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PROGRESS AND PROSPECTS
Posso aver certezza, e non paura,
Orlando Innamorato, c. 5. st. 53.
It was during that melancholy November, when the death of the Princess Charlotte had diffused throughout Great Britain a more general sorrow than had ever before been known in these kingdoms; I was sitting alone, at evening, in my library, and my thoughts had wandered, from the book before me, to the circumstances which made this national calamity be felt almost like a private affliction. While I was thus musing, the post-woman arrived. My letters
told me there was nothing exaggerated in the public accounts of the impression which this sudden loss had produced: that wherever you went, you found the women of the family weeping, and that men could scarcely speak of the event without tears: that in all the better parts of the metropolis, there was a sort of palsied feeling which seemed to affect the whole current of active life; and that for several days there prevailed in the streets a stillness like that of the Sabbath, but without its repose. I opened the newspaper; it was still bordered with broad mourning lines, and was filled with details concerning the deceased Princess. Her coffin and the ceremonies at her funeral were described as minutely as the order of her nuptials and her bridal dress had been, in the same journal, scarce eighteen months before. “Man," says Sir Thomas Brown, “ is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave; solemnizing nativities and deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery in the infamy of his nature.” These things led me in spirit to the vault, and I thought of th memorable dead among whom her mortal remains were now deposited. Possessed with such imaginations, I leaned back upon the sofa and closed my eyes.
Ere long I was awakened from that conscious state of slumber in which the stream of fancy floweth as it listeth, by the entrance of an elderly personage, of grave and dignified appearance. His countenance and manner were remarkably benign, and announced a high degree of intellectual rank, and he accosted me in a voice of uncommon sweetness, saying, Montesinos, a stranger from a distant country may intrude upon you without those credentials which in other cases you have a right to require. From America? I replied, rising to salute him. Some of the most gratifying visits which I have ever received, have been from that part of the world. It gives me indeed more pleasure than I can express, to welcome such travellers ás have sometimes found their way from New England to these lakes and mountains; men who have not forgotten what they owe to their ancient mother; whose principles, and talents, and attainments would render them an ornament to any country, and might almost lead me to hope that their republican constitution may be more permanent, than all other considerations would induce me either to suppose or wish.
You judge of me, he made answer, by my.
speech. I am, however, English by birth, and come now from a more distant country than America, wherein I have long been naturalized. Without explaining himself further, or allowing me time to make the inquiry which would naturally have followed, he asked me, if I were not thinking of the Princess Charlotte, when he disturbed me. That, said I, may easily be divined. All persons whose hearts are not filled with their own grief, are thinking of her at this time. It had just occurred to me, that on two former occasions, when the heir apparent of England was cut off in the prime of life, the nation was on the eve of a religious revolution in the first instance, and of a political one in the second
Prince Arthur and Prince Henry, he replied. Do you notice this as ominous, or merely as remarkable?
Merely as remarkable, was my answer. Yet there are certain moods of mind, in which we can scarcely help ascribing an ominous importance to any remarkable coincidence, wherein things of moment are concerned.
Are you superstitious? said he. Understand
me as using the word, for want of a more appropriate one; not in its ordinary and contemptuous acceptation.
I smiled at the question, and replied, many persons would apply the epithet to me without qualifying it. This, you know, is the age of reason, and during the last hundred and fifty years, men have been reasoning themselves out of every thing that they ought to believe and feel. Among a certain miserable class who are more numerous than is commonly supposed, he who believes in a First Cause, and a future state, is regarded with contempt as a superstitionist. The religious Naturalist in his turn despises the feeble mind of the Socinian; and the Socinian looks with astonishment or pity at the weakness of those, who, having by conscientious inquiry satisfied themselves of the authenticity of the Scriptures, are contented to believe what is written, and acknowledge humility to be the foundation of wisdom as well as of virtue. But for myself, many, if not most of those even who agree with me in all essential points, would be inclined to think me superstitious, because I am not ashamed to avow my persuasion that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy.