« НазадПродовжити »
gives himself up to his subject, or lays about him and buffets sceptics and gainsayers, arrests attention in spite of every other circumstance, and fixes it on that, and that alone, which excites such interest and such eagerness in his own breast! Besides, he is a logician, has a theory in support of whatever he chooses to advance, and weaves the tissue of his sophistry so close and intricate, that it is difficult not to be entangled in it, or to escape from it. * There's magic in the web.” Whatever appeals to the pride of the human understanding, has a subtle charm in it. The mind is naturally pugnacious, cannot refuse a challenge of strength or skill, sturdily enters the lists and resolves to conquer, or to yield itself vanquished in the forms. This is the chief hold Dr. Chalmers had upon his hearers, and upon the readers of his “ Astronomical Discourses.' No one was satisfied with his arguments, no one could answer them, but every one wanted to try what he could make of them, as we try to find out a riddle. “By his so potent art," the art of laying down problematical premises, and drawing from them still more doubtful, but not impossible, conclusions, “he could bedim the noonday sun, betwixt the green sea and the azure vault set roaring war,” and almost
compel the stars in their courses to testify to his opinions. The mode in which he undertook to make the circuit of the universe, and demand categorical information “now of the planetary and now of the fixed,” might put one in mind of Hecate's mode of ascending in a machine from the stage, “midst troops of spirits," in which you now admire the skill of the artist, and next tremble for the fate of the performer, fearing that the audacity of the attempt will turn his head or break his neck. The style of these “ Discourses” also, though not elegant or poetical, was, like the subject, intricate and endless. It was that of a man pushing his way through a labyrinth of difficulties, and determined not to flinch. The impression on the reader was proportionate; for, whatever were the merits of the style or matter, both were new and striking; and the train of thought that was unfolded at such length and with such strenuousness, was bold, well-sustained, and consistent with itself.
Mr. Irving wants the continuity of thought and manner which distinguishes his rival--and shines by patches and in bursts. He does not warm or acquire increasing force or rapidity with his progress. He is never hurried away by a deep or lofty enthusiasm, nor touches the highest point of genius or fanaticism, but “ in
the very storm and whirlwind of his passion, he acquires and begets a temperance that may give it smoothness.” He has the self-possession and masterly execution of an experienced player or fencer, and does not seem to express his natural convictions, or to be engaged in a mortal struggle. This greater ease and indifference is the result of vast superiority of personal appearance, which “ to be admired needs but to be seen,” and does not require the possessor to work himself up into a passion, or to use any violent contortions to gain attention or to keep it. These two celebrated preachers are in almost all respects an antithesis to each other. If Mr. Irving is an example of what can be done by the help of external advantages, Dr. Chalmers is a proof of what can be done without them. The one is most indebted to his mind, the other to his body. If Mr. Irving inclines one to suspect fashionable or popular religion of a little anthropomorphitism, Dr. Chalmers effectually redeems it from that scandal.