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that the spirits of the departed have a larger knowledge of transactions on earth than they had in life; and that haviny lost his father at twelve years of age, he felt, after the lapse of half a century, that all his days had been overshadowed by paternal solicitude. These opinions occur in an argument to prove the concern felt by departed spirits for those left behind, and I refer to it because it shows one of the prime truths of this poem reached by another path, the process of strict argumentation.*
The study of " In Memoriam” will also show how it vindicates other truths affecting the life and destiny of manelemental truths which have been assailed by some of the philosophical heresies of the day; and, indeed, there is to my mind something sublime in the poet's strong affection to his friend, passed from mortal sight, having power to sweep these heresies away. The notion, coupled perhaps with pantheism, which would deny individuality of existence in the hereafter, is dissipated by the assurance which affection gives—the feeling that it
“Is faith as vague as all unsweet:
Eternal form shall still divide
The eternal soul from all beside,
And I shall know him when we meet.” Sombre as the poem at first appears, it works its way on to happy hopes—the confidence of future recognitions, and a cheerful faith.
The poet's voice is heard, too, against another error of the times—that which would give intellect supremacy over the higher powers which are in the soul, confounding knowledge with wisdom, or even making wisdom the sub
* Alexander Knox's Remains, vol. ii.
ordinate. The better truth comes from the memory and imaginative contemplation of the character of his friend, when, speaking of knowledge falsely elevated, he says
“Half grown as yet, a child and vain,
She cannot fight the fear of death :
What is she, cut from love and faith,
Of demons ? fiery-hot to burst
All barriers in her onward race
For power. Let her know her place;
A higher hand must make her mild,
If all be not in vain; and guide
Her footsteps, moving side by side
For she is earthly of the mind,
O friend, who camest to thy goal
I would the great world grew like thee,
Who grewest not alone in power
And knowledge, but from hour to hour
The effect of a sorrow not weakly indulged, but at once faithfully cherished and wisely disciplined, is perhaps most comprehensively shown in those stanzas which affirm the need, for the highest purposes of sorrow, of health and strength, in all that makes up our moral being.
In concluding this lecture, let me say that I have made no attempt to make choice among the poems with a view to present effect, but rather, in this desultory way, to illustrate the general purpose and character of the work, and some of the principles involved in it. I have thus passed in silence by many of the most admirable pieces in the volume, and have not stopped to speak of the superior metrical art which pervades the verse. Indeed, I am well aware, that in many respects this is rude handling of a poem which peculiarly demands the meditative study of silent reading. It is then that you may hear and see this stream of song and of sorrow—at first flowing deeply but darkly, contending alike against its own force and against resistance, light from the sky breaking only fitfully through the gloom : you may follow it after a while, gathering its strength into a more placid channel, and you will behold it at the last flowing as deeply as at first, but calmly, and in the light of peaceful memories and tranquil hopes, and bearing in the bosom of its own deep tranquillity the reflection of the deep tranquillity of the heavens.
Literature of Wit and Humour.*
Subtilty of these emotions-Sydney Smith and Leigh Hunt-Dulness of
jest-books-Hudibras a tedious book-Sydney Smith's idea of the study of wit-Charles Lamb—Incapacity for a jest German note on Knickerbocker-Stoicism and Puritanism-Guesses at Truth--Cheerful literature needed for thoughtful minds—Recreative power of books--Different modes of mental relaxation–Napoleon-ShelleyCowper-Southey's merriness-Doctor Arnold—Shakspeare and Scott's humour-The Antiquary-Burke-Barrow's definition of wit -Hobbes-Forms of Humour-Doctor Johnson's grotesque definitions—Collins, the landscape painter-Examples of grotesque style -Irish Bulls-Rip Van Winkle--Sydney Smith and Doctor ParrHumour in old tragedies—Lear and the fool-Hamlet and the gravedigger-Irony-Macbeth and the doctor-Anne Boleyn-Bishop Latimer-Fuller-Dean Swift and Arbuthnot-Gulliver--Sir Roger De Coverley-Charles Lamb-Swift and Byron's humour-Prostitution of witSir Robert Walpole-Lord Melbourne-HogarthDanger of power of humour illustrated-Ruskin's criticism.
In my last lecture I was engaged in the consideration of some very serious subjects, the gravest that belong to literature. In passing from them at once to the Literature of Wit and Humour, I have less apprehension of the transition being felt as a violent one than that there will be found in this lecture more of seriousness than the chief title of it might lead one to expect. The movements of the mind which are connected with the faculties styled “Wit” and “Humour," are among the most subtile of
* University of Pennsylvania, March 13, 1851.
which the mind is capable, are, for the most part, difficult of description, and demand an acute and delicate analysis. In contrast with my last lecture, I am anxious at the outset to give you the assurance of a promise that I shall this evening make a more reasonable demand upon your time and thoughts, for the light artillery which I have now to do with can be more expeditiously manoeuvred than the heavy ordnance to which I had to stand on the former occasion.
It is well that it should be understood between us that the subject of Wit and Humour does not at all imply that the treatment of it should be identical with the effects of those powers; on the contrary, by raising such expectation and not fulfilling it, the subject may, in reality, prove more serious than even a grave subject, wherewith such anticipations could not be associated. Though I am usually averse to adverting in any way to the difficulty of any subject on which I have undertaken to lecture, indulge me in saying that the subject of the literature of Wit and Humour is one for which there is peculiarly demanded, not only a genial and cultivated capacity to enjoy such literature, but a skill and tact in the handling of it; the importance of which I am so well aware of, that it is with no small misgiving that I have ventured upon
the subject. When the late Sydney Smith, the most distinguished wit of contemporary literature, in a course of lectures on Moral Philosophy, discussed these faculties of Wit and Humour, the subject, though manifestly not an uncongenial one to him, becomes even in his hands, a somewhat sedate disquisition. When Leigh Hunt wrote his volume on “The Poetry of Wit and Humour," vivacious and pleasant and facetious as he has often shown himself in other