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Nor does it matter that possibly in after years a faint surmise of doubt as to Joseph's actual death may have feebly possessed him ; for it is noteworthy that although he plainly tells his remaining sons, “Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not,”—and hence his dread of their taking Benjamin away,—yet is he represented as saying a chapter later, “ The one went from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces, and I saw him not since”: words which admit of the recognition of a doubt, however dim and comfortless. At the time his conviction was, “ Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.” And therefore did he not only refuse to be comforted, when all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he declared that he would go down into the grave unto his son mourning.
“ It is too true an evil : gone he is ;
Is nought but bitterness." Or in the more passionate style of another and more impassioned Shakspearian mourner, bewailing paulo post mortem her noblest of men, “Woo't die ? Hast thou no care of me? shall I abide in this dull world, which in thy absence is no better than a stye ?” While Cicero still had his Tullia, in her sweet conversation he could drop all his cares and troubles ; but in losing her he felt all solace gone : “I cannot now," he writes to Sulpicius, " in the affliction which I feel at home, find any remedy abroad ; but am driven as well from my house as the Forum ; since neither my house can ease public grief, nor the public my domestic one." Not less keen than heathen Tully's anguish at the loss of his child, is Christian John Evelyn's when bereaved of his daughter Mary :“O dear, sweet, and desirable child! how shall I part with all this goodness and virtue without the bitterness of sorrow and reluctancy of a tender parent? Thy affection, duty, and love to me was that of a friend as well as a child. Nor less dear to thy mother... Oh, how she mourns thy loss ! how desolate hast thou left us! to the grave shall we both carry thy memory.” With his child of brilliant promise, Herbert, are said to have died for ever the golden hopes, the radiant felicity, and the internal serenity of Robert Southey. Mr. de Quincey, while accompanying the “unhappy father” through Grasmere on his road homewards to Keswick, from some visit he had been paying to Wordsworth at Rydal Mount, learned from his own lips his "final feelings, months after the event, as connected with that loss." What Southey said was spoken without external signs of agitation, calmly, dispassionately, “almost coldly, but with all the coldness of a settled misery.” For him in this world, he said, happiness there could be none; for that his tenderest affections, the very deepest by many degrees which he had ever known, were now buried in the grave with his youthful and too brilliant Herbert.
“But, oh the heavy change, now thou art gone,
In the opening chapter of his own Sketches from Childhood, Mr. de Quincey describes in memorable words the shock he suffered so early in life from the loss of his eldest sister. He takes the heart even of infancy to be as apprehensive as that of maturest wisdom, in relation to any capital wound inflicted on the happiness ; and that the happiness of life was now ended with him was the secret misgiving of his heart. “It is finished, and life is exhausted.” But how could that be? he goes on to ask. Could it be exhausted so soon? Had he read Milton, had he seen Rome, had he heard Mozart? No. The Paradise Lost was yet unread, the Coliseum and St. Peter's were unseen, the melodies of Don Giovanni were yet silent for him. Raptures there might be in arrear. “But raptures are modes of troubled pleasure; the peace, the rest, the lull, the central security, which belong to love, that is past all understanding, these could return no more.” One who ranks as high in mastery of French prose as De Quincey does in that of English, thus expresses his sense of a like bereavement,-it is Chateaubriand bewailing his lost sister Lucile : “I have not passed a single day without mourning for her loss. Lucile loved concealment: I have made a solitude for her iņ my heart; never shall she be suffered to depart from thence until I have ceased to breathe. These are the true, the only events of my real life! The death of Lucile struck at the very root of my being; it was the days of my childhood in the midst of my family, it was the earliest vestiges of my existence, which then disappeared.” With Lamartine addressing Nature he might say,
“Un seul être vous manque, et tout est dépeuplé.”
That Marquis de Lassay whose portrait St. Simon has painted in two or three places, en courant, was plunged into the lowest depths of despondency, and almost despair, by the loss of his wife within a few years of their marriage. There remained for him now, he protested, nothing in the wide world ; he had nothing to hope for, this side death ; it was not in human power to give him one moment's pleasure : “la plus aimable personne du monde n'est plus; une personne qui ne vivait que pour moi ; ... je ne la verrai plus.” Again : “Il n'y a plus de lieu où j'aie envie d'aller, tout m'est égal; ma chère Marianne donnait de la vie à tout; et, en la perdant, tout est inort pour moi.” As some one has said of the effect of a like bereavement,—the lost companion had been the keystone in the arch of the mourner's existence; she was gone, and a mass of chaotic ruins alone remained of the visions which had once beguiled him.. Visions such as the veteran in Schiller's trilogy bewails, who felt so keenly what he had lost in one with whom the bloom was vanished from his life—in one who stood beside him, like his youth, transformed for him the real to a dream, clothing the palpable and the familiar “with golden exhalations of the dawn." Truthful simplicity marks the description in Scott of a plain, good, sensible, elderly Scotch doctor's quiet suffering, on the loss of his wife. He felt the shock, we read, as men of sense and firmness feel a decided blow, from the effects of which they never hope again fully to raise themselves. He is described as discharging the duties of his profession with the same punctuality as ever ; he was easy, and even, to appearance, cheerful in his inter
course with society ; but the sunshine of existence was gone.1 There is the soberness of fiction. In Bürger's wild laments over his dead and gone Molly we have the comparative frenzy of fact. “The partner of my soul,” he writes, “she in whose existence were bound up my life, my strength, my all, she too... is dead. Oh brief possession of my highest earthly bliss ! Words can express neither my deep and passionate love, nor the nameless agony in which my for ever widowed soul is plunged. God preserve every feeling soul from an anguish such as mine!”. Those who knew Francis Jeffrey only as the blue and yellow editor, as sharp as a needle, and almost as small, almost equally one eyed, would scarcely expect to find his letters on the loss of his young wife full of such sentences as these : “ Now I have no interest in anything, and no object or motive for being in the world.” “It is impossible for me to describe to you the feeling of lonely and hopeless misery with which I have since been oppressed.” He had long been accustomed, he tells his brother, to place all his notions of happiness in domestic life ; and he had found it there so pure, so perfect, and entire, that he could never look for it anywhere else, or hope for it in any other form. “Heaven protect you from the agony it has imposed upon me!" And as the Edinburgh editor with his Kitty, so the Quarterly editorby repute still harder and harsher-with his Anna: he wished he was where Anna lay, for he was tired of lingering here, and every hour affection bade him “go and partake her humble bier.
1 If every morning he missed the affectionate charges which recommended to him to pay attention to his own health while he was labouring to restore that blessing to his patients ; so, every evening, as he returned from his weary round, it was without the consciousness of a kind and affectionate reception from one eager to tell, and interested to hear, all the little events of the day. And very like Sir Walter is this incidental touch
-that the doctor's whistle, which used to arise clear and strong so soon as the village steeple was in view, was now for ever silenced; and we see the rider's head droop, while the tired horse, lacking the stimulus of his master's hand and voice, seems to shuffle along, as if it experienced a share of his despondency.
“I wish I could ! For, when she died,
I lost my all ; and life has proved,
A waste unlovely and unloved.”
What a difference throughout the whole of this curious and teeming earth a single death can effect ! exclaims the author of the New Phædo : one gap, invisible to all but ourselves, in the crowd and turmoil of the world, and everything is changed. “In a single hour, the whole process of thought, the whole ebb and flow of emotion, may be revulsed for the rest of an existence.” Nothing, he adds, can ever seem to us as it did ; there is a blow struck upon the fine mechanism by which we think, and move, and have our being; the pendulum vibrates aright no more; the dial hath no account with time; the process goes on, but it knows no symmetry or order; it was a single stroke that marred it, but the harmony is gone for ever. “The entire world," declares Heathcliffe, after the loss of Catherine, “is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her.” And who is there, asks the author of Zanoni, that has not, in his progress through life, felt all its ordinary business arrested, and the varieties of fate commuted into one chronicle of the affections? “This unit, so trivial to the calculations of others, of what inestimable value was it not to him?” Retracing in another such recollections, we feel “what emotions a single being can awake; what a world of hope may be buried in a single grave.” 1
We are told of, and indeed by, Montaigne, as the survivor of Etienne La Boëtie, that from the date of that death, “il ne fit plus que traîner languissant," and dragged at each remove a
1 Of Trevelyan, afer the early death of his betrothed, we read that he suffered no pause in his career, that he eagerly courted all occupations, that he lived in the world as the worldly do, discharging its duties, fostering its affections, and fulfilling its course. “But there was a deep and wintry change within him: the sunlight of his life was gone; the loveliness of romance had left the earth. The stem was proof as heretofore to the blast, but the green leaves were severed from it for ever, and the bird had forsaken its boughs.” With Gertrude the poetry of existence was gone.—Pilgrims of the Rhine, chap. xxxiii.