The World's Greatest Books, Vol IX.
Edited by Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton

Part 3 out of 6

The kingdoms which Schiller conquered were not for one nation at the
expense of suffering to another; they are kingdoms conquered from the
barren realms of Darkness, to increase the happiness, and dignity, and
power, of all men; new forms of Truth, new maxims of Wisdom, new images
and scenes of Beauty, won from the "void and formless Infinite"; a
"possession for ever," to all the generations of the earth.

* * * * *



Benvenuto Cellini was born in Florence in the year 1500, and
died in the same city on December 13, 1569. He was the
greatest of the craftsmen during the height of the Renaissance
period. Kings and popes vied with each other in trying to
secure his services. His claims to be the king of craftsmen
were admitted by his fellow-artificers, and at the zenith of
his career he had no rivals. Trophies of his skill and
artistic genius remain to confirm the verdict of his own time.
His great bronze statue of Perseus in Florence; the Nymph of
Fontainebleau, now in the Louvre; his golden salt-cellar, made
for Francis I., and now in Vienna--these are a few of his
masterpieces, and any one of them is of a quality to stamp its
maker as a master craftsman of imaginative genius and
extraordinary manual skill. A goldsmith and sculptor, he was
also a soldier, and did service as a fighter and engineer in
the wars of his time. Of high personal courage, he was a
braggart and a ruffian, who used the dagger as freely as the
tools of his craft. His many qualities and complex personality
are revealed in his "Autobiography"--one of the most vivid and
remarkable records ever penned. He began the work in 1558. In
its history his account is accurate, but his testimony
regarding his martial exploits is untrustworthy.

_I.--The Making of a Craftsman_

It is a duty incumbent on upright and credible men of all ranks, who
have performed anything noble or praiseworthy, to record the events of
their lives. Looking back on some delightful and happy events, and on
many misfortunes so truly overwhelming that the appalling retrospect
makes me wonder how I have reached my fifty-eighth year in vigour and
prosperity, through God's goodness, I have resolved to publish an
account of my life.

My name is Benvenuto, the son of Maestro Giovanni Cellini; my mother was
Maria Lisabetta, daughter to Stefano Granacci; and both my parents were
citizens of Florence. My ancestors lived in the valley of Ambra, where
they were lords of considerable domains; they were all trained to arms,
and distinguished for military prowess. Andrea Cellini, my grandfather,
was tolerably well versed in the architecture of those days; and made it
his profession. Giovanni, my father, acquired great proficiency in the
art of designing.

I was born on All Saints' Day, in the year 1500. A girl was anticipated;
but when my father saw with his own eyes the unexpected boy, clasping
his hands together, he lifted up his eyes to Heaven, saying: "Lord, I
thank Thee from the bottom of my heart for this present, which is very
dear and welcome to me." The standers-by asked him, joyfully, how he
proposed to call the child. He made no other answer than: "He is
Welcome." And this name of Welcome (Benvenuto) he resolved to give me at
the font, and so I was christened accordingly. At the age of fifteen I
engaged myself with a goldsmith called Marcone; and so great was my
inclination to improve that in a few months I rivalled most of the
journeymen in the business. I also practised the art of jewellery at
Siena, Bologna, Lucca, and Pisa, in all of which places I executed
several fine pieces of workmanship, which inspired me with an ardent
desire to become more eminent in my profession. I produced a
basso-relievo in silver, carved with a group of foliages and several
figures of youths, and other beautiful grotesques. This coming under the
inspection of the Goldsmiths' Company of Florence, I acquired the
reputation of the most expert young man in the trade.

About this time there came to Florence a sculptor named Torrigiano, who
had just returned from England, where he had resided for several years.
Having inspected my drawings and workmanship, Torrigiano offered to take
me to England; but having abused the divine Michael Angelo, whose
exquisite manner I did my utmost to learn, far from having any
inclination to go with him to England, I could never more bear the sight
of him.

In my nineteenth year I journeyed to Rome, where I went to work under
several masters, studied the antiquities of the city, earned a great
deal of money, and constantly sent the best part of my gains to my
father. At the expiration of two years I returned to Florence, where I
engaged a shop hard by Landi's bank, and executed many works. Envy began
then to rankle in the heart of my former masters, which led to quarrels
and trials before the magistrates. I had to fly back to Rome, disguised
as a friar, on account of a stabbing affray. There I joined Lucagnolo a
goldsmith, and was employed in making plate and jewels by the Cardinals
Cibo, Cornaro, and Salviati, the Bishop of Salamanca, and Signora Porzia
Chigi, and was able to open a shop entirely on my own account. I set
about learning seal engraving, desiring to rival Lautzio, the most
eminent master of that art, the business of medallist, and the elegant
art of enamelling, with the greatest ardour, so that the difficulties
appeared delightful to me. This was through the peculiar indulgence of
the Author of Nature, who had gifted me with a genius so happy that I
could with the utmost ease learn anything to which I gave my mind.

During the plague in Rome I was seized with the disease, but to my own
great surprise survived that terrific attack. When better, I made some
vases of silver for the eminent surgeon, Giacomo Carti, who afterwards
showed them to the Duke of Ferrara and several other princes, assuring
them that they were antiques, and had been presented to him by a great
nobleman. Others were assured that there had not been a man these 3,000
years able to make such figures. Encouraged by these declarations, I
confessed that they were my performances, and by this work I made
considerable gain.

_II.--A Soldier and Goldsmith_

All Europe was now (1527) up in arms, involved in the wars between
Charles V. of Germany and Francis I. of France. Pope Clement VII.
alternately declared in favour of Charles and Francis, hoping to
preserve the balance of political power in Europe, and disbanded the
troops which had garrisoned Rome. Learning this, Charles, Duke of
Bourbon, Constable of France, advanced with a large army of Germans and
Spaniards through Italy, carrying terror and desolation, and appeared
before the walls of Rome.

I raised a company of fifty brave young men, whom I led to the Campo
Santo. When the enemy was scaling the walls I determined to perform some
manly action, and, levelling my arquebuse where I saw the thickest
crowd, I discharged it with a deliberate aim at a person who seemed to
be lifted above the rest, and he fell wounded. He was, as I understood
afterwards, the Duke of Bourbon. On another day I shot at and wounded
the Prince of Orange. Leaving the Campo Santo I made for the Castle of
St. Angelo, just as the castellan was letting down the portcullis. When
I found myself on the castle walls, the artillery was deserted by the
bombardiers, and I took direction of the fire of the artillery and
falcons, and killed a considerable number of the enemy. This made some
cardinals and others bless me, and extol my activity to the skies.
Emboldened by this, I used my utmost exertions; let it suffice that it
was I who preserved the castle that morning. I continued to direct the
artillery with such signal execution as to acquire the favour and good
graces of his holiness the Pope.

One day the Pope happened to walk upon the ramparts, when he saw me fire
a swivel at a Spanish colonel who had formerly been in his service, and
split the man into two pieces. Falling upon my knees, I entreated his
holiness to absolve me from the guilt of homicide and other crimes I had
committed in the castle in the service of the Church. The Pope, lifting
up his hands and making the Sign of the Cross over me, blessed me, and
gave his absolution for all the homicides I had ever committed, or ever
should commit, in the service of the Apostolic Church. After that I kept
up a constant fire, and scarcely once missed all the time. Later, Pope
Clement sent for me to a private apartment, and with his master of the
horse placed before me his regalia, with all the vast quantity of jewels
belonging to the apostolical chamber. I was ordered to take off the gold
in which they were set. I did as directed, and, wrapping up each jewel
in a little piece of paper, we sewed them in the skirts of the Pope's
clothes, and those of the master of the horse. The gold, which amounted
to about a hundred pounds' weight, I was ordered to melt with the utmost
secrecy, which I did, and carried to his holiness without being observed
by anyone.

A few days after, a treaty was concluded with the Imperialists, and
hostilities ceased. Worn out with my exertions during the siege, I
returned to Florence and thence to Mantua, where, on the introduction of
the excellent painter, Giulio Romano, I executed many commissions for
the duke, including a shrine in gold in which to place the relic of the
Blood of Christ, which the Mantuans boast themselves to be possessed of,
and a pontifical seal for the duke's brother, the bishop. An attack of
fever and a quarrel with the duke induced me to return to Florence, to
find that my father and all belonging to my family, except my youngest
sister and brother, were dead of the plague. I opened a shop in the New
Market, and engraved many medals, which received the highest praise from
the divine Michael Angelo.

On the invitation of Pope Clement VII. I retired from Florence, and
repaired to Rome. His holiness commissioned me to execute a button for
the pontifical cope, and to set into it the jewels which I had taken out
of the two crowns in the Castle of St. Angelo. The design was most
beautiful, and so pleased and astonished was the Pope that he employed
me to make new coinage, and appointed me stamp-master of the mint. My
gold coins were pronounced by the Pope's secretary to be superior to
those of the Roman emperors. When I finished my great work upon the
pontifical button it was looked upon as the most exquisite performance
of the kind that had ever been seen in Rome The Pope, I thought, would
never tire of praising it, and he appointed me to a post in the College
of Mace-Bearers, which brought me about 200 crowns a year. About this
time a tumult occurred in the city near the bridge of St. Angelo, in
which my soldier brother was wounded, and died the next day. I was
consumed with desire of revenge upon the musketeer who shot him. One
night I saw him standing at his door, and, with a long dagger, hit him
exactly upon the nape of the neck. The weapon penetrated so deep that,
though I made a great effort to recover it again, I found it impossible.
I took refuge in the palace of Duke Alesandro, and more than eight days
afterwards the Pope sent for me. When I came into his presence he
frowned upon me very much. However, upon viewing some work which I
submitted to him, his countenance grew serene, and he praised me highly.
Then, looking attentively at me, he said: "Now that you have recovered
your health, Benvenuto, take care of yourself." I understood his
meaning, and told him I should not neglect his advice.

_III.--Intrigues at the Papal Court_

Cardinal Salviati more than once showed himself my enemy. He had sent
from Milan, of which city he was Legate, a goldsmith named Tobbia, as a
great artist, capable, so he said, of humbling the pride of his
holiness's favourite, Benvenuto. Another of my enemies was Pompeo, a
Milanese jeweller, and near relation to his holiness's most favoured
servant. At the instigation of this Pompeo I was deprived of my place in
the mint. On another day Pompeo ran in all haste to the Pope, and said:
"Most Holy Father, Benvenuto has just murdered Tobbia; I saw it with my
own eyes." The Pope flew into a violent passion, and ordered the
governor of Rome to seize and hang me directly.

The Cardinal de Medici overheard this, and sent a Roman gentleman to
tell me it was impossible to save me, and advising me to fly from Rome.
I took horse, and bent my course instantly towards Naples. Afterwards I
found that Pope Clement had sent one of the two gentlemen of his
bed-chamber to inquire after Tobbia. That gentleman, upon finding Tobbia
at work, reported the real state of the case to the Pope. His holiness
thereupon turned to Pompeo and said: "You are a most abandoned wretch,
but one thing I can assure you of--you have stirred a snake that will
sting you, and that is what you well deserve."

Arrived in Naples I was received by the viceroy, who showed me a
thousand civilities, and asked me to enter his service. However, having
received a letter from the Cardinal de Medici to return to Rome without
loss of time, I repaired thither on horseback. On reaching my own house
I finished a medal with the head of Pope Clement, and on the reverse a
figure representing Peace, and stamped upon gold, silver, and copper.
His holiness, when presented with the medals, told me they were very
fine, that he was highly pleased with them, and asked me to make another
reverse representing Moses striking the rock, and the water issuing from
it. This I did.

Three days afterwards, Pope Clement died. I put on my sword, and
repaired to St. Peter's, where I kissed the feet of the deceased
pontiff, and could not refrain from tears. On returning, near the Campo
di Fiore, I met my adversary Pompeo, encircled with his bravoes. I
thereupon clapped my hand to a sharp dagger, forced my way through the
file of ruffians, laid hold of Pompeo by the throat, struck him under
the ear, and, upon repeating my blow, he fell down dead. I escaped, and
was protected by Cardinal Cornaro in his own palace.

A few days after, Cardinal Farnese was elected as Pope Paul III. The new
pontiff inquired after me, and declared he would employ nobody else to
stamp his coins, A gentleman said that I was obliged to abscond for
having killed one Pompeo in a fray, to which the Pope made answer: "I
never heard of the death of Pompeo, but I have often heard of
Benvenuto's provocation; so let a safe-conduct be instantly made out,
and that will secure him from all other manner of dangers." A Milanese,
who was a favourite of the pontiff, told his holiness that it might be
of dangerous consequence to grant such favours immediately on being
raised to his new dignity. The Pope instantly said: "You do not
understand these matters; I must inform you that men who are masters in
their profession, like Benvenuto, should not be subject to the laws; but
he less than any other, for I am sensible that he was in the right in
the whole affair." So I entered into the Pope's service.

However, the Pope's natural son having become my enemy, and having
employed a Corsican soldier to assassinate me, I escaped to Florence,
where I was appointed master of the mint by Duke Alessandro de Medici.
The coins which I stamped, with the duke's head on one side and a saint
on the other, his excellency declared were the finest in Christendom.
Shortly after I received from Rome an ample safe-conduct from the Pope,
directing me to repair forthwith to that city at the celebration of the
Feast of the Virgin Mary. This I did, and the Pope granted me a patent
of pardon for killing Pompeo, and caused it to be registered in the

About this time Charles V. returned victorious from his enterprise
against Tunis. When he made his triumphant entry into Rome he was
received with great pomp, and I was nominated by his holiness to carry
his presents of massive gold work and jewels, executed by myself, to the
emperor, who invited me to his court and ordered five hundred gold
crowns to be given me. Stories to my prejudice having been carried to
his holiness, I felt myself to be neglected, and set out for France, but
made no stay there, and returned to Rome. Here I was accused falsely by
a Perugian servant of being possessed of great treasure, the greatest
part of which was said to consist of jewels which belonged to the
Church, and whose booty I had possessed myself of in the Castle of St.
Angelo at the time of the sack of Rome. At the instigation of Pier
Luigi, the Pope's illegitimate son, I was taken as prisoner to the
Castle of St. Angelo, where I was put under examination by the governor
of Rome and other magistrates. I vindicated myself, saying that I got
nothing else in the Church's service at the melancholy sack of Rome but

Accurate inquiry having been made, none of the Pope's jewels were found
missing; but I was left a prisoner in the castle, from which I made a
marvellous escape, only to be consigned again, at the instigation of
Luigi, to the deepest subterranean cell. I would have destroyed myself,
but I had wonderful revelations and visions of St. Peter, who pleaded my
cause with the beautiful Virgin Mary holding Christ in her arms. The
constable informed the Pope of the extraordinary things which I declared
I had seen. The pontiff, who neither believed in God nor in any other
article of religion, sent word that I was mad, and advised him to think
no more about me, but mind his own soul.

_IV.--At the French Court_

About this time the Cardinal of Ferrara came to Rome from the court of
France, and in the name of King Francis urged my release, to which he
got the Pope's consent during a convivial meeting without the knowledge
of Luigi. The Pope's order was brought to the prison at night, and I was
conducted to the palace of the Cardinal. The Cardinal was summoned by
Francis I. to Paris, and to bring me with him.

The French king received me graciously, and I presented him with a cup
and basin which I had executed for his majesty, who declared that
neither the ancients nor the greatest masters of Italy had ever worked
in so exquisite a taste. His majesty ordered me to make him twelve
silver statues. They were to be figures of six gods and six goddesses,
made exactly to his own height, which was very little less than three
cubits. I began zealously to make a model of Jupiter. Next day I showed
him in his palace the model of my great salt-cellar, which he called a
noble production, and commissioned me to make it in gold, commanding
that I should be given directly a thousand old gold crowns, good weight.

As a mark of distinction, the king granted me letters of naturalisation
and a patent of lordship of the Castle of Nesle. Later, I submitted to
the king models of the new palace gates and the great fountain for
Fontainebleau, which appeared to him to be exceedingly beautiful.
Unluckily for me, his favourite, Madame d'Estampes, conceived a deep
resentment at my neglect for not taking notice of her in any of my
designs. When the silver statue of Jupiter was finished and set up in
the corridor of Fontainebleau alongside reproductions in bronze of all
the first-rate antiques recently discovered in Rome, the king cried out:
"This is one of the finest productions of art that was ever beheld; I
could never have conceived a piece of work the hundredth part so
beautiful. From a comparison with these admirable antique figures, it is
evident that this statue of Jupiter is vastly superior to them."

Madame d'Estampes was more highly incensed than ever, but the king said
I was one of the ablest men the world had ever produced. The king
ordered me a thousand crowns, partly as a recompense for my labours, and
partly in payment of some disbursed by myself. I afterwards set about
finishing my colossal statue of Mars, which was to occupy the centre of
the fountain at Fontainebleau, and represented the king. Madame
d'Estampes continuing her spiteful artifices, I requested the Cardinal
of Ferrara to procure leave for me to make a tour to Italy, promising to
return whenever the king should think proper to signify his pleasure. I
departed in an unlucky hour, leaving under the care of my journeymen my
castle and all my effects; but all the way I could not refrain from
sighing and weeping.

At this time Cosmo, Duke of Florence, resided at Poggio Cajano, a place
ten miles from Florence. I there waited upon him to pay my respects, and
he and his duchess received me with the greatest kindness. At the duke's
request I undertook to make a great statue of Perseus delivering
Andromeda from the Medusa. A site was found for me to erect a house in
which I might set up my furnaces, and carry on a variety of works both
of clay and bronze, and of gold and silver separately. While making
progress with my great statue of Perseus, I executed my golden vases,
girdles, and other jewels for the Duchess of Florence, and also a
likeness of the duke larger than life.

For a time I discontinued working upon marble statues and went on with
Perseus, and eventually I triumphed over all the difficulties of casting
it in bronze, although the shop took fire at the critical moment, and
the sky poured in so much rain and wind that my furnace was cooled. I
was so highly pleased that my work had succeeded so well that I went to
Pisa to pay my respects to the duke, who received me in the most
gracious manner, while the duchess vied with him in kindness to me.

_V.--His Later Life in Florence_

About this time the war with Siena broke out, and at the request of the
duke I carried out the repair of the fortifications of two of the gates
of the city of Florence. At last my statue of Perseus was erected in the
great square, and was shown to the populace, who set up so loud a shout
of applause that I began to be comforted for the mortifications I had
undergone. Sonnets and Latin and Greek odes were hung upon the gates in
praise of my performance, but what gave me the highest satisfaction was
that statuaries and painters emulated each other in commending it. Two
days having passed, I paid a visit to the duke, who said to me with
great complaisance: "My friend Benvenuto, you have given me the highest
satisfaction imaginable, and I promise to reward you in such a manner as
to excite your surprise." I shed tears of joy, and kissing the hem of
his excellency's garment, addressed him thus: "My most noble lord,
liberal patron of the arts, I beg leave to retire for a week to return
thanks to the Supreme Being, for I know how hard I have worked, and I am
sensible that my faith has prevailed with God to grant me His
assistance." Permission was given, and I made the pilgrimage to
Vallombrosa and Camaldoli, incessantly singing psalms and saying prayers
to the honour and glory of God.

On my return there were great differences between the duke and myself as
to the reward to be given me for the statue of Perseus, during which the
duchess and the sculptor Bandinello interposed. Bandinello declared that
the work had proved so admirable a masterpiece, that, in his opinion, it
was worth 16,000 gold crowns and upwards. When the duke was informed of
this decision he was highly displeased, and down to the close of the
year 1566 I received no more than 3,000 gold crowns, given to me monthly
by payments of 25, 50, or 100 crowns.

Subsequently, I was employed to erect two pulpits in the choir of St.
Maria del Fiore, and adorn them with historical figures in basso-relievo
of bronze, together with varieties of other embellishments. About this
period, the great block of marble, intended for the gigantic statue of
Neptune, to be placed near the fountain on the Ducal Piazza, was brought
up the River Arno, and thence by road to Florence. A competition took
place between the model which I had made for the statue of Neptune and
that designed by Bandinello. The duchess, who had become my implacable
enemy, favoured Bandinello, and I waited upon her, carrying to her some
pretty trifles of my making, which her excellency liked very much. Then
I added that I had undertaken one of the most laborious tasks in the
world--the carving of a Christ crucified, of the whitest marble, upon a
cross of the blackest, and as large as the life. Upon her asking me what
I proposed doing with it, I said I would freely make her a present of
it; that all I desired was that she would be neutral with respect to the
model of the Neptune which the duke had ordered to be made.

When I had finished the model of Neptune, the duke came to see it. It
gave him high satisfaction, and he said I deserved the prize. Some weeks
later, Bandinello died, and it was generally thought that the grief
which he felt at losing the fine piece of marble out of which the statue
of Neptune was to be made greatly contributed to hasten his dissolution.
When I was working at my great model of Neptune, I was seized with
illness, caused by a dose of sublimate poison administered in food by a
man named Sbietta and his brother, a profligate priest, from whom I had
bought the annuity of a farm. Upon my recovery the duke and the duchess
came unexpectedly with a grand retinue to my workshop to see the image
of Christ upon the Cross, and it pleased them so greatly that they
bestowed the highest encomiums on me. Though I had undergone infinite
labour in its execution, yet with pleasure I made them a present of it,
thinking none more worthy of that fine piece of work than their
excellencies. They talked a long time in praise of my abilities, and the
duchess seemed, as it were, to ask pardon for her past treatment of me.

At this juncture the Queen Dowager of France, Catherine de Medici,
dispatched Signor Baccio del Bene on a mission to our duke. The signor
and I were intimate friends, and he told me that the queen had a strong
desire to finish the sepulchral monument to her husband, King Henry, and
if I chose to return to France and again take possession of my castle, I
should be supplied with whatever I wanted, in case I was willing to
serve her majesty. But when this was communicated to the duke, his
excellency said he meant to keep me in his own service; and the Queen of
France, who had received a loan of money from the duke, did not propose
the thing any more for fear of offending him; so I was obliged to stay,
much against my will.

The last entry in Benvenuto Cellini's manuscript is the announcement of
a journey made by Duke Cosmo with his whole court, including his
brother, the Cardinal de Medici, to Pisa, where the latter was attacked
by "a malignant fever, which in a few days put an end to his life. The
cardinal was one of the duke's chief supporters, and highly beloved by
him, being a person of great virtues and abilities. Consequently, his
loss was severely felt."

In 1554, Benvenuto had been admitted to the ranks of the Florentine
nobility. In 1560 he married Piera, the woman named in his will, who
nursed him through his illness from the poison administered by the
Sbietta family. By her he had five children, two of whom died in
infancy. In 1561, Duke Cosmo made him a grant of a house near San Croce,
in the Via Rosajo, Florence, "in consideration of his admirable talents
in casting, sculpture, and other branches of art." The patent continues:
"We look upon his productions, both in marble and bronze, as evident
proofs of his surpassing genius and incomparable skill."

Benvenuto was deputed by the sculptors of Florence to attend the
obsequies of his great master and friend, Michael Angelo Buonarroti, who
had died on February 18, 1564. Benvenuto died on December 13, 1569, and
was buried by his own direction in the Chapter House of the Church of
the Annunziata, Florence, with great pomp.

* * * * *


Memoirs From Beyond the Grave

The "Memoires d'Outre-Tombe," which was partly published
before Chateaubriand's death, represents a work spread over a
great part of Chateaubriand's life, and reveals as no other of
his books the innermost personality of the man.
(Chateaubriand, biography: see FICTION.)

_I.--Youth and Its Follies_

Four years ago, on my return from the Holy Land, I purchased a little
country house, situated near the hamlet of Aulnay, in the vicinity of
Sceaux and Chatenay. The house is in a valley, encircled by thickly
wooded hills. The ground attached to this habitation is a sort of wild
orchard. These narrow confines seem to me to be fitting boundaries of my
long-protracted hopes. I have selected the trees, as far as I was able,
from the various climes I have visited. They remind me of my wanderings.

Knight-errant as I am, I have the sedentary tastes of a monk. It was
here I wrote the "Martyrs," the "Abencerrages," the "Itineraire," and
"Moise." To what shall I devote myself in the evenings of the present
autumn? This day, October 4, being the anniversary of my entrance into
Jerusalem, tempts me to commence the history of my life.

I am of noble descent, and I have profited by the accident of my birth,
inasmuch as I have retained that firm love of liberty which
characterises the members of an aristocracy whose last hour has sounded.
Aristocracy has three successive ages--the age of superiority, the age
of privilege, and the age of vanity. Having emerged from the first age,
ft degenerates in the second age, and perishes in the third.

When I was a young man, and learned the meaning of love, I was a mystery
to myself. All my days were _adieux_. I could not see a woman without
being troubled. I blushed if one spoke to me. My timidity, already
excessive towards everyone, became so great with a woman that I would
have preferred any torment whatsoever to that of remaining alone with
one. She was no sooner gone than I would have recalled her with all my
heart. Had anyone delivered to me the most beautiful slaves of the
seraglio, I should not have known what to say to them. Accident
enlightened me.

Had I done as other men do, I should sooner have learned the pleasures
and pains of passion, the germ of which I carried in myself; but
everything in me assumed an extraordinary character. The warmth of
imagination, my bashfulness and solitude, caused me to turn back upon
myself. For want of a real object, by the power of my vague desires, I
evoked a phantom which never quitted me more. I know not whether the
history of the human heart furnishes another example of this kind.

I pictured then to myself an ideal beauty, moulded from the various
charms of all the women I had seen. I gave her the eyes of one young
village girl, and the rosy freshness of another. This invisible
enchantress constantly attended me; I communed with her as with a real
being. She varied at the will of my wandering fancy. Now she was Diana
clothed in azure, now Aphrodite unveiled, now Thalia with her laughing
mask, now Hebe bearing the cup of eternal youth.

A young queen approaches, brilliant with diamonds and flowers--this was
always my sylph. She seeks me at midnight, amidst orange groves, in the
corridors of a palace washed by the waves, on the balmy shore of Naples
or Messina; the light sound of her footsteps on the mosaic floor mingles
with the scarcely heard murmur of the waves.

Awaking from these my dreams, and finding myself a poor little obscure
Breton, who would attract the eyes of no one, despair seized upon me. I
no longer dared to raise my eyes to the brilliant phantom which I had
attached to my every step. This delirium lasted for two whole years. I
spoke little; my taste for solitude redoubled. I showed all the symptoms
of a violent passion. I was absent, sad, ardent, savage. My days passed
on in wild, extravagant, mad fashion, which nevertheless had a peculiar

I have now reached a period at which I require some strength of mind to
confess my weakness. I had a gun, the worn-out trigger of which often
went off unexpectedly. I loaded this gun with three balls, and went to a
spot at a considerable distance from the great Mall. I cocked the gun,
put the end of the barrel into my mouth, and struck the butt-end against
the ground. I repeated the attempt several times, but unsuccessfully.
The appearance of a gamekeeper interrupted me in my design. I was a
fatalist, though without my own intention or knowledge. Supposing that
my hour was not yet come, I deferred the execution of my project to
another day.

Any whose minds are troubled by these delineations should remember that
they are listening to the voice of one who has passed from this world.
Reader, whom I shall never know, of me there is nothing--nothing but
what I am in the hands of the living God.

A few weeks later I was sent for one morning. My father was waiting for
me in his cabinet.

"Sir," said he, "you must renounce your follies. Your brother has
obtained for you a commission as ensign in the regiment of Navarre. You
must presently set out for Rennes, and thence to Cambray. Here are a
hundred louis-d'or; take care of them. I am old and ill--I have no long
time to live. Behave like a good man, and never dishonour your name."

He embraced me. I felt the hard and wrinkled face pressed with emotion
against mine. This was my father's last embrace.

The mail courier brought me to my garrison. Having joined the regiment
in the garb of a citizen, twenty-four hours afterwards I assumed that of
a soldier; it appeared as if I had worn it always. I was not fifteen
days in the regiment before I became an officer. I learned with facility
both the exercise and the theory of arms. I passed through the offices
of corporal and sergeant with the approbation of my instructors. My
rooms became the rendezvous of the old captains, as well as of the young

The same year in which I went through my first training in arms at
Cambray brought news of the death of Frederic II. I am now ambassador to
the nephew of this great king, and write this part of my memoirs in
Berlin. This piece of important public news was succeeded by another,
mournful to me. It was announced to me that my father had been carried
off by an attack of apoplexy.

I lamented M. de Chateaubriand. I remembered neither his severity nor
his weakness. If my father's affection for me partook of the severity of
his character, in reality it was not the less deep. My brother announced
to me that I had already obtained the rank of captain of cavalry, a rank
entitling me to honour and courtesy.

A few days later I set out to be presented at the first court in Europe.
I remember my emotion when I saw the king at Versailles. When the king's
levee was announced, the persons not presented withdrew. I felt an
emotion of vanity; I was not proud of remaining, but I should have felt
humiliated at having to retire. The royal bed-chamber door opened; I saw
the king, according to custom, finishing his toilet. He advanced, on his
way to the chapel, to hear mass. I bowed, Marshal de Duras announcing my
name--"Sire, le Chevalier de Chateaubriand."

The king graciously returned my salutation, and seemed to wish to
address me; but, more embarrassed than I, finding nothing to say to me,
he passed on. This sovereign was Louis XVI., only six years before he
was brought to the scaffold.

_II.--In the Years of Revolution_

My political education was begun by my residence, at different times, in
Brittany in the years 1787 and 1788. The states of this province
furnished the model of the States-General; and the particular troubles
which broke out in the provinces of Brittany and Dauphiny were the
forerunners of those of the nation at large.

The change which had been developing for two hundred years was then
reaching its limits. France was rapidly tending to a representative
system by means of a contest of the magistracy with the royal power.

The year 1789, famous in the history of France, found me still on the
plains of my native Brittany. I could not leave the province till late
in the year, and did not reach Paris till after the pillage of the
Maison Reveillon, the opening of the States-General, the constitution of
the Tiers-Etat in the National Assembly, the oath of the Jeu-de-Paume,
the royal council of the 23rd of June, and the junction of the clergy
and nobility in the Tiers-Etat. The court, now yielding, now attempting
to resist, allowed itself to be browbeaten by Mirabeau.

The counter-blow to that struck at Versailles was felt at Paris. On July
14 the Bastille was taken. I was present as a spectator at this event.
If the gates had been kept shut the fortress would never have been
taken. De Launay, dragged from his dungeon, was murdered on the steps of
the Hotel de Ville. Flesselles, the _prevot des marchands_, was shot
through the head. Such were the sights delighted in by heartless saintly
hypocrites. In the midst of these murders the people abandoned
themselves to orgies similar to those carried on in Rome during the
troubles under Otto and Vitellius. The monarchy was demolished as
rapidly as the Bastille in the sitting of the National Assembly on the
evening of August 4.

My regiment, quartered at Rouen, preserved its discipline for some time.
But at length insurrection broke out among the soldiers in Navarre. The
Marquis de Mortemar emigrated; the officers followed him. I had neither
adopted nor rejected the new opinions; I neither wished to emigrate nor
to continue my military career. I therefore retired, and I decided to go
to America.

I sailed for that land, and my heart beat when we sighted the American
coast, faintly traced by the tops of some maple-trees emerging, as it
were, from the sea. A pilot came on board and we sailed into the
Chesapeake and soon set foot on American soil.

At that time I had a great admiration for republics, though I did not
believe them possible in our era of the world. My idea of liberty
pictured her such as she was among the ancients, daughter of the manners
of an infant society. I knew her not as the daughter of enlightenment
and the civilisation of centuries; as the liberty whose reality the
representative republic has proved--God grant it may be durable! We are
no longer obliged to work in our own little fields, to curse arts and
sciences, if we would be free.

I met General Washington. He was tall, calm, and cold rather than noble
in mien; the engravings of him are good. We sat down, and I explained to
him as well as I could the motive of my journey. He answered me in
English and French monosyllables, and listened to me with a sort of
astonishment. I perceived this, and said to him with some warmth: "But
is it less difficult to discover the north-west passage than to create a
nation as you have done?"

"Well, well, young man!" cried he, holding out his hand to me. He
invited me to dine with him on the following day, and we parted. I took
care not to fail in my appointment. The conversation turned on the
French Revolution, and the general showed us a key of the Bastille. Such
was my meeting with the citizen soldier--the liberator of a world.

_III.--Paris in the Reign of Terror_

In 1792, when I returned to Paris, it no longer exhibited the same
appearance as in 1789 and 1790. It was no longer the new-born
Revolution, but a people intoxicated, rushing on to fulfil its destiny
across abysses and by devious ways. The appearance of the people was no
longer curious and eager, but threatening.

The king's flight on June 21, 1791, gave an immense impulse to the
Revolution. Having been brought back to Paris on June 25, he was
dethroned for the first time, in consequence of the declaration of the
National Assembly that all its decrees should have the force of law,
without the king's concurrence or assent. I visited several of the

The scenes at the Cordeliers, at which I was three or four times
present, were ruled and presided over by Danton--a Hun, with the nature
of a Goth.

Faithful to my instincts, I had returned from America to offer my sword
to Louis XVI., not to involve myself in party intrigues. I therefore
decided to "emigrate." Brussels was the headquarters of the most
distinguished _emigres_. There I found my trifling baggage, which had
arrived before me. The coxcomb _emigres_ were hateful to me. I was eager
to see those like myself, with 600 livres income.

My brother remained at Brussels as an aide-de-camp to the Baron de
Montboissier. I set out alone for Coblentz, went up the Rhine to that
city, but the royal army was not there. Passing on, I fell in with the
Prussian army between Coblentz and Treves. My white uniform caught the
king's eye. He sent for me; he and the Duke of Brunswick took off their
hats, and in my person saluted the old French army.

_IV.--The Army of Princes_

I was almost refused admission into the army of princes, for there were
already too many gallant men ready to fight. But I said I had just come
from America to have the honour of serving with old comrades. The matter
was arranged, the ranks were opened to receive me, and the only
remaining difficulty was where to choose. I entered the 7th company of
the Bretons. We had tents, but were in want of everything else.

Our little army marched for Thionville. We went five or six leagues a
day. The weather was desperate. We began the siege of Thionville, and in
a few days were reinforced by Austrian cannon and cannoneers. The
besieged made an attack on us, and in this action we had several wounded
and some killed. We relinquished the siege of Thionville and set out for
Verdun, which had surrendered to the allies. The passage of Frederic
William was attested on all sides by garlands and flowers. In the midst
of these trophies of peace I observed the Prussian eagle displayed on
the fortifications of Verdun. It was not to remain long; as for the
flowers, they were destined to fade, like the innocent creatures who had
gathered them. One of the most atrocious murders of the reign of terror
was that of the young girls of Verdun.

"Fourteen young girls of Verdun, of rare beauty, and almost like young
virgins dressed for a public fete, were," says Riouffe, "led in a body
to the scaffold. I never saw among us any despair like that which this
infamous act excited."

I had been wounded during the siege of Thionville, and was suffering
badly. While I was asleep, a splinter from a shell struck me on the
right thigh. Roused by the stroke, but not being sensible of the pain, I
only saw that I was wounded by the appearance of the blood. I bound up
my thigh with my handkerchief. At four in the morning we thought the
town had surrendered, but the gates were not opened, and we were obliged
to think of a retreat. We returned to our positions after a harassing
march of three days. While these drops of blood were shed under the
walls of Thionville, torrents were flowing in the prisons of Paris; my
wife and sisters were in greater danger than myself.

At Verdun, fever after my wound undermined my strength, and smallpox
attacked me. Yet I began a journey on foot of two hundred leagues, with
only eighteen livres in my pocket. All for the glory of the monarchy! I
intended to try to reach Ostend, there to embark for Jersey, and thence
to join the royalists in Brittany. Breaking down on the road, I lay
insensible for two hours, swooning away with a feeling of religion. The
last noise I heard was the whistling of a bullfinch. Some drivers of the
Prince de Ligne's waggons saw me, and in pity lifted me up and carried
me to Namur. Others of the prince's people carried me to Brussels. Here
I found my brother, who brought a surgeon and a doctor to attend to me.
He told me of the events of August 10, of the massacres of September,
and other political news of which I had not heard. He approved of my
intention to go to Jersey, and lent me twenty-five louis-d'or. We were
looking on each other for the last time.

After reaching Jersey, I was four months dangerously ill in my uncle's
house, where I was tenderly nursed. Recovering, I went in 1793 to
England, landing as a poor emigre where now, in 1822, I write these
memoirs, and enjoy the dignity of ambassador.

_V.--Letters from the Dead_

Several of my family fell victims to the Revolution. I learned in July,
1783, that my mother, after having been thrown, at the age of
seventy-two, into a dungeon, where she witnessed the death of some of
her children, expired at length on a pallet, to which her misfortunes
had consigned her. The thoughts of my errors greatly embittered her last
days, and on her death-bed she charged one of my sisters to reclaim me
to the religion in which I had been educated. My sister Julie
communicated my mother's last wish to me. When this letter reached me in
my exile, my sister herself was no more; she, too, had sunk beneath the
effects of her imprisonment. These two voices, coming as it were from
the grave--the dead interpreting the dead--had a powerful effect on me.
I became a Christian. I did not, indeed, yield to any great supernatural
light; my conviction came from my heart; I wept, I believed.

* * * * *


Letters to His Son

A capable statesman, an accomplished diplomatist, and the
courtliest and best-bred man of his century, Philip Dormer
Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield, born on September 22,
1694, and dead March 24, 1773, would have been almost
forgotten at the present day but for the preservation of his
letters to his natural son, Philip Stanhope. It was the
ambition of Lord Chesterfield's life that this young man
should be a paragon of learning and manners. In a voluminous
series of letters, more than 400 of which are preserved, his
father minutely directed his classical and political studies,
and, above all, instructed him with endless insistence as to
his bearing in society, impressed upon him the importance of
good breeding, the "graces," and the general deportment
required of a person of quality. The letters are a classic of
courtliness and worldly wisdom. They were prepared for the
press by Philip Stanhope's widow, and were published in 1774,
under the title of "Letters Written by the Earl of
Chesterfield, together with Several other Pieces on Various
Subjects." Since then many editions have appeared, bearing
such titles as "The Fine Gentleman," "The Elements of Polite
Education," etc.

_I.--On Manners and Address_

London, _December_ 29, 1747. I have received two letters from you of the
17th and 22nd, by the last of which I find that some of mine to you must
have miscarried; for I have never been above two posts without writing
to you or to Mr. Harte, and even very long letters. I have also received
a letter from Mr. Harte, which gives me great satisfaction; it is full
of your praises.

Your German will go on, of course; and I take it for granted that your
stay at Leipsig will make you a perfect master of that language, both as
to speaking and writing; for remember, that knowing any language
imperfectly is very little better than not knowing it at all, people
being as unwilling to speak in a language which they do not possess
thoroughly as others are to hear them.

Go to the Duchess of Courland's as often as she and your leisure will
permit. The company of women of fashion will improve your manners,
though not your understanding; and that complaisance and politeness,
which are so useful in men's company, can only be acquired in women's.

Remember always what I have told you a thousand times, that all the
talents in the world will want all their lustre, and some part of their
use, too, if they are not advanced with that easy good-breeding, that
engaging manner, and those graces, which seduce and prepossess people in
your favour at first sight. A proper care of your person is by no means
to be neglected; always extremely clean; upon proper occasions, fine.
Your carriage genteel, and your motions graceful. Take particular care
of your manners and address when you present yourself in company. Let
them be respectful without meanness, easy without too much familiarity,
genteel without affectation, and insinuating without any seeming art or
design.... Adieu!

_II.--On the Art of Pleasing_

_Bath, March_ 9, 1748. I must from time to time remind you of what I
have often recommended to you, and of what you cannot attend to too
much: sacrifice to the graces. Intrinsic merit alone will not do; it
will gain you the general esteem of all, but not the particular
affection, that is the heart, of any. To engage the affections of any
particular person you must, over and above your general merit, have some
particular merit to that person; by services done, or offered; by
expressions of regard and esteem; by complaisance, attentions, etc., for
him; and the graceful manner of doing all these things opens the way to
the heart, and facilitates, or rather, insures, their effects.

A thousand little things, not separately to be described, conspire to
form these graces, this _je ne scais quoi,_ that always pleases. A
pretty person, a proper degree of dress, an harmonious voice, something
open and cheerful in the countenance, but without laughing; a distinct
and properly varied manner of speaking; all these things and many others
are necessary ingredients in the composition of the pleasing _je ne
scais quoi_, which everybody feels, though nobody can describe. Observe
carefully, then, what displeases or pleases you in others, and be
persuaded that, in general, the same things will please or displease
them in you.

Having mentioned laughing, I must particularly warn you against it; and
I would heartily wish that you may often be seen to smile, but never
heard to laugh while you live. Frequent and loud laughter is the
characteristic of folly and ill-manners; it is the manner in which the
mob express their silly joy at silly things; and they call it being
merry. In my mind there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as
audible laughter. I am neither of a melancholy nor a cynical
disposition, and am as willing and as apt to be pleased as anybody; but
I am sure that since I have had the full use of my reason nobody has
ever heard me laugh. Many people, at first, from awkwardness and
_mauvaise honte_, have got a very disagreeable and silly trick of
laughing whenever they speak.

This, and many other very disagreeable habits, are owing to _mauvaise
honte_ at their first setting out in the world. They are ashamed in
company, and so disconcerted that they do not know what they do, and try
a thousand tricks to keep themselves in countenance; which tricks
afterwards grow habitual to them. Some put their fingers in their nose,
others scratch their heads, others twirl their hats; in short, every
awkward, ill-bred body has its tricks. But the frequency does not
justify the thing, and all these vulgar habits and awkwardness are most
carefully to be guarded against, as they are great bars in the way of
the art of pleasing.

_London, September_ 5, 1748. I have received yours, with the enclosed
German letter to Mr. Grevenkop, which he assures me is extremely well
written, considering the little time that you have applied yourself to
that language.

St. Thomas's Day now draws near, when you are to leave Saxony and go to
Berlin. Berlin will be entirely a new scene to you, and I look upon it,
in a manner, as your first step into the great world; take care that
step be not a false one, and that you do not stumble at the threshold.
You will there be in more company than you have yet been; manners and
attentions will, therefore, be more necessary.

You will best acquire these by frequenting the companies of people of
fashion; but then you must resolve to acquire them, in those companies,
by proper care and observation. When you go into good company--by good
company is meant the people of the first fashion of the place--observe
carefully their turn, their manners, their address; and conform your own
to them. But this is not all either; go deeper still; observe their
characters, and pry into both their hearts and their heads. Seek for
their particular merit, their predominant passion, or their prevailing
weakness; and you will then know what to bait your hook with to catch

As women are a considerable, or, at least, a pretty numerous part of
company; and as their suffrages go a great way towards establishing a
man's character in the fashionable part of the world, which is of great
importance to the fortune and figure he proposes to make in it, it is
necessary to please them. I will, therefore, upon this subject, let you
into certain _arcana_ that will be very useful for you to know, but
which you must, with the utmost care, conceal and never seem to know.

Women, then, are only children of a larger growth; they have an
entertaining tattle, and sometimes wit; but for solid reasoning, good
sense, I never knew in my life one that had it, or who reasoned or acted
consequentially for four-and-twenty hours together. Some little passion
or humour always breaks in upon their best resolutions. Their beauty
neglected or controverted, their age increased or their supposed
understandings depreciated, instantly kindles their little passions, and
overturns any system of consequential conduct that in their most
reasonable moments they have been capable of forming. A man of sense
only trifles with them, plays with them, humours and flatters them, as
he does with a sprightly, forward child; but he neither consults them
about nor trusts them with, serious matters; though he often makes them
believe that he does both, which is the thing in the world that they are
proud of.

But these are secrets, which you must keep inviolably, if you would not,
like Orpheus, be torn to pieces by the whole sex. On the contrary, a man
who thinks of living in the great world must be gallant, polite, and
attentive to please the women. They have, from the weakness of men, more
or less influence in all courts; they absolutely stamp every man's
character in the _beau monde,_ and make it either current, or cry it
down, and stop it in payment.

It is, therefore, absolutely necessary to manage, please, and flatter
them; and never to discover the least mark of contempt, which is what
they never forgive; but in this they are not singular, for it is the
same with men, who will much sooner forgive an injustice than an insult.

These are some of the hints which my long experience in the great world
enables me to give you, and which, if you attend to them, may prove
useful to you in your journey through it. I wish it may be a prosperous
one; at least, I am sure that it must be your own fault if it is not.

_III.--The Secret of Good Breeding_

_London, November_ 3, 1749. From the time that you have had life, it has
been the principal and favourite object of mine to make you as perfect
as the imperfections of human nature will allow. In this view, I have
grudged no pains nor expense in your education, convinced that
education, more than nature, is the cause of that great difference which
you see in the characters of men. While you were a child I endeavoured
to form your heart habitually to virtue and honour, before your
understanding was capable of showing you their beauty and utility. Those
principles, which you then got, like your grammar rules, only by rote,
are now, I am persuaded, fixed and confirmed by reason.

My next object was sound and useful learning. All that remains for me
then to wish, to recommend, to inculcate, to order, and to insist upon,
is good breeding, without which all your other qualifications will be
lame, unadorned, and to a certain degree unavailing. And here I fear,
and have too much reason to believe, that you are greatly deficient. The
remainder of this letter, therefore, shall be--and it will not be the
last by a great many--upon the subject of good breeding.

A friend of yours and mine has very justly defined good breeding to be
the result of much good sense, some good nature, and a little
self-denial for the sake of others, and with a view to obtain the same
indulgence from them. Taking this for granted, as I think it cannot be
disputed, it is astonishing to me that anybody who has good sense and
good nature, and I believe you have both, can essentially fail in good
breeding. As to the modes of it, indeed, they vary according to persons
and places and circumstances, and are only to be acquired by observation
and experience; but the substance of it is everywhere and eternally the
same. Good manners are, to particular societies, what good morals are to
society in general; their cement and their security. And as laws are
enacted to enforce good morals, or, at least, to prevent the ill-effects
of bad ones, so there are certain rules of civility, universally implied
and received, to enforce good manners, and punish bad ones.

Mutual complaisances, attentions, and sacrifices of little conveniences,
are as natural an implied compact between civilised people as protection
and obedience are between kings and subjects; whoever, in either case,
violates that compact justly forfeits all advantages arising from it.
For my own part, I really think that, next to the consciousness of doing
a good action, that of doing a civil one is the most pleasing; and the
epithet which I should covet the most, next to that of Aristides, would
be that of well-bred.

I will conclude with these axioms:

That the deepest learning, without good breeding, is unwelcome and
tiresome pedantry, and of use nowhere but in a man's own closet; and,
consequently, of little or no use at all.

That a man who is not perfectly well-bred, is unfit for good company,
and therefore unwelcome in it; will consequently dislike it soon,
afterwards renounce it, and be reduced to solitude, or, what is
considerably worse, low and bad company.

_IV.--The Fruits of Observation_

_London, September 22_, 1752. The day after the date of my last, I
received your letter of the 8th. I approve extremely of your intended
progress. I would have you see everything with your own eyes, and hear
everything with your own ears, for I know, by very long experience, that
it is very unsafe to trust to other people's, Vanity and interest cause
many misrepresentations, and folly causes many more. Few people have
parts enough to relate exactly and judiciously; and those who have, for
some reason or other, never fail to sink or to add some circumstances.

The reception which you have met with at Hanover I look upon as an omen
of your being well-received everywhere else, for, to tell you the truth,
it was the place that I distrusted the most in that particular. But
there is a certain conduct, there are _certaines manieres_, that will,
and must, get the better of all difficulties of that kind. It is to
acquire them that you still continue abroad, and go from court to court;
they are personal, local, and temporal; they are modes which vary, and
owe their existence to accidents, whim, and humour. All the sense and
reason in the world would never point them out; nothing but experience,
observation, and what is called knowledge of the world can possibly
teach them.

This knowledge is the true object of a gentleman's travelling, if he
travels as he ought to do. By frequent good company in every country he
himself becomes of every country; he is no longer an Englishman, a
Frenchman, or an Italian; but he is a European. He adopts respectively
the best manners of every country, and is a Frenchman at Paris, an
Italian at Rome, an Englishman at London.

This advantage, I must confess, very seldom accrues to my countrymen
from their travelling, as they have neither the desire nor the means of
getting into good company abroad; for, in the first place, they are
confoundedly bashful; and, in the next place, they either speak no
foreign language at all, or, if they do, it is barbarously. You possess
all the advantages that they want; you know the languages in perfection,
and have constantly kept the best company in the places where you have
been, so that you ought to be a European.

There is, in all good company, a fashionable air, countenance, manner,
and phraseology, which can only be acquired by being in good company,
and very attentive to all that passes there. There is a certain
distinguishing diction of a man of fashion; he will not content himself
with saying, like John Trott, to a new-married man, "Sir, I wish you
joy"--or to a man who lost his son, "Sir I am sorry for your loss," and
both with a countenance equally unmoved; but he will say in effect the
same thing in a more elegant and less trivial manner, and with a
countenance adapted to the occasion. He will advance with warmth,
vivacity, and a cheerful countenance to the new-married man, and,
embracing him, perhaps say to him, "If you do justice to my attachment
to you, you will judge of the joy that I feel upon this occasion better
than I can express it." To the other, in affliction, he will advance
slowly, with a grave composure of countenance, in a more deliberate
manner, and with a lower voice perhaps, say, "I hope you do me the
justice to be convinced that I feel whatever you feel, and shall ever be
affected where you are concerned."

_V.--On the Arts_

Mr. Harte tells me that he intends to give you, by means of Signor
Vincentini, a general notion of civil and military architecture; with
which I am very well pleased. They are frequent subjects of
conversation. I would also have you acquire a liberal taste of the two
liberal arts of painting and sculpture. All these sorts of things I
would have you know, to a certain degree; but remember that they must
only be the amusements, and not the business, of a man of parts.

As you are now in a musical country [Italy], where singing, fiddling,
and piping are not only the common topics of conversation but almost the
principal objects of attention, I cannot help cautioning you against
giving in to those--I will call them illiberal--pleasures, though music
is commonly reckoned one of the liberal arts, to the degree that most of
your countrymen do when they travel in Italy. If you love music, hear
it; go to operas, concerts, and pay fiddlers to play to you, but I
insist upon your neither piping nor fiddling yourself. It puts a
gentleman in a very frivolous, contemptible light, brings him into a
great deal of bad company, and takes up a great deal of time which might
be much better employed.

I confess I cannot help forming some opinion of a man's sense and
character from his dress, and I believe most people do as well as
myself. A man of sense carefully avoids any particular character in his
dress; he is accurately clean for his own sake; but all the rest is for
other people's. He dresses as well, and in the same manner, as the
people of sense and fashion of the place where he is. If he dresses
better, as he thinks, that is, more than they, he is a fop; if he
dresses worse, he is unpardonably negligent; but of the two, I would
rather have a young fellow too much than too little dressed--the excess
on that side will wear off with a little age; but if he is negligent at
twenty, he will be a sloven at forty, and stink at fifty years old.

As to the genius of poetry, I own, if Nature has not given it you, you
cannot have it, for it is a true maxim that _Poeta nascitur non fit_. It
is much otherwise with oratory, and the maxim there is _Orator fit_, for
it is certain that by study and application every man can make himself a
pretty good orator, eloquence depending upon observation and care. Every
man, if he pleases, may choose good words instead of bad ones, may speak
properly instead of improperly, may be clear and perspicuous in his
recitals instead of dark and muddy, may have grace instead of
awkwardness in his motions and gestures, and, in short, may be a very
agreeable instead of a very disagreeable speaker if he will take care
and pains. And surely it is very well worth while to take a great deal
of pains to excel other men in that particular article in which they
excel beasts.

That ready wit, which you so partially allow me, and so justly Sir
Charles Williams, may create many admirers; but, take my word for it, it
makes few friends. It shines and dazzles like the noonday sun, but, like
that, too, is very apt to scorch, and therefore is always feared. The
milder morning and evening light and heat of that planet soothe and calm
our minds. Never seek for wit; if it presents itself, well and good; but
even in that case, let your judgement interpose, and take care that it
be not at the expense of anybody.

* * * * *


The Letters of Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero was born on January 3, 106 B.C. Educated
under the best teachers in the Greek culture of the day, he
won a speedy reputation at the Bar and developed a keen
interest in the various schools of Greek philosophy. His able
and intrepid exposure of Catiline's conspiracy brought him the
highest popularity, but he was attacked, in turn, by the
ignoble Clodius, who obtained his banishment in 58 B.C. In the
ensuing conflict between Caesar and Pompey, Cicero was attached
to the party of Pompey and the senate, as against Caesar and
the people. He kept clear of the conspiracy against Caesar's
life, but after the assassination he undertook an oratorical
campaign against Antony, and was entrusted with the government
of the city. But on the return of the triumvirate, Octavianus,
Antony, and Lepidus, Cicero's name was included in the list of
those who were to be done away, and he was murdered in the
year 43 B.C., at 63 years of age. The correspondence of the
great Roman advocate, statesman, and man of letters, preserved
for us by the care of his freedman Tiro, is the richest and
most interesting collection of its kind in the world's
archives. The many-sided personality of their writer, his
literary charm, the frankness with which he set down his
opinions, hopes, and anxieties, the profound historical
interest of this period of the fall of the republic, and the
intimate glimpses which we get of Roman life and manners,
combine to make Cicero's "Letters" perennially attractive. The
series begins in B.C. 68, when Cicero was 38 years of age, and
runs on to within a short time of his death in B.C. 43. The
letters, of which there are 800, are addressed to several
correspondents, of whom the most frequent and important is
Titus Pomponius, surnamed Atticus, whose sister had married
Cicero's brother Quintus. Atticus was a wealthy and cultivated
man who had lived many years in Athens. He took no side in the
perilous politics of the time, but Cicero relied always on his
affectionate counsel, and on his ever-ready service in
domestic matters.

_To Atticus_

There is nothing I need so much just now as someone with whom I may
discuss all my anxieties, someone with whom I may speak quite frankly
and without pretences. My brother, who is all candour and kindness, is
away. Metellus is empty as the air, barren as the desert. And you, who
have so often relieved my cares and sorrows by your conversation and
counsel, and have always been my support in politics and my confidant in
all private affairs, the partner of all my thoughts and plans--where are

I am so utterly deserted that I have no other comfort but in my wife and
daughter and dear little Cicero. For those ambitious friendships with
great people are all show and tinsel, and contain nothing that satisfies
inwardly. Every morning my house swarms with visitors; I go down to the
Forum attended by troops of friends; but in the whole crowd there is no
one with whom I can freely jest, or whom I can trust with an intimate
word. It is for you that I wait; I need your presence; I even implore
you to come.

I have a load of anxieties and troubles, of which, if you could listen
to them in one of our walks together, you would go far to relieve me. I
have to keep to myself the stings and vexations of my domestic troubles;
I dare not trust them to this letter and to an unknown courier. I don't
want you to think them greater than they are, but they haunt and worry
me, and there is no friendly counsel to alleviate them. As for the
republic, though my courage and will toward it are not diminished, yet
it has again and again itself evaded remedy. If I were to tell you all
that has happened since you went away, you would certainly say that the
Roman state must be nearing its fall. The Clodian scandal was, I think,
the first episode after your departure. On that occasion, thinking that
I had an opportunity of cutting down and restraining the licentiousness
of the young men, I exerted myself with all my might, and brought into
play every power of my mind, not in hostility to an individual, but in
the hope of correcting and healing the state. But a venal and profligate
verdict in the matter has brought upon the republic the gravest injury.
And see what has taken place since.

A consul has been imposed upon us whom no one, unless a philosopher like
ourselves, can look at without a sigh. What an injury that is! Again,
although a decree of the senate with regard to bribery and corruption
has been passed, no law has been carried through; and the senate has
been harassed beyond endurance and the Roman knights have been
alienated. So, in one year, two pillars of the republic, which had been
established by me alone, have been overturned; the authority of the
senate has been destroyed and the concord of the two orders has been

_To Lucius Lucceius, the Historian_ B.C. 56

I have often intended to speak to you about the subject of this letter,
and have always been restrained by a certain awkward bashfulness. But a
letter will not blush; I can make my request at a distance. It is this:
I am incredibly eager, and, after all, there is nothing disgraceful in
my eagerness, that the history which you are writing should give
prominence to my name, and praise it frequently. You have often given me
to understand that I should receive that honour, but you must pardon my
impatience to see it actually conferred. I have always expected that
your work would be of great excellence, but the part which I have lately
seen exceeds all that I had imagined, and has inflamed me with the
keenest desire that my career should at once be celebrated in your
records. What I desire is not only that my name should go down to future
ages, but also that even while I live I may see my reputation endorsed
by your authority and illumined by your genius.

Of course, I know very well that you are sufficiently occupied with the
period on which you are engaged. But, realising that your account of the
Italian and Marian civil wars is almost completed, and that you are
already entering upon our later annals, I cannot refrain from asking you
to consider whether it would be better to weave my career into the
general texture of your work, or to mould it into a distinct episode.
Several Greek writers have given examples of the latter method; thus
Callisthenes, Timaeus, and Polybius, treating respectively of the Trojan
war, and of the wars of Pyrrhus and of Numantia, detached their
narratives of these conflicts from their main treatises; and it is open
to you, in a similar way, to treat of the Catiline conspiracy
independently of the main current of your history.

In suggesting this course, I do not suppose that it will make much
difference to my reputation; my point is rather that my desire to appear
in your work will be satisfied so much the earlier if you proceed to
deal with my affairs separately and by anticipation, instead of waiting
until they arise as elements in the general course of affairs. Besides,
by concentrating your mind on one episode and on one person, your matter
will be much more detailed and your treatment of it far more elaborate.

I am conscious, of course, that my request is not exactly a modest one.
It is to lay a task on you which your occupations may well justify you
in refusing; and, again, it is to ask you to celebrate actions which you
may not think altogether worthy of so much honour. But having already
passed beyond the bounds of modesty, I may as well show myself boldly
shameless. Well, then, I implore you repeatedly, not only to praise my
conduct more warmly than may be justified by your feeling with regard to
it, but even, if necessary, to transgress the laws of history. One of
your prefaces indicates, most acceptably and plainly, your personal
amity; but just as Hercules, according to Xenophon, was incorruptible by
pleasure, so you have made a point of resisting the influence of private
feeling. I ask you not to resist this partiality; to give to affection
somewhat more than truth can afford.

If I can prevail upon you to fall in with my proposal, I am confident
that you will find the subject not unworthy of your genius and of your
eloquence. The period from the rise of Catiline's conspiracy to my
return from banishment should furnish a memoir of moderate size, and the
story of my fortunes would supply you with a variety of incident, such
as might be made, in your hands, a work of great charm and interest. For
these reasons you will best meet my wishes if you determine to make a
separate book out of the drama of my life and fortunes.

_To Marcus Marius_ B.C. 55

If it was ill-health that kept you from coming up to town for the games,
I must set down your absence to fortune and not to your own wisdom. But
if it was because you despise these shows which the world admires so
much, then I congratulate you on your health and your good sense alike.
You were left almost alone in your charming country, and I have no doubt
that on mornings when the rest of us, half asleep, were sitting out
stale farces, you were reading in your library.

The games were magnificent, but not what you would have cared for. At
least, they were far from my taste. In honour of the occasion, certain
veteran actors returned to the stage, which they had left long ago, as I
imagined, in the interests of their own reputation. My old friend Aesop,
in particular, had failed so much that no one could be sorry he had
retired; his voice gave way altogether. AS for the rest of the festival,
it was not even so attractive as far less ambitious shows generally are;
the pageants were on such an enormous scale that light-hearted enjoyment
was out of the question. You need not mind having missed them. There is
no pleasure, for instance, in seeing six hundred mules at once in
"Clytaemnestra," or a whole army of gaily-dressed horse and foot engaged
in a theatrical battle. These spectacular effects delight the crowd, but
not you. If you were listening to your reader Protogenes, you had
greater pleasure than fell to any of us. The big-game hunts, continued
through five days, were certainly magnificent. Yet, after all, how can a
person of any refinement enjoy seeing a helpless man torn by a wild
beast of enormous strength, or a noble animal dying under a spear
thrust? If there is anything worth seeing in exhibitions of that kind,
you have often seen it; there was nothing new to me in all I saw. On the
last day the elephants were brought out, and though the populace were
mightily astonished they were not by any means pleased. On the contrary,
a wave of pity went through them, and there was a general impression
that these great creatures have something in common with man.

_To Atticus, in Rome_ Laodicea, B.C. 51

I reached Laodicea on July 31, so you may reckon the year of my
government of the province from that day. Nothing could be more eagerly
awaited or more warmly welcomed than my arrival. But you would hardly
believe how the whole affair bores me. The wide scope of my mind has no
sufficient field, and my well-known industry is wasted here. Imagine! I
administer justice at Laodicea, while A. Plotius presides in the courts
of Rome! And while our friend is at the head of so great an army, I
have, in name only, two miserable legions! But all that is nothing; what
I miss is the glamour of life, the Forum, the city, my own house,
and--you. But I will bear it as best I can, so long as it is for one
year only. If my term is extended, it is all over with me. But this may
easily be prevented, if only you will stay in Rome.

You ask about my doings. Well, I am living at enormous expense, and am
wonderfully pleased with my way of life. My strict abstinence from all
extortion, based on your counsels, is such that I shall probably have to
raise a loan to pay off what you lent me. My predecessor, Appius, has
left open wounds in the province; I refrain from irritating them. I am
writing on the eve of starting for the camp in Lycaonia, and thence I
mean to proceed to Mount Taurus to fight Maeragenes. All this is no
proper burden for me; but I will bear it. Only, as you love me, let it
not exceed the year.

_To Atticus, a Few Days Later_ Cilicia

The couriers of the tax-farmers are just going, and, though I am
actually travelling on the road, I must steal a moment to assure you
that I have not forgotten your injunctions. I am sitting by the roadside
to jot down a few notes about matters which really need a long letter. I
entered, on July 31, with a most enthusiastic reception, into a
devastated and utterly ruined province. During the three days at
Laodicea, three at Apamea, and three at Synnada, I heard of nothing but
the actual inability of the people to pay the poll-tax; everywhere they
have been sold up; the towns were filled with groans and lamentations.
They have been ravaged rather by a wild beast than by a man. They are
tired of life itself.

Well, these unfortunate towns are a good deal relieved when they find
that neither I, nor my lieutenants, nor quaestor, nor any of my suite,
is costing them a penny. I not only refuse to accept forage, which is
allowed by the Julian law, but even firewood. We take from them not a
single thing except beds and a roof to cover us; and rarely so much even
as that, for we generally camp out in tents. The result is, we are
welcomed by crowds coming out to meet us from the countryside, the
villages, the houses, everywhere. By Hercules, the mere approach of your
Cicero puts new life into them, such reports have spread of his justice
and moderation and clemency! He has exceeded every expectation. I hear
nothing of the Parthians. We are hastening to join the army, which is
two days distant.

_To Marcus Caelius Rufus_ Asia, B.C. 50

Nothing could have been more apt or judicious than your management of
the application to the senate for a public thanksgiving to me. The
arrangement of the matter has been just what I desired; not only has it
been passed through quickly, but Hirrus, your rival and mine, associated
himself with Cato's unbounded praise of my achievements. I have some
hope that this may lead to a triumph; you should be prepared for that.

I am glad to hear that you think well of Dolabella and like him; and, as
you say, my Tullia's good sense may moderate him. May they be fortunate
together! I hope that he will prove a good son-in-law, and am sure that
your friendship will help to that end.

About public affairs I am more anxious than I can say. I like Curio; I
hope Caesar may prove himself an honourable man; for Pompey I would
willingly give my life; yet, after all, I love no man so dearly as I
love the republic. You do not seem to be taking any very prominent part
in these difficulties; but you are somewhat tied by being at once a good
patriot and a loyal friend.

_To Atticus, in Rome_ Athens, B.C. 50

I arrived in Athens two days ago on my way home from my province, and
received your letter. I have been appalled by what you tell me about
Caesar's legions. I beg you, in the name of fortune, to apply all your
love for me and all your incomparable wisdom to the consideration of my
whole situation. I seem to see a dreadful contest coming, unless some
divinity have pity on the republic--such a contest as has never been
before. I do not ask you to think of this catastrophe; after all, it is
a calamity for all the world as well as for me.

What I want is that you should go into my personal dilemma. It was you
who advised me to secure the friendship of both parties; and much I wish
that I had attended from the first to your counsels. You persuaded me to
embrace the one, because he had done so much for me, and the other,
because he was powerful; and so I succeeded in engaging the affection of

It seemed then quite clear that a friendship with Pompey need involve no
wrong to the republic, and that an allegiance to Caesar implied no
hostility to Pompey--such, at that time, was their union. But now, as
you show and as I plainly see, there will be a duel to the death; and
each, unless one of them is feigning, regards me as his. Pompey has no
doubt of it, for he knows that I approve of his political principles.
Moreover, I have a letter from each of them, arriving at the same time
as yours, indicating that neither of them values anyone more than me.
What am I to do?

If the worst comes to the worst, I know what to do. In the case of civil
war I am clear that it is better to be conquered with the one than to
conquer with the other. But I am in doubt how to meet the questions
which will be in active discussion when I arrive--whether he may be a
candidate in his absence from Rome, whether he must not dismiss his
army, and so on. When the president calls my name in the senate--"Speak,
Marcus Tullius!" am I to say, "Please wait until I have had a talk with

The time for hedging has passed. Shall it be against Caesar? What then
becomes of our pledges to one another? Or shall I change my political
opinions? I could not face Pompey, nor men and women--you yourself would
be the first to reproach me. You may laugh at what I am going to say.
How I wish I were even now back in my province! Though nothing could be
more disagreeable. By the way, I ought to tell you that all those
virtues which adorned the early days of my government, which your
letters praised to the skies, were very superficial. How difficult a
thing is virtue!

_To L. Papirius_ Rome, B.C. 46

I am writing at dinner at the house of Volumnius; we lay down at three
o'clock; your friends Atticus and Verrius are to my right and left. Are
you surprised that we pass the time of our bondage so gaily? What else
should I do? Tell me, student of philosophy! shall I make myself
miserable? What good would it serve, or how long would it last? But you
say, "Spend your days in reading." As a matter of fact, I do nothing
else; it's my only way to keep alive. But one cannot read all day; and
when I have put away my books I don't know any better way of spending
the evening than at dinner.

I like dining out. I like to talk without restraint, saying just what
comes to my tongue, and laughing care and sorrow from my heart. You are
no more serious yourself. I heard how you mocked a grave philosopher
when he invited questions: you said that the question that haunted your
mornings was, "Where shall I dine to-day?" He thought, poor fool, that
you were going to ask whether there was one heaven or many.

I give part of the day to reading or writing; then, not to shut myself
up from my friends, I dine with them. You need not be afraid of my
coming; you will receive a guest of more humour than appetite.

_To L. Minucius Basilus_ Rome, March, B.C. 44

My congratulations! I rejoice with you! I love you! I have your
interests at heart! I pray you love me, and let me know how you are, and
what is happening. [Written to one of Caesar's assassins; apparently,
immediately after the event.]

_To Atticus_ May, B.C. 44

I see I have been a fool to take comfort in the Ides of March. We had
indeed the courage of men, but no more wisdom than children have. The
tree was cut down, but its roots remained, and it is springing up again.
The tyrant was removed, but the tyranny is with us still. Let us
therefore return to the "Tusculan Disputations" which you often quote,
with their reasons why death is not to be feared.

* * * * *


Biographia Literaria

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born at Ottery St. Mary, in the
county of Devon, on October 21, 1772. He was educated at
Christ Hospital where Charles Lamb was among his friends. He
read very widely but was without any particular ambition or
practical bent, and had undertaken to apprentice himself to a
shoemaker, when his head-master interfered. He entered Jesus
College, Cambridge, in 1791. During the second year of his
residence at the University, he left Cambridge, on account of
an unsuccessful love affair, and enlisted in the regiment of
dragoons under an assumed name. He soon secured his discharge
from the army and went to Bristol where he met Southey. In
1795 he married Miss Fricker, and removed to Nether Stowey, a
village in Somersetshire, where he wrote the "Ancient Mariner"
and the first part of "Christabel." While here he became a
close friend of Wordsworth. Coleridge originally intended his
"Biographia Literaria" to be a kind of apologia, in other
words, to put forth his claims for public recognition; and
although he began the book with this intention, it
subsequently developed into a book containing some of his most
admirable criticism. He gives voice to a crowd of
miscellaneous reflections, suggested, as the work got under
way, by popular events, embracing politics, religion,
philosophy, poetry, and also finally settling the controversy
that had arisen in respect of the "Lyrical Ballads." The
autobiographical parts of the "Biographia" are confined solely
to his intellectual experiences, and the influences to which
his life was subjected. As a treatise on criticism, especially
on Wordsworth, the book is of supreme importance. "Here," says
Principal Shairp, "are canons of judgement, not mechanical,
but living." Published in 1817, it was followed shortly after
his death by a still more important edition with annotations
and an introduction by the poet's daughter Sara.

_I.--The Nature of Poetic Diction_

Little of what I have here written concerns myself personally; the
narrative is designed chiefly to introduce my principles of politics,
religion, and poetry. But my special purpose is to decide what is the
true nature of poetic diction, and to define the real poetic character
of the works of Mr. Wordsworth, whose writings have been the subject of
so much controversy.

At school I had the advantage of a very sensible though severe master. I
learned from him that poetry, even that of the loftiest odes, had a
logic of its own as severe as that of science, and more difficult,
because more subtle. In the truly great poets, he would say, there is a
reason assignable, not only for every word, but for the position of
every word. In our English compositions he showed no mercy to phrase,
metaphor, or image, where the same sense might have been conveyed with
equal force and dignity in plainer words. In fancy, I can almost hear
him now exclaiming: "Harp? Lyre? Pen and ink, boy, you mean!" Nay,
certain introductions, similes, and examples were placed by name on a
list of interdiction.

I had just entered my seventeenth year when the sonnets of Mr. Bowles
were made known to me, and the genial influence of his poetry, so
tender, yet so manly, so natural and real, yet so dignified and
harmonious, recalled me from a premature bewilderment in metaphysics and
theology. Well were it for me, perhaps, if I had never relapsed into the
same mental disease.

The poetry of Pope and his followers, a school of French poetry
invigorated by English understanding, which had predominated from the
last century, consisted of prose thoughts translated into poetic
language. I was led to the conjecture that this style had been kept up
by, if it did not wholly arise from, the custom of writing Latin verses.
I began to defend the use of natural language, such as "I will remember
thee," instead of "Thy image on her wing, Before my fancy's eye shall
memory bring;" and adduced, as examples of simplicity, the diction of
Greek poets, and of our elder English poets, from Chaucer to Milton. I
arrived at two critical aphorisms, as the criteria of poetic style:
first, that not the poem which we have read with the greatest pleasure
but that to which we return with the greatest pleasure possesses the
genuine power; and, second, that whatever lines can be translated into
other words of the same language, without diminution of their
significance, are so far vicious in their diction.

One great distinction between even the characteristic faults of our
elder poets and the false beauties of the moderns is this. In the
former, from Donne to Cowley, we find the most fantastic out-of-the-way
thoughts, but the most pure and genuine mother English; in the latter,
the most obvious thoughts, in language the most fantastic and arbitrary.
Our faulty elder poets sacrificed the passion, and passionate flow of
poetry, to the subtleties of intellect and to the starts of wit; the
moderns to the glare and glitter of a perpetual yet broken and
heterogeneous imagery. The one sacrificed the heart to the head, the
other both heart and head to drapery.

_II.--In Praise of Southey_

Reflect on the variety and extent of his acquirements! He stands second
to no man, either as a historian or as a bibliographer; and when I
regard him as a popular essayist I look in vain for any writer who has
conveyed so much information, from so many and such recondite sources,
with as many just and original reflections, in a style so lively yet so
uniformly classical and perspicuous; no one, in short, who has combined
so much wisdom with so much wit; so much truth and knowledge with so
much life and fancy.

Still more striking to those who are familiar with the general habits of
genius will appear the poet's matchless industry and perseverance in his
pursuits, the worthiness and dignity of those pursuits, his generous
submission to tasks of transitory interest. But as Southey possesses,
and is not possessed by, his genius, even so is he the master even of
his virtues. The regular and methodical tenor of his daily labours,
which might be envied by the mere man of business, lose all semblance of
formality in the dignified simplicity of his manners, in the spring and
healthful cheerfulness of his spirit. Always employed, his friends find
him always at leisure.

No less punctual in trifles than steadfast in the performance of highest
duties, he inflicts none of those small pains and discomforts which
irregular men scatter about them, and which in the aggregate so often
become formidable obstacles both to happiness and utility. He bestows
all the pleasures, and inspires all that ease of mind on those around
him, which perfect consistency and absolute reliability cannot but
bestow. I know few men who so well deserve the character which an
ancient attributes to Marcus Cato--namely, that he was likest virtue,
inasmuch as he seemed to act aright, not in obedience to any law or
outward motive, but by the necessity of a happy nature which could not
act otherwise.

As a son, brother, husband, father, master, friend, he moves with firm
yet light steps, alike unostentatious and alike exemplary. As a writer,
he has uniformly made his talents subservient to the best interests of
humanity, of public virtue, and domestic piety; his cause has ever been
the cause of pure religion and of liberty, of national independence and
of national illumination.

When future critics shall weigh out his guerdon of praise and censure,
it will be Southey the poet only that will supply them with the scanty
materials for the latter. They will not fail to record that as no man
was ever a more constant friend, never had poet more friends and
honourers among the good of all parties, and that quacks in education,
quacks in politics, and quacks in criticism, were his only enemies.

_III.--Wordsworth's Early Poems_

During the last year of my residence at Cambridge I became acquainted
with Mr. Wordsworth's first publication, entitled "Descriptive
Sketches," and seldom, if ever, was the emergence of an original poetic
genius above the literary horizon more evidently announced. In the whole
poem there is a harshness and acerbity, combined with words and images
all aglow, which might recall gorgeous blossoms rising out of a hard and
thorny rind and shell, within which the rich fruit was elaborating. The
language was not only peculiar and strong, but at times knotty and
contorted, as by its own impatient strength. It not seldom, therefore,
justified the complaint of obscurity.

I was in my twenty-fourth year when I had the happiness of knowing Mr.
Wordsworth personally, and by that time the occasional obscurities which
had arisen from an imperfect control over the resources of his native
language had almost wholly disappeared, together with that worse defect
of arbitrary and illogical phrases, at once arbitrary and fantastic,
which alloy the earlier poems of the truest genius. There was only
evident the union of deep feeling with profound thought; and the
original gift of spreading the tone, the atmosphere, and with it the
depth and height of the ideal world, around forms, incidents, and
situations of which, for the common view, custom had bedimmed all the
lustre, had dried up the sparkle and the dewdrops.

To find no contradiction in the union of old and new, to contemplate the
Ancient of Days and all His works With feelings as fresh as if all had
then sprung forth at the first creative fiat, characterises the mind
that feels the riddle of the world, and may help to unravel it. To carry
on the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood, to combine the
child's sense of wonder and novelty with the appearances which every day
for perhaps forty years had rendered familiar--this is the character and
privilege of genius. And it is the prime merit of genius, and its most
unequivocal mode of manifestation, so to represent familiar objects as
to awaken in the minds of others that freshness of sensation which is
the constant accompaniment of mental, no less than of bodily,

This excellence, which constitutes the character of Mr. Wordsworth's
mind, I no sooner felt than I sought to understand. Repeated meditations
led me to suspect that fancy and imagination were two distinct and
widely different faculties, instead of being, according to the general
belief, the lower and higher degree of one and the same power. Milton
had a highly imaginative, Cowley a very fanciful, mind. The division
between fancy and imagination is no less grounded in nature than that of
delirium from mania; or of Otway's

Lutes, laurels, seas of milk, and ships amber,

from Shakespeare's

What! Have his daughters brought him to this pass?

_IV.--The Philosophical Critic_

As materialism has been generally taught, it is utterly unintelligible,
and owes all its proselytes to the propensity, so common among men, to
mistake distinct images for clear conceptions, and, _vice versa_, to
reject as inconceivable whatever from its own nature is unimaginable. If
God grant health and permission, this subject will be treated of
systematically in a work which I have many years been preparing on the
Productive Logos, human and divine, with, and as an introduction to, a
full commentary on the Gospel of St. John.

To make myself intelligible, so far as my present subject, the
imagination, requires, it will be sufficient briefly to observe: (1)
That all association demands and presupposes the existence of the
thoughts and images to be associated. (2) The hypothesis of an external
world exactly correspondent to those images or modifications of our own
being, which alone--according to this system--we actually behold, is as
thorough idealism as Berkeley's, inasmuch as it equally removes all
reality and immediateness of perception, and places us in a dream-world
of phantoms and spectres, the inexplicable swarm and equivocal
generation of motion in our own brains. (3) That this hypothesis neither
involves the explanation nor precludes the necessity of a mechanism and
co-adequate forces in the percipient, which, at the more than magic
touch of the impulse from without, creates anew for himself the
correspondent object. The formation of a copy is not solved by the mere
pre-existence of an original; the copyist of Raffael's "Transfiguration"
must repeat more or less perfectly the process of Raffael.

The imagination, therefore, is essentially creative. I consider
imagination 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 I consider as an echo of the former; it dissolves,
diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create; or where this process is
rendered impossible, yet still, at all events, it struggles to idealise
and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects are
essentially fixed and dead.

Fancy, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with but fixities
and definites. The fancy is no other than a mode of memory emancipated
from the order of time and space, and blended with, and modified by,
choice. But, equally with the ordinary memory, it must receive its
materials ready made, from the law of association.

_V.--What is a Poem?_

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, moonlight or sunset, diffuse over a
familiar landscape appeared to represent the practicability of combining

The thought suggested itself 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. 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 them.

In this idea originated the plan of the "Lyrical Ballads," in which my
endeavours were to be directed to persons and characters supernatural,
or at least romantic. Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to attempt
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
from 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, 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 "Christabel." But the number of Mr.
Wordsworth's poems was so much greater that my compositions appeared
rather an interpolation of heterogeneous matter.

With many parts of Mr. Wordsworth's preface to the "Lyrical Ballads," in
which he defines his poetic creed, I have never concurred, and I think
it expedient to declare in what points I coincide with his opinions, and
in what points I differ.

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 proposed. The mere addition of
metre does not in itself entitle a work to the name of poem, for nothing
can permanently please which does not contain in itself the reason why
it is so and not otherwise. Our definition of a poem 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."

For, in a legitimate poem, the parts must mutually support and explain
each other; all in their proportion harmonising with, and supporting the
purpose and known influences of, metrical arrangement.

_VI.--A Criticism of Wordsworth_

Let me enumerate the prominent defects, and then the excellences, of Mr.
Wordsworth's published poems. The first characteristic, though only an
occasional defect, is the inconstancy of style; the sudden and
unprepared transitions from lines or sentences of peculiar felicity to a
style not only unimpassioned, but undistinguished. He sinks too often,
too abruptly, into the language of prose. The second defect is a certain
matter-of-factness in some of his poems, consisting in a laborious
minuteness and fidelity in the representations of objects, and in the
insertion of accidental circumstances, such as are superfluous in
poetry. Thirdly, there is in certain poems an undue predilection for the
dramatic form; and in these cases either the thoughts and diction are
different from those of the poet, so that there arises an incongruity of
style, or they are the same and indistinguishable, and then it presents
a species of ventriloquism. The fourth class includes prolixity,
repetition, and an eddying instead of progression of thought. His fifth
defect is the employment of thoughts and images too great for the
subject; an approximation to what might be called mental bombast, as
distinguished from verbal.

To these occasional defects I may oppose the following excellences.
First, an austere purity of language both grammatically and logically;
in short, a perfect appropriateness of the words to the meaning.
Secondly, a correspondent weight and sanity of the thoughts and
sentiments, won not from books, but from the poet's own meditative
observation. They are fresh, and have the dew upon them. Third, the
sinewy strength and originality of single lines and paragraphs; the
frequent curious felicity of his diction. Fourth, the perfect truth of
Nature in his images and descriptions as taken immediately from Nature,
and proving a long and genial intimacy with the very spirit which gives
the expression to all the works of nature. Like a green field reflected
in a calm and perfectly transparent lake, the image is distinguished
from the reality only by its greater softness and lustre.

Fifth, a meditative pathos, a union of deep and subtle thought with
sensibility; a sympathy with man as man; the sympathy of a contemplator,
from whose view no difference of rank conceals the sameness of the
nature; no injuries of wind or weather, of toil, or even of ignorance,
wholly disguise the human face divine. The superscription and the image
of the Creator still remain legible to him under the dark lines with
which guilt or calamity had cancelled or cross-barred it. In this mild
and philosophic pathos, Wordsworth appears to me without a compeer.

Lastly, and pre-eminently, I challenge for this poet the gift of
imagination in the highest and strictest sense of the word. In the play
of fancy, Wordsworth, to my feelings, is not always graceful, and is
sometimes recondite. But in imaginative power he stands nearest of all
modern writers to Shakespeare and Milton; and yet in a kind perfectly
unborrowed and his own. To employ his own words, he does indeed to all
thoughts and to all objects

Add the gleam,
The light that never was on sea or land,
The consecration, and the poet's dream.

* * * * *


Letters Written in the Years 1782-1790

William Cowper, son of a chaplain to George II., was born at
Berkhampstead Parsonage on November 15, 1731. After being
educated at Westminster School, he studied law for three
years, and in 1752 took up his residence, for a further
course, in the Middle Temple. Though called to the Bar in
1754, he never practised, for he profoundly hated law, while
he passionately loved literary pursuits. His friends having
provided him with sufficient funds for subsistence, in
addition to a small patrimony left by his father, Cowper went
to live at Huntingdon, where he formed a deep attachment with
the Unwin family, which proved to be a lifelong friendship.
The latter years of his life were spent at Olney. He achieved
wide fame by the publication of "The Task," which was
pronounced by many critics the greatest poem of the period.
The main characteristics of his style are its simplicity, its
sympathy with nature and with ordinary life, and its
unaffected devotional accent. But Cowper is now appreciated
more for his incomparably delightful epistles to his friends
than for his poetry. Few letters in our language can compare
with these for incisive but kindly and gentle irony; innocent
but genuine fun; keen and striking acumen, and tender
melancholy. Cowper died on April 25, 1800.

_To the Rev. John Newton_

Olney, _January_ 13, 1782. I am rather pleased that you have adopted
other sentiments respecting our intended present to Dr. Johnson. I allow
him to be a man of gigantic talents and most profound learning, nor have
I any doubts about the universality of his knowledge; but, by what I
have seen of his animadversions on the poets, I feel myself much
disposed to question, in many instances, either his candour or his

He finds fault too often, like a man that, having sought it very
industriously, is at last obliged to stick it on a pin's point, and look
at it through a microscope; and I could easily convict him of having
denied many beauties, and overlooked more. Whether his judgement be in
itself defective, or whether it be warped by collateral considerations,
a writer upon such subjects as I have chosen would probably find but
little mercy at his hands.

_To the Rev. William Unwin_

I say amen, with all my heart, to your observations on religious
characters. Men who profess themselves adepts in mathematical knowledge,
in astronomy, or jurisprudence, are generally as well qualified as they
would appear. The reason may be that they are always liable to detection
should they attempt to impose upon mankind, and therefore take care to
be what they pretend. In religion alone a profession is often taken up
and slovenly carried on, because, forsooth, candour and charity require
us to hope the best, and to judge favourably of our neighbour, and
because it is easy to deceive the ignorant, who are a great majority,
upon this subject.

Let a man attach himself to a particular party, contend furiously for
what are properly called evangelical doctrines, and enlist himself under
the banner of some popular preacher, and the business is done. Behold a
Christian! a saint! a phoenix! In the meantime, perhaps, his heart and
his temper, and even his conduct, are unsanctified; possibly less
exemplary than those of some avowed infidels. No matter--he can talk--he
has the shibboleth of the true Church--the Bible in his pocket, and a
head well stored with notions.

But the quiet, humble, modest, and peaceable person, who is in his
practice what the other is only in his profession, who hates a noise,
and therefore makes none; who, knowing the snares that are in the world,
keeps himself as much out of it as he can, is the Christian that will
always stand highest in the estimation of those who bring all characters
to the test of true wisdom, and judge of the tree by its fruit.

_To the Same_

Olney, _August_ 3, 1782. It is a sort of paradox, but it is true; we are
never more in danger than when we think ourselves most secure, nor in
reality more secure than when we seem to be most in danger. Both sides
of this apparent contradiction were lately verified in my experience.
Passing from the greenhouse to the barn, I saw three kittens--for we
have so many in our retinue--looking with fixed attention on something
which lay on the threshold of a door nailed up. I took but little notice
of them at first, but a loud hiss engaged me to attend more closely,


Back to Full Books