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conclusion can be drawn from hence, as if reason were absolute, and passion a mere nonentity in the government of the world. People in general, or writers speculating on human actions, form wrong judgments concerning them, because they decide coolly, and at a distance, on what is done in heat and on the spur of the occasion. Man is not a machine; nor is he to be measured by mechanical rules. The decisions of abstract reason would apply to what men might do if all men were philosophers: but if all men were philosophers, there would be no need of systems of philosophy!
The race of alchemists and visionaries is not yet extinct; and, what is remarkable, we find them existing in the shape of deep logicians and enlightened legislators. They have got a menstruum for dissolving the lead and copper of society, and turning it to pure gold, as the adepts of old had a trick for finding the philosopher's stone. The author of St. Leon has represented his hero as possessed of the elixir vitve and aurum potabile. The author of the Political Justice has adopted one half of this romantic fiction as a serious hypothesis, and maintains the natural immortality of man, without a figure. The truth is, that persons of the most precise and formal understandings are persons of the
loosest and most extravagant imaginations. Take from them their norma loquendi, their literal clue, and there is no absurdity into which they will not fall with pleasure. They have no means or principle of judging of that which does not admit of absolute proof; and between this and the idlest fiction, they perceive no medium:-asthose artists who take likenesses with a machine, are quite thrown out in their calculations when they have to rely on the eye or hand alone. People who are accustomed to trust to their imaginations or feelings, know how far to go, and how to keep within certain limits: those who seldom exert these faculties are all abroad, in a wide sea of speculation without rudder or compass, the instant they leave the shore of matter-of-fact or dry reasoning, and never stop short of the last absurdity. They go all lengths, or none. They laugh at poets, and are themselves lunatics. They are the dupes of all sorts of projectors and impostors. Being of a busy, meddlesome turn, they are for reducing whatever comes into their heads (and cannot be demonstrated by mood and figure to amount to a contradiction in terms) to practice. What they would scout in a fiction, they would set about realizing in sober sadness, and melt their fortunes in compassing
what others consider as the amusement of an idle hour. Astolpho's voyage to the moon in Ariosto, they criticize sharply as a quaint and ridiculous burlesque: but if any one had the face seriously to undertake such a thing, they would immediately patronize it, and defy any one to prove by a logical dilemma that the attempt was physically impossible. So, again, we find that painters and engravers, whose attention is confined and rivetted to a minute investigation of actual objects, or of visible lines and surfaces, are apt to fly out into all the extravagance and rhapsodies of the most unbridled fanaticism. Several of the most eminent are at this moment Swedenborgians, animal magnetists, &c. The mind (as it should seem), too long tied down to the evidence of sense and a number of trifling particulars, is wearied of the bondage, revolts at it, and instinctively takes refuge in the wildest schemes and most magnificent contradictions of an unlimited faith. Poets, on the contrary, who are continually throwing off the superfluities of feeling or fancy in little sportive sallies and short excursions with the Muse, do not find the want of any greater or more painful effort of thought; leave the ascent of the
highest Heaven of Invention" as a holiday
task to persons of more mechanical habits and turn of mind; and the characters of poet and
. sceptic are now often united in the same individual, as those of poet and prophet were supposed to be of old.