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more glorious world; and yet the mind feel no weakening influence, but remain as fit as before for the prosaic business of life, perhaps even better fitted for any difficult exercise of principle or self-denial, owing to the higher tone of feeling, the nobler thoughts and aspirations kindled by its late study. As Madame de Staël justly remarks-" Tout ce qui fait battre le cœur, d'une idée généreuse, double la véritable force de l'homme-sa volonté."* But this is not the case when fancy has merely wandered through the mazes of common-place fiction. There it seldom finds any ennobling influence, any source of lofty impulse. The trivial, the common-place, and the mean, must have place among such pictures, no less than in actual life; works belonging to this class may breathe a high tone of feeling, and in the delineation of character may show all the spirit of true poetry without its form, but still they generally have the disadvantage of dealing with common every-day life. The imagination is not raised by them above that level, is not enriched with new images, but strays through the range of common actions and events. There is a semblance of reality, without truth, and the false colouring of fiction amidst all the fetters of actual life.


In a poem, the wildest language of passion, though it may appeal to the feelings, is generally called forth in circumstances remote from the experience of the reader; but in works which profess to paint real life, a regard to probability is so necessary, that there is nothing to prevent the young reader placing herself in the position of any favourite personage, and should she feel or fancy any resemblance in her own mind and circumstances to those portrayed, she is easily led to expect a similar course of events to draw forth the virtues or the talents, or to give scope to the feelings of which she is conscious. It is no wonder, then, when the delusion is dispelled, when no wonderfully-endowed personage appears to discover these hidden excellencies, to read feelings too deep or sublime to be manifested in the common routine of life which she is destined to tread, if this routine appears more dull than before, or even if the feelings participate in the chill experienced by the imagination. The grand conceptions of the poet are true in ideal beauty. The novelist's pictures of real life are false, because necessarily covered with an unreal gloss. The object of the poet and artist is to embody their own lofty view of the truly beautiful; that of the novelist to present us with an imitation of what we see around us, and therefore to mingle with the beautiful all that generally detracts from it in real life, even shrinking from portraying such excellence as

* De l'Allemagne, chap. vi.


we actually have known and loved, lest it should appear to border on romance. The one sublimes the soul by lifting it above the present to the contemplation of eternal beauty; the other increases the interest of the actual and the present, already too engrossing, enamouring us of the chain which binds the soul to earth. "Poetry strives," as Lord Bacon beautifully expresses it, "to give some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of men on those points wherein the nature of things doth deny it, the world being in proportion inferior to the soul; by reason whereof there is, agreeable to the spirit of man, a more ample greatness, a more exact goodness, and a more absolute variety, than can be found in the nature of things. Therefore, because the acts or events of true history have not that magnitude which satisfieth the mind of man, poesy feigneth acts and events greater and more heroical; because true history propoundeth the successes and issues of actions not so agreeable to the merits of virtue and vice, therefore poesy feigns them more just in retribution, and more according to revealed providence; because true history representeth actions and events more ordinary and less interchanged; therefore poesy endueth them with more rareness and more unexpected and alternative variations, so as it appeareth that poesy serveth and conferreth to magnanimity, morality, and to delectation. And, therefore, it was even thought to have some participation of divineness, because it doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting the show of things to the desires of the mind; whereas reason doth buckle and bow the mind unto the nature of things."*

The novelist, on the other hand, uses neither the strong buckle of reason nor the lofty wings of poetry; the poet, in short, elevates the thoughts, while the novelist excites the feelings, and this one difference sufficiently expresses how admirable is the one and how pernicious the other kind of reading for women. For there is in their quiet, inactive existence, no scope for the love of excitement and of strong emotion fostered by such reading, and no corrective for the over-working of the imagination, no wholesome toil to engross the mind and restore its tone and sobriety.

The study of poetry has this advantage over that of any branch of the fine arts, that it is within the reach of all. Without masters, without expense, with the knowledge of our mothertongue only, and the book of life and the book of nature open before us, we may thus feed the imagination and exalt it to its most sublime heights. Greater difficulties belong to other studies which tend to the same object. Music and painting require good,

* Advancement of Learning, Book ii.



and therefore expensive teaching, and the taste must be formed by hearing or seeing what are considered models in the various kinds. In many a retired existence, therefore, which most requires perhaps the cheering influence of imagination, the latter cannot be cultivated by such means, while Shakspeare or Milton may be the companions of each solitary hour snatched from wearing cares or household occupations.

The little taste for poetry in the present day arises in great measure, no doubt, from the same causes which we have alluded to as preventing the culture of imagination generally—i.e., narrow views of religion (which, by throwing a veil of sanctity over dulness and common-place, reprobate some of the finest emotions of the mind), and the positive money-seeking spirit of our modern learning, which too often ridicules as romance whatever bears not a tangible value. But besides these causes, the wide spread of a frivolous and tasteless literature, and the low ebb of poetical talent in the present day, necessarily exercise a baneful influence on the formation of taste, and prevent the love of true poetry being cultivated as it should be.


Those who have fed their minds upon the trash of circulating libraries, who have acquired their knowledge of English from certain modern styles, compounded of exaggeration and triviality, of foreign affectation and native bad taste, retaining only just enough of the language of Bacon and Milton to point the contrast; those who have formed their estimate of eloquence from our sermons or debates, and fed their fancy on our fictions, are fortunate if they have not rendered their minds incapable of judging or feeling higher beauties. When the works of true genius, stamped with the admiration of centuries, are neglected, and the name they have immortalized, the sacred name of poetry,given to the jingling rhyme of the sentimentalist, or the tensyllabled prose of vague metaphysicians, it is little wonder that the name should lose its glory, and the art its influence. In the words of old Ben Johnson

"If you will look on poesy,
As she appears in many, poor and lame,
Patched up in remnants and old worn-out rags,
Half starved for want of her peculiar food,
Sacred invention; then I must confirm
Both your conceit and censure of her merit.
But view her in her glorious ornaments,
Attired in the majesty of art,

Set high in spirit with the precious taste
Of sweet philosophy; and which is most,
Crowned with the rich traditions of a soul,
That hates to have her dignity prophaned


With any relish of an earthly thought;

Oh! then how proud a presence doth she bear!
Then is she like herself, fit to be seen
Of none but grave and consecrated eyes."



It is truly remarkable, considering the sums of money that are lavished in female education upon accomplishments, how little, as we before remarked, they are made conducive to exciting and cultivating the imagination. Where there is real talent for either music, or drawing, its exercise calls out of itself the energy of the imaginative faculty. Thoughts and images group themselves, if we may so express it, round the favourite pursuit, and all other sources of knowledge furnish their share towards it. But it is where this spontaneous effort of the mind is wanting, that the teacher's skill and judgment are required to render the study (in which perhaps hours are spent) profitable to something better than mere drawing-room display. Many persons are of opinion that accomplishments should only be taught where there is real and peculiar talent; but in this we cannot agree with them, and should be sorry to see a rule carried out, which would close so many interesting, though unpretending sketchbooks, and hush so many sweet and touching strains, that now give pleasure, and bear the feeling of melody to hearts unable to appreciate a higher talent and greater skill. The tone of refinement also, that is diffused by a general, though slight knowledge of the fine arts, is a benefit to society no tcbe overlooked.

Music seems peculiarly adapted to woman's life of anxious solitary cares. Solitary because it is rarely her lot to find sympathy, and never wise in her to seek, or depend on it. In this position, many a one whose performance is quite unfit for society in these days of artist-like perfection, may find in it both solace and cheering for herself. When the noise of children, which may have worn her nerves for hours, is silenced at length, when the pressure of wearying or uninteresting occupation is over, or a short reprieve is allowed from the labour of seeming cheerful and interested in the pursuits of others, while concealing perhaps an anxious mind and languid frame; it is probable that drawing would offer as little recreation as any serious pursuit. Certain preparations are needed which require energy, and some command of time, but the musical instrument is always ready. There, at first perhaps, the hand will wander listlessly over the notes, but the chords of some favourite air are struck almost unconsciously, and then gradually the languor is dispersed, the interest roused,

Every Man in his Humour. Lines suppressed in the play, and given in the Notes to Gifford's Edition, vol. i., p. 158.


and a whole new train of associations excited. The melody steals into the heart with that power which none can understand who have not felt it, and which all who have felt know to be beyond the feeble description of words; the weight of care, or anxiety, or weariness, seems lifted off, and the mind restored to its tone, and fitted to turn with new alacrity and cheerfulness to whatever may require its attention.


On the other hand, drawing shares with poetry the advantage of exciting and feeding the love of nature. The intimate knowledge of the latter under every aspect, which the painter's art requires, awakens the attention to her minute beauties, to her ceaseless transformations, to the changes wrought by each shifting cloud-each hour's varied light-each breeze stirring the forest or the gleaming waters-every change of seasons and of weather. Her character becomes thus better known, and her beauty more truly loved. In her wildest grandeur, as in her quiet scenes, in her awful solitudes, as in her smiling aspect, round the dwellings of man, the practised eye sees a thousand beauties that are hidden from the ignorant, and thus even, should the study produce little result as regards the art itself, it is most valuable as tending directly, and indirectly, to the culture of the imagination.

If either music or drawing were studied in the spirit here indicated, although they must remain trifles when compared with severer pursuits, they would no longer deserve to be classed among the frivolities of female education. Neither should we so frequently see them abandoned immediately after marriage, or, at least, as soon as the time is past when des succès de salon can be valued. It is as life advances, as external pleasures dull, and hope, often disappointed, droops her wing, and leaves the mind to memory,—it is then that we most require all that cheers and elevates the spirit, all the pleasures we can truly call our own, because dependent on ourselves and not on society. Youth has a poetry of its own, and needs little external aid; but middle age is surely never wise to neglect a source of enjoyment which passing years and the changing aspect of existence cannot poison. It is easily conceivable that we should lay aside what was learnt only in the impulse of youthful vanity, and regret the hours wasted upon it; but that which has served to cultivate and feed the imagination, to nourish the love of the beautiful, which has been a source of real and elevating pleasure, will never be neglected till the ear grows dull and the hand unsteady, till the eye, dimmed to this outward world, is all turned to its future home.

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We have now indicated some of the means by which the culture of the imagination may be carried on as far as heart can desire, without fear of disturbing the balance of the mind, or interfering

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