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near Modena, 1446, was a striking instance," says his biographer, “of the miseries men bring upon themselves by setting their affections unreasonably on trifles. This learned man lived at Forli, and had an apartment in the palace. His room was so very dark, that he was forced to use a candle in the day-time; and one day, going abroad without putting it out, his library was set on fire, and some papers which he had prepared for the press were burned. The instant he was informed of this ill news, he was affected even to madness. He ran furiously to the palace, and stopping at the door of his apartment, he cried aloud, Christ Jesus! what mighty crime have I committed! whom of your followers have I ever injured, that you thus rage with inexpiable hatred against me?" Then turning himself to an image of the Virgin Mary near at hand, Virgin (says he) hear what I have to say, for I speak in earnest, and with a composed spirit: if I shall happen to address you in my dying moments, I humbly intreat you not to hear me, nor receive me into Heaven, for I am determined to spend all eternity in Hell! Those who heard these blasphemous expressions endeavoured to comfort him; but all to no purpose; for, the society of mankind being no longer supportable to him, he left the city, and retired, like a savage, to the deep solitude of a wood. Some say that he was murdered there by ruffians; others, that he died at Bologna in 1500, after much contrition and penitence."
Perhaps the censure passed at the outset of the anecdote on this unfortunate person is unfounded and severe, when it is said that he brought his miseries on himself “ by having set his affections unreasonably on trifles.”. To others it might appear so; but to himself the labour of a whole life was hardly a trifle. His passion was not a causeless one, though carried to such frantic excess. The story of Sir Isaac Newton presents a strong contrast to the last-mentioned one, who on going into his study and finding that his dog Tray had thrown down a candle on the table, and burnt some papers of great value, contented himself with exclaiming, “ Ah! Tray, you don't know the mischief you have done !" Many persons would not forgive the overturning a cup of chocolate so soon.
I remember hearing an instance some years ago of a man of character and property, who through unexpected losses had been condemned to a long and heart-breaking imprisonment, which he bore with exemplary fortitude. At the end of four years, by the interest and exertions of friends, he obtained his discharge with every prospect of beginning the world afresh, and had made his arrangements for leaving his irksome abode, and meeting his wife and family at a distance of two hundred miles by a certain day. Owing to the miscarriage of a letter, some signature necessary to the completion of the business did not arrive in time, and on account of the informality which had thus arisen, he could not set out home till the return of the post, which was four days longer. His spirit could not brook the delay. He had wound himself up to the last pitch of expectation; he had, as it were, calculated his patience to hold out to a certain point, and then to throw down his load for ever, and he could not find resolution to resume it for a few hours beyond this. He put an end to the intolerable conflict of hope and disappointment in a fit of excruciating anguish. Woes that we have time to foresee and leisure to con
Vol. III, No. 14.-1822.
template break their force by being spread over a larger surface, and borne at intervals; but those that come upon us suddenly, for however short a time, seem to insult us by their unnecessary and uncalled-for intrusion; and the very prospect of relief, when held out and then with drawn from us, to however small a distance, only frets impatience into agony by tantalizing our hopes and wishes; and to rend asunder the thin partition that separates us from our favourite object, we are ready to burst even the fetters of life itself!
I am not aware that any one has demonstrated how it is that a stronger capacity is required for the conduct of great affairs than of small ones. The organs of the mind, like the pupil of the eye, may be contracted or dilated to view a broader or a narrower surface, and yet find sufficient variety to occupy its attention in each. The material universe is infinitely divisible, and so is the texture of human affairs. We take things in the gross or in the detail, according to the occasion. I think I could as soon get up the budget of Ways and Means for the current year, as be sure of making both ends meet, and paying my rent at quarter-day in a paltry buckster's shop. Great objects move on by their own weight and impulse; great power turns aside petty obstacles; and he, who wields it, is often but the puppet of circumstances, like the fly on the wheel that said, “ What a dust we raise!” It is easier to ruin a kingdom and aggrandize one's own pride and prejudices than to set up a green-grocer's stall. An idiot or a madman may do this at any time, whose word is law, and whose nod is fate. Nay, he whose look is obedience, and who understands the silent wishes of the great, may easily trample on the necks and tread out the liberties of a mighty nation, deriding their strength, and hating it the more from a consciousness of his own meanness. Power is not wisdom, it is true; but it equally ensures its own objects. It does not exact, but dispenses with talent. When a man creates this power, or new-moulds the state by sage counsels and bold enterprises, it is a different thing from overturning it with the levers that are put into his baby hands. In general, however, it may be argued that great transactions and complicated concerns ask more genius to conduct them than smaller ones, for this reason, viz. that the mind must be able either to embrace a greater variety of details in a more extensive range of objects, or must have a greater faculty of generalizing, or a greater depth of insight into ruling principles, and so come at true results in that way. Buonaparte knew every thing, even to the names of our cadets in the East-India service; but he failed in this, that he did not calculate the resistance which barbarism makes to refinement. He thought that the Russians could not burn Moscow, because the Parisians could not burn Paris. The French think every thing must be French. The Cossacks, alas! do not conform to etiquette: the rudeness of the seasons knows no rules of politeness !—Some artists think it a test of genius to paint a large picture, and I grant the truth of this position, if the large picture contains more than a small one. It is not the size of the canvass, but the quantity of truth and nature put into it, that settles the point. It is a mistake, common enough on this subject, to suppose that a miniature is more finished than an oil-picture. The miniature is inferior to the oil-picture only because it is less finished, because it cannot follow nature into so many individual and exact par
ticulars. The proof of which is, that the copy of a good portrait will always make a highly finished miniature (see for example Mr. Bone's enamels), whereas the copy of a good miniature, if enlarged to the size of life, will make but a very sorry portrait. Several of our best artists, who are fond of painting large figures, invert this reasoning. They make the whole figure gigantic, not that they may have room for nature, but for the motion of their brush (as if they were painting the side of a house), regarding the extent of canvass they have to cover as an excuse for their slovenly and hasty manner of getting over it; and thus, in fact, leave their pictures nothing at last but over-grown miniatures, but huge caricatures. It is not necessary in any case (either in a larger or a smaller compass) to go into the details, so as to lose sight of the effect, and decompound the face into porous and transparent molecules, in the manner of Denner, who painted what he saw through a magnifying glass. The painter's eye need not be a microscope, but I contend that it should be a looking-glass, bright, clear, lucid. The little in art begins with insignificant parts, with what does not tell in connexion with other parts. "The true artist will paint not material points, but moral quantities. In a word, wherever there is feeling or expression in a muscle or a vein, there is grandeur and refinement too.—I will conclude these remarks with an account of the manner in which the ancient sculptors combined great and little things in such matters. “ That the name of Phidias,” says Pliny, “is illustrious among all the nations that have heard of the fame of the Olympian Jupiter, no one doubts; but in order that those may know that he is deservedly praised who have not even seen his works, we shall offer a few arguments, and those of his genius only: nor to this purpose shall we insist on the beauty of the Olympian Jupiter, nor on the magnitude of the Minerva at Athens, though it is twenty-six cubits in height (about thirty-five feet), and is made of ivory and gold: but we shall refer to the shield, on which the battle of the Amazons is carved on the outer side: on the inside of the same is the fight of the Gods and Giants; and on the sandals, that between the Centaurs and Lapithæ; so well did every part of that work display the powers of the art. Again, the sculptures on the pedestal he called the birth of Pandora: there are to be seen in number thirty Gods, the figure of Victory being particularly admirable: the learned also admire the figures of the serpent and the brazen sphinx, writhing under the spear. These things are mentioned, in passing, of an artist never enough to be commended, that it may be seen that he showed the same magnificence even in small things.”—Pliny's Nat. Hist. Book 36.
THE OBLIGING ASSASSIN.
FROM THE FRESCHI.
Once sleeping in an Inn at Dover,
And murderous hands that grasp'd a trigger, The door flew open-I awoke,
When a pale heteroclite figure, With dusty shoes stalk'd in, and spoke : “ You see what 'tis I want-make haste!
Dress!-you've no moment's time to waste." Trembling all over with the notion
Of being suddenly despatch'd,
I huddled on my clothes, and snatch'd,
Round me a winding-sheet, or shroud:
What horrors to my fancy crowd!
To keep as silent as a fish,
Mixing it in a brazen dish;
Expecting some terrific death,
I clench'd my teeth, and pump'd my breath. Moved by the terror I betray'd,
And wishing to despatch me quicker, He flourish'd an alarming blade,
Whose very aspect made me sicker: To work he went-my throat soon ran
With blood from an incision given; More than half dead, I then began
To recommend my soul to Heaven. The cut-throat presently repenting
That all my pangs should thus be sped, Stepp'd back, and then came on, presenting
A sort of fire-arm at my head. He seized me by the throttle fast,
Until my visage black became; And then, to finish all at last,
Th’assassin took deliberate aim.---
By miracle I 'scaped his ire,
The powder hit me-not the fire.
He tried a different method quite, In clouds of dust, as round he stalk'd,
Striving to stifle me outright.
As Fate still saved me from his fangs,
And Death was slow to grant his prayer,
He twisted, pulld, and tore my hair.
To let no prize his clutches pass,
And then prepared my Coup-de-grace.
My knife (of bone) I fiercely drew;
And in a glass my face I view.
That the assassin who distress'd me,
Had kindly powder'd, shaved, and dress'd me!
WOMEN. It has often been a subject of meditation with me, whether there be really any difference between men and women-I mean in their intellectual powers. It is argued by some, that there is naturally no difference whatever, and that all the difference we observe is produced by art. Education has certainly a wonderful influence in fashioning the mind, and some philosophers have carried this principle so far, as to ascribe to it all the varieties in the animal creation. They say that man is indebted for his superiority solely to some accidental peculiarities in his organization: that had he had the hoof of an ox, the nails of the wolf, or the claws of the lion, he would have been no better than these animals. I confess I do not hold with this sort of philosophy; I rather think, with Galen, that man is wise not because of his hands, but that he had hands appended to his wrists instead of the hoofs of a horse, because of his preeminent wisdom. And I think, in like manner, it will be easy to show, that there is a natural, or, as the Marquis of Londonderry would say, a fundamental difference between the sexes, wholly independent of social institutions.
Were there not this difference, how is it that women, in all ages and in all countries, have held only a subordinate station in society? Education is insufficient to account for this circumstance, because it is in nature for every thing ultimately to triumph over adventitious obstacles, and attain that rank for which it is qualified. Besides, we do not observe that education exerts such an omnipotent influence over the destiny of individuals. Most persons, remarkable for intellectual eminence, have attained it in spite of peculiar disadvantages; it has ever been the lot of Genius to contend with the difficulties of fortune, birth, and education. Allowing, then, that females labour under disadvantages from this source, is it not surprising that they do not exhibit similar instances of triumphing over them ? yet we do not find such instances. If they afford any extraordinary examples of intellect, they are always, I apprehend, an inferior grade. Thus they have produced no philosopher equal to Newton, no poet like Homer, no conqueror like Alexander, no dramatist like Shakspeare,-nor, to my mind, any cook equal to the great Doctor Kitchener.