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passion: all his questions on the road were how money might be saved; which was the least expensive course of travel; whether any thing could be bought that would turn to account when disposed of again in London. Such curiosities on the way as could be seen for nothing he was ready enough to look at, but, if the sight of them was to be paid for, he usually asserted that he had been told they were not worth seeing. He never paid a bill that he would not observe how amazingly expensive travelling was, and all this though he was not yet twenty-one. When arrived at Leghorn, as we took a walk to look at the port and shipping, he inquired the expense of the passage by sea home to England. This he was informed was but a trifle compared to his returning by land; he was therefore unable to withstand the temptation : so, paying me the small part of my salary that was due, he took leave, and embarked with only one attendant for London.
I now therefore was left once more upon the world at large; but then it was a thing I was used to. However, my skill in music could avail me nothing in a country where every peasant was a better musician than I; but by this time I had acquired another talent which answered my purpose as well, and this was a skill in disputation. In all the foreign universities and convents there are, upon certain days, philosophical theses maintained, against every adventitious disputant, for which, if the champion opposes with any dexterity, he can claim a gratuity in money, a dinner, and a bed for one night. In this manner, therefore, I fought my way towards England, walked along from city to city, examined mankind more nearly, and, if I may so express it
, saw both sides of the picture. My remarks, however, are but few: I found that monarchy was the best government for the poor to live in, and commonwealths for the rich. I found that riches in general were in every country another name for freedom, and that no man is so fond of liberty himself as not to be desirous of subjecting the will of some individuals in society to his own.
126.-IT WILL NEVER DO TO BE IDLE. [The following paper is extracted from a very remarkable book, published ten years ago, entitled Self-Formation; or, the History of an Individual Mind : By a Fellow of a College.' The name of the author
is known in some literary circles; it was communicated, in professional confidence, to the Editor of `Half-Hours.' That circumstance renders it necessary that the extract should appear as taken from the work of an anonymous writer. • Self-Formation' did not attract much notice from the periodical dispensers of literary fame; but it has produced a strong impression upon competent judges of the singular ability, not unmixed with eccentricity, and the frank earnestness, with which the progress of “an individual mind,” from childhood to matu-, rity, is related. Such revelations are of inestimable value, when we can depend upon them, as we must do in this instance, as accurate pencillings of the intellect in its weakness as well as its strength.]
There is a village called Cherry-Hinton, lying wide of any highway, and within two or three miles of Cambridge. The footpath to it is crossed midway, or thereabouts, by a little brook, and that brook itself, accompanied by a pathway, winds its unambitious way onward' to the village, through certain rich corn-fields and solitary meadows. This was my usual walk, my path of contemplation. From some unaccountable neglect it was very little frequented, though in itself as pretty as any out of Cambridge. Scarcely was it trodden, saye by a few late and early market-goers, and, haply, now and then a milkwoman. Vilia delectant vulgus ; the dusty footpath, with the chance of an occasional gossip, was more to the taste of the commonalty than the modest half-worn track, the verdure, the coolness, the sequestration --in a word, the poetry, of my own choice. in ne danger of interruption by my sporting friends, who would have stared at me in such a spot as if they had seen a ghost, and regarded me ever afterwards as a man under a cloud—as one addicted to strange solitary habits.
I remember one day I had racked myself out of all patience in my attempts to overthink a subject, to master it by the sheer force of thought. In a state of exhaustion and discomfiture I leant against a gate-post, and suffered my sight to rest upon the surface of the stream, and amuse itself by the objects carried down by it. There was an angle of the bank close by, and I indulged myself some time in the idle speculation whether or not the sticks and straws that I saw floating along might chance to double it. My mind was martyred with its distractions, and it occurred to me, by a sudden thought, that here was a way to put an end to them. I marked a particular straw in its descent, and made an earnest vow, that, according as it should pass
the promontory or fail to do so, I would persist or not in my thoughfulness --that, as the straw might rule me, I would strive onwards through a host of pains and penalties, or else retire at once from the contest, and, as the negroes say, “ sit down softly,” content to be a common man, one of the mere vulgar.
My determination was strong at the moment, so strong that I am by no means sure that it was not decisive, that it has not governed my destinies ever since. Well, I watched my pilot-boat as it came down -Fortunam vehis—30 I might have apostrophized it in all Cæsarian dignity. It passed gently on. Here and there it met with an obstruction, but it was only for a moment; it doubled the cape--the Cape of Good Hope, as it really was for me.
I received the augury with all acceptance, and returned with a light heart.
Somehow or other, after this incident, whether by force of it or from whatever cause, I got into a better vein. I abandoned once for all the part of the self-tormentor. I forbore to force myself. I suffered my mind, like a froward child, to fall asleep, and so recover itself from the excitement of its frowardness. Instead of hallooing on when I had overrun the scent, I drew back quietly and cannily to the point where I was last sure of it-releyens errata retrorsum--and endeavoured to hit it off afresh. I returned from thought to literature, from my late hard task-master to my former gentle mistress. I read at large. I roved about at my free will in the wide and varied common of our college library, with no other condition than that of commenting in my own mind, as I went along, upon every book that I might be reading, and every chapter that book. This was the best restorative process imaginable. I soon got heart of grace upon it, and recruited the exhaustion of my spirits. I found it was but lost pains to attempt to add a cubit to my intellectual stature by force of thinking. I took better counsel, and resigned all care of my growth to time, patience, and steady but gentle perseverance. -“ Chi va piano,” say the Italians,
va lontano,” and I soon found that instead of racking myself to no purpose, as I had done heretofore, I was gradually making way widening my circle.
My wayfarings to this village of fruitful, though, for any thing that I could ever learn, fallacious entitlement—this village with a name that waters on one's tongue, though it keeps not the word of promise
to one's palate - my pilgrimages, I say, thither were of good account to me through another mere accident. One day, on my return, I was driven to take shelter from a rain-storm in a little hovel by the roadside—a sort of cobbler's stall. The tenant and his son were upon their work, and, after the customary use of greetings, I entered familiarly into talk with them, as indeed I always do, seeing that your cobbler is often a man of contemplative faculty—that there is really something of mystery in his craft. Before I had been with them long, the old man found that there lacked something for his work, and in order to provide it he sent his son out on a job of some five minutes. The interval was a short one, but it was too long for his active impatience; he became uneasy, shuffled about the room, and at last took up a scrap or two of leather and fell to work
them. “ For," said he, " it will never do, you know, sir, to be idle—not at any rate-I should
I happened just then to be in an impressible mood, without occupation myself, and weighed somewhat down by the want of it; accordingly the phrase, the oddness of it in the first place, and still more the sense, made a deep and lasting impression upon me. As soon as the rain had spent itself, I went my way homeward, ruminating and revolving what I had heard, like a curious man over a riddle. I could not have bestowed my thoughts better; the subject concerned me nearly, it went to the very heart of my happiness. Some people are perpetual martyrs to idleness, others have only their turns and returns of it; I was of the latter class—a reluctant impatient idler ; nevertheless I was so much within the mischief as to feel that the words came home to me. They stung my conscience severely, they were gall and wormwood for me. Nevertheless, I dwelt so long, albeit perhaps unwillingly, upon the expression, that I became as it were privy to it; I was in a condition to feel and revere its efficacy; I determined to make much of it, to realize it in use, to act it out.
I had heard and read repeatedly that idleness is a very great evil ; but the censure did not appear to me to come up to the real truth. I began to think that it was not only a very great evil, but the greatest evil—and not only the greatest one, but in fact the only one
- the only mental one, I mean ; for, of course, as to morality, a man may be
very active, and very viciously active too. But the one great sensible and conceivable evil is that of idleness. No man is wretched in his
energy. There can be no pain in a fit; a soldier at the full height of his spirit, and in the heat of contest, is unconscious even of a wound; the orator in the full flow of rhetoric is altogether exempt from the pitifulness of gout and rheumatism. To be occupied, in its first meaning, is to be possessed as by a tenant-and see the significancy, the reality, of first meanings. When the occupation is once complete, when the tenancy is full, there can be no entry for any evil spirit: but idleness is emptiness; where it is, there the doors are thrown open, and the devils troop in.
The words of the old cobbler were oracular to me. They were constantly in my thoughts, like the last voice of his victim in those of the murderer; my mind was pregnant with them; the seed was good, and sown in a good soil-it brought forth the fruit of satisfaction.
It is the odds and ends of our time, its orts and offals, laid up, as they usually are, in corners, to rot and stink there, instead of being used out as they should be—these, I say, are the occasions of our moral unsoundness and corruption; a dead fly, little thing as it is, will spoil a whole box of the most precious ointment; and idleness, if it be once suffered, though but for a brief while, is sure, by the communication of its listless quality, to clog and cumber the clockwork of the whole day. It is the ancient enemy—the old man of the Arabian Tales. Once take him upon your shoulders, and he is not to be shaken off so easily.
I had a notion of these truths, and I framed my plan after their rules; I resolved that every minute should be occupied by thought, word, or act, or, if none of these, by intention ; vacancy was my only outcast, the scape-goat of my proscription. For this my purpose I required a certain energy of will, as indeed this same energy is requisite for every other good thing of every sort and kind; without it we are as powerless as grubs, noisome as ditch-water, vague, loose, and unpredestinate as the clouds above our heads. However, I had sufficient of this energy to serve me for that turn; I felt the excellence of the practice, I was penetrated with it through all my being, I clung to it, I cherished it. I made a point of every thing; I was active, brisk, and animated (oh ! how true is that word) in all things that I did, even to the picking up of a glove, or asking the time of day. If I ever felt the approach, the first approach, of the insidious languor, I said once within myself, in the next quarter of an hour I will do such