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any chronological principle of position, it would have been difficult to assign them a proper place — backwards or forwards they must have leaped, in whatever place they had been introduced; and in their entire compass, from first to last, never could have been represented as properly belonging to any one present time, whensoever that had been selected. In reality, as a man must be aware beforehand, that, amongst the incidents of any life connected with each other by no logical connection, there can be no logical transitions from one to the other, so also, upon examining any particular life, one of those admirable lives, for instance, by Dr. Johnson, he will find that, in fact, the mere incidents are not connected, nor could be, any more than the items in an auctioneer's catalogue. How, then, is it that any seeming connection is effected? How is it, at the least, that they read with a sense of unbroken continuous fluency? Simply thus - and here lies the main secret of good biography: a moral is drawn, a philosophic inference, from some particular incident; this inference, for the very reason that it is philosophic, will be large and general; it may therefore be so framed as to include, by anticipation, some kindred thought, that will apply as an introducing moral to the succeeding incident; or it may be itself so large and comprehensive an idea, so ambidexter in its sense, as to bear a Janus-like application, one aspect pointing backwards to No. 1, one forwards to No. 2. Thus, to take a coarse, obvious illustration: a story, we will suppose, is told of riotous profusion; and next-without any imaginable natural connection or sequence, so that, left to themselves, they would read like parts of a technical advertisement — there comes a story of some private brawl in a tavern, ending in murder. But these detached notices are fused into unity, by a philosophic regret that the subject of memoir
should have been led into aspirations after a kind of society which had tempted him equally (looking backwards to No. 1) into disproportionate expenses, and (looking forward to No. 2) amongst pretensions in point of rank, issuing naturally into insults unendurable by a generous nature. Such a remark, interposed between the two incidents, Nos. 1 and 2, connects them — brings them into relation to a common principle, and makes into parts of one whole, incidents that would else have been utterly disjointed. And thus it is, by the setting, and not by the jewels set, that the whole course of a life is woven into one texture.* In fact, the connections of a life, when they are not of the vulgar order—in this year he did thus, in the next year he did thus - must resolve themselves into intellectual abstractions into those meditative reflections upon the whirling motions of life which rise from them like a perpetual spray or atmosphere, such as is thrown off from a cataract, and which invests all surrounding objects. Thus, and it is noticeable, the reflections which arise may be made, and in the hands of a great poet like Shakspeare, are made, to anticipate and mould the course of what is to follow. The reflections, or reflex thoughts, pure reverberations, as it were, of what has passed, are so treated as to become anticipations and pregnant sources of what is to follow. They seem to be mere passive results or products from the narration;
* There is an essay by Mr. Coleridge, in his revised edition of 'The Friend,' which contains elements of a deep philosophy, and which he himself (I believe) regarded as the profoundest effort of thought he had published to the world, illustrating principles pretty similar to those, but with a reference not to the art of biography so much (not at all, perhaps) as to the art of narration; and most admirably it is illustrated, in particular from the narration of Hamlet to Horatio, with respect to his sea adventures with Rosincrantz and Guildenstern. I speak from a recollection of nineteen years.
but, properly managed, they assume the very opposite relation, and predetermine the course of that narration. Now, if chronology is thus incapable of furnishing that principle of connection amongst the facts of a life, which, on some principle or other, must be had, in order to give any unity to its parts, and to take away the distraction of a mere catalogue; if, at any rate, something more than chronology must be resorted to, then it follows that chronology may be safely neglected in general; and, à fortiori, may be neglected with respect to those cases which, belonging to every place alike, therefore belong, according to the proverb, to no place at all, or, (reversing this proverb,) belonging to no place by preferable right, do, in fact, belong to every place.
The incidents I am now going to relate come under this rule; for they form part of a story which fell in with my own life at many different points. It is a story taken from the life of my own brother- and I dwell on it with the more willingness, because it furnishes an indirect lesson upon a great principle of social life, now and for many years back sub judice, and struggling for its just supremacy the principle that all corporal punishments whatsoever, and upon whomsoever inflicted, are hateful, and an indignity to our common nature - enshrined in the person of the sufferer. I will not here add one word upon the general thesis, but go on to the facts of this case, which, if all its incidents could be now recovered, was perhaps as romantic as any that ever has been told. But its moral interest depends upon this that, simply out of one brutal chastisement, arose naturally the entire series of events which so very nearly made shipwreck of all hope for one individual, and did in fact poison the tranquillity of a whole family for seven years. My next brother, younger by about four years than myself, was a
boy of exquisite and delicate beauty
delicate, that is,
in respect to its feminine elegance and bloom; for else, (as regards constitution) he turned out remarkably robust. In such excess did his beauty flourish during childhood, that those, who remember him and myself at the public. school of Bath, will also remember the ludicrous molestation in the streets, (for to him it was molestation,) which it entailed upon him- ladies stopping continually to kiss him. The relation with whom we came to Bath from a remote quarter of the kingdom, occupied at first the very apartments on the North Parade, just quitted by Edmund Burke at the point of death. That circumstance, or the expectation of finding Burke still there, brought for some weeks crowds of inquirers, many of whom saw the childish Adonis, then scarcely seven years old, and inflicted upon him what he viewed as the martyrdom of their caresses. Thus began a persecution which continued as long as his years allowed it. The most brilliant complexion that could be imagined, the features of an Antinous, and perfect symmetry of figure at that period of his life (afterwards he lost it) made him the subject of never-ending admiration to the whole female population, gentle and simple, who passed him in the streets. In after days, he had the grace to regret his own perverse and scornful coyness what Roman poets would have called his protervitas. But, at that time, so foolishly insensible was he to the honor, that he used to kick and struggle with all his might to liberate himself from the gentle violence which was continually offered, and he renewed the scene so elaborately painted by Shakspeare, of the conflicts between Venus and Adonis. For two years, this continued a subject of irritation the keenest on the one side, and of laughter on the other, between my brother and his uglier school-fellows, myself being amongst them.
Not that we had the slightest jealousy on the subject far from it: it struck us all (as it generally does strike boys) in the light of an attaint upon the dignity of a male, that he should be subjected to the caressses of women, without leave asked: this was felt to be a badge of childhood, and a proof that the object of such fondling tenderness, so public and avowed, must be regarded in the light of a baby- not to mention that the very foundation of all this distinction, a beautiful face, is as a male distinction regarded in a very questionable light by multitudes, and often by those most who are the possessors of that distinction. Certainly that was the fact in my brother's case. Not one of us could feel so pointedly as himself the ridicule of his situation; nor did he cease, when increasing years had liberated him from that practical expression of homage to his beauty, to regard the beauty itself as a degradation; nor could he bear to be flattered upon it, though, in reality, it did him service in after distresses, when no other endowment whatsoever would have been availing. Often, in fact, do men's natures sternly contradict the promise of their features; for no person would have believed that, under the blooming loveliness of a Narcissus, lay shrouded, as I firmly believe there did, the soul of a hero; as much courage as a man could have, with a capacity of patient submission to hardship, and of wrestling with calamity, that is rarely found amongst the endowments of youth. I have reason, also, to think that the state of degradation in which he believed himself to have passed his childish years, from the sort of public petting which I have described, and his strong recoil from it as an insult, went much deeper than was supposed, and had much to do in his subsequent conduct, and in nerving him to the strong resolutions he adopted. He seemed to resent as an original insult of Nature, the