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Narrative And Miscellaneous Papers by Thomas De Quincey

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There was a man in the last century, and an eminent man too, who used
to say, that whereas people in general pretended to admire astronomy as
being essentially sublime, he for _his_ part looked upon all that
sort of thing as a swindle; and, on the contrary, he regarded the solar
system as decidedly vulgar; because the planets were all of them so
infernally punctual, they kept time with such horrible precision, that
they forced him, whether he would or no, to think of nothing but post-
office clocks, mail-coaches, and book-keepers. Regularity may be
beautiful, but it excludes the sublime. What he wished for was
something like Lloyd's list.

_Comets_--due 3; arrived 1.
_Mercury_, when last seen, appeared to be distressed; but made no
_Pallas_ and _Vesta_, not heard of for some time; supposed to
have foundered.
_Moon_, spoken last night through a heavy bank of clouds; out
sixteen days: all right.

Now this poor man's misfortune was, to have lived in the days of mere
planetary astronomy. At present, when our own little system, with all
its grandeurs, has dwindled by comparison to a subordinate province, if
any man is bold enough to say so, a poor shivering unit amongst myriads
that are brighter, we ought no longer to talk of astronomy, but of
_the astronomies_. There is the planetary, the cometary, the
sidereal, perhaps also others; as, for instance, even yet the nebular;
because, though Lord Rosse has smitten it with the son of Amram's rod,
has made it open, and cloven a path through it, yet other and more
fearful _nebulæ_ may loom in sight, (if further improvements
should be effected in the telescope,) that may puzzle even Lord Rosse.
And when he tells his _famulus_--'Fire a shot at that strange
fellow, and make him show his colors,' possibly the mighty stranger may
disdain the summons. That would be vexatious: we should all be incensed
at _that_. But no matter. What's a _nebula_, what's a world,
more or less? In the spiritual heavens are many mansions: in the starry
heavens, that are now unfolding and preparing to unfold before us, are
many vacant areas upon which the astronomer may pitch his secret
pavilion. He may dedicate himself to the service of the _Double
Suns_; he has my license to devote his whole time to the quadruple
system of suns in _Lyra_. Swammerdam spent his life in a ditch
watching frogs and tadpoles; why may not an astronomer give nine lives,
if he had them, to the watching of that awful appearance in
_Hercules_, which pretends to some rights over our own unoffending
system? Why may he not mount guard with public approbation, for the
next fifty years, upon the zodiacal light, the interplanetary ether,
and other rarities, which the professional body of astronomers would
naturally keep (if they could) for their own private enjoyment? There
is no want of variety now, nor in fact of irregularity: for the most
exquisite clock-work, which from enormous distance _seems_ to go
wrong, virtually for us _does_ go wrong; so that our friend of the
last century, who complained of the solar system, would not need to do
so any longer. There are anomalies enough to keep him cheerful. There
are now even things to alarm us; for anything in the starry worlds that
look suspicious, anything that ought _not_ to be there, is, for
all purposes of frightening us, as good as a ghost.

But of all the novelties that excite my own interest in the expanding
astronomy of recent times, the most delightful and promising are those
charming little pyrotechnic planetoids,[Footnote: _'Pyrotechnic
Planetoids:'_--The reader will understand me as alluding to the
periodic shooting stars. It is now well known, that as, upon our own
poor little earthly ocean, we fall in with certain phenomena as we
approach certain latitudes; so also upon the great ocean navigated by
our Earth, we fall in with prodigious showers of these meteors at
periods no longer uncertain, but fixed as jail-deliveries. 'These
remarkable showers of meteors,' says Dr. Nichol, 'observed at different
periods in August and November, seem to demonstrate the fact, that, at
these periods, we have come in contact with two streams of such
planetoids then intersecting the earth's orbit.' If they intermit, it
is only because they are shifting their nodes, or points of
intersection.] that variegate our annual course. It always struck me as
most disgusting, that, in going round the sun, we must be passing
continually over old roads, and yet we had no means of establishing an
acquaintance with them: they might as well be new for every trip. Those
chambers of ether, through which we are tearing along night and day,
(for _our_ train stops at no stations,) doubtless, if we could put
some mark upon them, must be old fellows perfectly liable to
recognition. I suppose, _they_ never have notice to quit. And yet,
for want of such a mark, though all our lives flying past them and
through them, we can never challenge them as known. The same thing
happens in the desert: one monotonous iteration of sand, sand, sand,
unless where some miserable fountain stagnates, forbids all approach to
familiarity: nothing is circumstantiated or differenced: travel it for
three generations, and you are no nearer to identification of its
parts: so that it amounts to travelling through an abstract idea. For
the desert, really I suspect the thing is hopeless: but, as regards our
planetary orbit, matters are mending: for the last six or seven years I
have heard of these fiery showers, but indeed I cannot say how much
earlier they were first noticed,[Footnote: Somewhere I have seen it
remarked, that if, on a public road, you meet a party of four women, it
is at least fifty to one that they are all laughing; whereas, if you
meet an equal party of my own unhappy sex, you may wager safely that
they are talking gravely, and that one of them is uttering the word
_money_. Hence it must be, viz, because our sisters are too much
occupied with the playful things of this earth, and our brothers with
its gravities, that neither party sufficiently watches the skies. And
_that_ accounts for a fact which often has struck myself, viz.,
that, in cities, on bright moonless nights, when some brilliant
skirmishings of the Aurora are exhibiting, or even a luminous arch,
which is a broad ribbon of snowy light that spans the skies, positively
unless I myself say to people--'Eyes upwards!' not one in a hundred,
male or female, but fails to see the show, though it may be seen
_gratis_, simply because their eyes are too uniformly reading the
earth. This downward direction of the eyes, however, must have been
worse in former ages: because else it never _could_ have happened
that, until Queen Anne's days, nobody ever hinted in a book that there
_was_ such a thing, or _could_ be such a thing, as the Aurora
Borealis; and in fact Halley had the credit of discovering it.] as
celebrating two annual festivals--one in August, one in November. You
are a little too late, reader, for seeing this year's summer festival;
but that's no reason why you should not engage a good seat for the
November meeting; which, if I recollect, is about the 9th, or the Lord
Mayor's day, and on the whole better worth seeing. For anything
_we_ know, this may be a great day in the earth's earlier history;
she may have put forth her original rose on this day, or tried her hand
at a primitive specimen of wheat; or she may, in fact, have survived
some gunpowder plot about this time; so that the meteoric appearance
may be a kind congratulating _feu-de-joye_, on the anniversary of
the happy event. What it is that the 'cosmogony man' in the 'Vicar of
Wakefield' would have thought of such novelties, whether he would have
favored us with his usual opinion upon such topics, viz., that
_anarchon ara kai ateleutaion to pan_, or have sported a new one
exclusively for this occasion, may be doubtful. What it is that
astronomers think, who are a kind of 'cosmogony men,' the reader may
learn from Dr. Nichol, Note B, (p. 139, 140.)

In taking leave of a book and a subject so well fitted to draw out the
highest mode of that grandeur, which _can_ connect itself with the
external, (a grandeur capable of drawing down a spiritual being to
earth, but not of raising an earthly being to heaven,) I would wish to
contribute my own brief word of homage to this grandeur by recalling
from a fading remembrance of twenty-five years back a short
_bravura_ of John Paul Richter. I call it a _bravura_, as being
intentionally a passage of display and elaborate execution; and
in this sense I may call it partly 'my own,' that at twenty-five years'
distance, (after one single reading,) it would not have been possible
for any man to report a passage of this length without greatly
disturbing [Footnote: _'Disturbing;'_--neither perhaps should I
much have sought to avoid alterations if the original had been lying
before me: for it takes the shape of a dream; and this most brilliant
of all German writers wanted in that field the severe simplicity, that
horror of the _too much_, belonging to Grecian architecture, which
is essential to the perfection of a dream considered as a work of art.
He was too elaborate, to realize the grandeur of the shadowy.] the
texture of the composition: by altering, one makes it partly one's own;
but it is right to mention, that the sublime turn at the end belongs
entirely to John Paul.

'God called up from dreams a man into the vestibule of heaven, saying,
--"Come thou hither, and see the glory of my house." And to the
servants that stood around his throne he said,--"Take him, and undress
him from his robes of flesh: cleanse his vision, and put a new breath
into his nostrils: only touch not with any change his human heart--the
heart that weeps and trembles." It was done; and, with a mighty angel
for his guide, the man stood ready for his infinite voyage; and from
the terraces of heaven, without sound or farewell, at once they wheeled
away into endless space. Sometimes with the solemn flight of angel wing
they fled through Zaarrahs of darkness, through wildernesses of death,
that divided the worlds of life: sometimes they swept over frontiers,
that were quickening under prophetic motions from God. Then, from a
distance that is counted only in heaven, light dawned for a time
through a sleepy film: by unutterable pace the light swept to
_them_, they by unutterable pace to the light: in a moment the
rushing of planets was upon them: in a moment the blazing of suns was
around them. Then came eternities of twilight, that revealed, but were
not revealed. To the right hand and to the left towered mighty
constellations, that by self-repetitions and answers from afar, that by
counter-positions, built up triumphal gates, whose architraves, whose
archways--horizontal, upright--rested, rose--at altitudes, by spans--
that seemed ghostly from infinitude. Without measure were the
architraves, past number were the archways, beyond memory the gates.
Within were stairs that scaled the eternities above, that descended to
the eternities below: above was below, below was above, to the man
stripped of gravitating body: depth was swallowed up in height
insurmountable, height was swallowed up in depth unfathomable. Suddenly
as thus they rode from infinite to infinite, suddenly as thus they
tilted over abysmal worlds, a mighty cry arose--that systems more
mysterious, that worlds more billowy,--other heights, and other
depths,--were coming, were nearing, were at hand. Then the man sighed,
and stopped, shuddered and wept. His over-laden heart uttered itself in
tears; and he said,--"Angel, I will go no farther. For the spirit of
man aches with this infinity. Insufferable is the glory of God. Let me
lie down in the grave from the persecutions of the infinite; for end, I
see, there is none." And from all the listening stars that shone around
issued a choral voice, "The man speaks truly: end there is none, that
ever yet we heard of." "End is there none?" the angel solemnly
demanded: "Is there indeed no end? And is this the sorrow that kills
you?" But no voice answered, that he might answer himself. Then the
angel threw up his glorious hands to the heaven of heavens; saying,
"End is there none to the universe of God? Lo! also there is no

NOTE.--On throwing his eyes hastily over the preceding paper, the
writer becomes afraid that some readers may give such an interpretation
to a few playful expressions upon the age of our earth, &c., as to
class him with those who use geology, cosmology, &c., for purposes of
attack, or insinuation against the Scriptures. Upon this point,
therefore, he wishes to make a firm explanation of his own opinions,
which, (whether right or wrong,) will liberate him, once and for all,
from any such jealousy.

It is sometimes said, that the revealer of a true religion, does not
come amongst men for the sake of teaching truths in science, or
correcting errors in science. Most justly is this said: but often in
terms far too feeble. For generally these terms are such as to imply,
that, although no function of his mission, it was yet open to him--
although not pressing with the force of an obligation upon the
revealer, it was yet at his discretion--if not to correct other men's
errors, yet at least in his own person to speak with scientific
precision. I contend that it was _not_. I contend, that to have
uttered the truths of astronomy, of geology, &c., at the era of new-
born Christianity, was not only _below_ the purposes of a
religion, but would have been _against_ them. Even upon errors of
a far more important class than any errors in science can ever be,--
superstitions, for instance, that degraded the very idea of God;
prejudices and false usages, that laid waste human happiness, (such as
slavery and many hundreds of other abuses that might be mentioned,) the
rule evidently acted upon by the Founder of Christianity was this--
Given the purification of the fountain, once assumed that the fountains
of truth are cleansed, all these derivative currents of evil will
cleanse themselves. And the only exceptions, which I remember, to this
rule, are two cases in which, from the personal appeal made to his
decision, Christ would have made himself a party to wretched delusions,
if he had not condescended to expose their folly. But, as a general
rule, the branches of error were disregarded, and the roots only
attacked. If, then, so lofty a station was taken with regard even to
such errors as had moral and spiritual relations, how much more with
regard to the comparative trifles, (as in the ultimate relations of
human nature they are,) of merely human science! But, for my part, I go
further, and assert, that upon three reasons it was impossible for any
messenger from God, (or offering himself in that character,) for a
moment to have descended into the communication of truth merely
scientific, or economic, or worldly. And the reasons are these:
_First_, Because it would have degraded his mission, by lowering
it to the base level of a collision with human curiosity, or with petty
and transitory interests. _Secondly_, Because it would have ruined
his mission; would utterly have prostrated the free agency and the
proper agency of that mission. He that, in those days, should have
proclaimed the true theory of the Solar System and the heavenly forces,
would have been shut up at once--as a lunatic likely to become
dangerous. But suppose him to have escaped _that_; still, as a
divine teacher, he has no liberty of caprice. He must stand to the
promises of his own acts. Uttering the first truth of a science, he is
pledged to the second: taking the main step, he is committed to all
which follow. He is thrown at once upon the endless controversies which
science in every stage provokes, and in none more than in the earliest.
Or, if he retires as from a scene of contest that he had not
anticipated, he retires as one confessing a human precipitance and a
human oversight, weaknesses, venial in others, but fatal to the
pretensions of a divine teacher. Starting besides from such
pretensions, he could not (as others might) have the privilege of
selecting arbitrarily or partially. If upon one science, then upon
all,--if upon science, then upon, art,--if upon art and science, then
upon _every_ branch of social economy, upon _every_ organ of
civilization, his reformations and advances are equally due; due as to
all, if due as to any. To move in one direction, is constructively to
undertake for all. Without power to retreat, he has thus thrown the
intellectual interests of his followers into a channel utterly alien to
the purposes of a spiritual mission.

Thus far he has simply failed: but next comes a worse result; an evil,
not negative but positive. Because, _thirdly_, to apply the light
of a revelation for the benefit of a merely human science, which is
virtually done by so applying the illumination of an _inspired_
teacher, is--to assault capitally the scheme of God's discipline and
training for man. To improve by _heavenly_ means, if but in one
solitary science--to lighten, if but in one solitary section, the
condition of difficulty which had been designed for the strengthening
and training of human faculties, is _pro tanto_ to disturb--to
cancel--to contradict a previous purpose of God, made known by silent
indications from the beginning of the world. Wherefore did God give to
man the powers for contending with scientific difficulties? Wherefore
did he lay a secret train of continual occasions, that should rise, by
intervals, through thousands of generations, for provoking and
developing those activities in man's intellect, if, after all, he is to
send a messenger of his own, more than human, to intercept and strangle
all these great purposes? When, therefore, the persecutors of Galileo,
alleged that Jupiter, for instance, could not move in the way alleged,
because then the Bible would have proclaimed it,--as they thus threw
back upon God the burthen of discovery, which he had thrown upon
Galileo, why did they not, by following out their own logic, throw upon
the Bible the duty of discovering the telescope, or discovering the
satellites of Jupiter? And, as no such discoveries were there, why did
they not, by parity of logic, and for mere consistency, deny the
telescope as a fact, deny the Jovian planets as facts? But this it is
to mistake the very meaning and purposes of a revelation. A revelation
is not made for the purpose of showing to idle men that which they may
show to themselves, by faculties already given to them, if only they
will exert those faculties, but for the purpose of showing _that_
which the moral darkness of man will not, without supernatural light,
allow him to perceive. With disdain, therefore, must every considerate
person regard the notion,--that God could wilfully interfere with his
own plans, by accrediting ambassadors to reveal astronomy, or any other
science, which he has commanded men to cultivate _without_
revelation, by endowing them with all the natural powers for doing so.

Even as regards astronomy, a science so nearly allying itself to
religion by the loftiness and by the purity of its contemplations,
Scripture is nowhere the _parent_ of any doctrine, nor so much as
the silent sanctioner of any doctrine. Scripture cannot become the
author of falsehood,--though it were as to a trifle, cannot become a
party to falsehood. And it is made impossible for Scripture to teach
falsely, by the simple fact that Scripture, on such subjects, will not
condescend to teach at all. The Bible adopts the erroneous language of
men, (which at any rate it must do, in order to make itself
understood,) not by way of sanctioning a theory, but by way of using a
fact. The Bible _uses_ (postulates) the phenomena of day and
night, of summer and winter, and expresses them, in relation to their
causes, as _men_ express them, men, even, that are scientific
astronomers. But the results, which are all that concern Scripture, are
equally true, whether accounted for by one hypothesis which is
philosophically just, or by another which is popular and erring.

Now, on the other hand, in geology and cosmology, the case is still
stronger. _Here_ there is no opening for a compliance even with
popular language. _Here_, where there is no such stream of
apparent phenomena running counter (as in astronomy) to the real
phenomena, neither is there any popular language opposed to the
scientific. The whole are abstruse speculations, even as regards their
objects, not dreamed of as possibilities, either in their true aspects
or their false aspects, till modern times. The Scriptures, therefore,
nowhere allude to such sciences, either under the shape of histories,
applied to processes current and in movement, or under the shape of
theories applied to processes past and accomplished. The Mosaic
cosmogony, indeed, gives the succession of natural births; and that
succession will doubtless be more and more confirmed and illustrated as
geology advances. But as to the time, the duration, of this cosmogony,
it is the idlest of notions that the Scriptures either have or could
have condescended to human curiosity upon so awful a prologue to the
drama of this world. Genesis would no more have indulged so mean a
passion with respect to the mysterious inauguration of the world, than
the Apocalypse with respect to its mysterious close. 'Yet the six
_days_ of Moses!' Days! But is any man so little versed in biblical
language as not to know that (except in the merely historical
parts of the Jewish records) every section of time has a secret and
separate acceptation in the Scriptures? Does an _æon_, though a
Grecian word, bear scripturally [either in Daniel or in Saint John] any
sense known to Grecian ears? Do the seventy _weeks_ of the prophet
mean weeks in the sense of human calendars? Already the Psalms, (xc)
already St. Peter, (2d Epist.) warn us of a peculiar sense attached to
the word _day_ in divine ears? And who of the innumerable
interpreters understands the twelve hundred and odd days in Daniel, or
his two thousand and odd days, to mean, by possibility, periods of
twenty-four hours? Surely the theme of Moses was as mystical, and as
much entitled to the benefit of mystical language, as that of the

The sum of the matter is this:--God, by a Hebrew prophet, is sublimely
described as _the Revealer_; and, in variation of his own expression,
the same prophet describes him as the Being 'that knoweth the
darkness.' Under no idea can the relations of God to man be more
grandly expressed. But of what is he the revealer? Not surely of those
things which he has enabled man to reveal for himself, and which he has
commanded him so to reveal, but of those things which, were it not
through special light from heaven, must eternally remain sealed up in
the inaccessible darkness. On this principle we should all laugh at a
revealed cookery. But essentially the same ridicule applies to a
revealed astronomy, or a revealed geology. As a fact, there _is_
no such astronomy or geology: as a possibility, by the _a priori_
argument which I have used, (viz., that a revelation on such fields,
would contradict _other_ machineries of providence,) there _can_ be no
such astronomy or geology. Consequently there _can_ be none such in the
Bible. Consequently there _is_ none. Consequently there can be no
schism or feud upon _these_ subjects between the Bible and the
philosophies outside. Geology is a field left open, with the amplest
permission from above, to the widest and wildest speculations of man.


It is said continually--that the age of miracles is past. We deny that
it is so in any sense which implies this age to differ from all other
generations of man except one. It is neither past, nor ought we to wish
it past. Superstition is no vice in the constitution of man: it is not
true that, in any philosophic view, _primus in orbe deos fecit timor_
--meaning by _fecit_ even so much as _raised into light_. As Burke
remarked, the _timor_ at least must be presumed to preexist, and must
be accounted for, if not the gods. If the fear created the gods, what
created the fear? Far more true, and more just to the grandeur of man,
it would have been to say--_Primus in orbe deos fecit sensus
infiniti_. Even in the lowest Caffre, more goes to the sense of a
divine being than simply his wrath or his power. Superstition, indeed,
or the sympathy with the invisible, is the great test of man's nature,
as an earthly combining with a celestial. In superstition lies the
possibility of religion. And though superstition is often injurious,
degrading, demoralizing, it is so, not as a form of corruption or
degradation, but as a form of non-development. The crab is harsh, and
for itself worthless. But it is the germinal form of innumerable finer
fruits: not apples only the most exquisite, and pears; the peach and
the nectarine are said to have radiated from this austere stock when
cultured, developed, and transferred to all varieties of climate.
Superstition will finally pass into pure forms of religion as man
advances. It would be matter of lamentation to hear that superstition
had at all decayed until man had made corresponding steps in the
purification and development of his intellect as applicable to
religious faith. Let us hope that this is not so. And, by way of
judging, let us throw a hasty eye over the modes of popular
superstition. If these manifest their vitality, it will prove that the
popular intellect does not go along with the bookish or the worldly
(philosophic we cannot call it) in pronouncing the miraculous extinct.
The popular feeling is all in all.

This function of miraculous power, which is most widely diffused
through Pagan and Christian ages alike, but which has the least root in
the solemnities of the imagination, we may call the _Ovidian_. By
way of distinction, it may be so called; and with some justice, since
Ovid in his _Metamorphoses_ gave the first elaborate record of
such a tendency in human superstition. It is a movement of superstition
under the domination of human affections; a mode of spiritual awe which
seeks to reconcile itself with human tenderness or admiration; and
which represents supernatural power as expressing itself by a sympathy
with human distress or passion concurrently with human sympathies, and
as supporting that blended sympathy by a symbol incarnated with the
fixed agencies of nature. For instance, a pair of youthful lovers
perish by a double suicide originating in a fatal mistake, and a
mistake operating in each case through a noble self-oblivion. The tree
under which their meeting has been concerted, and which witnesses their
tragedy, is supposed ever afterwards to express the divine sympathy
with this catastrophe in the gloomy color of its fruit:--

'At tu, quæ ramis (arbor!) miserabile corpus
Nunc tegis unius, mox es tectura duorum,
Signa tene cædis:--pullosque et luctibus aptos
Semper habe fructus--gemini monumenta cruoris:'

Such is the dying adjuration of the lady to the tree. And the fruit
becomes from that time a monument of a double sympathy--sympathy from
man, sympathy from a dark power standing behind the agencies of nature,
and speaking through them. Meantime the object of this sympathy is
understood to be not the individual catastrophe, but the universal case
of unfortunate love exemplified in this particular romance. The
inimitable grace with which Ovid has delivered these early traditions
of human tenderness, blending with human superstition, is notorious;
the artfulness of the pervading connection, by which every tale in the
long succession is made to arise spontaneously out of that which
precedes, is absolutely unrivalled; and this it was, with his luxuriant
gayety, which procured for him a preference, even with Milton, a poet
so opposite by intellectual constitution. It is but reasonable,
therefore, that this function of the miraculous should bear the name of
_Ovidian_. Pagan it was in its birth; and to paganism its titles
ultimately ascend. Yet we know that in the transitional state through
the centuries succeeding to Christ, during which paganism and
Christianity were slowly descending and ascending, as if from two
different strata of the atmosphere, the two powers interchanged
whatsoever they could. (See Conyer's Middleton; and see Blount of our
own days.) It marked the earthly nature of paganism, that it could
borrow little or nothing by organization: it was fitted to no
expansion. But the true faith, from its vast and comprehensive
adaptation to the nature of man, lent itself to many corruptions--some
deadly in their tendencies, some harmless. Amongst these last was the
Ovidian form of connecting the unseen powers moving in nature with
human sympathies of love or reverence. The legends of this kind are
universal and endless. No land, the most austere in its Protestantism,
but has adopted these superstitions: and everywhere by those even who
reject them they are entertained with some degree of affectionate
respect. That the ass, which in its very degradation still retains an
under-power of sublimity, [Footnote: '_An under-power of sublimity_.'--
Everybody knows that Homer compared the Telamonian Ajax, in a moment of
heroic endurance, to an ass. This, however, was only under a momentary
glance from a peculiar angle of the case. But the Mahometan, too
solemn, and also perhaps too stupid to catch the fanciful colors of
things, absolutely by choice, under the Bagdad Caliphate, decorated a
most favorite hero with the title of the _Ass_--which title is
repeated with veneration to this day. The wild ass is one of the few
animals which has the reputation of never flying from an enemy.] or of
sublime suggestion through its ancient connection with the wilderness,
with the Orient, with Jerusalem, should have been honored amongst all
animals, by the visible impression upon its back of Christian symbols
--seems reasonable even to the infantine understanding when made
acquainted with its meekness, its patience, its suffering life, and
its association with the founder of Christianity in one great
triumphal solemnity. The very man who brutally abuses it, and feels a
hardhearted contempt for its misery and its submission, has a semi-
conscious feeling that the same qualities were possibly those which
recommended it to a distinction, [Footnote: '_Which recommended it to
a distinction_.'--It might be objected that the Oriental ass was often
a superb animal; that it is spoken of prophetically as such; and that
historically the Syrian ass is made known to us as having been
used in the prosperous ages of Judea for the riding of princes. But
this is no objection. Those circumstances in the history of the ass
were requisite to establish its symbolic propriety in a great symbolic
pageant of triumph. Whilst, on the other hand, the individual animal,
there is good reason to think, was marked by all the qualities of the
general race as a suffering and unoffending tribe in the animal
creation. The asses on which princes rode were of a separate color, of
a peculiar breed, and improved, like the English racer, by continual
care.] when all things were valued upon a scale inverse to that of the
world. Certain it is, that in all Christian lands the legend about the
ass is current amongst the rural population. The haddock, again,
amongst marine animals, is supposed, throughout all maritime Europe, to
be a privileged fish; even in austere Scotland, every child can point
out the impression of St. Peter's thumb, by which from age to age it is
distinguished from fishes having otherwise an external resemblance. All
domesticated cattle, having the benefit of man's guardianship and care,
are believed throughout England and Germany to go down upon their knees
at one particular moment of Christmas eve, when the fields are covered
with darkness, when no eye looks down but that of God, and when the
exact anniversary hour revolves of the angelic song, once rolling over
the fields and flocks of Palestine. [Footnote: Mahometanism, which
everywhere pillages Christianity, cannot but have its own face at times
glorified by its stolen jewels. This solemn hour of jubilation,
gathering even the brutal natures into its fold, recalls accordingly
the Mahometan legend (which the reader may remember is one of those
incorporated into Southey's _Thalaba_) of a great hour revolving
once in every year, during which the gates of Paradise were thrown open
to their utmost extent, and gales of happiness issued forth upon the
total family of man.] The Glastonbury Thorn is a more local
superstition; but at one time the legend was as widely diffused as that
of Loretto, with the angelic translation of its sanctities: on
Christmas morning, it was devoutly believed by all Christendom, that
this holy thorn put forth its annual blossoms. And with respect to the
aspen tree, which Mrs. Hemans very naturally mistook for a Welsh
legend, having first heard it in Denbighshire, the popular faith is
universal--that it shivers mystically in sympathy with the horror of
that mother tree in Palestine which was compelled to furnish materials
for the cross. Neither would it in this case be any objection, if a
passage were produced from Solinus or Theophrastus, implying that the
aspen tree had always shivered--for the tree might presumably be
penetrated by remote presentiments, as well as by remote remembrances.
In so vast a case the obscure sympathy should stretch, Janus-like, each
way. And an objection of the same kind to the rainbow, considered as
the sign or seal by which God attested his covenant in bar of all
future deluges, may be parried in something of the same way. It was not
then first created--true: but it was then first selected by preference,
amongst a multitude of natural signs as yet unappropriated, and then
first charged with the new function of a message and a ratification to
man. Pretty much the same theory, that is, the same way of accounting
for the natural existence without disturbing the supernatural
functions, may be applied to the great constellation of the other
hemisphere, called the Southern Cross. It is viewed popularly in South
America, and the southern parts of our northern hemisphere, as the
great banner, or gonfalon, held aloft by Heaven before the Spanish
heralds of the true faith in 1492. To that superstitious and ignorant
race it costs not an effort to suppose, that by some synchronizing
miracle, the constellation had been then specially called into
existence at the very moment when the first Christian procession,
bearing a cross in their arms, solemnly stepped on shore from the
vessels of Christendom. We Protestants know better: we understand the
impossibility of supposing such a narrow and local reference in orbs,
so transcendently vast as those composing the constellation--orbs
removed from each other by such unvoyageable worlds of space, and
having, in fact, no real reference to each other more than to any other
heavenly bodies whatsoever. The unity of synthesis, by which they are
composed into one figure of a cross, we know to be a mere accidental
result from an arbitrary synthesis of human fancy. Take such and such
stars, compose them into letters, and they will spell such a word. But
still it was our own choice--a synthesis of our own fancy, originally
to combine them in this way. They might be divided from each other, and
otherwise combined. All this is true: and yet, as the combination does
spontaneously offer itself [Footnote: '_Does spontaneously offer
itself._'--Heber (Bishop of Calcutta) complains that this constellation
is not composed of stars answering his expectation in point of
magnitude. But he admits that the dark barren space around it
gives to this inferior magnitude a very advantageous relief.] to every
eye, as the glorious cross does really glitter for ever through the
silent hours of a vast hemisphere, even they who are not superstitious,
may willingly yield to the belief--that, as the rainbow was laid in the
very elements and necessities of nature, yet still bearing a pre-
dedication to a service which would not be called for until many ages
had passed, so also the mysterious cipher of man's imperishable hopes
may have been entwined and enwreathed with the starry heavens from
their earliest creation, as a prefiguration--as a silent heraldry of
hope through one period, and as a heraldry of gratitude through the

All these cases which we have been rehearsing, taking them in the
fullest literality, agree in this general point of union--they are all
silent incarnations of miraculous power--miracles, supposing them to
have been such originally, locked up and embodied in the regular course
of nature, just as we see lineaments of faces and of forms in
petrifactions, in variegated marbles, in spars, or in rocky strata,
which our fancy interprets as once having been real human existences;
but which are now confounded with the substance of a mineral product.
Even those who are most superstitious, therefore, look upon cases of
this order as occupying a midway station between the physical and the
hyperphysical, between the regular course of nature and the
providential interruption of that course. The stream of the miraculous
is here confluent with the stream of the natural. By such legends the
credulous man finds his superstition but little nursed; the incredulous
finds his philosophy but little revolted. Both alike will be willing to
admit, for instance, that the apparent act of reverential thanksgiving,
in certain birds, when drinking, is caused and supported by a
physiological arrangement; and yet, perhaps, both alike would bend so
far to the legendary faith as to allow a child to believe, and would
perceive a pure childlike beauty in believing, that the bird was thus
rendering a homage of deep thankfulness to the universal Father, who
watches for the safety of sparrows, and sends his rain upon the just
and upon the unjust. In short, the faith in this order of the physico-
miraculous is open alike to the sceptical and the non-sceptical: it is
touched superficially with the coloring of superstition, with its
tenderness, its humility, its thankfulness, its awe; but, on the other
hand, it is not therefore tainted with the coarseness, with the
silliness, with the credulity of superstition. Such a faith reposes
upon the universal signs diffused through nature, and blends with the
mysterious of natural grandeurs wherever found--with the mysterious of
the starry heavens, with the mysterious of music, and with that
infinite form of the mysterious for man's dimmest misgivings--

'Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns.'

But, from this earliest note in the ascending scale of superstitious
faith, let us pass to a more alarming key. This first, which we have
styled (in equity as well as for distinction) the _Ovidian_, is
too ærial, too allegoric, almost to be susceptible of much terror. It
is the mere _fancy_, in a mood half-playful, half-tender, which
submits to the belief. It is the feeling, the sentiment, which creates
the faith; not the faith which creates the feeling. And thus far we see
that modern feeling and Christian feeling has been to the full as
operative as any that is peculiar to paganism; judging by the Romish
_Legenda_, very much more so. The Ovidian illustrations, under a
false superstition, are entitled to give the designation, as being the
first, the earliest, but not at all as the richest. Besides that,
Ovid's illustrations emanated often from himself individually, not from
the popular mind of his country; ours of the same classification
uniformly repose on large popular traditions from the whole of
Christian antiquity. These again are agencies of the supernatural which
can never have a private or personal application; they belong to all
mankind and to all generations. But the next in order are more solemn;
they become terrific by becoming personal. These comprehend all that
vast body of the marvellous which is expressed by the word _Ominous_.
On this head, as dividing itself into the ancient and modern, we will
speak next.

Everybody is aware of the deep emphasis which the Pagans laid upon
words and upon names, under this aspect of the ominous. The name of
several places was formally changed by the Roman government, solely
with a view to that contagion of evil which was thought to lurk in the
syllables, if taken significantly. Thus, the town of Maleventum, (Ill-
come, as one might render it,) had its name changed by the Romans to
Beneventum, (or Welcome.) _Epidamnum_ again, the Grecian Calais,
corresponding to the Roman Dover of Brundusium, was a name that would
have startled the stoutest-hearted Roman 'from his propriety.' Had he
suffered this name to escape him inadvertently, his spirits would have
forsaken him--he would have pined away under a certainty of misfortune,
like a poor Negro of Koromantyn who is the victim of Obi.[Footnote:
'_The victim of Obi._'--It seems worthy of notice, that this
magical fascination is generally called Obi, and the magicians Obeah
men, throughout Guinea, Negroland, &c.; whilst the Hebrew or Syriac
word for the rites of necromancy, was _Ob_ or _Obh_, at least
when ventriloquism was concerned.] As a Greek word, which it was, the
name imported no ill; but for a Roman to say _Ibo Epidamnum_, was
in effect saying, though in a hybrid dialect, half-Greek half-Roman, 'I
will go to ruin.' The name was therefore changed to Dyrrachium; a
substitution which quieted more anxieties in Roman hearts than the
erection of a light-house or the deepening of the harbor mouth. A case
equally strong, to take one out of many hundreds that have come down to
us, is reported by Livy. There was an officer in a Roman legion, at
some period of the Republic, who bore the name either of Atrius Umber
or Umbrius Ater: and this man being ordered on some expedition, the
soldiers refused to follow him. They did right. We remember that Mr.
Coleridge used facetiously to call the well-known sister of Dr. Aikin,
Mrs. Barbauld, 'that pleonasm of nakedness'--the idea of nakedness
being reduplicated and reverberated in the _bare_ and the _bald_.
This Atrius Umber might be called 'that pleonasm of darkness;' and one
might say to him, in the words of Othello, 'What needs this iteration?'
To serve under the Gloomy was enough to darken the spirit of hope; but
to serve under the Black Gloomy was really rushing upon destruction.
Yet it will be alleged that Captain Death was a most favorite and
heroic leader in the English navy; and that in our own times, Admiral
Coffin, though an American by birth, has not been unpopular in the same
service. This is true: and all that can be said is, that these names
were two-edged swords, which might be made to tell against the enemy as
well as against friends. And possibly the Roman centurion might have
turned his name to the same account, had he possessed the great
Dictator's presence of mind; for he, when landing in Africa, having
happened to stumble--an omen of the worst character, in Roman
estimation--took out its sting by following up his own
oversight, as if it had been intentional, falling to the ground,
kissing it, and ejaculating that in this way he appropriated the soil.

Omens of every class were certainly regarded, in ancient Rome, with a
reverence that can hardly be surpassed. But yet, with respect to these
omens derived from names, it is certain that our modern times have more
memorable examples on record. Out of a large number which occur to us,
we will cite two:--The present King of the French bore in his boyish
days a title which he would not have borne, but for an omen of bad
augury attached to his proper title. He was called the Duc de Chartres
before the Revolution, whereas his proper title was Duc de Valois. And
the origin of the change was this:--The Regent's father had been the
sole brother of Louis Quatorze. He married for his first wife our
English princess Henrietta, the sister of Charles II., (and through her
daughter, by the way, it is that the house of Savoy, _i.e._ of
Sardinia, has pretensions to the English throne.) This unhappy lady, it
is too well established, was poisoned. Voltaire, amongst many others,
has affected to doubt the fact; for which in his time there might be
some excuse. But since then better evidences have placed the matter
beyond all question. We now know both the fact, and the how, and the
why. The Duke, who probably was no party to the murder of his young
wife, though otherwise on bad terms with her, married for his second
wife a coarse German princess, homely in every sense, and a singular
contrast to the elegant creature whom he had lost. She was a daughter
of the Bavarian Elector; ill-tempered by her own confession, self-
willed, and a plain speaker to excess; but otherwise a woman of honest
German principles. Unhappy she was through a long life; unhappy through
the monotony as well as the malicious intrigues of the French court;
and so much so, that she did her best (though without effect) to
prevent her Bavarian niece from becoming dauphiness. She acquits her
husband, however, in the memoirs which she left behind, of any
intentional share in her unhappiness; she describes him constantly as a
well-disposed prince. But whether it were, that often walking in the
dusk through the numerous apartments of that vast mansion which her
husband had so much enlarged, naturally she turned her thoughts to the
injured lady who had presided there before herself; or whether it arose
from the inevitable gloom which broods continually over mighty palaces,
so much is known for certain, that one evening, in the twilight, she
met, at a remote quarter of the reception-rooms, something that she
conceived to be a spectre. What she fancied to have passed on that
occasion, was never known except to her nearest friends; and if she
made any explanations in her memoirs, the editor has thought fit to
suppress them. She mentions only, that in consequence of some ominous
circumstances relating to the title of _Valois_, which was the
proper second title of the Orleans family, her son, the Regent, had
assumed in his boyhood that of Duc de Chartres. His elder brother was
dead, so that the superior title was open to him; but, in consequence
of those mysterious omens, whatever they might be, which occasioned
much whispering at the time, the great title of Valois was laid aside
for ever as of bad augury; nor has it ever been resumed through a
century and a half that have followed that mysterious warning; nor will
it be resumed unless the numerous children of the present Orleans
branch should find themselves distressed for ancient titles; which is
not likely, since they enjoy the honors of the elder house, and are now
the _children of France_ in a technical sense.

Here we have a great European case of state omens in the eldest of
Christian houses. The next which we shall cite is equally a state case,
and carries its public verification along with itself. In the spring of
1799, when Napoleon was lying before Acre, he became anxious for news
from Upper Egypt, whither he had despatched Dessaix in pursuit of a
distinguished Mameluke leader. This was in the middle of May. Not many
days after, a courier arrived with favorable despatches--favorable in
the main, but reporting one tragical occurrence on a small scale that,
to Napoleon, for a superstitious reason, outweighed the public
prosperity. A _djerme_, or Nile boat of the largest class, having
on board a large party of troops and of wounded men, together with most
of a regimental band, had run ashore at the village of Benouth. No case
could be more hopeless. The neighboring Arabs were of the Yambo tribe--
of all Arabs the most ferocious. These Arabs and the Fellahs (whom, by
the way, many of our countrymen are so ready to represent as friendly
to the French and hostile to ourselves,) had taken the opportunity of
attacking the vessel. The engagement was obstinate; but at length the
inevitable catastrophe could be delayed no longer. The commander, an
Italian named Morandi, was a brave man; any fate appeared better than
that which awaited him from an enemy so malignant. He set fire to the
powder magazine; the vessel blew up; Morandi perished in the Nile; and
all of less nerve, who had previously reached the shore in safety, were
put to death to the very last man, with cruelties the most detestable,
by their inhuman enemies. For all this Napoleon cared little; but one
solitary fact there was in the report which struck him with
consternation. This ill-fated _djerme_--what was it called? It was
called _L'Italie_; and in the name of the vessel Napoleon read an
augury of the fate which had befallen the Italian territory. Considered
as a dependency of France, he felt certain that Italy was lost; and
Napoleon was inconsolable. But what possible connection, it was asked,
can exist between this vessel on the Nile and a remote peninsula of
Southern Europe? 'No matter,' replied Napoleon; 'my presentiments never
deceive me. You will see that all is ruined. I am satisfied that my
Italy, my conquest, is lost to France!' So, indeed, it was. All
European news had long been intercepted by the English cruisers; but
immediately after the battle with the Vizier in July 1799, an English
admiral first informed the French army of Egypt that Massena and others
had lost all that Bonaparte had won in 1796. But it is a strange
illustration of human blindness, that this very subject of Napoleon's
lamentation--this very campaign of 1799--it was, with its blunders and
its long equipage of disasters, that paved the way for his own
elevation to the Consulship, just seven calendar months from the
receipt of that Egyptian despatch; since most certainly, in the
struggle of Brumaire 1799, doubtful and critical through every stage,
it was the pointed contrast between _his_ Italian campaigns and
those of his successors which gave effect to Napoleon's pretensions
with the political combatants, and which procured them a ratification
amongst the people. The loss of Italy was essential to the full effect
of Napoleon's previous conquest. That and the imbecile characters of
Napoleon's chief military opponents were the true keys to the great
revolution of Brumaire. The stone which he rejected became the keystone
of the arch. So that, after all, he valued the omen falsely; though the
very next news from Europe, courteously communicated by his English
enemies, showed that he had interpreted its meaning rightly.

These omens, derived from names, are therefore common to the ancient
and the modern world. But perhaps, in strict logic, they ought to have
been classed as one subdivision or variety under a much larger head,
viz. words generally, no matter whether proper names or appellatives,
as operative powers and agencies, having, that is to say, a charmed
power against some party concerned from the moment that they leave the

Homer describes prayers as having a separate life, rising buoyantly
upon wings, and making their way upwards to the throne of Jove. Such,
but in a sense gloomy and terrific, is the force ascribed under a
widespread superstition, ancient and modern, to words uttered on
critical occasions; or to words uttered at any time, which point to
critical occasions. Hence the doctrine of _euphaemismos_, the
necessity of abstaining from strong words or direct words in expressing
fatal contingencies. It was shocking, at all times of paganism, to say
of a third person--'If he should die;' or to suppose the case that he
might be murdered. The very word _death_ was consecrated and
forbidden. _Si quiddam humanum passus fuerit_ was the extreme form
to which men advanced in such cases. And this scrupulous feeling,
originally founded on the supposed efficacy of words, prevails to this
day. It is a feeling undoubtedly supported by good taste, which
strongly impresses upon us all the discordant tone of all impassioned
subjects, (death, religion, &c.,) with the common key of ordinary
conversation. But good taste is not in itself sufficient to account for
a scrupulousness so general and so austere. In the lowest classes there
is a shuddering recoil still felt from uttering coarsely and roundly
the anticipation of a person's death. Suppose a child, heir to some
estate, the subject of conversation--the hypothesis of his death is put
cautiously, under such forms as, 'If anything but good should happen;'
'if any change should occur;' 'if any of us should chance to miscarry;'
and so forth. Always a modified expression is sought--always an
indirect one. And this timidity arises under the old superstition still
lingering amongst men, like that ancient awe, alluded to by Wordsworth,
for the sea and its deep secrets--feelings that have not, no, nor ever
will, utterly decay. No excess of nautical skill will ever perfectly
disenchant the great abyss from its terrors--no progressive knowledge
will ever medicine that dread misgiving of a mysterious and pathless
power given to words of a certain import, or uttered in certain
situations, by a parent, to persecuting or insulting children; by the
victim of horrible oppression, when laboring in final agonies; and by
others, whether cursing or blessing, who stand central to great
passions, to great interests, or to great perplexities.

And here, by way of parenthesis, we may stop to explain the force of
that expression, so common in Scripture, '_Thou hast said it._' It
is an answer often adopted by our Saviour; and the meaning we hold to
be this: Many forms in eastern idioms, as well as in the Greek
occasionally, though meant _interrogatively_, are of a nature to
convey a direct categorical _affirmation_, unless as their meaning
is modified by the cadence and intonation. _Art thou_, detached
from this vocal and accentual modification, is equivalent to _thou
art_. Nay, even apart from this accident, the popular belief
authorized the notion, that simply to have uttered any great thesis,
though unconsciously--simply to have united verbally any two great
ideas, though for a purpose the most different or even opposite, had
the mysterious power of realizing them in act. An exclamation, though
in the purest spirit of sport, to a boy, '_You shall be our
imperator_,' was many times supposed to be the forerunner and fatal
mandate for the boy's elevation. Such words executed themselves. To
connect, though but for denial or for mockery, the ideas of Jesus and
the Messiah, furnished an augury that eventually they would be found to
coincide, and to have their coincidence admitted. It was an
_argumentum ad hominem_, and drawn from a popular faith.

But a modern reader will object the want of an accompanying design or
serious meaning on the part of him who utters the words--he never meant
his words to be taken seriously--nay, his purpose was the very
opposite. True: and precisely that is the reason why his words are
likely to operate effectually, and why they should be feared. Here lies
the critical point which most of all distinguishes this faith. Words
took effect, not merely in default of a serious use, but exactly in
consequence of that default. It was the chance word, the stray word,
the word uttered in jest, or in trifling, or in scorn, or
unconsciously, which took effect; whilst ten thousand words, uttered
with purpose and deliberation, were sure to prove inert. One case will
illustrate this:--Alexander of Macedon, in the outset of his great
expedition, consulted the oracle at Delphi. For the sake of his army,
had he been even without personal faith, he desired to have his
enterprise consecrated. No persuasions, however, would move the
priestess to enter upon her painful and agitating duties for the sake
of obtaining the regular answer of the god. Wearied with this,
Alexander seized the great lady by the arm, and using as much violence
as was becoming to the two characters--of a great prince acting and a
great priestess suffering--he pushed her gently backwards to the tripod
on which, in her professional character, she was to seat herself. Upon
this, in the hurry and excitement of the moment, the priestess
exclaimed, _O pai, anixaitos ei--O son, thou art irresistible_;
never adverting for an instant to his martial purposes, but simply to
his personal importunities. The person whom she thought of as incapable
of resistance, was herself, and all she meant _consciously_ was--O
son, I can refuse nothing to one so earnest. But mark what followed:
Alexander desisted at once--he asked for no further oracle--he refused
it, and exclaimed joyously:--'Now then, noble priestess, farewell; I
have the oracle--I have your answer, and better than any which you
could deliver from the tripod. I am invincible--so you have declared,
you cannot revoke it. True, you thought not of Persia--you thought only
of my importunity. But that very fact is what ratifies your answer. In
its blindness I recognise its truth. An oracle from a god might be
distorted by political ministers of the god, as in time past too often
has been suspected. The oracle has been said to _Medize_, and in
my own father's time to _Philippize_. But an oracle delivered
unconsciously, indirectly, blindly, that is the oracle which cannot
deceive.' Such was the all-famous oracle which Alexander accepted--such
was the oracle on which he and his army reposing went forth 'conquering
and to conquer.'

Exactly on this principle do the Turks act, in putting so high a value
on the words of idiots. Enlightened Christians have often wondered at
their allowing any weight to people bereft of understanding. But that
is the very reason for allowing them weight: that very defect it is
which makes them capable of being organs for conveying words from
higher intelligences. A fine human intelligence cannot be a passive
instrument--it cannot be a mere tube for conveying the words of
inspiration: such an intelligence will intermingle ideas of its own, or
otherwise modify what is given, and pollute what is sacred.

It is also on this principle that the whole practice and doctrine of
Sortilegy rest. Let us confine ourselves to that mode of sortilegy
which is conducted by throwing open privileged books at random, leaving
to chance the page and the particular line on which the oracular
functions are thrown. The books used have varied with the caprice or
the error of ages. Once the Hebrew Scriptures had the preference.
Probably they were laid aside, not because the reverence for their
authority decayed, but because it increased. In later times Virgil has
been the favorite. Considering the very limited range of ideas to which
Virgil was tied by his theme--a colonizing expedition in a barbarous
age, no worse book could have been selected: [Footnote: '_No worse
book could have been selected._'--The probable reason for making so
unhappy a choice seems to have been that Virgil, in the middle ages,
had the character of a necromancer, a diviner, &c. This we all know
from Dante. Now, the original reason for this strange translation of
character and functions we hold to have arisen from the circumstance of
his maternal grandfather having borne the name of _Magus_. People
in those ages held that a powerful enchanter, exorciser, &c., must have
a magician amongst his _cognati_; the power must run in the blood,
which on the maternal side could be undeniably ascertained. Under this
preconception, they took Magus not for a proper name, but for a
professional designation. Amongst many illustrations of the magical
character sustained by Virgil in the middle ages, we may mention that a
writer, about the year 1200, or the era of our Robin Hood, published by
Montfaucon, and cited by Gibbon in his last volume, says of Virgil,--
that '_Captus a Romanis invisibiliter exiit, ivitque Neapopolim_.'] so
little indeed does the AEneid exhibit of human life in its
multiformity, that much tampering with the text is required
to bring real cases of human interest and real situations within the
scope of any Virgilian sentence, though aided by the utmost latitude of
accommodation. A king, a soldier, a sailor, &c., might look for
correspondences to their own circumstances; but not many others.
Accordingly, everybody remembers the remarkable answer which Charles I.
received at Oxford from this Virgilian oracle, about the opening of the
Parliamentary war. But from this limitation in the range of ideas it
was that others, and very pious people too, have not thought it profane
to resume the old reliance on the Scriptures. No case, indeed, can try
so severely, or put upon record so conspicuously, this indestructible
propensity for seeking light out of darkness--this thirst for looking
into the future by the aid of dice, real or figurative, as the fact of
men eminent for piety having yielded to the temptation. We give one
instance--the instance of a person who, in _practical_ theology,
has been, perhaps, more popular than any other in any church. Dr.
Doddridge, in his earlier days, was in a dilemma both of conscience and
of taste as to the election he should make between two situations, one
in possession, both at his command. He was settled at Harborough, in
Leicestershire, and was 'pleasing himself with the view of a
continuance' in that situation. True, he had received an invitation to
Northampton; but the reasons against complying seemed so strong, that
nothing was wanting but the civility of going over to Northampton, and
making an apologetic farewell. On the last Sunday in November of the
year 1729, the doctor went and preached a sermon in conformity with
those purposes. 'But,' says he, 'on the morning of that day an incident
happened, which affected me greatly.' On the night previous, it seems,
he had been urged very importunately by his Northampton friends to
undertake the vacant office. Much personal kindness had concurred with
this public importunity: the good doctor was affected; he had prayed
fervently, alleging in his prayer, as the reason which chiefly weighed
with him to reject the offer, that it was far beyond his forces, and
chiefly because he was too young [Footnote: '_Because he was too
young_'--Dr. Doddridge was born in the summer of 1702; consequently
he was at this era of his life about twenty-seven years old, and
consequently not so obviously entitled to the excuse of youth. But he
pleaded his youth, not with a view to the exertions required, but to
the _auctoritas_ and responsibilities of the situation.] and had
no assistant. He goes on thus:--'As soon as ever this address' (meaning
the prayer) 'was ended, I passed through a room of the house in which I
lodged, where a child was reading to his mother, and the only words I
heard distinctly were these, _And as thy days, so shall thy strength
be_.' This singular coincidence between his own difficulty and a
scriptural line caught at random in passing hastily through a room,
(but observe, a line insulated from the context, and placed in high
relief to his ear,) shook his resolution. Accident co-operated; a
promise to be fulfilled at Northampton, in a certain contingency, fell
due at the instant; the doctor was detained, this detention gave time
for further representations; new motives arose, old difficulties were
removed, and finally the doctor saw, in all this succession of steps,
the first of which, however, lay in the _Sortes Biblicæ_, clear
indications of a providential guidance. With that conviction he took up
his abode at Northampton, and remained there for the next thirty-one
years, until he left it for his grave at Lisbon; in fact, he passed at
Northampton the whole of his public life. It must, therefore, be
allowed to stand upon the records of sortilegy, that in the main
direction of his life--not, indeed, as to its spirit, but as to its
form and local connections--a Protestant divine of much merit, and
chiefly in what regards practice, and of the class most opposed to
superstition, took his determining impulse from a variety of the
_Sortes Virgilianæ_.

This variety was known in early times to the Jews--as early, indeed, as
the era of the Grecian Pericles, if we are to believe the Talmud. It is
known familiarly to this day amongst Polish Jews, and is called
_Bathcol_, or the _daughter of a voice_; the meaning of which
appellation is this:--The _Urim and Thummim_, or oracle in the
breast-plate of the high priest, spoke directly from God. It was,
therefore, the original or mother-voice. But about the time of
Pericles, that is, exactly one hundred years before the time of
Alexander the Great, the light of prophecy was quenched in Malachi or
Haggai; and the oracular jewels in the breast-plate became
simultaneously dim. Henceforwards the mother-voice was heard no longer:
but to this succeeded an imperfect or daughter-voice, (_Bathcol_,)
which lay in the first words happening to arrest the attention at a
moment of perplexity. An illustration, which has been often quoted from
the Talmud, is to the following effect:--Rabbi Tochanan, and Rabbi
Simeon Ben Lachish, were anxious about a friend, Rabbi Samuel, six
hundred miles distant on the Euphrates. Whilst talking earnestly
together on this subject in Palestine, they passed a school; they
paused to listen: it was a child reading the first book of Samuel; and
the words which they caught were these--_And Samuel died_. These
words they received as a _Bath-col_: and the next horseman from
the Euphrates brought word accordingly that Rabbi Samuel had been
gathered to his fathers at some station on the Euphrates.

Here is the very same case, the same _Bath-col_ substantially,
which we have cited from Orton's _Life of Doddridge_. And Du Cange
himself notices, in his Glossary, the relation which this bore to the
Pagan _Sortes_. 'It was,' says he, 'a fantastical way of divination,
invented by the Jews, not unlike the _Sortes Virgilianæ_ of the
heathens. For, as with them the first words they happened to dip into
in the works of that poet were a kind of oracle whereby they predicted
future events,--so, with the Jews, when they appealed to _Bath-col_,
the first words they heard from any one's mouth were looked upon as a
voice from Heaven directing them in the matter they inquired about.'

If the reader imagines that this ancient form of the practical
miraculous is at all gone out of use, even the example of Dr. Doddridge
may satisfy him to the contrary. Such an example was sure to authorize
a large imitation. But, even apart from that, the superstition is
common. The records of conversion amongst felons and other ignorant
persons might be cited by hundreds upon hundreds to prove that no
practice is more common than that of trying the spiritual fate, and
abiding by the import of any passage in the Scriptures which may first
present itself to the eye. Cowper, the poet, has recorded a case of
this sort in his own experience. It is one to which all the unhappy are
prone. But a mode of questioning the oracles of darkness, far more
childish, and, under some shape or other, equally common amongst those
who are prompted by mere vacancy of mind, without that determination to
sacred fountains which is impressed by misery, may be found in the
following extravagant silliness of Rousseau, which we give in his own
words--a case for which he admits that he himself would have _shut
up_ any other man (meaning in a lunatic hospital) whom he had seen
practising the same absurdities:--

'Au milieu de mes études et d'une vie innocente autant qu'on la puisse
mener, et malgré tout ce qu'on m'avoit pu dire, la peur de l'Enfer
m'agitoit encore. Souvent je me demandois--En quel état suis-je? Si je
mourrois à l'instant même, _serois-je damné_? Selon mes Jansénistes,
[he had been reading the books of the Port Royal,] la chose est
indubitable: mais, selon ma conscience, il me paroissoit que
non. Toujours craintif et flottant dans cette cruelle incertitude,
j'avois recours (pour en sortir) aux expédients les plus risibles, et
pour lesquels je ferois volontiers enfermer un homme si je lui en
voyois faire autant. ... Un jour, rêvant à ce triste sujet, je
m'exerçois machinalement à lancer les pierres contre les troncs des
arbres; et cela avec mon addresse ordinaire, c'est-à-dire sans presque
jamais en toucher aucun. Tout au milieu de ce bel exercise, je m'avisai
de faire une espèce de pronostic pour calmer mon inquiétude. Je me dis
--je m'en vais jeter cette pierre contre l'arbre qui est vis-à-vis de
moi: si je le touche, signe de salut: si je le manque, signe de
damnation. Tout en disant ainsi, je jette ma pierre d'une main
tremblante, et avec un horrible battement de coeur, mais si
heureusement qu'elle va frapper au beau-milieu de l'arbre: ce qui
véritablement n'étoit pas difficile: car j'avois eu soin de le choisir
fort gros et fort près. _Depuis lors je n'ai plus doubté de mon
salut._ Je ne sais, en me rappelant ce trait, si je dois rire ou
gémir sur moimême.'--_Les Confessions, Partie I. Livre VI._

Now, really, if Rousseau thought fit to try such tremendous appeals by
taking 'a shy' at any random object, he should have governed his
sortilegy (for such it may be called) with something more like equity.
Fair play is a jewel: and in such a case, a man is supposed to play
against an adverse party hid in darkness. To shy at a cow within six
feet distance gives no chance at all to his dark antagonist. A pigeon
rising from a trap at a suitable distance might be thought a
_sincere_ staking of the interest at issue: but, as to the massy
stem of a tree 'fort gros et fort près'--the sarcasm of a Roman emperor
applies, that to miss under such conditions implied an original genius
for stupidity, and to hit was no trial of the case. After all, the
sentimentalist had youth to plead in apology for this extravagance. He
was hypochondriacal; he was in solitude; and he was possessed by gloomy
imaginations from the works of a society in the highest public credit.
But most readers will be aware of similar appeals to the mysteries of
Providence, made in public by illustrious sectarians, speaking from the
solemn station of a pulpit. We forbear to quote cases of this nature,
though really existing in print, because we feel that the blasphemy of
such anecdotes is more revolting and more painful to pious minds than
the absurdity is amusing. Meantime it must not be forgotten, that the
principle concerned, though it may happen to disgust men when
associated with ludicrous circumstances, is, after all, the very same
which has latently governed very many modes of ordeal, or judicial
inquiry; and which has been adopted, blindly, as a moral rule, or
canon, equally by the blindest of the Pagans, the most fanatical of the
Jews, and the most enlightened of the Christians. It proceeds upon the
assumption that man by his actions puts a question to Heaven; and that
Heaven answers by the event. Lucan, in a well known passage, takes it
for granted that the cause of Cæsar had the approbation of the gods.
And why? Simply from the event. It was notoriously the triumphant
cause. It was victorious, (_victrix_ causa Deis placuit; sed
_victa_ Catoni.) It was the '_victrix_ causa;' and, _as_ such,
simply because it was 'victrix,' it had a right in his eyes to
postulate the divine favor as mere matter of necessary interference:
whilst, on the other hand, the _victa causa_, though it seemed to
Lucan sanctioned by human virtue in the person of Cato, stood
unappealably condemned. This mode of reasoning may strike the reader as
merely Pagan. Not at all. In England, at the close of the Parliamentary
war, it was generally argued--that Providence had decided the question
against the Royalists by the mere fact of the issue. Milton himself,
with all his high-toned morality, uses this argument as irrefragable:
which is odd, were it only on this account--that the issue ought
necessarily to have been held for a time as merely hypothetic, and
liable to be set aside by possible counter-issues through one
generation at the least. But the capital argument against such doctrine
is to be found in the New Testament. Strange that Milton should
overlook, and strange that moralists in general have overlooked, the
sudden arrest given to this dangerous but most prevalent mode of
reasoning by the Founder of our faith. He first, he last, taught to his
astonished disciples the new truth--at that time the astounding truth--
that no relation exists between the immediate practical events of
things on the one side, and divine sentences on the other. There was no
presumption, he teaches them, against a man's favor with God, or that
of his parents, because he happened to be afflicted to extremity with
bodily disease. There was no shadow of an argument for believing a
party of men criminal objects of heavenly wrath because upon them, by
fatal preference, a tower had fallen, and because _their_ bodies
were exclusively mangled. How little can it be said that Christianity
has yet developed the fulness of its power, when kings and senates so
recently acted under a total oblivion of this great though novel
Christian doctrine, and would do so still, were it not that religious
arguments have been banished by the progress of manners from the field
of political discussion.

But, quitting this province of the ominous, where it is made the object
of a direct personal inquest, whether by private or by national trials,
or the sortilegy of events, let us throw our eyes over the broader
field of omens, as they offer themselves spontaneously to those who do
not seek, or would even willingly evade them. There are few of these,
perhaps none, which are not universal in their authority, though every
land in turn fancies them (like its proverbs) of local prescription and
origin. The death-watch extends from England to Cashmere, and across
India diagonally to the remotest nook of Bengal, over a three thousand
miles' distance from the entrance of the Indian Punjaub. A hare
crossing a man's path on starting in the morning, has been held in all
countries alike to prognosticate evil in the course of that day. Thus,
in the _Confessions of a Thug_, (which is partially built on a
real judicial document, and everywhere conforms to the usages of
Hindostan,) the hero of the horrid narrative [Footnote: '_The hero of
the horrid narrative_.'--Horrid it certainly is; and one incident in
every case gives a demoniacal air of coolness to the hellish
atrocities, viz the regular forwarding of the _bheels_, or grave-
diggers. But else the tale tends too much to monotony; and for a reason
which ought to have checked the author in carrying on the work to three
volumes, namely, that although there is much dramatic variety in the
circumstances of the several cases, there is none in the catastrophes.
The brave man and the coward, the erect spirit fighting to the last,
and the poor creature that despairs from the first,--all are confounded
in one undistinguishing end by sudden strangulation. This was the
original defect of the plan. The sudden surprise, and the scientific
noosing as with a Chilian _lasso_, constituted in fact a main
feature of Thuggee. But still, the gradual theatrical arrangement of
each Thug severally by the side of a victim, must often have roused
violent suspicion, and that in time to intercept the suddenness of the
murder. Now, for the sake of the dramatic effect, this interception
ought more often to have been introduced, else the murders are but so
many blind surprises as if in sleep.] charges some disaster of his own
upon having neglected such an omen of the morning. The same belief
operated in Pagan Italy. The same omen announced to Lord Lindsay's Arab
attendants in the desert the approach of some disaster, which partially
happened in the morning. And a Highlander of the 42d Regiment, in his
printed memoirs, notices the same harbinger of evil as having crossed
his own path on a day of personal disaster in Spain.

Birds are even more familiarly associated with such ominous warnings.
This chapter in the great volume of superstition was indeed cultivated
with unusual solicitude amongst the Pagans--_ornithomancy_ grew
into an elaborate science. But if every rule and distinction upon the
number and the position of birds, whether to the right or the left, had
been collected from our own village matrons amongst ourselves, it would
appear that no more of this Pagan science had gone to wreck than must
naturally follow the difference between a believing and a disbelieving
government. Magpies are still of awful authority in village life,
according to their number, &c.; for a striking illustration of which we
may refer the reader to Sir Walter Scott's _Demonology_, reported
not at second-hand, but from Sir Walter's personal communication with
some seafaring fellow-traveller in a stage-coach.

Among the ancient stories of the same class is one which we shall
repeat--having reference to that Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the
Great, before whom St. Paul made his famous apology at Cæsarea. This
Agrippa, overwhelmed by debts, had fled from Palestine to Rome in the
latter years of Tiberius. His mother's interest with the widow of
Germanicus procured him a special recommendation to her son Caligula.
Viewing this child and heir of the popular Germanicus as the rising
sun, Agrippa had been too free in his language. True, the uncle of
Germanicus was the reigning prince; but he was old, and breaking up.
True, the son of Germanicus was not yet on the throne; but he soon
would be; and Agrippa was rash enough to call the Emperor a
_superannuated old fellow_, and even to wish for his death.
Sejanus was now dead and gone; but there was no want of spies: and a
certain Macro reported his words to Tiberius. Agrippa was in
consequence arrested; the Emperor himself condescending to point out
the noble Jew to the officer on duty. The case was a gloomy one, if
Tiberius should happen to survive much longer: and the story of the
omen proceeds thus:--'Now Agrippa stood in his bonds before the
Imperial palace, and in his affliction leaned against a certain tree,
upon the boughs of which it happened that a bird had alighted which the
Romans call _bubo_, or the owl. All this was steadfastly observed
by a German prisoner, who asked a soldier what might be the name and
offence of that man habited in purple. Being told that the man's name
was Agrippa, and that he was a Jew of high rank, who had given a
personal offence to the Emperor, the German asked permission to go near
and address him; which being granted, he spoke thus:--"This disaster, I
doubt not, young man, is trying to your heart; and perhaps you will not
believe me when I announce to you beforehand the providential
deliverance which is impending. However, this much I will say--and for
my sincerity let me appeal to my native gods, as well as to the gods of
this Rome, who have brought us both into trouble--that no selfish
objects prompt me to this revelation--for a revelation it is--and to
the following effect:--It is fated that you shall not long remain in
chains. Your deliverance will be speedy; you shall be raised to the
very highest rank and power; you shall be the object of as much envy as
now you are of pity; you shall retain your prosperity till death; and
you shall transmit that prosperity to your children. But"--and there
the German paused. Agrippa was agitated; the bystanders were attentive;
and after a time, the German, pointing solemnly to the bird, proceeded
thus:--"But this remember heedfully--that, when next you see the bird
which now perches above your head, you will have only five days longer
to live! This event will be surely accomplished by that same mysterious
god who has thought fit to send the bird as a warning sign; and you,
when you come to your glory, do not forget me that foreshadowed it in
your humiliation."' The story adds, that Agrippa affected to laugh when
the German concluded; after which it goes on to say, that in a few
weeks, being delivered by the death of Tiberius; being released from
prison by the very prince on whose account he had incurred the risk;
being raised to a tetrarchy, and afterwards to the kingdom of all
Judea; coming into all the prosperity which had been promised to him by
the German; and not losing any part of his interest at Rome through the
assassination of his patron Caligula--he began to look back
respectfully to the words of the German, and forwards with anxiety to
the second coming of the bird. Seven years of sunshine had now slipped
away as silently as a dream. A great festival, shows and vows, was on
the point of being celebrated in honor of Claudius Cæsar, at Strato's
Tower, otherwise called Cæsarea, the Roman metropolis of Palestine.
Duty and policy alike required that the king of the land should go down
and unite in this mode of religious homage to the emperor. He did so;
and on the second morning of the festival, by way of doing more
conspicuous honor to the great solemnity, he assumed a very sumptuous
attire of silver armor, burnished so highly as to throw back a dazzling
glare from the sun's morning beams upon the upturned eyes of the vast
multitude around him. Immediately from the sycophantish part of the
crowd, of whom a vast majority were Pagans, ascended a cry of
glorification as to some manifestation of Deity. Agrippa, gratified by
this success of his new apparel, and by this flattery, not unusual in
the case of kings, had not the firmness (though a Jew, and conscious of
the wickedness, greater in himself than in the heathen crowd,) to
reject the blasphemous homage. Voices of adoration continued to ascend;
when suddenly, looking upward to the vast awnings prepared for
screening the audience from the noonday heats, the king perceived the
same ominous bird which he had seen at Rome in the day of his
affliction, seated quietly, and looking down upon himself. In that same
moment an icy pang shot through his intestines. He was removed into the
palace; and at the end of five days, completely worn out by pain,
Agrippa expired in the 54th year of his age, and the seventh of his
sovereign power.

Whether the bird, here described as an owl, was really such, may be
doubted, considering the narrow nomenclature of the Romans for all
zoological purposes, and the total indifference of the Roman mind to
all distinctions in natural history which are not upon the very largest
scale. We should much suspect that the bird was a magpie. Meantime,
speaking of ornithoscopy in relation to Jews, we remember another story
in that subdivision of the subject which it may be worth while
repeating; not merely on its own account, as wearing a fine oriental
air, but also for the correction which it suggests to a very common

In some period of Syrian warfare, a large military detachment was
entering at some point of Syria from the desert of the Euphrates. At
the head of the whole array rode two men of some distinction: one was
an augur of high reputation, the other was a Jew called Mosollam, a man
of admirable beauty, a matchless horseman, an unerring archer, and
accomplished in all martial arts. As they were now first coming within
enclosed grounds, after a long march in the wilderness, the augur was
most anxious to inaugurate the expedition by some considerable omen.
Watching anxiously, therefore, he soon saw a bird of splendid plumage
perching on a low wall. 'Halt!' he said to the advanced guard: and all
drew up in a line. At that moment of silence and expectation, Mosollam,
slightly turning himself in his saddle, drew his bow-string to his ear;
his Jewish hatred of Pagan auguries burned within him; his inevitable
shaft went right to its mark, and the beautiful bird fell dead. The
augur turned round in fury. But the Jew laughed at him. 'This bird, you
say, should have furnished us with omens of our future fortunes. But
had he known anything of his own, he would never have perched where he
did, or have come within the range of Mosollam's archery. How should
that bird know our destiny, who did not know that it was his own to be
shot by Mosollam the Jew?'

Now, this is a most common but a most erroneous way of arguing. In a
case of this kind, the bird was not supposed to have any conscious
acquaintance with futurity, either for his own benefit or that of
others. But even where such a consciousness may be supposed, as in the
case of oneiromancy, or prophecy by means of dreams, it must be
supposed limited, and the more limited in a personal sense as they are
illimitable in a sublime one. Who imagines that, because a Daniel or
Ezekiel foresaw the grand revolutions of the earth, therefore they must
or could have foreseen the little details of their own ordinary life?
And even descending from that perfect inspiration to the more doubtful
power of augury amongst the Pagans, (concerning which the most eminent
of theologians have held very opposite theories,) one thing is certain,
that, so long as we entertain such pretensions, or discuss them at all,
we must take them with the principle of those who professed such arts,
not with principles of our own arbitrary invention.

One example will make this clear:--There are in England [Footnote:
'_There are in England_'--Especially in Somersetshire, and for
twenty miles round Wrington, the birthplace of Locke. Nobody sinks for
wells without their advice. We ourselves knew an amiable and
accomplished Scottish family, who, at an estate called Belmadrothie, in
memory of a similar property in Ross shire, built a house in
Somersetshire, and resolved to find water without help from the jowser.
But after sinking to a greater depth than ever had been known before,
and spending nearly £200, they were finally obliged to consult the
jowser, who found water at once.] a class of men who practise the Pagan
rhabdomancy in a limited sense. They carry a rod or rhabdos
(_rhabdos_) of willow: this they hold horizontally; and by the
bending of the rod towards the ground they discover the favorable
places for sinking wells; a matter of considerable importance in a
province so ill-watered as the northern district of Somersetshire, &c.
These people are locally called _jowsers_; and it is probable,
that from the suspicion with which their art has been usually regarded
amongst people of education, as a mere legerdemain trick of
Dousterswivel's, is derived the slang word to _chouse_ for _swindle_.
Meantime, the experimental evidences of a real practical skill in these
men, and the enlarged compass of speculation in these days, have led
many enlightened people to a Stoic _epochey_, or suspension of
judgment, on the reality of this somewhat mysterious art. Now, in the
East, there are men who make the same pretensions in a more showy
branch of the art. It is not water, but treasures which they profess to
find by some hidden kind of rhabdomancy. The very existence of
treasures with us is reasonably considered a thing of improbable
occurrence. But in the unsettled East, and with the low valuation of
human life wherever Mahometanism prevails, insecurity and other causes
must have caused millions of such deposits in every century to have
perished as to any knowledge of survivors. The sword has been moving
backwards and forwards, for instance, like a weaver's shuttle, since
the time of Mahmoud the Ghaznevide, [Footnote: Mahmood of Ghizni,
which, under the European name of Ghaznee, was so recently taken in one
hour by our Indian army under Lord Keane Mahmood was the first
Mahometan invader of Hindostan.] in Anno Domini 1000, in the vast
regions between the Tigris, the Oxus, and the Indus. Regularly as it
approached, gold and jewels must have sunk by whole harvests into the
ground. A certain per centage has been doubtless recovered: a larger
per centage has disappeared for ever. Hence naturally the jealousy of
barbarous Orientals that we Europeans, in groping amongst pyramids,
sphynxes, and tombs, are looking for buried treasures. The wretches are
not so wide astray in what they believe as in what they disbelieve. The
treasures do really exist which they fancy; but then also the other
treasures in the glorious antiquities have that existence for our sense
of beauty which to their brutality is inconceivable. In these
circumstances, why should it surprise us that men will pursue the
science of discovery as a regular trade? Many discoveries of treasure
are doubtless made continually, which, for obvious reasons, are
communicated to nobody. Some proportion there must be between the
sowing of such grain as diamonds or emeralds, and the subsequent
reaping, whether by accident or by art. For, with regard to the last,
it is no more impossible, _prima fronte_, that a substance may exist
having an occult sympathy with subterraneous water or subterraneous
gold, than that the magnet should have a sympathy (as yet occult) with
the northern pole of our planet.

The first flash of careless thought applied to such a case will
suggest, that men holding powers of this nature need not offer their
services for hire to others. And this, in fact, is the objection
universally urged by us Europeans as decisive against their
pretensions. Their knavery, it is fancied, stands self-recorded; since,
assuredly, they would not be willing to divide their subterranean
treasures, if they knew of any. But the men are not in such self-
contradiction as may seem. Lady Hester Stanhope, from the better
knowledge she had acquired of Oriental opinions, set Dr. Madden right
on this point. The Oriental belief is that a fatality attends the
appropriator of a treasure in any case where he happens also to be the
discoverer. Such a person, it is held, will die soon, and suddenly--so
that he is compelled to seek his remuneration from the wages or fees of
his employers, not from the treasure itself.

Many more secret laws are held sacred amongst the professors of that
art than that which was explained by Lady Hester Stanhope. These we
shall not enter upon at present: but generally we may remark, that the
same practices of subterranean deposits, during our troubled periods in
Europe, led to the same superstitions. And it may be added, that the
same error has arisen in both cases as to some of these superstitions.
How often must it have struck people of liberal feelings, as a
scandalous proof of the preposterous value set upon riches by poor men,
that ghosts should popularly be supposed to rise and wander for the
sake of revealing the situations of buried treasures. For ourselves, we
have been accustomed to view this popular belief in the light of an
argument for pity rather than for contempt towards poor men, as
indicating the extreme pressure of that necessity which could so have
demoralized their natural sense of truth. But certainly, in whatever
feelings originating, such popular superstitions as to motives of
ghostly missions did seem to argue a deplorable misconception of the
relation subsisting between the spiritual world and the perishable
treasures of this perishable world. Yet, when we look into the Eastern
explanations of this case, we find that it is meant to express, not any
overvaluation of riches, but the direct contrary passion. A human
spirit is punished--such is the notion--punished in the spiritual world
for excessive attachment to gold, by degradation to the office of its
guardian; and from this office the tortured spirit can release itself
only by revealing the treasure and transferring the custody. It is a
penal martyrdom, not an elective passion for gold, which is thus
exemplified in the wanderings of a treasure-ghost.

But, in a field where of necessity we are so much limited, we willingly
pass from the consideration of these treasure or _khasne_ phantoms
(which alone sufficiently ensure a swarm of ghostly terrors for all
Oriental ruins of cities,) to the same marvellous apparitions, as they
haunt other solitudes even more awful than those of ruined cities. In
this world there are two mighty forms of perfect solitude--the ocean
and the desert: the wilderness of the barren sands, and the wilderness
of the barren waters. Both are the parents of inevitable superstitions
--of terrors, solemn, ineradicable, eternal. Sailors and the children
of the desert are alike overrun with spiritual hauntings, from
accidents of peril essentially connected with those modes of life, and
from the eternal spectacle of the infinite. Voices seem to blend with
the raving of the sea, which will for ever impress the feeling of
beings more than human: and every chamber of the great wilderness
which, with little interruption, stretches from the Euphrates to the
western shores of Africa, has its own peculiar terrors both as to
sights and sounds. In the wilderness of Zin, between Palestine and the
Red Sea, a section of the desert well known in these days to our own
countrymen, bells are heard daily pealing for matins, or for vespers,
from some phantom convent that no search of Christian or of Bedouin
Arab has ever been able to discover. These bells have sounded since the
Crusades. Other sounds, trumpets, the _Alala_ of armies, &c., are
heard in other regions of the Desert. Forms, also, are seen of more
people than have any right to be walking in human paths: sometimes
forms of avowed terror; sometimes, which is a case of far more danger,
appearances that mimic the shapes of men, and even of friends or
comrades. This is a case much dwelt on by the old travellers, and which
throws a gloom over the spirits of all Bedouins, and of every cafila or
caravan. We all know what a sensation of loneliness or 'eeriness' (to
use an expressive term of the ballad poetry) arises to any small party
assembling in a single room of a vast desolate mansion: how the timid
among them fancy continually that they hear some remote door opening,
or trace the sound of suppressed footsteps from some distant staircase.
Such is the feeling in the desert, even in the midst of the caravan.
The mighty solitude is seen: the dread silence is anticipated which
will succeed to this brief transit of men, camels, and horses. Awe
prevails even in the midst of society: but, if the traveller should
loiter behind from fatigue, or be so imprudent as to ramble aside--
should he from any cause once lose sight of his party, it is held that
his chance is small of recovering their traces. And why? Not chiefly
from the want of footmarks where the wind effaces all impressions in
half an hour, or of eyemarks where all is one blank ocean of sand, but
much more from the sounds or the visual appearances which are supposed
to beset and to seduce all insulated wanderers.

Everybody knows the superstitions of the ancients about the
_Nympholeptoi_, or those who had seen Pan. But far more awful and
gloomy are the existing superstitions, throughout Asia and Africa, as
to the perils of those who are phantom-haunted in the wilderness. The
old Venetian traveller Marco Polo states them well: he speaks, indeed,
of the Eastern or Tartar deserts; the steppes which stretch from
European Russia to the footsteps of the Chinese throne; but exactly the
same creed prevails amongst the Arabs, from Bagdad to Suez and Cairo--
from Rosetta to Tunis--Tunis to Timbuctoo or Mequinez. 'If, during the
daytime,' says he, 'any person should remain behind until the caravan
is no longer in sight, he hears himself unexpectedly called to by name,
and in a voice with which he is familiar. Not doubting that the voice
proceeds from some of his comrades, the unhappy man is beguiled from
the right direction; and soon finding himself utterly confounded as to
the path, he roams about in distraction until he perishes miserably.
If, on the other hand, this perilous separation of himself from the
caravan should happen at night, he is sure to hear the uproar of a
great cavalcade a mile or two to the right or left of the true track.
He is thus seduced on one side: and at break of day finds himself far
removed from man. Nay, even at noon-day, it is well known that grave
and respectable men to all appearance will come up to a particular
traveller, will bear the look of a friend, and will gradually lure him
by earnest conversation to a distance from the caravan; after which the
sounds of men and camels will be heard continually at all points but
the true one; whilst an insensible turning by the tenth of an inch at
each separate step from the true direction will very soon suffice to
set the traveller's face to the opposite point of the compass from that
which his safety requires, and which his fancy represents to him as his
real direction. Marvellous, indeed, and almost passing belief, are the
stories reported of these desert phantoms, which are said at times to
fill the air with choral music from all kinds of instruments, from
drums, and the clash of arms: so that oftentimes a whole caravan are
obliged to close up their open ranks, and to proceed in a compact line
of march.'

Lord Lindsay, in his very interesting travels in Egypt, Edom, &c.,
agrees with Warton in supposing (and probably enough) that from this
account of the desert traditions in Marco Polo was derived Milton's
fine passage in Comus:--

'Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire,
And aery tongues that syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.'

But the most remarkable of these desert superstitions, as suggested by
the mention of Lord Lindsay, is one which that young nobleman, in some
place which we cannot immediately find, has noticed, but which he only
was destined by a severe personal loss immediately to illustrate. Lord
L. quotes from Vincent le Blanc an anecdote of a man in his own
caravan, the companion of an Arab merchant, who disappeared in a
mysterious manner. Four Moors, with a retaining fee of 100 ducats, were
sent in quest of him, but came back _re infecta_. 'And 'tis
uncertain,' adds Le Blanc, 'whether he was swallowed up in the sands,
or met his death by any other misfortune; as it often happens, by the
relation of a merchant then in our company, who told us, that two years
before, traversing the same journey, a comrade of his, going a little
aside from the company, saw three men who called him by his name; and
one of them, to his thinking, favored very much his companion; and, as
he was about to follow them, his real companion calling him to come
back to his company, he found himself deceived by the others, and thus
was saved. And all travellers in these parts hold, that in the deserts
are many such phantasms seen, that strive to seduce the traveller.'
Thus far it is the traveller's own fault, warned as he is continually
by the extreme anxiety of the Arab leaders or guides, with respect to
all who stray to any distance, if he is duped or enticed by these
pseudo-men: though, in the case of Lapland dogs, who ought to have a
surer instinct of detection for counterfeits, we know from Sir Capel de
Broke and others, that they are continually wiled away by the wolves
who roam about the nightly encampments of travellers. But there is a
secondary disaster, according to the Arab superstition, awaiting those
whose eyes are once opened to the discernment of these phantoms. To see
them, or to hear them, even where the traveller is careful to refuse
their lures, entails the certainty of death in no long time. This is
another form of that universal faith which made it impossible for any
man to survive a bodily commerce, by whatever sense, with a spiritual
being. We find it in the Old Testament, where the expression, 'I have
seen God and shall die,' means simply a supernatural being; since no
Hebrew believed it possible for a nature purely human to sustain for a
moment the sight of the Infinite Being. We find the same faith amongst
ourselves, in case of _doppelgänger_ becoming apparent to the
sight of those whom they counterfeit; and in many other varieties. We
modern Europeans, of course, laugh at these superstitions; though, as
La Place remarks, (_Essai sur les Probabilités_,) any case,
however apparently incredible, if it is a recurrent case, is as much
entitled to a fair valuation as if it had been more probable
beforehand.[Footnote: _'Is as much entitled to a fair valuation,
under the lans of induction, as if it had been more probable
beforehand'_--One of the cases which La Place notices as entitled to
a grave consideration, but which would most assuredly be treated as a
trivial phenomenon, unworthy of attention, by commonplace spectators,
is--when a run of success, with no apparent cause, takes place on heads
or tails, (_pile ou croix_) Most people dismiss such a case as
pure accident. But La Place insists on its being duly valued as a fact,
however unaccountable as an effect. So again, if in a large majority of
experiences like those of Lord Lindsay's party in the desert, death
should follow, such a phenomenon is as well entitled to its separate
valuation as any other.] This being premised, we who connect
superstition with the personal result, are more impressed by the
disaster which happened to Lord Lindsay, than his lordship, who either
failed to notice the _nexus_ between the events, or possibly
declined to put the case too forward in his reader's eye, from the
solemnity of the circumstances, and the private interest to himself and
his own family, of the subsequent event. The case was this:--Mr.
William Wardlaw Ramsay, the companion (and we believe relative) of Lord
Lindsay, a man whose honorable character, and whose intellectual
accomplishments speak for themselves, in the posthumus memorabilia of
his travels published by Lord L., had seen an array of objects in the
desert, which facts immediately succeeding demonstrated to have been a
mere ocular _lusus_, or (according to Arab notions) phantoms.
During the absence from home of an Arab sheikh, who had been hired as
conductor of Lord Lindsay's party, a hostile tribe (bearing the name of
Tellaheens) had assaulted and pillaged his tents. Report of this had
reached the English travelling party; it was known that the Tellaheens
were still in motion, and a hostile rencounter was looked for for some
days. At length, in crossing the well known valley of the _Wady
Araba_, that most ancient channel of communication between the Red
Sea and Judea, &c., Mr. Ramsay saw, to his own entire conviction, a
party of horse moving amongst some sand-hills. Afterwards it became
certain, from accurate information, that this must have been a
delusion. It was established, that no horseman _could_ have been
in that neighborhood at that time. Lord Lindsay records the case as an
illustration of 'that spiritualized tone the imagination naturally
assumes, in scenes presenting so little sympathy with the ordinary
feelings of humanity;' and he reports the case in these pointed terms:
--'Mr. Ramsay, a man of remarkably strong sight, and by no means
disposed to superstitious credulity, distinctly saw a party of horse
moving among the sand-hills; and I do not believe he was ever able to
divest himself of that impression.' No--and, according to Arab
interpretation, very naturally so; for, according to their faith, he
really _had_ seen the horsemen; phantom horseman certainly, but
still objects of sight. The sequel remains to be told--by the Arabian
hypothesis, Mr. Ramsay had but a short time to live--he was under a
secret summons to the next world. And accordingly, in a few weeks after
this, whilst Lord Lindsay had gone to visit Palmyra, Mr. Ramsay died at

This was a case exactly corresponding to the Pagan _nympholepsis_
--he had seen the beings whom it is not lawful to see and live. Another
case of Eastern superstition, not less determined, and not less
remarkably fulfilled, occurred some years before to Dr. Madden, who
travelled pretty much in the same route as Lord Lindsay. The doctor, as
a phrenologist, had been struck with the very singular conformation of
a skull which he saw amongst many others on an altar in some Syrian
convent. He offered a considerable sum in gold for it; but it was by
repute the skull of a saint; and the monk with whom Dr. M. attempted to
negotiate, not only refused his offers, but protested that even for the
doctor's sake, apart from the interests of the convent, he could not
venture on such a transfer: for that, by the tradition attached to it,
the skull would endanger any vessel carrying it from the Syrian shore:
the vessel might escape; but it would never succeed in reaching any but
a Syrian harbor. After this, for the credit of our country, which
stands so high in the East, and should be so punctiliously tended by
all Englishmen, we are sorry to record that Dr. Madden (though
otherwise a man of scrupulous honor) yielded to the temptation of
substituting for the saint's skull another less remarkable from his own
collection. With this saintly relic he embarked on board a Grecian
ship; was alternately pursued and met by storms the most violent;
larboard and starboard, on every quarter, he was buffeted; the wind
blew from every point of the compass; the doctor honestly confesses
that he often wished this baleful skull back in safety on the quiet
altar from which he took it; and finally, after many days of anxiety,
he was too happy in finding himself again restored to some oriental
port, from which he secretly vowed never again to sail with a saint's
skull, or with any skull, however remarkable phrenologically, not
purchased in an open market.

Thus we have pursued, through many of its most memorable sections, the
spirit of the miraculous as it moulded and gathered itself in the
superstitions of Paganism; and we have shown that, in the modern
superstitions of Christianity, or of Mahometanism, (often enough
borrowed from Christian sources,) there is a pretty regular
correspondence. Speaking with a reference to the strictly popular
belief, it cannot be pretended for a moment, that miraculous agencies
are slumbering in modern ages. For one superstition of that nature
which the Pagans had, we can produce twenty. And if, from the collation
of numbers, we should pass to that of quality, it is a matter of
notoriety, that from the very philosophy of Paganism, and its slight
root in the terrors or profounder mysteries of spiritual nature, no
comparison could be sustained for a moment between the true religion
and any mode whatever of the false. Ghosts we have purposely omitted,
because that idea is so peculiarly Christian [Footnote: '_Because
that idea is so peculiarly Christian_'--One reason, additional to
the main one, why the idea of a ghost could not be conceived or
reproduced by Paganism, lies in the fourfold resolution of the human
nature at death, viz.--1. _corpus_; 2. _manes_; 3. _spiritus_;
4. _anima_. No reversionary consciousness, no restitution of the total
nature, sentient and active, was thus possible. Pliny has a story which
looks like a ghost story; but it is all moonshine--a mere
_simulacrum_.] as to reject all counterparts or affinities from other
modes of the supernatural. The Christian ghost is too awful a presence,
and with too large a substratum of the real, the impassioned, the
human, for our present purposes. We deal chiefly with the wilder and
more ærial forms of superstition; not so far off from fleshly nature as
the purely allegoric--not so near as the penal, the purgatorial, the
penitential. In this middle class, 'Gabriel's hounds'--the 'phantom
ship'--the gloomy legends of the charcoal burners in the German
forests--and the local or epichorial superstitions from every district
of Europe, come forward by thousands, attesting the high activity of
the miraculous and the hyperphysical instincts, even in this
generation, wheresoever the voice of the people makes itself heard.

But in Pagan times, it will be objected, the popular superstitions
blended themselves with the highest political functions, gave a
sanction to national counsels, and oftentimes gave their starting point
to the very primary movements of the state. Prophecies, omens,
miracles, all worked concurrently with senates or princes. Whereas in
our days, says Charles Lamb, the witch who takes her pleasure with the
moon, and summons Beelzebub to her sabbaths, nevertheless trembles
before the beadle, and hides herself from the overseer. Now, as to the
witch, even the horrid Canidia of Horace, or the more dreadful Erichtho
of Lucan, seems hardly to have been much respected in any era. But for
the other modes of the supernatural, they have entered into more
frequent combinations with state functions and state movements in our
modern ages than in the classical age of Paganism. Look at prophecies,
for example: the Romans had a few obscure oracles afloat, and they had
the Sibylline books under the state seal. These books, in fact, had
been kept so long, that, like port wine superannuated, they had lost
their flavor and body. [Footnote: '_Like port wine superannuated, the
Sibylline books had lost their flavor and their body_.'--There is an
allegoric description in verse, by Mr. Rogers, of an ice-house, in
which winter is described as a captive, &c., which is memorable on this
account, that a brother poet, on reading the passage, mistook it, (from
not understanding the allegorical expressions,) either sincerely or
maliciously, for a description of the house-dog. Now, this little
anecdote seems to embody the poor Sibyl's history,--from a stern icy
sovereign, with a petrific mace, she lapsed into an old toothless
mastiff. She continued to snore in her ancient kennel for above a
thousand years. The last person who attempted to stir her up with a
long pole, and to extract from her paralytic dreaming some growls or
snarls against Christianity, was Aurelian, in a moment of public panic.
But the thing was past all tampering. The poor creature could neither
be kicked nor coaxed into vitality.] On the other hand, look at France.
Henry the historian, speaking of the fifteenth century, describes it as
a national infirmity of the English to be prophecy-ridden. Perhaps
there never was any foundation for this as an exclusive remark; but
assuredly not in the next century. There had been with us British, from
the twelfth century, Thomas of Ercildoune in the north, and many
monkish local prophets for every part of the island; but latterly
England had no terrific prophet, unless, indeed Nixon of the Vale Royal
in Cheshire, who uttered his dark oracles sometimes with a merely
Cestrian, sometimes with a national reference. Whereas in France,
throughout the sixteenth century, every principal event was foretold
successively, with an accuracy that still shocks and confounds us.
Francis the First, who opens the century, (and by many is held to open
the book of _modern history_, as distinguished from the middle or
_feudal_ history,) had the battle of Pavia foreshown to him, not
by name, but in its results--by his own Spanish captivity--by the
exchange for his own children upon a frontier river of Spain--finally,
by his own disgraceful death, through an infamous disease conveyed to
him under a deadly circuit of revenge. This king's son, Henry the
Second, read some years _before_ the event a description of that
tournament, on the marriage of the Scottish Queen with his eldest son,
Francis II., which proved fatal to himself, through the awkwardness of
the Compte de Montgomery and his own obstinacy. After this, and we
believe a little after the brief reign of Francis II., arose
Nostradamus, the great prophet of the age. All the children of Henry
II. and of Catharine de Medici, one after the other, died in
circumstances of suffering and horror, and Nostradamus pursued the
whole with ominous allusions. Charles IX., though the authorizer of the
Bartholomew massacre, was the least guilty of his party, and the only
one who manifested a dreadful remorse. Henry III., the last of the
brothers, died, as the reader will remember, by assassination. And all
these tragic successions of events are still to be read more or less
dimly prefigured in verses of which we will not here discuss the dates.
Suffice it, that many authentic historians attest the good faith of the
prophets; and finally, with respect to the first of the Bourbon
dynasty, Henry IV., who succeeded upon the assassination of his
brother-in-law, we have the peremptory assurance of Sully and other
Protestants, countersigned by writers both historical and
controversial, that not only was he prepared, by many warnings, for his
own tragical death--not only was the day, the hour prefixed--not only
was an almanac sent to him, in which the bloody summer's day of 1610
was pointed out to his attention in bloody colors; but the mere record
of the king's last afternoon shows beyond a doubt the extent and the
punctual limitation of his anxieties. In fact, it is to this attitude
of listening expectation in the king, and breathless waiting for the
blow, that Schiller alludes in that fine speech of Wallenstein to his
sister, where he notices the funeral knells that sounded continually in
Henry's ears, and, above all, his prophetic instinct, that caught the
sound from a far distance of his murderer's motions, and could
distinguish, amidst all the tumult of a mighty capital, those stealthy

----'Which even then were seeking him
Throughout the streets of Paris.'

We profess not to admire Henry the Fourth of France, whose secret
character we shall, on some other occasion, attempt to expose. But his
resignation to the appointments of Heaven, in dismissing his guards, as
feeling that against a danger so domestic and so mysterious, all
fleshly arms were vain, has always struck us as the most like
magnanimity of anything in his very theatrical life.

Passing to our own country, and to the times immediately in succession,
we fall upon some striking prophecies, not verbal but symbolic, if we
turn from the broad highway of public histories, to the by-paths of
private memories. Either Clarendon it is, in his Life (not his public
history), or else Laud, who mentions an anecdote connected with the
coronation of Charles I., (the son-in-law of the murdered Bourbon,)
which threw a gloom upon the spirits of the royal friends, already
saddened by the dreadful pestilence which inaugurated the reign of this
ill-fated prince, levying a tribute of one life in sixteen from the
population of the English metropolis. At the coronation of Charles, it
was discovered that all London would not furnish the quantity of purple
velvet required for the royal robes and the furniture of the throne.
What was to be done? Decorum required that the furniture should be all
_en suite_. Nearer than Genoa no considerable addition could be
expected. That would impose a delay of 150 days. Upon mature
consideration, and chiefly of the many private interests that would
suffer amongst the multitudes whom such a solemnity had called up from
the country, it was resolved to robe the King in _white_ velvet.
But this, as it afterwards occurred, was the color in which victims
were arrayed. And thus, it was alleged, did the King's council
establish an augury of evil. Three other ill omens, of some celebrity,
occurred to Charles I., viz., on occasion of creating his son Charles a
knight of the Bath, at Oxford some years after; and at the bar of that
tribunal which sat in judgment upon him.

The reign of his second son, James II., the next reign that could be
considered an unfortunate reign, was inaugurated by the same evil
omens. The day selected for the coronation (in 1685) was a day
memorable for England--it was St. George's day, the 23d of April, and
entitled, even on a separate account, to be held a sacred day as the
birthday of Shakspeare in 1564, and his deathday in 1616. The King
saved a sum of sixty thousand pounds by cutting off the ordinary
cavalcade from the Tower of London to Westminster. Even this was
imprudent. It is well known that, amongst the lowest class of the
English, there is an obstinate prejudice (though unsanctioned by law)
with respect to the obligation imposed by the ceremony of coronation.
So long as this ceremony is delayed, or mutilated, they fancy that
their obedience is a matter of mere prudence, liable to be enforced by
arms, but not consecrated either by law or by religion. The change made
by James was, therefore, highly imprudent; shorn of its antique
traditionary usages, the yoke of conscience was lightened at a moment
when it required a double ratification. Neither was it called for on
motives of economy, for James was unusually rich. This voluntary
arrangement was, therefore, a bad beginning; but the accidental omens
were worse. They are thus reported by Blennerhassett, (History of
England to the end of George I., Vol. iv., p. 1760, printed at
Newcastle-upon-Tyne: 1751.) 'The crown being too little for the King's
head, was often in a tottering condition, and like to fall off.' Even
this was observed attentively by spectators of the most opposite
feelings. But there was another simultaneous omen, which affected the
Protestant enthusiasts, and the superstitious, whether Catholic or
Protestant, still more alarmingly. 'The same day the king's arms,
pompously painted in the great altar window of a London church,
suddenly fell down without apparent cause, and broke to pieces, whilst
the rest of the window remained standing. Blennerhassett mutters the
dark terrors which possessed himself and others.' 'These,' says he,
'were reckoned ill omens to the king.'

In France, as the dreadful criminality of the French sovereigns through
the 17th century began to tell powerfully, and reproduce itself in the
miseries and tumults of the French populace through the 18th century,
it is interesting to note the omens which unfolded themselves at
intervals. A volume might be written upon them. The French Bourbons
renewed the picture of that fatal house which in Thebes offered to the
Grecian observers the spectacle of dire auguries, emerging from
darkness through three generations, _à plusieurs reprises_.
Everybody knows the fatal pollution of the marriage pomps on the
reception of Marie Antoinette in Paris; the numbers who perished are
still spoken of obscurely as to the amount, and with shuddering awe for
the unparalleled horrors standing in the background of the fatal reign

'That hush'd in grim repose, await their evening prey.'

But in the life of Goethe is mentioned a still more portentous (though
more shadowy) omen in the pictorial decorations of the arras which
adorned the pavilion on the French frontier; the first objects which
met the Austrian Archduchess on being hailed as Dauphiness, was a
succession of the most tragic groups from the most awful section of the
Grecian theatre. The next alliance of the same kind between the same
great empires, in the persons of Napoleon and the Archduchess Marie
Louisa, was overshadowed by the same unhappy omens, and, as we all
remember, with the same unhappy results, within a brief period of five

Or, if we should resort to the fixed and monumental rather than to
these auguries of great nations--such, for instance, as were embodied
in those _Palladia_, or protesting talismans, which capital
cities, whether Pagan or Christian, glorified through a period of
twenty-five hundred years, we shall find a long succession of these
enchanted pledges, from the earliest precedent of Troy (whose palladium
was undoubtedly a talisman) down to that equally memorable, and bearing
the same name, at Western Rome. We may pass, by a vast transition of
two and a half millennia, to that great talisman of Constantinople, the
triple serpent, (having perhaps an original reference to the Mosaic
serpent of the wilderness, which healed the infected by the simple act
of looking upon it, as the symbol of the Redeemer, held aloft upon the
Cross for the deliverance from moral contagion.) This great consecrated
talisman, venerated equally by Christian, by Pagan, and by Mahometan,
was struck on the head by Mahomet the Second, on that same day, May
29th of 1453, in which he mastered by storm this glorious city, the
bulwark of eastern Christendom, and the immediate rival of his own
European throne at Adrianople. But mark the superfetation of omens--
omen supervening upon omen, augury engrafted upon augury. The hour was
a sad one for Christianity; just 720 years before the western horn of
Islam had been rebutted in France by the Germans, chiefly under Charles
Martel. But now it seemed as though another horn, even more vigorous,
was preparing to assault Christendom and its hopes from the eastern
quarter. At this epoch, in the very hour of triumph, when the last of
the Cæsars had glorified his station, and sealed his testimony by
martyrdom, the fanatical Sultan, riding to his stirrups in blood, and
wielding that iron mace which had been his sole weapon, as well as
cognizance, through the battle, advanced to the column, round which the
triple serpent roared spirally upwards. He smote the brazen talisman;
he shattered one head; he left it mutilated as the record of his great
revolution; but crush it, destroy it, he did not--as a symbol
prefiguring the fortunes of Mahometanism, his people noticed, that in
the critical hour of fate, which stamped the Sultan's acts with
efficacy through ages, he had been prompted by his secret genius only
to 'scotch the snake,' not to crush it. Afterwards the fatal hour was
gone by; and this imperfect augury has since concurred traditionally
with the Mahometan prophecies about the Adrianople gate of
Constantinople, to depress the ultimate hopes of Islam in the midst of
all its insolence. The very haughtiest of the Mussulmans believe that
the gate is already in existence, through which the red Giaours (the
_Russi_) shall pass to the conquest of Stamboul; and that
everywhere, in Europe at least, the hat of Frangistan is destined to
surmount the turban--the crescent must go down before the cross.


What is the deadest of things earthly? It is, says the world, ever
forward and rash--'a door-nail!' But the world is wrong. There is a
thing deader than a door-nail, viz., Gillman's Coleridge, Vol. I. Dead,
more dead, most dead, is Gillman's Coleridge, Vol. I.; and this upon
more arguments than one. The book has clearly not completed its
elementary act of respiration; the _systole_ of Vol. I. is
absolutely useless and lost without the _diastole_ of that Vol.
II., which is never to exist. That is one argument, and perhaps this
second argument is stronger. Gillman's Coleridge, Vol. I., deals
rashly, unjustly, and almost maliciously, with some of our own
particular friends; and yet, until late in this summer, _Anno
Domini_ 1844, we--that is, neither ourselves nor our friends--ever
heard of its existence. Now a sloth, even without the benefit of Mr.
Waterton's evidence to his character, will travel faster than that. But
malice, which travels fastest of all things, must be dead and cold at
starting, when it can thus have lingered in the rear for six years; and
therefore, though the world was so far right, that people _do_
say, 'Dead as a door-nail,' yet, henceforward, the weakest of these
people will see the propriety of saying--'Dead as Gillman's Coleridge.'

The reader of experience, on sliding over the surface of this opening
paragraph, begins to think there's mischief singing in the upper air.
'No, reader, not at all. We never were cooler in our days. And this we
protest, that, were it not for the excellence of the subject,
_Coleridge and Opium-Eating_, Mr. Gillman would have been dismissed
by us unnoticed. Indeed, we not only forgive Mr. Gillman, but we
have a kindness for him; and on this account, that he was good, he
was generous, he was most forbearing, through twenty years, to poor
Coleridge, when thrown upon his hospitality. An excellent thing
_that_, Mr. Gillman, till, noticing the theme suggested by this
unhappy Vol. I., we are forced at times to notice its author, Nor is
this to be regretted. We remember a line of Horace never yet properly
translated, viz:--

'Nec scutica dignum horribili sectere flagello.'

The true translation of which, as we assure the unlearned reader, is--
'Nor must you pursue with the horrid knout of Christopher that man who
merits only a switching.' Very true. We protest against all attempts to
invoke the exterminating knout; for _that_ sends a man to the
hospital for two months; but you see that the same judicious poet, who
dissuades an appeal to the knout, indirectly recommends the switch,
which, indeed, is rather pleasant than otherwise, amiably playful in
some of its little caprices, and in its worst, suggesting only a
pennyworth of diachylon.

We begin by professing, with hearty sincerity, our fervent admiration
of the extraordinary man who furnishes the theme for Mr. Gillman's
_coup-d'essai_ in biography. He was, in a literary sense, our
brother--for he also was amongst the contributors to _Blackwood_--
and will, we presume, take his station in that Blackwood gallery of
portraits, which, in a century hence, will possess more interest for
intellectual Europe than any merely martial series of portraits, or any
gallery of statesmen assembled in congress, except as regards one or
two leaders; for defunct major-generals, and secondary diplomatists,
when their date is past, awake no more emotion than last year's
advertisements, or obsolete directories; whereas those who, in a stormy
age, have swept the harps of passion, of genial wit, or of the
wrestling and gladiatorial reason, become more interesting to men when
they can no longer be seen as bodily agents, than even in the middle
chorus of that intellectual music over which, living, they presided.

Of this great camp Coleridge was a leader, and fought amongst the
_primipili_; yet, comparatively, he is still unknown. Heavy,
indeed, are the arrears still due to philosophic curiosity on the real
merits, and on the separate merits, of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Coleridge as a poet--Coleridge as a philosopher! How extensive are
those questions, if those were all! and upon neither question have we
yet any investigation--such as, by compass of views, by research, or
even by earnestness of sympathy with the subject, can, or ought to
satisfy, a philosophic demand. Blind is that man who can persuade
himself that the interest in Coleridge, taken as a total object, is
becoming an obsolete interest. We are of opinion that even Milton, now
viewed from a distance of two centuries, is still inadequately judged
or appreciated in his character of poet, of patriot and partisan, or,
finally, in his character of accomplished scholar. But, if so, how much
less can it be pretended that satisfaction has been rendered to the
claims of Coleridge? for, upon Milton, libraries have been written.
There has been time for the malice of men, for the jealousy of men, for
the enthusiasm, the scepticism, the adoring admiration of men, to
expand themselves! There has been room for a Bentley, for an Addison,
for a Johnson, for a wicked Lauder, for an avenging Douglas, for an
idolizing Chateaubriand; and yet, after all, little enough has been
done towards any comprehensive estimate of the mighty being concerned.
Piles of materials have been gathered to the ground; but, for the
monument which should have risen from these materials, neither the
first stone has been laid, nor has a qualified architect yet presented
his credentials. On the other hand, upon Coleridge little,
comparatively, has yet been written, whilst the separate characters on
which the judgment is awaited, are more by one than those which Milton
sustained. Coleridge, also, is a poet; Coleridge, also, was mixed up
with the fervent politics of his age--an age how memorably reflecting
the revolutionary agitations of Milton's age. Coleridge, also, was an
extensive and brilliant scholar. Whatever might be the separate
proportions of the two men in each particular department of the three
here noticed, think as the reader will upon that point, sure we are
that either subject is ample enough to make a strain upon the amplest
faculties. How alarming, therefore, for any _honest_ critic, who
should undertake this later subject of Coleridge, to recollect that,
after pursuing him through a zodiac of splendors corresponding to those
of Milton in kind, however different in degree--after weighing him as a
poet, as a philosophic politician, as a scholar, he will have to wheel
after him into another orbit, into the unfathomable _nimbus_ of
transcendental metaphysics. Weigh him the critic must in the golden
balance of philosophy the most abstruse--a balance which even itself
requires weighing previously, or he will have done nothing that can be
received for an estimate of the composite Coleridge. This astonishing
man, be it again remembered, besides being an exquisite poet, a
profound political speculator, a philosophic student of literature
through all its chambers and recesses, was also a circumnavigator on
the most pathless waters of scholasticism and metaphysics. He had
sounded, without guiding charts, the secret deeps of Proclus and
Plotinus; he had laid down buoys on the twilight, or moonlight, ocean
of Jacob Boehmen; [Footnote: 'JACOB BOEHMEN.' We ourselves had the
honor of presenting to Mr. Coleridge, Law's English version of Jacob--a
set of huge quartos. Some months afterwards we saw this work lying
open, and one volume at least overflowing, in parts, with the

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