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With terror now can freeze the cowering blood,
And now dissolve the heart in tenderness; and who, meantime, looks apparently unmoved,
On hearts and passions prostrate at his feet. And the inference from these premises is, that these men do not feel as intensely as do inferior minds.
This inference is erroneous. Matter of fact proves that these men have passions capable of being aroused to tremendous action. They differ from other men simply in this, that their passions are under the control of their wills. The joyous Eureka of Archimedes, the trembling frame of Newton, as he came near to the conclusion of those calculations which gave laws to the universe, and the swooning of Rittenhouse, when his prediction was realized, and he was gazing at a phenomenon* which no eye should again see till other generations should people the earth,—demonstrate that these men could feel as well as reason. Washington, on parting with his compatriots, at the close of the revolution, gave silent, but affecting and impressive evidence of the deepest emotion; and Napoleon-even Napoleon! could be agitated to trembling, on hearing the piteous moans of a dog that lay by the side of his master on the deserted battle field. That orator, too, who stands in all the dignity of self-collection,-if it but subserve his purpose, can throw off the restraints from his passions; when at once his voice, his action, the flashes of his eye, the vitality he gives to every expression of sentiment- ill become indices of the raging of that tempest which has till then been confined within. It remains to be shown that such feel less strongly than did Homer when he described the tears of Andromache; or than Virgil, when he sung the fate of Nisus and Euryalus; or that any of these did not feel more strongly than can the common vulgar mind.
This error has led thousands to cultivate a stoical turn of mind, an apathy and indifference to human weal and human wo, which has proved ruinous to the finer feelings of their nature, destroyed the delicate texture of the soul, cut them loose from the sympathies of life, and blighted those nice sensibilities without which society is but a name, and intercourse with the world but loneliness and solitude. If the views I have advocated be correct, then it follows that that philosophy which forbids deep feeling, must at the same time remove from its possessor the power of deep thought, or at least the propensity to indulge in it. Or, if deep thought be allowed at all, it must be confined to such subjects as have no tendency to make him either a happier or a better man.
We also hear it said that there is an incongruity between the imagination and the judgment; at least, that they are distinct and oppo. site attributes of the mind. If I do not misunderstand the reason, which is so often given for the careless perusal of fictitious writings, it is based on this sentiment; for those who resort to this source for the avowed purpose of cultivating the imagination, are the last to peruse them in a way to improve the judgment. But does this incongruity actually exist? In answering this question, it is important to remark that imagination and fancy are not synonymous terms; the latter representing the faculty by which the mind forms its conceptions, and the former, the power of combining and modify
The transit of Venis, which occurred in 1769.
ing these conceptions at pleasure. Milton speaks of the creations of the fancy, as,
Our knowledge, or opinion. Nor is this the theory of the poet only. Now of what use are these "airy shapes,” till joined and arranged by the reason? Yet these are the very things with which the minds of thousands of young females are filled, which give them only a morbid sensibility to every circumstance of excitement, whether real or imaginary, and which are the legitimate offspring of the careless perusal of novels and works of taste.
When these “airy shapes,” which fancy presents to the mind, are combined and arranged into harmonious pictures by the imagination, then, and not till then, they become useful. But how can this harmonious arrangement be made, without an exercise of the judgment? If this view be correct, it follows that the imagination implies an exercise of the judgment; and that taste cannot be exercised without it. This is in accordance with the sentiment of a recent writer on rhetoric,* when he defines taste as “a judgment of what is fitted to excite emotions of beauty, grandeur, and sublimity, founded on the experience of past emotions."
The inference I shall draw from this view of the subject is, that the cultivation of the imagination without an exercise of the judgment involves an absurdity, and cannot take place. The imagination and judgment, instead of being at war with each other, are mutually necessary to each other's strength and perfection. A fine imagination cannot exist without a correct judgment; and in relation to the judgment, it scarcely need be said that without imagination to aid in the combination of thought, it could be applied to no extensive object of utility. Their cultivation, then, must go hand in hand; and when one of them is neglected, they are both neglected. A luxuriant fancy, it is true, may exist without judgment; but then it exists also without imagination, and is a thousandfold worse than the possession of neither. To the poet or the painter, judgment and imagination are not less necessary than fancy itself; and are as necessary to them as to the philosopher, the architect, or the statesman. As a final inference from the whole subject, I conclude that the imagination, like the other treasures of the mind, is the price of toil. He who would drink at Castalia's sacred fount, must first labor up the rugged steep of Parnassus.
On the general subject of dividing the mind into faculties, I would not longer dwell; but that the strange error has grown out of this, of exempting certain faculties from the necessity of study. We hear men talk of a genius for poetry, for mathematics, for painting, for extemporaneous speaking, for the languages, and, in fact, for almost every thing; and all this is well enough, if the phraseology be rightly understood. If by genius is meant simply a natural aptitude or power of acquiring talents of a particular kind, we will not object to it. For we do not believe all men to possess originally the same constitution and powers of mind; nor that the most fixed applica
Professor Newman, of Bowdoin College.
tion can supply all the native defects of the mind. But by original genius is often meant something more than this. Poeta nascitur non fit, has long since passed into a proverb, with a broader signification than this exposition would give to it. And a recent writer in a foreign review* says, “ Genius is heaven-born and fortuitous, and depends comparatively little upon culture.” This is precisely the sentiment I am about to oppose ; for the circumstance, that what is here called genius depends at all on culture, proves that the writer means something more than a natural aptitude to learn. But if it mean any thing more than this, then it depends essentially and primarily on culture. Otherwise genius is a mere imaginary thing. It may exist, any length of time, without culture, without application, without exercise. Thus he who passes for the veriest blockhead, may be the greatest genius; and all that is necessary for a display of this imaginary power, is the recurrence of some appropriate circumstance to call it into action. This notion, how gratifying to many a fond parent; while he can compliment his son, and flatter his own vanity, by saying that "the boy has a great natural genius," at the same time that he says, “he never could be made to apply himself to study.” Than this, no error could be more fatal to the growth of the youthful mind.
Genius, if it means any thing, means the power and the disposition to study. Genius will study ; it is the very nature of it to study; and where there is no love of study there is no genius. This is the ground I take ;—that no natural gift can supply the place of hard study. In relation to taste and imagination, it would seem that enough had been already said. Their exercise implies an exercise of the understanding, -and such an understanding as can be acquired only by the most careful examination of every thing to which it relates. Yet, to hear some talk, we should think Homer's an undisciplined mind. Of Shakspeare we have indeed been told by a modern reviewer, that'" after having written his thirty-eight plays he went carelessly down to the country, and lived out his days apparently unconscious of having done any thing at all extraordinary." As though some magic charm, some enchanting spell, like the gift of prophecy, rested down upon him for a time, and then left him, like the Nazarite of old, weak and like another man. The immortal productions of West's pencil we are taught to consider as the work of some fairy hand. And we have learned to look upon Henry, in the midst of his mighty efforts, with scarcely less reverence than though the direct inspiration of Heaven had been visibly upon him,
These are strongly marked cases; and are often quoted as examples of the developement of genius without previous discipline. And the reason that there are any cases like these, is, that study is not always formal, but simply a concentration of the mind upon its object, whatever it may be. It consists not alone in midnight vigils, not alone in poring over books, nor in putting on an air of thoughtfulness; witness this same Henry. What means it when he is seen hour after hour, apparently watching his motionless fish-line; nor heeding the approach of footsteps, or the shades of night. To me, that gives evidence of intense study-all-absorbing, abstracted
* Foreign Quarterly Review for July, 1834.-Art. Madame de Stael.
thought. His was a genius that studied everywhere; and this is a bliss not unlike that
The lonely bard enjoyed, when forth he walked
And heard unutterable things; things then indeed unutterable ; but afterward uttered boldly forth before multitudes of assembled men.
Not unlike this must have been the history of Homer, of Shakspeare, and a thousand more. That a particular bent of mind, or aptitude for a particular study or employment often exhibits itself in early life, I do not of course deny. On the contrary, I admit that this was the case with Euler, with Newton, with West, with Fulton, and a host of others who have become eminent in the world ; and only assert that this is all that should be embraced in the word genius, when used in the connection of which we are speaking. And if this be what is properly called genius, permit me to inquire how it ex. hibited itself in these cases; how it could have exhibited itself; or how such a power can exhibit itself in any future case, but in a love of study, and in the power of attention to its object? If these had been wanting, what would have remained? When we refer to the attainments of these men to any talents or skill which they possessed, these were with them, as they are in all other cases, the purchase of labor and toil. Indeed I should want no better comment than these furnish on the text, that genius is application. And could we become familiar with the history of the world's master spirits in general, and see, from infancy to the active scenes of life, the hidden workings of those gifted souls, the result would be the same. Could we see the poet's twilight abstraction and the painter's deep and unwearied study of the models of excellence in nature and in art, could we see the orator's midnight musings, and feel his soul-thrilling interest, his overwhelming pressure of emotion, and his intense thought; we should no longer think of genius, in connection with them, as consisting in aught but powerful feeling, strong and vivid perception, and a clear and discriminating intellect. And even though it should break forth sudden, like lightning from the cloud, we should only think that, like the ethereal fire, it had been collecting its power, long ere it flashed out before the admiring gaze of men. Excellence, then, without effort, in any department of the arts or sciences, is but a schoolboy's dream ; worthy of him only who would become a learned man by reading novels and the reviews; or who would master the sciences, at the same time that he is indulging in all the pleasures and refinements of social life.
The last error I shall notice attaches itself particularly to those who are commencing their education; and this class of course embraces all who are pursuing their studies at our colleges and seminaries of learning. It seems to be based on the forgetfulness of the high and ennobling motives which should ever be before the American scholar. Some of these motives are the love of usefulness; the
opportunities offered in our country for honorable distinction; and a sense of obligation to one's friends, to his country, and to his God. In the influence of these may be found the magic of the success of our self-made men; and it is here precisely that their great strength lies. Nothing but high considerations like these could carry them through all the various discouragements they have to meet; but with these in view, nothing has power to prevent the accomplish. ment of their purposes. By losing sight of these high and holy motives, how many a scholar has passed his years of improvement in indolence; relying perchance on the influence or the wealth of his friends to carry him through the world. How many others have sacrificed their literary rank to the comparatively worthless plea. sures of society. How many others still, like him of old, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, have exchanged all that is valuable in a literary reputation, for the pleasures of the cup and the luxuries of the table. How many more have lost sight of the permanent and rich endowments of the mind in the glitter of present popularity, and in pursuit of the objects of a vain ambition. And O! how many, even of those who have enriched their intellects by the highest culture, have permitted their moral natures to lie waste and desolate; and have prostituted their talents to the subversion of human happiness! Not so with him who is looking for the reward of his toil, either to the rewards of virtue, or to that estimate which the world shall set on his talents or his labors.
In conclusion, permit me to say to the young gentlemen present; -You are at liberty to appropriate these last remarks particularly to yourselves. Look not too much at the immediate rewards of your desert. Think not too much of the present distinction which any course of conduct can purchase for you. And when tempted to turn aside from the great work in which you are engaged, to indulge in pleasures and in the dissipating amusements of society, think of the future. There are fields of honor in our country to be reaped; there are stations of usefulness to be filled. With yourselves it chiefly rests to say, whether you will become the pride of your families, go up to stations of honor and usefulness, and be remembered with gratitude by those who come after you; or whether you will become “the hewers of wood, and drawers of water,” to those who shall be more deserving than yourselves. In a word, remember that the world is your theatre, and public life the stage on which you are destined to act; and that that fame which is associated with unyielding virtue and sterling integrity, and which is bought by a generous self-devotion to the public good, is the only renown which shall cheer the decline of life, or which shall be rewarded by the love and veneration of after ages.
AN ORATION Pronounced before the Philorhetorian Society of the Wesleyan Uni
versity, August 25, 1835. By the Rev. John DEMPSTER. Perceiving before me an assembly, the most of whom might instruct the speaker, I would dare to challenge your attention for a few moments, only on the ground that my theme is important.
This bright array of talent and literature, of mental and moral excellence, imposes on the speaker higher obligations, as it consists