Imágenes de páginas

-understanding by character, not what it is often conceived to mean, what a man does, but the reason of his doing it,—not his actions, but their source,-not the stream of his thoughts and feelings, but their spring,—those habitudes of association, those currents of ideas, which daily, hourly, involuntarily form the springs of feeling, and the very fountains of individuality, Taken apart from the imaginative, all the other faculties of man would have about them a cold isolation, a disunited heterogeneousness; they would want the comprehensive and combining agency which could blend them into conformation and mould them into shape, which should break down the hard angularities of their separation, and fuse them into union. The faculties connected with the understanding, judgment, reasoning, perception, would work with mechanical coldness; and have nought of moving influence, unless by the imagination they were connected with feelings, and united to sympathies. Imagination, in one sense, may be said to occupy in the mind the province which light does to the earth,-it is the medium through which objects, otherwise colourless and characterless, assume the hues which invest them with interest; it is, again, the assimulating power whereby, of whatever is presented to it, the mind appropriates and makes its own. Of all the objects which sense pre. sents, or truths which understanding perceives, if they remain at all in the mind, the ideas which are their types, are only influential as clothed with the colour and embodiod into the forms which imagination gives them— the subtle element in which alone they live, which associates them into shapes that attract, and lends them energies to move.

What we know as fact, or admit as opinion, only becomes instinct with vitality, as it becomes an impression, as it calls out a sympathy, or enlists a feeling. And this is the work, more or less, directly or indirectly, of the imagination. In matters where the judg. ment or the reason might seem most exclusively at work, and imagination to have lent no influence, its agency will nevertheless be observed as a medium through which the mind is influenced, or the atmosphere by which it is encircled. Nothing can produce an impression on the mind which has not there its imagery; and the form, the hue which that may be wrought into, are dependent on the imagination, which is less, we think, a distinct independent faculty, than the current in which the others flow-the mode in which they are habitually blended—the train of associations by which they are led and guided. Whatever in science or learning goes beyond the mere acquisition, the mere registering of facts, is connected with the imagination. Unimbued with the new and higher properties which they owe to imagination, the facts thus acquired have no hold upon the mind, possessing no value beyond the uses temporary and transient which the economy of our world may put them to. Far nobler, then, is the agency exerted by the imagination, than is involved in what is generally ascribed to it as its main or sole quality the invention of the fictitious. Its natural province is the real. Everything that possesses, in the stores of knowledge, aught of beauty, of greatness, or of grandeur, owes it to the imaginative power. All those elevating combinations of the fruits of faculties, various and diverse, which raise the standard of our nature, spring principally from the imagination, to which do but minister all the other of man's powers, and the works that they achieve. The utilities of science or knowledge, great as they are, are but so for this life; they tell not on man as an intellectual, a moral being, instinct with high qualities, and imbued with immortality. What have the mere facts of geography or geology, of chemistry or chronology, of mathematics or mineralogy, to do with man's spiritual essence, except as they are imbued through the associations into which imagination works them, with power to raise reflections and contemplations impressive and influential. Then, indeed, do they tell on character. Then do they raise its standard, when ideas of the wonders of creation link themselves with thoughts of the Creator's greatness, and blend with the knowledge of his attributes; or, illustrating man's history, reveal his nature's tendencies, and unfold its mysteries, and affording the bases on which imagination may rear her noble and enduring superstructures. What a barren, naked thing would mere chronology be, unshone upon, unilluninated by the light which imagination sheds on it; eliciting from its materials the philosophy or the poetry that is latent in them, and weaving them into history. How hard and lifeless logic, unimbued with the warmth of vitality which imagination breathes into it, through the enlargement of range, and quickening of illustration, which raise it into argument, and the energy of enforcement and ardour of appeal, which elevate it into eloquence. What invests biography with its interest, but that vivid accuracy of portraiture, which, to the mere truthfulness of narration, superadds a skilful working on its scattered details, which weave them into continuity and connection, and from the whole exhibits a fine and striking view of some great human nature, and the accompanying elucidation of its varied phenomena? What throws around the discoveries of science so inajestic an air, but the imaginative grandeur of grasp, which, reaching far backward into dark distance, or proudly forward into awful “ hereafter," connects with them its great hypotheses of the past history or coming destiny of our world? Whence does fiction derive its only true power, but from that agency which imagination exercises over the sympathies of our nature, linking to their unchanging elements the imagery which its magic embodies? To the same source are not to be traced, in every case, all the ornaments of diction and all the graces of style. Its connection with poetry and fiction nobody overlooks, but too exclusively are they designated “ works of imagination.” Into every work, not of absolutely mere dry science or learning, does its agency enter; and to come down to common nature and to common life, we can none of us exert any union of faculties which extends to the production of an impression, by the simplest combination of imagery, or the commonest connection of ideas into shape, without being under imaginative influence. We look not on the past, but through its mellowing medium; nor contemplate the present (with aught above mere animal consciousness,) save by its colouring light, nor anticipate the future, but as arrayed in its fairy veil. It forms the atmosphere in which thought lives, the channels in which feeling circulates, and those trains of habitual association which involuntarily and imperceptibly, but momentarily and powerfully influ

ence us.

When therefore we think most worthy of consideration, as indi. cating the taste and character of the age, the works with which imagination has to do, we include by far the greater portion, perhaps all those which are produced, all in short but the very text books of science and those raw materials' of learning which derive no particular influence but from the manner in which they are woven into form and texture. Indeed the imagination so instinctively begins to work on every material presented to it, that speedily every work calls it into play, however scientific or learned : we know nothing but a grammar or a cyphering book which resists its transforming influence, and they are just the species of work which exert less hold on the opening powers of mind. Now the length at which we have remarked on this topic arose from the importance it holds in regard to the character of modern literature—from the fact that the distinguishing feature of this literature is the universal predominance of the imaginative,-that is the constant efforts to excite or exercise the imaginative faculty. And the interest of this state of literature springs from the vast influence which this faculty, as we have endeavoured faintly to point out, exerts over human nature, and the consequent importance of the manner in which it is worked upon and educated: for of all man's faculties the imaginative is not the least accessible to the guidance of education ; and is certainly not the least important, as, plainly expressed, it means the manner in which we habitually think and feel, reflect and regard.

"Have, then, all men this fine faculty of imagination?” We answer, they all have the faculty; on the manner in which, and the material on which it is called out and exercised, depends whether it shall be fine or the reverse. It is just as much the creature of education, and as capable of degradation or dormantcy as any other faculty. Allowed to rest in stagnant sluggishness, the mind is hopelessly unnerved and weakened; confined within restricted limits and to scanty sustenance, the mind becomes narrowed and stunted; supplied with dark and morbid picturings, the mind is proportionably darkened and diseased; ministered to with unhealthy and unsound stimulants, loses all that makes it vigorous and valuable. A man who “has no imagination,” that is, in whom it is deadened and dormant, has a range of ideas so contracted that he can scarcely couple them, is confounded by the simplest combinations, and can only compound them by the most hard, slow, separate, and laborious efforts of understanding. The man of a rich and powerful imagination can on any subject bring to bear a wealth of mind which is capable of throwing out a boundless liberality of illumination and illustration.

But the quality of the material is important as well as the manner of treating it. Undoubtedly, and only viewed secondarily by us, as it is less characteristic of the age. Knowledge is the material of man's faculties, and varies much less than their education and exercise. The knowledge of the present age differs more from that of the past in diffusion and in popularization than in quality or character, and we think it is not improbable that the general superficiality of knowledge which has been the result of its wide and hasty diffusion, through every mode of undigested and crude condensation and " simplification," has had a tendency to produce that shallowness of the imaginative along with the other faculties, which doubtless has been the parent of that fondness for light, the loose, the trivial, and the temporary excitements so common in the present and some preceding generations. A masculine and vigorous tone of imagination will never be the result of an enfeebled and vitiated system of training,

There is a ground, however, of congratulation, in the contemplation of the present aspect of literature. It is the gradual spread of the consciousness, that the more real and simple are the materials worked upon by imagination, the more valuable and salutary will be its influence: that, in a word, its highest arena, after all, is the natural, the actual, the living. Thus, even in fields more exclusively imaginative-poetry and fiction, whether narrative or dramatic-a healthier and sounder school has been formed by men like WORDSWORTH, Knowles, and Dickens, who have had the sense to take their stand on subjects instinct with the common elements, and answering to the common sympathies of our nature. Let no one think we imply an equality of importance in these three, by the connection in which we have placed them-only for the purpose of displaying the foundation of their common superiority over their contemporaries, their common reliance on the truest elements of nature, which elevates Wordsworth above Byron, Knowles above the grandiloquent play-writers, and Dickens above the " sentimental” novelists.

As on the one hand it is surprising that authors did not sooner discover the superiority which imagination derives from realities, in these her more direct and special fields ; it is strange that she has not more generally been applied to more indirect, but

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scarcely less attractive subjects, having about them too a closer connection with facts, whether of event or locality. To illustrate our meaning: what a wonder is it that she has not been

appealed to, to bring forth, with more vividness of portraiture than is exhibited in the comparatively dry brevities of common history, the character of the eminent of past days, by the working of their recorded traits, few and meagre as they may be-by her assisting agency-into greater truthfulness of likeness, because more imbued with individuality, as in Sir Egerton Brydges' “ Imagi. nary Histories," or Walter Landor's "Imaginary Conversations." And greatly wonderful that there should not have been more numerous attempts to weave into the fictitious fabric of a novel, the real characters and interesting personalities of the great, either among the living or the recently departed, in the manner in which we were lately struck at seeing done in a rather singular thing called the “ Prelate," which brings upon the scenes the George III., the William Pitt, and the other remarkable characters of the last generation. Or again, that she should not have been more frequently resorted to, to throw a deeper and a stronger interest around the decayed and mouldering ruin, by re-peopling it with the forms of antiquity, as we saw admirably done in a work bearing on its title-page the unpretending announcement of the authorship of "John Worlderspon," who, doubtless, has consoled the tedium of many a weary hour of country obscurity in investing, through an imagination of refined and elevated tone, with an interest and attraction far more extended than the narrow limits of their position, the “Historic Sites of Suffolk.” Library never furnished us with a more entertaining novel than that which gave us George and Pitt in familiar intercourse; nor did an antiquarian ever throw around his loved researches so much of poetical attraction, as this humble yet able historian of the adjoining county—and wherefore? Because the imagination in both cases was in healthy, vigorous play, and seized in one instance on the strong interest of eminent individuality; and in the other on the powerful attraction of antiquity. And would that such works did more speedily replace the lingering remnants of that false and frivolous school of novels whereby our libraries have heretofore been poisoned and corrupted. A circulating library has been a despicable depository of the feeblest and the most frail productions of feeble and frivolous intellects. Improved by the splendid historical fictions of Scott, and the admirable real-life portraitures of Boz and Theodore Hook, there yet remains a vast field which may be worthily and salutarily filled by those healthy products of sound and truthful imaginations, which may occupy all the various grades and steps that lie between the absolutely, strictly true, and the positively, purely fictitious. By the former, we mean such works as are mere records of dry, unconnected facts ; by the latter, such as are destitute of all con

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