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Lord M.'s flattering notice was a particular copy of verses which had gained for me a public distinction; not, however, I must own, a very brilliant one; the prize awarded to me being not the first, nor even the second: it was simply the third: and that fact stated nakedly, might have left it doubtful whether I were to be considered in the light of one honored or of one stigmatized. However, the judges in this case, with more honesty, or more selfdistrust, at least, than belongs to most adjudications of the kind, had printed the first three of the successful essays. Consequently, it was left open to each of the less successful candidates to benefit by any difference of taste amongst their several friends; and my friends, in particular, with the single exception of my mother, who always thought her own children inferior to other people's, (partly, I believe, on a religious principle of repressing our vanity, and partly, also, in a spirit of unaffected modesty about everything connected with herself,) had generally assigned the palm to myself. Lord M. protested loudly that the case admitted of no doubt; that gross injustice had been done me; and, as the ladies of the family were much influenced by his opinion, I thus came, not only to wear the laurel in their estimation, but also with the advantageous addition of having suffered some injustice. I was not only a victor, but a victor in misfortune.
At this moment, looking back from a distance of thirty and odd years upon those trifles, it may well be supposed that I do not attach importance enough to the subject of my fugitive honors, as to have any very decided opinion one way or the other upon my own proportion of merit. I do not even recollect the major part of the verses that which I do recollect, inclines me to think that in the structure of the metre, and in the choice of the expressions, I
had some advantage over my competitors, though otherwise, perhaps, my verses were less finished; Lord M. might, therefore, in a partial sense, have been just, as well as kind. But, little as that may seem likely, even then, and at the moment of reaping some advantage from my honors, which gave me a consideration with the family I was amongst, such as I could not else have had, most unaffectedly I doubted in my own mind whether I were really entitled to the praises which I received. My own verses had not at all satisfied myself; and though I felt elated by the notice they had gained me, and gratified by the generosity of the noble Scotchman in taking my part so warmly, I was so, much more in a spirit of sympathy with the kindness thus manifested in my behalf, and with the consequent kindness which it procured me from others, than from any incitement or support which it gave to my intellectual pride. In fact, though proud as a fiend of those intellectual gifts which I believed or which I knew myself to possess, I made even in those days so far a just estimate of my pretensions as not to imagine my particular vocation to lie in poetry. Well indeed I knew, and I know that — had I chosen to enlist amongst the soi-disant poets of the day,— amongst those I mean who, by mere force of talent and mimetic skill, contrive to sustain the part of poet in a scenical sense, and with a scenical effect - I also could have won such laurels as are won by such merit; I also could have taken and sustained a place taliter qualiter amongst the poets of the time. Why not then? Because I knew that me, as them, would await the certain destiny in reversion, of resigning that place, in the next generation, to some other candidate having equal or greater skill in appropriating the vague sentiments, and old traditionary language of passion spread through books, and having the advantage of novelty,
and of a closer adaptation to the prevailing taste of the day. Even at that early age I was keenly alive, if not so keenly as at this moment, to the fact, that by far the larger proportion of what is received in every age for poetry, and for a season usurps that consecrated name, is not the spontaneous overflow of real unaffected passion, deep, and at the same time original, and also forced into public manifestation of itself from the necessity which cleaves to all passion alike of seeking external sympathy: this it is not; but a counterfeit assumption of such passion, according to the more or less accurate judgment of the writer, for distinguishing the key of passion suited to the particular case, and an assumption of the language of passion, according to his more or less skill in separating the spurious from the native and legitimate diction of real excitement. Rarely, indeed, are the reputed poets of any age men who groan, like prophets, under the burthen of a message which they have to deliver, and must deliver, of a mission which they must discharge. Generally, nay, with much fewer exceptions, perhaps, than would be readily believed, they are merely simulators of the part they sustain; speaking not out of the abundance of their own hearts, but by skill and artifice assuming or acting emotions at second-hand; and the whole is a business of talent, (sometimes even of great talent,) but not of original power, of genius,* or authentic inspiration.
* The words genius and talent are frequently distinguished from each other by those who evidently misconstrue the true distinction entirely, and sometimes so grossly as to use them by way of expressions for a mere difference in degree. Thus, 'a man of great talent, absolutely a ge nius,' occurs in a very well written tale at this moment before me; as if being a man of genius implied only a greater than ordinary degree of talent.
Talent and genius are in no one point allied to each other, except
we returned to Eton. Her Majesty about this time gave some splendid fêtes at Frogmore; to one or two of which she had laid her commands upon a great officer of her household that we should be invited. The invitation was, of course, on my friend's account; but her Majesty had condescended to direct that I, as his visiter, should be specially included. Lord W., young as he was, had become tolerably indifferent about such things; but to me such a scene was a novelty; and, on that account, it was settled we should go. We did go and I was not sorry to have made the sacrifice of a few hours, for the gratification of once, at least, witnessing the splendors of a royal party. But a sacrifice it certainly was: and, after the first edge of expectation was taken offafter the vague uncertainties of ignorance had given place to absolute realities, and the eye had become a little familiar with the splendors of the dresses, &c., I began to suffer under the constraints incident to a young person in such a situation. The music, in fact, was all that continued to delight me; and, but for that, I believe, I should have had some difficulty in avoiding so monstrous an
generically; that both express modes of intellectual power. But the kinds of power are not merely different, they are in polar opposition to each other. Talent is intellectual power of every kind, which acts and manifests itself by and through the will, and the active forces. Genius, as the verbal origin implies, is that much rarer species of intellectual power which is derived from the genial nature-from the spirit of suffering and enjoying — from the spirit of pleasure and pain, as organized more or less perfectly; and this is independent of the will. It is a function of the passive nature. Talent is conversant with the adaptation of means to ends. But genius is conversant only with ends. Talent has no sort of connection, not the most remote or shadowy, with the moral nature or temperament, genius is steeped and saturated with this moral nature. Talent (to use an old distinction of the schoolmen of our elder English poets, Milton, for example, Paradise Lost, B. V. 1. 488, and also a revived distinction of Immanuel Kant's) is discursive: genius, like the angelic understanding, is intuitive.
indecorum as yawning. The ball-room, a temporary erection, with something of the character of a pavilion about it, wore an elegant and festal air; the part allotted to the dancers being fenced off by a gilded lattice-work, and ornamented beautifully from the upper part with drooping festoons of flowers. The dresses of the ladies were, as usual on such occasions, conspicuously rich and in itself, of all the scenes which this world offers, none is to me so profoundly interesting, none (I say deliberately) so affecting, as the spectacle of men and women floating through the mazes of a dance; under these conditions, however, that the music shall be rich and festal, the execution of the dancers perfect, and the dance itself of a character to admit of free, fluent, and continuous motion. But this last condition will be sought in vain in the disgusting quadrilles, &c. which have for so many years banished the truly beautiful country-dances native to England. Those whose taste and sensibility were so defective as to substitute for the beautiful in dancing the merely difficult, were sure, in the end, to transfer the depravations of this art from the Opera House to the floors of private ball-rooms. The tendencies even then were in that direction; but as yet they had not attained their final stage and the English country-dance* was still in estima
* This word, I am well aware, grew out of the French word contredanse; indicating the regular contraposition of male and female partners in the first arrangement of the dancers. The word country-dance was therefore originally a corruption; but, having once arisen and taken root in the language, it is far better to retain it in its colloquial form: better, I mean, on the general principle concerned in such cases. For it is, in fact, by such corruptions, by offsets upon an old stock, arising through ignorance or mispronunciation originally, that every language is frequently enriched; and new modifications of thought, unfolding themselves in the progress of society, generate for themselves concurrently appropriate expressions. Many words in the Latin can be pointed out as having passed through this process. The English word property,