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The reader, about to peruse the last productions of an old favourite, is earnestly requested to bear in mind, that the following papers were completed only just before the death of their lamented author, and were consequently deprived of the benefit of his own final revision.
OR, A SERIES OF PAPERS ON MEN, MANNERS, AND THINGS,
FROM TIIE COJMONPLACE BOOK OF
AN IDLE OBSERVER.
“Never was dream
So like a waking."
Why do you publish? There are no rewarıls
Of fame or profit when the world grows weary.
Why drink? Why read? To make some hour less drcary.
On what I've seen or ponder'd, sad or cheery ;
Don Juan, xiv. 11.
“I have chosen those subjects wherein I take human life to be most concerned, and which are of most common use, or most necessary knowledge; and wherein, though I may not be able to inform men more than they know, yet I may, perhaps, give them the occasion to consider more than they do." — Sir Wm. TEMPLE: Of Health and Long Life.
I was always a day-dreamer. Some of my
friends dignify me with the designation of a Contemplative Man; but I never realised that character. I never, like the cherub in Milton,
"Soar'd on golden wing, Guiding the fiery-wheeled throne."
Yet, from my earliest youth, (by which, I mean, my absolute boyhood,) I could, and can still, doze away the minutes at my window, with no other occupation than watching the clouds. Nay, when it is not damp, (for, as my man John says, I be mortal subject to the rheumatizes,) I am still fond of basking in the sun on the grass. I did so as a child, and was often found, as was said of Orlando, “like a dropt acorn under an oak."
It has been held, I know not with what truth, that to love solitude and a reverie, is a mark of genius. If so, I am, and was from my early days, one of the greatest geniuses in the world. For I was frequently discovered, lost in thought (though to have told what the thought was would have been difficult), on a tombstone in the churchyard, or riding across the boughs of a yew tree which overhung it. There I was, always alone; for though boys are fond of climbing, they do not like it, as I did, for the sake of a daydream without interruption. This dreaming, however, sometimes cost me a flogging; for my first school was on the borders of a forest, and its conceal. ments were so inviting to my humour, that I not unfrequently played truant in order to enjoy the meditation they prompted. Here, though I could hardly construe him, I was delighted to think myself Horace:
"Sicut meus est mos,
* According to my custom, meditating, wholly absorbed, on I know not what trifles.
Much of this might arise from a love of liberty, and aversion to constraint, whether of mind or body; for in this respect (I trust in few others) I resembled Rousseau. “Je me plairois à mes leçons quand j'y étois; mais je n'aimois d'être obligé de m'y rendre, ni que l'heure me commandât. En toute chose la gêne et l'assujettissement me sont insupportables ; ils me faisoient prendre en haine le plaisir même.”
Well! and what did all this indulgence of fancy do
Not much. It certainly did not lead either to
. fame or fortune. In fact, it made me no better than what I have called myself—an idle observer; and as, unfortunately, I had a comfortable fortune, I gave myself up to a sort of indolent study of men and things, of which I grew so fond that I renounced all desire (to use a vulgar phrase) of bettering myself, and resolved to walk the world content “with my virtue and a good surtout.”
I once, indeed, had ambition enough to think of the Church, because I fell into the very foolish error, (which, had it not been an error, would have suited me well enough,) of thinking that a minister of religion had nothing to do but to eat, drink, and sleep, like Boileau's prelate, who
“Muni d'un déjeûner, Dormant d'un léger somme, attendoit le dîner.” But in this I was wrong; for a very little observation of the pains taken by divines to qualify themselves for very arduous functions, and the manner in which most of them fulfil their duties, convinced me that no