« ElőzőTovább »
YOUTH OF GENIUS.
tion of genius, “ as a mind of general
powers accidentally determined by Genius, that creative part of art some particular direction,” as this rewhich individualises the artist, belong-jects any native aptitude, while we ing to him and to no other,-is it an must infer on this principle that the inherent faculty in the constitutional reasoning Locke, without an ear, or dispositions of the individual, or can an eye, could have been the musical it be formed by the patient acquisitions and fairy Spenser. of art ?
The virtuous and contemplative, Many sources of genius have in- Boyle imagined that he had discovered deed been laid open to us, but if these in childhood that disposition of mind may sometimes call it forth, have they which indicated an instinctive ingenu.. ever supplied its want? Could Spen- ousness; an incident which he relates, ser have struck out a poet in Cowley, evinced, as he thought that even then Richardson a painter in Reynolds, and he preferred aggravating his fault, Descartes a metaphysician in Malle- rather than consent to suppress, any branche, had they not borne that vital part of the truth, an effort which had germ of nature, which, when endowed been unnatural to his mind. His with its force, is always developing it- fanciful, yet striking illustration may self to a particular character of genius? open our inquiry.
" This trivial pass The accidents related of these men sage”--the little story alluded have occurred to a thousand, who have I have mentioned now, not that I run the same career ; but how does it think that in itself it deserves a relahappen, that the multitude remain a tion, but because as the sun is seen multitude, and the man of genius ar- best at his rising and his setting, so rives alone at the goal ? Da livib women's native dispositions are clearliest
The equality of minds in their na- perceived whilst they are children, and tive state is as monstrous a paradox, when they are dying. These little or'a term as equivocal in metaphysics, sudden actions are the greatest disas the quality of men in the political coverers of men's true humours. state. Both come from the French That the dispositions of genius in ear, school in evil times; and ought, there. ly life presage its future character, was fore, as Job said, " to be eschewed." long the feeling of antiquity Isa, Nor can we trust to Johnson's defini- crates, after much previous observation
of those who attended his lectures, lection of the Port Royal Society would advise one to engage in politi- thrice burning the romance which Racal studies, exhorted another to com- cine at length got by heart; no geopose history, elected some to be poets, inetrician but bitterly inveighs against and some to adopt his own profession. the father of Pascal for not suffering He thought that nature had some con- him to study Euclid, which he at cern in forming a man of genius ; and length understood without studying. he tried to guess
her secret by de- The father of Petrarch in a barbarous tecting the first energetic inclination rage burnt the poetical library of his of the mind. This principle guided son amidst the shrieks, the groans, and the Jesuits.
the tears of the youth. Yet this neiIn the old romance of King Arthur, ther converted Petrarch into a sober when a cowherd comes to the king to lawyer, nor deprived him of the Rorequest he would make his son a man laurel. The uncle of Alfieri for knight It is a great thing thou more than twenty years suppressed askest," said Arthur, who inquired the poetical character of this noble whether this entreaty proceeded from bard; he was a poet without knowing him or his son ? The old man's an- to write a verse, and Nature, like a swer is remarkable Of my son, not hard creditor, exacted with redoubled
for I have thirteen sons, and interest, all the genius which the uncle all these will fall to that labour I put had so long kept from her. Such are them ; but this child will not labour the men whose inherent impulse no for me, for any thing that I and my human opposition, and even no adverse wife will do; but always he will be edụcation, can deter from being great shooting and casting darts, and glad men. for to see battles, and to behold knights, If the youth of genius is apt to and always day and night he desireth of retire from the ordinary sports of his me to be made a knight." The king mates, he often substitutes others, the commanded the cowherd to fetch all reflections of those favourite studies his sons ; they were all shapen much which are haunting his young imaginalike the poor man; but Tor was not tion ; the amusements of such an Idler kke any of them in shape and in coun- have often been fanciful. ARIOSTO, tenance, for he was much more than While yet a schoolboy, composed a sort any of them. And so Arthur knight of tragedy from the story of Pyramus ed him. This simple tale is the his- and Thisbe, and had it represented by tory of genius the cowherd's twelve his brothers and sisters. Pope seems sons were like himself, but the unhap- to have indicated his passion for Hopy genius in the family who perplexed mer in those rough scenes which he and plagued the cowherd and his wife drew up from Ogilby's version ; and and his twelve brothers, was the youth when Sir:WILLIAM Jones at Haraverse to labour,, but active enough in row divided the fields according to a performing knightly exercises ; and ( map of Greece, and portioned out to dreaming on chivalry amidst a 'herd of each school-fellow a dominion, and cows.
In reading the memoirs of a man Tempest to act from, he supplied is of genius we oftení reprobate the do- from his memory, we must confess mestic persecutions of those who op- that the boy JONES was reflecting in posed his inclinations. No poet but his amusenients the cast of mind he is moved with indignation at the recol- displayed in his after-life, and that
felicity of meinory and taste sơ preva-building of a house. But he
But he prefèrted lent in his literary character. 'Flo- his wharf to anothet's house ; his con. RIAN's earliest years were passed in trivances to aid his puny labourers with shooting birds all day and reading his resolution not to quit the great work every evening an old translation of the till it was effected, seem to strike out Iliad; whenever he got a bird remark- to us the decision and invention of his able for its size or its plumage, be per- future character. But the qualities sonified it by one of the names of his which attract the companions of a heroes, and raising a funeral pyre con- school-boy may not he those which are sumed the body; collecting the ashes essential to fine genius., The captain in an um, he presented them to his or leader of his school-mates has a grandfather, with a narrative of his claim on our attention, but it is the Patroclus or Sarpedon. We seem sequestered boy who may chance to here to detect, reflected in his boyish be the artist, or the literary character. sports, the pleasing genius of the au- Is there then a period in youth which thor of Numa Pompilius, Gonsalvo yields decisive marks of the character of Cordova and William Tell. of ? men when a perhaps a criterion of talent as various as their fortunes. Some,
is when a youth is distinguished by his like diamonds, must wait to receive equals ; at that moment of life with their splendor from the slow touches no fattery on the one side, and no ar- of the polisher, while others, resembtifice on the other, all emotion and no ling pearls, appear at once born with reflection, the boy who has obtained their beautiful lustre. a predominance has acquired this merely Among the inauspicious circumby native powers. The boyhood of stances is the feebleness of the first atNelson was characterized by events tempts ; and we must not decide on congenial to those of his after-days; the talents of a young man by his first and his father understood his character works. Dryden and
Swift might have when he declared that " in whatever been deterred from authorship, had station he might be placed, he would their earliest pieces decided their fate, climb, if possible, to the top of the Racine's earliest composition, which tree." Some puerile anecdotes which we know of by some fragments his son Franklin remembered of himself, in has preserved, to show their remarkaassociation with his after-life, betray ble contrast with his writings, abound the invention, and the firm intrepidity, with those points and conceits which of his character ; and even perhaps the afterwards he abhorred; the tender carelessness of the means to obtain his author of Andromache could not have purpose. In boyhood he was a sort been discovered while exhausting himof adventarer ; and since his father self in his wanderings from nature, in would not consent to a sea-life, he running after conceits as absurd and made the river near hîm represent the surprising as the worst parts of Cow ocean ; he lived on the water, and was ley. Gibbon betrayed none of the the daring Columbus of a school-boy's force and magnitude of his powers in boat. À part where he and his mates his “ Essay on Literature," or his stood to angle, in time became a quag. attempted History of Switzerland, mire. In the course of one day the Johnson's cadenced prose is not recog
infant projector thought of a wharf for nizable in the humble simplicity of his them to stand on, and raised it with a carliest years. Many authors have heap of stones deposited there for the I begun unsuccessfully the walk they afterwards excelled in. Raphael, when great artist.
it It is difficult to behe first drew his meagre forms under lieve,” he says, “ what many assert, Perugino, had not yet conceived one that from the beginning this great line of that ideal beauty, which one painter had a ruggedness about him, day he of all men could alone executé. which entirely incapacitated him from
Even the manhood of genius may learning his profession, and they have påss by unobserved by his companions, heard from himself that he quite deand
may, like Æneas, be hidden in spaired of success. Yet I cannot a cloud amidst his associates. The comprehend how such vivacious tacélebrated Fabius Maximus in his lents, with a mind so finely organized, boyhood was called in derision “ the and accompanied with such favourable little sheep,” from the meekness and dispositions for the art, would shew gravity of his disposition. His se- such signs of utter incapacity; I radateness and taciturnity, his indiffe- ther think that it is a mistake in the rence to juvenile amusements, his proper knowledge of genius, which slowness and difficulty in learning and some imagine indicates itself most dehis ready submission to his equals, in- cisively by its sudden vehemence, shewdůced them to consider him as one ing itself like lightning, and like lightürecoverably stupid. That greatness ning passing away." A parallel case of mind, unalterable courage, and in- we find in Goldsmith, who passed vincible character Fabius afterwards through an unpromising youth; he displayed, they then imagined had lain declared he was never attached to concealed in the apparent contrary qua- the belles lettres till he was thirty, that lities. The boy of genius may indeed poetry had no peculiar charms for him séëm slow and dull even to the phleg- till that age, and indeed to his latest matic, for thoughtful and observing hour he was surprising his friends by dispositions conceal themselves in tim- productions which they had imagined orous silent characters, who have not he was incapable of composing. Hume yet learnt their strength ; nor can that was considered, from his sobriéty and assiduous love, which cannot tear it- assiduity, as competent to become a self away from the secret instruction it steady merchant ; of Johnson it was is perpetually imbibing, be easily dis- said that he would never offend in tinguished from that pertinacity which conversation, as of Boileau that he goes on with the mere plodder. We had no great understanding, but would often hear from the early companions speak ill of no one. Farquhar at colof a man of genius that at school, he lege was a heavy companion, and afhad appeared heavy and unpromising terwards combined, with great knows Rousseau imagined that the childhood ledge of the world, a light airy talent. of some men is accompanied by that Even a discerning parent or master has seeming and deceitful dulness, which entirely failed to develope the genius is the sign of a profound genius ; and of the youth, who was afterwards rankRoger Ascham has placed among the ed among eminent men ; and we best natures for learning, the sad-na- ought as little to infer from early un
and hard-witted child,” that' is, favourable appearances as from inequathe thoughtful or the melancholic, and lity of talent. The great Isaac Barthe slow. Domenichino was at first row's father used to say, that if it heavy, and-unpromising, and Passeri pleased God to take from him any of expresses his surprise at the accounts his children he hoped it might be he received of the early life of this Isaac, as the least promising; and dur
ing the three years Barrow passed at but one idea or subject of discourse, the Charter-house, he was remarkable Parliamentary Reform. Now Parliaonly for the utter negligence of his mentary Reform is (as far as I know) studies and his person. The mother a very good thing, a very good idea, of Sheridan, herself a literary female, and a very good subject to talk about: pronounced early, that he was the but why should it be the only one ? dullest and most hopeless of her sons. To hear the worthy and gallant Major Bodmer, at the head of the literary resume his favourite topic, is like lawclass in Switzerland, who had so fre- business, or a person who has a suit quently discovered and animated the in Chancery going on. Nothing can literary youths of his country, could be attended to, nothing can be talked never detect the latent genius of Ges- of but that. Now it is getting on, ner; after a repeated examination of now again it is standing still; at one the young man, he put his parents in time the Master has promised to pass despair with the hopeless award that Ljudgment by a certain day, at another a mind of so ordinary a cast must con- he has put it off again and called for more fine itself to mere writing and accompts. papers, and both are equally reasons
Some of these facts, we conceive, for speaking of it. Like the piece of afford decisive evidence of that instinct pack-thread in the barrister's hands, he in genius, that constitutional propen- turns and twists it all ways, and cansity in the mind sometimes, called or not proceed a step without it. Some ganization, which has inflamed such a school-boys cannot read but in their war of words by its equivocal term and own book : and the man of one idea the ambiguity of its nature ; it exists cannot converse out of his own subject. independent of education, and where Conversation it is not ; but a sort of it is wanting, education can never con- recital of the preamble of a bill, or a fer it. Of its mysterious influence we
grave arguments for a may be ignorant; the effect is more man's being of opinion with himself. apparent than the cause. It is, how- It would be well if there was any ever, always working in the character thing of character, of eccentricity in of the chosen mind. In the history of all this, but that is not the case. It genius, there are unquestionably many is a political homily personified, a secondary causes of considerable in- walking common-place we have to enfluence in developing or even crushing counter and listen to. It is a tüne the germ—these have been of late played on a barrel-organ. It is a often detected, and sometimes carried common vehicle of discourse into which . even to a ridiculous extreme ; but they get and are set down when they among them none seem more remark- please, without any pains or trouble able than the first studies and the first to themselves. Neither is it profeshabits.
sional pedantry or trading quackery : it has no excuse.
The man has no
more to do with the question whịch ON PEOPLE WITH ONE IDEA.
be saddles on all his hearers than yoų
have. This is what makes the matter There are people who have but one hopeless. If a farmer talks to you idea ; at least, if they have more, they about his pigs or his poultry, or a keep it a secret, for they never talk physician about his patients, or a lawbut of one subject.
yer about his clients, or a merchant, There is Major C : he has about stock, or an author about him.