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affectation; but still liberal and intellectual. Living in the country, as most of his order did, my father could not look to a theatre for his evening pleasures or to any public resort. To a theatre he went only when he took his family; and that might be once in five years. Books, gardens on a large scale, and a green-house, were the means generally relied on for daily pleasure. The last, in particular, was so commonly attached to a house, that it formed a principal room in the country-house, with the modest name of The Farm, in which I passed my infancy; it was the principal room, as to dimensions, in a spacious house which my father built for himself; and was not wanting, on some scale or other, in any one house of those which I most visited when a school-boy. I may finish my portrait of my father and his class, by saying that Cowper was the poet whom they generally most valued; that Dr. Johnson, who had only just ceased to be a living author, was looked up to with considerable reverence and interest, upon various mixed feelings; partly for his courage, for his sturdy and uncomplying morality, according to his views, for his general love of truth; and (as usual) for his diction, amongst all who loved the stately, the processional, the artificial, and even the inflated, with the usual dissent, on the part of all who were more open to the natural graces of mother English, and idiomatic liveliness. Finally, I may add, that there was too little music in those houses in those days; and that the reverence paid to learning, to scholastic erudition, I mean, was disproportionate and excessive. Not having had the advantages of a college education themselves, my father and his class looked up with too much admiration to those who had; ascribing to them, with a natural modesty, a superiority greatly beyond the fact; and, not allowing themselves to see, that business, and the practice
of life, had given to themselves countervailing advantages; nor discerning, that too often the scholar had become dull and comatose over his books; whilst the activity of trade, and the strife of practical business, had sharpened their own judgments, set an edge upon their understandings, and increased the mobility of their general powers. As to the general esteem for Cowper, that was inevitable his picture of an English rural fire-side, with its long winter evening, the sofa wheeled round to the fire, the massy draperies depending from the windows, the teatable with its bubbling and loud hissing urn,' the newspaper and the long debate, Pitt and Fox ruling the senate, and Erskine the bar, all this held up a mere mirror to that particular period, and their own particular houses; whilst the character of his rural scenery was exactly the same in Cowper's experience of England, as in their own. So that, in all these features, they recognised their countryman and their contemporary, who saw things from the same station as themselves; whilst his moral denunciations upon all great public questions then afloat, were cast in the very same mould of conscientious principle as their own. In saying that, I mean upon all questions where the moral bearings of the case, (as in the slave-trade, lettres de cachet, &c.) were open to no doubt. They all agreed in being very solicitous, in a point which evidently gives no concern at all to a Frenchman, viz., that in her public and foreign acts, their country should be in the right. In other respects, upon politics, there were great differences of opinion, especially throughout the American war, until the French Revolution began to change its first features of promise. After that, a great monotony of opinion prevailed for many years amongst all of that class.
To pass from my father's house to myself, living in the
country, I was naturally first laid hold of by rural appearances or incidents. The very earliest feelings that I recall of a powerful character, were connected with some clusters of crocuses in the garden. Next, I felt the pas sion of grief, in a profound degree, for the death of a beautiful bird, a king-fisher, which had been taken up in the garden with a fractured wing. This occurred before I was two years of age. Next, I felt no grief at all, but awe the most enduring, and a dawning sense of the infinite, which brooded over me, more or less, after that time, upon the death of a sister, who must have been one year older than myself; I, that is to say, a few months more than two, she than three. At this time I was afflicted with ague, and suffered under it for two consecutive years. Arsenic was then never administered. The remedy
chiefly employed with me was riding on horseback. I was placed before a man on a horse, whose white color and great size I still remember. But of all early remembrances, in distinctness none rivals one connected with an illumination which took place on the King's recovery from his first attack of lunacy. At the date of that illumination I must have been two and a half years old. It marks the general exultation of the people in that event, that my father, living in the country, should have illuminated his house at all; for, of course, there was nobody to see it. Next, in the order of my remembrances, comes the death of another sister, which affected me equally with grief and awe; so that, after this time, if not before, the standing scenery of my thoughts was drawn from objects vast and dim the and the mysteries which lie beyond grave, it. [My sister had died of hydrocephalus. It is well. known that this complaint (which is now treated in its early stages much more successfully than at that time) disposes the intellect to a premature development. Ac
cordingly, my sister was noticed as a prodigy; but her superiority did not, as usual, lie in vivacity and quickness; the effect showed itself in an extraordinary expansion of the understanding; her grasp of intellect was large and comprehensive, in a degree which astonished people in a child of eight years old; otherwise she had the usual slowness of a melancholic child. Her head, it was determined, should be opened: this was done by a surgeon of some celebrity, Mr. Charles White, once a pupil of John Hunter's, who made innumerable measurements of skulls, especially African, and wrote a large book to prove that the human being was connected by a regular series of links with the brute; i. e. that the transition from the African skull to that of the ape, in some species or other, was not more abrupt than from the European to the African. Mr. White, after the operation, declared often that the child's brain was the most beautiful' he had ever seen.] After her death, an habitual gravity (melancholy I cannot call it) and sense of some awful but indefinite presence fell over me; and this I never lost. Had I been a sickly child, it would have produced gloom. As it was, being tolerably healthy, I was generally happy; and the effect of my everlasting commerce with the subjects of death and the grave, showed itself simply in this, that I never played, and that my mind was peopled with solemn imagery. In saying that I never played, I must make two reservations: with gunpowder, as a thing that seemed to me incapable of being stripped of its serious character, I had the common boyish pleasure; and where it was unavoidable to play at something, gunpowder was always my resource, since that was interesting to all alike. I also invented a sport call Troja, as late as my 13th year. Else, and with these two exceptions, I may truly say that I never played in my life. In general, the inference from
such a fact would be, that a boy must be suffering in health who could so remarkably contradict the evident purposes of nature. But with me the case arose naturally enough out of my own solitariness, and the position I occupied in my own family. Living always in the country, I had no companion but an elder brother; and he, being five years older, at a time of life when five years was a great matter in either life, naturally enough disdained me. I again, on the same principle, neglected my next brother. Thus I was left to myself: no creature had I to converse with, (generally speaking,) unless I could, on Lord Shaftsbury's plan, and in his phrase, become a self-dialogist: ' and a self-dialogist I did become; perhaps the earliest that has existed. Subjects enough I had for solitary musing in the great thoughts which had been awakened within me, by the reiteration and measured succession of deaths in the family. The ancients believed in a fascination called nympholepsy. It was that species of demoniac enthusiasm or possession incident to one who had accidentally seen the nymphs. I, in some sense, was a nympholept: I had caught too early and too profound a glimpse of certain dread realities. Solitude, which I sought by choice, might be said to seek me by necessity; for companions I had none of my own age; I was not allowed ever to go near the servants. And books, which I soon passionately loved, aided all these tendencies. They were ratified by what followed, with respect to my father's last illness and death.
It was during my infancy, that a house and suitable grounds, &c., were commenced by my father on a scale rather suited to the fortune which, by all accounts, he was rapidly approaching, than that which he actually possessed. This house, elegant but plain, and having nothing remarkable about it but the doors and windows of the superior