertion, either for his own good or that of his fellow
creatures. Even if the compositions, which I have made public, and
that too in a form the most certain of an extensive circulation,
though the least flattering to an author's self-love, had been
published in books, they would have filled a respectable number of
volumes, though every passage of merely temporary interest were
omitted. My prose writings have been charged with a disproportionate
demand on the attention; with an excess of refinement in the mode of
arriving at truths; with beating the ground for that which might have
been run down by the eye; with the length and laborious construction
of my periods; in short with obscurity and the love of paradox. But my
severest critics have not pretended to have found in my compositions
triviality, or traces of a mind that shrunk from the toil of thinking.
No one has charged me with tricking out in other words the thoughts of
others, or with hashing up anew the cramben jam decies coctam of
English literature or philosophy. Seldom have I written that in a day,
the acquisition or investigation of which had not cost me the previous
labour of a month.

But are books the only channel through which the stream of
intellectual usefulness can flow? Is the diffusion of truth to be
estimated by publications; or publications by the truth, which they
diffuse or at least contain? I speak it in the excusable warmth of a
mind stung by an accusation, which has not only been advanced in
reviews of the widest circulation, not only registered in the bulkiest
works of periodical literature, but by frequency of repetition has
become an admitted fact in private literary circles, and thoughtlessly
repeated by too many who call themselves my friends, and whose own
recollections ought to have suggested a contrary testimony. Would that
the criterion of a scholar's utility were the number and moral value
of the truths, which he has been the means of throwing into the
general circulation; or the number and value of the minds, whom by his
conversation or letters, he has excited into activity, and supplied
with the germs of their after-growth! A distinguished rank might not
indeed, even then, be awarded to my exertions; but I should dare look
forward with confidence to an honourable acquittal. I should dare
appeal to the numerous and respectable audiences, which at different
times and in different places honoured my lecture rooms with their
attendance, whether the points of view from which the subjects treated
of were surveyed,--whether the grounds of my reasoning were such, as
they had heard or read elsewhere, or have since found in previous
publications. I can conscientiously declare, that the complete success
of the REMORSE on the first night of its representation did not give
me as great or as heart-felt a pleasure, as the observation that the
pit and boxes were crowded with faces familiar to me, though of
individuals whose names I did not know, and of whom I knew nothing,
but that they had attended one or other of my courses of lectures. It
is an excellent though perhaps somewhat vulgar proverb, that there are
cases where a man may be as well "in for a pound as for a penny." To
those, who from ignorance of the serious injury I have received from
this rumour of having dreamed away my life to no purpose, injuries
which I unwillingly remember at all, much less am disposed to record
in a sketch of my literary life; or to those, who from their own
feelings, or the gratification they derive from thinking
contemptuously of others, would like job's comforters attribute these
complaints, extorted from me by the sense of wrong, to self conceit or
presumptuous vanity, I have already furnished such ample materials,
that I shall gain nothing by withholding the remainder. I will not
therefore hesitate to ask the consciences of those, who from their
long acquaintance with me and with the circumstances are best
qualified to decide or be my judges, whether the restitution of the
suum cuique would increase or detract from my literary reputation. In
this exculpation I hope to be understood as speaking of myself
comparatively, and in proportion to the claims, which others are
entitled to make on my time or my talents. By what I have effected, am
I to be judged by my fellow men; what I could have done, is a question
for my own conscience. On my own account I may perhaps have had
sufficient reason to lament my deficiency in self-control, and the
neglect of concentering my powers to the realization of some permanent
work. But to verse rather than to prose, if to either, belongs the
voice of mourning for

Keen pangs of Love, awakening as a babe
Turbulent, with an outcry in the heart;
And fears self-willed that shunned the eye of hope;
And hope that scarce would know itself from fear;
Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain,
And genius given and knowledge won in vain;
And all which I had culled in wood-walks wild,
And all which patient toil had reared, and all,
Commune with thee had opened out--but flowers
Strewed on my corpse, and borne upon my bier,
In the same coffin, for the self-same grave!

These will exist, for the future, I trust, only in the poetic strains,
which the feelings at the time called forth. In those only, gentle

Affectus animi varios, bellumque sequacis
Perlegis invidiae, curasque revolvis inanes,
Quas humilis tenero stylus olim effudit in aevo.
Perlegis et lacrymas, et quod pharetratus acuta
Ille puer puero fecit mihi cuspide vulnus.
Omnia paulatim consumit longior aetas,
Vivendoque simul morimur, rapimurque manendo.
Ipse mihi collatus enim non ille videbor;
Frons alia est, moresque alii, nova mentis imago,
Vox aliudque sonat--Jamque observatio vitae
Multa dedit--lugere nihil, ferre omnia; jamque
Paulatim lacrymas rerum experientia tersit.


An affectionate exhortation to those who in early life feel themselves
disposed to become authors.

It was a favourite remark of the late Mr. Whitbread's, that no man
does any thing from a single motive. The separate motives, or rather
moods of mind, which produced the preceding reflections and anecdotes
have been laid open to the reader in each separate instance. But an
interest in the welfare of those, who at the present time may be in
circumstances not dissimilar to my own at my first entrance into life,
has been the constant accompaniment, and (as it were) the under-song
of all my feelings. Whitehead exerting the prerogative of his
laureateship addressed to youthful poets a poetic Charge, which is
perhaps the best, and certainly the most interesting, of his works.
With no other privilege than that of sympathy and sincere good wishes,
I would address an affectionate exhortation to the youthful literati,
grounded on my own experience. It will be but short; for the
beginning, middle, and end converge to one charge: never pursue
literature as a trade. With the exception of one extraordinary man, I
have never known an individual, least of all an individual of genius,
healthy or happy without a profession, that is, some regular
employment, which does not depend on the will of the moment, and which
can be carried on so far mechanically that an average quantum only of
health, spirits, and intellectual exertion are requisite to its
faithful discharge. Three hours of leisure, unannoyed by any alien
anxiety, and looked forward to with delight as a change and
recreation, will suffice to realize in literature a larger product of
what is truly genial, than weeks of compulsion. Money, and immediate
reputation form only an arbitrary and accidental end of literary
labour. The hope of increasing them by any given exertion will often
prove a stimulant to industry; but the necessity of acquiring them
will in all works of genius convert the stimulant into a narcotic.
Motives by excess reverse their very nature, and instead of exciting,
stun and stupify the mind. For it is one contradistinction of genius
from talent, that its predominant end is always comprised in the
means; and this is one of the many points, which establish an analogy
between genius and virtue. Now though talents may exist without
genius, yet as genius cannot exist, certainly not manifest itself,
without talents, I would advise every scholar, who feels the genial
power working within him, so far to make a division between the two,
as that he should devote his talents to the acquirement of competence
in some known trade or profession, and his genius to objects of his
tranquil and unbiassed choice; while the consciousness of being
actuated in both alike by the sincere desire to perform his duty, will
alike ennoble both. "My dear young friend," (I would say) "suppose
yourself established in any honourable occupation. From the
manufactory or counting house, from the law-court, or from having
visited your last patient, you return at evening,

Dear tranquil time, when the sweet sense of Home
Is sweetest------

to your family, prepared for its social enjoyments, with the very
countenances of your wife and children brightened, and their voice of
welcome made doubly welcome, by the knowledge that, as far as they are
concerned, you have satisfied the demands of the day by the labour of
the day. Then, when you retire into your study, in the books on your
shelves you revisit so many venerable friends with whom you can
converse. Your own spirit scarcely less free from personal anxieties
than the great minds, that in those books are still living for you!
Even your writing desk with its blank paper and all its other
implements will appear as a chain of flowers, capable of linking your
feelings as well as thoughts to events and characters past or to come;
not a chain of iron, which binds you down to think of the future and
the remote by recalling the claims and feelings of the peremptory
present. But why should I say retire? The habits of active life and
daily intercourse with the stir of the world will tend to give you
such self-command, that the presence of your family will be no
interruption. Nay, the social silence, or undisturbing voices of a
wife or sister will be like a restorative atmosphere, or soft music
which moulds a dream without becoming its object. If facts are
required to prove the possibility of combining weighty performances in
literature with full and independent employment, the works of Cicero
and Xenophon among the ancients; of Sir Thomas More, Bacon, Baxter, or
to refer at once to later and contemporary instances, Darwin and
Roscoe, are at once decisive of the question."

But all men may not dare promise themselves a sufficiency of self-
control for the imitation of those examples: though strict scrutiny
should always be made, whether indolence, restlessness, or a vanity
impatient for immediate gratification, have not tampered with the
judgment and assumed the vizard of humility for the purposes of self-
delusion. Still the Church presents to every man of learning and
genius a profession, in which he may cherish a rational hope of being
able to unite the widest schemes of literary utility with the
strictest performance of professional duties. Among the numerous
blessings of Christianity, the introduction of an established Church
makes an especial claim on the gratitude of scholars and philosophers;
in England, at least, where the principles of Protestantism have
conspired with the freedom of the government to double all its
salutary powers by the removal of its abuses.

That not only the maxims, but the grounds of a pure morality, the mere
fragments of which

------the lofty grave tragedians taught
In chorus or iambic, teachers best
Of moral prudence, with delight received
In brief sententious precepts; [43]

and that the sublime truths of the divine unity and attributes, which
a Plato found most hard to learn and deemed it still more difficult to
reveal; that these should have become the almost hereditary property
of childhood and poverty, of the hovel and the workshop; that even to
the unlettered they sound as common place, is a phaenomenon, which
must withhold all but minds of the most vulgar cast from undervaluing
the services even of the pulpit and the reading desk. Yet those, who
confine the efficiency of an established Church to its public offices,
can hardly be placed in a much higher rank of intellect. That to every
parish throughout the kingdom there is transplanted a germ of
civilization; that in the remotest villages there is a nucleus, round
which the capabilities of the place may crystallize and brighten; a
model sufficiently superior to excite, yet sufficiently near to
encourage and facilitate, imitation; this, the unobtrusive, continuous
agency of a protestant church establishment, this it is, which the
patriot, and the philanthropist, who would fain unite the love of
peace with the faith in the progressive melioration of mankind, cannot
estimate at too high a price. It cannot be valued with the gold of
Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. No mention shall be
made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
The clergyman is with his parishioners and among them; he is neither
in the cloistered cell, nor in the wilderness, but a neighbour and a
family-man, whose education and rank admit him to the mansion of the
rich landholder, while his duties make him the frequent visitor of the
farmhouse and the cottage. He is, or he may become, connected, with
the families of his parish or its vicinity by marriage. And among the
instances of the blindness, or at best of the short-sightedness, which
it is the nature of cupidity to inflict, I know few more striking than
the clamours of the farmers against Church property. Whatever was not
paid to the clergyman would inevitably at the next lease be paid to
the landholder, while, as the case at present stands, the revenues of
the Church are in some sort the reversionary property of every family,
that may have a member educated for the Church, or a daughter that may
marry a clergyman. Instead of being foreclosed and immovable, it is in
fact the only species of landed property, that is essentially moving
and circulative. That there exist no inconveniences, who will pretend
to assert? But I have yet to expect the proof, that the inconveniences
are greater in this than in any other species; or that either the
farmers or the clergy would be benefited by forcing the latter to
become either Trullibers or salaried placemen. Nay, I do not hesitate
to declare my firm persuasion, that whatever reason of discontent the
farmers may assign, the true cause is this; that they may cheat the
parson, but cannot cheat the steward; and that they are disappointed,
if they should have been able to withhold only two pounds less than
the legal claim, having expected to withhold five. At all events,
considered relatively to the encouragement of learning and genius, the
establishment presents a patronage at once so effective and
unburdensome, that it would be impossible to afford the like or equal
in any but a Christian and Protestant country. There is scarce a
department of human knowledge without some bearing on the various
critical, historical, philosophical and moral truths, in which the
scholar must be interested as a clergyman; no one pursuit worthy of a
man of genius, which may not be followed without incongruity. To give
the history of the Bible as a book, would be little less than to
relate the origin or first excitement of all the literature and
science, that we now possess. The very decorum, which the profession
imposes, is favourable to the best purposes of genius, and tends to
counteract its most frequent defects. Finally, that man must be
deficient in sensibility, who would not find an incentive to emulation
in the great and burning lights, which in a long series have
illustrated the church of England; who would not hear from within an
echo to the voice from their sacred shrines,

Et Pater Aeneas et avunculus excitat Hector.

But, whatever be the profession or trade chosen, the advantages are
many and important, compared with the state of a mere literary man,
who in any degree depends on the sale of his works for the necessaries
and comforts of life. In the former a man lives in sympathy with the
world, in which he lives. At least he acquires a better and quicker
tact for the knowledge of that, with which men in general can
sympathize. He learns to manage his genius more prudently and
efficaciously. His powers and acquirements gain him likewise more real
admiration; for they surpass the legitimate expectations of others. He
is something besides an author, and is not therefore considered merely
as an author. The hearts of men are open to him, as to one of their
own class; and whether he exerts himself or not in the conversational
circles of his acquaintance, his silence is not attributed to pride,
nor his communicativeness to vanity. To these advantages I will
venture to add a superior chance of happiness in domestic life, were
it only that it is as natural for the man to be out of the circle of
his household during the day, as it is meritorious for the woman to
remain for the most part within it. But this subject involves points
of consideration so numerous and so delicate, and would not only
permit, but require such ample documents from the biography of
literary men, that I now merely allude to it in transitu. When the
same circumstance has occurred at very different times to very
different persons, all of whom have some one thing in common; there is
reason to suppose that such circumstance is not merely attributable to
the persons concerned, but is in some measure occasioned by the one
point in common to them all. Instead of the vehement and almost
slanderous dehortation from marriage, which the Misogyne, Boccaccio
[44] addresses to literary men, I would substitute the simple advice:
be not merely a man of letters! Let literature be an honourable
augmentation to your arms; but not constitute the coat, or fill the

To objections from conscience I can of course answer in no other way,
than by requesting the youthful objector (as I have already done on a
former occasion) to ascertain with strict self-examination, whether
other influences may not be at work; whether spirits, "not of health,"
and with whispers "not from heaven," may not be walking in the
twilight of his consciousness. Let him catalogue his scruples, and
reduce them to a distinct intelligible form; let him be certain, that
he has read with a docile mind and favourable dispositions the best
and most fundamental works on the subject; that he has had both mind
and heart opened to the great and illustrious qualities of the many
renowned characters, who had doubted like himself, and whose
researches had ended in the clear conviction, that their doubts had
been groundless, or at least in no proportion to the counter-weight.
Happy will it be for such a man, if among his contemporaries elder
than himself he should meet with one, who, with similar powers and
feelings as acute as his own, had entertained the same scruples; had
acted upon them; and who by after-research (when the step was, alas!
irretrievable, but for that very reason his research undeniably
disinterested) had discovered himself to have quarrelled with received
opinions only to embrace errors, to have left the direction tracked
out for him on the high road of honourable exertion, only to deviate
into a labyrinth, where when he had wandered till his head was giddy,
his best good fortune was finally to have found his way out again, too
late for prudence though not too late for conscience or for truth!
Time spent in such delay is time won: for manhood in the meantime is
advancing, and with it increase of knowledge, strength of judgment,
and above all, temperance of feelings. And even if these should effect
no change, yet the delay will at least prevent the final approval of
the decision from being alloyed by the inward censure of the rashness
and vanity, by which it had been precipitated. It would be a sort of
irreligion, and scarcely less than a libel on human nature to believe,
that there is any established and reputable profession or employment,
in which a man may not continue to act with honesty and honour; and
doubtless there is likewise none, which may not at times present
temptations to the contrary. But wofully will that man find himself
mistaken, who imagines that the profession of literature, or (to speak
more plainly) the trade of authorship, besets its members with fewer
or with less insidious temptations, than the Church, the law, or the
different branches of commerce. But I have treated sufficiently on
this unpleasant subject in an early chapter of this volume. I will
conclude the present therefore with a short extract from Herder, whose
name I might have added to the illustrious list of those, who have
combined the successful pursuit of the Muses, not only with the
faithful discharge, but with the highest honours and honourable
emoluments of an established profession. The translation the reader
will find in a note below [45]. "Am sorgfaeltigsten, meiden sie die
Autorschaft. Zu frueh oder unmaessig gebraucht, macht sie den Kopf
wueste and das Herz leer; wenn sie auch sonst keine ueble Folgen
gaebe. Ein Mensch, der nur lieset um zu druecken, lieset
wahrscheinlich uebel; und wer jeden Gedanken, der ihm aufstosst, durch
Feder and Presse versendet, hat sie in kurzer Zeit alle versandt, und
wird bald ein blosser Diener der Druckerey, ein Buchstabensetzer


A chapter of requests and premonitions concerning the perusal or
omission of the chapter that follows.

In the perusal of philosophical works I have been greatly benefited by
a resolve, which, in the antithetic form and with the allowed
quaintness of an adage or maxim, I have been accustomed to word thus:
until you understand a writer's ignorance, presume yourself ignorant
of his understanding. This golden rule of mine does, I own, resemble
those of Pythagoras in its obscurity rather than in its depth. If
however the reader will permit me to be my own Hierocles, I trust,
that he will find its meaning fully explained by the following
instances. I have now before me a treatise of a religious fanatic,
full of dreams and supernatural experiences. I see clearly the
writer's grounds, and their hollowness. I have a complete insight into
the causes, which through the medium of his body has acted on his
mind; and by application of received and ascertained laws I can
satisfactorily explain to my own reason all the strange incidents,
which the writer records of himself. And this I can do without
suspecting him of any intentional falsehood. As when in broad day-
light a man tracks the steps of a traveller, who had lost his way in a
fog or by a treacherous moonshine, even so, and with the same tranquil
sense of certainty, can I follow the traces of this bewildered
visionary. I understand his ignorance.

On the other hand, I have been re-perusing with the best energies of
my mind the TIMAEUS of Plato. Whatever I comprehend, impresses me with
a reverential sense of the author's genius; but there is a
considerable portion of the work, to which I can attach no consistent
meaning. In other treatises of the same philosopher, intended for the
average comprehensions of men, I have been delighted with the masterly
good sense, with the perspicuity of the language, and the aptness of
the inductions. I recollect likewise, that numerous passages in this
author, which I thoroughly comprehend, were formerly no less
unintelligible to me, than the passages now in question. It would, I
am aware, be quite fashionable to dismiss them at once as Platonic
jargon. But this I cannot do with satisfaction to my own mind, because
I have sought in vain for causes adequate to the solution of the
assumed inconsistency. I have no insight into the possibility of a man
so eminently wise, using words with such half-meanings to himself, as
must perforce pass into no meaning to his readers. When in addition to
the motives thus suggested by my own reason, I bring into distinct
remembrance the number and the series of great men, who, after long
and zealous study of these works had joined in honouring the name of
Plato with epithets, that almost transcend humanity, I feel, that a
contemptuous verdict on my part might argue want of modesty, but would
hardly be received by the judicious, as evidence of superior
penetration. Therefore, utterly baffled in all my attempts to
understand the ignorance of Plato, I conclude myself ignorant of his

In lieu of the various requests which the anxiety of authorship
addresses to the unknown reader, I advance but this one; that he will
either pass over the following chapter altogether, or read the whole
connectedly. The fairest part of the most beautiful body will appear
deformed and monstrous, if dissevered from its place in the organic
whole. Nay, on delicate subjects, where a seemingly trifling
difference of more or less may constitute a difference in kind, even a
faithful display of the main and supporting ideas, if yet they are
separated from the forms by which they are at once clothed and
modified, may perchance present a skeleton indeed; but a skeleton to
alarm and deter. Though I might find numerous precedents, I shall not
desire the reader to strip his mind of all prejudices, nor to keep all
prior systems out of view during his examination of the present. For
in truth, such requests appear to me not much unlike the advice given
to hypochondriacal patients in Dr. Buchan's domestic medicine;
videlicet, to preserve themselves uniformly tranquil and in good
spirits. Till I had discovered the art of destroying the memory a
parte post, without injury to its future operations, and without
detriment to the judgment, I should suppress the request as premature;
and therefore, however much I may wish to be read with an unprejudiced
mind, I do not presume to state it as a necessary condition.

The extent of my daring is to suggest one criterion, by which it may
be rationally conjectured beforehand, whether or no a reader would
lose his time, and perhaps his temper, in the perusal of this, or any
other treatise constructed on similar principles. But it would be
cruelly misinterpreted, as implying the least disrespect either for
the moral or intellectual qualities of the individuals thereby
precluded. The criterion is this: if a man receives as fundamental
facts, and therefore of course indemonstrable and incapable of further
analysis, the general notions of matter, spirit, soul, body, action,
passiveness, time, space, cause and effect, consciousness, perception,
memory and habit; if he feels his mind completely at rest concerning
all these, and is satisfied, if only he can analyse all other notions
into some one or more of these supposed elements with plausible
subordination and apt arrangement: to such a mind I would as
courteously as possible convey the hint, that for him the chapter was
not written.

Vir bonus es, doctus, prudens; ast haud tibi spiro.

For these terms do in truth include all the difficulties, which the
human mind can propose for solution. Taking them therefore in mass,
and unexamined, it required only a decent apprenticeship in logic, to
draw forth their contents in all forms and colours, as the professors
of legerdemain at our village fairs pull out ribbon after ribbon from
their mouths. And not more difficult is it to reduce them back again
to their different genera. But though this analysis is highly useful
in rendering our knowledge more distinct, it does not really add to
it. It does not increase, though it gives us a greater mastery over,
the wealth which we before possessed. For forensic purposes, for all
the established professions of society, this is sufficient. But for
philosophy in its highest sense as the science of ultimate truths, and
therefore scientia scientiarum, this mere analysis of terms is
preparative only, though as a preparative discipline indispensable.

Still less dare a favourable perusal be anticipated from the
proselytes of that compendious philosophy, which talking of mind but
thinking of brick and mortar, or other images equally abstracted from
body, contrives a theory of spirit by nicknaming matter, and in a few
hours can qualify its dullest disciples to explain the omne scibile by
reducing all things to impressions, ideas, and sensations.

But it is time to tell the truth; though it requires some courage to
avow it in an age and country, in which disquisitions on all subjects,
not privileged to adopt technical terms or scientific symbols, must be
addressed to the Public. I say then, that it is neither possible nor
necessary for all men, nor for many, to be philosophers. There is a
philosophic (and inasmuch as it is actualized by an effort of freedom,
an artificial) consciousness, which lies beneath or (as it were)
behind the spontaneous consciousness natural to all reflecting beings.
As the elder Romans distinguished their northern provinces into Cis-
Alpine and Trans-Alpine, so may we divide all the objects of human
knowledge into those on this side, and those on the other side of the
spontaneous consciousness; citra et trans conscientiam communem. The
latter is exclusively the domain of pure philosophy, which is
therefore properly entitled transcendental, in order to discriminate
it at once, both from mere reflection and representation on the one
hand, and on the other from those flights of lawless speculation
which, abandoned by all distinct consciousness, because transgressing
the bounds and purposes of our intellectual faculties, are justly
condemned, as transcendent [46]. The first range of hills, that
encircles the scanty vale of human life, is the horizon for the
majority of its inhabitants. On its ridges the common sun is born and
departs. From them the stars rise, and touching them they vanish. By
the many, even this range, the natural limit and bulwark of the vale,
is but imperfectly known. Its higher ascents are too often hidden by
mists and clouds from uncultivated swamps, which few have courage or
curiosity to penetrate. To the multitude below these vapours appear,
now as the dark haunts of terrific agents, on which none may intrude
with impunity; and now all aglow, with colours not their own, they are
gazed at as the splendid palaces of happiness and power. But in all
ages there have been a few, who measuring and sounding the rivers of
the vale at the feet of their furthest inaccessible falls have
learned, that the sources must be far higher and far inward; a few,
who even in the level streams have detected elements, which neither
the vale itself nor the surrounding mountains contained or could
supply [47]. How and whence to these thoughts, these strong
probabilities, the ascertaining vision, the intuitive knowledge may
finally supervene, can be learnt only by the fact. I might oppose to
the question the words with which [48] Plotinus supposes Nature to
answer a similar difficulty. "Should any one interrogate her, how she
works, if graciously she vouchsafe to listen and speak, she will
reply, it behoves thee not to disquiet me with interrogatories, but to
understand in silence, even as I am silent, and work without words."

Likewise in the fifth book of the fifth Ennead, speaking of the
highest and intuitive knowledge as distinguished from the discursive,
or in the language of Wordsworth,

"The vision and the faculty divine;"

he says: "it is not lawful to inquire from whence it sprang, as if it
were a thing subject to place and motion, for it neither approached
hither, nor again departs from hence to some other place; but it
either appears to us or it does not appear. So that we ought not to
pursue it with a view of detecting its secret source, but to watch in
quiet till it suddenly shines upon us; preparing ourselves for the
blessed spectacle as the eye waits patiently for the rising sun." They
and they only can acquire the philosophic imagination, the sacred
power of self-intuition, who within themselves can interpret and
understand the symbol, that the wings of the air-sylph are forming
within the skin of the caterpillar; those only, who feel in their own
spirits the same instinct, which impels the chrysalis of the horned
fly to leave room in its involucrum for antenna, yet to come. They
know and feel, that the potential works in them, even as the actual
works on them! In short, all the organs of sense are framed for a
corresponding world of sense; and we have it. All the organs of spirit
are framed for a correspondent world of spirit: though the latter
organs are not developed in all alike. But they exist in all, and
their first appearance discloses itself in the moral being. How else
could it be, that even worldlings, not wholly debased, will
contemplate the man of simple and disinterested goodness with
contradictory feelings of pity and respect? "Poor man! he is not made
for this world." Oh! herein they utter a prophecy of universal
fulfilment; for man must either rise or sink.

It is the essential mark of the true philosopher to rest satisfied
with no imperfect light, as long as the impossibility of attaining a
fuller knowledge has not been demonstrated. That the common
consciousness itself will furnish proofs by its own direction, that it
is connected with master-currents below the surface, I shall merely
assume as a postulate pro tempore. This having been granted, though
but in expectation of the argument, I can safely deduce from it the
equal truth of my former assertion, that philosophy cannot be
intelligible to all, even of the most learned and cultivated classes.
A system, the first principle of which it is to render the mind
intuitive of the spiritual in man (i.e. of that which lies on the
other side of our natural consciousness) must needs have a great
obscurity for those, who have never disciplined and strengthened this
ulterior consciousness. It must in truth be a land of darkness, a
perfect Anti-Goshen, for men to whom the noblest treasures of their
own being are reported only through the imperfect translation of
lifeless and sightless motions. Perhaps, in great part, through words
which are but the shadows of notions; even as the notional
understanding itself is but the shadowy abstraction of living and
actual truth. On the IMMEDIATE, which dwells in every man, and on the
original intuition, or absolute affirmation of it, (which is likewise
in every man, but does not in every man rise into consciousness) all
the certainty of our knowledge depends; and this becomes intelligible
to no man by the ministry of mere words from without. The medium, by
which spirits understand each other, is not the surrounding air; but
the freedom which they possess in common, as the common ethereal
element of their being, the tremulous reciprocations of which
propagate themselves even to the inmost of the soul. Where the spirit
of a man is not filled with the consciousness of freedom (were it only
from its restlessness, as of one still struggling in bondage) all
spiritual intercourse is interrupted, not only with others, but even
with himself. No wonder then, that he remains incomprehensible to
himself as well as to others. No wonder, that, in the fearful desert
of his consciousness, he wearies himself out with empty words, to
which no friendly echo answers, either from his own heart, or the
heart of a fellow being; or bewilders himself in the pursuit of
notional phantoms, the mere refractions from unseen and distant truths
through the distorting medium of his own unenlivened and stagnant
understanding! To remain unintelligible to such a mind, exclaims
Schelling on a like occasion, is honour and a good name before God and

The history of philosophy (the same writer observes) contains
instances of systems, which for successive generations have remained
enigmatic. Such he deems the system of Leibnitz, whom another writer
(rashly I think, and invidiously) extols as the only philosopher, who
was himself deeply convinced of his own doctrines. As hitherto
interpreted, however, they have not produced the effect, which
Leibnitz himself, in a most instructive passage, describes as the
criterion of a true philosophy; namely, that it would at once explain
and collect the fragments of truth scattered through systems
apparently the most incongruous. The truth, says he, is diffused more
widely than is commonly believed; but it is often painted, yet oftener
masked, and is sometimes mutilated and sometimes, alas! in close
alliance with mischievous errors. The deeper, however, we penetrate
into the ground of things, the more truth we discover in the doctrines
of the greater number of the philosophical sects. The want of
substantial reality in the objects of the senses, according to the
sceptics; the harmonies or numbers, the prototypes and ideas, to which
the Pythagoreans and Platonists reduced all things: the ONE and ALL of
Parmenides and Plotinus, without [49] Spinozism; the necessary
connection of things according to the Stoics, reconcilable with the
spontaneity of the other schools; the vital-philosophy of the
Cabalists and Hermetists, who assumed the universality of sensation;
the substantial forms and entelechies of Aristotle and the schoolmen,
together with the mechanical solution of all particular phaenomena
according to Democritus and the recent philosophers--all these we
shall find united in one perspective central point, which shows
regularity and a coincidence of all the parts in the very object,
which from every other point of view must appear confused and
distorted. The spirit of sectarianism has been hitherto our fault, and
the cause of our failures. We have imprisoned our own conceptions by
the lines, which we have drawn, in order to exclude the conceptions of
others. J'ai trouve que la plupart des Sectes ont raison dans une
bonne partie de ce qu'elles avancent, mais non pas tant en ce qu'elles

A system, which aims to deduce the memory with all the other functions
of intelligence, must of course place its first position from beyond
the memory, and anterior to it, otherwise the principle of solution
would be itself a part of the problem to be solved. Such a position
therefore must, in the first instance be demanded, and the first
question will be, by what right is it demanded? On this account I
think it expedient to make some preliminary remarks on the
introduction of Postulates in philosophy. The word postulate is
borrowed from the science of mathematics [50]. In geometry the primary
construction is not demonstrated, but postulated. This first and most
simple construction in space is the point in motion, or the line.
Whether the point is moved in one and the same direction, or whether
its direction is continually changed, remains as yet undetermined. But
if the direction of the point have been determined, it is either by a
point without it, and then there arises the straight line which
incloses no space; or the direction of the point is not determined by
a point without it, and then it must flow back again on itself, that
is, there arises a cyclical line, which does enclose a space. If the
straight line be assumed as the positive, the cyclical is then the
negation of the straight. It is a line, which at no point strikes out
into the straight, but changes its direction continuously. But if the
primary line be conceived as undetermined, and the straight line as
determined throughout, then the cyclical is the third compounded of
both. It is at once undetermined and determined; undetermined through
any point without, and determined through itself. Geometry therefore
supplies philosophy with the example of a primary intuition, from
which every science that lays claim to evidence must take its
commencement. The mathematician does not begin with a demonstrable
proposition, but with an intuition, a practical idea.

But here an important distinction presents itself. Philosophy is
employed on objects of the inner SENSE, and cannot, like geometry,
appropriate to every construction a correspondent outward intuition.
Nevertheless, philosophy, if it is to arrive at evidence, must proceed
from the most original construction, and the question then is, what is
the most original construction or first productive act for the inner
sense. The answer to this question depends on the direction which is
given to the inner sense. But in philosophy the inner sense cannot
have its direction determined by an outward object. To the original
construction of the line I can be compelled by a line drawn before me
on the slate or on sand. The stroke thus drawn is indeed not the line
itself, but only the image or picture of the line. It is not from it,
that we first learn to know the line; but, on the contrary, we bring
this stroke to the original line generated by the act of the
imagination; otherwise we could not define it as without breadth or
thickness. Still however this stroke is the sensuous image of the
original or ideal line, and an efficient mean to excite every
imagination to the intuition of it.

It is demanded then, whether there be found any means in philosophy to
determine the direction of the inner sense, as in mathematics it is
determinable by its specific image or outward picture. Now the inner
sense has its direction determined for the greater part only by an act
of freedom. One man's consciousness extends only to the pleasant or
unpleasant sensations caused in him by external impressions; another
enlarges his inner sense to a consciousness of forms and quantity; a
third in addition to the image is conscious of the conception or
notion of the thing; a fourth attains to a notion of his notions--he
reflects on his own reflections; and thus we may say without
impropriety, that the one possesses more or less inner sense, than the
other. This more or less betrays already, that philosophy in its first
principles must have a practical or moral, as well as a theoretical or
speculative side. This difference in degree does not exist in the
mathematics. Socrates in Plato shows, that an ignorant slave may be
brought to understand and of himself to solve the most difficult
geometrical problem. Socrates drew the figures for the slave in the
sand. The disciples of the critical philosophy could likewise (as was
indeed actually done by La Forge and some other followers of Des
Cartes) represent the origin of our representations in copper-plates;
but no one has yet attempted it, and it would be utterly useless. To
an Esquimaux or New Zealander our most popular philosophy would be
wholly unintelligible. The sense, the inward organ, for it is not yet
born in him. So is there many a one among us, yes, and some who think
themselves philosophers too, to whom the philosophic organ is entirely
wanting. To such a man philosophy is a mere play of words and notions,
like a theory of music to the deaf, or like the geometry of light to
the blind. The connection of the parts and their logical dependencies
may be seen and remembered; but the whole is groundless and hollow,
unsustained by living contact, unaccompanied with any realizing
intuition which exists by and in the act that affirms its existence,
which is known, because it is, and is, because it is known. The words
of Plotinus, in the assumed person of Nature, hold true of the
philosophic energy. To theoroun mou, theoraema poiei, osper oi
geometrai theorountes graphousin; all' emon mae graphousaes,
theorousaes de, uphistantai ai ton somaton grammai. With me the act of
contemplation makes the thing contemplated, as the geometricians
contemplating describe lines correspondent; but I not describing
lines, but simply contemplating, the representative forms of things
rise up into existence.

The postulate of philosophy and at the same time the test of
philosophic capacity, is no other than the heaven-descended KNOW
THYSELF! (E coelo descendit, Gnothi seauton). And this at once
practically and speculatively. For as philosophy is neither a science
of the reason or understanding only, nor merely a science of morals,
but the science of BEING altogether, its primary ground can be neither
merely speculative nor merely practical, but both in one. All
knowledge rests on the coincidence of an object with a subject. (My
readers have been warned in a former chapter that, for their
convenience as well as the writer's, the term, subject, is used by me
in its scholastic sense as equivalent to mind or sentient being, and
as the necessary correlative of object or quicquid objicitur menti.)
For we can know that only which is true: and the truth is universally
placed in the coincidence of the thought with the thing, of the
representation with the object represented.

Now the sum of all that is merely OBJECTIVE, we will henceforth call
NATURE, confining the term to its passive and material sense, as
comprising all the phaenomena by which its existence is made known to
us. On the other hand the sum of all that is SUBJECTIVE, we may
comprehend in the name of the SELF or INTELLIGENCE. Both conceptions
are in necessary antithesis. Intelligence is conceived of as
exclusively representative, nature as exclusively represented; the one
as conscious, the other as without consciousness. Now in all acts of
positive knowledge there is required a reciprocal concurrence of both,
namely of the conscious being, and of that which is in itself
unconscious. Our problem is to explain this concurrence, its
possibility and its necessity.

During the act of knowledge itself, the objective and subjective are
so instantly united, that we cannot determine to which of the two the
priority belongs. There is here no first, and no second; both are
coinstantaneous and one. While I am attempting to explain this
intimate coalition, I must suppose it dissolved. I must necessarily
set out from the one, to which therefore I give hypothetical
antecedence, in order to arrive at the other. But as there are but two
factors or elements in the problem, subject and object, and as it is
left indeterminate from which of them I should commence, there are two
cases equally possible.


The notion of the subjective is not contained in the notion of the
objective. On the contrary they mutually exclude each other. The
subjective therefore must supervene to the objective. The conception
of nature does not apparently involve the co-presence of an
intelligence making an ideal duplicate of it, that is, representing
it. This desk for instance would (according to our natural notions)
be, though there should exist no sentient being to look at it. This
then is the problem of natural philosophy. It assumes the objective or
unconscious nature as the first, and as therefore to explain how
intelligence can supervene to it, or how itself can grow into
intelligence. If it should appear, that all enlightened naturalists,
without having distinctly proposed the problem to themselves, have yet
constantly moved in the line of its solution, it must afford a strong
presumption that the problem itself is founded in nature. For if all
knowledge has, as it were, two poles reciprocally required and
presupposed, all sciences must proceed from the one or the other, and
must tend toward the opposite as far as the equatorial point in which
both are reconciled and become identical. The necessary tendency
therefore of all natural philosophy is from nature to intelligence;
and this, and no other is the true ground and occasion of the
instinctive striving to introduce theory into our views of natural
phaenomena. The highest perfection of natural philosophy would consist
in the perfect spiritualization of all the laws of nature into laws of
intuition and intellect. The phaenomena (the material) most wholly
disappear, and the laws alone (the formal) must remain. Thence it
comes, that in nature itself the more the principle of law breaks
forth, the more does the husk drop off, the phaenomena themselves
become more spiritual and at length cease altogether in our
consciousness. The optical phaenomena are but a geometry, the lines of
which are drawn by light, and the materiality of this light itself has
already become matter of doubt. In the appearances of magnetism all
trace of matter is lost, and of the phaenomena of gravitation, which
not a few among the most illustrious Newtonians have declared no
otherwise comprehensible than as an immediate spiritual influence,
there remains nothing but its law, the execution of which on a vast
scale is the mechanism of the heavenly motions. The theory of natural
philosophy would then be completed, when all nature was demonstrated
to be identical in essence with that, which in its highest known power
exists in man as intelligence and self-consciousness; when the heavens
and the earth shall declare not only the power of their maker, but the
glory and the presence of their God, even as he appeared to the great
prophet during the vision of the mount in the skirts of his divinity.

This may suffice to show, that even natural science, which commences
with the material phaenomenon as the reality and substance of things
existing, does yet by the necessity of theorizing unconsciously, and
as it were instinctively, end in nature as an intelligence; and by
this tendency the science of nature becomes finally natural
philosophy, the one of the two poles of fundamental science.


In the pursuit of these sciences, our success in each, depends on an
austere and faithful adherence to its own principles, with a careful
separation and exclusion of those, which appertain to the opposite
science. As the natural philosopher, who directs his views to the
objective, avoids above all things the intermixture of the subjective
in his knowledge, as for instance, arbitrary suppositions or rather
suflictions, occult qualities, spiritual agents, and the substitution
of final for efficient causes; so on the other hand, the
transcendental or intelligential philosopher is equally anxious to
preclude all interpellation of the objective into the subjective
principles of his science, as for instance the assumption of impresses
or configurations in the brain, correspondent to miniature pictures on
the retina painted by rays of light from supposed originals, which are
not the immediate and real objects of vision, but deductions from it
for the purposes of explanation. This purification of the mind is
effected by an absolute and scientific scepticism, to which the mind
voluntarily determines itself for the specific purpose of future
certainty. Des Cartes who (in his meditations) himself first, at least
of the moderns, gave a beautiful example of this voluntary doubt, this
self-determined indetermination, happily expresses its utter
difference from the scepticism of vanity or irreligion: Nec tamen in
Scepticos imitabar, qui dubitant tantum ut dubitent, et praeter
incertitudinem ipsam nihil quaerunt. Nam contra totus in eo eram ut
aliquid certi reperirem [51]. Nor is it less distinct in its motives
and final aim, than in its proper objects, which are not as in
ordinary scepticism the prejudices of education and circumstance, but
those original and innate prejudices which nature herself has planted
in all men, and which to all but the philosopher are the first
principles of knowledge, and the final test of truth.

Now these essential prejudices are all reducible to the one
fundamental presumption, THAT THERE EXIST THINGS WITHOUT US. As this
on the one hand originates, neither in grounds nor arguments, and yet
on the other hand remains proof against all attempts to remove it by
grounds or arguments (naturam furca expellas tamen usque redibit;) on
the one hand lays claim to IMMEDIATE certainty as a position at once
indemonstrable and irresistible, and yet on the other hand, inasmuch
as it refers to something essentially different from ourselves, nay
even in opposition to ourselves, leaves it inconceivable how it could
possibly become a part of our immediate consciousness; (in other words
how that, which ex hypothesi is and continues to be extrinsic and
alien to our being, should become a modification of our being) the
philosopher therefore compels himself to treat this faith as nothing
more than a prejudice, innate indeed and connatural, but still a

The other position, which not only claims but necessitates the
admission of its immediate certainty, equally for the scientific
reason of the philosopher as for the common sense of mankind at large,
namely, I AM, cannot so properly be entitled a prejudice. It is
groundless indeed; but then in the very idea it precludes all ground,
and separated from the immediate consciousness loses its whole sense
and import. It is groundless; but only because it is itself the ground
of all other certainty. Now the apparent contradiction, that the
former position, namely, the existence of things without us, which
from its nature cannot be immediately certain, should be received as
blindly and as independently of all grounds as the existence of our
own being, the Transcendental philosopher can solve only by the
supposition, that the former is unconsciously involved in the latter;
that it is not only coherent but identical, and one and the same thing
with our own immediate self consciousness. To demonstrate this
identity is the office and object of his philosophy.

If it be said, that this is idealism, let it be remembered that it is
only so far idealism, as it is at the same time, and on that very
account, the truest and most binding realism. For wherein does the
realism of mankind properly consist? In the assertion that there
exists a something without them, what, or how, or where they know not,
which occasions the objects of their perception? Oh no! This is
neither connatural nor universal. It is what a few have taught and
learned in the schools, and which the many repeat without asking
themselves concerning their own meaning. The realism common to all
mankind is far elder and lies infinitely deeper than this hypothetical
explanation of the origin of our perceptions, an explanation skimmed
from the mere surface of mechanical philosophy. It is the table
itself, which the man of common sense believes himself to see, not the
phantom of a table, from which he may argumentatively deduce the
reality of a table, which he does not see. If to destroy the reality
of all, that we actually behold, be idealism, what can be more
egregiously so, than the system of modern metaphysics, which banishes
us to a land of shadows, surrounds us with apparitions, and
distinguishes truth from illusion only by the majority of those who
dream the same dream? "I asserted that the world was mad," exclaimed
poor Lee, "and the world said, that I was mad, and confound them, they
outvoted me."

It is to the true and original realism, that I would direct the
attention. This believes and requires neither more nor less, than the
object which it beholds or presents to itself, is the real and very
object. In this sense, however much we may strive against it, we are
all collectively born idealists, and therefore and only therefore are
we at the same time realists. But of this the philosophers of the
schools know nothing, or despise the faith as the prejudice of the
ignorant vulgar, because they live and move in a crowd of phrases and
notions from which human nature has long ago vanished. Oh, ye that
reverence yourselves, and walk humbly with the divinity in your own
hearts, ye are worthy of a better philosophy! Let the dead bury the
dead, but do you preserve your human nature, the depth of which was
never yet fathomed by a philosophy made up of notions and mere logical

In the third treatise of my Logosophia, announced at the end of this
volume, I shall give (Deo volente) the demonstrations and
constructions of the Dynamic Philosophy scientifically arranged. It
is, according to my conviction, no other than the system of Pythagoras
and of Plato revived and purified from impure mixtures. Doctrina per
tot manus tradita tandem in vappam desiit! The science of arithmetic
furnishes instances, that a rule may be useful in practical
application, and for the particular purpose may be sufficiently
authenticated by the result, before it has itself been fully
demonstrated. It is enough, if only it be rendered intelligible. This
will, I trust, have been effected in the following Theses for those of
my readers, who are willing to accompany me through the following
chapter, in which the results will be applied to the deduction of the
Imagination, and with it the principles of production and of genial
criticism in the fine arts.


Truth is correlative to being. Knowledge without a correspondent
reality is no knowledge; if we know, there must be somewhat known by
us. To know is in its very essence a verb active.


All truth is either mediate, that is, derived from some other truth or
truths; or immediate and original. The latter is absolute, and its
formula A. A.; the former is of dependent or conditional certainty,
and represented in the formula B. A. The certainty, which adheres in
A, is attributable to B.

SCHOLIUM. A chain without a staple, from which all the links derived
their stability, or a series without a first, has been not inaptly
allegorized, as a string of blind men, each holding the skirt of the
man before him, reaching far out of sight, but all moving without the
least deviation in one straight line. It would be naturally taken for
granted, that there was a guide at the head of the file: what if it
were answered, No! Sir, the men are without number, and infinite
blindness supplies the place of sight?

Equally inconceivable is a cycle of equal truths without a common and
central principle, which prescribes to each its proper sphere in the
system of science. That the absurdity does not so immediately strike
us, that it does not seem equally unimaginable, is owing to a
surreptitious act of the imagination, which, instinctively and without
our noticing the same, not only fills up the intervening spaces, and
contemplates the cycle (of B. C. D. E. F. etc.) as a continuous circle
(A.) giving to all collectively the unity of their common orbit; but
likewise supplies, by a sort of subintelligitur, the one central
power, which renders the movement harmonious and cyclical.


We are to seek therefore for some absolute truth capable of
communicating to other positions a certainty, which it has not itself
borrowed; a truth self-grounded, unconditional and known by its own
light. In short, we have to find a somewhat which is, simply because
it is. In order to be such, it must be one which is its own predicate,
so far at least that all other nominal predicates must be modes and
repetitions of itself. Its existence too must be such, as to preclude
the possibility of requiring a cause or antecedent without an


That there can be but one such principle, may be proved a priori; for
were there two or more, each must refer to some other, by which its
equality is affirmed; consequently neither would be self-established,
as the hypothesis demands. And a posteriori, it will be proved by the
principle itself when it is discovered, as involving universal
antecedence in its very conception.

SCHOLIUM. If we affirm of a board that it is blue, the predicate
(blue) is accidental, and not implied in the subject, board. If we
affirm of a circle that it is equi-radial, the predicate indeed is
implied in the definition of the subject; but the existence of the
subject itself is contingent, and supposes both a cause and a
percipient. The same reasoning will apply to the indefinite number of
supposed indemonstrable truths exempted from the profane approach of
philosophic investigation by the amiable Beattie, and other less
eloquent and not more profound inaugurators of common sense on the
throne of philosophy; a fruitless attempt, were it only that it is the
two-fold function of philosophy to reconcile reason with common sense,
and to elevate common sense into reason.


Such a principle cannot be any THING or OBJECT. Each thing is what it
is in consequence of some other thing. An infinite, independent [52]
thing, is no less a contradiction, than an infinite circle or a
sideless triangle. Besides a thing is that, which is capable of being
an object which itself is not the sole percipient. But an object is
inconceivable without a subject as its antithesis. Omne perceptum
percipientem supponit.

But neither can the principle be found in a subject as a subject,
contra-distinguished from an object: for unicuique percipienti aliquid
objicitur perceptum. It is to be found therefore neither in object nor
subject taken separately, and consequently, as no other third is
conceivable, it must be found in that which is neither subject nor
object exclusively, but which is the identity of both.


This principle, and so characterised manifests itself in the SUM or I
AM; which I shall hereafter indiscriminately express by the words
spirit, self, and self-consciousness. In this, and in this alone,
object and subject, being and knowing, are identical, each involving
and supposing the other. In other words, it is a subject which becomes
a subject by the act of constructing itself objectively to itself; but
which never is an object except for itself, and only so far as by the
very same act it becomes a subject. It may be described therefore as a
perpetual self-duplication of one and the same power into object and
subject, which presuppose each other, and can exist only as

SCHOLIUM. If a man be asked how he knows that he is? he can only
answer, sum quia sum. But if (the absoluteness of this certainty
having been admitted) he be again asked, how he, the individual
person, came to be, then in relation to the ground of his existence,
not to the ground of his knowledge of that existence, he might reply,
sum quia Deus est, or still more philosophically, sum quia in Deo sum.

But if we elevate our conception to the absolute self, the great
eternal I AM, then the principle of being, and of knowledge, of idea,
and of reality; the ground of existence, and the ground of the
knowledge of existence, are absolutely identical, Sum quia sum [53]; I
am, because I affirm myself to be; I affirm myself to be, because I


If then I know myself only through myself, it is contradictory to
require any other predicate of self, but that of self-consciousness.
Only in the self-consciousness of a spirit is there the required
identity of object and of representation; for herein consists the
essence of a spirit, that it is self-representative. If therefore this
be the one only immediate truth, in the certainty of which the reality
of our collective knowledge is grounded, it must follow that the
spirit in all the objects which it views, views only itself. If this
could be proved, the immediate reality of all intuitive knowledge
would be assured. It has been shown, that a spirit is that, which is
its own object, yet not originally an object, but an absolute subject
for which all, itself included, may become an object. It must
therefore be an ACT; for every object is, as an object, dead, fixed,
incapable in itself of any action, and necessarily finite. Again the
spirit (originally the identity of object and subject) must in some
sense dissolve this identity, in order to be conscious of it; fit
alter et idem. But this implies an act, and it follows therefore that
intelligence or self-consciousness is impossible, except by and in a
will. The self-conscious spirit therefore is a will; and freedom must
be assumed as a ground of philosophy, and can never be deduced from


Whatever in its origin is objective, is likewise as such necessarily
finite. Therefore, since the spirit is not originally an object, and
as the subject exists in antithesis to an object, the spirit cannot
originally be finite. But neither can it be a subject without becoming
an object, and, as it is originally the identity of both, it can be
conceived neither as infinite nor finite exclusively, but as the most
original union of both. In the existence, in the reconciling, and the
recurrence of this contradiction consists the process and mystery of
production and life.


This principium commune essendi et cognoscendi, as subsisting in a
WILL, or primary ACT of self-duplication, is the mediate or indirect
principle of every science; but it is the immediate and direct
principle of the ultimate science alone, i.e. of transcendental
philosophy alone. For it must be remembered, that all these Theses
refer solely to one of the two Polar Sciences, namely, to that which
commences with, and rigidly confines itself within, the subjective,
leaving the objective (as far as it is exclusively objective) to
natural philosophy, which is its opposite pole. In its very idea
therefore as a systematic knowledge of our collective KNOWING,
(scientia scientiae) it involves the necessity of some one highest
principle of knowing, as at once the source and accompanying form in
all particular acts of intellect and perception. This, it has been
shown, can be found only in the act and evolution of self-
consciousness. We are not investigating an absolute principium
essendi; for then, I admit, many valid objections might be started
against our theory; but an absolute principium cognoscendi. The result
of both the sciences, or their equatorial point, would be the
principle of a total and undivided philosophy, as, for prudential
reasons, I have chosen to anticipate in the Scholium to Thesis VI and
the note subjoined. In other words, philosophy would pass into
religion, and religion become inclusive of philosophy. We begin with
the I KNOW MYSELF, in order to end with the absolute I AM. We proceed
from the SELF, in order to lose and find all self in GOD.


The transcendental philosopher does not inquire, what ultimate ground
of our knowledge there may lie out of our knowing, but what is the
last in our knowing itself, beyond which we cannot pass. The principle
of our knowing is sought within the sphere of our knowing. It must be
some thing therefore, which can itself be known. It is asserted only,
that the act of self-consciousness is for us the source and principle
of all our possible knowledge. Whether abstracted from us there exists
any thing higher and beyond this primary self-knowing, which is for us
the form of all our knowing must be decided by the result.

That the self-consciousness is the fixed point, to which for us all is
mortised and annexed, needs no further proof. But that the self-
consciousness may be the modification of a higher form of being,
perhaps of a higher consciousness, and this again of a yet higher, and
so on in an infinite regressus; in short, that self-consciousness may
be itself something explicable into something, which must lie beyond
the possibility of our knowledge, because the whole synthesis of our
intelligence is first formed in and through the self-consciousness,
does not at all concern us as transcendental philosophers. For to us,
self-consciousness is not a kind of being, but a kind of knowing, and
that too the highest and farthest that exists for us. It may however
be shown, and has in part already been shown earlier, that even when
the Objective is assumed as the first, we yet can never pass beyond
the principle of self-consciousness. Should we attempt it, we must be
driven back from ground to ground, each of which would cease to be a
ground the moment we pressed on it. We must be whirled down the gulf
of an infinite series. But this would make our reason baffle the end
and purpose of all reason, namely, unity and system. Or we must break
off the series arbitrarily, and affirm an absolute something that is
in and of itself at once cause and effect (causa sui), subject and
object, or rather the absolute identity of both. But as this is
inconceivable, except in a self-consciousness, it follows, that even
as natural philosophers we must arrive at the same principle from
which as transcendental philosophers we set out; that is, in a self-
consciousness in which the principium essendi does not stand to the
principlum cognoscende in the relation of cause to effect, but both
the one and the other are co-inherent and identical. Thus the true
system of natural philosophy places the sole reality of things in an
ABSOLUTE, which is at once causa sui et effectus, pataer autopator,
uios heautou--in the absolute identity of subject and object, which it
calls nature, and which in its highest power is nothing else than
self-conscious will or intelligence. In this sense the position of
Malebranche, that we see all things in God, is a strict philosophical
truth; and equally true is the assertion of Hobbes, of Hartley, and of
their masters in ancient Greece, that all real knowledge supposes a
prior sensation. For sensation itself is but vision nascent, not the
cause of intelligence, but intelligence itself revealed as an earlier
power in the process of self-construction.

Makar, ilathi moi;
Pater, ilathi moi
Ei para kosmon,
Ei para moiran
Ton son ethigon!

Bearing then this in mind, that intelligence is a self-development,
not a quality supervening to a substance, we may abstract from all
degree, and for the purpose of philosophic construction reduce it to
kind, under the idea of an indestructible power with two opposite and
counteracting forces, which by a metaphor borrowed from astronomy, we
may call the centrifugal and centripetal forces. The intelligence in
the one tends to objectize itself, and in the other to know itself in
the object. It will be hereafter my business to construct by a series
of intuitions the progressive schemes, that must follow from such a
power with such forces, till I arrive at the fulness of the human
intelligence. For my present purpose, I assume such a power as my
principle, in order to deduce from it a faculty, the generation,
agency, and application of which form the contents of the ensuing

In a preceding page I have justified the use of technical terms in
philosophy, whenever they tend to preclude confusion of thought, and
when they assist the memory by the exclusive singleness of their
meaning more than they may, for a short time, bewilder the attention
by their strangeness. I trust, that I have not extended this privilege
beyond the grounds on which I have claimed it; namely, the conveniency
of the scholastic phrase to distinguish the kind from all degrees, or
rather to express the kind with the abstraction of degree, as for
instance multeity instead of multitude; or secondly, for the sake of
correspondence in sound in interdependent or antithetical terms, as
subject and object; or lastly, to avoid the wearying recurrence of
circumlocutions and definitions. Thus I shall venture to use potence,
in order to express a specific degree of a power, in imitation of the
Algebraists. I have even hazarded the new verb potenziate, with its
derivatives, in order to express the combination or transfer of
powers. It is with new or unusual terms, as with privileges in courts
of justice or legislature; there can be no legitimate privilege, where
there already exists a positive law adequate to the purpose; and when
there is no law in existence, the privilege is to be justified by its
accordance with the end, or final cause, of all law. Unusual and new-
coined words are doubtless an evil; but vagueness, confusion, and
imperfect conveyance of our thoughts, are a far greater. Every system,
which is under the necessity of using terms not familiarized by the
metaphysics in fashion, will be described as written in an
unintelligible style, and the author must expect the charge of having
substituted learned jargon for clear conception; while, according to
the creed of our modern philosophers, nothing is deemed a clear
conception, but what is representable by a distinct image. Thus the
conceivable is reduced within the bounds of the picturable. Hinc
patet, qui fiat, ut cum irrepraesentabile et impossibile vulgo ejusdem
significatus habeantur, conceptus tam continui, quam infiniti, a
plurimis rejiciantur, quippe quorum, secundum leges cognitionis
intuitivae, repraesentatio est impossibilis. Quanquam autem harum e
non paucis scholis explosarum notionum, praesertim prioris, causam hic
non gero, maximi tamen momendi erit monuisse. gravissimo illos errore
labi, qui tam perverse argumentandi ratione utuntur. Quicquid enim
repugnat legibus intellectus et rationis, utique est impossibile; quod
autem, cum rationis purae sit objectum, legibus cognitionis intuitivae
tantummodo non subest, non item. Nam hic dissensus inter facultatem
sensitivam et intellectualem, (quarum indolem mox exponam,) nihil
indigitat, nisi, quas mens ab intellectu acceptas fert ideas
abstractas, illas in concreto exsequi et in intuitus commutare
saepenumero non posse. Haec autem reluctantia subjectiva mentitur, ut
plurimum, repugnantiam aliquam objectivam, et incautos facile fallit,
limitibus, quibus mens humana circumscribitur, pro iis habitis, quibus
ipsa rerum essentia continetur. [54]

Critics, who are most ready to bring this charge of pedantry and
unintelligibility, are the most apt to overlook the important fact,
that, besides the language of words, there is a language of spirits--
(sermo interior)--and that the former is only the vehicle of the
latter. Consequently their assurance, that they do not understand the
philosophic writer, instead of proving any thing against the
philosophy, may furnish an equal, and (caeteris paribus) even a
stronger presumption against their own philosophic talent.

Great indeed are the obstacles which an English metaphysician has to
encounter. Amongst his most respectable and intelligent judges, there
will be many who have devoted their attention exclusively to the
concerns and interests of human life, and who bring with them to the
perusal of a philosophic system an habitual aversion to all
speculations, the utility and application of which are not evident and
immediate. To these I would in the first instance merely oppose an
authority, which they themselves hold venerable, that of Lord Bacon:
non inutiles Scientiae existimandae sunt, quarum in se nullus est
usus, si ingenia acuant et ordinent.

There are others, whose prejudices are still more formidable, inasmuch
as they are grounded in their moral feelings and religious principles,
which had been alarmed and shocked by the impious and pernicious
tenets defended by Hume, Priestley, and the French fatalists or
necessitarians; some of whom had perverted metaphysical reasonings to
the denial of the mysteries and indeed of all the peculiar doctrines
of Christianity; and others even to the subversion of all distinction
between right and wrong. I would request such men to consider what an
eminent and successful defender of the Christian faith has observed,
that true metaphysics are nothing else but true divinity, and that in
fact the writers, who have given them such just offence, were
sophists, who had taken advantage of the general neglect into which
the science of logic has unhappily fallen, rather than metaphysicians,
a name indeed which those writers were the first to explode as
unmeaning. Secondly, I would remind them, that as long as there are
men in the world to whom the Gnothi seauton is an instinct and a
command from their own nature, so long will there be metaphysicians
and metaphysical speculations; that false metaphysics can be
effectually counteracted by true metaphysics alone; and that if the
reasoning be clear, solid and pertinent, the truth deduced can never
be the less valuable on account of the depth from which it may have
been drawn.

A third class profess themselves friendly to metaphysics, and believe
that they are themselves metaphysicians. They have no objection to
system or terminology, provided it be the method and the nomenclature
to which they have been familiarized in the writings of Locke, Hume,
Hartley, Condillac, or perhaps Dr. Reid, and Professor Stewart. To
objections from this cause, it is a sufficient answer, that one main
object of my attempt was to demonstrate the vagueness or insufficiency
of the terms used in the metaphysical schools of France and Great
Britain since the revolution, and that the errors which I propose to
attack cannot subsist, except as they are concealed behind the mask of
a plausible and indefinite nomenclature.

But the worst and widest impediment still remains. It is the
predominance of a popular philosophy, at once the counterfeit and the
mortal enemy of all true and manly metaphysical research. It is that
corruption, introduced by certain immethodical aphorisming eclectics,
who, dismissing not only all system, but all logical connection, pick
and choose whatever is most plausible and showy; who select, whatever
words can have some semblance of sense attached to them without the
least expenditure of thought; in short whatever may enable men to talk
of what they do not understand, with a careful avoidance of every
thing that might awaken them to a moment's suspicion of their
ignorance. This alas! is an irremediable disease, for it brings with
it, not so much an indisposition to any particular system, but an
utter loss of taste and faculty for all system and for all philosophy.
Like echoes that beget each other amongst the mountains, the praise or
blame of such men rolls in volleys long after the report from the
original blunderbuss. Sequacitas est potius et coitio quam consensus:
et tamen (quod pessimum est) pusillanimitas ista non sine arrogantia
et fastidio se offert. [55]

I shall now proceed to the nature and genesis of the Imagination; but
I must first take leave to notice, that after a more accurate perusal
of Mr. Wordsworth's remarks on the Imagination, in his preface to the
new edition of his poems, I find that my conclusions are not so
consentient with his as, I confess, I had taken for granted. In an
article contributed by me to Mr. Southey's Omniana, On the soul and
its organs of sense, are the following sentences. "These (the human
faculties) I would arrange under the different senses and powers: as
the eye, the ear, the touch, etc.; the imitative power, voluntary and
automatic; the imagination, or shaping and modifying power; the fancy,
or the aggregative and associative power; the understanding, or the
regulative, substantiating and realizing power; the speculative
reason, vis theoretica et scientifica, or the power by which we
produce or aim to produce unity, necessity, and universality in all
our knowledge by means of principles a priori [56]; the will, or
practical reason; the faculty of choice (Germanice, Willkuehr) and
(distinct both from the moral will and the choice,) the sensation of
volition, which I have found reason to include under the head of
single and double touch." To this, as far as it relates to the subject
in question, namely the words (the aggregative and associative power)
Mr. Wordsworth's "objection is only that the definition is too
general. To aggregate and to associate, to evoke and to combine,
belong as well to the Imagination as to the Fancy." I reply, that if,
by the power of evoking and combining, Mr. Wordsworth means the same
as, and no more than, I meant by the aggregative and associative, I
continue to deny, that it belongs at all to the Imagination; and I am
disposed to conjecture, that he has mistaken the copresence of Fancy
with Imagination for the operation of the latter singly. A man may
work with two very different tools at the same moment; each has its
share in the work, but the work effected by each is distinct and
different. But it will probably appear in the next chapter, that
deeming it necessary to go back much further than Mr. Wordsworth's
subject required or permitted, I have attached a meaning to both Fancy
and Imagination, which he had not in view, at least while he was
writing that preface. He will judge. Would to Heaven, I might meet
with many such readers! I will conclude with the words of Bishop
Jeremy Taylor: "He to whom all things are one, who draweth all things
to one, and seeth all things in one, may enjoy true peace and rest of
spirit." [57]


On the imagination, or esemplastic power

O Adam, One Almighty is, from whom
All things proceed, and up to him return,
If not deprav'd from good, created all
Such to perfection, one first matter all,
Endued with various forms, various degrees
Of substance, and, in things that live, of life;
But more refin'd, more spiritous and pure,
As nearer to him plac'd, or nearer tending,
Each in their several active spheres assigu'd,
Till body up to spirit work, in bounds
Proportion'd to each kind. So from the root
Springs lighter the green stalk, from thence the leaves
More aery: last the bright consummate flower
Spirits odorous breathes: flowers and their fruit,
Man's nourishment, by gradual scale sublim'd,
To vital spirits aspire: to animal:
To intellectual!--give both life and sense,
Fancy and understanding; whence the soul
REASON receives, and reason is her being,
Discursive or intuitive. [58]

"Sane dicerentur si res corporales nil nisi materiale continerent,
verissime in fluxu consistere, neque habere substantiale quicquam,
quemadmodum et Platonici olim recte agnovere."

"Hinc igitur, praeter pure mathematica et phantasiae subjecta, collegi
quaedam metaphysica solaque mente perceptibilia, esse admittenda et
massae materiali principium quoddam superius et, ut sic dicam, formale
addendum: quandoquidem omnes veritates rerum corporearum ex solis
axiomatibus logisticis et geometricis, nempe de magno et parvo, toto
et parte, figura et situ, colligi non possint; sed alia de causa et
effectu, actioneque et passione, accedere debeant, quibus ordinis
rerum rationes salventur. Id principium rerum, an entelecheian an vim
appellemus, non refert, modo meminerimus, per solam Virium notionem
intelligibiliter explicari." [59]

Sebomai noeron
Kruphian taxin
Ou katachuthen. [60]

Des Cartes, speaking as a naturalist, and in imitation of Archimedes,
said, give me matter and motion and I will construct you the universe.
We must of course understand him to have meant; I will render the
construction of the universe intelligible. In the same sense the
transcendental philosopher says; grant me a nature having two contrary
forces, the one of which tends to expand infinitely, while the other
strives to apprehend or find itself in this infinity, and I will cause
the world of intelllgences with the whole system of their
representations to rise up before you. Every other science presupposes
intelligence as already existing and complete: the philosopher
contemplates it in its growth, and as it were represents its history
to the mind from its birth to its maturity.

The venerable sage of Koenigsberg has preceded the march of this
master-thought as an effective pioneer in his essay on the
introduction of negative quantities into philosophy, published 1763.
In this he has shown, that instead of assailing the science of
mathematics by metaphysics, as Berkeley did in his ANALYST, or of
sophisticating it, as Wolf did, by the vain attempt of deducing the
first principles of geometry from supposed deeper grounds of ontology,
it behoved the metaphysician rather to examine whether the only
province of knowledge, which man has succeeded in erecting into a pure
science, might not furnish materials, or at least hints, for
establishing and pacifying the unsettled, warring, and embroiled
domain of philosophy. An imitation of the mathematical method had
indeed been attempted with no better success than attended the essay
of David to wear the armour of Saul. Another use however is possible
and of far greater promise, namely, the actual application of the
positions which had so wonderfully enlarged the discoveries of
geometry, mutatis mutandis, to philosophical subjects. Kant having
briefly illustrated the utility of such an attempt in the questions of
space, motion, and infinitely small quantities, as employed by the
mathematician, proceeds to the idea of negative quantities and the
transfer of them to metaphysical investigation. Opposites, he well
observes, are of two kinds, either logical, that is, such as are
absolutely incompatible; or real, without being contradictory. The
former he denominates Nihil negativum irrepraesentabile, the
connection of which produces nonsense. A body in motion is something--
Aliquid cogitabile; but a body, at one and the same time in motion and
not in motion, is nothing, or, at most, air articulated into nonsense.
But a motory force of a body in one direction, and an equal force of
the same body in an opposite direction is not incompatible, and the
result, namely, rest, is real and representable. For the purposes of
mathematical calculus it is indifferent which force we term negative,
and which positive, and consequently we appropriate the latter to
that, which happens to be the principal object in our thoughts. Thus
if a man's capital be ten and his debts eight, the subtraction will be
the same, whether we call the capital negative debt, or the debt
negative capital. But in as much as the latter stands practically in
reference to the former, we of course represent the sum as 10-8. It is
equally clear that two equal forces acting in opposite directions,
both being finite and each distinguished from the other by its
direction only, must neutralize or reduce each other to inaction. Now
the transcendental philosophy demands; first, that two forces should
be conceived which counteract each other by their essential nature;
not only not in consequence of the accidental direction of each, but
as prior to all direction, nay, as the primary forces from which the
conditions of all possible directions are derivative and deducible:
secondly, that these forces should be assumed to be both alike
infinite, both alike indestructible. The problem will then be to
discover the result or product of two such forces, as distinguished
from the result of those forces which are finite, and derive their
difference solely from the circumstance of their direction. When we
have formed a scheme or outline of these two different kinds of force,
and of their different results, by the process of discursive
reasoning, it will then remain for us to elevate the thesis from
notional to actual, by contemplating intuitively this one power with
its two inherent indestructible yet counteracting forces, and the
results or generations to which their inter-penetration gives
existence, in the living principle and in the process of our own self-
consciousness. By what instrument this is possible the solution itself
will discover, at the same time that it will reveal to and for whom it
is possible. Non omnia possumus omnes. There is a philosophic no less
than a poetic genius, which is differenced from the highest perfection
of talent, not by degree but by kind.

The counteraction then of the two assumed forces does not depend on
their meeting from opposite directions; the power which acts in them
is indestructible; it is therefore inexhaustibly re-ebullient; and as
something must be the result of these two forces, both alike infinite,
and both alike indestructible; and as rest or neutralization cannot be
this result; no other conception is possible, but that the product
must be a tertium aliquid, or finite generation. Consequently this
conception is necessary. Now this tertium aliquid can be no other than
an inter-penetration of the counteracting powers, partaking of both.

* * * * * *

Thus far had the work been transcribed for the press, when I received
the following letter from a friend, whose practical judgment I have
had ample reason to estimate and revere, and whose taste and
sensibility preclude all the excuses which my self-love might possibly
have prompted me to set up in plea against the decision of advisers of
equal good sense, but with less tact and feeling.

"Dear C.

"You ask my opinion concerning your Chapter on the Imagination,
both as to the impressions it made on myself, and as to those which I
think it will make on the Public, i.e. that part of the public, who,
from the title of the work and from its forming a sort of introduction
to a volume of poems, are likely to constitute the great majority of
your readers.

"As to myself, and stating in the first place the effect on my
understanding, your opinions and method of argument were not only so
new to me, but so directly the reverse of all I had ever been
accustomed to consider as truth, that even if I had comprehended your
premises sufficiently to have admitted them, and had seen the
necessity of your conclusions, I should still have been in that state
of mind, which in your note in Chap. IV you have so ingeniously
evolved, as the antithesis to that in which a man is, when he makes a
bull. In your own words, I should have felt as if I had been standing
on my head.

"The effect on my feelings, on the other hand, I cannot better
represent, than by supposing myself to have known only our light airy
modern chapels of ease, and then for the first time to have been
placed, and left alone, in one of our largest Gothic cathedrals in a
gusty moonlight night of autumn. 'Now in glimmer, and now in gloom;'
often in palpable darkness not without a chilly sensation of terror;
then suddenly emerging into broad yet visionary lights with coloured
shadows of fantastic shapes, yet all decked with holy insignia and
mystic symbols; and ever and anon coming out full upon pictures and
stone-work images of great men, with whose names I was familiar, but
which looked upon me with countenances and an expression, the most
dissimilar to all I had been in the habit of connecting with those
names. Those whom I had been taught to venerate as almost super-human
in magnitude of intellect, I found perched in little fret-work niches,
as grotesque dwarfs; while the grotesques, in my hitherto belief,
stood guarding the high altar with all the characters of apotheosis.
In short, what I had supposed substances were thinned away into
shadows, while everywhere shadows were deepened into substances:

If substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either!

"Yet after all, I could not but repeat the lines which you had quoted
from a MS. poem of your own in the FRIEND, and applied to a work of
Mr. Wordsworth's though with a few of the words altered:

------An Orphic tale indeed,
A tale obscure of high and passionate thoughts
To a strange music chanted!

"Be assured, however, that I look forward anxiously to your great book
on the CONSTRUCTIVE PHILOSOPHY, which you have promised and announced:
and that I will do my best to understand it. Only I will not promise
to descend into the dark cave of Trophonius with you, there to rub my
own eyes, in order to make the sparks and figured flashes, which I am
required to see.

"So much for myself. But as for the Public I do not hesitate a moment
in advising and urging you to withdraw the Chapter from the present
work, and to reserve it for your announced treatises on the Logos or
communicative intellect in Man and Deity. First, because imperfectly
as I understand the present Chapter, I see clearly that you have done
too much, and yet not enough. You have been obliged to omit so many
links, from the necessity of compression, that what remains, looks (if
I may recur to my former illustration) like the fragments of the
winding steps of an old ruined tower. Secondly, a still stronger
argument (at least one that I am sure will be more forcible with you)
is, that your readers will have both right and reason to complain of
you. This Chapter, which cannot, when it is printed, amount to so
little as an hundred pages, will of necessity greatly increase the
expense of the work; and every reader who, like myself, is neither
prepared nor perhaps calculated for the study of so abstruse a subject
so abstrusely treated, will, as I have before hinted, be almost
entitled to accuse you of a sort of imposition on him. For who, he
might truly observe, could from your title-page, to wit, "My Literary
Life and Opinions," published too as introductory to a volume of
miscellaneous poems, have anticipated, or even conjectured, a long
treatise on Ideal Realism which holds the same relation in
abstruseness to Plotinus, as Plotinus does to Plato. It will be well,
if already you have not too much of metaphysical disquisition in your
work, though as the larger part of the disquisition is historical, it
will doubtless be both interesting and instructive to many to whose
unprepared minds your speculations on the esemplastic power would be
utterly unintelligible. Be assured, if you do publish this Chapter in
the present work, you will be reminded of Bishop Berkeley's Siris,
announced as an Essay on Tar-water, which beginning with Tar ends with
the Trinity, the omne scibile forming the interspace. I say in the
present work. In that greater work to which you have devoted so many
years, and study so intense and various, it will be in its proper
place. Your prospectus will have described and announced both its
contents and their nature; and if any persons purchase it, who feel no
interest in the subjects of which it treats, they will have themselves
only to blame.

"I could add to these arguments one derived from pecuniary motives,
and particularly from the probable effects on the sale of your present
publication; but they would weigh little with you compared with the
preceding. Besides, I have long observed, that arguments drawn from
your own personal interests more often act on you as narcotics than as
stimulants, and that in money concerns you have some small portion of
pig-nature in your moral idiosyncrasy, and, like these amiable
creatures, must occasionally be pulled backward from the boat in order
to make you enter it. All success attend you, for if hard thinking and
hard reading are merits, you have deserved it.
Your affectionate, etc."

In consequence of this very judicious letter, which produced complete
conviction on my mind, I shall content myself for the present with
stating the main result of the chapter, which I have reserved for that
future publication, a detailed prospectus of which the reader will
find at the close of the second volume.

The Imagination then I consider either as primary, or secondary. The
primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of
all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the
eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary
Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the
conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of
its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its
operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate:
or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events
it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even
as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.

FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but
fixities and definites. The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of
memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is
blended with, and modified by that empirical phaenomenon of the will,
which we express by the word Choice. But equally with the ordinary
memory the Fancy must receive all its materials ready made from the
law of association.


Occasion of the Lyrical Ballads, and the objects originally proposed--
Preface to the second edition--The ensuing controversy, its causes and
acrimony--Philosophic definitions of a Poem and Poetry with scholia.

During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our
conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry,
the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful
adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest
of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm,
which accidents of light and shade, which moon-light or sunset
diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent
the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature.
The thought suggested itself--(to which of us I do not recollect)--
that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one, the
incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; and
the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the
affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions, as would naturally
accompany such situations, supposing them real. And real in this sense
they have been to every human being who, from whatever source of
delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency.
For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life;
the characters and incidents were to be such as will be found in every
village and its vicinity, where there is a meditative and feeling mind
to seek after them, or to notice them, when they present themselves.

In this idea originated the plan of the LYRICAL BALLADS; in which it
was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and
characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer
from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth
sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing
suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic
faith. Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself as
his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and
to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the
mind's attention to the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the
loveliness and the wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible
treasure, but for which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and
selfish solicitude, we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and
hearts that neither feel nor understand.

With this view I wrote THE ANCIENT MARINER, and was preparing among
other poems, THE DARK LADIE, and the CHRISTABEL, in which I should
have more nearly realized my ideal, than I had done in my first
attempt. But Mr. Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more
successful, and the number of his poems so much greater, that my
compositions, instead of forming a balance, appeared rather an
interpolation of heterogeneous matter. Mr. Wordsworth added two or
three poems written in his own character, in the impassioned, lofty,
and sustained diction, which is characteristic of his genius. In this
form the LYRICAL BALLADS were published; and were presented by him, as
an experiment, whether subjects, which from their nature rejected the
usual ornaments and extra-colloquial style of poems in general, might
not be so managed in the language of ordinary life as to produce the
pleasurable interest, which it is the peculiar business of poetry to
impart. To the second edition he added a preface of considerable
length; in which, notwithstanding some passages of apparently a
contrary import, he was understood to contend for the extension of
this style to poetry of all kinds, and to reject as vicious and
indefensible all phrases and forms of speech that were not included in
what he (unfortunately, I think, adopting an equivocal expression)
called the language of real life. From this preface, prefixed to poems
in which it was impossible to deny the presence of original genius,
however mistaken its direction might be deemed, arose the whole long-
continued controversy. For from the conjunction of perceived power
with supposed heresy I explain the inveteracy and in some instances, I
grieve to say, the acrimonious passions, with which the controversy
has been conducted by the assailants.

Had Mr. Wordsworth's poems been the silly, the childish things, which
they were for a long time described as being had they been really
distinguished from the compositions of other poets merely by meanness
of language and inanity of thought; had they indeed contained nothing
more than what is found in the parodies and pretended imitations of
them; they must have sunk at once, a dead weight, into the slough of
oblivion, and have dragged the preface along with them. But year after
year increased the number of Mr. Wordsworth's admirers. They were
found too not in the lower classes of the reading public, but chiefly
among young men of strong sensibility and meditative minds; and their
admiration (inflamed perhaps in some degree by opposition) was
distinguished by its intensity, I might almost say, by its religious
fervour. These facts, and the intellectual energy of the author, which
was more or less consciously felt, where it was outwardly and even
boisterously denied, meeting with sentiments of aversion to his
opinions, and of alarm at their consequences, produced an eddy of
criticism, which would of itself have borne up the poems by the
violence with which it whirled them round and round. With many parts
of this preface in the sense attributed to them and which the words
undoubtedly seem to authorize, I never concurred; but on the contrary
objected to them as erroneous in principle, and as contradictory (in
appearance at least) both to other parts of the same preface, and to
the author's own practice in the greater part of the poems themselves.
Mr. Wordsworth in his recent collection has, I find, degraded this
prefatory disquisition to the end of his second volume, to be read or
not at the reader's choice. But he has not, as far as I can discover,
announced any change in his poetic creed. At all events, considering
it as the source of a controversy, in which I have been honoured more
than I deserve by the frequent conjunction of my name with his, I
think it expedient to declare once for all, in what points I coincide
with the opinions supported in that preface, and in what points I
altogether differ. But in order to render myself intelligible I must
previously, in as few words as possible, explain my views, first, of a
Poem; and secondly, of Poetry itself, in kind, and in essence.

The office of philosophical disquisition consists in just distinction;
while it is the privilege of the philosopher to preserve himself
constantly aware, that distinction is not division. In order to obtain
adequate notions of any truth, we must intellectually separate its
distinguishable parts; and this is the technical process of
philosophy. But having so done, we must then restore them in our
conceptions to the unity, in which they actually co-exist; and this is
the result of philosophy. A poem contains the same elements as a prose
composition; the difference therefore must consist in a different
combination of them, in consequence of a different object being
proposed. According to the difference of the object will be the
difference of the combination. It is possible, that the object may be
merely to facilitate the recollection of any given facts or
observations by artificial arrangement; and the composition will be a
poem, merely because it is distinguished from prose by metre, or by
rhyme, or by both conjointly. In this, the lowest sense, a man might
attribute the name of a poem to the well-known enumeration of the days
in the several months;

"Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November," etc.

and others of the same class and purpose. And as a particular pleasure
is found in anticipating the recurrence of sounds and quantities, all
compositions that have this charm super-added, whatever be their
contents, may be entitled poems.

So much for the superficial form. A difference of object and contents
supplies an additional ground of distinction. The immediate purpose
may be the communication of truths; either of truth absolute and
demonstrable, as in works of science; or of facts experienced and
recorded, as in history. Pleasure, and that of the highest and most
permanent kind, may result from the attainment of the end; but it is
not itself the immediate end. In other works the communication of
pleasure may be the immediate purpose; and though truth, either moral
or intellectual, ought to be the ultimate end, yet this will
distinguish the character of the author, not the class to which the
work belongs. Blest indeed is that state of society, in which the
immediate purpose would be baffled by the perversion of the proper
ultimate end; in which no charm of diction or imagery could exempt the
BATHYLLUS even of an Anacreon, or the ALEXIS of Virgil, from disgust
and aversion!

But the communication of pleasure may be the immediate object of a
work not metrically composed; and that object may have been in a high
degree attained, as in novels and romances. Would then the mere
superaddition of metre, with or without rhyme, entitle these to the
name of poems? The answer is, that nothing can permanently please,
which does not contain in itself the reason why it is so, and not
otherwise. If metre be superadded, all other parts must be made
consonant with it. They must be such, as to justify the perpetual and
distinct attention to each part, which an exact correspondent
recurrence of accent and sound are calculated to excite. The final
definition then, so deduced, may be thus worded. A poem is that
species of composition, which is opposed to works of science, by
proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth; and from all
other species--(having this object in common with it)--it is
discriminated by proposing to itself such delight from the whole, as
is compatible with a distinct gratification from each component part.

Controversy is not seldom excited in consequence of the disputants
attaching each a different meaning to the same word; and in few
instances has this been more striking, than in disputes concerning the
present subject. If a man chooses to call every composition a poem,


Back to Full Books