Abbildungen der Seite

little physical exertion. It was the wish of his mother that he should become a minister of the Presbyterian church. His own inclination induced him to prefer the medical profession; and after the usual course of preparatory studies, he received a diploma from the medical faculty of the city of Glasgow. More recently an honorary degree in medicine was conferred upon him by the Washington College at Baltimore, under circumstances peculiarly gratifying to him and honourable to that institution. In 1811 he entered upon the practice of his profession in Larne. Soon afterwards he married, and removed to Belfast, where he continued in practice several years. In 1814, he became the editor of a literary journal published in that town, to which James Sheridan Knowles, the distinguished dramatic writer, was a contributor.

In 1817, Dr. M•Henry came with his family to the United States, and resided for a short time at Orwigsburg, in Pennsylvania. From that place he removed to Harmony, a village of Butler county in the same state.

The comparative retirement in which he there lived, afforded him both opportunities and inducements for the gratification of his taste in literature. portunities were not such as are afforded the classical student and the man of elegant leisure, who have constant access to large, well selected libraries, and enjoy so many other advantages in the prosecution of their literary researches and labours, in refined and populous cities. They were those which the man of

These op

contemplative, inquiring, and cultivated mind will always seek and discover, in whatever situation he may be placed. The library of Dr. M.Henry, although not large, was chosen with discrimination and taste. By the training which he had received in academical studies, by his subsequent judicious reading, and long continued habits of reflection, and still more by his close and philosophical observation of men in all their varieties of character, and in all the conditions and circumstances of society, his mind had been well prepared for the production of whatever literary works he might project, and to the proper execution of which those advantages could be applied. The wild and romantic nature of the part of the country in which he resided, and the secluded mode of life, which it induced, were peculiarly favourable to the indulgence of his literary disposition. By the terms wildness and romance are not invariably to be understood the rude, grotesque, and stern forms which material creation bears, or the rare and wonderful and varied appearance which external things assume. adorned and simple appearance of nature supplies abundant objects to gratify and charm the outward eye, and equally abundant themes for inward contemplation. The lofty mountain and gloomy forest, the impetuous river, the deep rugged glen, and the cultivated field and meadow, or the moderately swoln eminence, the gentle rivulet, the little, open wood, and the untilled, or desolate heath, are, to the eye of the true poet and the ardent admirer of nature, equally attract

The un

ive, and equally susceptible of the embellishment which his genius or his enthusiasm can impart to the delineation of them.

The country by which Dr. M.Henry was surrounded in his new residence, did not, in its entire appearance, combine all the attributes of grandeur which the enthusiastic votary of stern and savage nature requires to form his scenes of perfect sublimity and romance. But it was sufficiently wild and sequestered to be adapted to his poetical taste; and the leisure which he frequently enjoyed from the performance of his professional duties, enabled him to indulge his attachment to general literature. But it is not the visible aspect of nature which always suggests the best themes for poetical contemplation. It may, indeed, when the mind is predisposed to poetical feelings, increase the ardour with which they are indulged, or impart strength and fervency to the inspiration from which they derive their existence. Although the grand and nobler features which nature displays, may, in some degree, produce this effect on those by whom they are properly appreciated, they rarely or never exercise so much influence over the mind of the poet, as to subject it entirely to them, or to create the high and sublime conceptions from which the immortal productions of poetry deduce their origin. It is the deep and secret sources of his own thought, the glowing and involuntary outpourings of his genius, that produce the intense and indefinable emotions, which, when embodied in appropriate language, possess so


many charms for the unsophisticated heart, and exert such resistless power over the discriminating mind. The internal springs by which his reflections and feelings are set in motion, frequently obey the mysterious impulses which they receive from the sublime and beautiful conformations of outward objects, with which his own nature sympathizes, and to which he traces many of his purest and loftiest contemplations. But some of the most splendid and popular poetical works which have appeared in ancient or modern times, have no doubt been suggested by adventitious circumstances. Such circumstances, in themselves unimportant, but acting on minds peculiarly constituted, and enabled, by the vivacity and promptness of their action, to render them subservient to their purposes, have been eagerly seized and appropriated to the service of the muse, to which intellectual capacity less vigorous or less alert would not have considered them adapted.

It is to one of these accidental circumstances that the production of “The Pleasures of Friendship” is to be ascribed. The inconsiderable village in which the author lived, contained a population too small to afford much of that species of social intercourse which he wished to enjoy. In the year 1819, before he had established an intimacy with even those few inhabitants whose acquaintance he was desirous of cultivating, both he and his wife were, at the same time, attacked by severe indisposition. His disease, which was a violent rheumatism, continued for several weeks. The only domestic whom he had been able to procure, suddenly abandoned his service, and he was left in his helpless condition, with a sick wife, and two young children, destitute of necessary household assistance. Had he been residing in his native country, his friends and relatives and neighbours would have hastened to offer him their sympathy and their benevolent offices. But in the wild and sequestered region to which he had recently removed, he was almost an entire stranger, and was destitute of many of the resources which more enlarged and refined society affords, and of the sympathies by which his physical and mental sufferings might have been alleviated. In the desponding state of mind which his forlorn situation induced, and after all the limited means of amusement which the little village where he lived afforded, were exhausted, his thoughts often reverted to the home of his nativity, and to the scenes of happiness which he had there enjoyed. He was thus insensibly led to the consideration of the pleasures which are derived from the mutual attachment of intimate friends. To divert his attention from the gloomy reflections which preyed upon him, and to engage his mind in more agreeable employment than they afforded, he wrote the poem of “The Pleasures of Friendship,” the subject of which was so appropriate to his feelings, and so congenial to the sentiments which his situation naturally suggested. The first edition of this work, which consisted of only five hundred copies, was published at Pittsburg, with

« ZurückWeiter »