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ever given us of the force of poetic sympathy in rendering a very peculiar character intelligible. “By the sheer insight which faith in a great nature alone can give, the historian shows the oneness of that life of a peasant girl as it grew through vision and effort, through its strange alternations of poetry and prose, into the life of a great national deliverer.” Canon Kingsley declares the historian's success to depend on his dramatic faculty, which is not logical merely but moral, and depends on the moral health, the wideness and heartiness of his moral sympathies, by which he can put himself into the place of each and every character, and not merely feel for them but feel with them.
"Is it," asks George Morley, “through experience that we learn to read the human heart, or is it through sympathy? If it be experience, what becomes of the poet? If the poet be born, not made, is it not because he was born to sympathise with what he has never experienced?” It has been authoritatively pronounced impossible to be a good naturalist without sympathy : a man must enter into the life and personal character, so to speak,—the habits and idiosyncrasies of the birds, and even of the fishes, to say nothing of the higher creatures, -before he can understand them. And it is no shallow critic that hails as “profound” Mr. Grote's remark, that all religious doctrines and observances are apt to appear ridiculous to those who do not believe in them. No man, it is forcibly maintained, can really understand a period of ecclesiastical controversy, for instance, who looks upon the point at issue with scorn. “ Не had better be a violent partisan either way, for then he will understand at least one side”; whereas the indifferent philosopher often understands neither. Shall we hate the Romanist? asked the late F. W. Robertson,—and curse, and rant, and thunder at him? or shall we sit down beside him, and
1 In reading the works, for instance, of such a naturalist as Mr. Gould, the first thing that strikes a reviewer of his and Mr. Yarrell's books is the love he bears to his subject. Naturalists, as a rule, are declared to be a genial, loving, affectionate folk; and the same personal traits are noted as reappearing in such men as Audubon, White of Selborne, and Linnæus.
try to sympathise with him, and see things from his point of view, and strive to understand the truth which his soul is aiming at, and seize the truth for him and for ourselves ?1 Where'er we roam—the aspiration is Wordsworth's-along the brink of the Rhine, or of the Tiber,
“Whate'er we look on, at our side
And feel, if we would know.” Mr. Carlyle, in his lecture on Mahomet, declared to his audience that, as there was no danger of any of them becoming Mahometans, he meant to say all the good of "the prophet” he justly could : that was the way to get at his secret; let them try to understand what he meant with the world; for the current hypothesis about Mahomet, that he was a scheming impostor, a falsehood incarnate, and that his religion was a mere mass of quackery and fatuity, the lecturer dismissed as beginning really to be now untenable to any one. It is in reference to Dante's power of portrait painting that the author of Hero Worship says :
“ In the first place he,” or any man whose words paint you a likeness, “could not have discerned the object at all, or seen the vital type of it, unless he had, what we may call, sympathised with it, had sympathy in
1 See the very noteworthy sermon on the First Miracle of Christ. In another discourse, preached three years earlier, Mr. Robertson makes some observations on the Pentecostal gift of tongues, which, without pausing to ask how far they are orthodox in tone, may here be cited in illustration of the subject in hand. “Wild as the expressions might appear to one coldly looking on and not participating in the feelings of the speakers, they would be quite sufficient to convey intelligible meaning to any one affected by the same emotions. Where perfect sympathy exists, incoherent utterance-a word, a syllable—is quite as efficient as elaborate sentences. Now this is precisely the account given of the phenomenon which attended the gift of tongues.' That is to say, all who, on the day of Pentecost, were in the same state of spiritual emotion as those who spoke understood the speakers; each was as intelligible to all as if he spoke in their several tongues: to those who were coolly and sceptically watching, the effects appeared like those of intoxication. A similar account, the preacher goes on to say, “is given by the apostle Paul: the voice appeared to unsympathetic ears as that of a barbarian; the uninitiated and unbelieving, coming in, heard nothing that was articulate to them, but only the ravings of insanity.”—F. W. Robertson, Sermons, vol. iii.; on the Dispensation of the Spirit.
him to bestow on objects.” So of Cromwell and those chaotic speeches of his, which some take to be wilfully ambiguous and unintelligible : not so, contends his expositor, describing the method by which he studied, and so came to edit, those speeches: “Try to believe that he means something, search lovingly what that may be : you will find a real speech lying imprisoned in these broken rude tortuous utterances, a meaning in the great heart of this inarticulate man.” Pour juger un homme, says Balzac, au moins faut-il être dans le secret de sa pensée, de ses malheurs, de ses émotions. Perfect tolerance has been called the result of perfect clearness of vision; he who comprehends an object cannot hate it, has already begun to
A loving heart again has been called the beginning of all knowledge. “The heart sees farther than the head”; but indeed without the seeing heart no true seeing for the head is allowed to be so much as possible. Sympathy, Mr. Carlyle continually insists, is the first essential towards insight.
Fine taste, says Hazlitt, consists in sympathy, not in antipathy,
Applauded as très fine et très juste is the remark of le Père Tournemine, that those qualities only are admired in an author, of which the admirer has the germ and the root in himself. Hence it follows, that there is, in the writings of esprits supérieurs, what Sainte-Beuve calls, “un degré relatif où chaque esprit inférieur s'élève, mais qu'il ne franchit pas, et d'où il juge l'ensemble comme il peut.” Sainte-Beuve has elsewhere explained the method he adopted, with such distinguished success, in the art, and with him it was a finished art, of literary portraiture : “Quand je fais le portrait d'un personnage, et tant que je le fais, je me considère toujours un peu comme chez lui;
je l'entoure de soins et d'une sorte de déférence, pour le faire parler, pour le bien entendre,” etc. Elsewhere, again, he greets the good sense, if seemingly whimsical withal, of Gabriel Naudé's assertion—not without vouchers from Cardan and Campanella—that in order to paint a man or to treat a subject well, you must get into the interior-il faut se transmuer dedans; and he amusingly cites the example of Du Bartas, who, to qualify himself to write his famous descrip
tion of the horse, did—not exactly get inside, but the next best thing to it-gallop and canter and prance about his room for hours together, contrefaisant ainsi son objet.
Treating of imagination as the power by which one human being enters into the mind and circumstances of another, Mr. J. S. Mill declares this power to constitute the poet, in so far as he does anything but melodiously utter his own actual feelings; to constitute the dramatist entirely; and to be one of the constituents of the historian, for by it we understand other times. In a separate treatise he especially recognises in Mr. Grote for instance, together with the clear light of the scrutinising intellect, the earnest feeling of a sympathising contemporary. Hawthorne's Transformation gives us in Hilda an elaborate study of the refined sympathetic temperament, distinctively in its relations with art. He endows her with a deep and sensitive faculty of appreciation. He makes her see—10, not see, but feel—through and through a picture; bestowing upon it all the warmth and richness of a woman's sympathy. "Not by any intellectual effort, but by this strength of heart and this guiding light of sympathy, she went straight to the central point, in which the master had conceived his work.” Thus she is described as viewing that work, as it were, with his own eyes, and hence her comprehension of any picture that interested her was perfect. 1
If a picture had darkened into an indistinct shadow through time and neglect, or had been injured by cleaning, or retouched by some profane hand, she seemed to possess the faculty of seeing it in its pristine glory. The copy would come from her hands with what the beholder felt must be the light which the old master had left upon the original in bestowing his final and most ethereal touch. “There is,” in her own words, a class of spectators whose sympathies will help them to see the perfect through a mist of imperfection. Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed.” With his wonted symbolism of ethical import Mr. Hawthorne has made Hilda lose some measure of this gift of hers, when she becomes involved in the embarrassments of the story. “She had lost the faculty of appreciating those great works of art,” etc. “She grew sadly critical, and condemned almost everything that she was wont to admire.' Heretofore, her sympathy had gone deeply into a picture, yet seemed to leave a depth which it was inadequate to sound; now, on the contrary, her perceptive faculty is described as penetrating the canvas like a steel probe, and finding but a crust of paint over an emptiness.
GENESIS xxxvii. 35 ; xliii. 14.
when bereaved of his son Joseph would be of special interest, as being the first record in the world's history of intensely felt sorrow intensely expressed. Mourners and mourning there had been in the world for generations past; for had not death reigned from Adam to Jacob? Deep mourning and excited mourners there must have been, dating from that first dreadful death by which Eve lost a son in Abel, and discovered a murderer in her firstborn. But no stress is laid in Scripture upon the manner of any lamentation previous to that of Israel for his favourite boy. We read how Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her; and again how Jacob set a pillar up on Rachel's grave. But there is no hint of agony of woe, of affliction inconsolable and uncontrollable, in these earlier records of bereavement. It is when Jacob comes to mourn for Joseph with the sort of irrepressible, convulsive sorrow that wrung from David the wailing lament over Absalom,
son Absalom ! my son, my son Absalom ! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son !" it is when the coat of many colours, brought home reddened with blood, seems to the fond father proof infallible of Joseph's death, that he rends his clothes, and puts sackcloth on his loins, and mourns for his son many days, like Rachel refusing to be comforted, because Joseph is not. There are bereavements and bereavements. If Jacob be bereaved of his children, he is bereaved : above all, since Joseph is his favourite child, being to Israel the child of his old age. So bereaved, bereaved indeed.
That Joseph was not dead, after all, makes no difference in our estimate of the father's grief. Entirely convinced of the death, as entire was his fellow feeling with a modern's note of exclamation, varying in but one little word, after allowing for the difference of an unrecovered and unburied corpse
“ But he is in his grave, and oh,
The difference to me!”