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of their sovereign ?-—“Oh! the latter.” Nay, reader, with submission, not so—it is a common thing to pay the penalty of having too much heart; but kings are not often over-kind.
Again; we read of Agesilaus—and I think that these anecdotes have a finer flavour, served up in the quaint old language of Sir Thomas North, Knight, than in the modern verbiage of the Wranghams—that “when he was driven to remove in haste on a sudaine, and to leave one sicke behind him whom he loved dearely; the sicke man calling him by his name as he was going his way, besought him that he would not forsake him. Agesilaus turned back again and said, “O how hard is it, both to love and to be wise!' But Agesilaus went, for he loved his country even better than he loved his friend."
I have gone a little out of my way to narrate these anecdotes; but Agesilaus was a king and a great general, yet his heart was laden with “a rich loving-kindness, redundantly kind,"—and for that they mulcted him. Methinks, that in these days we have our Ephori, moral, literary and political, who would fain punish us for possessing a superabundance of any good gift. How easily could I adduce a score of parallel examples to that which is afforded in olden history by the fate of Timotheus, the Musician. He played so very sweetly that the Ephori condemned him to have four strings cut from his lyre. The only difference now is, that our literary Ephori cut the heart-strings of their victims as well—but, faugh!-go to Rome, ye critical chief magistrates; journey thither bare-footed and bare-headed, doing penance; for there ye may bend over the graves of two English poets, who, having thoughts of their own, were persecuted; for it seems to be considered a grievous sin think for one's self.
My theme is a kindlier one than this. I write of children, and though I am not a father, I am fond of them. While I indite these pages it is Christmas-time, and they are in their merriest mood. I have none before me-none corporeally in my presence-yet methinks I can see them “ with my mind's eye,” and now they come trooping into my lonely chamber, all smiling. What a beautiful thing is the
starlight smile of children.”—Cor Cordium-I borrow the words from Shelley's tomb. But are children happy?–Mr. Godwin, alas ! I address myself to the dead - I have the highest respect for his opinions—I am one of his warmest admirers; but was he right, when he answered this question in his Enquirer, with the words " Probably not?” What saidst thou in continuance? “ A reasonable man will entertain a suspicion of that eulogium of a condition, which is always made by persons at a distance from it, never by the person himself. I never was told, when a boy, of the superior felicity of youth, but my heart revolted from the assertion. Give me at least to be a man.” Now, is this logical? I think, not at all. When the boy is eager to be a man, his desire is the offspring of ignorance. When the man desires to be a boy, his wish is grounded upon knowledge. All that the child knoweth of manhood is conjectural; but that which the adult knoweth of childhood, is the result of his own experience. Memory is more to be relied upon than the gift of Prophecy, which no one securely possesseth. There never was, I think, a more unsound argumentation. It is self-contradictory; it is not like Mr. Godwin.
First, he says, that “a reasonable man will entertain a suspicion of that eulogium of a condition which is always made by persons at a distance from it,”—and then, he declares, that in his childhood, he was wont to exclaim, “Give me, at least, to be a man;" when a child, he was surely“ at a distance from ” manhood, and therefore his eulogium of manhood is to be suspected equally with the adult's eulogium of youth. This, by the Philosopher's own confession; and therefore nothing is adduced in proof of the superiority of manhood. could it be?—and then to talk about liberty; which is the greater slave—the child or the man?
I have set out with this refutation of a theory, which I hold to be utterly fallacious, because in all that hereafter I shall advance, the entire happiness of childhood will be pre-supposed. I should take no pleasure in the society of young people, were I not convinced that they are entirely happy. It is this conviction supported as it is by all outward manifestations--that makes my heart leap with joy in the presence of young people. Not happy? Oh! do not knock from under me the pillars of that faith. I have lived to see many beautiful delusions vanish into thin air-I have seen convention usurp the place of nature-prejudice of truth—but to believe that innocence is wretchedness-oh! no; not that,
Father of all, though wilful manhood read
Grant the morn of life its natural blessedness. I do not like Montaigne for having said that, “ Children are of the number of things which are not very much to be desired;" just as though children were to be classed in the same category with agues, tyrannies, hanging, and the “ red pestilence,"*--all things “ not very much to be desired.” I like the philosophy of the Vicar of Wakefield much better, who begins his admirable history by observing, “ he was ever of opinion, that the honest man, who married and brought up a large family, did more service than he who continued single, and only talked of population,”-a prophetic hint to the Malthusians-good Dr. Primrose, I honour you. What; children not to be desired ? I see, upon the cover of the Comic Almanac, which I have bought as a present for one of my school-boy cousins, the figure of an antiquated lady, who is the type of one of the signs zodiacal— Virgo. She is talking to her parrot, and she has beside her a cat and one of
abominations, a lap-dog. I can hear her; she answereth my question, “ Children, 'Sir, are necessary evils.” Old maids, Ma'am, are unnecessary evils. Je ne vois pas la necessité, as the courtier replied to the beggar who said that he must live.”
In truth I am the most tolerant of men,- I have a very catholic love for my fellows, but I cannot receive into my heart the creature bearing the semblance of humanity, who professeth a dislike or even an indifference to the loveliest things in nature—which are children. Of what stuff must his heart be made, who can frown upon the first-day sports of these “young Apprentices,” or turn away from their innocent caresses. “They are noisy," say you," and they talk nonsense.” Nay, reader, we should have very little noise and very little nonsense in the world, if children talked all the nonsense and made all the noise.
There is an old dandy talking to a young coquette, and she smiles upon him because he is a lord. There are two dowerless nieces of a noble Marquis screeching at the top of their voices some Italian that they do not comprehend—there is a young parson in the pulpit, expounding a text of Seripture, the meaning of which he knoweth not at all-there is an Honourable by courtesy just escaped from Oxford, making his maiden speech in the senate-house and talking about a Constitution, whch is almost as rotten as his own—there is a review in Hyde Park, cannons are bellowing, and officers endeavouring with all the might of their lungs to out-bellow the bellowings of the cannon.The old dandy is courting-the dowerless ladies are singing-the young parson is preaching-the Honourable by courtesy is legislating-and the cannons keeping up a standing army"-but this is all nonsense and noise—all sound and fury. It is worse than this. The nonsense of manhood is mostly the nonsense of insincerity-the noise is the noise of vice. You hear a loud voice, it is an angry one-a foolish speech, it is a lying one—an obstreperous laugh, it is a drunken one. But the joyous voice, and the ringing laugh, and the unstudied words of children-oh! pleasant are they to hear and to consider; for pondering the ways of the young we behold only the workings of Nature. Not yet have they donned the masquerade dress of convention, nor listened to the wily voice of Mammon; you may see their hearts in their faces, “ readable as an open book :" no misgivings can you have in their presence, if you think not of that which is to come—and why anticipate their pollution ? they are innocent-rejoice then in thy knowledge of their innocence, and lift not the veil of futurity. What wisdom is there to forestall in imagination the cold winds of Winter when we are enjoying the serenity of Spring? What wisdom to talk about “ little victims, alas ! regardless of their doom"-or to exclaim-yet how finely was it said !—with Charles Lamb's imaginary cousin, “ What a pity to think that these fine ingenuous lads in a few years will be all changed into frivolous members of parliament."-A pity indeed! then wherefore think of it; why suffer such a thought to intrude, or why not instantly expel it upon its intrusion ?
To love one's own children is what everybody does; to love all children is what everybody ought to do. I can never believe that man to be thoroughly depraved who is fond of the society of young people ; such fondness, I think, is indicative of a guileless and a gentle heart
. Wordsworth thinks so, too, I am sure; and what fine things he has written about children. But about the love of them-read ye the character of the “ Wanderer," the hero so wise and so kind-hearted of the “ Excursion"—the calm yet eloquent old man. Loved he children? Yes, it is written so.
“And surely never did there live on earth
A man of kindlier nature. The rough sports
Anon I will write a commentary upon these lines--and I will speak of the “teazing ways" and the importunate demands" — neither teazing nor importunate to me and to all true lovers of children. Oh! many a frown have I seen changed into a smile--many a “get away” have I heard converted into “ come hither”-many a curse turned into a blessing-many a reproach into a kiss—when, assailed by “ a question” or “ importunate demand,” the incipient wrath of the person interrupted has been suddenly checked by the sweet beseeching smile, that plays upon the face of his childish assailant,—that look, oh ! how well i know it-of playful roguishness and dolorous timidity-that hybrid look denoting an arrested impulse, the old expression not yet chased away by the new tide of emotions within—that appealing look, arch yet fearful, when the eye laughs though it glisten, and the lip scarcely knows whether to settle itself into a smile or a pout. Such a look, even more than a soft answer, “ turneth away wrath.”.
But in this I have made a digression ; for having once introduced the name of Wordsworth and spoken of the Excursion, it was my intent to have pointed out to the reader one other passage at least wherein the love of children is touched upon in verse strangely expressive. The Author and the Wanderer set out together on a visit to one called the Solitary. An afflicted and desponding man was he, “ lacking faith in the great truths of religion, and confidence in the virtue of mankind." Yet for all this he loved children dearly; and when the travellers neared his abode, they beheld a sign of this love in “ a cool recess and fanciful”—a sort of summer penthouse, large enough to shelter “a full grown man” from the influences of sun or shower—a turf-built fabric, rude, but for a purpose,
“ And the whole plainly wrought by children's hands !
Whose simple skill had thronged the grassy floor
And gardens interposed."Now is not this natural ? How old are you, reader? Are you young enough to remember having "inserted"-no, "insert" is not the word, children would say stuck-certain “mimic,” no! sham, trees, of green branches, into new-laid mould. Oh! think a little—when you were very young had you not a garden of your own ? and having sown seeds in it, were you not disappointed by the tardiness of their upspringing ? and, being disappointed, did you not endeavour to anticipate nature by “ planting” small branches of laurel, or red-fruited arbutus, or a bunch of plucked roses, in the slowly-productive soil which you had taken under your immediate patronage ?—You have, oh! I'm sure you have ; and when your childish ingenuity has been thus displayed, you have summoned your mother and your nurse, and your brothers and your sisters, triumphantly, to look at your beautiful garden.
There is wisdom in what I write, if you can but discover it, and I would that ye should ponder these things. Ye are the children ; I wish you to think a little—now what are the branches that never take root ? and what is the soil in which ye plant them?
But, back again to Wordsworth and the Solitary. Upon this little turf-built summer-house look “the Author and the Wanderer" smilingly. I pass over the story of Voltaire's Candide, and with a reason—but 'what saith the Wanderer when he beholds the mossy structure " wrought by children's hands,” and couples the appearance thereof with the unmeet volume he had found ?
_“ Here then has been to him
He sometimes played with them”They thought him dead ; small cause had they so to think, for presently he, the Solitary, appeared, but not solitary then ;-now listen, and you shall hear what he was doing—he, the lover of children
dealing from a store
As if disconsolate"And what better than this could he have been doing ; what more noble than to “suffer little children?” What more generous than to soothe the afflicted? But, I pause, for I have my misgivings: I am sceptical as to the meaning of the fact in thus pourtraying the affection this blighted spirit for young children. Unlike the desponding Solitary, I place my
« confidence in the virtue of mankind;" cheerful is my philosophy, and full of sunshine my heart ; but Truth, above all other things, hath claims most paramount, and I must listen to them. Crabbe, Byron, Rochefoucault, I do not honour their names; but ever and anon their flinty souls emitted a scintillation of truth.
It will be said that my writings are inconclusive. It is not my sire that they should be otherwise. I wish my readers to follow me in my inquiries. I am an inquirer- a searcher ; I am digging in the earth, diving in the water, after Truth
“ Are there not, Festus, are there not, dear Michal,
Two points in the adventure of the diver,-
Festus, I plunge"-I plunge, and my pearl is Truth ; God grant that I may rise with it.
I have lent my copy of Paracelsus to a young painter, so that I may have done Mr. Browning an injury by mis-quoting the words of his poem. When Dr. Johnson asked Hannah More what she esteemed the highest compliment that can be paid to an author, she presently
“ To quote him ;” and Dr. Johnson said that she was right; but to mis-quote an author it is barbarous. I think that Robert Browning's Paracelsus will be suffered to occupy a niche in the select