Abbildungen der Seite

could be carried by either the powers peculiar to man or the powers peculiar to woman.

Now in proof of this, if we were to analyze the philosophy which Coleridge employed in his judgment on books, and by which he may be said to have made criticism a precious department of literature-raising it into a higher and purer region than was ever approached by the contracted and shallow dogmatism of the earlier schools of critics-it would, I think, be proved that he differed from them in nothing more than this, that he cast aside the wilfulness and self-assurance of the more reasoning faculties; his marvellous powers were wedded to a child-like humility and a womanly confidingness, and thus his spirit found an avenue, closed to feeble and less docile intellects, into the deep places of the souls of mighty poets his genius as a critic rose to its majestic height, not only by its inborn manly strength, but because, with woman-like faith, it first bowed beneath the law of obedience and love.

It is a beautiful example of the companionship of the manly and womanly mind, that this great critic of whom I have been speaking proclaimed, by both principle and practice, that the sophistications which are apt to gather round the intellects of men, clouding their vision, are best cleared away by that spiritual condition more congenial to the souls of woman, the interpenetrating the reasoning powers with the affections.

Coleridge taught his daughter that there is a spirit of love to which the truth is not obscured; that there are natural partialities, moral sympathies, which clear rather than cloud the vision of the mind; that in our communion with books, as with mankind, it is not true that

"love is blind." The daughter has preserved the lesson in lines worthy of herself, her sire, and the precious truth embodied in them:

"Passion is blind, not love; her wondrous might

Informs with three-fold power man's inward sight;
To her deep glance the soul, at large displayed,
Shows all its mingled mass of light and shade:
Men call her blind when she but turns her head,
Nor scan the fault for which her tears are shed.
Can dull Indifference or Hate's troubled gaze
See through the secret heart's mysterious maze?
Can Scorn and Envy pierce that "dread abode"
Where true faults rest beneath the eye of God?
Not theirs, 'mid inward darkness, to discern
The spiritual splendours, how they shine and burn.
All bright endowments of a noble mind
They, who with joy behold them, soonest find;
And better none its stains of frailty know

Than they who fain would see it white as snow."*

I have in this introductory lecture attempted nothing beyond the exposition of a few broad and simple principles of literature, the importance of which will perhaps best be seen in the practical application of them to the guidance and formation of our habits of reading. It

Biographia Literaria, of S. T. C. Vol. i. Part. 1. p. clxxxiv. Ed. 1847. This daughter was Mrs. Sara Coleridge, who died in 1852. I do not know where I can more appositely note the fact, that, when after years of constant literary correspondence with different members of the Coleridge family, Mr. Reed visited England in 1854, the welcome he received from them was most cordial and affectionate. He was greeted as an old friend and taken home to their very hearts. Since his death, no more earnest and affectionate tributes to his memory, no more accurate appreciation of his character, have been paid than by this circle of his kind English friends. Especially I will venture to refer to Mr. Justice Coleridge and his kinsman, the Rev. Derwent Coleridge of St. Mark's College, Chelsea.

W. R R.

was my intention to have worked those principles out to their application, but I have already consumed more of your time than I desire to do during one evening. It seemed necessary to show, in the first place, that I appreciated the difficulties which are caused by the multiplicity of books; and then to set forth these essential principles of literature, as distinguished from mere books, that it is addressed to our universal human nature, and that it gives power not to the intellect alone, but to our whole spiritual being; and that if it be true to its high purpose, it gives power of wisdom and happiness. I felt it to be important also, with a view to some applications to be made in subsequent lectures-to consider the reciprocal relations of the manly and womanly mind.

I propose in the next lecture to consider the application of these principles to habits and causes of reading; reserving for the third lecture the subject of the English language, to which I am anxious to devote an entire lecture.



Application of Literary Principles.*

Narrow and exclusive lines of reading to be avoided-Catholicity of taste-Charles Lamb's idea of books-Ruskin-Habits of reading comprehensive-Ancient Literature-Foreign languages-Different eras of letters-English essay-writing-Macaulay-SoutheyScott and Washington Irving-Archdeacon Hare-Lord Bacon's Essays-Poetic taste-Influence of individual pursuits-Friends in Council--Serious and gay books-English humour--Southey's ballad-Necessity of intellectual discipline-Disadvantage of courses of reading-Books not insulated things-Authors who guideSouthey's Doctor-Elia-Coleridge-Divisions of Prose and Poetry --Henry Taylor's Notes from Books--Poetry not a mere luxury of the mind-Arnold's habits of study and taste--The practical and poetical element of Anglo-Saxon character--The Bible-Mosaic Poetry-Inadequacy of language-Lockhart's character of ScottArnold's character of Scipio-Tragic Poetry-Poetry for childrenRobinson Crusoe and the Arabian Nights-Wordsworth's Ode to Duty-Character of Washington.

IN my

last lecture I sought to show how, amid the multitude of books, we must in the first place seek guidance for our choice by laying down in our minds certain general principles respecting the essential properties and uses of literature. I endeavoured to show that nothing but what is addressed to man as man is literature, and that that is more appropriately and eminently literature which gives power rather than knowledge, and that that is worthy literature which gives power for good, healthful strength

*January 10, 1851.


of mind, wisdom, and happiness. Now let us see how we can follow the principles out to practical uses. It might be thought that such a definition of literature was too narrow a one; that it was too high and serious a view of the subject; and that it would exclude much inoffensive and agreeable reading. When I speak of a book giving moral power and health, or even if I should use words of graver import, spiritual strength and health, I employ these expressions in their largest sense, as comprehending the whole range of our inner life, from the lonely and loftiest meditations down to casual, colloquial cheerfulness, so that literature, in its large compass, shall furnish sympathy and an answer to every human emotion, and to all moods of thought and feeling. It is important, in the first place, having settled in one's mind an idea of the general properties of literature, to give to it a large and liberal application in other words, to avoid narrow and exclusive lines in reading, to cultivate a true catholicity of taste. In so doing, you enlarge your capacities of enjoyment; you expand the discipline as well as the delights of the mind. It is with books as with nature, travel widely, and while at one time, you may behold the glories of the mountains, or the sublimities of the sea, you shall at another take delight as genial in the valley and the brook. We must needs be watchful of our habits of reading in this respect, for favourite lines of reading may come to be too exclusive. A favourite author may have too large an occupation. Women should remember that in all that is essentially literature, they have a right in common with men, because the very essence of it is, that it addresses itself to no distinctive property of sex, but to human nature. They wrong themselves in shrinking from any

« ZurückWeiter »