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unjust pretensions of England,] in a degree absolutely incomprehensible to Southern Europe. He had his frailties like other children of Adam; but he did not seek to court and fix the public attention upon them, after the fashion of Louis Quatorze, or our Charles II. There were living witnesses (more than one) of his aberrations as of theirs; but he, with better feelings than they, did not choose, by placing these witnesses upon a pedestal of honor, surmounted by heraldic trophies, to emblazon his own transgressions to coming generations, and to force back the gaze of a remote posterity upon his own infirmities. It was his ambition to be the father of his people in a sense not quite so literal. These were things, however, of which at that time I had not heard.
During the whole dialogue, I did not even once remark that hesitation and iteration of words, generally attributed to George III.; indeed, so generally, that it must often have existed; but in this case, I suppose that the brevity of his sentences operated to deliver him from any embarrassment of utterance, such as might have attended longer or more complex sentences, where an anxiety was natural to overtake the thoughts as they arose. When we observed that the King had paused in his stream of questions, which succeeded rapidly to each other, we understood it as a signal of dismissal; and making a profound obeisance, we retired backwards a few steps; his Majesty smiled in a very gracious manner, waved his hand towards us, and said something in a peculiarly kind accent which we did not distinctly hear; he then turned round, and the whole party along with him; which set us at liberty without impropriety to turn to the right about ourselves, and make our egress from the gardens.
This incident, to me at my age, was very naturally one of considerable interest. But the reflection, to which I
alluded above, as one which, even at those years, it forcibly impressed upon me, suggested itself often afterwards, and at the moment of recording it in a journal which I kept, or tried to keep, at that period. It was this: Was it possible that much truth of a general nature, bearing upon man and social interests, could ever reach the ear of a King, under the etiquette of a court, and under that one rule which seemed singly sufficient to foreclose all natural avenues to truth- the rule, I mean, by which it is forbidden to address a question to the King. I was well aware, before I saw him, that in the royal presence, like the dead soldier in Lucan, whom the mighty enchantress tortures back into a momentary life, I must have no voice except for answers.
vox illi linguaque tantum
I was to originate nothing myself; and at my age, before so exalted a personage, the mere instincts of reverential demeanor would at any rate have dictated that rule. But what becomes of that man's general condition of mind in relation to all the great objects moving on the field of human experience, where it is a law generally for almost all who approach him, that they shall confine themselves to replies, absolute responses, or at most to a prosecution or carrying forward of a proposition delivered by the protagonist, or supreme leader of the conversation? For it must be remembered that, generally speaking, the effect of putting no question, is to transfer into the other party's hands the entire originating movement of the dialogue; and thus, in a musical metaphor, the great man is the sole modulator and determiner of the key in which the conversation proceeds. It is true, that sometimes, by a little travelling beyond the question in your answer, you may
enlarge the basis, so as to bring up the new train of thought which you wish to introduce; and may suggest fresh matter as effectually, as if you had the liberty of more openly guiding the conversation either by way of question, or by direct origination of a topic; but this depends on skill to improve an opening, or vigilance to seize it at the instant, and, after all, much upon accident : to say nothing of the crime, a sort of petty treason perhaps, or, what is it? if you should be detected in your improvements' and enlargements of basis.' Freedom of communication, unfettered movement of thought, there can be none under such a ritual, which tends violently to a Byzantine, or even to a Chinese result of freezing, as it were, all natural and healthy play of the faculties under the petrific mace of absolute ceremonial and fixed precedent. For it will hardly be objected that the privileged condition of a few official Councillors and Ministers of State, whose hurry and oppression of thought from public care will rarely allow them to speak on any other subject than business, can be a remedy large enough for so large an evil. True it is, that a peculiarly frank or jovial temperament in a sovereign may do much for a season to thaw this punctilious reserve and ungenial constraint; but that is an accident, and personal to an individual. And, on the other hand, to balance even this, and for the moment, I have remarked, that, in all noble and fashionable society, where there happens to be a pride in sustaining what is deemed a good tone in conversation, it is peculiarly aimed at (and even artificially managed), that no lingering or loitering upon one theme, no protracted discussion, shall be allowed. And, doubtless, as regards merely the treatment of convivial or purely social communication of ideas, (which also is a great art,) this practice is right. I admit willingly that an uncultured brute, who is detected
at an elegant table in the atrocity of absolute discussion or disputation, ought to be summarily removed by a police officer; and possibly the law will warrant his being held to bail for one or two years, according to the enormity of his case. But men are not always enjoying or seeking to enjoy social pleasure; they seek also, and have need to seek continually, both through books and men, intellectual growth, fresh power, fresh strength, fresh health, to keep themselves a-head or a-breast of this moving, surging, billowing world of ours, in these modern times, when society, for reasons in part easily explained, revolves through so many new phases, and shifts its aspects with so much more velocity than in past ages. A King, especially of this country, needs, beyond most other men, to keep himself in a continual state of communication, as it were by some vital and organic sympathy, with the most essential of these changes. And yet this punctilio of etiquette, like some vicious forms of law, or technical fictions grown too narrow for the age, which will not allow of cases coming before the Court in a shape, desired alike by the plaintiff and the defendant, is so framed as to defeat equally the wishes of a prince disposed to gather knowledge wherever he can find it, and of those who may be best fitted to give it.
However, to leave dissertation behind me, and to resume the thread of my narrative, an incident, which about this period impressed me far more profoundly and more durably than my first introduction to a royal presence, was my first visit to London.
It was a most heavenly day in May of this year, (1800,) when I first beheld and first entered this mighty wilderness, as to me it was, the city-no! not the city, but the nation of London. Often have I since then, at distances of two and three hundred miles or more from this colossal emporium of men, wealth, arts, and intellectual power, felt the sublime expression of her enormous magnitude in one simple form of ordinary occurrence, viz. in the vast droves of cattle, suppose upon the great north roads, all with their heads directed to London, and expounding the size of the attracting body, by the force of its attractive power, as measured by the never-ending succession of the droves, and the remoteness from the capital of the lines upon which they were moving. A suction so powerful, felt along radii so vast, and a consciousness at the same time, that upon other radii still more vast, both by land and by sea, the same suction is operating night and day, summer and winter, and hurrying for ever into one centre the infinite means needed for her infinite purposes, and the endless tributes to the skill or to the luxury of her endless population, crowds the imagination with a pomp to which there is nothing corresponding upon this planet, either amongst the things that have been, or the things that