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THE ORIENTAL HERALD.

No. 43.-JULY 1827.-VOL. 14.

ECCENTRICITIES OF AUTHORS.

In the Arabian Nights, those accurate and veracious chronicles, it is related of certain Eastern sages, that they shut themselves up for a whole year in libraries, enclosed by magic within the bowels of some unfrequented mountain, or enchanted palace, and at the termination of that period returned to the world enriched with the choicest wisdom, and a degree of knowledge incredible. Among the Western nations, this fashion of study has been but seldom pursued; the interior of our mountains yielding but few libraries, and those in our palaces not being meant for use. We are much slower, too, in growing learned and wise than those Eastern philosophers; but whether this be owing to the dearth of subterranean libraries in these regions, or to our duller geniuses, we cannot exactly determine. Demosthenes unquestionably inclined towards the Oriental mode. He built himself a vaulted apartment, and studied under ground. There, it seems, he enjoyed perpetually that solitude and silence, which, in ordinary cases, men taste only at midnight, when sleep has put his staying hand upon the wheel of life, and arrested and covered with oblivion the thousand vulgar machines of thought, whose rattle disturbs us by day.

There is an indication of weakness, however, in this passion for absolute seclusion from mankind, and every thing that could remind us of them, which, as in the case of Demosthenes, seems intimately allied to cowardice, which is nothing more than a too great susceptibility of disturbing impressions. This great man felt that the hum of business and the stir of life, floating around him like the restless chafing waves of some great ocean, disarranged his ideas, or altogether destroyed his capacity of winnowing and comparing them. It was by indescribable exertion that he conquered his antipathy to great multitudes, and his reluctance to draw out and array the riches of his mind before them. Time and practice, however, at length reconciled him to the murmurs and the acclamations of a popular Oriental Herald, Vol. 14. B

assembly; but when he came to the task of exhibiting his wisdom amid the fearful turmoil and thunder of a field of battle, the original frailty of his constitution prevailed; terrible impressions rushed in and confused his ideas; his presence of mind forsook him; he felt, but could no longer think ;—he fled.

Julius Cæsar, on the other hand, accustomed from his earliest youth to the war of faction in the Forum of Rome, and from thence passing to the campaigns of Helvetia and Gaul, found his mind sufficiently collected, even in the midst of military operations, to be amused with the study of astronomy.

It might, perhaps, be no less instructive than entertaining to throw together, in as small a compass as possible, an account of the various modes in which great authors have chosen to woo the muses. In most instances, it might likewise be useful to compare their passion for study with the fruits it produced, in personal greatness, in worldly felicity, or in fame and glory. One thing could not fail to be acquired by this survey-the conviction that we should by no means imagine, in men who choose to converse much with their own thoughts in solitude and retirement, the existence of humility endeavouring to escape from notice, or of pride scorning the acclamations of the multitude. These anchorets of learning only separate themselves from the throng that they may become the more visible. The echo of applause follows them, and seems more sweet amid surrounding silence. Envious men quit the town and become hermits, that they may escape hearing the praises of others; but, to hide the hatefulness of their motive, pretend among their friends and in their writings that they are actuated by nothing but a pure love of nature, which they could not, forsooth, indulge so well in the bosom of society. Mankind, in their theory, form no part of this nature, this sacred term, which they reserve exclusively for live timber and unhewn stones. They prefer the face of a lake to the faces of lovely women, sparkling like stars amid the motley groups of this mighty city, and shedding gladness and delight around them. There is vast absurdity and weakness even in philosophers. They almost bow down in adoration before the sun and moon, a world of fire, and a mirror, both masses of brute matter at best, and think them more glorious and possessing more of nature than the eye of wisdom or beauty. But, for our part, though fully impressed with the splendour of the material world, we verily see something more beautiful in the eyes of men and women than in these eyes of heaven,' which, however bright, are not instinct with thought and love, like those of mortals.

With regard to the influence of woods and fields on the thinking faculty, the opinions of great men vary. Quinctilian decides, that beautiful prospects, stretching over lovely meadows, waving forests, meandering rivers, only distract the fancy, by striking it every moment with novel images of voluptuous delight. The closed

chamber, he says, and the pensive lamp amid the stillness of night, are most conducive to continuity and profundity of meditation. There we sit abstracted, as it were, from the material world. Our sight falls only on the signs of thought, imprinted on the fugitive leaf by our own pen, or by the pen of the dead. We dwell on this most wonderful of all mysteries, that these arbitrary marks and symbols, traced by beings now locked for ever and screened from inquisition within the impenetrable tomb, should play with our smiles and tears, and rouse, or disturb, or inflame, or melt, or tranquillize, or subdue our passions, with a power no less vehement than the interpreting voice of living and rival beings. There, for a moment, we forget matter and vulgar existence, and converse with departed spirits in a language which speaks only to the eye. There, thought strips itself of mortality, and is communicated with a voice, from mind to mind. There, time seems to stand still, bound in chains by human wisdom, and beholding things over which his sovereignty hath no power-the imperishable revelations of philosophy! Ideas, fleeting and transient as they seem, are the only immortal things on this earth. Not only towers and pyramids and temples and moles and aqueducts and the pomp of theatres, the material symbols of human energy, are perishable, and crumble under the foot of time, but language also and the signs of thought. The arrow-headed characters of Persepolis, which once spoke to the bearded Chaldæan, are now dumb: but the ideas that lurked under their signification have not therefore been annihilated. They have only ceased to be represented by those signs, and migrated into new combinations with other forms; or, in other words, they have only changed their dress. Indeed, if we narrowly observe, we shall find that human thought, like men themselves, has constantly assumed, with every advance of civilization, a new or more ample garniture; from the scanty Hebrew, which scarcely covered its nakedness, to the rich and voluminous Greek and English, that enwrap it in glorious folds, hardly less beautiful than its own nature.

But Rousseau, not inferior in genius to Quinctilian, or, perhaps, to any Roman excepting Tacitus or Virgil, Rousseau loved to meditate in the fields. It was in the woods of Montmorency, while his heart bled, like the stricken deer, with the wounds of hopeless love, that he contrived and built up that edifice of torturing eloquence, the Nouvelle Heloise. Yes, it was in those solitudes he invented that wonderful instrument, which, to the day of doom, will force tears from the eyes of man, and wring his heart. Rousseau loved to look upon the human face, but he preferred dwelling upon the reflection of it which he discovered in his own fancy. For this reason, he wandered away into the woods, while his heart was full of sympathy for mankind; and there, amid the rustling leaves, whispering winds, broken fragments of sunshine, and the prater labentia flumina,' gave vent in burning words to the passions that devoured

his soul. Who has not envied him the luxury he enjoyed, in his boat, on the lake of Bienne, letting it float where it pleased, while he lay in it on his back contemplating the cloud-studded sky!

Cicero greatly resembled the philosopher of Geneva in his admiration of a rural study. The delicious groves of his Almathea, on the cool banks of the Liris and Fibrenus, often invited him out with his book, to taste at once the fire and beauty of a Greek oration, and the soft breeze that fluttered over the learned page. Lælius and Scipio loved to philosophize familiarly on the sea-shore at Cajeta, amusing themselves occasionally with picking up pebbles and marine shells.

But many of the ancients had a more gloomy taste. Euripides composed his tragedies in a rude cavern on the island of Salamis, whence he could overlook the moonlit sea, and hear its dashing waters borne and broke against the rocks below by Boreas or Notus. Sophocles meditated his works among the reeds of the Illyssus by night, and while the nightingale was pouring forth her plaintive note. Democritus studied in a tomb. We know, not, however, whether

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he chose, like Byron, or a hyæna, to disturb the bodies deposited there, and to wrench off the skull from a skeleton to heighten the solemnity of his meditations. Aristotle was a great night-reader, and grudged every moment which he was compelled to give up to sleep. Among the Romans, the practice of the Greek literati, of always carrying about with them a tablet and stylus to put down, wherever they were, every good thought as it occurred, was not considered sufficient ;-they had the walls of their sleeping apartments covered with wax, and kept a burning lamp and a stylus by their bed-sides, that they might immediately inscribe on these capacious memorandum-books the fugitive offspring of their brains.

The younger Pliny regarded the bed as a very delightful place for hatching immortal ideas. So did Swift; for he used to lie there all the morning inventing wit for the remainder of the day, and for eternity. But the Roman differed from the greater modern in one thing he loved the hour of darkness and silence, which, according to him, nourished and sharpened the intellectual faculties. Reading in bed, however, is rather a luxury than any thing else; but it is a luxury very fashionable among literary men. We wonder what books these epicures make acquainted with their pillows. Certainly not Du Val's Aristoteles, nor Bayle, nor Capperronier's Quinctilian, leviathan folios, unmanageable in such Sybaritish positions.

The most extraordinary fancy that ever entered into the head of any literary man, is that which, according to Montaigne, regulated the studies of one of his countrymen. This gentleman, it seems, had been so accustomed by the sound of the cathedral bells of Piso, to study in the midst of noise, that when he returned to France, and tried to resume his meditations in his own library, he found that his

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