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No. 1176. Fourth Series, No. 37. 15 December, 1866.
ERRATUM. read eircle.
Saturday Review, Spectator, and
POETRY: Prof. Agassiz on Brazil, 642. The Poet and the People, 642. Only a Baby Small 642. Carissimo, 658. Weighing the Baby, 664. Home at Last, 690. No. 1173, page 495, second column, line fourteen from top, instead of miracle,
Christmas Bells, 690.
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From the Saturday Review. IMAGINATION AND CONDUCT.
that neither of these in the least degree clashes with the other. But we can very easily believe that, if schoolmasters were to teach science in the narrow, ungenial, dry-. bones fashion in which so many of them now teach ancient literature, the effect on the mind of a student with not more than aver age natural susceptibility or enthusiasm would be fatally injurious to the health of the imagination, and not less so therefore to social conduct. It will be an exceedingly evil day when little boys and girls are regaled with mathematical puzzles, and experiments with the lever and the pulley, to the detriment of fairy tales and romances. For, although the effect of the highest scientific knowledge is to quicken and expand the imagination, this is not by any means the case when the knowledge is confined to the stiff and apparently arid and inelastic elements. A lad who came away from school with only the same amount of appreciation of science as he commonly has of the classics would be even more starved than he is now in the imaginative region of his mind.
Considering that the comparative weakness of the humane sentiments is the chief cause of the most prominent as well as the most deep-seated miseries that prevail throughout the world, and not least of all in our own country, nothing can be more val uable than an idea which sheds any light upon the source of ordinary inhumanity. And this too generally neglected truth that much cruelty and harshness in conduct is the result of defective imagination, has the important practical merit of substituting an accessible for an inaccessible cause. If you attribute a harsh or unfeeling act to innate malevolence or incurable natural coldness of disposition, there is an end of the matter. The harsh person must be left to his miserable fate, and so too must those unfortunate beings who happen to be under his influence or in his power. He is what he is by the visitation of God. But it is of the essence of what has been called “rationalism" in all departments of thought to abandon this belief in the secret, and unchangeable evil properties of the human heart. We no longer believe that insanity is the consequence of the presence of an evil demon, who has taken bodily possession of its victim. And a rational analysis persuades us in the same way that an austere, unsympathetic, unfeeling disposition is not an absolute and final quality of character into which we need inquire no further; but that, on the contrary, it only implies the presence of a number of unfavourable mental conditions, the most prominent of which is torpidity of imagination.
It is a very common mistake to attribute to coldness and badness of heart what is really due to nothing more criminal than an entire want of imagination. People more often rudely disregard the feelings and situation of others from inability to picture with any accuracy what is not immed ately and palpably under their own eye, than from a base resolution to pursue their objects at any cost to their friends and neighbours. They have no sympathy with disappointment and wounded affection and all the other similar forms of mental pain, simply because they are themselves unconscious of such sensations, and they have not the faculty which would quicken them into realizing the possibility of this pain in others. They say and do harsh and unsympathetic things, out of a sheer incapacity to foresee any but their most direct outside consequences. The immense power of imagination as a moral agent is almost invariably overlooked in the current domestic theories of moral education. Everybody sees how closely it lies about the root of art, how essential it is alike to the composition and the enjoyment of poetry, painting, and, above all, of music; but not everybody has yet persuaded himself that imagination plays a scarcely less important part in conduct. Take from the character and acts of the best men and women what is due to the operation of the imaginative faculties, and you would have left but few of the highest kind of good motives and fine traits. And from this it follows, that the present leaning of educational theories towards a severe repression of the imagination in favour of the purely scientific form of mind is a leaning which is far from having all the arguments on its own side. Scientific training teaches the invaluable habits of testing all statements, and weighing evidence, and preferring truth above all other considerations; but it would be a distinct misfortune if excessive and narrow cultivation of the scientific spirit were to displace the imaginative temper, which is the very source and spring of so many moral excellences. The quick and manysided sensibility which is the result of a cultivated imagination, as a thousand instances have proved, is perfectly compatible with the strictest philosophic temper. The aim of man, as an inquirer and in the intellectual order of things, is truth; as a being with social instincts and obligations, his aim is beneficence and humanity. It is obvious
Innate badness of heart you cannot reach. | there are unnumbered fine shades of pas A slumbering faculty of intellect you can sion and feeling and sensibility, each of reach. If anybody chooses to say, as wicked which it is the business of the humane to Caligulas have said, that to inflict torture of take into account, and make proper allowbody or anguish of mind positively gives ance for. him pleasure, you can do nothing with him in the way of argument. The only course with a wretch of this sort is to put the gratification of his monstrous pleasures out of his reach. But most people who pass for harsh and unfeeling would deny, and with perfect sincerity, that the infliction of pain is other than highly distasteful to them. Their fault is that they do not see or understand the pain which they cause. Children, for instance, are nearly all cruel, and for the reason that they are, from their years, scarcely able to know what cruelty means Their barbarous tormentings of flies and toads and cats, and most other sentient beings on which they can lay their hands, are only the result of an ignorant sportiveness. They have no notion of the thrills of agony which their reckless humour sends along the quivering nerves of the victim. Parents too often content themselves with a simple prohibition, either very stern or else very mild and appealing, instead of trying to awaken a vivid consciousness of what these torn flies and mutilated toads endure. Boys and girls desist from these atrocities when they are old enough to find out for themselves that pain is a bad thing. But, besides the horrors which they inflict on birds and insects, are those with which they torment one another, or rather with which the dull and blunt torment the few among them who are keenly sensitive. In this case they see plainly that they cause pain, but they have no distinct picture of what they are doing. And it is the same with them when they grow up. Persons with blunt sensibilities and sluggish imaginations know that this or that thing is sure to be disagreeable to others, because they can tell the outward signs of pain and mortification. Only their conception of pain is so dull, and corresponds 80 very imperfectly and scantily with the reality, as to have no restraining power over their conduct. In all cases of this kind exhortations to benevolence and considerateness and mercy only fall with a fraction of their due weight. Those to whom they are addressed understand too dimly what you mean by your very terms. They require definition, and the only way of making the definition intelligible is to kindle some flame in the imagination, to impress upon them that their own capacities and susceptibilities are not the measures of the universe, to quicken in them the idea that
Besides this, it is needless to say that there are a hundred other sides of conduct in which imagination plays a powerful though often unobserved part, and to which the imagination lends a characteristic colour. The more this faculty of the mind is quickened and developed, the more distinct the leaning towards what is generous and lofty. Take those thousands of British households where a mistaken and dwarfing conception of religion has invested the bare notion of a richly cultivated imagination with all that is perilous and wicked- where the drama is spoken of as a choice device for ensnaring souls, where pictures are held to be vain gewgaws, novels to be pestilent diversions from the pursuit of salvation, and poetry to be very frivolous and dangerous as soon as it quits the bounds prescribed by the imagination of Dr. Watts. The grey, colourless life which comes of this theory is too well known, and so are the often disastrous rebellions against the theory on the part of its younger victims. The profligacy of the sons of too austere fathers is an old story. Minds with any elasticity or fertility or impulse cannot tolerate these stiff, narrow bounds. They long for an atmosphere of growth and movement, and, as they do not find it in any form of virtue with which they are acquainted, they very commonly seek it in the more genial shape which vice may present. The powers of imagination which might have been made the very salt of character only serve to hurry the character the more rapidly to degradation. The mental ruin of the profligate is not so very much worse than the mental ruin of the. prig, except in the external ruin which the former commonly entails into the bargain. Each loses that happy expansiveness of nature which is one of the traits that make a man's character worth most both to himself and other people, and of which a rich and vigorous imagination is the chief root and source. It is rather mournful to think. how many wretches there are whose only glimpses of these heights of soul are got through the evil agency of gin, whose only moments when such dim glimpses are possible are those when all the rest of the intellect except imagination has been lulled into a fatal slumber. Whether any of these visions of higher possibilities survive the clearing away of the spirituous mist is a question which the wise man will
With these un- sort are better than an unbroken level of sordid and hideous existence. But when culture and opportunity make the habitual and wise exercise of the imagination possible, there is scarcely anything else so certain to elevate all the springs and impulses of conduct.
not undertake to decide. fortunate souls, as with other people, the imagination takes some of its colour and bias from outside conditions; but its effect is to make them brighter and more endurable, at least so long as the imagination is at work. Even faint and momentary insights of this
THE Correspondent of La Presse in Italy warns tourists who pass through Ferrara not to believe that the cell shown as that of Tasso is really the one in which that poet was confined. Byron, who was exceedingly credulous," says this correspondent, "had himself shut up for two hours in this damp cell, and came out of it with one of the most remarkable fragments of his poem, The Lamentations of Tasso the author of Don Juau' and Childe Harold' had a strange mania for writing French, and in The beginning of his wandering and poetic life he wrote it very badly, as the following verses, quite authentic, but little known, will attest. They were written by him on the wall of the coa -cellar which was pointed out to him as the dungeon where Tasso was confined:
'Là, le Tasse brul d'une flamme fatal, Expiant dans les fers sa gloire et son amur. Quand il va recevoir la palm trionfal Descand au noir sejur.""
Ir is stated that one of the objects which excited the most curiosity in the recent exhibition at Toledo was a complete edition of "Don Quixote," printed in microscopic characters, on fifty-four cigarette papers.
UNDER the title of "Twelve Champions of Revolution," the Volkszeitung says, a work has been published at Berlin, giving the biography of twelve men of the revolutionary epoch of the last twenty years in Germany, France, Russia, and Italy. Freiligrath, Karl Blind, Robert Blum, Dortu, Hecker, Ruge, Schlöffel, represent Germany; Ledru Rollin and Louis Blanc, France; Bakunin, Russia; Mazzini and Cavour, Italy. The work is by M. Gustav Struve, one of the democratic leaders of 1848, and by Dr. Rasch.
MICHAL LEVY & Co. announce the fourth series of "Quelques Pages d'Histoire Contemporaine," by M. Prevost Paradol, one of the writers on the Journal des Débats. The same publishers have also just brought out a new edition of the work of General E. Daumas, entitled "Les Chevaux du Sahara et les Mours du Désert." This magnificent edition is accompanied by comments and notes by Abd-el Kader, and ornamented by a portrait of the Emir.
GENERAL PHilipp de SeguR, the author of "Histoire de la Grande Armée," has just completed his "Mémoires sur Napoleon I. et les autres Personnages célèbres de l'Epoque." This veteran author is eighty-seven years old.
GERMANY, which has hitherto been without a weekly political newspaper, is about to have one. It will be started by the proprietors of the daily Kölnische Zeitung, under the same name.
Ir is stated in the daily papers that the South Kensington Museum has recently acquired a pack of playing cards of singular rarity. They are woven in silk, and were made for the Medici in the 17th century by one Panichi.
MR. HANNAY is about to produce a work entitled "Three Hundred Years of a Norman House." The "house" in question is that of the Gurneys of Norfolk, whose ancestors were the Lords of Gournay, in Normandy, from which place they derived their name.