« PreviousContinue »
thousands of miles, undertaken with them number less enterprises smaller and greater, and had every passion by turns awakened in their company, without being immensely affected by all this association. A large share indeed of the social interest may have been of so common a kind, and with persons of so common an order, that the effect on the character has been too little peculiar to be strikingly perceptible during the progress. We were not sensible of it, till we came to some of those circumstances and chan. ges in life, which make us aware of the state of our minds by the manner in which new objects are accepable or repulsive to them. On removing into a new circle of society, for instance, we could perceive, by the number of things in which we found ourselves uncongenial with the new acquaintance, the modification which our sentiments had received in the preceding social intercourse. But in some instances we have been sensible, in a very short time, of a powerful force operating on our opinions, tastes, and habits, and throwing them into a new order. This effect is inevitable, if a young susceptible mind happens to become familiarly acquainted with a person in whom a strongly individual cast of character is sustained and dignified by uncommon mental resources ; and it may be found that, generally, the greatest measure or effect has been produced by the influence of a very small number of persons ; often of one only, whose extended and interesting mind had more power to surround and assimilate a young ingenious being, than the collective influence of a multitude of the persons, whose characters were moulded in the manufactory of customs, and sent forth like images of clay of kindred shape and varnish from a pottery.
Learn then to look back with great interest on the world of circumstances through which life has been drawn. Consider what thousands of situations, appearances, incidents, persons, you have been present to, each in its moment.
'Í'he review will present to you something like a chaos, with all the moral,
and all other elements, confounded together ; and you may reflect till you begin almost to wonder how an individual retains even the same essence through all the diversities, vicissitudes, and counteractions ot influence, that operate on it during its progress through the confusion. But though its essence is the same, and might defy an universe to extinguish, absorb, or change it; its modification, its condition, and habits, will shew where it has been, and what it has undergone. You may descry on it the marks and colours of many of the things by which, in passing, it has been touched or arrested.
Consider the number of meetings with acquaintances, friends, or strangers; the number of conversations
have held or heard ; the number of exhibitions of good or evil, virtue or vice; the number of occasions on which you have been disgusted or pleased, moved to admiration or to abhorrence; the number of times that you have contemplated the town, the rural cottage, or verdant fields ; the number of volumes that you have read; the times that you have looked over the present state of the world, or gone by means of history into past ages; the number of comparisons of yourself with other persons, alive or dead, and comparisons of them with one another, the number of solitary musings, of solemn contemplations of night, of the successive subjects of thought, and of animated sentiments that have been kindled and extinguished. Add all the hours and causes of sorrow that you have known. Through this lengthened, and, if the number could be told, stupendous, multiplicity of things, you have advanced, while all their heterogeneous myriads have darted influences upon you, each one of them having some de finable tendency. A traveller round the globe would not meet a greater variety of seasons, prospects, and winds, than you might have recorded of the circumstances affecting the progress of your character, in your moral journey. You could not wish to have drawn to yourself the agency of a vaster
diversity of causes; you could not wish, on the supposition that you had gained advantage from all these, to wear the spoils of a greater number of regions. The formation of the character from so many mate. rials reminds one of that mighty appropriating attraction, which, on the hypothesis that the resurrection shall re-assemble the same particles which composed the body before, will draw them from dust, and trees, and animals, and ocean, and winds.
Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. The chief use for delight, is in privateness and retirement ; for ornament, is in discourse ; and for ability is in the judgement and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars one by one ; but the general counsels, and the plots, and marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth ; to use them too much for ornament is affectation ; to make judgment wholly by their rules is the humour of a scholar.They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience ; for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by duty, and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them : for they teach not what is their own use, but what is wise dom without them, and above them, won by observation, Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested ; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that should only be in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books ; else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading makes a full man ; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory ; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit ; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning to seem to know that he doth not.
HAMLET'S DIRECTIONS TO THE
Speak the speech, I pray you, as
pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it as many of our players do, I had as leif the towncrier had spoken my lines. And do not saw the air too much with your hand thus, but use all gently ; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh! it offends me to the soul, to hear a robusteous periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings; who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise ; I would have such a fellow
whipt for overdoing Termagent, it out-Herods Herod; pray you avoid it.
Be not too tame neither ; but let your own discre. tion be your tutor.
Suit the action to the word, the word to the action ; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature : for any thing so overdone is from the
purpose of nature ; whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature; to show Virtue her own feature ; Scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the Time his form and pressure. Now this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; che
one of which, must in your allowance overweigh a whole theatre of others. Oh there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise and that highly too, (not to speak it profanely, that neither having the action of christian, nor the gait of christian, pagan nor man, have so strutted and bellowed, that I have thought some of Nature's journey. men had made men, and not made them well; they imitated humanity so abominably.
And let those that play your clowns, speak no more than is set down for them : for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too: though in the mean time, some necessary part of the play be ihen to be consid. ered. That's villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.