Sidor som bilder

reduced my feelings, may be inferred from the simple circumstance of my bursting into tears one Sunday in church, when the first part of the twentysecond psalm was read~" My God, my God, look upon me; why hast thou forsaken me, and art so far from my health, and from the words of my complaint ?"

I cannot reflect on my own weakness, in so far yielding to grief, without great self-correction; nor can the state of my mind, I think, at sundry times during its aberration from pristine strength, be considered, without a corrective influence on others, labouring under mental and bodily depression. It seems to me, that materialism has the force of its doctrine in the obvious dependence which mind and body have on each other. When the mind yields to sorrow, it becomes insipidly sedentary, and all its faculties, but one, seem lost; it rests with intense continuity on one point, and generates diseases by stagnation. So it is with the sympathizing body too ; it returns the tone of the overstimulated organ of thought, becomes vapid, and destroys itself by inactivity. Now, if brain and mind be the same, which appears to me highly pro

bable, mental disorders, as well as bodily, may be more successfully treated by medicine than by ethics or theology. Indeed, the ingenious arguments of Lawrence on this curious question have not, in the slightest degree, unhinged my creed : his physiological work has been described by the highest law authority, as containing honeyed poison ; but I speak to one point, and I certainly can conceive that organization may produce the superiority which man has over all other animals, without questioning the immortality of the human soul. Moreover, such light has been thrown on this doctrine, of late years, by anatomical research, that I am convinced great and unexpected improvements will originate in discovering how to fortify the body against -attacks of the mind; how to protect the mind from being operated on by superaction in the


of the body. Dryden was ridiculed in The Rehearsal,” for taking physic and exercise, when he wished to extract sterling treasure from thought. I consider such treatment a proof of his wisdom; for, by relieving and bracing the body, the mind also was relieved and braced, and thus the weeds that were choking the luxuriance of his ideas were



removed. In short, I am certain that if I had been copiously blooded, and well exercised, my mental eye would have seen its delusion, and my understanding would have detected its folly in conjuring up the phantom of despair, instead of the sweet visions of hope, which create exertion and mature fortitude.

Our depressions of spirit are often like incubifreedom is effected merely by turning. The moment I was able to see things through a medium clearer than my own thoughts, which occurred the instant I escaped from self, I saw that my case was not desperate. I had faced some dangers before, and found that courage put all of them to flight ; it was, therefore, not without experience that I attacked my enemies. My wife, I believe, imbibed her disorder through attention to me, as the physician is sometimes seized by the plague in the lazaretto. If her diseased state had the power of communicating health to me, my recovery soon restored her to strength. We were now able to walk hand in hand together, and I had an ear open to her quotations from Scripture and poetry respecting resignation. But St. Paul can speak like an angel on contentment, and Goldsmith writes delightfully

“ Man wants but little here below ;"

yet, with all silent submission to divine injunction, and a wish from the bottom of my heart for wisdom to act in obedience to it, I shall say, in answer to the poet, that if he had had a weekly baker's bill to pay for seven children, he would perhaps have written,

66 Man wants not little here below;"

for our necessities and wants are very numerous in an artificial state of society.

Feeling the truth of this observation, I redoubled my industry; and, amongst my other pursuits, I arranged a plan for publishing Eye and Ear Sketches." I certainly should have attempted book-making on my own account, but for the changes in my means and prospects, which I have now to relate.

The spirit of agriculture, which I excited in my neighbourhood, was doing much good to the poor around me. My heaps of manure, and the abundant crops which followed, stimulated many to imitation; my fields of purple vetches produced others, my mode of saving flax-seed was admired, my succession-crop system was praised; and the liberality of my disposition to all was generally spoken of to my advantage. The consequence was, that as my character became known, my society was courted, and the solitude which my mind had found unhealthful, was changed by introduction to an agreeable circle of professing friends. From experience I can say, that, in solitude, I have not discovered those beauties which she has been arrayed in by fanciful writers; fanciful, I assume, because it is well known that authors who have been most eloquent in praise of solitude, were men of the world, and that those who have described the charms of an active life were warmed into their laudatory spirit by the closeness of their atmosphere in retirement. In support of what I allege, it will be sufficient to mention Mackenzie and Evelyn, whose writings prove that we admire most what we have not ; a corroborative of Pope's celebrated line

[blocks in formation]

A very little time, too, cleared away my sorrow

« FöregåendeFortsätt »