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of Purley, on the other hand, besides being the inventor of the theory of grammar, was a politician, a wit, a master of conversation, and overflowing with an interminable babble—that fellow had cut and come again in him, and
“ Tongue with a garnish of brains ;"
but it only served as an excuse to cheat posterity of the definition of a verb, by one of those conversational ruses de guerre by which he put off his guests at Wimbledon with some teazing equivoque which he would explain the next time they met-and made him die at last with a nostrum in his mouth! The late Professor Porson was said to be a match for the Member for Old Sarum in argument and raillery :-he was a profound scholar, and had wit at will-yet what did it come to ? His jests have evaporated with the marks of the wine on the tavern table; the
page of Thucydides or Æschylus, which was stamped on his brain, and which he could read there with equal facility backwards or forwards, is contained, after his death, as it was while he lived, just as well in the volume on the library shelf. The man of perhaps the greatest ability now living is the one who has not only done the least, but who is actually incapable of ever doing any thing worthy of him-unless he had a hundred
hands to write with, and a hundred mouths to utter all that it hath entered into his heart to conceive, and centuries before him to embody the endless volume of his waking dreams. Cloud rolls over cloud; one train of thought suggests and is driven away by another; theory after theory is spun out of the bowels of his brain, not like the spider's web, compact and round, a citadel and a snare, built for mischief and for use; but, like the gossamer, stretched out and entangled without end, clinging to every casual object, flitting in the idle air, and glittering only in the ray of fancy. No subject can come amiss to him, and he is alike attracted and alike indifferent to all he is not tied down to any one in particular-but floats froin one to another, his mind every where finding its level, and feeling no limit but that of thought-now soaring with its head above the stars, now treading with fairy feet among flowers, now winnowing the air with winged words-passing from Duns Scotus to Jacob Behmen, from the Kantean philosophy to a conundrum, and from the Apocalypse to an acrostic-taking in the whole range of poetry, painting, wit, history, politics, metaphysics, criticism, and private scandalevery question giving birth to some new thought, and every thought :
“ discoursed in eloquent
music,” that lives only in the ear of fools, or in the report of absent friends. Set him to write a book, and he belies all that has been ever said about him
Ten thousand great ideas filled his mind,
Now there is
who never had an idea in his life, and who therefore has never been prevented by the fastidious refinements of selfknowledge, or the dangerous seductions of the Muse, from succeeding in a number of things which he has attempted, to the utmost extent of his dulness, and contrary to the advice and opinion of all his friends. He has written a
. book without being able to spell, by dint of asking questions—has painted draperies with great exactness, which have passed for finished portraits—daubs in an unaccountable figure or two, with a back-ground, and on due deliberation calls it history-he is dubbed an Associate after being twenty times black-balled, wins his way to the highest honours of the Academy, through all the gradations of discomfiture and disgrace, and may end in being made a foreign Count! And yet (such is the principle of distributive justice in matters of taste) he is just where he was. We judge of men not by what
they do, but by what they are. Non ex quovis ligno fit Mercurius. Having once got an idea of, it is impossible that any thing he can do should ever alter it—though he were to paint like Raphael and Michael Angelo, no one in the secret would give him credit. for it, and
though he had all knowledge, and could speak with the tongues of angels,” yet without genius he would be nothing. The original sin of being what he is, renders his good works and most meritorious efforts null and void. 6. You cannot gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles.” Nature still prevails over art. You look at as you do at a curious machine, which performs certain puzzling operations, and as your surprise ceases, gradually unfolds other powers which you would little expect—but do what it will, it is but a machine still; the thing is without a soul!
Respice finem, is the great rule in all practical pursuits : to attain our journey's end, we should look little to the right or to the left; the knowledge of excellence as often deters and distracts, as it stimulates the mind to exertion; and hence we may see some reason, why the general diffusion of taste and liberal arts is not always accompanied with an increase of individual genius.
As there is a degree of dulness and phlegm, which, in the long run, sometimes succeeds better than the more noble and aspiring impulses of our nature (as the beagle by its sure tracing overtakes the bounding stag), so there is a degree of animal spirits and showy accomplishment, which enables its possessors." to get the start of the majestic world,” and bear the palm alone. How often do we see vivacity and impertinence mistaken for wit; fluency for argument; sound for sense; a loud or musical voice for eloquence! Impudence again is an equivalent for courage; and the assumption of merit and the possession of it are too often considered as one and the same thing. On the other hand, simplicity of manner reduces the person who cannot so far forego his native disposition as by any effort to shake it off, to perfect insignificance in the eyes of the vulgar, who, if you do not seem to doubt your own pretensions, will never question them; and on the same principle, if you do not try to palm yourself on them for what you are not, will never be persuaded you can be any thing. Admiration, like mocking, is catching: and the good opinion which gets abroad of us begins at home. If a man is not as much astonished at his own acquirements -- as proud of and as delighted