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arities of the greatest intellects of England. Carlyle is undoubtedly the strongest and most suggestive—now profoundly jocose, or jocosely profound. This minute putting an old thing or fact into a new light, and dragging it from the obscurity of conventional hypocrisy, dusting the cobwebs off, and holding it up at once a fresh object, with a dawning sun upon it; now he startles you by shaking some drowsy old custom by the shoulders, and as he perceives it waking up in a state of astonishment, he completes the effect by bursting into a fit of good hearty Saxon laughter. All this is thrown off in a strong, abrupt manner, with Homeric compound words, provoking new combination of thoughts. Add to this an utterance unmistakeably Scotch. He has a rare manner of yoking the dissimilar together, and making them do good service in the double sense of co-operation and contrast. They seem to pull different ways, and yet the Juggernaut car of his demonstration proceeds crushing beneath the wheels of his Scotch dialect a host of crawling reptile superstitions and conventional “shams.” Next to Carlyle, Leigh Hunt is probably the most interesting conversationist—but he wants his suggestive power: infinitely more amusing, he lacks the faculty of chaining the attention of his auditors. It is a perpetual flow of mental champagne, sparkling with anecdotes, refined jokes, witticisms, repartees, the peculiarities of celebrated men, celebrated streets, celebrated houses, celebrated mountains, celebrated mice; in short it is a brilliant group of heterogenous recollections presided over by a genial appreciation—just as an assemblage of remarkable men are gathered together by a generous host whose tact enables him to extract the utmost possible amount of individuality out of them. We have now an anecdote of Byron—then of Shelley—illustrated by some well known passage in their works, the origin of which is developed—all this lively stream is given in a peculiar crisp voice which makes the “tout ensemble” perfect. Dickens on the other hand depends more up
on occasional shrewd observations, lightened by a ludicrous story: in addition to this, the author of Pickwick is a ready listener. When Talfourd is excited his conversation is very interesting, but it is too egotistical to be generally popular—still his admirable law stories, though somewhat too frequently told, are highly interesting, and show the man of great social talent. Mr. Horne is perhaps one of the most amusing companions: he is eminently graphic:-and his wanderings in Mexico, and other parts of America, are always worth listening to, even though heard before. Browning's colloquial powers are limited—and their tendency is monotonous ; nevertheless, there often comes out of that subtle brain a host of strange learning which makes the listener pause. It generally happens that in the midst of an elaborate “olla podrida” he goes to the piano, which he plays with great precision and grace, and finishes the conversation by presenting some favorite sonata of Beethoven. We may as well name here that Leigh Hunt and Horne are also tasteful musicians, and sing with considerable taste and effect. It was a curious study to glance round the room and let the eye rest upon each of these original men: Dickens, gayly dressed, actively engaged in either listening or talking, and doing both with an apparent interest so flattering to his antagonist—his large, dark restless eye roaming round the room for “ future scenes”—his well made boots, shining like Luna, and then ever and anon the contracted eyebrow and the long hair thrown with a curious shake over the collar of his coat—a lady once said she saw he was the lion of the evening by his mane. While you are looking at him, you hear a pleasant hearty laugh from Leigh Hunt, who has made some cheerful pun, which he enjoys as much as though it had been said by another—there he sits with a sort of imaginary washing of his hands, which no doubt he learnt from Mrs. Siddons in the famous scene from Macbeth.
His hazel eye still retains the fire of youth, his manners their vivacity, and his youthfulness of spirit contrasts with the long gray hair parted on his forehead and hanging down his shoulders—for literary men, like Samson, seem to consider their strength resides in their unshorn locks. Leigh Hunt resembles one of the old noblesse dressed in black, his coat generally buttoned to his chin: his tall spare figure: his urbanity of manners—all make up the look of a noticeable man.
Earnestly talking with another, stands Browning, leaning on the mantle piece: his well made, neatly drest figure, of the small size, has a dapper appearance: his sallow complexion garnished with coal-black whiskers, which grow under his chin; his hair however is of a moderate length, and forms an exception to the rule before named. He is doubtless pointing out some curious passage from his favorite poet Donne, or quoting with extreme unction a few lines from Kit Smart, the mad poet: possibly he may be explaining some peculiar dramatic effect of Alfieri, and urging upon the author of the “Blind Wife’ the admirable method the great Italian poet pursued in writing and correcting his plays fourteen times before he trusted them into the printer's hands.
Another has joined this little group:—It is Horne, with his bald shining head, and little figure “en bon point:” down his shoulders hang those graceful light auburn locks, so peculiar to himself. His light gray eye is twinkling at some remark Browning has made upon the simplicity of “Sordello.” Seated on the sofa, with one leg crossed over the other, and with his hand buried in his bosom, sits an old man, with a few straggling gray hairs on his forehead, dressed in tolerably well-worn black, his deep set eye, gray and abstracted, as though in some speculation lost! he rises, his figure is tall, broad and gaunt, his deep guttural voice seems to come from the depths of his heart, and the impressive tone he speaks in gives an emphasis even to the commonest of commonplace; he is reciting
a passage from Milton; he has got the first edition in his hand, and is demonstrating to an attentive listener that the “blind old man” intended an emphasis to be laid on every word beginning with a capital, excepting at the commencement of each line; he slightly stoops, but it is a trifle for so old a man, and his venerable face seems to light up at the sound of Milton's verse, and to bring back with them all the dreams of his youth, when wandering with Coleridge, Southey and Lamb, they held high converse with the mighty dead. We have only seen one portrait of the fine old poet that at all gives any idea of him; a friend of his was so pleased with it that he sent the artist a sonnet, which we must find space to quote:
“We die, and pass away; our very name
But a loud guffaw from a corner of the room brings us back to the author of “Sartor Resartus.” In a nobler spirit he writes thus:
“Highest of all Symbols are those wherein the Artist or Poet has risen into Prophet, and all men can recognise a present God, and worship the same: I mean religious Symbols. Various enough have been such religious Symbols, what we call religions; as men stood in this stage of culture or the other, and could, worse or better, body forth the Godlike: some Symbols with a transient intrinsic worth; many with only an extrinsic. If thou ask to what height man has carried it in this matter, look on our divinest Symbol: on Jesus of Nazareth, and his life and his biography, and what followed therefrom. Higher has the human thought not yet reached: this is Christianity and Christendom; a Symbol of quiet perennial, infinite character; whose significance will ever demand to be anew inquired into, and anew made manifest. “But, on the whole, as time adds much to the sacredness of Symbols, so likewise in his progress he at length defaces, or even desecrates them; and Symbols, like all terrestrial garments, wax old. Homer's Epos has not ceased to be true; yet it is no longer our Epos, but shines in the distance, if clearer and clearer, yet also smaller and smaller, like a receding star. It needs a scientific telescope, it needs to be reinterpreted and artificially brought near us, before we can so much as know that it was a Sun. So likewise a day comes when the Runic Thor, with his Eddas, must withdraw into dimness; and many an African Mumbo-Jumbo, and Indian Wau-Wau be utterly abolished. For all things, even celestial luminaries, much more atmospheric meteors, have their rise, their calumniation, their decline. “Small is this which thou tellest me that the Royal Sceptre is but a piece of gilt-wood; that the Pyx has become a most foolish box, and truly, as Ancient Pistol thought, ‘of little price.’ A right conjuror might I name thee, couldst thou conjure back into these wooden tools the divine virtue they once held. “Of this thing however be certain; wouldst thou plant for eternity, then plant into the deep infinite faculties of man, his fantasy and heart; wouldst thou plant for year and day, then plant into his shallow superficial faculties, his self-love and arithmetical understanding, what will grow there. A Hierarch, therefore, and Pontiff of the world will we call him, the poet and inspired maker; who, Prometheus-like, can shape new Symbols, and bring new fire from Heaven to fix it there. Such too will not always be wanting; neither perhaps now are. Meanwhile, as the average of matters goes, we account him legislator and wise who can so much as tell when a Symbol has grown old, and gently remove it. “When, as the last English coronation, that of George IV. was preparing,” concludes this wonderful professor, “I read in their newspapers that the “Champion of England,” he who must offer battle to the universe for his new king, had brought it so far that he could now “mount his horse with little assistance,” I said to myself: Here also we have a Symbol well nigh superannuated. Alas, move whithersoever you may, are not the tatters and rags of superannuated worn-out Symbols (in this rag-fair of a world) dropping off every where, to hoodwink, to halter, to tether you : nay, if you shake them not aside, threatening to accumulate, and perhaps produce suffocation.”