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JEW ...... 






BUONARROTI . . '74-'93 


SoUTHBY AND LANDOR ( ttCO*d COUVfrjdtion) 246-302 


XX. STEELR AND ADWSON .... 35*'355 




XXIV. ESSEX AMD SPENSER . . . 393-4<* 




Hume. We Scotchmen, sir, are somewhat proud of our fa mi IK . 
and relationships ; this is however a nationality which perhaps I 
should not have detected in myself, if I had not been favored 
with the flattering present of your tragedy. Our names, as often 
happens, are spelled differently ; but I yielded with no reluctance 
to the persuasion that we are, and not very distantly, of the same 

Home. I hope, sir, our mountains will detain you among them 
some time, and I presume to promise you that you will find in 
Edinburgh a society as polished and literate as in Paris. 

Hume. As literate I can easily believe, my cousin, and per- 

f ' The date of thU Conversation must have been about the sumn 
1766, when Hume went to live in Edinburgh aftejrbis Mttirn from France. 
The Conversation read* a* though Landor nad supposed that Hume and 
Home had not met before. But in fact they had been for some time 
acquainted. Hume dedicated the 1758 edition of his "Essays and 
Treatise*" to Home. Both men considered themselves as belonging 
to the same " name," and in his will Hume pleasantly alludes 
difference of spelling, as one of the two points on which alone the friend* 
differed ; the other was the precedence in merit of port or claret, see p. 
10 of the - Biography of Hume," which Dr Birkbcck Hill has concealed 
in his note* to "The Letter* of David Hume " (Clarendon Press, iSSS). 
The discussion in the Conversation on the borderland between Religion 
and Morality is a theme often referred to in Hume's essays. The particu- 
lar instance of a brother and sister innocently wedded may have been de- 
rived from the e**ay entitled A Dialogue ; " the other instance may 
have been taken from a similar discussion in BoswelTs "Johnson." iii. p. 
347-8 (Clarendon Press, 1887). (imag. Convert., H.. 1824. ii.. 1816. 
1846. Works, iv., 1876.)! 

io Imaginary Conversations. 

haps as polished, if you reason upon the ingredients of polish ; but 
there is certainly much more amenity and urbanity at Paris than any- 
where else in the world, and people there are less likely to give and 
take offence. All topics may be discussed without arrogance and 
superciliousness : an atheist would see you worship a stool or light 
a candle at noon without a sneer at you ; and a bishop, if you 
were well-dressed and perfumed, would argue with you calmly 
and serenely, though you doubted the whole Athanasian creed. 

Home. So much the worse : God forbid we should ever ex- 
perience this lukewarmness in Scotland ! 

Hume. God, it appears, has forbidden it ; for which reason, 
to show my obedience and submission, I live as much as possible 
in France, where at present God has forbidden no such thing. 

Home. Religion, my dear sir, can alone make men happy and 
keep them so. 

Hume. Nothing is better calculated to make men happy than 
religion, if you will allow them to manage it according to their 
minds ; in which case the strong men hunt down others until they 
can fold them, entrap them, or noose them. Here, however, let 
the discussion terminate. Both of us have been in a cherry orchard, 
and have observed the advantages of the jacket, hat, and rattle. 

Home. Our reformed religion does not authorize any line of 
conduct diverging from right reason : we are commanded by it to 
speak the truth to all men. 

Hume. Are you likewise commanded to hear it from all 

Hornet Yes, let it only be proved to be truth. 
Hume. I doubt the observance : you will not even let the fact 
be proved ; you resist the attempt ; you blockade the preliminaries. 
Religion, as you practise it in Scotland, in some cases is opposite 
to reason and subversive of happiness. 
Home. In what instance ? 

Hume. If you had a brother whose wife was unfaithful to 
him without his suspicion ; if he lived with her happily ; if he 
had children by her ; if others of which he was fond could be 
proved by you, and you only, not to be his, what would you 

Home. Oh the harlot ! we have none such here, excepting the 
wife indeed (as we hear she is) of a little lame blear-eyed lieutenant, 

Da\id Hume and John lloim>. i I 

brought with him from Sicily, and bearing an Etna of her own 
about her, and truly no quiescent or intermittent one, which 
Mungo Murray (the apprentice of Hector Abercrombie) tells roe 
has engulk-d halt the disso lutes in the parish. Of 2 the married 
mm who visited her, there was ne\er one whose boot did not 
pinch him soon after, or the weather was no weather for corns 
and rheumatisms, or he must e'en go to Glasgow to look after a 
bad debt, the times being too ticklish to bear losses. I run into 
this discourse, not fearing that another philosopher will, like Em- 
pedocles, precipitate himself into the crater, but merely to warn 
you against the husband, whose intrepidity on entering the houses 
of strangers has caught many acute and wary folks. After the 
first compliments, he will lament to you that elegant and solid 
literature is more neglected in our days than it ever was. He 
will entreat you to recommend him to your bookseller ; his own 
having been too much enriched by him had grown insolent, hi, 
desirable that it should be one who could advance three or four 
guineas : not that he cares about the money, but that it is always 
best to have a check upon these people. You smile : he has pro- 
bably joined you in the street already, and found his way into 
your study, and requested of you by tbf bye a trifling loan, as 
being the only person in the world with whom he could take such 
a liberty. 

Hume. You seem to forget that I am but just arrived, and 
never knew htm. 

Home. That is no impediment : on the contrary, it is a rea- 
son the more. A new face is as inviting to him as to the mos- 
quitoes in America. If you lend him a guinea to be rid of him, 
he will declare the next day that he borrowed it at your own 
request, and that he returned it the same evening. 

Hume. Such men perhaps may have their reasons for being 
here ; but the woman must be, as people say, like a fish out of 
water. Again* to the question. Come now, if you had a 
brother, I was supposing, whose wife 

[* Prom " Of " to " rheumatism* " (3 lines) added in ind ed. From 
" or " to "loMe*"(i lines) added in trded. From " 1 " to wmter " (15 
lines) added in ind ed.] 

[ J First ed. reads : " parish. But if you had such a one. Home" Ac.] 

1 2 Imaginary Conversations. 

Home. Out upon her ! should my brother cohabit with her ? 
Should my nephews be defrauded of their patrimony by bastards ? 

Hume. You would then destroy his happiness, and his child- 
ren's ; for, supposing that you preserved to them a scanty portion 
more of fortune (which you could not do), still the shame they 
would feel from their mother's infamy would much outweigh it. 

Home. I do not see clearly that this is a question of religion. 

Hume. All the momentous actions of religious men are refer- 
able to their religion, more or less nearly ; all the social duties, 
and surely these are implicated here, are connected with it. Sup- 
pose again that you knew a brother and sister, who, born in 
different countries, met at last, ignorant of their affinity, and 

Home. Poor, blind, sinful creatures ! God be merciful to 

Hume. I join you heartily in the prayer, and would only add 
to it, Man be merciful to them also ! Imagine them to have lived 
together ten years, to have a numerous and happy family, to come 
and reside in your parish, and the attestation of their prior relation- 
ship to be made indubitable to you by some document which alone 
could establish and record it : what would you do ? 

Home. I would snap asunder the chain that the devil had en- 
/ snared them in, even if he stood before me ; I would implore God 
to pardon them, and to survey with an eye of mercy their un- 
offending bairns. 

Hume. And would not you be disposed to behold them with 
an eye of the same materials ? 

Home. Could I leave them in mortal sin, a prey to the en- 
snarer of souls ? No, I would rush between them as with a 
flaming sword ; I would rescue them by God's help from per* 

Hume. What misery and consternation would this rescue 
bring with it ! 

Home. They would call upon the hills to cover them, to 
crush and extinguish their shame. 

Hume. Those who had lived together in love and innocence 
and felicity ? A word spoken to them by their pastor brings 
them into irremediable guilt and anguish. And you would do 
this ? 

David Hume aiul John Home. i ;, 

Home. The laws of God arc above all other l.ius : hi^ ways 
.scruuble : thick darkness covers his throne. 

M. My cousin, you who have written so elegant a nil 
' pathetic a tragedy cannot but have read the best-contrived one in 

tence, the (Edifnu of Sophocles. 

Home. It has wrung my heart ; it has deluged my eyes with 

Hun. \\ would you rather do, cause and excite those 

sufferings, or assuage and quell them ? 

Home. Am I a Scotchman or an islander of the Red Sea, 
V|hat a question like this should be asked me? 

H*mt. You would not then have given to CEdipus that in- 
formation which drove him and Jocasta to despair ? 

Home.* As a Christian and a minister of the gospel, I am 
commanded to defy the devil, and to burst asunder the bonds of 


Hume. I am certain you would be greatly pained in doing it. 
Home. I should never overcome the grief and anxiety so 
severe a duty would cause me. 

Hume. You have now proved, better than I could have done 

in twenty //<*?/, that, it morality is not religion, neither is 

religion morality. Either of them, to be good (and the one must 

be and the other should be so), will produce good effects from 

. the beginning to the end, and be followed by no remorse or 

\ repentance. 

It * would be presumptuous in me to quote the Bible to you, 

who are so much more conversant in it ; yet I cannot refrain 

from repeating, for my own satisfaction, the beautiful sentence 

\ on holiness : that M ail her ways are pleasantness, and all her 

\ paths are peace." It says, not one or two paths, but all : for 

' vice hath one or two passably pleasant in the season, if we could 

forget that, when we would return, the road is difficult to find, 

and must be picked out in the dark. Imagine anything in the 

' semblance of a duty attended by regret and sorrow, and be 

\ assured that holiness hat no concern in it. Admonition, it is 

true, is sometimes of such a nature, from that of the irregularity it 

would correct, as to occasion a sigh or a Mush to him who gives 

[ Pint ed. read* : * //*-. To him no. At," ftc.l 
[ Prom It " to dkct " (19 line*) added in ind ed.] 

14 Imaginary Conversations. 

it : in this case, the sensation so manifested adds weight to the 
reproof and indemnifies the reprover. He is happy to have done 
what from generosity and tenderness of heart he was sorry and 
slow to do ; and the person in whose behalf he acted must 
be degraded beneath the dignity of manhood, if he feels less for 
himself than another has felt for him. The regret is not at the 
performance of his duty, but at the failure of its effect. 

To produce as much happiness as we can, and to prevent as 
much misery, is the proper aim and end of true morality and 
true religion. Only give things their right direction : do but 
place and train them well, and there is room to move easily and 
pleasantly in the midst of them. 

Home. What ! in the midst of vice and wickedness ? And 
must we place and train those ? 

P Hume. There was a time when what is wine was not wine, 
when what is vinegar was not vinegar, when what is corruption 
was not corruption. That which would turn into vice may 
not only not turn into it, but may, by discreet and attentive 
management, become the ground- work of virtue. A little watch- 
fulness over ourselves will save us a great deal of watchfulness 
over others, and will permit the kindliest of religions to drop her 
inconvenient and unseemly talk of enmity and strife, cuirasses and 
breastplates, battles and exterminations. 

Home. These carnal terms are frequent in the books of the 
Old Testament. 

Hume. Because the books of the Old Testament were written 
when the world was much more barbarous and ferocious than it 
is at present ; and legislators must accommodate their language to 
the customs and manners of the country. 

Home. Apparently you would rather abolish the forcible 
expressions of our pious reformers, than the abominations at 
which their souls revolted. I am afraid you would hesitate 
as little to demolish kirks as convents, to drive out ministers 
as monks. 

Hume. I would let ministers and their kirks alone. I would 
abolish monasteries, but gradually and humanely ; and not until 
I had discovered how and where the studious and pious could 

[ 6 First ed. reads: "direction ; there is room. Do but train and place 
them well. Home. What wickedness. Hume." &c.] 

D.iviJ lliinu' aiul John Homr. 15 

spend their time better. I hold religion in tin- li;.',ht of .1 medal 
M has contracted rust from ages. This rust seems to have 
reserver for many centuries, but after some few more 
will certainly be its consumer, and leave no vestige of effigy or 
superscription behind : it should be detached carefully and patiently, 
not ignorantly and rudely scoured off. Happiness may be taken 
away from many with the design of communicating it to more : 
but that which is a grateful and refreshing odor in a ! 
space would be none whatever in a larger ; that which is com- 
fortable warmth to the domestic circle would not awaken the 
chiq>ing of a cricket, or stimulate the flight of a butterfly, in 
the forest ; that which satisfies a hundred poor monks would, if 
thrown open to society at large, contribute not an atom to its 
benefit and emolument. Placid tempers, regulated habitudes, 
consolatory visitations, are suppressed and destroyed, and nothing 
rises from their ruins. Better let the cell be standing, than level 
it only for the thorn and net- 

Home. What good do these idlers with their cords and 
u .-.Ilets, or, if you please, with their regularities? 

Hume. These have their value, at least to the possessor and 
the few about him. Ask rather, what is the worth of his abode 
to the prince or to the public ? Who is the wiser for his cowl, 
the wanner for his frock, the more contented for his cloister, 
when they are taken from him ? Monks, it is true, are only as 
stars that shine upon the desert ; but tell me, I beseech you, who 
caused such a desert in the moral world, and who rendered so 
faint a light, in some of its periods, a blessing ? Ignorant rulers, 
must be the answer, and inhuman laws. They should cease to 
exist some time before their antidotes, however ill-compounded, 
are cast away. 

If we had lived seven or eight centuries ago, John Home 
would probably have been saying Mass at the altar, and David 
Hume, fatter and lazier, would have been pursuing his theological 
studies in the convent. We are so much the creatures of times 
and seasons, so modified and fashioned by them, that the very 
plants upon the wall, if they were as sensible as some suppose 
them to be, would laugh at us. 

fiomf. Fantastic forms and ceremonies are rather what the 
philosopher will reprehend. Strip away these, reduce things 

1 6 Imaginary Conversations. 

to their primitive state of purity and holiness, and nothing 
can alter or shake us, clinging, as we should, to the anchor 
of faith. 

Hume. People clung to it long ago ; but many lost their 
grasp, benumbed by holding too tightly. The Church of Scot- 
land brings close together the objects of veneration and abhor- 
rence. The evil principle, or devil, was, in my opinion, hardly 
worth the expense of his voyage from Persia ; but, since you 
have him, you seem resolved to treat him nobly, hating him, 
defying him, and fearing him nevertheless. I would not, how- 
ever, place him so very near the Creator, let his pretensions, 
from custom and precedent, be what they may. 

Home. He is always marring the fair works of our Heavenly 
Father : in this labor is his only proximity. 

Hume. You represent him as spurring men on to wicked- 
ness, from no other motive than the pleasure he experiences in 
rendering them miserable. 

Home. He has no other, excepting his inveterate spite and 
malice against God ; from which indeed, to speak more properly, 
this desire originates. 

Hume. Has he lost his wits, as well as his station, that 
he fancies he can render God unhappy by being spiteful and 
malicious ? You wrong him greatly ; but you wrong God more. 
For in all Satan's attempts to seduce men into wickedness, he 
leaves every one his free will either to resist or yield ; but the 
Heavenly Father, as you would represent him, predestines the 
/greater part of mankind to everlasting pains and torments, ante- 
/ cedently to corruption or temptation. There -w-m-impiety in 
Asking you which is the worst : for impiety most certainly 
does not consist in setting men right on what is demonstrable 
in their religion, nor in proving to them that God is greater 
and better than, with all their zeal for him, they have ever 
thought him. 

Home. This is to confound religion with philosophy, the 
source of nearly 7 every evil in conduct and of every error in ethics. 

Hume. Religion is the eldest sister of Philosophy : on what- 
ever subjects they may differ, it is unbecoming in either to quarrel, 
and most so about their inheritance. 

[ 7 First ed. reads : " of every evil and of every error."] 

Da\id I hum- aiul John Honu- 17 

Ami iuve you nothing, sir, to say against the |*> 
.nul v.miiios of otlv : ;>s, you should assail the 

institutions of your native country ? To fear God, I 
suppose, thm, is lew meritorious than to build steeples, ami 
embroider surplices, and compose chants, and blow the bellows 
of organs. 

Hume. My dear sir, it is not because God is delighted with 
hymns and instruments of music, or prefers bass to tenor or 
<> bass, or Handel to Giles Hallo way, that nations throng 
to celebrate in their churches his power and his benefit 
it is not that Inigo Jones or Christopher Wren could erect to 
him a habitation more worthy of his presence than the humblest 
cottage on the loneliest moor : it is that the best feelings, the 
highest faculties, the greatest wealth, should be displayed and 
exercised in the patrimonial palace of every family united. For 
such are churches both to the rich and poor. 

Home Your hand, David ! Pardon me, sir : the sentiment 
carried me beyond custom ; for it recalled to me the moments of 
blissful enthusiasm when I was writing my tragedy, and charmed 
me the more as coming from you. 

Hume. I explain the causes of things, and leave them. 

Home. Go onT sir, pray go on ; for here we can walk 
together. Suppose that God never heard us, never cared for us : 
do those care for you or hear you whose exploits you celebrate 
at public dinners, our Wallaces and Bruces : Yet are not we 
thence the braver, the more generous, the more grateful ? *^ 

Hume. I do not see clearly how the more grateful ; but I / 
would not analyze by reducing to a cinder a lofty sentiment. / 

Home. Surely 8 we are grateful for the benefits our illustrious 
patriots have conferred on us; and every act of gratitude is 
rewarded by reproduction. Justice is often pale and melancholy ; 
but Gratitude, her daughter, is constantly in the flow of spirits 
and the bloom of loveliness. You call out to her when you 
fancy she is passing ; you want her for your dependants, your 
domestics, your friends, your children. The ancients, as you 
know, habitually asked their gods and goddesses by which of 
their names it was most agreeable to them to be invoked : now 
let Gratitude be, what for the play of our fancy we have just 
[ Prom " Surely " to " u " (i lines) added in 3 rd ed.] 

IV. B 

1 8 Imaginary Conversations. 

imagined her, a sentient living power; I cannot think of any 
name more likely to be pleasing to her than Religion. The 
simplest breast often holds more reason in it than it knows of, 
and more than Philosophy looks for or suspects. We almost as 
frequently despise what is not despicable as we admire and rever- 
ence what is. No nation in the world was ever so enlightened, 
and in all parts and qualities so civilized, as the Scotch. Why 
would you shake or unsettle or disturb those principles which 
have rendered us peaceable and contented ? 

Hume. I would not by any means. 

Home. Many of your writings have evidently such a 

Hume. Those of my writings to which you refer will be 
read by no nation : a few speculative men will take them ; but 
none will be rendered more gloomy, more dissatisfied, or more 
unsocial by them. Rarely will you find one who, five minutes 
together, can fix his mind even on the surface : some new tune, 
some idle project, some light thought, some impracticable wish, 
will generally run, like the dazzling haze of summer on the dry 
heath, betwixt them and the reader. A bagpipe will swallow 
them up, a strathspey will dissipate them, or Romance with the 
/death-rattle in her throat will drive them away into dark staircases 
and charnel-houses. 

You and I, in the course of our conversation, have been at 
variance, as much as discreet and honest men ought to be : each 
knows that the other thinks differently from him, yet each 
esteems the other. I cannot but smile when I reflect that a few 
paces, a glass of wine, a cup of tea, conciliate those whom 
Wisdom would keep asunder. 

Home. No wonder you scoff emphatically, as you pronounce 
the word wisdom. 

Hume. If men would permit their minds like their children 
to associate freely together, if they would agree to meet one 
another with smiles and frankness, instead of suspicion and 
defiance, the common stock of intelligence and of happiness 
would be centupled. Probably those two men who hate each 
other most, and whose best husbandly is to sow burs and thistles 
in each other's path, would, if they had ever met and conversed 
familiarly, have been ardent and inseparable friends. The 

Alfieri and Salomon. 19 

minister who may order my book to be burned to-morrow by the 
un, if I, by any accident, had been seated yesterday by his 
side at dinner, might perhaps in another fortnight recommend me 
to his master, fora man of such gravity and understanding as to 
be worthy of being a privy councillor, and might conduct me to 
the treasury-bench. 



Aljitri. Let us walk to the window, signor Salomon. And 
now, instead of the silly, simpering compliments repeated at 
introductions, let me assure you that you are the only man in 
Florence with whom I would willingly exchange a salutation. 

Salomon. I must think myself highly flattered, signor Conte, 
having always heard that you are not only the greatest democrat, 
but also the greatest aristocrat, in Europe. 

jllftfri. These two things, however opposite, which your 
smile would indicate, are not so irreconcilable as you imagine. 
Let 8 us first understand the words, and then talk about them. 
The democrat is he who wishes the people to have a due share 
in the government, and this share if you please shall be the 
principal one. The aristocrat of our days is contented with 
no actual share in it ; but if a man of family is conscious of his 
dignity, and resentful that another has invaded it, he may be, and 
is universally, called an aristocrat. The principal difference is, 
that one carries outward what the other carries inward. I am 
thought an aristocrat by the Florentines for conversing with few 

[ l I have failed to discover who Salomon was, or whether there was any 
such person. There is no mention of him in Alfieri's autobiography. 
For Alfieri, see the Conversation between Alferi and Mtkutajio, where 
Landor ha* given a rather more detailed picture of a poet and aristocrat 
whose life suggests the name of Byron irresistibly. It is worth noting 
that in the autobiography Alfieri speaks of the sonnet of Casstani quoted 
on p. 33 as a beautiful sonnet, and that he wrote a companion sonnet on 
the carrying away of Ganymede in imitation of it. (Imag. Conrers., ii., 
1824. ii., 1816. Works, ii., 1846. Works, iv., 1876.)] 

[* Prom " Let " to - Siena " (16 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

20 Imaginary Conversations. 

people, and for changing my shirt and shaving my beard on other 
days than festivals ; which the most aristocratical of them never 
do, considering it, no doubt, aa an excess. I am, however, from 
my soul a republican, if prudence and modesty will authorize 
any man to call himself so ; and this, I trust, I have demonstrated 
in the most valuable of my works, the Treatise on Tyranny and 
the Dialogue with my friend at Siena. The aristocratical part of 
me, if part of me it must be called, hangs loose and keeps off 
insects. I see no aristocracy in the children of sharpers from 
behind the counter, nor, placing the matter in the most favour- 
able point of view, in the descendants of free citizens who 
accepted from any vile enslaver French, Spanish, German, or 
priest, or monk 3 (represented with a piece of buffoonery, like a 
beehive on his head and a picklock key at his girdle) the titles 
of counts and marquises. In Piedmont the matter is different : 
we must either have been the rabble or their lords ; we were 
military, and we retain over the populace the same rank and 
spirit as our ancestors held over the soldiery. But 4 we are 
as prone to slavery as they were averse and reluctant. 

Under the best of princes we are children all our lives. Under 
the worse, we are infinitely more degraded than the wretches 
who are reduced to their servitude by war, or even by crimes ; 
begging our master to take away from us the advantages of our 
education, and of our strength in mind and body. Is this picture 
overcharged ? 

Salomon. Not with bright colors certainly. 

Alfieri. What think you then if we are threatened with hell 
by those who take away earth from us, and scourge and imprison 
and torture us ? 

Salomon. Hell is a very indifferent hospital for those who 
are thrust into it with broken bones. It is hard indeed, if they 
who lame you will not let you limp. Indeed I do hear, signer 
Conte, that the churchmen call you an atheist and a leveller. 

Alfari. So, during the plague at Milan, if a man walked 
upright in the midst of it, and without a sore about him, he 
was a devil or an anointer : it was a crime and a curse not to be 

[ 3 First ed. reads : " monk, with a honeycomb on his head and a key," 
&c. Second ed. reads : " with a hive on his head and a key," &c.] 
[ 4 From " But " to " smoother " (21 lines) added in 3rd ed.] 

Alfiori and Salomon. 2 i 

infected. But, signer Salomon, a |>oet never can be 

nor can a gentleman be a level k-r. For my part, I would rather 

walk alone in a rugged path than with the many in a smoother. 

Salomon. Signor Conte, I have heard of levellers, but I 
nrviT seen one : all are disposed to level down, but no- 
body to level up. As for nobility, there is none in Europe 
beside the Venetian. Nobility must be self-constituted and 
independent : the free alone are noble ; slavery, like death, levels 
all. The English comes nearest to the Venetian : they are 
ndent, but want the main characteristic, the self-constituted. 
You have been in England, signor Conte, and can judge of t hi- m 
bettrr than I 

Jtlperi. England, as you know, is governed by Pitt, the 
most insidious of her demagogues, and the most hostile to aris- 
tocracy. Jealous of power, and distrustful of the |>cople that 
raised him to it, he enriches and attaches to him the commercial 
part of the nation by the most wasteful prodigality both in finance 
and war, and he loosens from the landed the chief proprietors by 
raising them to the peerage. Nearly a third of the lords have 
been created by him, and prove themselves devotedly his creatures. 6 
This Empusa puts his ass's foot on the French, and his iron one 
on the English. He possesses not the advantage possessed by 
insects, which, if they see but one inch before them, stv 
inch distinctly. He knows not that the machine which runs 
on so briskly will fall to pieces the moment it stops. He will 
indeed carry his point in debasing the aristocracy ; but he will 
equally debase the people. Undivided power he will continue to 
enjoy ; but, after his death, none will be able to say from any 
visible proof or appearance, How glorious a people did he govern ! 
He will have changed its character in all ranks and conditions. 
After this it is little to say that he will have exalted its rival, 
who, without his interposition, would have sunk under distress 

[ Note in i*t and xnd eds. reads: " All this refers to a state of things 
belonging to history, but past away from us ; it being evident that no- 
an be more respectable than the present English ministry. A I fieri 
spoke scornfully and disdainfully : because he was generally ill received 
in England ; for although he was at that time the greatest man in 
Europe, he was not acknowledged or known to be so. Prom " this " 

h " (i lines) added in ind ed.1 
[ From " He " to " stops " (i lines) added in snd ed.] 

22 Imaginary Conversations. 

and crime. But interposition was necessary to his aggrandize- 
ment, enabling him to distribute in twenty years, if he should 
live so long, more wealth among his friends and partisans, than 
has been squandered by the uncontrolled profusion of French 
monarchs, from the first Louis to the last. 

Salomon. How happens it that England, richer and more 
powerful than other States, should still contain fewer nobles ? 

Alfieri. The greater part of the English nobility has neither 
power nor title. Even those who are noble by right of pos- 
session, the hereditary lords of manors with large estates attached 
to them, claim no titles at home or abroad. Hence in all foreign 
countries the English gentleman is placed below his rank, which 
naturally and necessarily is far higher than that of your slipshod 
counts and lottery-office marquises, whose gamekeepers, with 
their high plumes, cocked hats, and hilts of rapiers have no other 
occupation than to stand behind the carriage, if the rotten plank 
will bear them ; whose game is the wren and redbreast, and 
whose beat is across the market. 

Menestrier, who both as a Frenchman and as a Jesuit speaks 
contemptuously of English nobility, admits the gentlemen to 
this dignity. Their property, their information, their political 
influence, and their moral character place them beyond measure 
above the titularies of our country, be the rank what it may ; and 
it is a remarkable proof of moderation in some, and of contempt- 
uousness in others, that they do not openly claim from their king, 
or assume without such intervention, the titles arivsing from landed 
wealth, which conciliate the attention and civility of every class, 
and indeed of every individual abroad. 

It is among those who stand between the peerage and the 
people that there exists a greater mass of virtue and of wisdom 
than in the rest of Europe. Much of their dignified simplicity 
may be attributed to the plainness of their religion, and, what will 
always be imitated, to the decorous life of their king ; for what- 
ever may be the defects of either, if we compare them with others 
round us, they are excellent. 

Salomon. A young religion jumps upon the shoulders of an 
older one, and soon becomes like her, by mockery of her tricks, 
her cant, and her decrepitude. Meanwhile the old one shakes 
with indignation, and swears there is neither relationship nor 

AliR-ri unJ Salomon. 23 

likeness. Was there ever a religion in the world that was not 
the true religion, or was there ever a king that was not the best 
of kings ? 

dlfifri. In the latter case we must have arrived nigh per- 
fection ; since it is evident from the authority of the gravest 
men theologians, presidents, judges, corporations, universities, 
senates that every prince is better than his father, " of blessed 
memory, now with God." If they continue to rise thus tran- 
scendendy, earth in a little time will be incapable of holding 
them, and higher heavens must be raised upon the highest 
heavens for their reception. The lumber of our Italian courts, 
the most crazy part of which is that which rests upon a red 
cushion in a gilt chair, with stars and sheep and crosses dangling 
from it, must be approached as Artaxerxes and Domitian. 
These automatons, we are told nevertheless, are very condescend- 
ing. Poor fools who tell us it ! ignorant that where on one side 
is condescension, on the other side must be baseness. The rascals 
have ruined my physiognomy. I wear an habitual sneer upon my 
face ; God confound them for it ! 

Salomon. This temper or constitution of mini! I am afi.tid 
may do injury to your works. 

Alfrri. Surely not to all : my satire at least must be the I 
for it. 

Salomon. I think differently. No satire can be excellent 
where displeasure is expressed with acrimony and vehemence. 
When satire ceases to smile, it should be momentarily, and for 
the purpose of inculcating a moral. Juvenal is hardly more a 
satirist than I,ucan : he is indeed a vigorous and bold declaim, i, 
but he stamps too often, and splashes up too much filth. We 
Italians have TU> delicacy in wit : we have indeed no conception 
of it ; we fancy we must be weak if we are not offensive. The 
scream of Pulcinello is imitated more easily than the masterly 
strokes of Plautus, or the sly insinuations of Catullus and of 

jllfifn. We are the least witty of men because we are the 
most trifling. 

Salomon. You would persuade me then that to be witty one 
must be grave : this is surely a contradiction. 

Jljirri. I would persuade you only that banter, pun, and 

24 Imaginary Conversations. 

quibble are the properties of light men and shallow capacities ; 
that genuine humor and true wit require a sound and capacious 
mind, which is always a grave one. Contemptuousness is not 
incompatible with them : worthless is that man who feels no 
contempt for the worthless, and weak who treats their emptiness 
as a thing of weight. At first it may seem a paradox, but it is 
perfectly true, that the gravest nations have been the wittiest ; 
and in those nations some of the gravest men. In England 
Swift and Addison, in Spain Cervantes. Rabelais and La 
Fontaine are recorded by their countrymen to have been 
reveurs. Few 7 men have been graver than Pascal ; few have 
been wittier. 

Salomon. It is indeed a remarkable thing that such should be 
the case among the moderns : it does not appear to have been so 
among the ancients. 

Alfierl. I differ from you, M. Salomon. When we turn 
toward the Athenians, we find many comic writers, but few 
facetious. Menander, if we may judge from his fragments, 
had less humor than Socrates. 8 Quintilian says of Demos- 
thenes, "non displicuisse illi jocos sed non contigisse." In 
this he was less fortunate than Phocion and Cicero. Facility 
in making men smile gives a natural air to a great orator, and 
adds thereby much effect to what he says, provided it come 
discreetly. It is in him somewhat like affability in a prince; 
excellent if used with caution. Every one must have perceived 
how frequently those are brought over by a touch of humor who 
have resisted the force of argument and entreaty. Cicero thought 
in this manner on wit. Writing to his brother, he mentions 
a letter from him, " Aristophanico modo, valde mehercule et 
suavem et gravem." Among the Romans, the gravest nation 
after the English, I think Cicero and Catullus were the wittiest. 
Cicero from his habits of life and studies must have been grave ; 
Catullus we may believe to have been so, from his being tender 
and impassioned in the more serious part of his poetry. 

Salomon. This is to me no proof; for the most tender and 
impassioned of all poets is Shakspeare, who certainly was him- 

[7 From " Few "to " wittier " added in 2nd ed.] 

[ 8 First ed. reads: " Socrates, and Aristophanes himself than Phocion. 
From " Quintilian " to " entreaty " appears as a note in ist ed.] 

Alfkri aiul Salomon. 25 

I from gravity, however much of it he imparted to 
some personages of his dt 

dij ' Shakspeare was gay and pleasurable in con- 

versation I can easily admit ; for there never was a mind at once 
so plastic and so pliant : but, without much gravity, could there 
have been that potency and comprehensiveness of though' 
di-j-th of feeling, that creation of imperishable ideas, that sojourn 
in the sods of other men ? He was amused in his workshop : 
such was society. But when he left it, he meditated intensely 
upon those limbs and muscles on which he was about to bestow 
new action, grace, and majesty ; and so* great an intensity of 
meditation must have strongly impressed his whole character. 

Salomon. You will, however, allow that we have no proof of 
v in Horace or Plautus. 

Aljitri. On the contrary, I think we have many. Horace, 
like all the pusillanimous, was malignant : like all courtiers, 
he yielded to the temper of his masters. His lighter touches 
were agreeable less to his own nature than to the nature of 
Augustus and Mecxnas, both of them fond of trifling ; but 
in his Odes and his Discourses there is more of gravity than of 
gayety. That he was libidinous is no proof that he was playful ; 
for often such men are even melancholic. 

.tus, 9 rich in language, rich in reflection, rich in character, 
is oftener graver than could have suited the inclinations of a 
coarse and tumultuous popujace. What but the stong bent of his 
nature could have moved him to it ? The English display an 
equal share of facetiousness and of humor (as they call it) in their 

Salomon. I do not understand the distinction. 

Alfifri. Nor indeed is it well understood by many of their 
best authors. It is no uncommon thing to hear, He has humor 
rather than wit." Here the expression can only mean pleas- 
antry : for whoever has humor has wit, although it does not 
follow that whoever has wit has humor. Humor is wit apper- 
taining to character, and indulges in breadth of drollery rather 

[* Firrt ed. read* : " Plautu*, who appears to me to have been by far tin 
firtt of comic writers, rich,** Ac. Four linen below, from "The EnglMi " 
to "generic" (18 lines) added in 3rd ed. Pint and 2nd ed*. read: 
The French are witty. Alfitri. Thin I concede," &c.] 

26 Imaginary Conversations. 

than in play and brilliancy of point. Wit vibrates and spurts ; 
humor springs up exuberantly, as from a fountain, and runs on. 
In Congreve you wonder what he will say next : in Addison 
you repose on what is said, listening with assured expectation of 
something congenial and pertinent. The French have little 
humor because they have little character : they excel all nations 
in wit, because of their levity and sharpness. The personages on 
their theatre are generic. 

Salomon. You do allow that they are facetious : from you no 
small concession. 

Alfieri. This I do concede to them ; and no person will 
accuse me of partiality in their favor. Not only are they witty, 
but when they discover a witty thing, they value it so highly 
that they reserve it for the noblest purposes, such as tragedies, 
sermons, and funeral orations. Whenever a king of theirs is 
inaugurated at Rheims, a string of witticisms is prepared for him 
during his whole reign, regularly as the civil list ; regularly as 
menageries, oratories, orangeries, wife, confessor, waterworks, 
fireworks, gardens, parks, forests, and chases. Sometimes one is 
put into his mouth when he is too empty, sometimes when he is 
too full ; but he always hath his due portion, take it when or how 
he may. A decent one, somewhat less indeed than that of their 
sovereign, is reserved for the princes of the blood ; the greater 
part of which is usually packed up with their camp-equipage ; and 
I have seen a label to a Ion mot, on which was written, " Brillant 
comme la reponse de Henri IV. quand," but the occasion had 
not been invented. 

We Italians sometimes fall into what, if you will not call 
it witticism, you may call the plasma of witticism, by mere 
mistake, and against our genius. 10 A blunder, by its very 
stumbling, is often carried a little beyond what was aimed at, 
and falls upon something which, if it hie not wit, is invested with 
its powers. 

[ 10 First ed. reads: "genius. Reading in a gazette, Hier le roi a 
travaille avec ses ministres, and knowing the man's character, a young 
courtier cried innocently, ' What! his most Christian majesty condescends 
to dine with his subjects, and they joke upon it 1 ' In another, Les 
enfans de France se promenent en carosse, &c., his sister enquired of her 
confessor how many there were of them he answered, ' Twenty-four or 
twenty-five millions.' A blunder," &c.] 

Alficri .uul Salomon. 

Salomon. I have had opportunities to observe the obtuseness 
of the 'IV ticul .11- on these matters. Lately I lent my 

and when he returned the volumes, 

I asked him how he liked them : Per Bafeo, he exclaimed, 
" the names are very comical, Sguanarelli and those others," 
They who have no wit of their own are ignorant of it when it 
occurs, mistake it, and misapply it. A sailor found upon the 
shore a piece of amber ; he carried it home, and, as he was food 
of fiddling, began to rub it across the strings of his violin. It 
would not answer. He then broke some pieces off, boiled them 
in blacking, and found to his surprise and disquiet that it gave no 
fresh lustre to the shoe-leather. What are you about ? " cried 
a messmate. " Smell it, man : it is amber." " The devil take 
it," cried the finder, - I led it was resin ; " and he threw it 
into the sea. We despise what we cannot use. 

Aljifri. Your observations on Italian wit are correct. Even 
our comedies are declamatory : long speeches and inverted sen- 
tences overlay and stifle the elasticity of humor. The great 
Machiavelli is, whatever M. dc Voltaire may assert to the 
contrary, a coarse comedian ; hardly better than the cardinal 
Bibiena, poisoned by the Holiness of our Lord Pope Leo foi 
wearying him with wit.* 

* If Cardinal Bibiena was poisoned by Leo, an opinion to which the 
profligacy of the pope fjave rite, and the malignity of nu-n > 
should be recorded in line** that he wished to \ 

the family. We find among the letters of Bembo a very beautiful 
and energetic one, written in the name of Leo to Frantic I., relating 
to Bibiena. There it something not untwpicious in the mode of ex- 
pression, where he repeat* that, although Bibiena thinks himself sure 
of dying, tktrt aftean imm nfiatt Ay r . . . if it ihoU tufttm, 

"Cum Bernard u Bibiena cardinal!* aliquot jam dies ex itomacko laboret, 
stqgMfvr timorr ymJam tm fwm mortu vi itrgemtf, brevi se existimet mori- 
turum. . . . Quanquam enim nihildum sane video, quo quidem de 
illiu- vita sit omnino magnopere timcndum. Si id accidat quod ipse 
nupiattw, tua in ilium munificentia tuumque prxclarum munu* non 
statim neqne una cum ipsius vita extinguatur, prxvrtim cum e! tarn 
breve temporis spatium illo ipso tuo munere frui licuerit, ut ante amissum 
posstt quam quale quantumve fuerit percipt ab illo cognoscive 
potuerit. . . . Ut ipse, si moriendum ei >it,' f occ. 

The Italian* are too credulous on poison, which at one period was 
almost a natural death among them. Englishmen were shocked at the 

28 Imaginary Conversations. 

Salomon. His Holiness took afterward a stirnip-cup of the 
same brewery, and never had committed the same offence, poor 
man ! I n should have thought the opinion of Voltaire less 
erroneous on wit, although it carries no weight with it on poetry 
or harmony. 

Alferi. It is absurd to argue with a Frenchman on any thing 
relating to either. The Spaniards have no palate, the Italians 
no scent, the French no ear. Garlic and grease and the most 
nauseous of pulse are the favorite cheer of the. Spaniard ; the 

confidence with which they asserted it of two personages, who occupied 
in the world a rank and interest due to neither, and one of whom died in 
England, the other in Elba. 

The last words of the letter are ready to make us unbelievers of Leo's 
guilt in this business. What exquisite language ! what expressions of 
zeal and sincerity 1 

" Qua* quidem omnia non tarn propterea colligo, quod non illud unum 
existimem apud te plurimum valiturum, amorem scilicet erga ilium 
tuum, itemque incredibilem ipsius in te cultum, quod initio dixi, sed ut 
mihi ipsi, qui id magnopere cupio, satisfaciam ; ne perfamiliari ac 
pernecessario meo, mihique charissimo ac suavissimo atque in omni 
vita: munere probatissimo, mea benevolentia meusque amor hoc extreme 
ejus vitae tempore, si hoc extremum erit, plane defuisse videatur." 

In the tenth book of these epistles there is one addressed to the 
Cardinal, by which the Church of Loretto is placed under his care, with 
every rank of friendship and partiality. 

"De tua enim in Divam pietate, in rem Romanam studio, in me 
autem, cui quidem familixque meas omnia psene usque a puero summx 
cum integritatis et fidei, turn vero curae atque diligentias egregia atque 
praeclara officia prscstitisti, perveteri observantia voluntateque admonitus, 
nihil est rerum omnium quod tibi recte manderi credique posse non 

It is not in human nature that a man ever capable of these feelings 
toward any one should poison him, when no powerful interest or deep 
revenge was to be gratified : the opinion, nevertheless, has prevailed ; 
and it may be attributed to a writer not altogether free from malignity, 
a scorner of popes and princes, and especially hostile to the Medicean 
family. Paolo Giovio says that Bibiena was poisoned in afresh egg. 
The sixteenth century was the age of poison. Bibiena was poisoned, we 
may believe ; not, however, by Leo, who loved him as being his preceptor. 
Leo sent him into France to persuade Francis I. to enter into a league 
against the Turks. The object of this league was to divert both him and 
Charles V. from Italy, and to give the preponderating power in it to the 
family of Medici. 

[ n From " I " to " harmony " (3 lines) added in 3rd ed. From " Alferi " 
to "writers" (26 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

Alder! ami Salomon. 29 

olfactory nerves of the Italian endure any tiling but odoriferous 
is and essences; and no sounds but soft ones otic IK! the 

Siikmw. And yet several of the French prose writers are 
harmonious than the best of ours. 

Aljieri. In the construction of their sentences they have 
obtained from study what sensibility has denied them. Rousseau 
is an exception : he beside is trie only musical composer that 
< \r, had a tolerable ear for prose. Music is both sunshine and 
irrigation to the mind ; but when it occupies and covers it too 
long, it debilitates and corrupts it. Sometimes I have absorbed 
music so totally, that nothing was left of it in its own form : my 
ear detained none of the notes, none of the melody : they went 
into the heart immediately, mingled with the spirit, and lost 
themselves among the operations of the fancy, whose finest and 
most recondite springs they put simultaneously and vigorously in 
motion. Rousseau 1J kept it subordinate ; which must always be 
done with music as well as with musicians. He excels all the 
moderns in the harmony of his periods. 

Salomon. I have heard it reported that you prefer Pascal 

Alfcri. Certainly, on the whole I consider him the most 
perfect of writers. 

Salomon. 19 Many other of the French theologians are said to 
be highly eloquent ; but theology is without attraction for me, so 
that I am ignorant of their merit. 

Alfifri. How deplorable that whatever is excellent in modern 
style should, with hardly any deduction, be displayed by fanaticism ! 
I am little more interested by the contentions of Fenelon and 
Bossuet than I am by the Cruto Bianco and Critto Nero of the 
Neapolitan rabble, two processional idols, you must know, 
which are regularly carried home with broken heads. 

Salomon. I dare not hazard a word upon these worthies. 

[)* Second ed. reads : Roumeau is the only composer of music on the 
modern system who could write one sentence of poetry or prose worth 
reading. He kept it .... periods. Bossuet comes next Salomon," 

[" From "&&* " to " Alfiri " (4 lines) added in jrd ed. Second 
ed. reads : " How deplorable .... contentions of such men as Pascal 
and Bossuet with their opponents than 1 am," &c. From How " to 
" details " (78 lines) added in ind ed.] 

30 Imaginary Conversations. 

You, who had a Catholic father and whose blood is truly 
Christian, may ridicule them with impunity : the people who 
would laugh with you would stone me. Our incurable diarrhoea 
of words should not always make you take the other side of the 
road. Machiavelli is admirable for precision of style, no less 
than for acuteness of argument and depth of thought. Guicciar- 
dini, if his sentences were properly stopped, would be found in 
general both full and concise, whatever may be asserted to the 
contrary by the fastidious and inattentive. 

Alfierl. I have often thought the same. As for Machia- 
velli, I would rather have written his Discourses on the Jirst 
Decade of Lfoius (in which nothing is amiss but the title) 
than all the volumes, prose and poetry, of Voltaire. If the 
Florentine History is not so interesting as the more general 
one of Guicciardini, there is the same reason for it as there is 
that the Batrachomyomachia is not so interesting as the Iliad. 

Salomon. Certainly no race of men upon earth ever was so 
unwarlike, so indifferent to national dignity and to personal honor, 
as the Florentines are now : yet in former days a certain pride, 
arising from a resemblance in their government to that of Athens, 
excited a vivifying desire of approximation where no danger or 
loss accompanied it ; and Genius was no less confident of his 
security than of his power. Look from the window. That 
cottage on the declivity was Dante's: that square and large 
mansion, with a circular garden before it elevated artificially, 
was the first scene of Boccaccio's Decameron. A boy might 
stand at an equal distance between them, and break the windows 
of each with his sling. What idle fabricator of crazy systems 
will tell me that climate is the creator of genius ? The climate 
of Austria is more regular and more temperate than ours, which 
I am inclined to believe is the most variable in the whole 
universe, subject, as you have perceived, to heavy fogs for two 
months in winter, and to a stifling heat, concentrated within the 
hills, for five more. Yet a single man of genius hath never 
appeared in the whole extent cf Austria, an extent several 
thousand times greater than our city ; and this very street has 
given birth to fifty. 

Alfieri. Since the destruction of the republic, Florence has 
produced only one great man, Galileo, and abandoned him to 

A I fieri .UK! Salomon. 31 

indignity f.maticism and despotism could invent. 

.ordinary men, like the stones that are formed in the 

higher regions of the air, fall upon the earth only to be broken 

and cast into the furnace. The precursor of Newton lived in 

the deserts of the moral world, drank water, and ate locusts 

and wild honey. It was fortunate that his head also was not 

lopped off: had a singer asked it, instead of a dancer, it would 


Salomon. In fact it was ; for the fruits of it were shaken 
down and thrown away : he was forbidden to publish the most 
important of his discoveries, and the better part of his manuscripts 
was burned after his death. 

Alftri. Yes, signer Salomon, those things may rather be 
called our heads than this knob above the shoulder, of which 
(as matters stand) we are rather the porters than the pro- 
prietors, and which is really the joint concern of barber and 

Salomon. Our thoughts, if they may not rest at home, may 
wander freely. Delighting in the remoter glories of my native 
i forget at times its humiliation and ignominy. A town so 
little that the voice of a cabbage-girl in the midst of it may be 
heard at the extremities, reared within three centuries a greater 
number of citizens illustrious for their genius than all the re- 
mainder of the continent (excepting her sister Athens) in six 
thousand years. My ignorance of the Greek forbids me to 
compare our Dante with Homer. The propriety and force of 
language and the harmony of verse in the glorious Grecian are 
quite lost to me. Dante had not only to compose a poem, but 
in great part a language. Fantastical as the plan of his poem is, 
and, I will add, uninteresting and uninviting ; unimportant, mean, 
contemptible, as are nine-tenths of his characters and his details, 
and u wearisome as is the scheme of his versification, there are 
more thoughts highly poetical, there is more reflection, and the 
nobler properties of mind and intellect are brought into more 
intense action, not only than in the whole course of French 
poetry, but also in the whole of continental ; nor do I think 

[> From - aod " to tcrtification " added in trd cd. From there " 
to " pedestal " (19 lines) added in xnd ed. Second ed. reads: " than in 
the Iliad ; nor do I," *c.] 

32 Imaginary Conversations. 

(I must here also speak with hesitation) that any one drama 
of Shakspeare contains so many. Smile as you will, signer 
Conte, what must I think of a city where Michel - Angelo, 
Frate Bartolomeo, Ghiberti (who formed them), Guicciardini, 
and Machiavelli 15 were secondary men ? And certainly such 
were they, if we compare them with Galileo and Boccaccio and 

Alfieri. I smiled from pure delight, which I rarely do ; for 
I take an interest deep and vital in such men, and in those who 
appreciate them rightly and praise them unreservedly. These are 
my fellow-citizens : I acknowledge no other ; we are of the 
same tribe, of the same household ; I bow to them as being older 
than myself, and I love them as being better. 

Salomon. Let us hope that our Italy is not yet effete. 
Filangieri died but lately : what think you of him ? 

Alfieri. If it were possible that I could ever see his statue 
in a square at Constantinople, though I should be scourged for an 
idolater, I would kiss the pedestal. As 16 this, however, is less 
likely than that I should suffer for writing satirically, and as 
criticism is less likely to mislead me than speculation, I will 
revert to our former subject. 

Indignation and contempt may be expressed in other poems 
than such as are usually called satires. Filicaia, in his celebrated 
address to Italy, steers a middle course. 

Salomon. True, he is neither indignant nor contemptuous ; but 
the verses of Michel- Angelo would serve rather for an example, 
added to which they are much better. 

Alfieri. In fact, the former part of Filicaia's is verbose and 
confused : let us analyse them : 

" Italia, Italia, o tu cui die 1 la sorte 
Dono infelice di bellezza, onde hai 
Funesta dote d'infiniti guai, 
Che in fronte scritti per g ran doglia porti." 

Fate gives the gift, and this gift gives the dowry, which dowry 
consists of infinite griefs, and these griefs Italy carries written on 
her brow, though great sorrow / 

" Deh, fosti, tu men bella o almen piu forte I " 

[i 5 Second ed. for " Machiavelli " reads " Boccaccio." One line below, 
" Boccaccio " added in 3rd ed.] 

[W From " As " to " subject " (4 lines) added in 3rd ed.] 

Alfieri and Salomon. 53 

Men and almrn sound wretchedly : he might have written oppur.* 
There are those who would persuade us that verbal crnu 
unfair, ami that few poems can resist it. The truth of th< 
assertion by no means establishes the former : all good criticism 
hath its foundation on verbal. Long dissertations are often de- 
nominated criticisms, without one analysis ; instead of which it is 
thought enough to say : " There is nothing finer in our language 
we can safely recommend imbued with the true spirit 
destined to immortality," &c. 

A perfect piece of criticism must .exhibit 'where a work i 
good or bad ; why it is good or bad ; in what degree it is goo.'. 
or bad ; must also demonstrate in what manner and to what 
extent the same ideas or reflections have come to others, and, 
if they be clothed in poetry, why, by an apparently slight variation, 
what in one author is mediocrity, in another is excellence. I 
have never teen a critic of Florence or Pisa or Milan or Bologn 
who did not commend and admire the sonnet of Cassiani on the 
rape of Proserpine, without a suspicion of its manifold and grave 
defects. Few sonnets are indeed so good ; but if we examine it 
attentively, we shall discover its flaws and patches : 

" Die' un alto trido, gitto i fiori, e volta 
All* improviaa mama chr la ante, 
Tntta in itptr U ttma tnJtfm *lu 
La Sicilian* rergine >i striiue." 

The land is inadequate to embrace a body ; j/rrW, which comes 
after, would have done better : and the last two verses tell only 
what the first two had told, and feebly ; nothing can be more to 
than the tema ondtfu colta. 

There U another connet of Filicaia 7te/y, remarkable for identity ol 
sound, in four correspondent cloaes : 

- DOT* e. Italia, U tuo braccio ? e a che ti /rrw 
Tu dell altrui ? Non e, se io scorgo il vera 
Di chi ti offende il difensor men fero. . . 

Ambi ncmici M>no : ambi fur tervi. 

Co! dunque 1'onor, col coiurrvt 
GU avanzi ru del giorioso impero ? 
Cotl al valor, cot) al valor primiero 

(Che a te fede giurd) la fede otirrvif " 

Ff. r 

34 Imaginary Conversations. 

" II nero dio la calda bocca involta 
D' ispido pelo a ingordo bacio spinse, 
E di stigia fuligin con la folta 
Barba 1'eburnea gola e H sen le time." 

Does not this describe the devils of our carnival, rather than the 
majestic brother of Jupiter, at whose side upon asphodel and 
amaranth the sweet Persephone sits pensively contented, in that 
deep motionless quiet which mortals pity and which the gods 
enjoy ; rather than him who, under the umbrage of Elysium, 
gazes at once upon all the beauties that on earth were separated, 
Helena and Eriphyle, Polyxena and Hermione, Deidamia and 
Dcianira, Leda and Omphale, Atalanta and Cydippe, Laodamia, 
with her arm round the neck of a fond youth whom she still 
seems afraid of losing, and, apart, the daughters of Niobe 17 cling- 
ing to their parent ? 

Salomon. These images are better than satires ; but continue, 
in preference to other thoughts or pursuits, the noble career you 
have entered. Be contented, signer Conte, with the glory of 
our first great dramatist, and neglect altogether any inferior one. 
Why vex and torment yourself about the French ? They buzz 
and are troublesome while they are swarming ; but the master 
will soon hive them. Is the whole nation worth the worst of 
your tragedies ? All the present race of them, all the creatures 
in the world which excite your indignation, will lie in the grave, 
while young and old are clapping their hands or beating their 
bosoms at your Bruto Primo. Consider also that kings and 
emperors should in your estimation be but as grasshoppers and 
beetles : let them consume a few blades of your clover without 
molesting them, without bringing them to crawl on you and claw 
you. The difference between them and men of genius is almost 
as great as between men of genius and those higher intelligences 
who act in immediate subordination to the Almighty. Yes, I 
assert it, without flattery and without fear, the angels are not 
higher above mortals than you are above the proudest that trample 
on them. 

dlfieri. I believe, sir, you were the first in commending my 

[ 17 First ed. reads : " Niobe, though now in smiles, . . . parent ; and 
many thousands more each of whom is worth the dominions once envied 
of both brothers. Salomon," &c.] 

Rousseau and MaloluTlu-v 35 

Salomon. He who first praises a good book becomingly is 

in merit to the author. 

Aljitri. As a writer and as a man I know my station : if I 
found in the world five equal to myself, 1 would walk out of it, 
not to be jostled. 

iust now, signer Salomon, take my leave of you ; for his 
Eminence my coachman and their Excellencies my horses are 


Rousseau. I am ashamed, sir, of my countrymen : let my 
humiliation expiate their offi-n . I wish it had not been a 
minister of the gospel who received you with such inhospitality. 

[ The scene of this Conversation is the village of Motier-Travers, 
where Rousseau lived for a short time after his sudden departure from 
France. It was there that he put on the Armenian drew to the bewilder- 
ment of his neighbours. With M. de Montmollin, the pator, he was at 
first on good terms but if we may trust Rousseau's own account, in his 
"Confession*," the publication of tl . dc ma Montague " 

turned the friendship into persecution. It is not likely that Malesherbes 
ever travelled so far. H? was, however, a friend to Rousseau ; and 
indeed to all the men of letters of the time. He held for some years the 
poet of censor, and used his powers to grant to literature as much irregular 
troedoai aa the laws could be strained to permit, and more than was 
nt with his office. He lost his life in the Terror, and it i- 
said that he deeply regretted that by any act of hit he had opened t la- 
way to the Revolution. If he did say so, he failed for once at least in 
clear-sightedness. Note in ist ed. reads: "Among the four illus- 
trious victims of the French Revolution, Malesherbes was, 1 think, the 
moat so. Roland, Lavoisier, Bailly, and he were four such characters aa 
the prince* of Europe could not consign to the scaffold or the flames, to 
banishment or neglect. France seems to have thought herself unable 
to show her great men. unless the executioner held up their heads. The 
condemnation of Malesherbes and the coronation of Buonaparte are the 
two most detestable crimes committed by the French in the whole course 
of their Revolution. How different the destiny of the best and worst 
man among them ! Never has there been to deplorable a judgment as 
that by which Malesherbes was sent in his old age, and with his 
daughter and hi* grand -daughter, to the scaffold, sin.-- tin- time of 
Phoeion." (Imag. Convers., iii., 18*8. Work, si., 1846. Works, iv., 

36 Imaginary Conversations. 

Maksherbes. Nothing can be more ardent and more cordial 
than the expressions with which you greet me, M. Rousseau, on 
my return from your lakes and mountains. 

Rousseau. If the pastor took you for a courtier, I reverence 
him for his contempt uousness. 

Malesherbes. Why so ? Indeed you are in the wrong, my 
friend. No person has a right to treat another with contemptu- 
ousness unless he knows him to deserve it. When a courtier 
enters the house of a pastor in preference to the next, the pastor 
should partake in the sentiment that induced him, or at least 
not be offended to be preferred. A courtier is such at court : 
in the house of a clergyman he is not a courtier, but a guest. If 
to be a courtier is offensive, remember that we punish offences 
where they are committed, where they can be examined, where 
pleadings can be heard for and against the accused, and where 
nothing is admitted extraneous from the indictment, excepting 
what may be adduced in his behalf by witnesses to the general 
tenor of his character. 

Rousseau. Is it really true that the man told you to mount 
the hay-loft if you wished a night's lodging ? 

Malesherbes. He did : a certain proof that he no more took 
me to be a courtier than I took him to be. I accepted his offer, 
and never slept so soundly. Moderate fatigue, the Alpine air, 
the blaze of a good fire [for I was admitted to it some moments), 
and a profusion of odoriferous hay, below which a cow was sleep- 
ing, subdued my senses, and protracted my slumbers beyond the 
usual hour. 

Rousseau. You have no right, sir, to be the patron and 
remunerator of inhospitality. Three or four such men as you 
would corrupt all Switzerland, and prepare it for the fangs of 
France and Austria. Kings, like hyenas, will always fall upon 
dead carcasses, although their bellies are full, and although they 
are conscious that in the end they will tear one another to pieces 
over them. Why should you prepare their prey ? Were your 
fire and effulgence given you for this ? Why, in short, did you 
thank this churl ? Why did you recommend him to his superiors 
for preferment on the next vacancy ? 

Malesherbes. I must adopt your opinion of his behavior in 
order to answer you satisfactorily. You suppose him imhospit- 

Rousseau and Malr.shu' ,., 

.-.Mr : miKlcr H m,,r, rffivtu:,! mode of rcprovinR him 

"7,' "V 1 "'' '" a.lm..nih him? If h, ,,ij 

c v,l, hav, I no ,uthonty bcf,,: , c , lmmamis me , m ^ 

uood for Beheve me, M. Rouleau, the execution of 
command ,5 always accompanii-d by the heart', applause, and 
opportumues of obedience are more frequent here aX 
Would not you exchange rentmem for ,h, contrary f-lin fi , 
even ,f rehpon or duty M id nothing about the matte?? I am 
h, mow ph.lo.opmcal of u. are wmerime. a little perverse 
and will not be happy a. they might be, bccauae thTJSl 
pomted out to them, and becau he who points it out i. wi and 


hum0r8 without 
</,. Sir, I perceive you are among my enemies I did 
. " """ "* my faUlU> ' am t 

And do not think " now> ! ratreat 

/?//. Court, and wciety have corrupted the belt heart 
in France and have perverted the be intellect 

Malata-la. They have done much evil then. 

Rou,, tau Amrwer me, and your own conscience: how 
could jou choo to l,ve anx,ng the perfidie. of Pan. and Ve" 

<***"' l-awye, and advocate, in particular, rm 
live there ; phUo^pher. need not. If every honest man thouZ 
reu to leave tho* cide^ would Ae inhabitant.^! 

You have entered into intimacies with the mem- 
mof vanou. adnwawionj opporite in plan, and .-mimen^ 
* al,ke hostile to you, and all of whom, if they could have kept 

CT ' 

ob, ngn 

"ble. they cead to perwcute, and would gladly tempt you 
Oder the ,embl.mce of friendrf,ip and e*eem to Iplicftefor 
ome office, that they might indicate to the world your' unwortht. 


They will never tempt me to supplicate for 

38 Imaginary Conversations. 

any thing but justice, and that in behalf of others. I know 
nothing of parties. If I am acquainted with two persons of 
opposite sides in politics, I consider them as you consider a 
watchmaker and a cabinet-maker : one desires to rise by one 
way, the other by another. Administrations and systems of 
government would be quite indifferent to those very function- 
aries and their opponents, who appear the most zealous partisans, 
if their fortunes and consequence were not affixed to them. 
Several of these men seem consistent, and indeed are ; the reason 
is, versatility would loosen and detach from them the public 
esteem and confidence 

Rousseau. By which their girandoles are lighted, their dinners 
served, their lacqueys liveried, and their opera-girls vie in 
benefit-nights. There is no State in Europe where the least 
wise have not governed the most wise. We find the light and 
foolish keeping up with the machinery of government easily and 
leisurely, just as we see butterflies keep up with carriages at full 
speed. This is owing in both cases to their levity and their 
position : the stronger and the more active are left behind. I am 
resolved to prove that farmers-general are the main causes of the 
defects in our music. 

Malesherbes. Prove it, or any thing else, provided that the 
discussion does not irritate and torment you. 

Rousseau. Truth is the object of philosophy. 

Malesherbes. Not of philosophers : the display of ingenuity, 
for the most part, is and always has been it. I must here offer 
you an opinion of my own, which, if you think well of me, 
you will pardon, though you should disbelieve its solidity. My 
opinion then is, that truth is not reasonably the main and ultimate 
object of philosophy ; but that philosophy should seek truth 
merely as the means of acquiring and of propagating happiness. 
Truths are simple ; wisdom, which .is formed by their apposition 
and application, is concrete : out of this, in its vast varieties, open 
to our wants and wishes, comes happiness. But the knowledge 
of all the truths ever yet discovered does not lead immediately to 
it, nor indeed will ever reach it, unless you make the more im- 
portant of them bear upon your heart and intellect, and form, as 
it were, the blood that moves and nurtures them. 

Rousseau. I never until now entertained a doubt that truth is 

aiul Maksherbes. 39 

the ultimate aim and object of philosophy : no writer has denied 
it, I think. 

Afalesherl'es. Designedly none may : but when it is agreed 

th;:t happiness is the chief good, it must also be agreed that the 

chief \vi*dom will pursue it ; and I h i\e already said, what your 

own experience cannot but have pointed out to you, that no truth, 

or series of truths, hypothetically, can communicate or attain it. 

, M. Rousseau, tell me candidly, do you derive no pleasure 

i sense of superiority in genius and independence ? 

Rousseau. The highest, sir, from a consciousness of in- 

Matesherbes. Ingenuous is the epithet we affix to modesty; 
but modesty often makes men act otherwise than ingenuously : 
you, for example, now. You are angry at the servility of people, 
and disgusted at their obtuseness and indifference, on matters of 
most import to their welfare. If they were equal to you, this 
anger would cease ; but the fire would break out somewhere else, 
on ground which appears at present sound and level. 2 Voltaire, 
for instance, is less eloquent than you : but Voltaire is wittier than 
aan living. This quality 

Rousseau. Is the quality of a buffoon and a courtier. But 
the buffoon should have most of it, to support his higher dignity. 

Malcshtrbfj. Voltaire's is Attic. 

Rousseau. I f malignity is Attic. Petulance is not wit, although 
a few grains of wit may be found in petulance ; quartz is not gold, 
h a few grains of gold miy be found in quartz. Voltaire 

a monkey in mischief, and a spaniel in obsequiousness. He de- 
claims against the cruel and tyrannical ; and he kisses the hands 
of adultresses who murder their husbands, and of robbers who 
decimate their gang. 

Malesbrrbes. I will not discuss with you the character of the 
man, and only that part of the author's on which I spoke. There 
may be malignity in wit, there cannot be violence. You may irritate 
and disquiet with it ; but it must be by means of a flower or a 

[* First ed. read*: " level. You would only be the most eloquent man 

id ; and even here you would tread upon thorns. Cicero and 

tighbour Voltaire are wittier. The latter is more Attic than any 

Athenian ever was. Rotmeju. If malignity is Attic. Matttherbtt. \ will 

." &c. (14 lines below.)] 

4O Imaginary Conversations. 

feather. Wit and humor stand on one side, irony and sarcasm 
on the other. 

Rousseau. They stand very near. 
Malesherles. So do the Elysian fields and Tartarus. 
Rousseau. Pray, go on : teach me to stand quiet in my stall, 
while my masters and managers pass by. 

Malesherbes. Well then, Pascal argues as closely and method- 
ically ; Bossuet is as scientific in the structure of his sentences ; 
Demosthenes, many think, has equal fire, vigor, dexterity : equal 
selection of topics and equal temperance in treating them, immeas- 
urably as he falls short of you in appeals to the sensibility, and in 
every thing which by way of excellence we usually call genius. 

Rousseau. Sir, I see no resemblance between a pleader at the 
bar, or a haranguer of the populace, and me. 

Malesherbes. Certainly his questions are occasional : but one 
great question hangs in the centre, and high above the rest ; and 
this is, whether the Mother of liberty and civilization shall exist, 
or whether she shall be extinguished in the bosom of her family. 
As we often apply to Eloquence and her parts the terms we apply 
to Architecture and hers, let me do it also, and remark that no- 
thing can be more simple, solid, and symmetrical, nothing more frugal 
in decoration or more appropriate in distribution, than the apart- 
ments of Demosthenes. Yours excel them in space and altitude ; 
your ornaments are equally chaste and beautiful, with more variety 
and invention, more airiness and light. But why, among the 
Loves and Graces, does Apollo flay Marsyas? and why may not 
the tiara still cover the ears of Midas ? Cannot you, who detest 
kings and courtiers, keep away from them ? If I must be with 
them, let me be in good humor and good spirits. If I will tread 
upon a Persian carpet, let it at least be in clean shoes. 

As the raciest wine makes the sharpest vinegar, so the richest 
fancies turn the most readily to acrimony. Keep yours, my dear 
M. Rousseau, from the exposure and heats that generate it. Be 
contented ; enjoy your fine imagination ; and do not throw your 
salad out of window, nor shove your cat off your knee, on hearing 
it said that Shakspeare has a finer, or that a minister is of opinion 
that you know more of music than of state. My friend ! the 
quarrels of ingenious men are generally far less reasonable and just, 
less placable and moderate, than those of the stupid and ignorant. 

Rousseau ami Mal^liu 1 41 

ught to blush at this : and we should blush yet more deeply 
bring them in as parties to our differences. Let us con- 
quer by kindness ; which we cannot do easily or well without 
< mmunicatioru Oar s antipathies ought to be against the vices 
of men, and not against their opinions. If their opinions are 
v different from ours, their vices ought to render them more 
dissimilar to us. Yet the opinions instigate us to hostility ; the 
vices are snatched at with avidity, as rich materials to adorn our 

Rousseau. This is sophistry ; and at best is applicable only 
to the malicious. At a moment when truth is penetrating 
the castle of the powerful, and when freedom looks into the 
window of the poor, there are writers who would draw them 
back and confine them to their own libraries and theatres. 

Malesbtrbes. Whether they proceed from the shelf or from 
the stage, generous sentiments are prevalent among us ; and the 
steps both of truth and freedom are not the less rapid or the less 
firm because they advance in silence. Montesquieu has rendered 
them greater and more lasting service, than the fiercest anabaptist 
in Munster. 

Rousseau. Many read him, some are pleased with him, few 
are instructed by him, none are guided. His Lettrts Ptnanct 
are light and lively. His Temple de Guide is Parisian from the 
steps to the roof ; there is but little imagination in it, and no 
warmth. There is more of fancy in his Esprit ties Loit, of 
which the title-page would be much correcter with only the first 
word than with all three. He twitches me by the coat, turns me 
round, and is gone. 

Maletherbes. Concise he certainly is, but he also is acute. 

Rousseau. How far does his acuteness penetrate ? A pin can 
pierce no deeper than to its head. He would persuade men that, 
if patriotism is the growth of republics, honor is the growth of 
monarchies. I would say it without offence, but say it I will, 
that honor is feeble and almost extinct in every ancient kingdom. 
In Spain it flourished more vigorously than in any other : pray, 
how much is left there ? And what addition was made to it when 
the Bourbon crossed the Bidassoa ? One vile family is sufficient 
to debase a whole nation. Voltaire, perhaps as honest and 
['From "Our "to" them "(in linn) added In ind cd.] 

42 Imaginary Conversations. 

certainly as clear-sighted a man as any about the Tuileries, called 
Louis XV. Titus. Is this honor ? If it be, pray show me the 
distinction between that quality and truth. As I cannot think a 
liar honorable, I cannot think a lie honor. Gentlemen at court 
would rather give their lives than be called what they would 
scarcely give a denier not to be. Readiness to display courage is 
not honor, though it is what Montesquieu mistakes for it. 
Surely he might have praised his country for something better 
than this fantastic foolery, which, like hair-powder, requires a 
mask to be worn by those who put it on. He might have said, 
justly and proudly, that while others cling to a city, to a faction, 
to a family, the French in all their fortunes cling to France. 

Malesherbes. Gratify me, I entreat you, by giving me your 
idea of honor. 

Rousseau. The image stands before me, substantially and 
vigorously alive. Justice, generosity, delicacy, are the three 
Graces that formed his mind. Propriety of speech, clearness, 

Malesherbes. Repress this enthusiasm. If you are known 
to have made me blush, you ruin me for ever in my profession. 

Rousseau. Look, then, across the narrow sea. When 
Edward the Black Prince made your king his prisoner, he 
reverenced his age, his station, his misfortunes ; attending him, 
serving him, consoling him, like a son. Many of your country- 
men who were then living lived to see the tide of victory turn, 
and the conquerors led into captivity. Talbot, whose name alone 
held provinces back from rebellion, was betrayed and taken, and 
loaded with indignities. 

Malesherbes. Attribute it to the times. The English were 
as cruel to fallen valor in the person of Jeanne d' Arc. 

Rousseau. There neither the genius of the nation nor the 
spirit of the times is reproachable, but the genius and spirit of 
fanaticism, which is violent and blind in all alike. Jeanne 
d'Arc was believed to be a sorceress, and was condemned to 
death for it by the ecclesiastical judges of each nation. Nothing 
but the full belief of the English, that she was under the guidance 
of an invisible and evil power, would have turned to flight those 
Saxo- Normans who never yielded to the Franco-Gauls when 
there were only three against one ; no, not once in the incessant 

Kuussi-an and Malcshfr 43 

in- three hundred years, which ended in the utter 
subjugation of your country. As the French acknowledged her 
to be the inspired of God, they fancied there was no d,'; 
Jawing her : as the English thought her instigated by the 
, they felt the insufficiency of hum j n opposing her. 

fierever she was not, the field was covered with French bodies, 
xrfore; wherever she was, it was covered with English, as it 
hern until then, i ne d'Arc been born in 

>d and fought for England, the people at this hour, although 
no longer slaves to idolatry, would almost worship her: every 
year would her festival be kept in every village of the land. But 
ranee not a hymn is chanted to her, not a curl of incense is 
wafted, not a taper is lighted, not a daisy, not a rush, is strewn upon 
the ground throughout the whole kingdom she rescued. Instead 
f which, a shirt-airer to a libidinous king,-^ ribald poet, a pie- 
xdd Of tragedy and comedy, a contemnc r alike of purity and 
wtnousm, throws his filth against her mutilated features. 
Meanwhile an edifice is being erected in your city to the glory of 
Geneve, which will exhaust the fortunes and almost the 
maledictions of the people. 

Jfcfafcnfer. We certainly are not the most grateful of 


. I hope our gratitude in fiiture will be excited by 
hmg better than the instruments of war. The nation is 
btood' nR m rC civilized and humanc ' ^ young have never lapped 

*"". I prefer the vices of the present king to the glories 
is predecessor: I swine to a panther, and the outer 

ide of the stye or grating to the i 


MaltibcrbH. You, being a philanthropist, must rejoice that 
our reigning pnnce abstains from the field of b.utK-. 

Rousseau. Unless he did, he could not continue to give a 
sand Joins daily for the young maidens brought to him. A 


thou g htjc m ; a prodigal prince is a thought- 
>cr. Your country endures enough without war. But 
non and valor, like Voltaire's fever and quinquina, grow 

44 Imaginary Conversations. 

Maksherbes. What ! and are not our people brave ? 

Rousseau. I call those brave, and those only, who rise up 
simultaneously against the first indignity offered by their adminis- 
trators, and who remove, without pause and without parley, trunk, 
root, and branch. 

Maksherbes. As we cannot change at once the whole 
fabric of government, let us be attentive to the unsounder parts, 
and recommend the readiest and safest method of repairing them. 

Rousseau. The minister would expel me from his ante- 
chamber, and order his valets to buffet me, if I offered him any 
proposal for the advantage of mankind. 

Maksherbes. Call to him then from this room, where the 
valets are civiler. Nature has given you a speaking-trumpet, 
which neither storm can drown nor enemy can silence. If you 
esteem him, instruct him ; if you despise him, do the same. 
Surely, you who have much benevolence would not despise any 
one willingly or unnecessarily. Contempt is for the incorrigible : 
now, where upon earth is he whom your genius, if rightly and 
temperately exerted, would not influence and correct ? 

I never was more flattered or honored than by your patience in 
listening to me. Consider me as an old woman who sits by the 
bedside in your infirmity, who brings you no savory viand, no 
exotic fruit, but a basin of whey or a basket of strawberries from 
your native hills ; assures you that what oppressed you was a 
dream, occasioned by the wrong position in which you lay ; opens 
the window, gives you fresh air, and entreats you to recollect the 
features of Nature, and to observe (which no man ever did so 
accurately) their beauty. In your politics you cut down a forest 
to make a toothpick, and cannot make even that out of it ! Do 
not let us in jurisprudence be like critics in the classics, and change 
whatever can be changed, right or wrong. No statesman will 
take your advice. Supposing that any one is liberal in his 
sentiments and clear-sighted in his views, nevertheless love of 
power is jealous, and he would rejoice to see you fleeing from 
persecution or turning to meet it. The very men whom you 
would benefit will treat you worse. As the ministers of- kings 
wish their masters to possess absolute power that the exercise of 
it may be delegated to them, which it naturally is from the 
violence and sloth alternate with despots as with wild beasts, and 

Rousseau and Malesherbes. 45 

that they may apprehend no check or control from those who 
discover their misdemeanors, in like manner the people places 
more trust in favor than in fortune, and hopes to obtain by sub- 
s.r \iency what it never might by election or by chance. Else in 
free governments, so some are called (for names once given are 
the last things lost), all minor offices and employments would be 
assigned by ballot. Each province or canton would present a list 
annually of such persons in it as are worthy to occupy the local 

To avoid any allusion to the country in which we live, let us 
take England for example. Is it not absurd, iniquitous, and re- 
volting, that the minister of a church in Yorkshire should be 
appointed by a lawyer in London, who never knew him, never 
saw him, never heard from a single one of the parishioners a 
recommendation of any kind : 4 Is it not more reasonable that a 
justice of the peace should be chosen by those who have always 
been witnesses of his equity ? 

Rousseau. The English in former days insisted more firmly 
and urgently on improving their Constitution than they have ever 
done since. In the reign of Edward III. they claimed the 
nomination of the chancellor. And surely, if any nomination of 
any functionary is left to the people, it should be this. It is 
somewhat like the tribunitial power among the Romans, and is 
the only one which can intercede in a conciliatory way between 
the prince and people. Exclusively of this one office in the 
higher posts of government, the king should appoint his ministers, 
and should invest them with power and splendor ; but those 
ministers should not appoint to any civil or religious place of 
trust or profit which the community could manifestly fill better. 
The greater part of offices and dignities should be conferred for 
a short and stated time, that all might hope to attain and strive to 
deserve them. Embassies in particular should never exceed one 
year in Europe, nor consulates two. To the latter office I assign 
this duration as the more difficult to fulfil properly, from requiring 
a knowledge of trade although a slight one, and because those 
who possess any such knowledge are inclined for the greater 

[ First cd. read*: " kind, or a syllable in his favour. Is it not more 
reasonable that a collector of taxes or a justice," &c. Two lines below, 
from "Rotuttau " to government " (9 lines) added in ind ed.] 

46 Imaginary Conversations. 

part to turn it to their own account, which a consul ought by no 
means to do. Frequent 5 election of representatives and of civil 
officers in the subordinate employments would remove most causes 
of discontent in the people, and of instability in kingly power. 
Here is a lottery in which every one is sure of a prize, if not for 
himself, at least for somebody in his family or among his friends ; 
and the ticket would be fairly paid for out of the taxes. 

Malesherbes. So it appears to me. What other system can 
present so obviously to the great mass of the people the two 
principal piers and buttresses of government, tangible interest and 
reasonable hope ? No danger of any kind can arise from it, no 
antipathies, no divisions, no imposture of demagogues, no caprice 
of despots. On the contrary, many and great advantages in places 
which at the first survey do not appear to border on it. At 
present, the best of the English juridical institutions, that of 
justices of the peace, is viewed with diffidence and distrust. 
Elected as they would be, and increased in number, the whole 
judicature, civil and criminal, might be confided to them, and 
their labors be not only not aggravated but diminished. Suppose 
them in four divisions to meet at four places in every county once 
in twenty 6 days and to possess the power of imposing a fine not 
exceeding two hundred francs on every cause implying oppression, 
and one not exceeding fifty on such as they should unanimously 
declare frivolous. 

Rousseau. Few would become attorneys, and those from 
among the indigent. 

Malesherbes. Almost the greatest evil that exists in the 
world, moral or physical, would be removed. A second appeal 
might be made in the following session ; a third could only come 
before Parliament, and this alone by means of attorneys, the 
number of whom altogether would not exceed the number of 
coroners ; for in England there are as many who cut their own 
throats as who would cut their own purses. 

Rousseau. The famous trial by jury would cease : this would 
disgust the English. 

Malesherbes. The number of justices would be much augmented : 
nearly all those who now are jurymen would enjoy this rank and 

[ 5 First ed. reads: "do. Rousseau. Frequent," &c.j 
[ 6 First ed. reads : " in ten days."] 

Rousseau and Malesherbes. 47 

dignity, and would be flattered by sitting on the same bench with 
the first gentlemen of the land. 

Rousseau. What number would sit ? 

Malesherbes. Three or five in the first instance ; five or seven 
in the second, as the number of causes should permit. 

Rousseau. The laws of England are extremely intricate and 
perplexed : such men would be puzzled. 

Malesherbes. Such men having no interest in the perplexity, 
but on the contrary an interest in unravelling it, would see such 
laws corrected. Intricate as they are, questions on those which 
are the most so are usually referred by the judges themselves to 
private arbitration ; of which my plan, I conceive, has all the 
advantages, united to those of open and free discussion among 
men of unperverted sense, and unbiassed by professional hopes 
and interests. The different courts of law in England cost about 
seventy millions of francs annually. On my system, the justices 
or judges would receive five-and-twcnty francs daily ; as the 
special jurymen do now, without any sense of shame or impro- 
priety, however rich they may be : such being the established 

Rousseau. Seventy millions ! seventy millions ! 

Malesherbes. There are attorneys and conveyancers in London 
who gain one hundred thousand francs a year, and advocates 
more. The chancellor 

Rousseau. The Celeno of these harpies 

Alalesherbes. Nets above one million, and is greatly more 
than an archbishop in the church, scattering preferment in Cum- 
berland and Cornwall from his bench at Westminster. 

Rousseau. Absurdities and enormities are great in proportion 
to custom or insuetude. If we had lived from childhood with 
a boa constrictor, we should think it no more a monster than 
a canary-bird. The sum you mentioned, of seventy millions, is 

Malesberbes. In this estimate the expense of letters by the 
post, and of journeys giade by the parties, is not and cannot be 

Rousseau. The whole machine of government, civil and 
religious, ought never to bear upon the people with a weight so 
oppressive. I do not add the national defence, which being 

48 Imaginary Conversations. 

principally naval is more costly, nor institutions for the promotion 
of the arts, which in a country like England ought to be liberal. 
But such an expenditure should nearly suffice for these also, in 
time of peace. Religion and law indeed should cost nothing : at 
present the one hangs property, the other quarters it. I am con- 
founded at the profusion. I doubt whether the Romans expended 
so much in that year's war which dissolved the Carthaginian 
empire, and left them masters of the universe. What is certain, 
and what is better, it did not cost a tenth of it to colonize 
Pennsylvania, in whose forests the cradle of freedom is suspended, 
and where the eye of philanthropy, tired with tears and vigils, 
may wander and may rest. Your system, or rather your arrange- 
ment of one already established, pleases me. Ministers would 
only lose thereby that portion of their possessions which they give 
away to needy relatives, unworthy dependents, or the requisite 
supporters of their authority and power. 

Malesherbes. On this plan, no such supporters would be 
necessary, no such dependents could exist, and no such relatives 
could be disappointed. Beside, the conflicts of their opponents 
must be periodical, weak, and irregular. 

Rousseau. The 7 craving for the rich carrion would be less 
keen ; the zeal of opposition, as usual, would be measured by the 
stomach, whereon hope and overlooking have always a strong 

Malesherbfs. My excellent friend, do not be offended with 
me for an ingenious and frank confession : promise me your 

Rousseau. You need none. 

Malesherles. Promise it, nevertheless. 

Rousseau. You have said nothing, done nothing, which could 
in any way displease me. 

Malesherbes. You grant me then a bill of indemnity for what 
I may have undertaken with a good intention since v/e have been 
together ? 

f 7 First ed. reads : " Rousseau. The country* would be at worst, but as 
one Prometheus to one vulture, and there being no instruments at hand, 
no voices under the rock, to drive him off, the craving . . . influence. 
The meaning ot the word ambition, which few understand even now, and 
which many have an interest in misinterpreting, must after a time be 
sought for in the dictionary. Malesherbes. My excellent," &c.] 

Rousseau and Malcsherbes. 49 


shfrbes. I fell into your views, I walked along with you 
side hy >ide, merely to occupy your mind, which I perceived was 

Rousseau.* In other words, to betray me. I had begun to 
nc there was one man in the universe not my enemy. 

fshrrbts. There are many, my dear M. Rousseau ! yes, 
-\en in France and England; to say nothing of the remoter 
regions on each side of the equator, discovered and undiscovered. 
Be reasonable, be just. 

Rousseau. I am the only man who is either. What would 
you say more ? 

Maleshrrbes. Perhaps I would even say less. You are fond 
of discoursing on the visionary and hypothetical : I usually avoid 

Rousseau. Pray why, sir ? 

Malfsberbts. Because it renders us more and more dis- 
contented with the condition in which Divine Providence hath 
placed us. We can hope to remove but a small portion of the 
evils that encompass us ; there being many men to whom these 
are no evils at all, and such having the management of our 
concerns, and keeping us under them as tightly as the old man 
kept Sinbad. 

Rousseau. I would teach them that what are evils to us are 
evils to them likewise, and heavier and more dangerous. The 
rash, impetuous rider, or (to adopt your allusion) the intolerably 
heavy one, is more liable to break his bones by a fall than the 
animal he has mounted. Sooner or later the cloud of tyranny 
bants ; and fortunes, piled up inordinately and immeasureably, not 
only are scattered and lost, but first overwhelm the occupier. 
We, like metallic blocks, are hardened by the repetition of the 
blows that flatten us, and every part of us touching the ground, 
we cannot fell lower: the hammerers, once fallen, are an- 

Your remarks, although inapplicable to the Continent, are 
applicable to England ; and several of them, however they may 

[From " ***" to Malvkerl** " (48 lines) added in ind ed. 
ed. reads: "agitated. You are fond of discoursing on these 
matters; I dislike it. For compliance," &c.] 

IV. O 

50 Imaginary Conversations. 

be pecked, scratched, and kicked about by the pullets fattening in 
the darkened chambers of Parliament, are worthy of being 
weighed by the people, loath as may be ministers of state to 
employ the scales of Justice on any such occasion. But if the 
steadier hand refuses to perform its functions, the stronger may 
usurp them. 

Malesherbes. Nothing more probable. Often the worst 
evil of bad government is not in its action but its counteraction. 

Rousseau. Is it possible to doubt at what country you now 
are pointing ? I cannot see then why you should have treated 
me like a driveller. 

Malesherbes. How so, my friend, how so ? 

Rousseau. To say the least, why you should believe me 
indifferent to the welfare of your country, to the dictates of 
humanity, to the improvement of the species. 

Malesherbes. In compliance with your humor, to engage your 
fancy, to divert it awhile from Switzerland, 7 by which you appear 
and partly on my account to be offended, I began with reflections 
upon England: I raised up another cloud in the region of them, 
light enough to be fantastic and diaphanous, and to catch some 
little irradiation from its western sun. Do not run after it 
farther ; it has vanished already. Consider : the three great 

Rousseau. Pray, which are those ? 

Malesherbes. I cannot in conscience give the palm to the 
Hottentots, the Greenlanders, or the Hurons : I meant to 
designate those who united to empire the most social virtue 
and civil freedom. Athens, Rome, and England have re- 
ceived on the subject of government elaborate treatises for 
their greatest men. You have reasoned more dispassionately 
and profoundly on it than Plato has done, or probably than 
Cicero, led away as he often is by the authority of those who are 
inferior to himself: but do you excel Aristoteles in calm and 
patient investigation ? Or, think you, are your reading and range 
of thought more extensive than Harrington's and Milton's ? Yet 
what effect have the political works of these marvellous men pro- 
duced upon the world ? What effect upon any one State, any one 
city, any one hamlet ? A clerk in office, an accountant," a gauger 
[ 9 First ed. reads: " Switzerland and France, I raised up," &c.] 

Scaligrr aiul Montaigne. 51 

of snull-ho-r, .1 song-writer for a tavern dinner, produces more. 
rusts his rags into the hole whence the wind comes, and 
sleeps soundly. While you and I are talking about elevations and 
proportions, pillars and pilasters, architraves and friezes, the 
buildings we should repair are falling to the earth, and the 
materials for their restoration are in the quarry. 

Rousseau. I could answer you : but my mind has certain 
moments of repose, or rather of oscillation, which I would not for 
the world disturb. Music, eloquence, friendship, bring and 
prolong them. 

Malesberbfs. Enjoy them, my dear friend, and convert them 
if possible to months and years. It is as much at your arbitra- 
tion on what theme you shall meditate, as in what meadow you 
shall botanize ; and you have as much at your option the choice 
of your thoughts, as of the keys in your harpsichord. 

Rousseau. If this were true, who could be unhappy ? 

Malesbtrbes. Those of whom it is not true. Those who 
from want of practice cannot manage their thoughts, who have 
few to select from, and who, because of their sloth or of their 
weakness, do not roll away the heaviest from before them. 


Montaignt. What could have brought you, M. de PEscale, 
to visit the old man of the mountain, other than a good heart ? 
Oh how delighted and charmed I am to hear you speak such ex- 
cellent Gascon.* You rise early, I see : you must have risen 
with the sun, to be here at this hour ; it is a stout half-hour's 
walk from the brook. I have capital white wine, and the best 
cheese in Auvergnc. You saw the goats and the two cows before 
the cattle* 

Pierre, thou hast done well : set it upon the table, and tell 

[> Imaff. Convent.. Hi., 1818. Works, i., 1846. Works, iv. ( 1876.] 
* " Ma mere e"ttit fort eloquent* en Gascon." &o/rra*i, p. 131. 

52 Imaginary Conversations. 

Master Matthew to split a couple of chickens and broil them, and 
to pepper but one. Do you like pepper, M. de PEscale ? 

Scaliger. Not much. 

Montaigne. Hold hard ! let the pepper alone : I hate it. Tell 
him to broil plenty of ham ; only two slices at a time, upon his 

Scaliger. This, I perceive, is the antechamber to your library : 
here are your every-day books. 

Montaigne. Faith ! I have no other. These are plenty, 
methinks ; is not that your opinion ? 

Scaliger. You have great resources within yourself, and there- 
fore can do with fewer. 

Montaigne. Why, how many now do you think here may be ? 

Scaliger. I did not believe at first that there could be above 

Montaigne. Well ! are fourscore few ? are we talking of peas 
and beans ? 

Scaliger. I and my father (put together) have written well- 
nigh as many. 

Montaigne. Ah ! to write them is quite another thing : but 

/ one reads books without a spur, or even a pat from our Lady 

Vanity. How do you like my wine ? it comes from the little 

knoll yonder : you cannot see the vines, those chestnut-trees are 


Scaligtr. The wine is excellent ; light, odoriferous, with a 
smartness like a sharp child's prattle. 

Montaigne. It never goes to the head, nor pulls the nerves, 
which many do as if they were guitar-strings. I drink a couple 
of bottles a-day, winter and summer, and never am the worse for 
it. You gentlemen of the Agennois have better in your province, 
and indeed the very best under the sun. I do not wonder that 
the Parliament of Bordeaux should be jealous of their privileges, 
and call it Bordeaux. 2 Now, if you prefer your own country 
wine, only say it : I have several bottles in my cellar, with corks 
as long as rapiers, and as polished. I do not know, M. de TEscale, 
whether you are particular in these matters : not quite, I should 
imagine, so great a judge in them as in others ? 

[ 2 First ed. reads : " Bordeaux wine. All privileges are unjust ; this 
as bad as any now," &c.] 

J<>M'p!i Sc.ili-cr anJ M-'iiKii^iK'. 53 

ScaTiger. I know three things, wine, poetry, and the 

Montaigne. You know one too many, then. I hardJy know 
whether I know any thing about poetry ; for I like Clem Marot 
better than Ronsard. Ronsard is so plaguily stiff and stately, 
where there is no occasion for it ; I verily do think the man must 
have slept with his wife in a cuirass. 

Scafiger.* He had no wife : he was an abbe at Tours, 

Montaigne. True, true ; being an abbe* he could never have 
one, and never want one; particularly at Tours, where the 
women profess an especial calling and most devotional turn for 
the religious. 

ScaTtger. It pleases me greatly that you like Marot, His 
version of the Psalms is lately set to music, and added to the New 
Testament, of Geneva. 

Montaigne. It is putting a slice of honeycomb into a barrel of 
vinegar, which will never grow the sweeter for it. 

ScaTtger. Surely, you do not think in this fashion of the New 
ie s lament! 

Montaigne. Who supposes it ? Whatever is mild and kindly 
is there. But Jack Calvin has thrown bird-lime and vitriol upon 
it, and whoever but touches the cover dirties his fingers or burns 

Scaliger. Calvin is a very great man, I do assure you, M. de 

Montaigne. I do not like your very great men who beckon me 
to them, call me their begotten, their dear child, and their 
entrails ; and, if I happen to siy on any occasion, " I beg leave, 
sir, to dissent a little from you," stamp and cry, " The devil you 
do ! " and whistle to the executioner. 

Scafiger. You exaggerate, my worthy friend ! 

Montaigne. Exaggerate do I, M. de FEscale ? What was 
it he did the other day to the poor devil there with an odd name ? 
Melancthon, I think it is. 

Scaliger. I do not know : I have received no intelligence of 
late from Geneva. 

* Je me connais en trois chows, * i* aliu, in VM, ptai, et j*gtr dti 
f>trto**t i. "Scatter MM, p. 132. 

[ From &fl2g*r " to religion* " (4 lines) added in ind ed.] 

54 Imaginary Conversations. 

Montaigne. It was but last night that our curate rode over 
from Lyons (he made two days of it, as you may suppose) and 
supped with me. He told me that Jack had got his old friend 
hanged and burned. I could not join him in the joke, for I find 
none such in the Neiv Testament, on which he would have 
founded it ; and, if it is one, it is not in my manner or to my 

Scaliger. I cannot well believe the report, my dear sir. He 
was rather urgent, indeed, on the combustion of the heretic 
Michael Servetus some years past. 

Montaigne. A thousand to one, my spiritual guide mistook 
the name. He has heard of both, I warrant him, and thinks in 
his conscience that either is as good a roast as the other. 

Scaliger. Theologians are proud and intolerant, and truly the 
farthest of all men from theology, if theology means the rational 
sense of religion, or indeed has any thing to do with it in any way. 
Melancthon was the very best of the reformers ; quiet, sedate, 
charitable, intrepid, firm in friendship, ardent in faith, acute in 
argument, and profound in learning. 

Montaigne. Who cares about his argumentation or his learning, 
if he was the rest ? 

Scaliger. I hope you will suspend your judgment on this 
affair, until you receive some more certain and positive informa- 

Montaigne. I can believe it of the Sieur Calvin. 
Scaliger. I cannot. John Calvin is a grave man, orderly and 

Montaigne. In my opinion he has not the order nor the reason 
of my cook. Mat never took a man for a sucking-pig, cleaning 
and scraping and buttering and roasting him ; nor ever twitched 
God by the sleeve and swore he should not have his own way. 

Scaliger. M. de Montaigne, have you ever studied the doctrine 
of predestination ? 

Montaigne. I should not understand it, if I had ; and I 
would not break through an old fence merely to get into a cavern. 
I would not give a fig or a fig-leaf to know the truth of it, as far 
as any man can teach it me. Would it make me honester or 
happier, or, in other things, wiser ? 

Scaliger. I do not know whether it would materially. 

I ph Suiliger and Montaigne. 55 

ttiigne. I should be an egregious fool then to care about 
it. Our disputes on controverted points have filled the country 
with missionaries and cut-throats. Both parties have shown a 
disposition to turn this comfortable old house of mine into a for- 
tress. If I had inclined to either, the other would have done it. 
Come walk about it with me ; after a ride, you can do nothing 
better to Like off fatigue. 

Scaliger. A most spacious kitchen ! 

Montaigne. Look up ! 

ScaTiger. You have twenty or more flitches of bacon hanging 

Montaigne. And if I had been a doctor or a captain, I should 
have had a cobweb and predestination in the place of them. Your 
soldiers of the religion on the one side, and of the good old faith on 
the other, would not have left unto me safe and sound even that 
good old woman there. 

ScaKger. Oh yes they would, I hope. 

Old Woman. Why dost giggle, Mat ? What should he know 
about the business ? He speaks mighty bad French, and is as 
spiteful as the devil. Praised be God, we have a kind master, 
who thinks about us, and feels for us. 

Scaliger. Upon my word, Mi de Montaigne, this gallery is an 
interesting one. 

Montaigne. I can show you nothing but my house and my 
dairy. We have no chase in the month of May, you know, 
unless you would like to bait the badger in the stable. This is 
rare sport in rainy days. 

Scaliger. Are you in earnest, M. de Montaigne ? 

Montaigne. No, no, no, I cannot afford to worry him out- 
right : only a little for pastime, a morning's merriment for the 
dogs and wenches. 

Scaliger^ You really are then of so happy a temperament 
that, at your time of life, you can be amused by baiting a badger ! 

Montaigne. Why not ? Your father, a wiser and graver and 
older man than I am, was amused by baiting a professor or critic. 
I have not a dog in the kennel that would treat the badger worse 
than brave Julius treated Cardan and Erasmus, and some dozens 
more. We are all childish, old as well as young ; and our very 
last tooth would fain stick, M. de 1'Escale, in some tender place 

56 Imaginary Conversations. 

of a neighbor. Boys laugh at a person who falls in the dirt ; men 
laugh rather when they make him fall, and most when the dirt is 
of their own laying. 

Is not the gallery rather cold, after the kitchen ? We must 
go through it to get into the court where I keep my tame rabbits ; 
the stable is hard by : come along, come along. 

Scaliger. Permit me to look a little at those banners. Some 
of them are old indeed. 

Montaigne. Upon my word, I blush to think I never took 
notice how they are tattered. I have no fewer than three 
women in the house, and in a summer's evening, only two 
hours long, the worst of these rags might have been darned 

Scaliger. You would not have done it surely ! 

Montaigne. I am not over-thrifty : the women might have 
been better employed. It is as well as it is then ; ay ? 

Scaliger. I think so. 

Montaigne. So be it. 

Scaliger. They remind me of my own family, we being de- 
scended from the great Cane dclla Scala, Prince of Verona, and 
from the House of Hapsburg,* as you must have heard from my 

Montaigne. What signifies it to the world whether the great 
Cane was tied to his grandmother or not ? As for the House 
of Hapsburg, if you could put together as many such houses 
as would make up a city larger than Cairo, they would not 
be worth his study, or a sheet of paper on the table of it. 


Boccacccio. Remaining among us, I doubt not that you would 
soon receive the same distinctions in your native country as others 

* " Descendimus ex filia Comitis Hapsburgensis." ScaJigerana, p. 231. 

[ x This and the following Conversation were preparatory studies for the 
larger work in which Landor afterwards dealt with these two men. 
(Imag. Convers., iv., 1829. Works, i., 1846. Works, iv., 1876).] 

u> iiiki lYir.uvu. 57 

have conferred ujxm you : ind-ed, in confidence I may promise 
r. I- or greatly aiv the- Florentines ashamed that the most 

of their writers and the most independent of their c 
lives in exile, by the injustice he had suffered in the detriment 
to his property, through the intemperate administration of 
their laws. 

Pftrarca. Let them recall me soon and honorably : then 
perhaps I may assist them to remove their ignominy, which I 
carry about with me wherever I go, and which is pointed out by 
my exotic laurel. 

Boccaccio. There is, and ever will be, in all countries and 
under all governments, an ostracism for their greatest men. 

\irca. At present we will talk no more about it. To- 
morrow I pursue my journey toward Padua, where I am ex- 
pected ; where some few value and esteem me, honest and 
learned and ingenious men ; although neither those Transpadane 
regions^ nor whatever extends beyond them, have yet produced an 
equal to Boccaccio. 

Boccaccio. Then, in the name of friendship, do not go thither ! 
form such rather from your fellow citizens. I love my equals 
heartily ; and shall love them the better when I see them raised 
up here, from our own mother earth, by you. 

Petrarca. Let us continue our walk. 

Boccaccio. If you have been delighted (and you say you 
have been) at seeing again, after so long an absence, the house 
and garden wherein I have placed the relaters of my stories, as 
reported in the Decameron^ come a little way further up the 
ascent, and we will pass through the vineyard on the west of the 
villa. You will see presently another on the right, lying in its 
warm little garden close to the roadside, the scene lately of some- 
what that would have looked well, as illustration, in the midst of 
your Latin reflections. It shows us that people the most serious 
and determined may act at last contrariwise to the line of conduct 
they have laid down. 

J'ftrarca. Relate it to me, Messer Giovanni ; for you are 
able to give reality the merits and charms of fiction, just as easily 
as you give fiction the semblance, the stature, and the movement 
of reality. 

Boccaccio. I must here forego such powers, if in good truth I 
possess them. 

58 Imaginary Conversations. 

Petrarca. This long green alley, defended by box and 
cypresses, is very pleasant. The smell of box, although not 
sweet, is more agreeable to me than many that are ; I cannot say 
from what resuscitation of early and tender feeling. The 2 cypress 
too seems to strengthen the nerves of the brain. Indeed, I delight 
in the odor of most trees and plants. 

Will not that dog hurt us ? he comes closer. 

Boccaccio. Dog! thou'hast the colors of a magpie and the 
tongue of one ; prythee be quiet : art thou not ashamed ? 

Petrarca. Verily he trots off, comforting his angry belly with 
his plenteous tail, flattened and bestrewn under it. He looks 
back, going on, and puffs out his upper lip without a bark. 

Bocccaccio. These creatures are more accessible to temperate 
and just rebuke than the creatures of our species, usually angry 
with less reason, and from no sense, as dogs are, of duty. Look 
into that white arcade ! Surely it was white the other day ; 
and now I perceive it is still so : the setting sun tinges it with 

Petrarca. The house has nothing of either the rustic or the 
magnificent about it ; nothing quite regular, nothing much varied. 
If there is anything at all affecting, as I fear there is, in the story 
you are about to tell me, I could wish the edifice itself bore ex- 
ternally some little of the interesting that I might hereafter turn 
my mind toward it, looking out of the catastrophe, though not 
away from it. But I do not even find the peculiar and uncostly 
decoration of our Tuscan villas : the central turret, round which 
the kite perpetually circles in search of pigeons or smaller prey, 
borne onward, like the Flemish skater, by effortless will in 
motionless progression. The view of Fiesole must be lovely from 
that window ; but I fancy to myself it loses the cascade under 
the single high arch of the Mugnone. 

Boccaccio. I think so. In this villa, come rather further 
off: the inhabitants of it may hear us, if they should- happen to 
be in the arbor, as most people are at the present hour of day, 
in this villa, Messer Francesco, lives Monna Tita Monalda, who 
tenderly loved Amadeo degli Oricellaria. She however was 
reserved and coy ; and Father Pietro de' Pucci, an enemy to the 
family of Amadeo, told her never more to think of him, for that, 

[ 2 From " The " to " plants" (3 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

Boccaccio and Pctrarca. 59 

just before In- knew her, he had thrown his arm round the neck 
of Nunciata Righi, his mother's maid, calling her most immodestly 
a sweet creature, and of a whiteness that marble would .split with 
en\y at, 

Monna Tita trembled and turned pale. " Father is the girl 
really so very fair ? " said she anxiously. 

" Madonna/' replied the father, after confession she is not 
much amiss : white she is, with a certain tint of pink not belong- 
ing to her, but coming over her as through the wing of an angel 
pleased at the holy function ; and her breath is such, the very ear 
smells it : poor, innocent, sinful soul ! Hei ! The wretch, 
Amadeo, would have endangered her salvation." 

44 She must be a wicked girl to let him," said Monna Tita, 
" A young man of good parentage and education would not dare 
to do such a thing, of his own accord. I will see him no more 
however. But it was before he knew me : and it may not be 
true. I cannot think any young woman would let a young man 
do so, even in the last hour before Lent. Now in what month 
was it supposed to be ? " 

ippoeed to be ! " cried the father indignantly : " in June ; 
I say in June." 

" Oh ! that now is quite impossible : for on the second of July, 
forty-one days from this, and at this very hour of it, he swore to 
me eternal love and constancy. I will inquire of him whether it 
is true : I will charge him with it." 

She did. Amadeo confessed his fault, and, thinking it a 
venial one, would have taken and kissed her hand as he asked 


Petrarca. Children ! children ! I will go into the house, 
and if their relatives, as I suppose, have approved of the marriage, 
I will endeavor to persuade the young lady that a fault like this, 
on the repentance of her lover, is not unpardonable. But first, is 
Amadeo a young man of loose habits ? 

Boccaccio. Less than our others : in fact, I never heard of 
any deviation, excepting this. 

Petrarca. Come then with me. 

Boccaccio. Wait a little. 

Petrarca. I hope the modest Tita after a trial, will not be 
too severe with him. 

60 Imaginary Conversations. 

Boccaccio. Seventy is far from her nature ; but, such is her 
purity and innocence, she shed many and bitter tears at his con- 
fession, and declared her unalterable determination of taking the 
veil among the nuns of Fiesole. Amadeo fell at her feet, and 
wept upon them. She pushed him from her gently, and told him 
she would still love him, if he would follow her example, leave 
the world, and become a friar of San Marco. Amadeo was 
speechless ; and, if he had not been so, he never would have 
made a promise he intended to violate. She retired from him : 
after a time he arose, less wounded than benumbed by the sharp 
uncovered stones in the garden walk ; and, as a man who fears 
to fall from a precipice goes farther from it than is necessary, so 
did Amadeo shun the quarter where the gate is, and, oppressed 
by his agony and despair, throw his arms across the sun-dial and 
rest his brow upon it, hot as it must have been on a cloudless day 
in August. When the evening was about to close, he was 
aroused by the cries of rooks over-head ; they flew toward 
Florence, and beyond : he too went back into the city. 

Tita fell sick from her inquietude. Every morning ere sunrise 
did Amadeo return ; but could hear only from the laborers in 
the field that Monna Tita was ill, because she had promised to 
take the veil and had not taken it, knowing, as she must do, that 
the heavenly bridegroom is a bridegroom never to be trifled with, 
let the spouse be young and beautiful as she may be. Amadeo 
had often conversed with the peasant of the farm, who much pitied. 
so worthy and loving a gentleman ; and, finding him one evening 
fixing some thick and high stakes in the ground, offered to help 
him. After due thanks, " It is time," said the peasant, " to re- 
build the hovel and watch the grapes." 

He went into the stable, collected the old pillars of his 
autumnal observatory, drove them into the ground, and threw the 
matting over them. 

" This is my house," cried he. " Could I never, in my 
stupidity, think about rebuilding it before ? Bring me another 
mat or two : I will sleep here to-night, to-morrow night, every 
night, all autumn, all winter." 

He slept there, and was consoled at last by hearing that Monna 
Tita was out of danger, and recovering from her illness by spiritual 
means. His heart grew lighter day after day. Every evening 

Boccaccio and IVt rare; i. 6 1 

tlul he observe the rooks, in the same order, pass along the same 
in the heavens, just over San Marco : and it now occurred 
to him, a her three weeks indeed, that Monna Tita had pt 

^ range idea, in choosing his monastery, not unconnected with 
the passage of these birds. He grew calmer upon it, until he 
asked himself whether he might hope. In the midst of this half- 
meditation, half-dream, his whole frame was shaken by the voices, 
however low and gentle, of two monks coming from the villa and 
approaching him. He would have concealed himself under this whereon we are standing ; but they saw him and called him 
by name. He now perceived that the younger of them was 
Guiberto Oddi, with whom he had been at school about six or 
seven years ago, and who admired him for his courage and frank- 
ness when he was almost a child. 

" Do not let us mortify poor Amadeo," said Guiberto to his 
companion. *' Return to the road : I will speak a few words to 
him, and engage him (I trust) to comply with reason and yield to 
necessity." The elder monk, who saw he should have to climb 
the hill again, assented to the proposal, and went into the road. 
After the first embraces and few words, * Amadeo ! Amadeo ! " 
said Guiberto, " it was love that made me a friar ; let any thing 
else make you one." 

* Kind heart ! " replied Amadeo. " If death or religion, or 
hatred of me, deprives me of Tita Monalda, I will die, where she 
commanded me, in the cowl. It is you who prepare her then to 
throw away her life and mine ! " 

" Hold ! Amadeo ! " said Guiberto, " I officiate together with 
good Father Fontesecco, who invariably falls asleep amid our 
holy function." 

Now, Messer Francesco, I must inform you that Father 
Fontesecco has the heart of a flower. It feels nothing, it wants 
nothing ; it is pure and simple, and full of its own little light. 
Innocent as a child, as an angel, nothing ever troubled him but 
how to devise what he should confess. A confession costs him 
more trouble to invent than any Giornata in my Decameron cost 
me. He was once overheard to say on this occasion, " God 
forgive me in his infinite mercy, for making it appear that I am 
a little worse than he has chosen I should be ! " He is 
temperate ; for he never drinks more than exactly half the wine 

62 Imaginary Conversations. 

and water set before him. In fact, he drinks the wine and 
leaves the water, saying, " We have the same water up at San 
Domenico ; we send it hither : it would be uncivil to take back 
our own gift, and still more to leave a suspicion that we thought 
other people's wine poor beverage." Being afflicted by the 
gravel, the physician of his convent advised him, as he never was 
fond of wine, to leave it off entirely ; on which he said, " I 
know few things ; but this I know well : in water there is often 
gravel, in wine never. It hath pleased God to afflict me, and 
even to go a little out of his way in order to do it, for the greater 
warning to other sinners. I will drink wine, brother Anselmini, 
and help his work." 

I have led you away from the younger monk. 

" While Father Fontesecco is in the first stage of beatitude, 
chanting through his nose the benedicite, I will attempt," said 
Guiberto, "to comfort Monna Tita." 

" Good, blessed Guiberto ! " exclaimed Amadeo in a transport 
of gratitude, at which Guiberto smiled with his usual grace and 
suavity. " Oh Guiberto ! Guiberto ! my heart is breaking. 
Why should she want you to comfort her ? but comfort her 
then ! " and he covered his face within his hands. 

" Remember," said Guiberto placidly, " her uncle is bed- 
ridden ; her aunt never leaves him : the servants are old and 
sullen, and will stir for nobody. Finding her resolved, as they 
believe, to become a nun, they are little assiduous in their 
services. Humor her, if none else does, Amadeo ; let her fancy 
that you intend to be a friar ; and, for the present, walk not on 
these grounds." 

"Are you true, or are you traitorous?" cried Amadeo, 
grasping his friend's hand most 'fiercely. 

" Follow your own counsel, if you think mine insincere," said 
the young friar, not withdrawing his hand, but placing the other 
on Amadeo's. " Let me, however, advise you to conceal your- 
self; and I will direct Silvestrina to bring you such accounts of 
her mistress as may at least make you easy in regard to her health. 

Amadeo was now rather tranquil ; more than he had ever 
been, not only since the displeasure of Monna Tita, but since 
the first sight of her. Profuse at all times in his gratitude to 

BOCCUT'U) ,uul lYtrarva. 63 

Silvi strina, whenever she brought him good news, news better 
than usual, In- pressed her to his bosom. Sil\e*trina Pioppi is 
about fifteen, slender, fresh, intelligent, lively, good-humored, 
sensitive ; and any one but Amadeo might call her very pretty. 

Pctr.irca. Ah, Giovanni ! here I find your heart obtaining 
the mastery over your vivid and volatile imagination. Well have 
you said, the maiden being really pretty, any one but Amadeo 
might think her so. On the banks of the Sorga there are 
beautiful maids ; the woods and the rocks have a thousand times 8 
repeated it. I heard but one echo ; I heard but one name : I 
would have fled from them for ever at another. 

Boccaccio. Francesco, do not beat your breast just now : wait 
a little. Monna Tita would take the veil. The fatal certainty 
was announced to Amadeo by his true Guiberto, who had 
earnestly and repeatedly prayed her to consider the thing a few 
months longer. 

" I will see her first! By all the saints of heaven I will see 
her ! " cried the desperate Amadeo, and ran into the house, 
toward the still apartment of his beloved. Fortunately Guiberto 
was neither less active nor less strong than he, and overtaking 
him at the moment, drew him into the room opposite. " If you 
will be quiet and reasonable, there is yet a possibility left you," 
said Guiberto in his car, although perhaps he did not think it. 
* But if you utter a voice or are seen by any one, you ruin the 
fame of her you love, and obstruct your own prospects for ever. 
It being known that you have not slept in Florence these several 
nights, it will be suspected by the malicious that you have slept in 
the villa with the connivance of Monna Tita. Compose yourself; 
answer nothing ; rest where you are : do not add a worse 
imprudence to a very bad one. I promise you my assistance, my 
speedy return, and best counsel : you shall be released at day- 
break." He ordered Stlvestrina to supply the unfortunate youth 
with the cordials usually administered to the uncle, or with the 
rich old wine they were made of ; and she performed the order 
with such promptitude and attention, that he was soon in some 
sort refreshed* 

[* Pint ed. reads : time* told me o ; and I would have fled from them 
for *aying it. Giovanni ! tkty could feel it ! Hgcutccio. Franceso," 

64 Imaginary Conversations. 

Petrarca. I pity him from my soul, poor young man ! 
Alas, we are none of us, by original sin, free from infirmities or 
from vices. 

Boccaccio. If we could find a man exempt by nature from 
vices and infirmities, we should find one not worth knowing : 
he would also be void of tenderness and compassion. What 
allowances then could his best friends expect from him in their 
frailties ? What help, consolation, and assistance in their mis- 
fortunes ? We are in the midst of a workshop well stored with 
sharp instruments : we may do ill with many, unless we take 
heed ; and good with all, if we will but learn how to employ them. 

Petrarca. There is somewhat of reason in this. You 
strengthen me to proceed with you : I can bear the rest. 

Boccaccio. Guiberto had 4 taken leave of his friend, and had 
advanced a quarter of a mile, which (as you perceive) is nearly 
the whole way, on his return to the monastery, when he was 
overtaken by some peasants who were hastening homeward from 
Florence. The information he collected from them made him 
determine to retrace his steps. He entered the room again, and, 
from the intelligence he had just acquired, gave Amadeo the 
assurance that Monna Tita must delay her entrance into the 
convent ; for that the abbess had that moment gone down the 
hill on her way toward Siena to venerate some holy relics, carry- 
ing with her three candles, each five feet long, to burn before 
them ; which candles contained many particles of the myrrh 
presented at the nativity of our Saviour by the wise men of the 
East. Amadeo breathed freely, and was persuaded by Guiberto 
to take another cup of old wine, and to eat with him some cold 
roast kid, which 5 had been offered him for mcrenda.* After 
the agitation of his mind a heavy sleep fell upon the lover, coming 
almost before Guiberto departed ; so heavy indeed that Silvestrina 
was alarmed. It was her apartment ; and she performed the 
honors of it as well as any lady in Florence could have done. 

Petrarca. I easily believe it: the poor are more attentive 
than the rich, and the young are more compassionate than the old. 

[4 From had " to He " (6 lines added in znd ed.] 
[ 6 From " which " to " merenda " added in ind ed.] 
* Meranda is luncheon, meridiana, eaten by the wealthier at the 
hour when the peasants dine. 

Boccaccio aiul lYtrurca. 65 

Boccaccio. O Francesco! what inconsistent creatures are \u ! 

Petrarcii. True, indeed ! I now foresee the end. He 
migh' e worse. 

Boccaccio. I think so. 

1 1< ilmost deserved it. 

Boccaccio. I think that too. 

Pttrarca. Wretched mortals ! our passions for ever lead us 
into this, or worse. 

Boccaccio. Ay, truly ; much worse generally. 

Pftrarca. The very twig on which the flowers grew lately 
scourges us to the bone in its maturity. 

Boccaccio. Incredible will it be to you, and, by my faith, to 
was hardly credible. Certain however is it, that Guiberto 
on his return by sunrise found Amadeo in the arms of sleep. 

Petrarca. Not at all, not at all incredible : the truest lover 
would have done the same, exhausted by suffering. 

Boccaccio. He was truly in the arms of sleep ; but, Francesco, 
there was another pair of arms about him, worth twenty such, 
divinity as he is. A loud burst of laughter from Guiberto did 
not arouse either of the parties ; but Monn.t Tita heard it, and 
rushed into the room, tearing her hair, and invoking the saints of 
heaven against the perfidy of man. She seized Silvestrina by 
that arm which appeared the most offending : the girl opened her 
eyes, turned on her face, rolled out of bed, and threw herself at 
the feet of her mistress, shedding tears, and wiping them away 
with the only piece of linen about her. Monna Tita too shed 
tears. Amadeo still slept profoundly ; a flush, almost of crimson, 
overspreading his cheeks. Monna Tita led away, after some pause, 
poor Silvestrina, and made her confess the whole. She then 
wept more and more, and made the girl confess it again, and 
explain her confession. " I cannot believe such wickedness," she 
cried : " he could not be so hardened. O sinful Silvestrina ! how 
will you ever tell Father Doni one half, one quarter ? He never 
can absolve you." 

Petrarccu Giovanni, I am glad I did not enter the house ; 
you were prudent in restraining me. I have no pity for the youth 
at all : never did one so deserve to lose a mistress. 

Boccaccio. Say, rather, to gain a wife. 

Petrarca. Absurdity ! impossibility ! 

66 Imaginary Conversations. 

Boccaccio. He won her fairly ; strangely, and on a strange 
table, as he played his game. Listen ! that guitar is Monna 
Tita's. Listen ! what a fine voice (do not you think it) is 

Amadeo (singing). 

Oh, I have err'd ! 
I laid my hand upon the nest 
(Tita, I sigh to sing the rest) 
Of the wrong bird. 

Petrarca. She laughs too at it ! Ah ! Monna Tita was 
made by nature to live on this side of Fiesole. 


Petrarca. You have kept your promise like an English man, 
Ser* Geoffreddo : welcome to Arezzo. This gentleman is 

[* It is well known that the meeting of these three poets may have 
actually occurred. In 1371 Chaucer visited Florence on a mission from 
the King. Petrarca was then living at Arqua near Padua. Boccaccio 
was also near, and the three may easily have met. Landor's reason for 
choosing Arezzo is not clear ; perhaps he had visited and liked the place. 
Chaucer's lines in prologue to the tale of Grisildis, show his respect for 
Petrarca, and at least suggest that he had talked with him. 

I wil yow telle a tale, which that I 
Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk 
As proved by his wordes and his werk. 
He now is dede and nayled in his chest, 
Now God give his soule wel good rest ! 
Fraunces Petrarch, the laureat poete 
Highte this clerk, whos rhetorique swete 
Enluinynd al Ytail of poetrie. 

The story put into Chaucer's mouth had, of course, to Landor, a local 
application. He was a Warwickshire man and liked to make fun of the 
Lucy family, as Shakespeare had done before him. There is a curious 
letter from Elizabeth Landor (Life, 335), describing the Lucy of that 
date and his little grandson. " He is old Lucy exactly. He believes the 
whole world was made for him, and in honour of his dignity. He opens 
his round little eyes, buttons his round little mouth, inflates his round 
little face, and is graver than any owl, including his grandpapa." 
(Imag. Convers., iv., 1829. Works, i., 1846. Works, iv., 1876.)] 

* Ser is commonly used by Boccaccio and others for Messer. 

Chaucer, Boccaccio, and Petrarca. 67 

Messer Giovanni Boccaccio, of whose unfinished Decameron, 
which I opened to you in manuscript, you expressed your admira- 
tion when we met at Florence in the spring. 

Boccaccio. I was then at Certaldo, my native place, filling 
up my stories, and have only to regret that my acquaintance 
with one so friendly and partial to me has been formed so late. 

How did Rome answer your expectations, 

Chau, : r. I had passed through Pisa; of which city the 
Campo Santo, now nearly finished after half a century from its 
foundation, and the noble street along the Arno;* are incompar- 
ably more beautiful than any thing in Rome. 

Petrarca. That is true. 1 have heard, however, some of 
your countrymen declare that Oxford is equal to Pisa, in the 
solidity, extent, and costliness of its structures. 

Chaucer. Oxford is the most beautiful of our cities : it would 
be a very fine one if there were no houses in it. 

Petrarca. How is that ? 

Chaucer. The lath-and-plaster white-washed houses look 
despicably mean under the colleges. 

Boccaccio. Few see any thing in the same point of view. It 
would gratify me highly, if you would tell me with all the frank- 
ness of your character and your country, what struck you most 
in the capital of the world" as the vilest slaves in it call their 
great open cloaca. 

Chaucer. After the remains of antiquity, I know not whether 
any thing struck me more forcibly than the superiority of our 
English churches and monasteries. 

Boccaccio. I do not wonder that yours should be richer and 
better built, although I never heard before that they are ; for the 
money that is collected in Rome or elsewhere, by the pontiffs, 
is employed for the most part in the aggrandizement of their 
families. Messer Francesco, although he wears the habit of a 
churchman, speaks plainlier on these subjects than a simple secular, 
as I am, dares to do. 

Petrarca. We may, however, I trust, prefer the beauty and 
variety of our scenery to that of most in the world. Tuscany is 

The Corso in Rome i now much finer. P. Leopold dismantled the 
walls of Pia, and demolished more than fifty towers and turrets. Every 
year castellated mansions are modernized in Italy. 

68 Imaginary Conversations. 

less diversified and, excepting 2 the mountains above Camaldoli 
and Laverna, less sublime than many other parts of Italy ; yet 
where does Nature smile with more contented gayety than in the 
vicinity of Florence ? Great part of our sea-coast along the 
Mediterranean is uninteresting ; yet it is beautiful in its whole 
extent from France to Massa. Afterward there is not a single 
point of attraction till you arrive at Terracina. The greater part 
of the way round the peninsula, from Terracina to Pcsaro, has its 
changes of charms : thenceforward all is flat again. 

Boccaccio. We cannot travel in the most picturesque and 
romantic regions of our Italy, from the deficiency of civilization 
in the people. 

Chaucer. Yet, Messer Giovanni, I never journeyed so far 
through so enchanting a scenery as there is almost the whole of 
the way from Arezzo to Rome, particularly round Terni and 
Narni and Perugia. 

Our master, Virgil, speaks of dreams that swarm upon the 
branches of one solitary elm. In this country, more than 
dreams swarm upon every spray and leaf ; and every murmur of 
wood or water comes from and brings with it inspiration. Never 
shall I forget the hour when my whole soul was carried away 
from me by the cataract of Terni, and when all things existing 
were lost to ,'me in its stupendous waters. The majestic woods 
that bowed their heads before it ; the sun that was veiling his 
glory in mild translucent clouds over the furthest course of the 
river ; the moon, that suspended her orb in the very centre of it, 
seemed ministering Powers, themselves in undiminished ad- 
miration of the marvel they had been looking on through un- 
numbered ages. What are the works of man in comparison with 
this ? What, indeed, are the other works of Nature ? 

Petrarca? Ser Giovanni ! this, which appears too great 
even for Nature, was not too great for man. Our ancestors 
achieved it. Curius Dentatus in his consulate, forbade the 
waters of the Velinus to inundate so beautiful a valley, and threw 
them down this precipice into the Nar. When the traces of all 
their other victories, all their other labors, shall have disappeared, 
this work of the earlier and the better Romans shall continue to 

[ 2 From " excepting " to " Laverna " added in 2nd ed.] 

[ ;! From " Petrarca " to " abroad " (24 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

Chauar, Boccaccio, and Pctrarca. 69 

perform its office, shall produce its full effect, and shall astonish 
the beholder as it astonished him at its first completion. 

Chaucer. I was not forgetful that we heard the story from 
our guide, but I thought him a boaster ; and now for the first 
time I KM rn that any great power hath been exerted for any 
great good. Roads were levelled for aggression, and vast 
edifices were constructed either for pride or policy, to com- 
memorate some victory, to reward the Gods for giving it, or to 
keep them in the same temper. There is nothing of which men 
appear to have been in such perpetual apprehension, as the incon- 
stancy of the deities they worship. 

Many thanks, Ser Francesco, for reminding me of what the 
guide asserted, and for teaching me the truth. I thought the 
Jail of the Velinus not only the work of Nature, but the most 
beautiful she had ever made on earth* My prevention, in regard 
to the country about Rome, was almost as great and almost as 
unjust to Nature, from what I had heard of it both at home and 
abroad. In the approach to the eternal city, she seems to have 
surrendered much of her wild ness, and to have assumed all her 
statcliness and sedateness, all her awfulness and severity. The 
vast plain toward the sea abases the soul together with it ; while 
the hills on the left, chiefly those of Tusculum and of Tiber, 
overshadow and almost overwhelm it with obscure remembrances, 
some of them descending from the heroic ages, others from an 
age more miraculous than the heroic, the herculean infancy of 
immortal Rome. Soracte comes boldly forward, and stands 
alone. Round about, on every side, we behold an infinity of 
baronial castles, many moated and flanked with towers and 
bastions ; many following the direction of the precipitous hills, 
of which they cover the whole summit. Tracts of land, where 
formerly stood entire nations, are now the property of some rude 
baron, descendant of a murderer too formidable for punishment, 
or of a robber too rich for it ; and the ruins of cities, which had 
sunk in luxury when England was one wide forest, are caned off 
by a herd of slaves and buffaloes to patch up the crevices of a 
fort or dungeon. 

Boccaccio. Messer Francesco groans upon this and wipes his 

! .'. . 

Petrarca. Indeed I do. 

70 Imaginary Conversations. 

Three years ago my fancy and hopes were inflamed by what 
I believed to be the proximity of regeneration. Cola Rienzi 
might have established good and equitable laws : even the Papacy, 
from hatred of the barons, would have countenanced the enaction 
of them, hoping at some future time to pervert and subjugate the 
people as before. The vanity of this tribune, who corresponded 
with kings and emperors, and found them pliable and ductile, was 
not only the ruin of himself and of the government he had 
founded, but threw down, beyond the chance of retrieving it, the 
Roman name. 

Let us converse no more about it. I did my duty ; yet our 
failure afflicts me, and will afflict me until my death. Jubilees, 
and other such mummeries, are deemed abundant compensation 
for lost dignity, lost power and empire, lost freedom and in- 
dependence. We who had any hand in raising up our country 
from her abject state are looked on with jealousy by those 
wretches to whom cowardice and flight alone give the titles and 
rewards of loyalty ; with sneers and scorn by those who share 
among themselves the emoluments of office ; and, lest consolation 
be altogether wanting, with somewhat of well-meaning com- 
passion, as weak misguided visionaries, by quiet good creatures 
who would have beslavered and adored us if we had succeeded. 

The nation that loses her liberty is not aware of her misfortune 
at the time, any more than the patient is who receives a paralytic 
stroke. He who first tells either of them what has happened is 
repulsed as a simpleton or a churl. 

Boccaccio. When Messer Francesco talks about liberty, he 
talks loud. Let us walk away from the green,* into the cathe- 
dral which the congregation is leaving. 

Petrarca. Come, now, Giovanni, tell us some affecting story, 
suitable to the gloominess of the place. 

Boccaccio. If Ser Geoffreddo felt in honest truth any pleasure 
at reading my Decameron, he owes me a tithe at least of the stories 
it contains ; for I shall not be so courteous as to tell him that one 
of his invention is worth ten of mine, until I have had all his ten 
from him : if not now, another day. 

Chaucer. Let life be spared to me, and I will carry the tithe 

* The cathedral of Arezzo stands on a green, in which are pleasant 
walks commanding an extensive view. 

Chauo.T. Boccaccio, and IVtnnv.i 71 

in triumph through my country, much as may be shed of the 

and rij>er grain by the conveyance and the handling of it. 

1 Mjjlishmen what Italians ;ne; how 

much deeper in thought, intense! in terling, and richer in imagina- 
tion, than rly : and I will try whether we cannot raise 
poetry under our fogs, and merriment among our marshes. We 
it first throw some litter about it, which those who come 
after us may remove. 

Do not threaten, Ser Geoffreddo ! Englishmen 

Boccaccio. Messer Francesco is grown melancholy at the 
spectre of the tribune. Relate to us some amusing tale, either of 
court or war. 

Chaucer. It would ill become me, signers, to refuse what I 
can offer ; and truly I am loath to be silent, when a fair occasion 
is before me of adverting to those of my countrymen who fought 
in the battle of Cressy, as did one or two or more of the persons 
that are the subjects of my narrative. 

Boccaccio. Enormous and horrible as was the slaughter of the 
French in that fight, and hateful as is war altogether to you and 
me, Francesco, I do expect from the countenance of Ser Geof- 
freddo, that he will rather make us merry than sad. 

Chaucer. I hope I may, the story not wholly nor principally 

.; to the battle. 

Sir Magnus Lucy is a knight of ample possessions and of no 
obscure family, in the shire of Warwick, one of our inland pro- 
vinces. He was left in his childhood under the guardianship of 
a mother, who loved him more fondly than discreetly. Beside 
which disadvantage, there was always wanting in his family the 
nerve or fluid, or whatever else it may be, on which the intellectual 
powers are nourished and put in motion. The good Lady Joan 
would never let him enter the lists at jousts and tournaments, to 
which indeed he showed small inclination, nor would she encourage 
him to practise or learn any martial exeivise. He was excused 
from the wars under the plea that he was subject to epilepsy ; 
somewhat of which fit or another had befallen him in his adoles- 
cence, from having eaten too freely of a cold swan, after dinner. 
To render him justice, he had given once an indication of courage, 
mer's son upon his estate, a few years younger than hi 

72 Imaginary Conversations. 

had become a good player at quarter-staff, and was invited to 
Charlecote, the residence of the Lucys, to exhibit his address in 
this useful and manly sport. The lad was then about sixteen 
years old, or rather more ; and another of the same parish, and 
about the same standing, was appointed his antagonist. The sight 
animated Sir Magnus ; who, seeing the game over and both com- 
batants out of breath, called out to Peter Crosby the conqueror, 
and declared his readiness to engage with him, on these conditions: 
First, that he should have a helmet on his head with a cushion 
over it, both of which he sent for ere he made the proposal, and 
both of which were already brought to him, the one from a buck's 
horn in the hall, the other from his mother's chair in the parlor ; 
secondly, that his visor should be down ; thirdly, that Peter 
should never aim at his body or arms ; fourthly and lastly, for 
he would not be too particular, that, instead of a cudgel, he should 
use a bulrush, enwrapped in the under-coat he had taken off, lest 
any thing venomous should be sticking to it, as his mother said 
there might be, from the spittle or spawn of toads, evets, water- 
snakes, and adders. 

Peter scraped back his right foot, leaned forward, and laid his 
hooked fingers on his brow, not without scratching it, the multi- 
form signification of humble compliance in our country. John 
Crosby, the father of Peter, was a merry, jocose old man, not a 
little propense to the mischievous. He had about him a powder 
of a sternutatory quality, whether in preparation for some trick 
among his boon companions, or useful in the catching of chub 
and bream, as many suspected, is indifferent to my story. This 
powder he inserted in the head of the bulrush, which he pretended 
to soften and to cleanse by rubbing, while he instructed his lad in 
the use and application of it. Peter learned the lesson so well, 
and delivered it so skilfully, that at the very first blow the powder 
went into the aperture of the visor, and not only operated on the 
nostrils, but equally on the two spherical, horny, fish-like eyes 
above it. Sir Magnus wailed aloud, dropped his cudgel, tore 
with great effort (for it was well fastened) the pillow from his 
helmet, and implored the attendants to embrace him, crying, 
" Oh Jesu ! Jesu ! I am in the agonies of death : receive my 
spirit ! " John Crosby kicked the ankle of the farmer who 
sat next him on the turf, and whispered, " He must find it first." 

Boccaccio, and Potrarca. 73 

Tin- mischief was attributed to the light and downy particle, 
of the bul: . hed by the unlucky blow; and John, spring- 

ing up when he had spoken :he words, and sei/ing it from the 
of his son, laid it lustily about his shoulders until it fell 
in dust on every side, crying, "Scape-grace! scape-grace! 
born to break thy father's heart in splinters ! Is it thus thou 
begin nest thy service to so brave and generous a master ? Out of 
my sight!" 

Never was the trick divulged by the friends of Peter until 
!eath, which happened lately at the battle of Creasy. 
While Peter was fighting for his king and country, Sir Magnus 
resolved to display his wealth and splendor in his native land. 
He had heard of princes and other great men travelling in dis- 
guise, and under names not belonging to them. This is easy of 
ion: he resolved to try it; although at first a qualm of 
conscience came over him on the part of the Christian name 
which his godfathers and godmothers had given him, but which 
however was so distinguishing that he determined to lay it aside, 
first asking leave of three saints, paying three groats into the alms- 
box, saying twelve paternosters within the hour, and making the 
priest of the parish drunk at supper. He now gave it out by 
sound of horn that he should leave Charlecote, and travel incognito 
through several parts of England. For this purpose he locked up 
the liveries of his valets, and borrowed for them from his tenants 
the dress of yeomanry. Three grooms rode forward in buff 
habiliments, with three led horses well caparisoned. Before noon 
he reached a small town called Henley-in-Arden, as his host at 
the inn-door told him, adding, when the knight dismounted, that 
there were scholars who had argued in his hearing whether the 
name of Arden were derived from another forest so called in 
Germany, or from a puissant family which bore it, being earls of 
Warwick in the reign of Edward the Confessor. " It is the 
opinion of the Abbot of Tewkesbury, and likewise of my very 
good master, him of Evesham," said the host, " that the Saxon 
earls brought over the name with them from their own country, 
ive it to the wilder part of their dominions in this of ours." 

44 No such family now, ' cried the knight, " We have driven 
them out, bag and baggage, long ago, being braver men than they 

74 Imaginary Conversations. 

A thought however struck him that the vacant name might 
cover and befit him in this expedition ; and he ordered his 
servants to call him Sir Nigel de Arden. 

Continuing his march northward, he protested that nothing 
short of the Trent (if indeed that river were not a fabulous one) 
should stop him ; nay, by the rood, not even the Trent itself, if 
there were any bridge over it strong enough to bear a horse 
caparisoned, or any ford which he could see a herd of oxen or a 
score of sheep fit for the butcher pass across. Early on the 
second morning he was nigh upon twenty miles from home, at a 
hamlet we call Bromwicham, where be two or three furnaces and 
sundry smiths, able to make a horse-shoe in time of need, allow- 
ing them drink and leisure. He commanded his steward to dis- 
burse unto the elder of them one penny of lawful coin, advising the 
cunning man to look well and soberly at his steed's hoofs, and at 
those of the other steeds in his company ; which being done, and 
no repairs being necessary, Sir Magnus then proceeded to the vicinity 
of another hamlet called Sutton Colefield, in which country is a well- 
wooded and well-stocked chase, belonging to my dread master 
the Duke of Lancaster, who often taketh his sport therein. 
Here, unhappily for the knight, were the keepers of the said 
chase hunting the red and fallow deer. The horse of the wor- 
shipful knight, having a great affection for dogs, and inspirited by 
the prancing and neighing of his fellow- creatures about him, 
sprang forward, and relaxed not any great matter of his mettle 
before he reached the next forest of Cannock, where the buck 
that was pursued pierced the thickets and escaped his enemies. 
In the village of Cannock was the knight, at his extremity, fain 
to look for other farriery than that which is exercised by the 
craft in Bromwicham, and upon other flesh than horseflesh, and 
about parts less horny than hoofs, however hardened be the same 
parts by untoward bumps and contusions. This farriery was 
applied by a skilful and discreet leech, while Sir Magnus opened 
his missal on his bed in the posture of devotion, and while a 
priest, who had been called in to comfort him, was looking 
for the penetential psalms of good king David, the only service 
(he assured Sir Magnus) that had any effect in the removal or 
alleviation of such sufferings. 

When the host at Cannock heard the name of his guest, 

*^V* 141V? TVV1I%. ISIV, fV TV IU* ** 1 1 J<* I U V H_/ ItlO ICIUIVI O dl> X^Cl 1 1 1 1 1'l. A 

were received by the townspeople with much deference 
respect. The attendants of Sir Magnus observed it, and 

Chaucer. Hi- -cacao, and iVtnircu. 75 

44 'Sblood ! " cried he to his son, " ride over, Emanuel, to Long- 
croft, and inform the worshipful youths, Humphrey and Henry, 
lie of their kinsmen is come over from the other side of 
.-ickshire to visit them, and has lost his way in the forest 
through a love of sport." 

On his road into Rugeley, Emanuel met them together, and 
told them his errand. They had heard the horn as they were 
riding out, had joined the hunt, and were now returning home. 
.mt at first that any one should take the name of their 
family, they went on asking more and more questions and their 
anger abated as their curiosity increased. Having an abundance 
of good-humor and of joviality in their nature, they agreed to 
act courteously, and turn the adventure into glee and joyousness. 
So they went back with Emanuel to his father's at Cannock, and 

>le with much deference and 
earnest to are in what manner the adventure would terminate. 

Go," said Humphrey, " and tell your Master Sir Nigel that 
his kinsmen are come to pay their duty to him." The clergyman 
who had been reading the penitential psalms, and had afterwards 
said Mass, opened the chamber-door for them, and conducted 
them to Sir Magnus. They began their compliments by telling 
him that, although the house at Longcroft was unworthy of their 
kinsman's reception, in the absence of their father, when they 
were interrupted by the knight, who cried aloud in a clear quaver, 
** Young gentlemen ! I have no relative in these parts : I come 
from the very end of Warwickshire. Reverend sir priest ! I do 
protest and vow I have no cognizance of these two young gentle- 

As be spoke the sweat hung upon his brow, the cause of which 
neither the brothers nor the priest could interpret ; but it really 
was lest they should have come to dine with him, and perhaps 
have moreover some retinue in the yard. Disclaimed so uncere- 
moniously, Humphrey dc Arden opened a leathern purse, and 
carefully took out his father's letter. Whereat the alarm of Sir 
Magnus increased beyond measure, from the uncertainty of its 
contents, and from the certainty of being discovered as the 
usurper of a noble name. His terrors however were groundless ; 
the letter was this : 

76 Imaginary Conversations. 

" SON HUMPHREY, I grieve that the valet who promised me 
those three strong geldings, and took moneys thereupon, hath 
mortally disappointed me ; for verily we have hard work here, 
being one against seven or eight ; * and, if matters go on in this 
guise, T must e'en fight afoot ere it be long : they have killed 
among them my brave old Black Jack, who had often winnowed 
them with his broken wind, which was not broken till they broke 
it. The drunken fat rogue that now fails me would rather hunt 
on Colefield or (if he dare come so near to you) on Cannock, 
than lead the three good steeds in a halter up Yoxall Lane. 
Whenever ye find him, stand within law with him and use whit- 
leather rather than Needwood holly, which might provoke the 
judge ; and take the three hale nags, coming hither with them 
yourselves, and paying him forthwith three angels, due unto him 
on the feast of Saint Barnabas and that other (St Jude, as I am 
now reminded), if ye have so many ; if not, mortgage a meadow. 
And let this serve as a warrant from your loving father, f ft " 

" What is that to me ? " cried in agony Sir Magnus. The 
priest took the letter and shook his head. " Sir priest ! you see 
how it stands with us ; " said the knight. " Do deliver me from 
the lion's den and from the young lions ! " 

" Friend ! " said the priest, gravely and sternly, " I know the 
mark of Sir Humphrey ; and the handwriting is my own brother's, 
who, taking with him in his saddle-bag a goose-pie and twelve 
strings of black pudding for Sir Humphrey, left his cure at Tarn- 
worth but four months ago, and joined the army in France, in 
order to shrive the wounded. It is my duty to make known unto 
the sheriff whatever is irregular in my parish." 

"Oh, for the love of Christ, say nothing to the sheriff! I 
will confess all," exclaimed the knight. 

The attendants and many of the customers and country-folks 
had listened at the door, which was indeed wide open ; and the 
priest, being now confirmed in his suspicion by the knight's offer 
to "confess all," walked slowly through them, mounted his 

* Such soon afterward was the disproportion of numbers at the battle 
of Cressy. 

t The mark of a knight, instead of his name, is not be wondered at. 
Out of the thirty-six barons who subscribed the Magna Charta, three 
only signed with their names. 

Chaucer, Boccaccio, ami lYtrarca. 77 

palfrey, and rode over to the sheriff at Penkridge. The two 
young gentlemen were delighted on seeing the consternation of 
Sir Magnus and his company, and encouraged by the familiarity 
of one among them, led him aside and said, " It will be well and 
happy for you if you persuade the others of your party to return 
home speedily. The sheriff" is a shrewd severe man, and will 
surely send every soul of you into Picardy, excepting such as he 
bbct on the common for an ensample." 

" Masters ! " replied the Warwickshire wag, " I will return 
among them and frighten them into the road ; but you two brave 
lads shall have your horses, and your father his, together with 
such attendants as you little reckon on. Are ye for the wars ? " 

" We were going," said they gayly, '* whenever we could raise 
enough moneys from our father's tenantry ; for he, much as he 
desires to have us with him, is very loath to be badly equipped ; 
and would perad venture see us rather slain in battle, or (what he 
thinks worse) not in it at all, than villanously mounted." 

" Will ye take me ? " cried the gallant yeoman. 

" Gladly," answered they both together. 

;>h Roebuck was the name of this brave youngster; and, 

without another word, he ran among his fellows, and putting 

nd above his ear, as our hunters are wont, shouted aloud, 

" Who's for hangn ne morning?" "Ralph!" chimed 

they together, somewhat languidly, " What dost mean ? " 

* I mean," whispered he slowly and distinctly to the nearest, 
" that the country will be up in half an hour ; that the priest is 
gone for the sheriff; and that if he went for the devil he could 
fetch him. I never knew a priest at a fault, whatever he winded. 
Whosoe'er has a horse able to carry him is in luck. In my mind 
there will be some heels without a stirrup under them before to- 
morrow, kick as they may to find it. I must not however be 
unfaithful to my master, for whom I have spoken a fair word and 
worn a smiling face, in my perils and tribulations, with these stout 
young gallants. Each to his own bit and bridle : the three led 
chargers let no man touch, on his life. For the rest, I will be 
spokesman, in lack of a better. May we meet again in Charlecote, 
at least half the number we set out !" 

Away they ran, saddled their horses, and rode off. Ralph, 
who had lately been put in the stocks by his master for drinking 

78 Imaginary Conversations. 

a cup too much and for singing a song by no means dissuasive of 
incontinence, now for the first time began to think of it again, and 
expected a like repose after less baiting. Presently came up a 
swart, thin, fierce little man, with four others bearing arms. He, 
observing Ralph, ordered him to " stand," in the king's name. 
Ralph had been standing, and stood, with his arms before him, 
hanging as if they were broken. 

" Varlet and villain ! " cried the under- sheriff, for such was the 
little man, " who art thou ? " 

" May it please your honor," answered he submissively, " my 
name is a real one and my own, such as it is." 

"And what may it be, sirrah ! " 

" Ralph Roebuck." 

" Egad ! " cried the little man starting at it, " that too sounds 
like a feigned one. Ye are all rogues and vagrants. Where 
are thy fellows ? " 

" I can answer only for myself, may it please your worship ! " 
said Ralph. 

" Where is thy leader, vagabond ! " cried the magistrate, more 
and more indignant. 

" God knows," answered Ralph, dolorously. 

" Has he fled with the rest of his gang ? " 

" God grant he may," ejaculated Roebuck, " rather than hang 
upon the cursed tree." 

The under-sherifF then ordered his people to hold Ralph in 
custody, and went and saluted the two De Ardens, who requested 
that clemency might be shown to every one implicated in an 
offence so slight. 

" We must consider of that," answered the under-sheriff. 
" Edward a Brocton the priest of Cannock here, has given me 
this letter, which he swears is written by his brother William, 
priest of Tarn worth, and marked by your worshipful father." 
The young men bowed. " Who is the rogue that defrauded 
him," resumed the under-sheriff, " in the three horses, to our 
lord the king's great detriment and discomfort ? " 

It was not for them, they replied, to incriminate any one ; nor 
indeed would they knowingly bring any man's blood on their 
heads, if they could help it. 

" The impostor in the house shall be examined," cried the little 

Boccaai.). and Prtrarca. 79 

in.m, d IT .tlon^ hi.-. lip.-*, for they were foamy. 

nt into the room and found the knight in a shower of tears. 

"Call my \.irlets! call my rogues!" cried Sir Magnus, 
wringing his hands and turning away his face. 

" Rogues!" said the under-sheritf. "They are gone off, 
and in another county, or near upon it ; else would I hang them 
all speedily, as I will thee, by God's pleasure. How many 
horses hast thou in the stable ? " 

r ! good sir ! gentle sir ! patience a little ! Let me think 
awhile ! " said the knight. 

- Ay, ay, ay ! let thee think forsooth ! " scornfully and 
canorously in well-sustained tenor hymned the son of Themis. 
This paper hath told me." 

Worthy sir ! " said the knight, hear reason ! Hear truth 
and righteousness and justification by faith ! Hear a sinner in 
tribulation, in the shadow of death ! ' 

** Faith, sirrah ! thou art very near the substance, if there be 
any," interposed the under-sheritf. 

44 Nay, nay ! hold, I beseech you ! As I have a soul to be 
saved "- 

" Pack it up then ! pack it up ! I will give it a lift when it 
is ready." 

"O sir sheriff, sir sheriff! I am disposed to swear on the 
rood, I am not, and never was, Sir Nigel de Arden." 

At these words the under-sheriff laughed bitterly, and said, 
44 Nor I neither ; " and, going out of the room, ordered a guard to 
stand at the door. 

Henry then took him by the arm and said softly, " Gildart ! 
do not be severe with the poor young man below. It is true he 
is in the secret, which he swears he will not betray if he dies for 
it ; but he promises us UK* three horses without trial or suit or 
trouble or delay, and hopes you will allow his master to leave 
the kingdom in peace and safety under his conduct, promising 
to serve the king, together with us faithfully in his wars." 

44 We could not do better," answered the under-sheriff, " if we 
were certain the fellow and his gang would not waylay and 
murder you on the road." 

" Never fear ! " cried Henry. 44 As we shall have other 
attendants, and are neither less strong nor (I trust) less courageous 
than he we will venture, with your leave and permission." 

8o Imaginary Conversations. 

This was given in writing. The under-sherifF ordered his 
guards to bring down the culprit, who came limping and very slow. 
" Pity he cannot feign and counterfeit a little better on the 
spur of the occasion ! " said the under-sheriff. " He well answers 
the description of fat and lazy : as for drunken, it shall not be to- 
day on Cannock ale or Burton beer." 

When the knight had descended the stairs, and saw Ralph 
Roebuck, he shrieked aloud with surprise and gladness, " O thou 
good and faithful servant ! enter into the joy of thy lord ! " 

" God's blood ! " cried Ralph. " I must enter then into a thing 
narrower than a weasel's or a wasp's hole. To what evil have 
you led us ? " 

" Now you can speak for me ! " said the knight. 
Ralph shook his head and sighed, " It will not do, master ! I 
am resolved to keep my promise, which you commanded upon 
first setting out, though it may cost me limb or life. Master, one 
word in your ear. 

" No whisperings ! no connivances ! no plans or projects of 
escape ! " cried the guard. They helped Sir Magnus into his 
saddle with more than their hands and arms ; which, instead of 
ofHciousness, he thought an indignity, though it might be the 
practice of those parts. The two De Ardens mounted two of 
the richly caparisoned steeds ; the third was led by their servant, 
who went homeward with those also which they had ridden for 
what was necessary, being ordered to rejoin them at Lichfield. 
Ralph Roebuck sat alert on his own sorrel palfrey, a quick and 
active one, with open transparent nostrils. He would, as became 
him, have kept behind his master, if the knight had not called him 
to his side, complaining that the length and roughness of the roads 
had shaken his saddle so as to make it uneven and uneasy. Many 
and pressing were the offers of Ralph to set it right : Sir Magnus 
shook his head, and answered that " man is born to suffering as 
the sparks fly upward." 

" I could wish, sir," said Ralph, " if it did not interfere with 
higher dispensations" 

" The very word, Ralph ! the very word ! thou rememberest 
it ! I could not bring it nicely to mind. Several Sundays have 
passed si^ce we heard it. Well ! what couldst thou wish ? " 
' That your worship had under you at this juncture the cushion 

Cliaua-r. Boccaccio, and IVtrarca. Si 

of our late good Lady Joan, which might serve you now some- 
better than it did at the battle of the bulrush." \\\> ,.11 serve 

best in our places." 

v our lady ! Ralph ! I nem BW , nun so much improved 

Jf hls tnn - irt - Wi'it >lull we both be ere we reach 

home again : " 

R j'; -it^ hi- master how much better it wen- tl 

ftp Ad not return too speedily amonn the cravens and re- 
rreants who had deserted him, and who probably would be pur- 
sued ; and then what a shame and scandal it would be, if such a 
powerful knight as Sir Magnus should see them dragged from his 
own hall, and from under his own eyes, to prison. If by any 
M it could be contrived to prolong the journey a few days, it 
wodd be a blessing; and the De Ardens, it might be hoped, 
d say nothing of the matter to the sheriff. Sir Magnus felt 
that his importance would be lowered by the seizure of his servants, 
in his presence and under his roof; and he had other reasons for 
ishing to ndc leisurely, in which his more active companions little 
participated. On their urging him to push forward, he complained 
that his horse had been neglected, and had neither tasted oat nor 
ven sweet meadow-hay, at Cannock. His company 
expressed the utmost solicitude that this neglect shodd be promptly 
remedied, and, grieving that the next stage was still several miles 
dirtant, offered, and at the same time exerted, their best services 
bnngmg the hungry and loitering steed to a trot. Sir Magnus 
now had his shrewd suspicions, he said, that the saddJe had been 
I looked to, and doubted whether a nail from behind might not 
lomehow have dropped lower. When he wodd have cleared up 
his doubts by the agency of his hand, again the whip, applied to 
flinching steed, disturbed the elucidation ; and his knuckles, 
instead of solving the knotty point, only added to its nodosity. 
At last he cried, " Roebuck ! Roebuck ! gently, softly ! If we 
go on at this rate, in another half-hour I shall be black and bloody 
a* ever rook was that dropped ill-fledged from the rookery." 

The Lord hath well speeded our flight," said Ralph relent- 
" he hath delivered us from our enemies. What miles and 
miles have we travelled, to ail appearance, in a few hours ! " 

4 Not many hours indeed," answered the knight, still ponder- 
ing. What in yon red spire ? " add.-d hr. 

82 Imaginary Conversations. 

" The Tower of Babel," replied Ralph composedly. 

" I cannot well think it," muttered Sir Magnus in suspense. 
" They would never have dared to rebuild it, after God's anger 

It was the spire of Lichfield cathedral. 

When they entered the city they found there some hundreds 
of French prisoners, taken in the late skirmishes, who were 
chattering and laughing and boasting of their invincibility. 
Their sun-burned faces, their meagre bodies, their loud cries, 
and the violence our surly countrymen expressed at not being 
understood by them, although as natives of Lichfield they spoke 
such good English, removed in part the doubts of Sir Magnus, 
even before he heard our host cry, " By God ! a very Babel ! " 
Later in the evening came some Welshmen, having passed through 
Shropshire and Cheshire with mountain sheep for the fair the 
next morning. These two were unintelligible in their language, 
and different from the others. They quarrelled with the French 
for mocking them, as they thought. Sir Magnus expressed his 
wonder that an Englishmen, which the host was, should be found 
in such a far country, among the heathen ; albeit some of them 
spoke English, not being able for their hearts and souls to do 
otherwise, since all the languages in the world were spoken there 
as a judgment on the ungodly. He confessed he had always 
thought Babel was in another place, though he could not put his 
finger upon it exactly. Nothing, he added, so clearly proved the 
real fact, as that the sheep themselves were misbegotten and black- 
faced, and several of them altogether tawny like a Moor's head 
he had seen, he told them, in the chancel-window of Saint Mary's 
at Warwick. " Which reminds me," said the pious knight, 
" that the hour of Angelus must be at hand ; and, beside the 
usual service, I have several forms of thanksgiving to run through 
before I break bread again." 

It was allowed him to go alone upstairs for his devotions, in 
which, ye will have observed, he was very regular. Meanwhile 
the landlord and his two daughters, two buxom wenches, 
were admitted into the secret ; and it was agreed that at supper 
all should speak a jargon, by degrees more and more confused, 
and that at last every imaginable mistake should be made in exe- 
cuting the orders of the company. The girls entered heartily 

r.liauci-r. Boccaccio, and Petrarca. 83 

into the device, and the rosy-faced father gave them hints and 
directions while the supper was being cooked. Sir Magnus came 
down, after a time, co\ercd with sweat. He protested that the 
t the clim.ite in these countries was intolerable, particularly 
in his bedroom ; that indeed he had felt it before, in the open air, 
but only on certain portions of the body which certain stars have 
an influence upon, and not at all in the face. 

The oven had been heated just under the knight's bed, in order 
to supply loaves for the farmers and drovers the following day. 

Supper was now served : bread however was wanting. The 
knight desired one of the young women to give him some. She 
looked at him in astonishment, shrank back, blushed, and hid her 
face in her apron. The father came forward furiously, and said 
many words, or rather uttered many sounds, which Sir Magnus could 
not understand He requested his attendant Ralph to explain. 
Ralph made a few attempts at English, and, failing in it, spoke 
very fluently another tongue. The father and his daughters 
stared one at another, and brought a bucket of hot water, with a 
square of soap ; then a goose's wing ; then a sack of gray peas ; 
then a blackbird in a cage ; then a mustard pot ; then a handful 
of brown paper ; then a pair of white rabbits, hanging by the ears. 
Sir Magnus now addressed the other girl. She appeared more 
willing to comply, and, making a sign at her father, whose back 
was turned in his anxiety to find what was called for, as if she 
would be kinder still when he was out of the way, laid her arm 
across the neck of the knight, and withdrew it hesitatingly and 
timidly. At this instant a great dog entered, allured by the 
smell of the meat. The knight's lips quivered, and the first accents 
he uttered audibly and distinctly were, "Seeking whom he may 
devour." Then falling on his knees, he cried aloud, * O Lord ! 
thy mercies are manifold ! I am a sinner." 

The girl trembled from head to foot, ready to burst with the 
laughter she was suppressing, and kissed her father, and appeared to 
implore his pardon. He pushed her back and cried, " Away ! I 
saw thee ! I saw thee with these very eyes ! " clenching his fist 
and striking his brow frantically. " I saw thy shadow upon the 
. No wickedness is hidden." 

44 The hand-writing ! the hand-writing ! That was upon the 
wall, too ! perhaps upon this very one," exclaimed the conscience- 

84 Imaginary Conversations. 

stricken and aghast Sir Magnus. He fell on his knees, and 
praised the Lord for allowing to the host again the use ot his 
mother-tongue ; for the salvation of him a sinner ; if indeed it 
were not the Lord himself who spake by the lips of his servant 
in the words, No wickedness is hidden." After a prayer, he 
protested that, although indeed his heart was corrupt, as all hearts 
were, the devil had failed to inflame him universally. Not one 
knew what he said. Humphrey laughed and nodded assent; 
Henry offered him baked apples ; Ralph brushed his doublet- 

Before it was light in the morning, the horses were at the 
door ; nobody appeared ; no money had been paid or demanded : 
nevertheless it seemed an inn. They mounted ; they mused ; 
they feared to meet each other's eyes : at last Ralph addressed 
one of the De Ardens in a low voice, but so as to be heard by 
his master. The two brothers tried each a monosyllable : Ralph 
shook his head, and they looked despondently. Attempts were 
renewed at intervals for several miles ; when suddenly a distant 
bell was heard, probably from the cathedral, and Humphrey 
cried, " Matins ! matins ! " At this moment all spoke English 
perfectly, and the knight uttered many fervent ejaculations. 
The others related their sufferings and visions ; and when they 
had ended, Sir Magnus said he seemed to hear throughout the 
night the roaring of a fiery furnace, for all the world like King 
Nebuchadnezzar's; only that sinful bodies, and not righteous 
ones, were moved and shoved backward and forward in it, until 
their bones grated like iron, and until his own teeth chattered so 
in his head he could hear them no longer. 

His conductor was careful to avoid the county of Warwick, 
lest any one should recognise the knight, little as was the chance 
of it ; for he never had been further from home than at Warwick, 
and there but twice, the distance being five good miles. On 
his way toward the coast, he wondered to find the stars so very 
like those at Charlecote ; and some of them seemed to know him 
and wink at him. He thought indeed here were a good many 
more of them awake and stirring ; because he had been longer 
out of doors than he had ever been before, at night. Slowly as 
he would have travelled, if he had been allowed his own way, 
on the sixth morning from his adventure at Cannock he had come 

Chaucer. IWcuccio. and Pftrarea. 85 

within sigh, of the coast. To his questions no other answer was 

ted, than that the umes were unquiet; that the roads u,rc 

Tested with robbers ; and that the orders of a .sheriff were a. a 

the afternoon, the travellers descended the narrow 

loway that leads mto the seaport town of Hastings. Ralph 

?M T ^' IOrS Wl 'u ^ Ste PP in * into a *? A 
Matter ! what do you think of these ? " 

: think, Roebuck," answered he, after pondering some 

;: * - <- ^V si 1 ? 

wer nVyin8 'hr tore, and horses 

he ni ( ,h..< ?t -, J whi f el 1 in the o 

[ht, S,r knight! do not, for the love of Christ! do 

nture wtth tho* two daredevil, any further. Let u 

take only a small boat, j large enough to enter the Avon. 

a AM cut hereabout, if we could find it. For 

of gold we may hire as many sailors to hazard their 

. and live, for us, and see us safe at home again." 

I, . 5 P '.r" f g ' d '," '^^ Sir Ma g" u very slowly and 
**C* : x p,eces of gold, in the K hard times, go well-nigh 
to purchase an acre of pasture-land." 

True," replied Roebuck, with a hundred of (and and a 
bouond of thrown in, a. hoof and dunk to a buttock of 

iot t cr t r ' 

LTd ^5 'ok out for Mme wch investment of 

sa.d moneys a to get the indenture, fairly engrowed forth- 

"InTe.tment! indenture.! "cried Ralph. "Master! it i. 
^11 for tho* who can carry by land and iea such fine learned 

It is uncertain whether Sir Magnu. heard him, for he con- 
nu,dto utter and repeat the wbstance of hi. reflections. 

of d, ^r^ '^M ^ mUW "* in a thou8and * 
It water, bemg well looked to ! Rats and otters might 

" an^o^tZ' "^ ^ C Uld ealch a " with ' he 
foam bobbmg up eerUungly and buffeting their 

From - Six " , hundred, " (35 Une.) added in >nd ed.] 

86 Imaginary Conversations. 

whiskers ; and the poachers must buy lime-kilns, and forests, and 
mines of pure poison, if they would make the fish drunk at the 
bottom. Furthermore, there never could be a lack of sand at 
Charlecote these twenty years to come, for kitchen or scullery or 
walk before the hall-windows, or repairs of cow-house or dove- 
cot ; and many a cart-load would be lying in store for sale.' 1 

" There is great foresight and cleverness in all this," said 
Ralph ; " and if your worship had only six gold pieces in the 
world, no time ought to be lost in running with 'em seaward. 
But to my foolishness, three for life and three for liberty seem 
reasonable enough. Pirates, and even fair-fighting enemies, 
such as those gentlemen over the way, demand for a knight's 
ransom as many hundreds." 

The knight drew back and hesitated. 

" Well, 5 sir ! " said Ralph, " the business is none of mine. I 
have been let go ere now for an old song when 1 had angered my 
man : here I have angered nobody. I am safe anywhere, and 
welcome in most places." 

" I am fain to learn that old song of his," said the knight 

Roebuck continued : l * I have no hall with antlers in it ; I 
would rather eat a sucking-pig than a swan, and a griskin than 
a heron ; and I can do either with good-will about noon any day 
in seven, baiting Friday, and without mounting up three long steps 
that run across the room, or resting my feet on a dainty mat of 
rushes. A good blazing kitchen-fire is enough for me. 6 I care 
neither for bucks nor partridges. As for spiced ale at christenings 
and weddings, I may catch a draught of it when it passes. Sack 
I have heard of: poor tipple, I doubt, that wants sweetening. 
But a horn of home-brewed beer, frothing leisurely, and humming 
lowly its contented tune, is suitable to my taste and condition ; 
and I envy not the great and glorious who have a goose with a 
capon in his belly on the table, or 7 even a peacock, his head as 
good as alive, and the proudest of his feathers to crown him." 

The knight answered, " Somehow I do not like to part with 

[ 5 From Well" to rushes " (12 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

[ First ed. reads : me, said Ralph. I," &c.] 

[ 7 From " or " to him " (2 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 


my gold : I never saw any in coinage till last Easter ; * and it 
so fresh and sunshiny and pleasant, I would keep it to look 
at in ;ther. Pay the varied in gn 

Knight ! " replied R-ilph, " do not let them see your store 
. hich are very handy, and sundry of these likewise are 

"Nobody would pay away new groats that could help it," 
sighed Sir Magnus. 

" The gold mu>t go, and nuke room for more," said Roebuck. 
\vered nothing ; but turning round, lest anybody 
should notice his capacious and well-stored scrip, IK- drew forth 
the six pieces, and, after a doubt and a trial with his thumb and 
finger, whether by reason of their roughness two peradventure 
might not stick together and make seven, he placed them in the 
palm of Roebuck, who took them with equal silence and less un- 
ity. Great contentment was manifested by the worshipful 
knight that the two De Ardens had left him ; and he ate a good 
dinner, and drank a glass of Rhenish, which he said was " pure 
sour ; " and presently was anxious to go aboard the boat, if it 
was ready. Ralph conducted him to it, and helped him in. The 
rowers for some time played their parts lustily, and then hoisted 
sail. Roebuck asked the oldest of them whether the wind was 
fair. " Passably," said he ; " but unless we look sharp we may 
be carried into the Low Countries." 

" I do not see anywhere that short cut, nor that brook which 
runs into the Avon," said Sir Magnus. " As for the Low 
Countries, no fear of them : the water rises before us, and we 
mount higher and higher every moment, insomuch that I begin to 
feel as if I were going up in a swing, like that between the elms." 

Presently Old Ocean exacted from him his tribute, which the 
powerfullest not of knights only and barons, but of princes and 
kings, must pay him in his own dominions, bending their heads 
and stretching out their arms and acknowledging his supremacy with 
tears and groans. He now fancied he had been poisoned on 
shore ; and was confirmed in his belief when Roebuck hummed 
a tune without any words to it, prodigal and profuse as he was of 

The first gold coined in England came out rather more than a year 
before this time, that i< in 1344; the quantity was small, and probably 
ulation not rapid nor extensive. 

88 Imaginary Conversations. 

them on ordinary occasions ; and when neither he nor any of the 
sailors would bring him such a trifle as water-gruel sweetened 
with clary wine, or camomile flowers picked with the dew upon 
them and simmered in fair spring-water and in an earthen pan, or 
viperbroth with a spoonful of Venice-treacle in it, stirred with the 
tusk of a wild-boar in the first quarter of the moon : the only 
things he asked them for. Soon however his pains abated, yet he 
complained that his eyesight was so affected he seemed to see 
nothing but greenish water, like leek-porridge, albeit by his reckon- 
ing they must now be near the brook. 

" Methinks," said he, " we are running after that great white 
ship yonder." 

" Methinks so too," answered Ralph ; crying, " How is this ? " 
with apparent anger, to the sailors. 

** It cannot be otherwise," said one of them ; ' the boat is the 
brig's own daughter : what mortal can keep them asunder ! 
You might as well hope to hold tight by your teeth a two 
months' calf from its dam." 

" Why didst not thou see to that, Ralph ? " cried the knight 
in the bitterness of his soul. " Always rash and imprudent ! " 

Roebuck attempted to console his master with the display of 
the honors that would be shown him aboard the brig, when his 
quality should be discovered. Then, taking advantage of a shoal 
of porpoises, that rolled and darted in every direction round the 
boat, he showed them to Sir Magnus, who turned pale at seeing 
them so near him. " Never be frightened at a parcel of bots ! " 
cried Roebuck. 

" Bots ! what, those vast creatures ? " 

"Ay, surely," said one of the sailors. "The sea-horses 
avoid them by millions in a moment : you may sometimes see a 
thousand of them sticking on a single hair of their tails." 

" Do those horses come within sight then ? " said Sir Magnus, 

" Only when they are itchy," answered the mariner ; and 
then they contrive to slip between a boat and a brig, and crack a 
couple or three at a time of those troublesome little insects." 

Sir Magnus said something to himself about the wonders of 
the great deep, and praised God for having kept hitherto such a 
breed of bots out of his stables. He began to see clearly how 

Chaucer. Boccaccio, and IVirarca. So 

fitted emytbiog is to the place it occujm-- ; and how certainly 
these creatures were created to tx- killed between brigs and boats. 

Meditations mu>t have their end, though they reach to 

Great as had been the consternation of Sir Magnus at the 
sight of the porpoises, and at the probability that a hair of some 
stray marine horse, covered over with them, might lie between 
him and the river, greater still was it, if possible, at approaching 
the brig, and discerning the two De Ardens. \V .t can they 
want with me ? " cried he. " I am resolved not to go home with 

Roebuck raised his spirits, by swearing that nothing of the kind 
should happen while he had a drop of blood in his \ 
" Hark ! Sir Knight ! " said he. " Observe how the two young 
men are behaving." 

Gayly indeed did they accost him, and imperiously cried they 
to the crew, " Make way for Sir Magnus Lucy ! " 

ehold, sir, your glorious name hath already manifested itself," 
: <lph. 

A rope-ladder was let down ; and the brothers knelt, and 
inclined their bodies, and offered their hands to aid him in mount- 
ing. " Here are honors paid to my master ! " said Roebuck, 
exultingly. Sir Magnus himself was highly gratified with his 
reception, and retolved to defer his interrogatory on the course 
they seemed to be taking. He was startled at dinner-time when 
iptain with strange familiarity entitled him, * Sir Mag." 
The following words were even more offensive : for when the 
ship rolled somewhat, though moderately, the trencher of Sir 
Magnus fell into his lap ; and the captain cried " Nay, nay, Sir 
Mag ! as much into gullet as gullet will hold, but clap nothing 
below the girdl- rotested he had no design to secrete any- 

thing. The sailors played and punned, as low men are wont, on his 
family name ; and, on his asking what the fellows meant by their 
impudence, a scholar from Oxford of whom he inquired it, one 
who liked the logic of princes better than that of pedants, told 
him they wished to express by their words and gestures that he 
was, in the phrase of Horace, ad ungurm fact us. 

" 1 do not approve of any phrases," answered he, somewhat 
proudly ; "and pray, sir, tell them so." 

9<D Imaginary Conversations. 

" Sir ! " said Roebuck in his ear, " although you may be some- 
what disappointed in the measure of respect paid to you aboard, 
you will be compensated on landing." 

Sir Magnus thought hereby that his tenants would surely bring 
him pullets and chines. As they approached the coast, " I told 
you, sir ! " exclaimed he. Look at the bonfire on the very 
edge of the sands ! they could not make it nearer you." A 
fire was blazing, and there were loud huzzas as the ship entered 
the port. 

" I would still be incog, if possible," said Sir Magnus, hollow- 
ing his cheeks and voice, and recovering to himself a great part 
of his own estimation. " Give the good men this money ; and 
tell them in future not to burn a serviceable boat for me in 
want of brushwood. I will send them a cart-load of it another 
time, on due application." 

The people were caulking a fishing-smack : they took the 
money, hooted at Sir Magnus, and turned again to their labor. 

After the service of the day, the King of England was always 
pleased to watch the ships coming over, to observe the soldiers 
debarking, and to learn the names of the knights and esquires who 
successively crossed the channel. He happened to be riding at 
no great distance ; and ordered one of his attendants to go and 
bring him information of the ship and her passengers, particularly 
as he had seen some stout horses put ashore. This knight was 
an intimate friend of De Arden the father, and laughed heartily 
at the adventure, as related by Humphrey. He repeated it to the 
king, word for word as nearly as he could. " Marry ! " said the 
king; "three fat horses, with a bean-field (I warrant) in each, 
are but an inadequate price for such a name. I doubt whether 
we have another among us that was in any degree noble before 
the Norman conquest. We ourselves might have afforded three 
decent ones in recompense for the dominion and property of nearly 
one whole county, and that county the fairest in England. Let 
the boys make the knight show his prowess, as some of his family 
have done. I observe they ride well, and have the prudence to 
exercise their horses on their first debarking, lest they grow stiff 
and lose their appetite. Tell them I shall be glad to hear of 
them, and then to see them." 

Sir Magnus, the moment he set foot on shore, was wel- 

Boccaccio, aiul IVtrarca. 91 

amu\l to land liy Roebuck. "No, no! rogue Ralph!" >aid 
he, nodding. " 1 know the Avon when I see it. Here we 
arc. None of your mummery, good people," cried he, somewhat 
angrily, when several ragged French men, women, and children 
asked him for charity. " We will have no Babel here, by 
God's blessing." 

Soon came forward two young knights, and told him it was 
the king's pleasure he should pitch his tent above Eu, on the 
right of this same river Brdf. 

* Youngsters ! " cried he arrogantly, ' I shall pitch nothing ; 
neither tent (whatever it may be), nor quoit, nor bar. Know ye, 
I am Sir Magnus Lucy, of Charlecote. 

Th- young knights, unceremoniously as he had treated them, 
bowed profoundly and said they bore the king's command, leaving 
the execution of it to his discretion. 

The king's," repeated he. What have I done ? Has that 
skipping squirrel of an under-sheriff been at the king's ear about 

They could w>t understand him ; and, telling him that it would 
be unbecoming in them to investigate his secrets, made again their 
obeisance, and left him. He then turned toward Ralph, the polar 
star in every ambiguity of his courses. 

" Honored master, Sir Magnus ! " answered Ralph, " let no 
strife be between us, nor ill blood, that alway maketh ill counsels 
boil uppermost in the pot." 

Roebuck ! " said the knight, surveying him with silent ad- 
miration, " now speakest thou soundly and calmly ; for thou hast 
taken time in the delivery thereof, and communed with thyself, 
before thou didst trust the least trustworthy of thy members. 
But I do surmise from thy manner, and from the thing spoken, 
that thou hast somewhat within thee which thou wouldst utter 

"Worshipful sir!" subjoined Ralph, "although I do not 
boast of my services as who would: yet, truth is truth. I 
have saved your noble neck from the gallows : forasmuch as 
you took a name, worshipful sir, which neither king nor 
ever gave you, and which belongeth to others rightfully. 
Now if both the name and the horses had been found at once 
upon you, a miracle only could have saved you from that bloody- 

92 Imaginary Conversations. 

minded under-sheriff. Providential was it for you, Sir JKnight, 
that those two young gentlemen, whether in mercy they counter- 
feited the letter " 

" No, no, no ! the priest's own brother wrote it : the priest 
deposed to the handwriting." 

" Then," said Ralph, calmly, lifting up the palms of his hands 
towards Sir Magnus, "let us praise the Lord ! " 

" Hei-day ? Ralph ! why ! art even thou grown devout ? 
Verily this is a great mercy ; a great deliverance. I doubt 
whether the best part of it (praised be the Lord nevertheless ! ) 
be not rather for thee, than for such a sinner as I am. For thou 
hast lost no horse ; and yet art touched as if thou hadst lost a 
stud : thou hast not suffered in the flesh ; and yet thy spirit is 
very contrite." 

"Master!" said Ralph, "only one thing is quite plain to 
me ; which is, that Almighty God decrees we should render 
our best services to our country. Your three horses followed 
you for idle pomp : vanity prompted you to appear what you 
are not." 

" Very wrong, Ralph ! " 

" And yet, Sir Magnus, if you had not committed this action, 
which in your pious and reasonable humility you call very wrong, 
perhaps three gallant youths (for Sir Magnus Lucy by God's 
grace shall be the third) had remained at home in that sad idle- 
ness which leads to an unprivileged and tongue-tied old age. 
We are now in France " 

" Ralph ! Ralph ! " said Sir Magnus, " be serious still. Faith ! 
I can hardly tell when thou art and when thou art not, being so 
unsteady a creature." 

" Sir Magnus, I repeat it, we are now in Normandy or 
Picardy, I know not rightly which ; where the king also is, and 
where it would be unseemly if any English knight were not. 
The eyes of England and of France are fixed upon us. Here 
we must all obey, the lofty as well as the humble." 

"Obey? ay, to be sure, Ralph ! Thou wilt obey me : thou 
art not great enough to obey the king ; therefore set not thy 
heart upon it." 

Ralph smiled and replied, " I offered my service to the young 
De Ardens, which they graciously accepted. As however they 

Chaucer. Boccaccio, and Petnirca. 93 

have their own servants with 'em, if you, my honored master, 
can trust me, who have more than once deceived you, but never 
to your injury, I will with their permission continue to serve you, 
and that right faithfully. Whatever is wanting to the dignity 
of your appearance is readily purchased in this country, from the 
many traffickers who follow the camp, and from the great abund- 
ance of Normandy. So numerous too are the servants who have 
lost their masters, you may find as many as your rank requires, 
or your fortune can maintain. There are handier men among 
them than id I do not ask of you any place of trust 

above my betters. Such as I am, either take me, Sir Magnus, 
or leave me with the two brave lads." 

" Ralph ! " answered the knight, I cannot do without 
thee, since I am here ; as it seems I am ! " and he sighed. 
"About those servants that have lost their masters I wish 
thou couldst have held thy peace. I would not fain have such 
unlucky varlets. But some of these masters, let us hope, may be 
found. Thou dost not mean they are dead ; that is, killed ! " 

* Missing," said Ralph, consolatorily. 

1 thought so : I corrected thee at the time. Now my three 
hones, the king being here, if thou speakest truth, I can have 
them up by ccrttorari at his Bench." 

They would be apt to leap it, I trow," replied Ralph, " with 
such riders upon their backs. Master, be easy about them ! " 

u Ismael is very powerful : he could carry me anywhere in 
reason," said Sir Magnus. 

* Do not let the story get wind," answered his counsellor, 
u lest we never hear the end of it. I promise you, my worthy 
master, you shall have Ismael again after the wars." 

" He will have longer teeth, and fewer marks in his mouth, 
before that time," said sorrowfully Sir Magnus. 

" No bridle can hold him, when he is wilful," replied Ralph ; 
" and although peradventure he might carry your worship clean 
through the enemy, once or twice, yet Ismael is not the horse 
to be pricked and goaded by pikes and arrows, without rearing 
and plunging, and kicking oft helmets by the dozen, nine ells 
from the ground. Let those Staffordshire lads break him in and 
bring him honn." 

" Tell them so ! tell them so ! " said Sir Magnus, rubbing 

94 Imaginary Conversations. 

his hands. " And find me one very strong and fleet, and very 
tractable, and that will do anything rather than plunge and rear 
at being pricked, if such bloody times should ever come over 
again in the world : for, as I never yet gave any man cause to 
mock at me, I will do my utmost to make all reverent of me, 
now I am near the king." Thus he spoke, being at last well 
aware that he was indeed in France ; although he was yet 
perplexed in spirit in regard to his having been at Babel. 

However, some time afterward he was likewise cured of this 
scepticism ; as by degrees men will be on such points, if they 
seek the truth in humility of spirit. Conversing one day with 
Roebuck on past occurrences, he said, after a pause, " Ralph ! I 
have confessed unto thee many things, as thou likewise hast con- 
fessed many unto me ; the which manner of living and communing 
was very pleasant to the gentle saints, Paul and Timothy. And 
now I do indeed own that I have seen men in these parts beyond 
sea, and doubt not that there be likewise such in others, who in 
sundry matters have more of worldly knowledge than I have, 
knowledge, I speak of, not of understanding. In the vanity of 
my heart, having at that time seen little, I did imagine and 
surmise that Babel lay wider of us ; albeit I could not upon oath 
or upon honor say where or whereabout, It pleased the Lord 
to enlighten me by signs and tokens, and not to leave me for the 
scorn of the heathen and the derision of the ungodly. Had I 
minded his word somewhat more, when in my self-sufficiency 
I thought I had minded little else and knew it off-hand,, I should 
have remembered that we pray every Sabbath for the peace of 
Jerusalem, and of Sion, and of Israel ; meaning thereby (as the 
priest admonishes the simpler of the congregation) our own 
country, albeit other names have been given in these latter days 
to divers parts thereof. By the same token I might have ap- 
prehended that Babel lay at no vast distance." 

Roebuck listened demurely, smacking his lips at intervals like 
a carp out of pond, and looking grave and edified. Tired how- 
ever with this geographical discursion, burred and briared and 
braked with homilies, he reminded his master that no time was to 
be lost in looking for a gallant steed, worthy to bear a knight of 
distinction. " My father," said he, " made a song for himself, 

Chautvr, Boccaccio, aiul Pctrarca. 

in readiness at fair or market, when he had a sorry jade to 
dispose of: 

Who sells a good nag 
On his leg* may fag 

Until his heart be weary. 
Who buys a good nag, 
And hath groats in his bag, 

May ride the world over full cheery 

" Comfortable thoughts, both of 'em ! " said Sir Magnus. 
" I never sold my nags : and I have groats enow, if nobody 
do touch the same. Not knowing well tin- farms about this 
country, and the day being more windy than I could wish it, and 
proposing still to remain for awhile incognito, and being some- 
what soiled in my apparel by the accidents of the voyage, and 
furthermore my eyes having been strained thereby a slight matter, 
it would please me, Roebuck, if thou wentest in search of the 
charger: the troublesome part of looking at his quarters, and 
handling him, and disbursing the moneys, I myself may, by God's 
providence, bring unto good issue." 

Ralph accepted the commission, and performed it faithfully and 
amply. He returned with two powerful chargers, magnificently 
caparisoned, and told his master that he would grieve to the day 
of his death if he let either of them slip through his fingers. Sir 
Magnus first asked the prices, and then the names of them. He 
was informed that one was called Rufus, and the other Beauclerc, 
after two great English kings. Enquiring of Ralph the history 
of these English kings, and whether he had ever heard of them, 
and on the confession of Ralph in the negative, he was vexed 
and discontented, and told Ralph he knew nothing. The owner 
of the horses was very fluent in the history of the two princes, 
which nearly lost him his customer; for the knight shook his 
head, spying he should be sorry to mount a beast of such an un- 
lucky name as Rufus : above all, in a country where arrows were 
so rife. As for Beauclerc, he was unexceptionable. 

" A horse indeed ! " cried Roebuck ; " in my mind, sir ! 
Ismael is not fit to hold a candle to him." 

" I would not say so much as that," gravely and majestically 
replied the knight : "but this Beauclerc has his points, Roebuck." 
Sir Magnus purchased the two horses, and acquired into the 
bargain the two pages of history appertaining to their names ; 

96 Imaginary Conversations. 

which, proud as he was of displaying them on all occasions, he 
managed less dexterously. Before long he heard on every side 
the most exalted praises of Humphrey and Hemy ; and although 
he was by no means invidious, he attributed a large portion of the 
merit to Ismael, and appealed to Roebuck whether he did not 
once hear him say that Jacob too would show himself one day or 
other. Stimulated by the glory his horses had acquired, horses 
bred upon his own land, and by the notice they had attracted 
from our invincible Edward, under two mere striplings of half his 
weight, he himself within a week or fortnight was changed in 
character. Sloth and inactivity were no longer endurable to him. 
He exercised his chargers and himself in every practice necessary 
to the military career ; and at last being presented to the king, 
Edward said to him that, albeit not being at Westminister, nor 
having his chancellor at hand, he could not legally enforce the 
payment of the three angels still due (he understood) as part of 
the purchase-money of sundry chargers, nevertheless he would 
oblige the gallant knight who bought them to present him on due 
occasion a pair of spurs for his acquittance. 

The ceremony was not performed in the presence of the king, 
whose affairs required him elsewhere, but in the presence of his 
glorious son, after the battle of Cressy. Here Sir Magnus was 
surrounded, and perhaps would have fallen, being still inexpert in 
the management of his arms, when suddenly a young soldier, 
covered with blood, rushed between him and his antagonist, 
whom he levelled with his battle-axe, and fell exhausted. Sir 
Magnus had received many bruises through his armor, and 
noticed but little the event ; many similar ones, or nearly so, 
having occurred in the course of the engagement. Soon however 
that quarter of the field began to show its herbage again in larger 
spaces ; and at the distant sound of the French trumpets, which 
was shrill, fitful, and tuneless, the broken ranks of the enemy near 
him waved like a tattered banner in the wind, and melted, and 
disappeared. Ralph had fought resolutely at his side and, though 
wounded, was little hurt. The knight called him aloud : at his 
voice not only Ralph came forward, but the soldier who had pre- 
served his life rolled round toward him. Disfigured as he was 
, with blood and bruises, Ralph knew him again : it was Peter 
Crosby of the bulrush. Sir Magnus did not find immediately the 

riuucer. Boccaccio, and Pctnirca. 97 

words he wanted to accost him : and indeed, though he had 
become much braver, he had not grown much more courteous, 
much more generous, or much more humane. He took him 
however by the hand, thanked him for having saved his life, 
and hoped to assist in doing him the same good turn. 

Roebuck in the mean time washed the several wounds of his 
former friend and playmate, from a cow's horn containing wine ; 
of which, as he had reserved it only against thirst in battle, few 
drops were left. Gashes opened from under the gore, which 
made him wish that he had left it untouched ; and he drew in 
his breath, as if he felt all the pain he awakened. 

" Well meant, Ralph ! but prythee give over ! " said Crosby, 
patiently. These singings in my head are no merry-makings." 

"Master! if you are there I would liefer have lain in 
Hampton churchyard among the skittles, or as near th- 
might be, so as not to spoil the sport ; and methinks had it been 
a score or two of years later, it were none the worse. How- 
soever, God's will bt done ! Greater folks have been eaten here 
by the dogs. Welladay, and what harm ? Dogs at any time 
are better beasts than worms, and should be served first. They 
love us, and watch us, and help us while we are living : the 
others don't mind us while we are good for anything. There 
are chaps, too, and feeding in clover, who think much as they do 
upon that matter. 

Give me thy hand, Ralph ! Tell my father I have done 
my best. If thou findest a slash or two athwart my back and 
loins, swear to him, as thou safely mnyest do on all the Gospels, 
and on any bone of any martyr, that they closed upon me and 
gave them when I was cutting my way through aweary with 
what had been done already to lend my last service to our 
worthy master." 

Now, Messer Francesco, I may call upon you, having seen you 
long since throw aside your gravity, and at last spring up alert as 
though you would mount for Picardy. 

Petrarca. A right indeed have you acquired to call upon me, 
Ser Geoff reddo ; but you must accept from me the produce of 
our country. Brave men appear among us every age almost ; yet 
all of them are apt to look to themselves : none will hazard his 
life for another ; none will trust his best friend. Such is our 

IT. G 

98 Imaginary Conversations. 

breed ; such it always was. In affairs of love alone have we as 
great a variety as you have, and perhaps a greater. I am by 
nature very forgetful of light occurrences, even of those which 
much amused me at the time ; and if your greyhound, Messer 
Georfreddo, had not been laying his muzzle between my knees, 
urging my attention, shivering at the cold of this unmatted marble, 
and treading upon my foot in preference, I doubt whether you 
would ever have heard from me the story I shall now relate to 

It occurred the year before I left Avignon ; the inhabitants of 
which city, Messer Giovanni will certify, are more beautiful than 
any others in France. 

Boccaccio. I have learned it from report, and believe it 
readily ; so many Italians have resided there so long, and the 
very flower of Italy : amorous poets, stout abbots, indolent 
priests, high-fed cardinals, handsome pages, gigantic halberdiers, 
and crossbow-men for ever at the mark. 

Petrarca. Pish ! pish ! let me find my wy through 'em, and 
come to the couple I have before my eyes, and the spaniel that 
was the prime mover in the business. 

Tenerin de Gisors knew few things in the world ; and, if he 
had known all therein, he would have found nothing so valuable, 
in his own estimation, as himself. The ladies paid much court 
to him, and never seemed so happy as in his presence : this 
disquieted him. 

Boccaccio. How the deuce ! he must have been a saint then : 
which accords but little with his vanity. 

Petrarca. You might mistake there, Giovanni ! The ob- 
servation does not hold good in all cases, I can assure you. 

Boccaccio. Well, go on with him. 

Petrarca. I do think, Giovanni, you tell a story a great 
deal more naturally ; but I will say plainly what my own eyes 
have remarked, and will let the peculiarities of men appear as 
they strike me, whether they are in symmetry with our notions of 
character, or not. 

Chaucer. The man of genius may do this: no other will 
attempt it. He will discover the symmetry, the relations, and 
the dependencies, of the whole : he will square the strange 
problematic circle of the human heart. 

Chaucer. Boccaccio, and Petrarca. 99 

Pardon my interruption ; and indulge us with the tale of 


Petrarca. He was disquieted, I repeat, by the gayety and 
familiarity of the young women, who, truly to speak, betray at 

on no rusticity of reserve. Educated in a house where 
music and poetry were cultivated, he had been hearing from his 
earliest days the ditties of broken hearts and desperation ; and 
never had he observed that these invariably were sung under 
leering eyes, with smiles that turned every word upside-down, 
and were followed by the clinking of glasses, a hearty supper, 
and 'what not ! Beside, 8 he was very handsome : men of this 

Ithough there are exceptions, are usually cold toward the 
women ; and he was more displeased that they should share the 
admiration which he thought due to himself exclusively, than 
pleased at receiving the larger part of theirs. 

At Avignon, as with us, certain houses entertain certain parties. 
It is thought unpolite and inconstant ever to go from one into 
another, I do not mean in the same evening, but in your lifetime ; 
and only the religious can do it without reproach. As bees carry 
and deposit the fecundating dust of certain plants, so friars and 
priests the exhilarating tales of beauty, and the hardly less ex- 
hilarating of frailty, covering it deeply with pity, and praising the 
mercy of the Lord in permitting it tor an admonition to others. 

There arc two sisters in our city (I forgot myself in calling 
Avignon so), of whom among friends I may speak freely, and 
may even name them : Cyrilla de la Haye, and Egidia. Cyrilla, 
the younger, is said to be extremely beautiful : I never saw her, 
and few beside the family have seen her lately. She is spoken of 
among her female friends as very lively, very modest, fond of 
reading and of music : added to which advantages, she is heiress 
to her uncle the Bishop of Carpentras, now invested with the 
purple. For her fortune, and for the care bestowed on her 
education, she is indebted to her sister, who, having deceived 
many respectable young men with hopes of marriage, was herself 
at last deceived in them, and bore about her an indication that 
deceived no one. During the three years that her father lived 
after this too domestic calamity, he confined her in a country- 
house, leaving her only the liberty of a garden, fenced with high 

[ From " Beside " to their* " (5 lines) added in ind ed.] 

ioo Imaginary Conversations. 

walls. He died at Paris ; and the mother, who fondly loved 
Egidia, went instantly and liberated her, permitting her to return 
to Avignon, while she herself hid her grief, it is said, with young 
Gasparin de 1'CEuf in the villa. Egidia was resolved to enjoy 
the first moments of freedom, and perhaps to show how little she 
cared for an unforgiving father. No one however at Avignon, 
beyond the family, had yet heard any thing of his decease. The 
evening of her liberation she walked along the banks of the 
Durance, with her favourite spaniel, which had become fat and 
unwieldy by its confinement and by lying all day under the 
southern wall of the garden, and, having never been combed nor 
washed, exhibited every sign of dirtiness and decrepitude. To 
render him smarter, she adorned him again with his rich silver 
collar, now fitting him no longer, and hardly by any effort to 
be clasped about his voluminous neck. He escaped from her, 
dragging after him the scarlet ribbon which she had formed into 
a chain, that it might appear the richer with its festoons about it, 
and that she might hold the last object of her love the faster. 
On the banks of the river he struggled with both paws to dis- 
engage the collar, and unhappily one of them passed through a 
link of the ribbon. Frightened and half-blind, he ran on his 
three legs he knew not whither, and tumbled through some low 
willows into the Durance. Egidia caught at the end of the 
ribbon ; and, the bank giving way, she fell with him into deep 
water. She had, the moment before, looked in vain for assist- 
ance to catch her spaniel for her, and had cast a reproachful 
glance toward the bridge, about a hundred paces off, on which 
Tenerin de Gisors was leaning with his arms folded upon the 

" Now," said he to himself, " one woman at least would die 
for me. She implored my pity before she committed the rash 
act, as such acts are called on other occasions." 

Without stirring a foot or unfolding an arm, he added pathetic- 
ally from Ovid, 

Sic, ubi fata vocant, udis abjectus in herbis, 
Ad vada Mzandri concinit albus olor. 

We will not inquire whether the verses are the more mis- 
placed by the poet, or were the more misapplied by the reciter. 
Tenerin now stepped forward, both to preserve his conquest 

Chaucer. Buccacxio. and Pctrarca. IOI 

and add solemnity to his triumph. He lost however the op- 
portui ::ig his mistress, and saw her carried to the other 

the ri\er by two stout peasants, who had been purchasing 
some barrels in readiness for the vintage, and who placed her with 
cc down \vard, that the water mi^ht run out or her mouth. 
He gave them .t //r/v, on condition they should declare he 
alone had saved the lady ; he then quietly walked up to his 
neck in the stream, turned back again, and assisted (or rather 
followed) the youths in conveying her to the monastery near the 

Here he learned, after many vain inquiries, that the lady was 
no other than the daughter of Philibeit de la Have. Perpetually 
had he heard in every comersation the praises of Cyrilla ; 
beauty, her temper, her reserve, her accomplishments; and what 
a lucky thing tor her was the false step of her sister, immured 
.-, and leaving her in sole expectation of a vast inheritance. 
Hastening homeward, he dressed himself in more gallant trim, 
and went forthwith to the Bishop of Carpentras, then at Avignon, 
to whom he did not find admittance, as his lordship had only 
that morning received intelligence of his brother-in-law's decease. 
He expressed by letter his gratitude to Divine Providence for 
having enabled him to rescue the loveliest of her sex from the 
horrors of a watery grave ; announced his rank, his fortune (not 
indeed to be mentioned or thought of in comparison with her 
merits), and entreated the honor of a union with her, if his lord- 
ship could sympathize with him in feeling that such purity ought 
never to have been enfolded (might he say it ?) in the arms of 
any man who was not destined to be her husband. 

" Ah ! " said the bishop when he had perused the letter, 
" the young man too well knows what has happened : who does 
not ? The Holy Father himself hath shed paternal tears upon 
it. Providential this falling into the water : this endangering of 
a sinful life ! May it awaken her remorse and repentance, as it 
hath awakened his pity and compassion ! His proceeding is 
liberal and delicate : he could not speak more passionately and 
more guardedly. He was (now I find) one of her early ad- 
mirers. No reference to others; no reproaches. True love 
wears well. I do not like this matter to grow too public. I 
will set out for Carpentras in another hour, first writing a few 

IO2 Imaginary Conversations. 

lines, directing M. Tenerin to meet me at the palace this evening, 
as soon as may be convenient. We must forgive the fault of 
Egidia now she has found a good match ; and we may put on 
mourning for the father, my worthy brother-in-law, next week.'* 

Such were the cogitations and plans of the bishop, and he 
carried them at once into execution ; for, knowing what the 
frailty of human nature is, as if he knew it from inspiration, he 
had by no means unshaken faith in the waters of the Durance as 
restorative or conservative of chastity. 

Tenerin has been since observed to whistle oftener than to 
sing ; and when he begins to warble any of his amatory lays, 
which seldom happens, the words do not please him as they used 
to do, and he breaks off abruptly. A friend of his said to him 
in my presence, " Your ear, Tenerin, has grown fastidious, since 
you walked up to it in the water on the first of August." 

Boccaccio. Francesco ! the more I reflect on the story you 
have related to us, the more plainly do I perceive how natural 
it is, and this too in the very peculiarity that appeared to me at 
first as being the contrary. Unless we make a selection of 
subjects, unless we observe their heights and distances, unless we 
give them their angles and shades, we may as well paint with 
white-wash. We do not want strange events, so much as those 
by which we are admitted into the recesses, or carried on amid 
the operations, of the human mind. We are stimulated by its 
activity, but we are greatly more pleased at surveying it leisurely 
in its quiescent state, uncovered and unsuspicious. Few, how- 
ever, are capable of describing, or even of remarking it ; while 
strange and unexpected contingencies are the commonest pedlery 
of the markets, and the joint patrimony of the tapsters. 

I have drawn so largely from my brain for the production of a 
hundred stories, many of which I confess are witless and worth- 
less, and many just as Ser GeofFreddo saw them, incomplete, that 
if my memory did not come to my assistance I should be mis- 
trustful of my imagination. 

Chaucer. Ungrateful man ! the world never found one like it. 9 

Boccaccio. Are Englishmen so Asiatic in the profusion of 
compliments ? 

[ 9 First ed. reads: "it, and could not promise nor hold another such. 
Boccaccio," &c.] 

Chaucer, Boccaccio, ami Pitraiva. 103 

not, Francesco, whether you may derm tills cathedral 

tor narratives of love. 

No place is more bcfittin<; ; since, it" the love be 
holy, no sentiment is essentially so divine ; and it" unholy, \ve may 
pray the iv ,:tly and effectually in such an audience for 

the souls of those who harbored it. Beside which, the coolness 
of the aisles and their silence, and their solitariness at the ex- 
tremity of the city, would check within us any motive or tend- 
ency t. i lightness, if the subject should lie that 
way, and if your spirits should incautiously follow it, my friend, 
nni ; as (pardon my sincerity!) they are somewhat too 

Boccaccio. My scruples are satisfied and removed. 

The air of Naples is not so inclement as that of our Arezzo ; 
and there are some who will tell us, if we listen to them, that 
few places in the world are more favorable and conducive to 
amorous inclinations. I often heard it while I resided there; and 
the pulpit gave an echo to the public voice. Strange then 
it may appear to you, that jealousy should find a place in the 
connubial state, and after a year or more of marriage : neverthe- 
less, so it happened. 

The Prince of Policastro was united to a lady of his own rank ; 
and yet he could not be quite so happy as he should have been 
with her. She brought him a magnificent dowry ; and I never 
saw valets more covered with lace, fringes, knots, and every thing 
else that ought to content the lordly heart, than I have seen 
behind the chairs of the Prince and Princess of Policastro. Alas ! 
what are all the blessings of this sublunary world, to the lord 
whose lady has thin lips! The princess was very loving; as 
much after the first year as the prince was after the first night. 
Even this would not content him. 

Time, Ser Geoflfreddo, remembering that Love and he in some 
other planet flew together, and neither left the other behind, is 
angry to be outstripped by him, and challenges him to a trial of 
speed every day. The tiresome dotard is always distanced, yet 
always calls hoarsely after him ; as if he had ever seen Love 
turn back again, any more than Love had seen him. Well, let 
them settle the matter between themselves. 

Would you believe it? the princess could not make her 

IO4 Imaginary Conversations. 

husband in the least the fonder of her by all her assiduities ; not 
even by watching him while he was awake, more assiduously than 
the tenderest mother ever watched her sleeping infant. Although, 
to vary her fascinations and enchantments, she called him wretch 
and villain, he was afterward as wretched and villanous as if she 
never had taken half the pains about him. 

She had brought in her train a certain Jacometta, whom she 
persuaded to espy .his motions. He was soon aware of it, and 
calling her to him, said, 

"Discreet and fair Jacometta, the princess, you know very 
well, thinks me inattentive to her ; and being unable to fix on 
any other object of suspicion, she marks out you, and boasts 
among her friends that she has persuaded a foolish girl to follow 
and watch me, that she may at last, by the temptation she throws 
into our way, rid herself of a beauty who in future might give her 
great uneasiness. Certainly, if my heart could wander, its 
wanderings would be near home. I do not exactly say I should 
prefer you to every woman on earth, for reason and gratitude must 
guide my passion ; and, unless where I might expect to find at- 
tachment, I shall ever remain indifferent to personal charms. 
You may relate to your mistress whatever you think proper of 
this conversation. If you believe a person of your own sex can 
be more attached and faithful to you than the most circumspect 
of ours, then repeat the whole. If on the contrary you imagine 
that I can be hereafter of any use to you, and that it is my interest 
to keep secret any confidence with which you may honor me, the 
princess has now enabled us to avoid being circumvented by her. 
It cannot hurt me : you are young, unsettled, incautious, and 

Jacometta held down her head in confusion : the prince taking 
her by the hand, requested her not to think he was offended. 
He persuaded her to let him meet her privately, that he might 
give her warning if any thing should occur, and that he might 
assist her to turn aside the machinations of their enemy. The 
first time they met, nothing had occurred : he pressed her hand, 
slipped a valuable ring on one of the fingers, and passed. The 
second time nothing material, nothing but what might be warded 
off: let the worst happen, the friend who gave him information 
of the designs laid against her would receive her. The princess 

Chaucer. Boccaccio, ami lYtiarcu. 105 

aw with wot '.dmi ration the earnestness with which 

Jacometta watched tor her. The faithless man coukl hardly 
move hand or foot without a motion on the part of her attendant. 
She had observed him near the chamber-door of Jacometta, 
and laughed in her heart at the beguiled deceiver. " Do you 
know, Jacometta, I myself saw him within two paces of your 
bedroom! " 

" I am quite confident it was he, madam ! " answered Jaco- 

nd I do believe in my conscience he comes every night. 

! " he wants I cannot imagine. He seems to stop before the 

tube-roses and carnations on the balustrade, whether to smell at 

them a little, or to catch the fresh breezes from Sorrento. I 

fancied at first he might be restless and unhappy (pardon me, 

madonna ! ) at your differences." 

" No, no," said the princess, with a smile, " I understand what 
he wants : never mind, make no inquiries ; he is little aware how 
we are planning to catch him. He has seen you look after him ; 
lu fancies that you care about him, that you really like him, 
absolutely love him, I could almost laugh, that you would 
(foolish man! foolish man! genuine Policastro!) listen to hiri. 
Do you understand ? " 

Jacometta's two ears reddened into transparency; and, clapping 
a hand on each, she cried, after a long sigh, " Lord ! c.m he 
think of me ? is he mad ? does he take a poor girl for a princess ? 
Generally I sleep soundly ; but once or twice he has awakened 
roe, perhaps not well knowing the passage. But if, indeed, he is 
so very wicked as to design to ruin me, and what if. worse to 
deceive the best of ladies, might it not be advisable to fasten in 
the centre and in the sides of the corridor five, or six, or seven 
sharp swords, with their points toward whoever 

" Jacometta ! do nothing violently ; nothing rashly ; nothing 
without me." 

There was only one thing that Jacometta wished to do with- 
out the princess ; and certainly she was disposed to do nothing 
violently or rashly, for she was now completely in the interest 
(these holy walls forbid me to speak more explicitly) of 

" We will be a match for him," said the princess. " You 
must leave your room-door open to-night." 

f" From What " to princess "(15 line*) added in tnd ed.] 

io6 Imaginary Conversations. 

Jacometta fell on her knees, and declared she was honest 
though poor, an exclamation which I daresay, Messer GeofFreddo, 
you have often heard in Italy : it being the preface to every 
act of roguery and lubricity, unless from a knight or knight's 
lady. The Princess of Policastro was ignorant of this, and so 
was Jacometta when she used it. The mistress insisted ; the 
attendant deprecated. 

"Simple child! no earthly mischief shall befall you. To-night 
you shall sleep in my bed, and I in yours, awaiting the false wretch 
miscalled my husband." 

Satisfied with the ingenuity of her device, the princess was 
excessively courteous to the prince at dinner, and indeed through- 
out the whole day. He on his part was in transports, he said, 
at her affability and sweet amiable temper. Poor Jacometta really 
knew not what to do : scarcely for one moment could she speak 
to the prince, that he might be on his guard. 

" Do it ! do it ! " said he, pressing her hand as she passed 
him. " We must submit." 

At the proper time he went in his slippers to the bedroom of 
th^ princess, and entered the spacious bed ; which, like the 
domains of the rich, is never quite spacious enough for them. 
Jacometta was persuaded to utter no exclamation in the begin- 
ning, and was allowed to employ whatever vehemence she pleased 
at a fitter moment. The princess tossed about in Jacometta's 
bed, inveighing most furiously against her faithless husband ; her 
passionate voice was hardly in any degree suppressed. Jacometta 
too tossed about in the princess's bed, and her voice labored 
under little less suppression. At last the principal cause of vexa- 
tion, with the jealous wife, was the unreasonable time to which 
her husband protracted the commission of his infidelity. After 
two hours or thereabout, she began to question whether he really 
had ever been unfaithful at all ; began to be of the opinion that 
there are malicious people in the world, and returned to her own 
chamber. She fancied she heard voices within, and listening 
attentively, distinguished these outcries : 

" No resistance, madam ! An injured husband claims impera- 
tively his promised bliss, denied him not through antipathy, not 
through hatred, not through any demerits on his part, but through 
unjust and barbarous jealousy. Resist ! bite ! beat me ! * Villain ' 

Chaucer, Boccaccio, and Pctrarca. 107 

i>hfi ' am I: am I? im, wronged, 

robbed of my happiness, of my sacred conjugal rights, may the 
Blessed Virgin never countenance me, never look on me or Mtefl 
to me, if this is not the last time I a-k them, or if ever I accept 
them though offered." 

At which, he rushed indignantly from the bed, threw open the 

door, and, pushing aside the princess, cried raving, "Vile, 

treacherous girl ! standing there, peeping ! halt-naked ! At your 

infantine age dare you thus intrude upon the holy mysteries of the 

ige-bed ? " 

.ming out these words, hi- ran like one possessed by the 
devil into his own room, bolted the door with vehemence, locked 
sed it, slipped between the sheets, and slept soundly. 

The princess was astonished : she asked herself, Why did not 
I do this ? why did not I do that ? The reason was, she had 
learned her own part, but not his. Scarcely had she entered her 
chamber, when Jacometta fell upon her neck, sobbing aloud, and 
declaring that nothing but her providential presence could have 
saved her. She had muffled herself up, she said, folding the 
bed-clothes about her double and triple, and was several times on 
the point of calling up the whole household in her extremity, 
strict as was her mistress's charge upon her to be silent. The 
princess threw a shower of odoriferous waters over her, and took 
every care to restore her spirits and to preserve her from a 
hysterical fit, after such exertion and exhaustion. When she 
was rather more recovered, she dropped on her knees before 
her lady, and entreated and implored that, on the renewal of 
her love in its pristine ardor for the prince, she never would tell 
him in any moment of tender confidence that it was she who was 
in the bed. 

The princess was slow to give the promise ; for she was very 
conscientious. At last however she gave it, saying, " The prince 
my husband has taken a most awful oath never to renew the 
moments you apprehend. Our Lady strengthen me to bear my 
heavy affliction ! Her divine grace has cured my agonized breast 
of its inveterate jealousy." 

She paused for some time ; then, drying her tears, for she had 
shed several, she invited Jacometta to sit upon the bedside with 
her. Jacometta did so; and the princess, taking her hand, 

io8 Imaginary Conversations. 

continued : " I hardly know what is passing in my mind, Jaco- 
metta ! I found it difficult to bear an injury, though an empty 
and unreal one ; let me try whether the efforts I make will 
enable me to endure a misfortune, on the faith of a woman, my 
dear Jacometta, no unreal nor empty one. Policastro is young : 
it would be unreasonable in me to desire he should lead the life 
of an anchorite, and perhaps not quite reasonable in him to expect 
the miracle of my blood congealing." 

After this narration, Messer Francesco walked toward the 
high altar and made his genuflexion : the same did Messer 
Giovanni, and, in the act of it, slapped Ser Geoffreddo on the 
shoulder, telling him he might dispense with the ceremony, by 
reason of his inflexible boots and the buck-skin paling about his 
loins. Ser Geoffreddo did it nevertheless, and with equal 
devotion. His two friends then took him between them to 
the house of Messer Francesco, where dinner had been some 
time waiting. 


Newton. I come, sir, before you with fear and trembling, at 
the thoughts of my examination to-morrow. If the masters are 
too hard upon me, I shall never take my degree. How I passed 

P Landor must suppose this Conversation to have taken place in 1668, the 
day before Nemlo.n wentup for his master's degree. He was then twenty- 
seven years -of age, an<T~h~ad completed the more important part of his 
/studies. Barrow was then Lucasian professor of Geometry, He had used 
/Newton's skill in the revision of his Lectiones Optics, and had acknowledged 
the benefit his book had received from Newton's corrections and additions. 
Lip the following year Barrow resigned his professorship to Newton, and 
for the rest of his life devoted himself almost entirely to theology. In the 
Critical Review^ June 8, 1808, there is an article of Dr Parr's, in which 
occurs (p. 1 1 8) an eulogy on Barrow, " Within the grasp of his mighty 
and capacious mind were comprehended the broad generalities which are 
discussed in science, and the minuter discriminations which are to be 
learned only by familiarity with common life. At one moment he 
soars aloft to the great, without any exhaustion of his vigour, and in the 
next, without any diminution of his dignity, he descended to the little 
he drew his materials from the richest treasures of learning, ancient and 
modern, sacred and profane he sets before us in solemn and magnificent 
array, the testimony of historians, the criticisms of scholars, the arguments 

Barrow and Newton. 109 

as bachelor I cannot tell : it must surely have been by especial 

Barrow. My dear Isaac ! do not be dispirited. The less 
intelligent of the examiners will break their beaks against thr 
gravel, in trying to cure the indigestions and heartburnings your 
plenteousness has given them ; the more intelligent know your 
industry, your abilities, and your modesty: they would favor you, 
if there were need of favor, but you, without compliment, surpass 
them all. 

Newton. Oh sir ! forbear, forbear ! I fear I may have for- 
gotten a good deal of what you taught me. 

Barrow. I wonder at that, I am older than you by many 
yean ; I have many occupations and distractions ; my memory is 
by nature less retentive : and yet I have not forgotten any thing 
you taught ntf. 

Newton. Too partial tutor, too benevolent friend ! this 
unmerited praise confounds me. I cannot calculate the powers of 
my mind, otherwise than by calculating the time I require to 
compass any thing. 

Barrow. Quickness is among the least of the mind's proper- 
ties, and belongs to her in almost her lowest state : nay, it doth 
not abandon her when she is driven from her home, when she is 
wandering and insane. The mad often retain it ; the liar has it, 
the cheat has it; we find it on the race-course and at the 
card-table : education does not give it, and reflection takes away 
from it. 

Newton. I am slow ; and there are many parts of ordinary 
learning yet unattained by me. 

Barrow. I had an uncle, a sportsman, who said that the light 
dog beats over most ground, but the heavier finds the covey. 

Newton. Oftentimes indeed have I submitted to you problems 
and possibilities 

Barrow. And I have made you prove them. 

Newton. You were contented with me ; all may not be. 

Barrow. All will not be : many would be more so if you 
could prove nothing. Men, like dogs and cats, fawn upon you 

oi metaphysicians, the description of poet*, the profound remarks of 
heathen sages, and the pious reflections of Christian fathers." (Imag. 
Convers., v., 1819. Works, i., 1846. Works, iv., 1876.)] 

i io Imaginary Conversations. 

while you leave them on the ground ; if you lift them up they bite 
and scratch ; and if you show them their own features in the glass, 
they would fly at your throat and tear your eyes out. This 
between ourselves ; for we must not indulge in unfavourable views 
of mankind, since by doing it we make bad men believe that they 
are no worse than others, and we teach the good that they are 
good in vain. Philosophers have taken this side of the question 
to show their ingenuity ; but sound philosophers are not ingenious. 
If philosophy can render us no better and no happier, away with 
it ! There are things that can ; and let us take them. 

What dost thou sigh at, Isaac ? 

Newton. At my ignorance, in some degree, of their writings. 

Barrow. At your ignorance of the ignorant ? No man ever 
understood the things that are most admired in Plato and 
Aristoteles. In Plato there are incoherencies that fall to pieces 
at a touch ; and Aristoteles lost himself in the involutions of his 
own web. What must we think of a philosopher, who promised 
to teach one pupil that which he withheld from the rest, although 
these were more familiar with him and more instructed ? And 
what must we think of a pupil, who was indignant that any others 
should partake in his sentiments and his knowledge ? Yet such 
men have guided the scientific, such men have ruled the world. 

Newton. Not such was Bacon. 

Barrow. No, indeed. I told you, and I repeat it, I think 
the small volume of Essays in your hand contains more wisdom 
and more genius than we can find in all the philosophers of 
antiquity ; with one exception, Cicero. On which I desired you 
to peruse it attentively, and to render me an account of it according 
to your opinion. 

Newton. Sir, I have been induced to believe, but rather from 
the authority of my elders than from my own investigation, that 
Bacon is the more profound of the two, although not the more 

Barrow. If Bacon had written as easily and harmoniously 
as Cicero, he would have lost a portion of his weight with the 
generality of the learned, who are apt to conceive that in easy 
movement there is a want of solidity and strength. 2 We must 

[ 2 First ed. reads : " strength. Take away all Cicero's wit and half his 
eloquence, and you leave a Bacon at bottom. Very wise," &c.] 

Harrow and Newton. I i i 

confess that antiquity has darkened colleges and has distorted 

criticism. Very wise men, and very wary and inquisitive, \v.ilk 

the earth, and are ignorant not only what minerals lie 

h, but what herbs and foliage they are treading. Some 

, and probably some distant time, a specimen of 

extracted and exhibited; then another; lastly the bearing 

and diameter of the vein are observed and measured. Thus 

it is with writers who are to have a currency through ages. 

In the beginning they are confounded with most others ; soon 

they fall into some secondary class; next, into one rather less 

obscure and humble ; by degrees they are liberated from the dross 

and lumber that hamper them ; and, being once above the heads 

of contemporaries, rise slowly and waveringly, then regularly and 

creed y, then rapidly and majestically, till the vision strains and 

aches as it pursues them in their ethereal elevation. 

Neither you nor I have wasted our time in the cultivation of 
poetry ; but each of us hath frequently heard it discoursed on 
by those who have ; and, if it serves for nothing else, it serves 
for an illustration. In my early days, he would have been scoffed 
out of countenance who should have compared the Lycidas, or the 
dlltgro and Paueruo, of Mr John Milton to the sterling poetry 
(as it was called) of Dr John Donne : and yet much may be said 
in favor of the younger ; and there are those, and not only under- 
graduates, but bachelors and masters, who venture even to prefer 
him openly. Who knows but we may see him extolled to the 
>f Lucan and Statius, strong as is the sense of the University 
against all sorts of supplanters ! There are eyes that cannot see 
print when near them ; there are men that cannot see merit. \^ 

Newton. The Latin secretary may be pardoned for many 
l in his poetry, and even for many in his politics, in con- 
sideration of the reverence he bore toward the dpocalyptf. I 
cannot think him a very irreligious man, . although he does not 
attend divine service, we are told, so regularly as we could have 

Barrow. Let us talk no more about him. I opposed his 
principles : nevertheless he may have acted conscientiously ; and 
even his principles are now coming again into fashion, and among 
the sons of those very cavaliers who would have hanged him. 
Perhaps the most dangerous of his doctrines, the lawfulness of 

1 1 2 Imaginary Conversations. 

setting aside God's anointed for misconduct, may soon be the 
leading one in the front of our Constitution. Well ! we are not 
met for politics : only it would be salutary to consider, if God's 
anointed will not be set aside, what must be done, how avoid 
the commission of a diabolical act. 

Newton. Could we rightly understand the Revelation, I 
question not but every difficulty of this nature would be solved. 

Barrow. May be : let us trust in God. 

Newton. We must have certain data for every thing upon 
which we reason : the greater part of reasoners begin without 

Barrow. I wish the event may answer your expectations ; 
that the Apocalypse, the Argonautic Expedition, and the Siege of 
Troy, form the trident which is to push away our difficulties in 
navigating through all the rocks and shoals of time, all those of 
religion, and all those of history. Happen what may, I doubt 
nothing of your surpassing the foremost of your competitors, of 

S>ur very soon obtaining a name in the University little below 
octor Spry's of Caius, Doctor Brockhouse's of St John's, 
Doctor Cockburn's of Emanuel, Doctor Turnbull's of Peter- 
house, or Doctor Cruikshank's of Bennet ; nay, a name which, 
within a few years, may reach even to Leyden and Paris, as that 
of a most studious young man, distinguished alike for application 
and invention. 

Newton. Although I could not in conscience disclaim the 
small merit there may be in application, since I owe it to the 
encouragement of my tutor, I surely have no right or title to 

Barrow. You have already given proofs of it beyond any 
man I know. Your questions lead to great discoveries ; whether 
it please God that you hereafter make them, or some one follow- 
ing you, is yet uncertain. We are silly enough to believe that 
the quality of invention, as applied to literature, lies in poetry and 
romance, mostly or altogether. I dare to speculate on discoveries 
in the subjects of your studies, every one far greater, every one 
far more wonderful, than all that lie within the range of fiction. 
In our days, the historian is the only inventor ; and it is ludicrous 
to see how busily and lustily he beats about, with his string 
and muzzle upon him. I wish we could drag him for a moment 

Burrow and Newton. i 13 

into philosophies! life : it would be still more amusing to look at 
him, as he runs over this loftier and dryer ground, throwing up 
his nose and whimpering at the prickles he must pass throu 

men are contented with what is strictly true concerning 
the oc of the world : it neither heats nor soothes. The 

!!*! f, when it is in perfect health, is averse to a state of rest. 
ish our prejudices to be supported, our animosities to be in- 
creased ; as those who are inflamed by liquor would add mat 
to the inflammation. 

Newton. The simple verities, important perhaps in their con- 
sequences, which I am exploring, not only abstract me from the 
msiness of society, but exempt me from the hatred and perse- 
cution to which every other kind of study is exposed. In poetry, 
a good pastoral would raise against one as vehement enemies as a 
good satire. A great poet in our country, like the great giant in 
Sicily, can never move without shaking the whole island ; while 
the mathematician and astronomer may pursue their occupations, 
and rarely be hissed or pelted from below. You spoke of histor- 
ians : it would ill become a person of my small experience to dis- 
course on them after you. 

Barrow. Let me hear, however, what you have to say, since 
at least it will be dispassionate. 

Newton. Those who now write history do certainly write it 
to gratify a party, and to obtain notoriety and money. The 
materials lie in the cabinet of the statesman, whose actions and 
their consequences are to be recorded. If you censure them, you 
are called ungrateful for the facilities he has afforded you ; and, if 
you commend them, venal. No man, both judicious and honest, 
will subject himself to either imputation. 

Barrow. Not only at the present day, but always, the indul- 
gence of animosity, the love of gain, and the desire of favor have 
been the inducements of an author to publish in his lifetime the 
history of his contemporaries. But there have been, and let us 
hope there may be, judicious and virtuous men, so inflamed by the 
glory of their country in their days, that, leaving all passions and 
prejudices, they follow this sole guide, and are crowned by universal 
consent for commemorating her recent exploits. 

Newton. Here are reasons enough for me rather to apply my 
mind as you direct it, than to the examination of facts which never 

IV. H 

i 14 Imaginary Conversations. 

can be collected by one person ; or to poetry, for which I have 
no call ; or to the composition of essays, such as those of Mon- 
taigne and Bacon ; or dialogues, such as those of Cicero and Plato, 
and, nearer our times, of Erasmus and Galileo. You had furnished 
me before with arguments in abundance ; convincing me that, even 
if 1 could write as well as they did, the reward of my labors 
would be dilatory and posthumous. 

Barrow. I should entertain a mean opinion of myself, if all 
men or the most-part praised and admired me : it would prove me 
to be somewhat like them. Sad and sorrowful is it to stand 
near enough to people for them to see us wholly ; for them to 
come up to us and walk round us leisurely and idly, and pat us 
when they are tired and going off. That lesson which a dunce 
can learn at a glance, and likes mightily, must contain little, and 
not good. Unless it can be proved that the majority are not 
dunces, are not wilful, presumptuous, and precipitate, it is a 
folly to care for popularity. There are indeed those who must 
found their fortunes upon it ; but not with books in their hands. 
After the first start, after a stand among the booths and gauds 
and prostitutes of party, how few have lived contentedly, or died 
calmly ! One hath fallen the moment when he had reached the 
last step of the ladder, having undersawed it for him who went 
before, and forgotten that knavish act ; another hath wasted away 
more slowly, in the fever of a life externally sedentary, internally 
distracted ; a third, unable to fulfil the treason he had stipulated, 
and haunted by the terrors of detection, snaps the thread under 
the shears of the Fates, and makes even those who frequented him 
believe in Providence. 

Isaac ! Isaac ! the climbing plants are slender ones. Men 
of genius have sometimes been forced away from the service of 
society into the service of princes ; but they have soon been driven 
out, or have retired. When shall we see again, in the administra- 
tion of any country, so accomplished a creature as Wentworth,* the 
favorite of Charles ? Only light men recover false steps : his 
greatness crushed him. Aptitude for serving princes is no proof 

* He far excelled in energy and capacity the other councillors of 
Charles ; but there was scarcely a crueller or (with the exception of his 
master) a more perfidious man on either side. Added to which, he was 
\vantonly oppressive, and sordidly avaricious. 

Barrow and Newton. 1 1 5 

or signification of genius, nor indeed of any elevated or extensive 
knowledge. The interests of many require a multiplicity of 
talents to comprehend and accomplish them. Mazarin and 
Richelieu were as little able as they were little disposed to 
promote the well-being of the community ; both of them had 
keen eyes, and kept them on one object, 3 aggrandizement. We 
find the most trivial men in the streets pursuing an object through 
as many intricacies, and attaining it ; and the schemes of children, 
though sooner dropped, are frequently as ingenious and judicious, 
No person can see more clearly than you do the mortifications to 
which the ambitious are subject ; but some may fall into the 
snares of ambition whose nature was ever averse to it, and whose 
wisdom would almost reach any thing, and only seems too lofty 
to serve them watchfully as a guard. It may thus happen to such 
as have been accustomed to study and retirement, and fell un- 
expectedly on the political world by means of recommendations. 
There are those, I doubt not, who would gladly raise their name 
and authority in the State by pushing you forward, as the phrase 
is, into Parliament. They seize any young man who has gained 
some credit at college, no matter for what, whether for writing 
an epigram or construing a passage in Lycophron ; and, if he 
succeeds to power, they and their family divide the patronage. 
The ambitious heart is liable to burst in the emptiness of its 
ion: let yours, which is sounder, lie lower and quieter. 
Think how much greater is the glory you may acquire by opening 
new paths to science, than by widening old ones to corruption. 
I would not whisper a syllable in the ear of faction ; but the 
words of the intelligent, in certain times and on certain occasions, 
do not vary with parties and systems. The royalist and re- 
publican meet: the difference lies merely in the intent, the 
direction, and the application. Do not leave the wise for the 
unwise, the lofty for the low, the retirement of a college for the 
turbulence of a House of Commons. Rise, but let no man lift 
you : leave that to the little and to the weak. Think within 
yourself, I will not say how impure are the sources of election to 
our Parliament, but how inconsiderable a distinction is conferred 
on the representative, even where it is not an individual who 
nominates, or only a few who appoint him, but where several 
[ First ed. read*: the aggrandizement of their master. We," &c.] 

i T 6 Imaginary Conversations. 

hundreds are the voters. For who are they, and who direct 
them ? the roughest bear-guard, the most ferocious bull-baiter, 
the most impudent lawyer, the tinker that sings loudest, and the 
parson that sits latest at the ale-house, hitting them all by turns 
with his tobacco-pipe, calling them all sad dogs, and swearing 
till he falls asleep he will hear no more filthy toasts. Show me 
the borough where such people as these are not the most efficient 
in returning a candidate to Parliament ; and then tell me which 
of them is fit to be the associate it would be too ludicrous to 
say the patron of a Euclid or an Archimedes ? My dear 
Newton ! the best thing is to stand above the world ; the next 
is to stand apart from it on any side. You may attain the first ; 
in tiying to attain it, you are certain of the second. 

Newton. I am not likely to be noticed by the great, nor 
favored by the popular. I have no time for visiting : I detest 
the strife of tongues ; all noises discompose me. 

Barrow. We will then lay aside the supposition. The 
haven of philosophy itself is not free at all seasons from its gusts 
and swells. Let me admonish you to confide your secrets to 
few : I mean the secrets of science. In every great mind there 
are some : every deep inquirer hath discovered more than he 
thought it prudent to avow, as almost every shallow one throws 
out more than he hath well discovered. Among our learned 
friends, we may be fully and unreservedly philosophical ; in the 
company of others we must remember, first and chiefly, that dis- 
cretion is a part of philosophy, and we must let out only some 
glimpses of the remainder. 

Newton. Surely no harm can befall us from following a 
chain of demonstrations in geometry, or any branch of the 

Barrow. Let us hope there may be none ; nevertheless we 
cannot but recollect how lately Galileo was persecuted and im- 
prisoned for his discoveries. 

Newton. He lived under a popish government. 
Barrow. My friend ! my friend ! all the most eminently 
scientific, all the most eminently brave and daring in the 
exercise of their intellects, live, and have ever lived, under a 
popish government. There are popes in all creeds, in all 
countries, in all ages. Political power is jealous of intellectual ; 

Harrow and Newton. i i 7 

often lot it r\j>o.x- ami mar its plans and projects, and ottener 
lest it attract an equal share of celebrity and distinction. When- 
the literary man is protected by the political, the incitement 
to it is the pride of patronage ; not the advancement of letters, 
nor the honor they confer on the cultivator or the country. 

Newton. That is rational in England which beyond the Alps 
is monstrous. By God's blessing, I firmly believe in the Holy 
Scriptures ; yet, under your discretion and guidance, I would be 
informed if 4 the sun's rays in Syria could ever be above the 
horizon for twenty-four hours, without a material alteration, 
without an utter derangement, of our whole mundane system ?* 

Barrow. Reserve that question for a future time and a wiser 
teacher. At present, I would only remark to you that our mun- 
dane system hat been materially altered ; and that its alterations 
may have been attributed to other causes than the true, and laid 
down by different nations as having taken place at different epochs 
and on different occasions, sometimes to gratify their pride, 
sometimes to conceal their ignorance. 

Newton. I am not quite satisfied. 

Barrow. Those who are quite satisfied sit still and do no- 
thing ; those who are not quite satisfied are the sole benefactors of 
the world. 

[ 4 Pint cd. reads : " if the sun could stand stiller at one time than at 
another ; and if his rays/' Ac. The footnote refers to the case of Thomas 
Aikenhtrad, who was executed in Scotland in the year 1696 for denying 
the Trinity. See Macaulay, Hist. Eng., chapter xxii., for the whole dis- 
graceful story. Le Clerc received from Loche a letter, written by New- 
ton, on two texts in the Greek Testament, the first of which, i John v., 
vii., is the celebrated text about the " three witnesses/' Like every 
other scholar of repute Newton denied its authenticity. Le Clerc was to 
have published a French translation of the letter, but Newton, hearing of 
it, wrote to Loche to stop the publication. Le Clerc at the time.did not 
know that Newton was the author, and it was not till some time after that 
he discovered this and brought out a version of the letter in a slightly 
altered form.] 

* Newton was timid and reerved in expressing his opinions, and was 
more orthodox (in the Anglican sense of orthodoxy) early in life than 
he thought at last is not clear; and perhaps it was well 
for him that it was no clearer. Under his eyes, in the reign of William 
III., a youth of eighteen was punished with death for expressing such 
opinion* as our philosopher hinted to Le Clerc. To remove and consume 
the gallows on which such men are liable to suffer is among the principal 
aims and intents of these writings. 

1 1 g Imaginary Conversations. 

Newton. And are driven out of it for their pains. 
Barrow. Men seldom have loved their teachers. 
Newton. How happens it, then, that you are loved so gener- 
ally ; for who is there, capable of instruction, that you have not 
taught ? Never, since I have been at the University, have I heard 
of any one being your enemy who was not a Calvinist, a sect 
wherein good-humored and gracefully-minded men are scanty. 

Barrow. Do not attribute the failing to the sect, which hath 
many strong texts of Scripture for its support ; but rather think 
that the doctrines are such as are most consentaneous to the 
malignant and morose. There are acrid plants that attract as 
many insects as the sweeter, but insects of another kind. All 
substances have their commodities, all opinions their partisans. I 
have been happy in my pupils ; but in none of them have I 
observed such a spirit of investigation as in you. Keep it, how- 
ever, within the precincts of experimental and sure philosophy, which 
are spacious enough for the excursions of the most vigorous mind, 
and varied enough for the most inconstant and flighty. Never 
hate, never dislike men, for difference of religion. Some receive 
baleful impressions in it more easily than others, as they do diseases. 
We do not hate a child for catching the small-pox, but pity its 
sores and blemishes. Let the Calvinist hate us : he represents 
his God as a hater, he represents him as capricious. I wish he 
would love us, even from caprice ; but he seems to consider this 
part of the Divine nature as a weakness. 

Come, unroll your paper ; let me hear what you have to say 
on Bacon's Essays, a volume I place in the hand of those only 
who appear to me destined to be great. 
Newton. He says in his Preface, 

" I do now publish my Essays, which of all my other 5 works 
have been most current." 

How can the very thing of which you are speaking be another ? 
Barrow. This is a chasm in logic, into which many have 

Newton. I had scarcely begun the first Essay, when an elderly 
gentleman of another college came into the room, took up the 
book, and read aloud, 

" This same truth is a naked and open daylight, that doth not 
f 5 Bacon wrote, " of all my works."] 

Barrow and Newton. i 19 

show the masks and mummeries and triumphs of the world half 
so stately and daintily as candle-lights. Truth may, perhaps, 
come to the price of a pearl, that showeth best by day ; but it 
will not rise to the price of a diamond or carbuncle, that showeth 
best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure. 
Doth any man doubt that, if there were taken out of men's minds 
vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one 
would, and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of 
men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, 
and unfJtcuing to themsek 

"One might well imagine," said he, " unpleasing to themselves, 
if full of melancholy and indisposition. But how much of truth 
and wisdom is compressed in these few sentences ! Do not you 
wonder that a man capable of all this should likewise be 'capable 
of such foolery as the following : 

*' First he breathed light upon the face of the matter, or chaos ; 
then he breathed light into the face of man ; and still he breatheth 
imd irupirtth light into the face of his chosen." 

I looked with wonder at him, knowing his seriousness and 
gravity, his habits and powers of ratiocination, and his blameless 
lite. But perhaps I owe to his question the intensity and sedulity 
with which I have examined every page of Bacon. He called 
the words I have quoted dull and colourless bombast ; he declared 
them idle in allusion, and false and impious. I was appalled. 
He added, ** I do not know, Mr Newton, whether you have 
brothers : if you have, what would you think of your father when 
he gave a cherry to one, a whipping to a second, and burned the 
fingers of a third against the bars of his kitchen grate, and vouch- 
safed no better reason for it than that he had resolved to do so 
the very night he begot them? Election in such a case is 
partiality ; partiality is injustice. Is God unjust ? " 

I could have answered him, by God's help, if he had given 
me time ; but he went on, and said : " Bacon had much sagacity, 
but no sincerity ; much force, but no firmness. It is painful to 
discover in him the reviler of Raleigh, the last relic of heroism in 
the dastardly court of James. It is horrible to hear him, upon 
another occasion, the apologist of a patron's disgrace and death, 
the patron, whose friendly hand had raised him to the first steps 
of the highest station." 

I2O Imaginary Conversations. 

" Sir," answered I, " his political conduct is not the question 
before us." 

"It may, however," said he, "enlighten us in regard to his 
candour, and induce us to ask ourselves whether, in matters of 
religion, he delivered his thoughts exactly, and whether he may 
not have conformed his expression of them to the opinions of his 

Barrow. I hope you dropped the discussion after this. 

Newton. No ; I cried resolutely, " Sir, when I am better 
prepared for it, I may have something to say with you on your 
irreverent expressions." 

Barrow. Mr Newton, do not be ruffled. Bacon spoke 
figuratively ; so did Moses, to whom the illusion was made. Let 
the matter rest, my dear friend. 

Newton. I told him plainly he was unfair : he was no friend 
to Bacon. He smiled at me and continued: "My good Newton, 
I am as ready to be told when I am unfair as you are to have 
your watch set right when it goes amiss. You say I am no friend 
to Bacon ; and in truth, after the experience he left us in the 
Earl of Essex, he is not precisely the man to place one's friend- 
ship on. Yet surely no folly is greater than hatred of those we 
never saw, and from whom we can have received no injury. 
Often do I wonder when I hear violent declamationsjigainst 
^eories^and opinions; which declamations""'!' thinTT~are as ill- 
directed as they would be against currents of air or watercourses. 
We may keep out of their way if we will. I estimate the genius of 
Bacon as highly as perhaps you do, and in this Essay I find a single 
sentence which I would rather have written than all the volumes 
I/of all the Greek philosophers ; let me read it : * Certainly, it is 

(heaven upon earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in 
Providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.' " 

Barrow. Magnificent as Shakspeare ! 

Newton. He who wrote tragedies ? 

Barrow. The same : I have lately been reading them. 

Newton. Sir, should you have marked the truths he demon- 
strated, if any, I shall think it no loss of time to run over them, 
at my leisure. I have now a question to ask you on the third of 
these Essays. We find in it that " Quarrels and divisions about 
religion were evils unknown to the heathen : the reason was, 

Barrow and NV\\ton. I 2 i 

because the religion of the heathen consisted rather in rites and 
ceremonies than in constant belief." This is no truer of the old 
.ism than of the later in the same country, which however 
burns men alive for slight divergencies. 

"You iii e," says Bacon, "what kind of faith t 

was, when tin- chief doctors and fathers of their church were the 

I read this loudly and triumphantly to my friend, who paused 
and smiled, and then asked me complacently whether it were 
better to imprison, burn, and torture, or to send away the audience 
in good humor and good fellowship ; and whether I should 
prefer the conversation and conviction of Doctor Bonner and 
Doctor Gardiner to those of Doctor Tibullus and Doctor Ovid. 
I thought the question too flippant for an answer, which indeed 
was not quite at hand. He proceeded : " ' God has this attri- 
bute, that he is a jealous God, and therefore his worship and 
n will endure no mixture.' His jealousy must be touched 
to the quick," said my friend : " for every century there comes 
forth some new pretender, with his sect behind him in the dark 
passages ; and his spouse was hardly at her own door after the 
nuptials, ere she cried out and shrieked against the lllthiness of an 

I was lifting up my eyes and preparing an ejaculation, when 
he interrupted me, and continued : " It is certain that heresies 
and schisms are of all others the greatest scandals ; yea, more than 
corruption of manners : for, as in the natural body a wound, or 
solution of continuity, is worse than a corrupt humor ' " 

Here he laid down the volume, and said, " I will ask the 
professor of surgery whether a cut in the linger is worse than a 
scrofula : I will then go to the professor of divinity, and ask him 
whether the best Christian in Cambridge ought to be hanged 
to-morrow morning." 

I stared at him : whereupon he declared that every church 
on earth is heretical and schismatical, if the word of Christ is the 
foundation of the true ; and that the fellow who was hanged last 
week for corruption of manners had, according to the decision of 
Bacon, more Christianity in him than all the heads of colleges. 
" When he would follow theologians," said my friend, " he falls 
into gross absurdities : he corrects himself, 01 only trips harm- 
lessly, when he walks alone." 

122 Imaginary Conversations. 

I myself was obliged to agree with my disputant, in censur- 
ing an exception. Speaking of sanguinary persecutions to force 
consciences, the author blames them, "except it be in cases of 
overt scandal, blasphemy, &c." Now who shall decide what is 
overt scandal, or what is blasphemy ? That which is prodigiously 
so in one age and one country is not at all in another. Such 
exceptions are the most pernicious things a great author can 

Barrow. I side with you. We come now, I perceive, to 
the Essay On Revenge. 

Newton. " There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong's 
sake, but thereby to purchase himself profit, or pleasure, or honor, 
or the like : therefore why should I be angry with a man for 
loving himself better than me ? " 

If this be an excuse, why send a rogue to prison ? All the 
crimes that men commit are committed because they love them- 
selves better than others ; and it is the direction and extent of 
this loving, to the detriment of others, that constitutes the magni- 
tude of the crime. Cruelty is the highest pleasure to the cruel 
man : it is his love. Murder may ensue ; and shall we not be 
angry with him for loving himself better than the murdered ? 

On Simulation and Dissimulation, we are told, " The best com- 
position and temperature 6 is to have a power to feign, if there be 
no remedy." 

Barrow. In other words, to lie whenever we find it convenient. 
The last two decisions you have reported from him as little be- 
come the chancellor as the philosopher ; as little the philosopher as 
the citizen. Why will you not read on ? 

Newton. I am afraid to mention the remark of my visitor on 
a sentence in the Essay Upon Goodness. 

Barrow. Fear not : what is it ? 

Newton. " The desire of knowledge in excess caused man to 

Barrow. This is a sin the most rarely of all committed in 
our days. If the earth is to be destroyed by fire, the bottom of a 
rushchair will serve to consume all who are guilty of it ; and what 
falls from heaven may fall upon other offenders. 

[ 6 Bacon wrote : " temperature is to have openness in fame and opinion ; 
secrecy in habit ; dissimulation in seasonable use, and a power," &c.] 

Barrow and Newton. 123 

Newton. " Do you believe/' said my friend, " that God 
punished men for wishing to be wiser ? for wishing to follow 
him and to learn his pleasure ? for wishing that acquisition 
by which beneficence and charity may be the most luminously 
and extensively displayed ? No, Newton, no ! The Jews, who 
invented this story, were envious of the scientific ; for they were 
ignorant of the sciences. Astronomy, among the rest, was odious 
to them ; and hence the fables stuck against the Tower of Babel, 
the observatory of a better and a wiser people, their enemy, their 
conqueror. Take care, or you may be hanged for shooting at tin- 
stars. If these fictions are believed and acted on, you must 
conceal your telescope and burn your observations." 

On my representing to him the effects of divine justice in 
casting down to earth the monument of human pride, he said : 
"The Observatory of Babylon was constructed of unbaked 
bricks, and upon an alluvial soil. Look at the Tower of Pisa ; 
look at every tower and steeple in that city : you will find that 
they all lean, and all in one direction, that is, toward the river. 
Some have fallen ; many will fall. God would not have been so 
angry with the Tower of Babel, if it had been built of Portland 
stone a few weeks' journey to the westward, and you had been 
as importunate as the Babylonians were in their attempt at paying 
him a visit." 

He expressed his wonder that Bacon, in the reign of James, 
should have written, " A 7 king is the servant of his people, 
or else he were without a calting" In other words, whenever 
he ceases to be the servant of the people^ he forfeits his right to 
the throne. 

Barrow. Truth sometimes comes unaware upon caution, and 
sometimes speaks in public as unconsciously as in a dream. 

Newton. Sir, although you desired me rather to investigate 
and note the imperfections of my author than what is excellent in 
him, as you would rather the opaquer parts of the sun than what 
is manifest of his glory to the lowest and most insensible, yet, 

[* Landor is here quoting from a spurious essay, entitled, " Of a King." 
(See Speddine's Bacon, 1858, vol. vi., p. $95-) The passage reads: "To 
conclude, a hee is of the greatest power, o hee is subject to the greatest 
cares, nude the servant of his people, or else he were without a calling at 


1 24 Imaginary Conversations. 

from the study of your writings, and from the traces of your hand 
in others, I am sometimes led to notice the beauties of his style. 
It requires the greatest strength to support such a weight of rich- 
ness as we sometimes find in him. The florid grows vapid where 
the room is not capacious, and where perpetual freshness of 
thought does not animate and sustain it. Unhappily, it seems 
to have been taken up mostly by such writers as have least 

Barrow. Read to me the sentence or the paragraph that 
pleases you. 

Newton. J Tis On Envy : 

" Lastly, near kinsfolks and fellows in office, and those that 
have been bred together, are more apt to envy their equals when 
they are raised ; for it doth upbraid unto them their own fortunes, 
and pointeth at them, and cometh oftener into their remembrance, 
and incurreth likewise more into the note of others ; and envy 
ever redoubleth from speech and fame." 

Barrow. Very excellent. I wish, before he cast his invec- 
tives against Raleigh, he had reflected more on a doctrine in the 
next page : " Those that have joined with their honor great 
travels, cares, or perils, are less subject to envy : for men think 
that they earn their honors hardly, and pity them sometimes ; and 
pity ever healeth envy." I am afraid it will be found, on 
examination, that Bacon in his morality was too like Seneca ; 
not indeed wallowing in wealth and vice and crying out against 
them, but hard-hearted and hypocritical ; and I know not with 
what countenance he could have said, " By 8 indignities men come 
to dignities." 

Newton. I have remarked with most satisfaction those 
sentences in which he appears to have forgotten both the age and 
station wherein he lived, and to have equally overlooked the base 
and summit of our ruder institutions. "Power to do good," 
says he, as Euripides or Phocion might have said, and Pericles 
might have acted on it, " is the true and lawful end of aspiring ; 
for good thoughts, though God accept them, yet towards men 
are little better than good dreams except they be put in act ; and 

[ 8 This quotation and the three following are from the essay, " Of 
Great Place." In the third quotation the correct reading is, " of the 
ancient time."] 

Burrow and Newton. 125 

that cannot lx- without power and place, as the vantage and com- 
manding ground." 

And again : " Reduce things to the first institution, and observe 
wherein and how they have degenerated ! But yet ask counsel 
of both times; of the ancienter time what is best y and of the latter 
time what is fittest." 

Barrow. He spoke unadvisedly ; for, true as these sentences 
are, they would lead toward republicanism, if men minded them. 
Of th i, there is as little danger as that the servants of 

kings should follow the advice he gives afterward : 

" Embrace and invite helps and advices touching the execution 
of thy place ; and do not drive away such as bring thee int. 
tion, as meddlers, but accept of them in good part." 

Newton. On Seditions, he says the matter is of " two kinds ; 
much poverty and much discontentment." It appears to me that 
here is only one kind : for much discontentment may spring, and 
usually does, from much poverty. 

Barrow. Certainly. He should not have placed cause 
and effect as two causes. You must however have remarked his 
wonderful sagacity in this brief Essay, which I hesitate not to 
declare the finest piece of workmanship that ever was composed 
on any part of government. Take Aristoteles and Machiavelli, 
and compare the best sections of their works to this, and then you 
will be able, in some degree, to calculate the superiority of genius 
in Bacon. 

Ntwton. I have not analyzed the political works of Aris- 
toteles ; but I find in Machiavelli many common thoughts, among 
many ingenious, many just, 9 many questionable, and many false 

Barrow. What are you turning over ? Do not let me lose 
any thing you have remarked. 

Newton. "Money," says my lord, "is like muck ; not good 
except it be spread." I am afraid this truth would subvert, in 
the mind of a reflecting man, all that has been urged by the 

[* First ed. reads: "jim.and more perverse ones. Let the following 
serve for instances : and I hasten the sooner to the exposition of them, 
that I may raise no objection against any part of a treatise which you 
have commended so unexceptionally. Barrmv. Nay, be candid with me 
and bring forward your objection. Nnvto*. Money," &c.J 

1 26 Imaginary Conversations. 

learned author on the advantages of nobility, and even of royalty ; 
for which reason I dare not examine it : only let me, sir, doubt 
before you whether " this is to be done by suppressing, or at the 
least keeping a straight hand upon, the devouring trades of usury, 
engrossing, great pasturages, and the like. 

Barrow. I wish he never had used, which he often does, 
those silly words, and the like. 

Newton. Great pasturages are not trades ; and they must 
operate in a way directly opposite to the one designated. 

Barrow. I know not whether a manifest fault in reasoning 
be not sometimes more acceptable than stale and worm-eaten and 
weightless truths. Heaps of these are to be found in almost 
every modern writer : Bacon has fewer of them than any. 

Nicholas Machiavelli is usually mentioned as the deepest and 
acutest of the Italians : a people whose grave manner often makes 
one imagine there is more to be found in them than they possess. 
Take down that volume : read the examples I have transcribed 
at the end : 

" The loss of every devotion and every religion draws after it 
infinite inconveniences and infinite disorders." 

Inconveniences and disorders would follow, sure enough : the 
losses, being negatives, draw nothing. 

" In a well-constituted government, war, peace, and amity 
should be deliberated on, not for the gratification of a few, but 
for the common good." 

"That war is just which is necessary." 

" It is a cruel, inhuman, and impious thing, even in war, 
stuprare le donne, viziare le vergim," &c. 
" Fraud is detestable in every thing." 

These most obvious truths come forward as if he had now dis- 
covered them for the first time. He tells us also that, " A prince 
ought to take care that the people are not without food." He 
says with equal gravity that, " Fraud is detestable in every thing ; " 
and that, " A minister ought to be averse from public rapine, and 
should augment the public weal." 

It would be an easy matter to fill many pages with flat and un- 
profitable sentences. I had only this blank one for it ; and there 
are many yet, the places of which are marked with only the first 
words. Do not lose your time in looking for them : we must 
not judge of him from these defects. 

Barrow and Newton. 127 

Newton. Whenever I have heard him praised, it was tor 
vigor of thought. 

Barrow. He is strongest where he is most perverse. There 
are men who never show their muscles but when they have the 

Newton. Consistency and firmness are not the characteristics 
of the Florentines, nor ever were. Machiavelli wished at one 
time to satisfy the man of probity, at another to conciliate the 
rogue and robber ; at one time to stand on the alert for the return 
of liberty, at another to sit in the portico of the palace, and trim 
the new livery of nascent princes. If we consider him as a 
writer, he was the acutest that had appeared since the revival of 
letters. None had reasoned so profoundly on the political interests 
of society, or had written so clearly or so boldly. 

Barrow. Nevertheless, the paper of a boy's cracker, when 
he has let it off, would be ill-used by writing such stuff upon 
it as that which you have been reading. The great merit of 
Machiavelli, in style, is the avoiding of superlatives. We can 
with difficulty find an Italian prose-writer who is not weak and 
inflated by the continual use of them, to give him pomp and energy, 
as he imagines. 

Newton. Davila, too, is an exception. 

Barrow. The little elegance there is among the Italians 
is in their historians and poets : the preachers, the theologians, 
the ethic writers, the critics, are contemptible in the last degree. 
Well ; we will now leave the Istimi nation, and turn home- 

You will find that Bacon, like all men conscious of their 
strength, never strains or oversteps. 10 While the Italians are 
the same in the church and in the market-place, while the 
preacher and policinello are speaking in the same key and 
employing almost the same language, while a man's God and his 
rotten tooth are treated in the same manner, we find at home 
convenience and proportion. Yet the French have taken more 
pains than we have done to give their language an edge and 
polish ; and, although we have minds in England more massy 

[ 10 Pint ed. reads : " overateps, and is frugal in the use of superlatives ; 
while the Italians," &c.] 

128 Imaginary Conversations. 

and more elevated than theirs, they may claim a nearer affinity to 
the greater of the ancients. 

I have been the less unwilling to make this digression, as we 
are now come nigh the place where we must be slow and 
circumspect. The subject awes and confounds me. Human 
reason is a frail guide in our disquisitions on royalty, which 
requires in us some virtue like unto faith. We cannot see into it 
clearly with the eyes of the flesh or of philosophy, but must 
humble and abase ourselves to be worthy of feeling what it is. 
For want whereof, many high and proud spirits have been turned 
aside from it by the right hand of God, who would not lead them 
into its lights and enjoyments because they came as questioners, 
not as seekers ; would have walked when they should have stood, 
and would have stood when they should have knelt. 

Newton. Sir, I do not know whether you will condescend 
to listen with patience to the thoughts excited in me by Bacon's 
observations on the character of a king. 

Barrow. He shocked me by what he said before on the 
fragility of his title : God forbid that common men should talk 
like the Lord High Chancellor ! 

Newton. I was shocked in a contrary direction, and as it 
were by a repercussion, at hearing him call a king a mortal God 
on earth : n and I do not find anywhere in the Scriptures that 
"the living God told him he should die like a man, lest he 
should be proud, and flatter himself that God had, with his name, 
imparted unto him his nature also." 

Surely, sir, God would repent as heartily of having made a 
king, as we know he repented of having made a man, if it were 
possible his king should have turned out so silly and irrational a 
creature. However vain and foolish, he must find about him, 
every day, such natural wants and desires as could not appertain 
to a God. I made the same remark to my visitor, who said 
calmly : " Bacon in the next sentence hath a saving grace ; and 
speaketh as wisely and pointedly as ever he did. He says, * Of 
all kind of men, God is*the least beholden to them ; for he doth 

[ n The quotations in this and the following two paragraphs are from 
the Essay " Of a King" (see note 7). The correct reading is, " a mortal 
God on earth unto whom the living God hath lent his own name as a 
great honor, but withal told him," &c. (Spedding's Bacon, p. 595.)] 

Harrow and Ni-wton. 129 

for them, and they do ordinarily least for him.' A sentence 

vorable to their admission as pastors of the people, 
somewhat strong against them as visible heads of the Church. 
But, Mr Newton, you will detect at once a deficiency of logic 
in the words, That king that holds not religion the best reason 
of state is void of all piety and justice, the supporters of a king.' 
Supposing a king soundly minded and well educated, a broad 
supj>osition, and not easily entering bur preliminaries, may not 
he be just, be pious, be religious, without holding his religion as 
the best reason of state, or the best guide in it ? Must he be void 
of all piety, and all justice, who sometimes thinks other reasons of 
state more applicable to his purposes than religion ? Psalm 
sack-cloth are admirable things ; but these, the last expedients of 
the most contrite religion, will not always keep an enemy from 
burning your towns and violating your women, when a few pieces 
of cannon, and loftiness of spirit instead of humiliation, will do 

He went on, and asserted that the king is not the sole 
fountain l - of honor, as he is called in the Essay, and cannot be 
more fairly entitled so than the doctors in convocation. He 
remarked that the king had not made him master of arts ; which 
dignity, he said, requires more merit than the peerage : whereupon 
he named several in that order, of whose learning or virtues I never 
heard mention, and even of whose tides I thought I never had 
until he assured me I must, and expressed his wonder that I had 
forgotten them. When he came to the eighth section, " he is 
the life of the law," " the law leads a notoriously bad life," 
said he, "and therefore I would exempt his Majesty from the 
imputation : and indeed if ' he animateth the dead letter, making it 
toward all his subject*,' the parliament and other magistratures 
are useless. In the ninth paragraph he makes some accurate obser- 
vations, but ends weakly. * He that changeth the fundamental 
laws of a kingdom thinketh there is no good title to a crown but 

P* See preceding note. The following passages read : " The fountain 
of Honor, which should not run a waste-pipe lest the courtiers sell the 
waters and then (as Papists say of their Holy WelU) to lose the vertue." 
He is the life of the law, not only as he is lex l*jutm himself, but because 
he animateth the dead letter, making it active towards all his subjects.'* 
(P- 595-)] 


130 Imaginary Conversations. 

by conquest.' What ! if he changes them from the despotic to 
the liberal ? if, knowing the first possession to have been obtained 
by conquest, he convokes the different orders of his people, and 
requests their assent to the statutes he presents ? Nothing can be 
more pedantic than the whole of the sixteenth section." 

Barrow. But there are sound truths in it, and advice too 
good to be taken every day. 

Newton. On Nobility : 

" A great and potent nobility . . . putteth life and spirit into 
the people, but press eth their fortune" 

" The man must have turned fool," said my friend, " to write 
thus. Are life and spirit put into people by the same means as 
their fortune is depressed ? " 

On Atheism : 

" * The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.' It is not 
said, ' The fool hath thought in his heart.' " 

No, nor is it necessary ; for to say in his heart, is to think 
within himself ; to be intimately convinced. 

" It appeareth in nothing more, that atheism is rather in the lip 
than in the heart of man, than by this, that atheists will ever be 
talking of that their opinion as if they fainted in it themselves, 
and would be glad to be strengthened by the consent of others : 
nay more, you shall have atheists strive to get disciples, as it fareth 
with other sects." 

So great is my horror at atheists, that I would neither reason 
with them nor about them ; but surely they are as liable to conceit 
vanity as other men are, and as proud of leading us captive to 
r opinions. I could wish the noble author had abstained from 
uoting Saint Bernard to prove the priesthood to have been, even 
in those days, more immoral than the Jaity ; and I am shocked at 
hearing that " learned times" especially with peace and prosperity, 
tend toward atheism. Better blind ignorance, better war and 
pestilence and famine 

Barrow. Gently, gently ! God may forgive his creature for 
not knowing him when he meets him ; but less easily for fighting 
against him, after talking to him and supping with him ; less 
easily for breaking his image, set up by him at every door, and 
such is man ; less easily for a series of fratricides, and such is 

Harrow and Newton. 131 

Newton. I am wrong: and here again let me repeat the 
strange paradox of r . rather than h:izard another fault. 

In the words about Superstition he agreed that Bacon spoke 

" It were better to have no opinion of God at all, than such an 
opinion as is unworthy of him ; for the one is unbelief, the other 
is contumely." 

" And here," remarked my visitor, " it is impossible not to 
look back with wonder on the errors of some among the wisest 
men, following the drift of a distorted education, or resting on 
the suggestions of a splenetic disposition. I am no poet, and 
therefore am ill qualified to judge the merits of the late Mr 
Milton in that capacity ; yet, being of a serious and somewhat of 
a religious turn, I was shocked greatly more at his deity than at 
his devil. I know not what interest he could have in making 
Satan so august a creature, and so ready to share the dangers and 
sorrows of the angels he had seduced. I know not, on the other 
hand, what could have urged him to make the better ones so 
dastardly that, even at the voice of their Creator, not one among 
them offered his service to rescue from eternal perdition the last 
and weakest of intellectual beings. Even his own Son sat silent, 
and undertook the mission but slowly ; although the trouble was 
momentary if compared with his everlasting duration, and the 
pain small if compared with his anterior and future bliss. Far be 
it from me," cried he 

Barrow. Did he cry so ? then I doubt whatever he said ; 
for those are precisely the words that all your sanctified rogues 
begin their lies with. Well, let us hear however what he 

Newton. " Far be it from me, Mr Newton, to lessen the 
merits of our Divine Redeemer. I, on the contrary, am indignant 
that poets and theologians should frequently lean toward it." 

Barrow. Did he look at all indignant ? 

Newton. He looked quite calm. 

Barrow. Ha ! I thought so. I doubt your friend's sincerity. 

Newton. He is a very sincere man. 

Barrow. So much the worse. 

Newton. How ? 

Barrow. We will discourse another time upon this. I 

132 Imaginary Conversations. 

meant only, what we may easily elucidate when we meet 
again. At present we have three-fourths of the volume to get 

Newton. " Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, 
to natural piety, to laws, to reputation : all which may be guides 
to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not ; but 
superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy 
in the minds of men : therefore atheism did never perturb 

Again : " We see the times inclined to atheism as the times 
of Augustus Caesar were civil times : but superstition hath been 
the confusion of many States." 

I wish the noble author had kept to himself the preference 
he gives atheism over superstition ; for, if it be just, as it 
seems to be, it follows that we should be more courteous and 
kind toward an atheist than toward a loose Catholic or rigid 

Barrow. I see no reason why we should not be courteous 
and kind toward men of all persuasions, provided we are certain 
that neither by their own inclination nor by the instigation of 
another they would burn us alive to save our souls, or invade 
our conscience for the pleasure of carrying it with them at their 

Atheism would make men have too little to do with others : 
superstition makes them wish to have too much. Atheism would 
make some fools : superstition makes many madmen. Atheism 
would oftener be in good humor than superstition is out of bad. 
I could bring many more and many stronger arguments in support 
of Bacon, and the danger would be little in adducing them ; for 
the current runs violently in a contrary direction, and will have 
covered every thing with slime and sand before atheism can have 
her turn against it. 

Newton. If atheism did never perturb States, as Bacon asserts, 
then nothing is more unjust than to punish it by the arm of the 
civil power. It was impolitic in him to remind the world that 
it was peaceful and happy for sixty years together, while those 
who ruled it were atheists ; when we must acknowledge that it 
never has been happy or peaceful for so many days at a time, 
under the wisest and most powerful (as they call the present one) 

liarruw and Ncxvton. 133 

ot the Alost Christian kin^s. For it the observation and the 
fact be true, and it it also be true- tluit the nuKst rational aim ot 
. haj)pincss, then must it follow that his most rational \vLih, 
and, Ix-m^ his most rational, therefore his most innocent and 
laudable, 'urn of such tinu^. 

Barrow. We will go forward to the Essay On Empire. 

Newton. I do not think the writer is correct in saying that 
"kings . . . want matter of desire." Wherever there is vacuity 
of mind, there must either be flaccidity or craving; and this 
vacuity must necessarily be found in the greater part of princes, 
from the defects of their education, from the fear of offending 
them in its progress by interrogations and admonitions, from the 
habit of rendering all things valueless by the facility with which 
they are obtained, and transitory by the negligence with which 
they are received and holden. 

44 Princes many times make themselves desires, and set their 
hearts upon toys, sometimes upon a building ; sometimes upon 
erecting of an order ; . . . sometimes upon obtaining excellency 
in some art or feat of the hand." : . 

On which my visitor said, "The latter desire is the] least 
common among them. Whenever it does occur, it arises from 
idleness, and from the habitude of doing what they ought not. 
For, commendable as such exercises are in those who have no 
and higher to employ their time in, they are unbecoming 
and injurious in kings ; all whose hours, after needful recreation 
and the pleasures which all men share alike, should be occupied 
in taking heed that those under them perform their dudes." 

Borrow. Bacon lived in an age when the wisest men were 
chosen, from every rank and condition, for the administration 
of affairs. Wonderful is it that one mind on this subject 
should have pervaded all the princes in Europe, not except- 
ing the Turk ; and that we cannot point out a prime minister of 
any nation, at that period, deficient in sagacity or energy.* Yet 

There i< a remark in a preceding Essay, which could not be noticed 
in the text : 

" As for the acquaintance which is to be sought in travel, that which 
is most of all profitable is acquaintance with the teeretariet and employed men 
of ambassadors ; for so. in travelling in one country, he shall suck the 
experience of many." 

I'lii-. \\LiTrvvr it may appear to us, was not ludicrous nor sarcastic 

134 Imaginary Conversations. 

that even the greatest, so much greater than any we have had 
since among us, did not come up to the standard he had fixed, is 
evident enough. 

" The wisdom," says he, " of all these latter times in princes' 
affairs, is rather fine deliveries, and shifting of dangers and mischiefs 
when they are near, than solid and grounded courses to keep them 
aloof: but this is but to try masteries with fortune. And let 
men beware how they neglect and suffer matter of trouble to be 
prepared ; for no man can forbid the spark, nor tell whence it 
may come." 

Newton. Sir, it was on this passage that my friend exclaimed, 
" The true philosopher is the only true prophet. From the death 
of this, the brightest in both capacities, a few years opened the 
entire scroll of his awful predictions. Yet age after age will the 
same truths be disregarded, even though men of a voice as deep 
and a heart less hollow should repeat them. Base men must 
raise new families, though the venerable edifice of our Constitu- 
tion be taken down for the abutments, and broken fortunes must 
be soldered in the flames of war blown up for the occasion." 

On this subject he himself is too lax and easy. Among the 
reasons for legitimate war he reckons the embracing of trade. He 
seems unwilling to speak plainly, yet he means to signify that we 
may declare war against a nation for her prosperity ; a prosperity 
raised by her industry, by the honesty of her dealings, and by ex- 
celling us in the quality of her commodity, in the exactness of 
workmanship, in punctuality, and in credit. 

Barrow. Hell itself, with all its jealousy and malignity and 
falsehood, could not utter a sentence more pernicious to the 
interests and improvement of mankind. It is the duty of every 
State to provide and watch that not only no other in its vicinity, 
but that no other with which it has dealings immediate or re- 
moter, do lose an inch of territory or a farthing of wealth by 
aggression. Princes fear at their next door rather the example 
of good than of bad. Correct your own ill habits, and you need 
not dread your rival's. Let him have them, and wear them 
every day, if indeed a Christian may propose it, and they will 
unfit him for competition with you. 

when Bacon wrote it, but might be applied as well to the embassadors 
and secretaries of England as of other States. 

Barrow and Newton. 135 

Newton. I now come to the words On Counsel: " The 
doctrine of Italy, and practice of France, in some kings' ' 
hath introduced cabinet counsels ; a remedy worse than the dis 

Cabinet council! It does indeed seem a strange ap]x)sition. 
One would sooner have expected cabinet cards and counters, 
cabinet miniature pictures > or what not! 

Bar ;ac ! it you had conversed, as I have, with 

some of those persons who constitute such councils, you would 
think the word cabinet quite as applicable to them as to cards or 
counters, or miniature pictures, or essences, or pots of pomatum. 

Newton. How, then, in the name of wonder, are the great 
matters of government carried on ? 

Borrow. Great dinners are put upon the table, not by the 
entertainer, but by the waiters. There are usually some dexterous 
hands accustomed to the business. The same weights are moved 
by the same ropes and pulleys. There is no vast address required 
in hooking them, and no mighty strength in the hauling. 

Newton. I have taken but few notes of some admirable things 
in my way to the Essay On Cunning. 

Barrow. I may remind you hereafter of some omissions in 
other places. 

Newton. I find Bacon no despiser of books in men of business, 
as people mostly are. 

Barrow. Because they know little of them, and fancy they 
could manage the whole world by their genius. This is the 
commonest of delusions in the shallows of society. Well doth 
Bacon say, " There be that can pack the cards and yet cannot 
play well ; so there are some that are good in canvasses and 
factions that are otherwise weak men." 

Fortunate the country that is not the dupe of these intruders and 
bustlers, who often rise to the highest posts by their readiness to 
lend an arm at every stepping-stone in the dirt, and are found as 
convenient in their way as the candle-snuffers in gaming-houses, 
who have usually their rouleau at the service of the half-ruined. 

Newton. I am sorry to find my Lord High Chancellor 
wearing as little the face of an honest man as doth one of these. 

Barrow. How so? 

Newton. He says, " If a man would cross a business, that 
he doubts some other would handsomely and effectually move, let 

136 Imaginary Conversations. 

him pretend to wish it well, and move it himself in such sort as 
may foil it." 

What must I think of such counsel ? 

Barrow. Bacon, as I observed before, often forgets his 
character. Sometimes he speaks the language of truth and 
honesty, with more freedom than a better man could do safely ; 
again, he teaches a lesson of baseness and roguery to the public, 
such as he could intend only for the private ear of some young 
statesman, before his rehearsal on the stage of politics. The 
words from the prompter's book have crept into the text, and 
injure the piece. Bacon might not have liked to cancel the 
directions he had given so much to his mind ; instead of which, 
he draws himself up and cries austerely, " But these small wares 
and petty points of cunning are infinite, and it were a good deed 
to make a list of them ; for nothing doth more hurt in a State 
than that cunning men pass for wise." 

Newton. He has other things about wisdom in another place : 
" Of the wisdom for a man's self." 

Barrow. I must repeat one noble sentence ; for I fear, if you 
begin to read it, I may interrupt you, not being master of my 
mind when his comes over it. " Divide with reason between 
self-love and society ; and be so true to thyself as thou be not 
false to others, especially to thy king and country. It is a poor 
centre of a man's actions, himself : it is right earth ; for that only 
stands fast upon his own centre ; whereas all things that have 
affinity with the heavens move upon the centre of another, which 
they benefit." 

What an imagination is Bacon's ; what splendid and ardent 
language ! In what prose-writer of our country, or of Rome, or 
of Greece, is there any thing equal or similar to it ! 

Newton. On Innovations I find the sentence which I have 
heard oftener quoted than any in the volume : "Time is the 
greatest innovator.'" 

We take the axiom up without examination ; .it is doubtful and 
inconsiderate. Does it mean much time or little time ? By a 
great innovator we must either signify an innovator in great matters, 
or in many at once, or nearly at once. Now time is slow in inno- 
vation of any kind ; and all great innovations are violences, as it 
were, done to time, crowding into a small space what would in 

Barrow and Newton. 137 

ordinary cases occupy a larger. Time, without other agents, 
wouJd innovate little ; for the portions of time are all the same, 
and, being so, their forces must be the same likewise. 

Barrow. That satisfies me. 

Newton. Truth and falsehood are the two great innovators, 
always at work, and sometimes the one uppermost and sometimes 
the other. 

Barrow. Let us engage ourselves in the service of truth, 
where the service is not perilous ; and let us win time to help us, 
for without him few cannot stand against many. 

Newton. On Friendship there are some things which sit loose 
upon the subject. The utility of it seems to be principally in the 
view of Bacon. Some positions are questionable: 

" Certain it is that whosoever hath his mini! fraught w ith many 
thoughts, his wits and understanding do clarify and break up in the 
communicating and discoursing with another; he tosseth his 
thoughts more easily ; he marshalleth them more orderly ; he seeth 
how they look when they are turned into words ; finally, he 
waxeth wiser than himself, and that more by an hour's discourse 
than by a day's meditation." 

This I conceive is applicable to one frame of mind, but not to 
another of equal capacity and elasticity. I admire the ingenuity 
of the thought, and the wording of it; nevertheless I doubt 
whether it suits not better the mind of an acute lawyer than of a 
contemplative philosopher. Never h.i\e I met with any one whose 
thoughts are marshalled more orderly in conversation than in com- 
position ; nor am I acquainted in the University with any gentle- 
man of fluent speech, whose ideas are not frequently left dry 
upon die bank. Cicero and Demosthenes were laborious in com- 
position, and their replies were, I doubt not, as much studied as 
their addresses. For it was a part of the orator to foresee the 
points of attack to which his oration was exposed, and to prepare 
the materials, and the arrangement of them, for defending it. 

"It was well said by Themistocles to the king of Persia, that 
speech was like cloth of Arras" &c. 

Themistocles might as well have spoken of velvet of Genoa 
and satin of Lyon; . 

On Expense there is much said quite worthy of Bacon's 
experience and prudence ; but he lays down one rule which I 
think I can demonstrate to be injurious in its tendency : 

138 Imaginary Conversations. 

" If a man will keep but of even hand, his ordinary expenses 
ought to be but to the half of his receipts ; and if he think to 
wax rich, but to the third part." 

Should all private gentlemen, and others who are not gentle- 
men, but whose income is of the same value, spend only the third 
part of it, the nation would be more nearly ruined within the 
century, than it would be if every one of them mortgaged his 
property to half its amount. 

A wiser saying comes soon afterward, where he speaks On the 
True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates : 

" No people overcharged with tribute is fit for empire." 

How happy, my dear sir, is our condition, in having been ever 
both generous and thrifty, ready at all times to succor the 
oppressed, and condescending on this holy occasion to ask the 
countenance of none ! How happy, to have marched straight 
forward in the line of duty with no policy to thwart, no penury to 
enfeeble, and no debt to burthen us ! Although our nobility is 
less magnificent than in the reign of the Tudors, I do verily 
believe it is as free and independent ; and its hospitality, so con- 
ducive (as Bacon says) to martial greatness, is the same as ever, 
although the quality of the guests be somewhat changed. 

Barrow. Isaac ! are you serious ? 

Newton. Dear sir, the subject animates me. 

Barrow. What sparkles is hardly more transparent than what 
is turbid. Your animation, my friend, perplexed me. I perceive 
you are vehemently moved by the glory of our countiy. 

Newton. As we derive a great advantage from the nature of 
our nobility, so do we derive an equal one from the dispositions 
and occupations of the people. How unfortunate would it be for 
us, if we had artisans cooped up like tame pigeons in unwholesome 
lofts, bending over the loom by tallow-light, and refreshing their 
exhausted bodies at daybreak with ardent liquors ! Indeed, in 
comparison with this, the use of slaves itself, which Bacon calls 
a great advantage, was almost a blessing. 

Barrow. Let us not speculate on either of these curses, 
which may not be felt as such when they come upon us, for we 
shall be stunned and torpified by the greatness of our fall. 

What have you next ? 

Newton. On Suspicion I find an Italian proverb, which the 

Barro\\ and Newton. 139 

learned author has misconstrued. " Sospetto licenzia fedc " IK- 
tran^ ]>icion givrs .1 passport to Kiith." The meaning 

is (my visitor tells me), " Suspicion dismisses fidelity." " Licen- 
is, to dismiss a servant. That the person 
suspected is no longer bound to fidelity, is the axiom of a nation 
in which fidelity is readier to quit a man than suspicion is. 

It cost me many hours of inquiry to search into the propriety 
of his thoughts Upon Ambition. He says : " It is counted by 
some a weakness in princes to have favorites ; but it is of all others 
the best remedy :nbitious great ones: for when the way 

of pleasuring and displeasuring lieth by the favorite, it is impossible 
any other should be overgreat." 

I hope, and am willing to believe, that my I <ord Chancellor 
Bacon was a true and loyal subject ; yet one would almost be 
tempted to think, in reading him, that there must be a curse in 
hereditary princes, and that he had set his private mark upon it 
when he praises their use of favorites, and supposes them 
surrounded by mean persons and ambitious ones, by poisons and 
counterpoisons. Sejanus and Tigellinus, our Gavestons and 
Mortimers, our Kmpsons and Dudleys, our Wolseys and Buck- 
inghams, are like certain fumigations to drive away rats ; which 
indeed do drive them out, but also make the house undesirable to 
inhabit. He recommends " the continual interchange of favors 
and disgraces, whereby they may not know what to expect, and 
be, as it were, in a wood." 

Barrow. By the effect of this policy, we find the counte- 
nances of the statesmen and courtiers who lived in his age, almost 
without exception, mean and suspicious. The greatest men look, 
in their portraits, as if they were waiting for a box on the ear ; 
lowering their heads, raising their shoulders, and half-closing 
their eyes, for the reception of it. 

Newton. What he says Of Nature in Men seems spoken by 
some one who saw through it from above : the same On Custom 
and Education. Here he speaks with more verity than consola- 
tion, when he says : ' There 13 be not two more fortunate proper- 
ties, than to have a little of the fool and not too much of the 
honest : therefore extreme lovers of their country were never 

["The passage is from the Essay Of Fortune."] 

140 Imaginary Conversations. 

fortunate; neither can they be; for when a man placeth his 
thoughts without himself, he goeth not his own way." 

In the Essay On Touth and Age, what can be truer, what can 
be more novel or more eloquent, than this sentence : 

" Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too 
little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the 
full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success." 

What he says Of Beauty is less considerate. 

Barrow. I do not wonder at it : beauty is not stripped in a 
Court of Chancery, as fortune is. 

Newton. He is inconsequent in his reasoning when he says : 
" There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in 
the proportion. A man cannot tell whether Apelles or Albert 
Durer were the more trifler, whereof the one would make a per- 
sonage by geometrical proportions ; the other, by taking the best 
parts out of divers faces to make one excellent." 

Barrow. Whereof is of which, not of 'whom. 

Newton. If " there is no excellent beauty that hath not some 
strangeness in the proportion," then Apelles was no trifler in tak- 
ing the best parts of divers faces, which would produce some 
strangeness in the proportion unless he corrected it. 

Barrow. True : Bacon's first remark, however, is perfectly 
just and novel. What strikes us in beauty is that which we did 
not expect to find from anything we had seen before : a new 
arrangement of excellent parts. The same thing may be said of 
genius, the other great gift of the Divinity, not always so acceptable 
to his creatures ; but which however has this advantage, if you will 
allow it to be one, that, whereas beauty has most admirers at its 
first appearance, genius has most at its last, and begins to be com- 
memorated in the period when the other is forgotten. 

Newton. What you said of beauty, as striking us chiefly in 
being unexpected from any thing we had seen before, is applicable 
no less to ugliness. 

Barrow. I am not giving a definition, but recording an 14 ob- 
servation, which would be inexact without the remaining words, 
" a new arrangement of excellent parts." 

Newton. Our author errs more widely than before ; not, as 

[ 14 First ed. reads: " recording a fact. Nnvton. One," &c.] 

Barrow and Newton. 141 

before, in drawing a talse conclusion. " Sucn personages," lie- 
continues to remark, " I think would please nobody but the 
painter who made them : not but I think a painter may m 
better face than e\er was ; but he must do it by a kind of felicity 
(as a musician that maketh an excellent air in music) and not by 
rule." Nothing of excellent is to be done by felicity. 

Barrow. Felicity and excellence rarely meet, and hardly 
know one another. 

Newton. Certainly no musician ever composed an excellent air 
otherwise than by rule : felicity is without it. 

Barrow. Beauty does not seem to dazzle but to deaden him. 
He reasons that the principal part of beauty lies in decent motion, 
and asserts that " no youthy person can be comely but by pardon, 
and by considering the youth as to make up the comeliness." 
Much of this reflection may have been fashioned and cast by the 
age of the observer ; much by the hour of the day : I think it 
must have been a rainy morning, when he had eaten unripe fruit 
for breakfast! 

Newton. Perhaps sour grapes. 

On Deformity I have transcribed a long sentence : here he 
seems more at home : 

" Because there is in man an election touching the frame of 
his mind, and a necessity in the frame of his body, the stars of 
natural inclination are sometimes obscured by the sun of discipline 
and virtue ; therefore it is good to consider of deformity, not as a 
si^n which is most dcceivablc, but as a cause which seldom faileth 
of the effect." 

Nothing can be truer in all its parts, or more magnificent in 
the whole. 

Barrow. This short Essay is worth many libraries of good 
books. Several hundreds of esteemed authors have not in them 
the substance and spirit of the sentence you recited. 

Newton. On Building he says : " Houses are built to live in, 
and not to look on." 

Half of this is untrue. Sheds and hovels, the first habitations 
(at least the first artificial ones) of men, were built to live in, and 
not to look on ; but houses are built for both : otherwise why 
give directions for the proportions of porticos, of columns, of inter- 
columniations, and of whatever else delights the beholder in 

142 Imaginary Conversations. 

architecture, and flatters the possessor ? Is the beauty of cities 
no honor to the inhabitants, no excitement to the defence ? 
External order in visible objects hath relation and intercourse 
with internal propriety and decorousness. I doubt not but 
the beauty of Athens had much effect on the patriotism, and 
some on the genius, of the Athenians. Part of the interest and 
animation men receive from Homer lies in their conception of 
the magnificence of Troy. Even the little rock of Ithaca rears 
up its palaces sustained by pillars ; and pillars are that portion 
of an edifice on which the attention rests longest and most com- 
placently. For we have no other means of calculating so well the 
grandeur of edifices, as by the magnitude of the support they 
need ; and it is the only thing about them which we measure in 
any way by our own. 

" Neither do I reckon it an ill seat only where the air is un- 
wholesome, but likewise where the air is unequal : as you shall 
see many fine seats set upon a knap of ground, environed with 
higher hills round about it, whereby the heat of the sun is pent in, 
and the wind gathereth as in troughs," &c. 

Now surely this very knap of ground is the very spot to be 
chosen for the commodiousness of its situation, its salubrity, 
and its beauty. There 'is as little danger of the wind gather- 
ing in these troughs as in goat-skins. He must have taken his 
idea from some Italian work : the remark is suitable only to a 
southern climate. 

Barrow. In one so rainy as ours is, it would have been more 
judicious, I think, to have warned against building the house upon 
clay or marl, which are retentive of moisture, slippery nine months 
in the twelve, cracked the other three, of a color offensive to the 
sight, of a soil little accommodating to garden-plants, the water 
usually unwholesome, and the roads impassable. 

Newton. On Negotiating I am sorry to find again our Lord 
Chancellor a dissembler and a tutor to lies : 

" To deal in person is good when a man's face breedeth regard, 
as commonly with inferiors ; or in tender cases, where a man's 
eye upon the countenance of him with whom he speaketh may 
give him a direction how far to go ; an d generally where a man 
will reserve to himself liberty, either to disavow or to expound." 

Barrow. Bad enough : but surely he must appear to you any 

B.irrow and Newton. 143 

thing rather than knave, when he recommends the employment of 
froward and absurd men, be the bu.-iiu-^-, \vh.,t it : 

i" ton. He recommends them for business 'which doth not 
well bear out itself ; and in which, one would think, the wariest 
are the most wanted. 

Barrow. But, like men who have just tripped, he walks the 
firmer and stouter instantly. The remainder of the Essay is 
worthy of his perspicac 

Newton. In the next, On Followers and Friends, I find the 
word espial used by him a second time, for a minister the French 
call espton. It appears to me that it should denote, not \hc person 
but the action^ as the same termination is used in trial. 

Barrow. Right. We want some words in composition as we 
want some side-dishes at table, less for necessity than for decora- 
tion. On this principle, I should not quarrel with a writer who 
had used the verb originate ; on condition however that he used it 
as a neuter : none but a sugar-slave would employ it actively. It 
may stand opposite to terminate. 

Bacon in the preceding sentence used glorious for vain" 
glorious ; a Latinism among the many of the age, and among 
the few of the author. Our language bears Gallicisms better 
than Latinisms; but whoever is resolved to write soberly 
must be contented with the number of each that was found 
among us in the time of the Reformation. Little is to be re- 
jected of what was then in use, and less of any thing new is 
henceforward to be admitted. By which prudence and caution 
we may in time have writers as elegant as the Italian and the 
French, whom already we exceed, as this little volume pro . 
vigor and invention. 

Newton. He says, further on : It is true that in government 
it is good to use men of one rank equally ; for to countenance 
some extraordinarily is to make them insolent, and the rest dis- 
content, because they may claim a due : but contrariwise in favor, 
to use men with much difference and election is good ; for it 
maketh the persons preferred more thankful, and the rest more 
officious ; because all is of favor." 

Here again I am sorry so great an authority should, to use the 
words of my visitor, let his conscience run before his judgment, 
and his tongue slip in between. " In saying that all is of favor " 

144 Imaginary Conversations. 

(thus carps my visitor) "he gives a preference to another form of 
government over the monarchal ; another form indeed where all 
is not of favor ; where something may be attributed to virtue, 
something to industry, something to genius ; where something 
may accrue to us from the gratitude of our fellow- citizens ; and 
not every thing drop and drivel from the frothy pulings of one 
swathed up in bandages never changed nor loosened ; of one held 
always in the same arms, and with its face turned always in the 
same direction." 

Barrow. Hold ! hold ! this is as bad as Bacon or Milton : 
nay, Cicero and Demosthenes, in the blindness of their hearts, 
could scarcely have spoken, to the nations they guided, with more 
contemptuous asperity of royal power. 

Newton. I venerate it, as coming of God. 

Barrow. Hold again ! all things come from him : the hang- 
man and the hanged are in the same predicament with the anointer 
and the anointed. 

Newton. Sir, you remind me of an observation made in my 
father's house by the son of a republican, and who indeed was 
little better than one himself. My father had upbraided him on 
his irreverence to the Lord's anointed : he asked my father why he 
allowed his mind to be lime-twigged and ruffled and discomposed 
by words ; and whether he would feel the same awe in repeating 
the syllables, God's greased, as in repeating the syllables, God V 
anointed. If the Esquimaux heard them, said he, they would 
think the man no better reared than themselves, and worse dressed, 
as dressed by one less in practice. 

Barrow. No men are so facetious as those whose minds are 
somewhat perverted. Truth enjoys good air and clear light, but 
no play-ground. Keep your eyes upon Bacon : we may more 
safely look on him than on thrones. How wise is all the 
remainder of the Essay ! 

Newton. He says, On Suitors, and truly, that " Private suits 
do putrefy the public good." Soon afterward, " Some embrace 
suits which never mean to deal effectually in them." This seems 
ordinary and flat; but the words are requisite to a sentence 
founded (I fear) on a close observation of human nature, as courts 
render it. I noted them as presenting an incorrectness and 
indecision of language. Who is proper, not which ; although 

Harrow and Newton. 145 

'which was used indiscriminately, as we find in the- kenning 
of the " Lord's Prayer : " but in that place there could be no 

row. Among the few crudities and barbarisms that 

; 'pressed our language in his learned age, Bacon has 

nan were better rue in his suit," Indeed, he uses 

-Mere better more than once ; with the simple verb after it, and 

without to. 

Newton. On Studies he cannot lose his road, having trodden 
it so frequently, and having left his mark upon so many objects 
all the way. Therefore it is no wonder that his genius points 
finger of fire to this subject. 

He says, On Faction, that, " Many a man's strength is in 
opposition, and when that faileth he groweth out of use." He 
must have written from inspiration ; for in his age I find no person 
to whom he can have alluded. 

Barrow. Perhaps not ; yet the preceding may have furnished 
him with examples. 

Newton. In the first sentence On Ceremonies and Respects 
are the words, "He that is only real had need have exceed- 
ing great parts of virtue." This weighty and sorrowful truth 
does not prevent me from questioning the expression, had need have. 

Barrow. The true words, which all authors write amiss, are, 
ha* need of. Ha need sounds like had need, and have sounds like 
of, in speaking auickly. Hence the wisest men have written the 
words improperly, by writing at once from the ear without an 
appeal or reference to grammar. 

Newton. On Praise he says ingeniously, but not altogether 
truly, "Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and 
swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid." 

Barrow. This is true only of literary fame ; and the drowned 
things are brought to light again, sometimes by the wanner season 
and sometimes by the stormier. 

He uses suspect for suspicion: we retain aspect, respect, retrospect, 
prospect. I know not whether the chancellor's award in favor of 
suspect will be repealed or acquiesced in. 

Newton. In the next Essay, On Vain-glory, he says : " In 

irning the flight will 
ostentation." That is hard, if true. 


146 Imaginary Conversations. 

Barrow. There must be a good deal of movement and 
shuffling before there is any rising from the ground ; and those 
who have the longest wings have the most difficulty in the first 
mounting. In literature, as at foot-ball, strength and agility are 
insufficient of themselves : you must have your side, or you may 
run till you are out of breath, and kick till you are out of shoes, 
and never win the game. There must be some to keep others 
off you, and some to prolong for you the ball's rebound. But 
your figures, dear Isaac, will serve as tenterhooks to catch the 
fingers of those who would meddle with your letters. Do not 
however be ambitious of an early fame : such is apt to shrivel and 
to drop under the tree. 

Newton. The author continues the same subject in the next 
Essay, though under a different title. Of Honor and Reputation 
he says, " Discreet followers and servants help much to reputa- 
tion." Then he who has no servant, or an indiscreet one, must 
be content to be helped to little of it. 

Barrow. 1 ^ Seeing that reputation is casual, that the wise 
may long want it, that the unwise may soon acquire it, that a 
servant may further it, that a spiteful man may obstruct it, that a 
passionate man may maim it, and that whole gangs are ready to 
waylay it as it mounts the hill, I would not wish greatly to 
carry it about me, but rather to place it in some safe spot, 
where few could find, and not many will look after it. But 
those who discover it will try in their hands its weight and quality, 
and take especial care lest they injure it, saying, " It is his and 
his only ; leave it to him, and wish him increase in it." 

Newton. Where Bacon is occupied, " in the true marshalling 
of sovran honor," he gives the third place to liberatores or sal- 
vatores. He wishes to speak in Latin ; one of these words 
belongs not to the language. 

Barrow. His Latin is always void of elegance and grace ; 
but he had the generosity to write in it, that he might be useful 
the more extensively. We English are far below the Italians, 
French, Germans, and Dutch in our Latinity ; yet we have 
Latin volumes written by our countrymen, each of which, in its 
matter, is fairly worth half theirs. They, like certain fine gentle- 
men, seem to found their ideas of elegance on slenderness, and in 

[ 15 Barrmv and the following Newton added in 2nd ed ] 

Barrow and Newton. 147 

twenty or thirty of them we hardly find a thought or remark at 
all worthy of preservation. I remember but one sentence ; which 
however, it" Cicero had written it, would be recorded among the 
best he e\n wrote. " Valuit nimirum maledicentia, gratd, 
cunctis, etiam iis qui neque sibi maledici neque maledicere ipsi 
alii* velint." 

Newton. 16 Permit me to inquire, sir, by whom was this 
strong and shrewd and truly Sallusti.m sentence written ? 

Burrow. By Vavassor, a Jesuit. 

It may he remarked, and perhaps you have done it, that the 
tide itself of this Essay, The True Marshalling of sovran Honor, 
is incorrect. By marshalling he means tht giving of rates or 
degrees ; now what is sovran has no rates or degrees : he should 
have said " of titles assumed by sovran princes." 

Newton. In the first sentence On Judicature, he uses the 
singular and plural in designating the same body : either is ad- 
missible, but not both : 

Use will it be like the authority claimed by the Church of 
Rome, which, under pretext of exposition of Scripture, doth not 
stick to add and alter, and to pronounce that which they do not 
find, and, by show of antiquity, to introduce novelty." 

What gravity and wisdom is there in the remark that, " One 
foul sentence doth more hurt than many foul examples : for 
these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupteth the 

The worst, and almost the only bad, sentence in the volume 
is the childish antithesis, " There be, saith the Scripture, that 
turn judgment into wormwood, and surely there be also that 
turn it into vinegar : for injustice maketh it bitter, and delays 
make it sour." 

On the yieissitudts of Things he observes that " the true religion 
is built upon the rock, the rest are tossed upon the waves of 
time." My 17 visitor said hereupon : " I doubt whether this 
magnificent figure hath truth for its basis. If by true religion is 
meant the religion of our Saviour, as practised by his apostles, 

[> From " Nru-te* " to " Jesuit " (3 lines) added in 2nd ed. The words 
below, " The true marshalling of sovran honor," are not the title of an 
Essay, but occur in tht ti-xt of the Essay On, Honors and Dignities."] 

[ 17 From My " to * hereupon " added in and ed.] 

148 Imaginary Conversations. 

they outlived it. They complain that it never took firm posses- 
sion even of their own auditors. Saint Peter himself was re- 
proved by his master for using his sword too vigorously, after all 
he had said against any use of it whatever ; yet, so little good did 
the reproof, he fell immediately to betraying the very man he had 
thus defended. But if by true religion we mean the Church of 
Rome, we come nearer the fact ; for that religion, with patchings 
and repairings, with materials purloined from others, with piles 
driven under the foundation, and buttresses without that darken 
every thing within, surmounted by pinnacles raised above the upper 
story, hath lasted long, and will remain while men are persuaded 
that wax and stockfish can atone for their vices. The obstacle 
to our acceptance of the meaning is that it hath been convicted 
of many impostures in its claims and miracles, that it continues to 
insist on them, and that it uses violence (which is forbidden by 
Christ) against those who stumble or doubt." 

Barrow. Deafness is not to be healed by breaking the head, 
nor blindness by pulling the eyes out : it is time the doctors 
should try new experiments ; if they will not, it is time that the 
patients should try new doctors. 

Newton. A bad religion may be kept afoot by the same 
means as other kinds of bad government ; by corruption and 
terror, by spies and torturers. No doubt it will please God to 
see all things set to rights ; but we must acknowledge that the 
best religion, like the best men, has fared the worst. 

Bacon says he " reckons martyrdoms among miracles, because 
they seem to exceed the strength of human nature." If they did 
seem to exceed the strength of human nature, this is no suffici- 
ent reason why they should be ranked with miracles ; for 
martyrdoms have appertained to many religions, if we may call 
voluntary death to prove a misbeliever's sincerity a martyrdom, 
while we know that miracles belong exclusively to the Christian : 
and even in this faith there are degrees of latitude and longitude 
which they were never known to pass, although, humanly speak- 
ing, they were much wanted. The Lithuanians, and other north- 
eastern nations, were long before they were reclaimed from 
paganism, for want of miracles. God's good time had not 
come : and he fell upon different expedients for their conversion. 

On the Vicissitudes of Things we find mention of Plato's great 

Barroxv and Newton. 149 

I think von omv told me, Pl.ito took more from others 
than he knew \vhat to iio with. 

impjlfying, lu- involve.-, .uid confounds. 

Ne<wt>jn. I hope here tt r to study the heavenly bodies with 

r accuracy and on other principles than philosophers have 

done hitherto. The reasons of Bacon why ' the northern tract 

of the world ... is the more martial region " are unworthy of 

. ie assigns the stars of the hemisphere ; 

then, the greatness of the continent, " whereas the south part is 
almost all sea ;" then, the cold of the northern parts, "which is 
that which, without aid of discipline, doth make the bodies 
hardest and the courage warmest." The stars can have no effect 
whatever on the courage or virtues of men, unless we call the sun 
one of them, as the poets do. The heat of the sun may produce 
effeminacy and sloth in many constitutions, and contrary effects in 
many ; but I suspect that dryness and moisture are more efficient 
on the human body than heat and cold. Some races, as in do;;s 
and horses and cattle of every kind, are better than others, and do 
not lose their qualities for many ages, nor, unless others cross 
them, without the confluence of many causes. There may be as 
much courage in hot climates as in cold. The inhabitants of 
Madagascar and Malacca are braver than the Laplanders, and 
perhaps not less brave than the Londoners. The fact is this : 
people in warm climates are in the full enjoyment of all the 
pleasures that animal life affords, and are disinclined to toil after 
that which no toil could produce or increase ; while the native of 
the north is condemned by climate to a life of labor, which often- 
times can procure for him but a scanty portion of what his 
vehement and exasperated appetite demands. Therefore he 
cuts it short with his sword, and reaps the field sown by the 

Bacon seems to me just in his opinion, if not that ordnance, at 
least that inHammable powder and annoyance by its means, perhaps 
in rockets, was known among the ancients. He instances the 
Oxydraces in India. The remark is, I imagine, equally ap- 
plicable to the priests of Delphi, who repelled the Gauls with it 
from the temple of Apollo. This 18 is the more remarkable, as 
the Persians too encountered the same resistance, ami experienced 
f J8 From *Thi " to " exploded " (5 lines) added in 2nd id.] 

150 Imaginary Conversations. 

the double force of thunderbolts and earthquake. Whence we 
may surmise that not only missiles, propelled by the combustion 
of powder, were aimed against them, but likewise that mines ex- 
ploded. And perhaps other priests, the only people in most 
places who formerly had leisure for experiments, were equally 
acquainted with it, and used it for their own defence only, and 
only in cases of extremity. Etruscan 19 soothsayers were appointed 
to blast the army of Alaric with lightning, and the Pope acceded 
to the proposal ; but his Holiness, on reflection, was of opinion 
that aurum fulminans was more effectual. 

I wish the Essay On Fame had been completed : and even 
then its chief effect on me, perhaps, would be to excite another 
wish ; as gratification usually does. It would have made me 
sigh for the recovery of Cicero On Glory, that the two greatest 
of philosophers might be compared on the same ground. 

Barrow. Let us look up at Fame without a desire or a 
repining ; and let us pardon all her falsehoods and delays, in 
remembrance that the best verse in Homer, and the best in 
Virgil, are on her. Virgil's is indeed but a feather from the 
wing of Homer. 

Newton. You show a very forgiving mind, sir, and I hope 
she will be grateful to you. I do not know what these lines are 
worth, as they give me no equations. 

Barrow. Nothing should be considered quite independently 
of every thing else. We owe reverence to all great writers ; but 
our reverence to one would be injustice to another, unless we 
collated and compared their merits. 

Newton. Some are so dissimilar to others, that I know not 
how it can be done. 

Barrow. Liquids and solids are dissimilar, yet may be 
weighed in the same scales. All things are composed of 
portions ; and all things bear proportions relatively, mind to 
mind, matter to matter. Archimedes and Homer are suscep- 
tible of comparison ; but the process would be long and tedious, 
the principles must be sought from afar, nor is t! e man perhaps 
at the next door who must be called for the operation. Bacon 
and Milton, Bacon and Shakspeare, may be compared with 
little difficulty, wide asunder as they appear to stand. How- 
[ 19 From " Etruscan " to " effectual " (4 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

Barrow and Newton. 151 

e\er, since the cogitative and imaginative parts ot" mind are 
exercised by both in broad daylight and in open spaces, the 
degrees in which they are exercised are within our calculation. 
Until we bring together the weightiest works of genius from 
the remotest distances, we shall display no admirable power 
of criticism. None such hath been hitherto exhibited in the 
world, which stands in relation to criticism as it stood in rela- 
tion to metaphysics, until the time or" Aristoteles. He left them 
imperfect ; and the-, in little better ever since. The 

good sense of Cicero led him to clearer studies and whole- 
somer exercise ; and where he could not pluck fruit he would 
not pluck brambles. In PI ito \ve find only arbors and grottos, 
with moss and shell-work all misplaced. Aristoteles hath 
built a solider edifice, but hath built it across our road : we 
must throw it down again, and use what we can of the materials 

Newton. Bacon, seen only in his Essays, would have appeared 
to me (fresh as I come from the study of the ancients, and 
captivated as I confess I am by the graces of their language) 
the wisest and most instructive of writers. 

Barrow. In calling him the wisest of writers, you must 
except those who wrote from inspiration. 

Newton. Ha ! that is quite another thing. 

Barrow. Henceforward I would advise you to follow the 
bent of your genius, in examining those matters principally which 
are susceptible of demonstration. Every young mm should have 
some proposed end for his studies : let yours be philosophy ; 
and principally those parts of it in which die ancients have 
done little and the moderns less. And never be dejected, 
my dear Isaac, though it should enable you to throw but a 
scarcity of light on the Revelation, The Rape of Helen, and 
The Golden Fleece. 

Newton. I hope by my labors I may find a clew to them in 
the process of time. But perhaps my conjectures may turn out 
wrong, as those on the book before me have. 

Barrow. How ? 

Newton. I should always have imagined, if you had not 
taught me the contrary, that there is more of genius and philo- 
sophy in Bacon's Essays than in all Cicero's works, however 

1^2 Imaginary Conversations. 

less there be of the scholastic and oratorical. Perhaps I, by 
being no estimator of style 

Barrow. Peace, peace ! my modest Newton ! Perhaps I, 
by being too much an estimator of it, have overvalued the 
clearest head and the purest tongue of antiquity. My 20 Lord 
Justice Coke, and probably the more learned Selden, would 
have ridiculed or reproved us, had we dared entertain in their 
presence a doubt of Cicero's superiority over Bacon. No very 
great man ever reached the standard of his greatness in the crowd 
of his contemporaries. This hath always been reserved for the 
secondary. There must either be something of the vulgar, some- 
thing in which the commonalty can recognise their own features, 
or there must be a laxity, a jealousy, an excitement stimulating 
a false appetite. Your brief review of the Essays hath brought 
back to my recollection so much of shrewd judgment, so much of 
rich imagery, such a profusion of truths so plain, as (without his 
manner of exhibiting them) to appear almost unimportant that, in 
the various high qualities of the human mind, I must acknowledge 
not only Cicero, but every prose-writer among the Greeks, to 
stand far below him. Cicero is least valued for his highest merits, 
his fulness and his perspicuity. Bad judges (and how few are 
not so ! ) desire in composition the concise and the obscure, not 
knowing that the one most frequently arises from paucity of 
materials, and the other from inability to manage and dispose 
them. Have you never observed that, among the ignorant in 
painting, dark pictures are usually called the finest in the collec- 
tion, and grey-bearded heads, fit only for the garret, are preferred 
to the radiance of light and beauty ? Have you yourself never 
thought, before you could well measure and calculate, that books 
and furniture thrown about a room appeared to be in much greater 
quantities than when they were arranged ? At every step we 
take to gain the approbation of the wise, we lose something in the 
estimation of the vulgar. Look within : cannot we afford it ? 

The minds of few can take in the whole of a great author, and 
fewer can draw him close enough to another for just commen- 
suration. A fine passage may strike us less forcibly than one 
beneath it in beauty, from less sensibility in us at the moment ; 
whence less enthusiasm, less quickness of perception, less capacity, 
[ 20 From " My " to " him " (16 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

Harrow and Ni*\\ton. 153 

less hoKi. You have omitted to remark some of t'nc Doblcft things 
in BaCOOy often 1 believe because there is QOpOWCrof jadgHKM to 
be shown in the >n of admiration, and perhaps too some- 

from the rejx-lition and intensity of delight. 

Nrwton. Sir, 1 forebore to lift up my hands as a mark of ad- 
ordered me to demonstrate, if I could, the defects 
of this wonderful man, unnoticed hitherto. 

Barrow. You have done it to my satisfaction. Cicero dis- 
dained not in the latter days of his life, when he was highest in 
tion and dignity, to |x?rform a similar office in regard to 
Epicurus : and I wish he had exhibited the same accuracy and 
attention, the same moderation and respect, The objections of 
your friend and visitor are not altogether frivolous : take 
however lest he, by his div ptations, move you from vour faith. 
If you hold the faith, the faith will support you ; as, if you make 
your bed warm by lying in it, your bed will keep you so : never 
mind what the ticking or the wadding may be made of. There 
are few things against which I see need to warn you, and not 
many on which you want advice. You are not profuse in your 
expenditure ; yet as you, like most of the studious, are inattentive 
to money-affairs, let me guard you against evils following on this 
negligence, worse than the negligence itself. Whenever a young 
man is remarked for it, a higher price is fixed on what he pur- 
chases ; and dishonest men of every description push themselves 
into his service, and often acquire his confidence, not only to the 
injury of his fortune, but likewise of his credit and respectability. 
Let a gentleman be known to have been cheated of twenty pounds, 
and it costs him forty a-year for the remainder of his life. There- 
fore, if you detect the cheat, the wisest thing is to conceal it ; 
both for fear of the rogues about your sideboard, and of those 
more dexterous ones round the green cloth, under the judge, in 
your county assize-room. 

You will become an author ere long ; and every author must 
attend to the means of conveying his information. The plainness 
of your style is suitable to your manners and your studies. Avoid, 
which many grave men have not done, words taken from sacred 
subjects and from elevated poetry : these we have seen vilely pro- 
stituted. Avoid too the society of the barbarians who misemploy 
them : they are vain, irreverent, and irreclaimable to right feelings. 

154 Imaginary Conversations. 

The dialogues of Galileo, which you have been studying, are 
written with much propriety and precision. I do not urge you 
to write in dialogue, although the best writers of every age have 
done it ; the best parts of Homer and Milton are speeches and 
replies ; the best parts of every great historian are the same : the 
wisest men of Athens and of Rome converse together in this 
manner, as they are shown to us by Xenophon, by Plato, and by 
Cicero. Whether you adopt such a form of composition, which, 
if your opinions are new, will protect you in part from the hostility 
all novelty (unless it is vicious) excites, or whether you choose 
to go along the unbroken surface of the didactic, never look 
abroad for any kind of ornament. Apollo, either as the god of 
day or the slayer of Python, had nothing about him to obscure 
his clearness or to impede his strength. To one of your mild 
manners, it would be superfluous to recommend equanimity in com- 
petition, and calmness in controversy. How easy is it for the 
plainest things to be misinterpreted by men not unwise, which a 
calm disquisition sets right ! and how fortunate and opportune is 
it to find in ourselves that calmness which almost the wisest have 
wanted, on urgent and grave occasions ! If others for a time 
are preferred to you, let your heart lie sacredly still ; and you will 
hear from it the true and plain oracle, that not for ever will the 
magistracy of letters allow the rancid transparencies of coarse 
colormen to stand before your propylaea. It is time that Philosophy 
should have her share in our literature ; that the combinations and 
appearances of matter be scientifically considered and luminously 
displayed. Frigid conceits on theological questions, heaps of snow 
on barren crags, compoyc at present the greater part of our domain : 
volcanoes of politics burst forth from time to time, and vary, 
without enlivening, the scene. 

Do not fear to be less rich in the productions of your mind at 
one season than at another. Marshes are always marshes, and 
pools are pools ; but the sea, in those places where we admire it 
most, is sometimes sea and sometimes dry land ; sometimes it brings 
ships into port, and sometimes it leaves them where they can be 
refitted and equipped. The capacious mind neither rises nor sinks, 
neither labors nor rests, in vain. Even in those intervals when it 
loses the consciousness of its powers, when it swims as it were in 
vacuity, and feels not what is external nor internal, it acquires or 

Barrow and Newton. 155 

recovers strength, as the body does by sleep. Never try to say 
things admirably ;-' try only to say them plainly ; for your business 
is \vith the considerate philosopher, and not with the polemical 
assembly. If a thing can be demonstrated two ways, demonstrate 
it in both : one will please this man best, the other that ; and 
pleasure, if obvious and unsought, is never to be neglected by those 
appointed from above to lead us into knowledge. Many will 
readily mount stiles and gates to walk along a footpath in a field, 
whom the very sight of a bare public road would disincline and 
weary ; and yet the place whereto they travel lies at the end ot 
each. Your studies are of a nature unsusceptible of much decora- 
tion : otherwise it would be my duty and my care to warn you 
against it, not merely as idle and unnecessary, but as obstructing 
your intent. The fond of wine are little fond of the sweet or of 
the new : the fond of learning are no fonder of its must than of 
its dregs. Something of the severe hath always been appertaining 
to order and to grace ; and the beauty that is not too liberal is 
sought the most ardently and loved the longest. The Graces 
have their zones, and Venus her cestus. In the writings of the 
philosopher are the frivolities of ornament the most ill-placed ; in 
you would they be particularly, who, promising to lay open before 
us an infinity of worlds, should turn aside to display the petals of a 
double pink. 

It is dangerous to have any intercourse or dealing with small 
authors. They are as troublesome to handle, as easy to discom- 
pose, as difficult to pacify, and leave as unpleasant marks on you, 
as small children. Cultivate on the other hand the society and 
friendship of the higher ; first, that you may learn to reverence 
them, which of itself is both a pleasure and a virtue ; and then, that 
on proper occasions you may defend them against the malevolent, 
which is a duty. And this duty cannot be well and satisfactorily per- 
formed with an imperfect knowledge, or with an inadequate esteem. 
Habits of respect to our superiors are among the best we can attain, 
if we only remove from our bosom the importunate desire of un- 
worthy advantages from them. They belong to the higher depart- 
ment of justice, and will procure for us in due time our portion of 
it. Beside, O Isaac ! in this affair our humanity is deeply con- 

r For " admirably " ist ed. reads " well " ; for " plainly " itt ed. reads 


156 Imaginary Conversations. 

cerned. Think how gratifying, how consolatory, how all-sufficient, 
are the regards and attentions of such wise and worthy men as 
you to those whom inferior but more powerful ones, some in 
scarlet, some in purple, some (it may be) in ermine, vilify or 
neglect ! Many are there to whom we are now indifferent, or 
nearly, whom, if we had approached them as we ought to have 
done, we should have cherished, loved, and honored. Let not 
this reflection, which on rude and unequal minds may fall without 
form and features and pass away like the idlest cloud-shadow, be 
lost on you. Old literary men, beside age and experience, have 
another quality in common with Nestor : they, in the literature 
of the country, are praisers of times past, partly from moroseness, 
and partly from custom and conviction. The illiterate, on the 
contrary, raise higher than the steeples, and dress up in the 
gaudiest trim, a maypole of their own, and dance round it while 
any rag flutters. So tenacious are Englishmen of their opinions, 
that they would rather lose their franchises and almost their lives. 
And this tenacity hath not its hold upon letters only, but likewise 
upon whatever is public. I have witnessed it in men guilty of 
ingratitude, of fraud, of peculation, of prevarication, of treachery 
to friends, of insolence to patrons, of misleading of colleagues, of 
abandonment of party, of renunciation of principles, of arrogance 
to honester men and wiser, of humiliation to strumpets for the 
obtainment of place and profit, of every villany in short which 
unfits not only for the honors of public, but rejects from the 
confidence of private, life. And there have been people so 
maddened by faction, that they would almost have erected a 
monument to such persons, hoping to spite and irritate their 
adversaries, and unconscious or heedless that the inscription must 
be their own condemnation. Those who have acted in this 
manner will repent of it ; but they will hate you for ever if you 
foretell them of their repentance. It is not the fact nor the 
consequence, it is the motive, that turns and pinches them ; and 
they would think it straightforward and natural to cry out against 
you, and a violence and a malady to cry out against themselves. 
The praises they have given they will maintain, and more firmly 
than if they were due ; as perjurers stick to perjury more hotly 
than the veracious to truth. Supposing there should be any day 
of your life unoccupied by study, there will not be one without 

Barrow and Newton. 157 

an argument why pa ry or political, should be avoided. 

You are too great to be gregarious ; and were you to attempt it, 
the gregarious in a mass would turn their heads against you. 
The greater who enter into public lite are disposed at last to quit 
it : retirement 'with dignity is their device ; tin- meaning of which 
is, retirement with as much of the public property as can be 
amassed and carried auay. This race of great people is very 
numerous. I want before I die to see one or two ready to 
believe, and to act on the belief, that there is as much dignity in 
retiring sou . with little as with loads, with quiet minds 

and consciences as with ulcerated or discomposed. 1 have 
y seen some hundred sectaries of that pugnacious pope, who, 
eminded that Christ commanded Peter to put up his sword, 
replied, Yes, when he had cut the ear off.'* 

To be in right harmony, the soul not only must be never out 
of time, but must never lose sight of the theme its Creator's hand 
hath noted. 

Why are you peeping over your forefinger into those pages 
near the beginning of the volume ? 

Newton. I have omitted the notice of several Essays. 

Borrow. There are many that require no observation for 
peculiarities ; though perhaps there is not one that any other man 
could have wri- 

Newton. I had something more, sir, to say or rather I 
had something more, sir, to ask about Friendship. 

Barrow. All men, but the studious above all, must beware 
in the formation of it. Advice or caution on this subject comes 
immaturely and ungracefully from the young, exhibiting a proof 
either of temerity or suspicion ; but when you hear it from a man 
of my age, who has been singularly fortunate in the past, and 
foresees the same felicity in those springing up before him, you 
may accept it as the direction of a calm observer, telling you all he 
has remarked on the greater part of a road which he has nearly 
gone through, and which you have but just entered. Never take 
into your confidence, or admit often into your company, any man 
who does not know, on some important subject, more than you 
do. Be his rank, be his virtues, what they may, he will be 
a hindrance to your pursuits, and an obstruction to your greatness. 
If indeed the greatness were such as courts can bestow, and such 

158 Imaginary Conversations. 

as can be laid on the shoulders of a groom and make him look 
like the rest of the company, my advice would be misplaced ; 
but since all transcendent, all true and genuine greatness must be 
of a man's own raising, and only on the foundation that the hand 
of God has laid, do not let any touch it : keep them off civilly, 
but keep them off. Affect no stoicism ; display no indifference": 
let their coin pass current ; but do not you exchange for it the 
purer ore you carry, nor think the milling pays for the alloy. 
Greatly favored and blessed by Providence will you be, if you 
should in your lifetime be known for what you are : the contrary, 
if you should be transformed. 

Newton. Better and more decorous would it be perhaps, if I 
filled up your pause with my reflections : but you always have 
permitted me to ask you questions ; and now, unless my gratitude 
misleads me, you invite it. 

Barrow. Ask me any thing : I will answer it, if I can ; and 
I will pardon you, as I have often done, if you puzzle me. 

Newton. Is it not a difficult and a painful thing to repulse, or 
to receive ungraciously, the advances of friendship ? 

Barrow. It withers the heart, if indeed his heart were ever 
sound who doth it. Love, serve, run into danger, venture life, 
for him who would cherish you : give him every thing but your 
time and your glory. Morning recreations, convivial meals, 
evening walks, thoughts, questions, wishes, wants, partake with 
him. Yes, Isaac ! there are men born for friendship ; men to 
whom the cultivation of it is nature, is necessity, as the making of 
honey is to bees. Do not let them suffer for the sweets they 
would gather ; but do not think to live upon those sweets. Our 
corrupted state requires robuster food, or must grow more and 
more unsound. 

Newton. I would yet say something ; a few words ; on this 
subject or one next to it. 

Barrow. On Expense then : that is the next. I have given 
you some warning about it, and hardly know what else to say. 
Cannot you find the place ? 

Newton. I had it under my hand. If that is, provided 
your time, sir ! 

Barrow. Speak it out, man ! Are you in a ship of Marcellus 
under the mirror of Archimedes, that you fume and redden so ? 

Walton, (lot ton, and OKhvays. 159 

Cry to him that you are his scholar, ami wont out only to 

Newton. Sir ! in a word ought a studious man to think of 
matrimony ? 

Barrow. Painters, poets, mathematicians, nc\er ought: other 
studious mrn, after u-nVcting for twenty years upon it, may. Had 
I a son of your age, I would not leave him in a grazing country. 
Many a man hath been safe among cornfields, who falls a victim 
on the grass under an elm. There are lightnings very fatal in such 

Ntwton. Supposing me no mathematician, I must reflect then 
for twenty years ! 

Barrow. Begin to reflect on it after the twenty ; and continue 
to reflect on it all the remainder : I mean at intervals, and quite 
leisurely. It will save to you many prayers, and may suggest to 
you one thanksgiving. 


Walion. God be with thee and preserve thee, old Ashbournc ! 
Thou art verily the pleasantest place upon his earth ; I mean 
from May-day till Michaelmas. Son Cotton, let us tarry a little 
here upon the bridge. Did you ever see greener meadows than 
these on either hand ? And what says that fine lofty spire upon 
the left, a trowling-line's cast from us? It says methinks, 
" Blessed be the Lord for this bounty : come hither and repeat 
it beside me." How my jade winces ! I wish the strawberry- 
spotted trout, and ash-colored grayling under us, had the bree 
that phgues thee so, my merry wench ! Look, my son, at the 
great venerable house opposite. You know these parts as well as 

P The character of Mr Oldways in this Conversation is imaginary, or 
rather his association with Walton and Cotton is. See note on p. 165. 
The poems attributed to Donne are, of course, from Lander's own pen, 
and Margaret Hayes is equally a creature of fancy. The facts of Domx '- 
life are taken from Walton's lift-. Tin- n mU-r of Charles Cotton's poems 
may find it hard to believe that he was as ingenuous a youth as Landor 
paints him. (Imag. Convert., *., 1819. Works, i., 1846. Works, iv. 

160 Imaginary Conversations. 

I do, or better ; are you acquainted with the worthy who lives 
over there ? 

Cotton. I cannot say I am. 2 

Walton. You shall be then. He has resided here forty-five 
years, and knew intimately our good Doctor Donne, and (I hear) 
hath some of his verses, written when he was a stripling or little 
better, the which we come after. 

Cotton. That, I imagine, must be he! the man in black, 
walking above the house. 

Walton. Truly said on both counts. Willy Oldways, 
sure enough ; and he doth walk above his house-top. The 
gardens here, you observe, overhang the streets. 

Cotton. Ashbourne, to my mind, is the prettiest town in 

Walton. And there is nowhere between Trent and Tweed 
a sweeter stream for the trout, I do assure you, than the one our 
horses are bestriding. Those, in my opinion, were very wise men 
who consecrated certain streams to the Muses : I know not 
whether I can say so much of those who added the mountains. 
Whenever I am beside a river or rivulet on a sunny day, and think 
a little while, and let images warm into life about me, and joyous 
sounds increase and multiply in their innocence, the sun looks 
brighter and feels warmer, and I am readier to live, and less 
unready to die. 

Son Cotton ! these light idle brooks, 

Peeping into so many nooks, 

Yet have not for their idlest wave 

The leisure you may think they have : 

No, not the little ones that run 

And hide behind the first big stone, 

When they have squirted in the eye 

Of their next neighbor passing by ; 

Nor yonder curly sideling fellow 

Of tones than Pan's own flute more mellow, 

Who learns his tune and tries it over 

As girl who fain would please her lover 

Something has each of them to say ; 

He says it and then runs away, 

And says it in another place, 

Continuing the unthrifty chase 

[First ed. reads : " am tho' he visits my relatives when he rides so far."] 

\Viilton, Cotton, and Oldways. 161 

We have as many tales to tell, 

And look as gay and run as well, 

But leave another to pursue 

What we had promised we would do ; 

Till in the order God has fated, 

One after one precipitated, 

Whither we tvovU on, or would not on, 

Just like these idle waves, son Cotton ! 

And now I have taken you by surprise, I will have (finished or 
unfinished) the verses you snatched out of my hand, and promised 
me another time, when you awoke this morning. 

Cotton. If 3 you must have them, here they are. 

Walton (reads}. 

Rocks under Okeover park-paling 
Better than Ashbourne suit the grayling. 
Reckless of people springs the trout. 
Tossing his vacant head about, 
And his distinction-stars, as one 
Not to be touched but looked upon, 
And smirks askance, as who should say 
" I'd lay now (it I e'er JiJ lay) 
The brightest fly that shines above, 
You know not what Tm thinking of; 
What you are, I can plainly tell 
And so, my gentles, fare ye well ! " 

Heigh ! heigh ! what have we here? a 4 double hook with a 
bait upon each side. Faith ! son Cotton, if my friend Oldways 
had seen these, not the verses I have been reading, but these 
others I have run over in silence, he would have reproved me, 
in his mild amicable way, for my friendship with one who, at 
two-and-twenty, could cither know so much or invent so much 
about a girl. He remarked to me, the last time we met, that our 
climate was more backward and our youth more forward than 
anciently ; and, taking out a newspaper from under the cushion of 
his arm-chair, showed me a paragraph, with a cross in red ink, and 
seven or eight marks of admiration, some on one side, some on 
the other, in which there was mention made of a female servant, 

[* From " If" to "(read)" (t lines) added in ind ed.] 
[ 4 From " a " to '< side " added in ind ed. One line below, from " not " 
to " silence " (i lines) added in 2nd ed.J 

1 62 Imaginary Conversations. 

who, hardly seventeen years old, charged her master's son, who was 
barely two older 

Cotton. Nonsense ! nonsense ! impossible ! 

Walton. Why, he himself seemed to express a doubt ; for 
beneath was written, " Qu., if perjured which God forbid ! 
May all turn out to his glory ! " 

Cotton. But really I do not recollect that paper of mine, if 
mine it be, which 5 appears to have stuck against the Okeover 
paling lines. 

Walton. Look ! they are both on the same scrap. Truly, 
son, there are girls here and there who might have said as much 
as thou, their proctor, hast indicted for them : they have such 
froward tongues in their heads, some of them. A breath keeps 
them in motion, like a Jew's harp, God knows how long. If 
you do not or will not recollect the verses on this endorsement, I 
will read them again, and aloud. 

Cotton. Pray do not balk your fancy. 

Walton (reads). 

Where 6 's my apron ? I will gather 

Daffodils and kingcups, rather 

Than have fifty silly souls, 

False as cats and dull as owls, 

Looking up into my eyes 

And half-blinding me with sighs. 

Cats, forsooth ! Owls, and cry you mercy ! Have 7 they no 
better words than those for civil people ? Did any young woman 
really use the expressions, bating the metre, or can you have 
contrived them out of pure likelihood ? 

Cotton. I will not gratify your curiosity at present. 

[ 5 From "which" to "lines" and "look" to "scrap" added in 2nd 
ed. Two lines below, from " as thou " to " them " added in 2nd ed. One 
line below, from " God " to (reads) " (5 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

[ 6 First ed. reads : 

" In my bosom I would rather 
Daffodils and kingcups gather. 
Than have fifty sighing souls 
False as cats and dull as owls." 

Last couplet added in 2nd ed.] 

[ 7 From " Have " to " then " (5 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

Walton, Cotton, and Oldways. 163 

Walton. Anon, then. 

I I ^tretch myself along, 
Trll a tali- or 'ing a song, 
By my couin Svu- or Bet 
And. for dinner here I get 
Strawl)t-rrif.. curds, or what 1 please. 
With my bread upon my knees; 
And, when I have had enough, 
Shake, and off to UM-ma*i-buff* 

Spoken in the character of a maiden, it seems, who little 
knows, in her innocence, that blind-man's-buff is a perilous 

[* Pint ed. adds the following four lines: 

Which I cannot do if they 

Ever come across my way, 

They so puzzle me ! . . that tongue 

Always makes one cry out wrong I " 

A note is appended to these verses in the ist ed. whose application it 
is somewhat hard to discover. 

I cannot but think that I am indebted to a beautiful little poem of 
Redi, for the train of these ideas, though without a consciousness of it 
while 1 wa< writing. His sonnet* are among the worst in the language : 
there is but one exception. 1 am likely to be a bad translator; and 
moreover I must inform the reader that I am designedly an unfaithful one 
in the second line, of which the literal and entire version is who pas 
thro* Pity-street." I have taken the elegiac measure as more becoming 
the subject. 

Ye gentle ftouls, ye tenderer of the fair 

Who, passing 6y, to Pity's voice incliiu-. 
O, stay a while and hear me ! then declare 

If there was ever grief that equal'd mine. 

" There was a woman to whose hallowed breast 

Faith had retired, and Honour fixed his throne 
Pride, tho' upheld by Virtue, she repressed, 
Ye gentle souls, that woman was my own. 

" Her form was filTd with beauty, from her face ; 

Grace was in all she did, in all she said, 
Grace in her pleasures in her sorrows grace 
Ye gentle souls, that gentle soul is fled ! " 

From * spoken " to " church " (4 lines) [added in ind ed. First ed 
reads : " In the church, to our right, lie the Cockaynes. Whole," See.] 

164 Imaginary Conversations. 

You are looking, I perceive, from off the streamlet toward the 
church. In its chancel lie the first and last of the Cockaynes. 
Whole races of men have been exterminated by war and pestil- 
ence ; families and names have slipped down and lost themselves 
by slow and imperceptible decay : but I doubt whether any breed 
of fish, with heron and otter and angler in pursuit of it, hath 
been [extinguished since the Heptarchy. They might humble 
our pride a whit, methinks, though they hold their tongues. 
The people here entertain a strange prejudice against the nine- 

Cotton. What, in the name of wonder, is that ? 

Walton. At your years, do not you know ? It is a tiny kind 
of lamprey, a finger long ; it sticketh to the stones by its sucker, 
and, if you are not warier and more knowing than folks in general 
from the South, you might take it for a weed : it wriggles its 
whole body to and fro so regularly, and is of that dark color 
which subaqueous weeds are often of, as though they were wet 
through ; which they are not any more than land-weeds, if one 
may believe young Doctor Plott, who told me so in confidence. 

Hold my mare, son Cotton. I will try whether my whip can 
reach the window, when I have mounted the bank. 

Cotton. Curious ! the middle of a street to be lower than the 
side by several feet. People would not believe it in London 
or Hull. 

Walton. Ho ! lass ! tell the good parson, your master, or 
his wife if she be nearer at hand, that two friends would dine 
with him : Charles Cotton, kinsman of Mistress Cotton of the 
Peak, and his humble servant, Izaak Walton. 

Girl. If you are come, gentles, to dine with my master, I 
will make another kidney-pudding first, while I am about it, and 
then tell him ; not but we have enough and to spare, yet master 
and mistress love to see plenty, and to welcome with no such 
peacods as words. 

Walton. Go, thou hearty jade ; trip it, and tell him. 

Cotton. I will answer for it, thy friend is a good soul : 9 I 
perceive it in the heartiness and alacrity of the wench. She 
glories in his hospitality, and it renders her labor a delight. 

[9 First ed. reads : " soul, although I know but little of him and have 
not met him for years. Walton. He wants," &c.] 

Walton, Cotton, and Okhvays. 165 

Walton. He wants nothing, yet he keeps the grammar- 
school, and is ready to receive, as private tutor, any young 
gentleman in preparation for Oxford or Cambridge ; but only 
one. They live like princes, converse like friends, and part like 

Cotton. Here he comes : I never saw such a profusion of 
snow-white hair. 

Walton. Let us go up and meet him. 

Qldways. Welcome, my friends ! will you walk back into 
the house, or sit awhile in the shade here? 

Walton. We will sit down in the grass, on each side of your 
arm-chair, good master William. Why, how is this ? here are 
tulips and other flowers by the thousand growing out of the turf. 
You are all of a piece, my sunny saint : you are always concealing 
the best things about you, except your counsel, your raisin-wine, 
and your money. 

Oldtvays. The garden was once divided by borders. A 
young gentleman, my private pupil, was fond of leaping : his 
heels ruined my choicest flowers, ten or twenty at a time. I 
remonstrated : he patted me on the shoulder, and said, "My dear 
Mr Old ways, in these borders if you miss a flower you are uneasy ; 
now, if the whole garden were in turf, you would be delighted to 
discover one. Turf it then, and leave the flowers to grow or not 
to grow, as may happen/' I mentioned it to my wife: "Suppose 
we do," said she. It was done ; and the boy's remark, I have 
found by experience, is true. 

'ton. You have some very nice flies about the trees here, 
friend Oldways. Charles, do prythee lay thy hand upon that 
green one. He has it ! he has it ! bravely done, upon my life ! 
I never saw any thing achieved so admirably not a wing nor an 
antenna the worse for it. Put him into this box. Thou art 
caught, but shah catch others : lie softly. 

* I pay this tribute to my worthy old tutor, Mr Langley of Ashbourne, 
under whose tuition I passed a year between Rugby and Oxford. He 
would take only one private pupil, and never had but me. The kindness 
of him and his wife to me was parental. They died nearly together, about 
five-and-twenty years ago. Never was a youth blest with three such 
indulgent and affectionate private tutors a* I was : before, by the elegant 
and generous Doctor John Sleath, at Rugby ; and, after, by the saintly 
Benwell, at Oxford. \V 

1 66 Imaginary Conversations. 

Cotton. The transport of Dad Walton will carry him off (I 
would lay a wager) from the object of his ride. 

Oldvuays. What was that, sir ? 

Cotton. Old Donne, I suspect, is nothing to such a fly. 

Walton. All things in their season. 

Cotton. Come, I carried the rods in my hand all the way. 

Oldvuays. I never could have believed, Master Izaak, that you 
would have trusted your tackle out of your own hand. 

Walton. Without cogent reason, no, indeed : but let me 

I told youngster it was because I carried a hunting-whip, and 
could not hold that and rod too. But why did I carry it, bethink 
you ? 

Oldvuays. I cannot guess. 

Walton. I must come behind your chair and whisper softlier. 
I have that in my pocket which might make the dogs inquisitive 
and troublesome, a rare paste, of my own invention. When 
son Cotton sees me draw up gill after gill, and he can do nothing, 
he will respect me, not that I have to complain of him as yet, 
and he shall know the whole at supper, after 10 the first day's 

Cotton. Have you asked ? 

Walton. Anon : have patience. 

Cotton. Will no reminding do ? Not a rod or line, or 
fly of any color, false or true, shall you have, Dad Izaak, 
before you have made to our kind host here your intended 

Oldways. No ceremony with me, I desire. Speak, and 

Walton. Oldways, I think you were curate to Master 
Donne ? 

Oldvuays. When I was first in holy orders, and n he was 
ready for another world. 

Walton. I have heard it reported that you have some of his 
earlier poetry. 

Oldways. I have (I believe) a trifle or two ; but, if he were 
living, he would not wish them to see the light. 

[ 10 From " after " to " sport " added in 2nd ed.] 
[ u From " and " to " world " added in 2nd ed.] 

Walton. Cotton, and Old\\. 167 

//',//.". Why not? he had nothing to tear: his fame was 
established ; and he vet and holy man. 

Old-ways. He almost in his boyhood when he wrote 
it, being but in his twenty-third year, and subject to fits of 

Cotton. This passion, then, cannot have had for its object 
the daughter of Sir George More, whom he saw not until 

OMtuays. No, nor was that worthy lady called Margaret, 
as was this ; who scattered so many pearls in his path, he was 
wont to say, that he trod uneasily on them, and could never skij> 

Walton. Let us look at them in his poetry. 

Oldways. I know not whether he would consent thereto, were 
he living, the lines running so totally on the amorous. 

!ton. Faith and troth ! we mortals are odd fishes. We 
can- not how many see us in choler, when we rave and bluster 
and make as much noise and bustle as we can ; but if the kindest 
and most generous affection comes across us, we suppress every 
sign of it, and hide ourselves in nooks and coverts. Out with 
the drawer, my dear Old ways : we have seen Donne's sting ; in 
justice to him, let us now have a sample of his honey. 

Oldwayt. Strange that you never asked me before. 

Walton. I am fain to write his life, now one can sit by 
Dove-side and hold the paper upon one's knee, without fear 
that some unlucky catchpole of a rheumatism dp one upon 
the shoulder. I have many things to say in Donne's favor: 
let me add to them, by your assistance, that he not only 
loved well and truly, as was proved in his marriage, though 
like a good angler he changed his fly, and did not at all seasons 
cast his rod over the same water, but that his heart opened early 
to the genial affections ; that his satire was only the overflowing 
of his wit ; that he made it administer to his duties ; that he 
ordered it to officiate as he would his curate, and perform half 
the service of the church for him. 

Cotton. Pray* who was the object of his affections ? 

Oldivays. The damsel was Mistress Margaret Hayes. 

Cotton. I am curious to know, if you will indulge my 
curiosity, what figure of a woman she might be. 

1 68 Imaginary Conversations. 

Oldvuays. She was of lofty stature, red-haired (which some 
folks dislike), but with comely white eyebrows, a very slender 
transparent 12 nose, and elegantly thin lips, covering with due 
astringency a treasure of pearls beyond price, which, as her lover 
would have it, she never ostentatiously displayed. Her chin was 
somewhat long, with what I should have simply called a sweet 
dimple in it, quite proportionate : but Donne said it was more 
than dimple ; that it was peculiar ; that her angelic face could not 
have existed without it, nor it without her angelic face, that is, 
unless by a new dispensation. He was much taken thereby, and 
mused upon it deeply : calling it in moments of joyousness the 
cradle of all sweet fancies, and, in hours of suffering from her 
sedateness, the vale of death. 

Walton. So ingenious are men when the spring torrent 
of passion shakes up and carries away their thoughts, covering 
(as it were) the green meadow of still homely life with pebbles 
and shingle, some colorless and obtuse, some sharp and spark- 

Cotton. I hope he was happy in her at last. 

Oldivays. Ha ! 13 ha ! here we have J em. Strong lines ! 
Happy, no ; he was not happy. He was forced to renounce her, 
by what he then called his evil destiny ; and wishing, if not to 
forget her, yet to assuage his grief under the impediments to their 
union, he made a voyage to Spain and the Azores with the Earl 
of Essex. When this passion first blazed out he was in his 
twentieth year ; for the physicians do tell us that where the 
genius is ardent the passions are precocious. The lady had pro- 
fited by many more seasons than he had, and carried with her 
manifestly the fruits of circumspection. No benefice falling unto 
him, nor indeed there being fit preparation, she submitted to the 
will of Providence. Howbeit, he could not bring his mind to 
reason until ten years after, when he married the daughter of the 
worshipful Sir George More. 

Cotton. I do not know whether the arduous step of matri- 
mony, on which many a poor fellow has broken his shin, is a 
step geometrically calculated for bringing us to reason ; but 

[ 12 First ed. reads : " very slender nose, and thin lips. Her chin," &c.] 
[ From " Ha ! " to " obtrusively " (30 lines) added in 2nd ed.] 

Walton, Cotton, and Oldways. 169 

1 have seen passion run up it in a minute, and down it in halt a 

Oldways. Young gentleman ! my patron the doctor was none 
of the light-hearted and oblivious. 

Cotton. Truly I should think it a hard matter to forget such a 
beauty as his muse and his chaplain have described ; at least if one 
had ever stood upon the brink of matrimony with her. It is 
allowable, I hope, to be curious concerning the termination of so 
singular an attachment, 

Oldways. She would listen to none other. 

Cotton. Surely she must have had good ears to have heard one. 

Oldways. No pretender had the hardihood to come forward 
too obtrusively. Donne had the misfortune, as he then thought 
it, to outlive her, after a courtship of about five years, which 
enabled him to contemplate her ripening beauties at leisure, and to 
bend over the opening flowers of her virtues and accomplishments. 
Alas ! they were lost to the world (unless by example) in her 
forty-seventh spring. 

Cotton. He might then leisurely bend over them, and quite 
as easily shake the seed out as smell them. Did she refuse him, 

Oldways. He dared not ask her. 

Cotton. Why, verily, I should have boggled at that said vale 
(I think) myself. 

Oldways. Izaak ! our young friend Master Cotton is not 
sedate enough yet, I suspect, for a right view and perception of 
poetry. I doubt whether these affecting verses on her loss will 
move him greatly ; somewhat, yes : there is in the beginning so 
much simplicity, in the middle so much reflection, in the close so 
much grandeur and sublimity, no scholar can peruse them without 
strong emotion. Take, and read them. 

Cotton. Come, come ; do not keep them to yourself, dad ! I 
have the heart of a man, and will bear the recitation as valiantly 
as may be. 

Walton. I will read aloud the best stanza only. What strong 
language ! 

Her one hair would hold a dragon, 

Her one eye would burn an earth : 
Fall, my tears ! fill each your flagon ! 
Millions fall ! A dearth 1 a dearth 1 " 

i 70 Imaginary Conversations. 

Cotton. The doctor must have been desperate about the fair 

Walton. His verses are fine, indeed : one feels for him, poor 
man ! 

Cotton. And wishes him nearer to Stourbridge, or some other 
glass-furnace. He must have been at great charges. 

Qldivays. Lord help the youth ! Tell him, Izaak, that is 
poetical, and means nothing. 

Walton. He has an inkling of it, I misgive me. 

Cotton. How could he write so smoothly in his affliction, 
when he exhibited nothing of the same knack afterward ? 

Walton. I don't know ; unless it may be that men's verses, 
like their knees, stiffen by age. 14 

Oldiuays. I do like vastly your glib verses ; but you cannot 
be at once easy and majestical. 

Walton. It is only our noble rivers that enjoy this privilege. 
The greatest conqueror in the world never had so many triumphal 
arches erected to him as our middlesized brooks have. 

Oldways. Now, Master Izaak, by your leave, I do think you 
are wrong in calling them triumphal. The ancients would have 
it that arches over waters were signs of subjection. 

Walton. The ancients may have what they will, excepting 
your good company for the evening, which (please God!) we 
shall keep to ourselves. They were mighty people for subjection 
and subjugation. 

Oldiuays. Virgil says, " Pontem indignatus Araxes." 

Walton. Araxes was testy enough under it, I dare to aver. 
But what have you to say about the matter, son Cotton ? 

Cotton. I dare not decide either against my father or mine 

Oldnvays. So, we are yet no friends. 

Cotton. Under favor, then, I would say that we but acknow- 
ledge the power of rivers and runlets in bridging them ; for 
without so doing we could not pass. We are obliged to offer 
them a crown or diadem as the price of their acquiescence. 

Oldivays. Rather do I think that we are feudatory to them 
much in the same manner as the dukes of Normandy were to the 

[ 14 First ed. reads : " age. Cotton. One would wish the stiffness some- 
where else. Oldivays. Ay, truly, I do like," &c.] 

\Yulton, Cotton, and Oldways. 17 i 

kings of France ; pulling them out of their beds, or making them 
lie narrowly and uneasily therein. 

Walton. Is that between thy fingers, Will, another piece of 
honest old Donne's poetry ? 

Qldways. Yes ; these and one other are the only pieces I 
have kept : for we often throw away or neglect, in the lifetime of 
our friends, those things which in some following age are searched 
after through all the libraries in the world. What 15 I am about 
to read he composed in the meridian heat of youth and genius. 

She was <*> beautiful, had God but died 

For her, and none beside, 
Reeling with holy joy from east to west 

Earth would have sunk down blest ; 
And. burning with bright zeal, the buoyant Sun 

Cried through his worlds, ' Well done I ' " 

He must have had an eye on the Psalmist ; for I would not 
asseverate that he was inspired, Master Walton, in the theological 
sense of the word ; but I do verily believe I discover here a 
thread of the mantle. 

Cotton. And with enough of the nap on it to keep him hot 
as a muffin when one slips the butter in. 

Qldiuays. True. Nobody would dare to speak thus but 
from authority. The Greeks and Romans, he remarked, had 
neat baskets, but scanty simples ; and did not press them down 
so closely as they might have done, and were fonder of nosegays 
than of sweet-pots. He told me the rose of Paphos was of one 
species, the rose of Sharon of another. Whereat he burst forth 
to the purpose, 

" Rather give me the lasting rose of Sharon : 
But dip it in the oil that oil'd thy beard, O Aaron ! " 

Nevertheless, I could perceive that he was of so equal a mind that he 
liked them equally in their due season. These majestical verses 

Cotton. I am anxious to hear the last of 'em. 

Oldways. No wonder : and I will joyfully gratify so laudable 
a wish. He wrote this among the earliest : 

Juno was proud, Minerva stern, 
Venus would rather toy than learn : 
What fault is there in Margaret Hayes? 
Her high disdain and pointed stays." 

[ l5 From What " to " wish " (18 lines) added in znd ed.] 

172 Imaginary Conversations. 

I do not know whether, it being near our dinner-time, I ought to 
enter so deeply as I could into a criticism on it, which the doctor 
himself, in a single evening, taught me how to do. Charley is 
rather of the youngest ; but I will be circumspect. That Juno 
was proud may be learned from Virgil. The following passages 
in him and other Latin poets 

Cotton. We will examine them all after dinner, my dear 

Oldnvays. The nights are not mighty long ; but we shall find 
time, I trust. 

" Minerva stern." 

Excuse me a moment: my Homer is in the study, and my 
memory is less exact than it was formerly. 

Cotton. Oh, my good Mr Oldways ! do not let us lose a 
single moment of your precious company. Doctor Donne could 
require no support from these heathens, when he had the dean 
and chapter on his side. 

Oldiuays. A few parallel passages. One would wish to 
write as other people have written. 

Cotton. We must sleep at Uttoxeter. 

Oldivays. I hope not. 

Walton. We must, indeed ; and, if we once get into your 
learning, we shall be carried down the stream without the power 
even of wishing to mount it. 

Oldivays. Well, I will draw in, then. 

"Venus would rather toy than learn." 

Now, Master Izaak, does that evince a knowledge of the world, 
a knowledge of men and manners, or not? In our days we 
have nothing like it : exquisite wisdom ! Reason and meditate 
as you ride along, and inform our young friend here how the 
beautiful trust in their beauty, and how little they learn from 
experience, and how they trifle and toy. Certainly the Venus 
here is Venus Urania ; the Doctor would dissertate upon none 
other ; yet even she, being a Venus the sex is the sex 
ay, Izaak ! 

"Her high disdain and pointed stays." 

Volumes and volumes are under these words. Briefly, he could 

Walton, Cotton, and Old ways. 173 

find no other faults in his beloved than the defences of her virgin 
chastity against his marital and portly ardor. What can be more 
delicately or more learnedly expressed ! 

Walton. This is the poetry to reason upon from morning to 

Cotton. By my conscience is it ! He wrongs it greatly who 
ventures to talk a word about it, unless after long reflection, or 
after the instruction of the profound author. 

Old'ways. Izaak, thou hast a son worthy of thee, or about to 
become so the son here of thy adoption how grave and 
thoughtful ! 

Walton. These verses are testimonials of a fine fancy in 
Donne ; and I like the man the better who admits Love into 
his study late and early : for which two reasons I seized the 
lines at first with some avidity. On second thoughts, however, 
I doubt whether I shall insert them in my biography, or indeed 
hint at the origin of them. In the whole story of his marriage 
with the daughter of Sir George More there is something so 
sacredly romantic, so full of that which bursts from the tenderest 
heart and from the purest, that I would admit no other light or 
landscape to the portraiture. For if there is aught, precedent 
or subsequent, that offends our view of an admirable character, 
or intercepts or lessens it, we may surely cast it down and sup- 
press it, and neither be called injudicious nor disingenuous. I 
think it no more requisite to note every fit of anger or of love, 
than to chronicle the returns of a hiccup, or the times a man rubs 
between his fingers a sprig of sweet brier to extract its smell. 
Let the character be taken in the complex ; and let the more 
obvious and best peculiarities be marked plainly and distinctly, or 
(if those predominate) the worst. These latter I leave to others, 
of whom the school is full, who like anatomy the better because 
the subject of their incisions was hanged. When I would sit 
upon a bank in my angling, I look for the even turf, and do not 
trust myself so willingly to a rotten stump or a sharp one. I am 
not among those who, speaking ill of the virtuous, say, " Truth 
obliges me to confess the interests of learning and of society 
demand from me" and such things; when this truth of theirs 
is the elder sister of malevolence, and teaches her half her tricks ; 
and when the interests of learning and of society may be found in 

174 Imaginary Conversations. 

the printer's ledger, under the author's name, by the side of 
shillings and pennies. 

Oldivays. Friend Izaak, you are indeed exempt from all 
suspicion of malignity ; and I never heard you intimate that you 
carry in your pocket the letters-patent of society for the manage- 
ment of her interests in this world below. Verily do I believe 
that both society and learning will pardon you, though you never 
talk of pursuing, or exposing, or laying bare, or cutting up ; or 
employ any other term in their behalf drawn from the woods and 
forests, the chase and butchery. Donne fell into unhappiness 
by aiming at espousals with a person of higher condition than 

Walton. His affections happened to alight upon one who was ; 
and in most cases I would recommend it rather than the con- 
trary, for the advantage of the children in their manners and in 
their professions. 

Light and worthless men, I have always observed, choose the 
society of those who are either much above or much below them ; 
and, like dust and loose feathers, are rarely to be found in their 
places. Donne was none such : he loved his equals, and would 
find them where he could ; when he could not find them, he 
could sit alone. This seems an easy matter ; and yet, masters, 
there are more people who could run along a rope from yonder 
spire to this grass-plot, than can do it. 

Oldivays. Come, gentles : the girl raps at the garden-gate. I 
hear the ladle against the lock : dinner waits for us. 


Michel-Angela. And how do you like my fortifications, 
Messer Niccolo ? 

[ x For the details of the history of Florence at the date of this Conver- 
sation, see Villari's Life and Times of Machiavelli, vol. iv., chapter xiv., 
seq. Only a short sketch can be given here. Clement VII., one of the 
Medici family, was at this time pope, and the Medici were in power at 
Florence. Charles V. was on the point of sending into Italy the ex- 

Macliiavi'lli and Michel- Angelo. 175 

Machiavelli. It will easilv bo taken, Mcsser Michcl-Angelo 
because there are other points Bello-squardo, for instance, and 
the Poggio above Boboli whence every street and edifice may be 

Michel- Angelo. Surely you do not argue with your wonted 
precision, my good friend. Because the enemy may occupy those 
positions and cannonade the city, is that a reason why our fort of 
Samminiato should so easily be surrendered ? 

Machiavelli. There was indeed a time when such an argu- 
ment would have been futile ; but that time was when Florence 
was ruled by only her own citizens, and when the two factions 
that devoured her started up with equal alacrity from their prey, 
and fastened on the invader. But, it being known to Charles 
that we have neglected to lay in provisions more than sufficient 
for one year, he will allow our courageous citizens to pelt and 
scratch and bite his men occasionally for that short time ; after 
which they must surrender. This policy will leave to him the 
houses and furniture in good condition, and whatsoever fines and 
taxes may be imposed will be paid the more easily ; while the 
Florentines will be able to boast of their courage and perseverance, 
the French of their patience and clemency. It will be a good 
example for other people to follow, and many historians will 
praise both parties : all will praise one. 

I have given my answer to your question ; and I now approve 
and applaud the skill and solidity with which you construct the 
works, regretting only that we have neither time to erect the 
others that are necessary, nor to enroll the countrymen who are 
equally so for their defence. Charles is a prudent and a patient 
conqueror, and he knows the temper and the power of each 

pcdition which succeeded in sacking Rome, capturing Florence, and mak- 
ing him matter of the whole country. Machiavelli was in the employ- 
ment of the Medici in Florence, and was appointed chancellor of the 
curators for the fortification of the city. But before he could make any 
progress with the work the German army had captured Rome and a 
revolution in Florence had expelled the Medici. Machiavelli at this 
time was absent from Florence, and on his return he found a new govern- 
ment, who regarded him as an adherent of the Medici, and refused to 
employ him. A few days after this disappointment he fell ill and died. 
Michel- Angelo had already been entrusted with the construction of the 
fortification*, but it will be seen that no such Conversation can ever have 
taken place. (Works, n., 1846. Works, iv., 1876.)] 

176 Imaginary Conversations. 

adversary. He will not demolish nor greatly hurt the city. 
What he cannot effect by terror, he will effect by time, that 
miner whom none can countermine. We have brave men among 
our citizens, men sensible of shame and ignominy in enduring 
the dictation of a stranger, or the domination of an equal ; but 
we have not many of these, nor have they any weight in our 
councils. The rest are far different, and altogether dissimilar to 
their ancestors. They, whatever was their faction, contended for 
liberty, for domestic ties, for personal honour, for public approba- 
tion ; we, for pictures, for statues, bronze tripods, and tessellated 
tables : these, and the transient smiles of dukes and cardinals, are 
deemed of higher value than our heirloom, worm-eaten, creak- 
ing, crazy freedom. 

Michel-Angela. I never thought them so ; and yet somewhat 
of parental love may be supposed to influence me in favour of 
the fairer, solider, and sounder portion of the things you set 
before me. 

Machiavelli. It is a misfortune to possess what can be retained 
by servility alone ; and the more precious the possession, the 
greater is the misfortune. 

Michel- Angela. Dukes and cardinals, popes and emperors, 
cannot take away from me the mind and spirit that God has 
placed immeasurably high above them. If men are become so 
vile and heartless as to sit down quietly and see pincers and 
pulleys tear the sinews of their best benefactors, they are not worth 
the stones and sand we have been piling up for their protection. 

Machiavelli. To rail is indecorous ; to reason is idle and 
troublesome. When you seriously intend to lead people back 
again to their senses, do not call any man wiser or better than 
the rabble ; for this affronts all, and the bad and strong the most. 
But tell them calmly that the chief difference between the govern- 
ment of a republic and a dukedom is this, in a republic there are 
more deaths by day than by night ; in a dukedom, the contrary : 
that perhaps we see as many taken to prison in a republic ; cer- 
tainly we see more come out. 

Michel- Angela. If any man of reflection needs to be shown 
the futility and mischief of hereditary power, we Florentines surely 
may show it to him in the freshest and most striking of examples. 
Lorenzo de Medici united a greater number of high and amiable 

Machiavclli and Michel-Angelo. 177 

qualities than any other man among his contemporaries ; and yet 
Lorenzo lived in an age which must ever be reckoned most fertile 
in men of genius and energy. His heart was open to the poor 
and afflicted ; his house, his library, his very baths and bed-rooms, 
to the philosopher and the poet. ^Vhat days of my youth h;.\e 1 
spent in his society ! Fun after he was at the head of the 
commonwealth, he had society ; for even then he had fellow- 
citizens. What lessons has he himself given me in every thing 
relating to my studies! in mythology, in architecture, in sculp- 
ture, in painting, in every branch and ramification of eloquence ! 
Can I ever forget the hour when he led me by the arm, in the 
heat of the day, to the eastern 2 door of our baptistery, and said, 
" Michel-Angelo, this is the only wonder of the world ! It rose, 
like the world itself, out of nothing. Its great maker was with- 
out an archetype : he drew from the inherent beauty of his soul. 
Venerate here its image.*' It was then I said, " It is worthy to 
be the gate of Paradise: " and he replied, "The garden is walled 
up ; let us open a space for the portal." He did it, as far as 
human ability could do it ; and, if afterward he took a station 
which belonged not of right to him, he took it lest it should be 
occupied by worse and weaker men. His son succeeded to him : 
what a son ! The father thought and told me that no materials 
were durable enough for my works. Perhaps he erred ; but how 
did Piero correct the error ? He employed me in making statues 
of snow in the gardens of Boboli ; statues the emblems at once of 
his genius and his authority. 

MofhiavtUi. How little foresight have the very wisest of 
those who invade the liberties of their country ! how little true 
love for their children ! how little foresight for their descendants, 
in whose interest they believe they labor ! There neither is nor 
ought to be any safety for those who clap upon our shoulders their 
heavy pampered children, and make us carry them whether we 
will or not. Lorenzo was well versed in history : could he for- 

[* The church of San Giovanni has three gates, two of which art- de- 
signed by Ghiberti. The one called by Michel-Angelo "the Gate of 
Paradise n is the northern gate, in which alone Ghiberti was allowed to 
follow his own genius. The eastern gate was also constructed by him, 
but he was required to make it after the manner of the southern gate, 
which had been designed by Giotto.] 

IV. M 

Imaginary Conversations. 

get, or could he overlook, the dreadful punishments that are the 
certain inheritance of whoever reaps the harvest of such misdeeds ? 
How many sanguinary deaths by the avenging arm of violated 
l aw i how many assassinations from the people ! how many 
poisonings and stabbings from domestics, from guards, from kin- 
dred! fratricides, parricides; and that horrible crime for which 
no language has formed a name, the bloodshed of the son by 
the parental hand ! A citizen may perhaps be happier, for the 
moment, by so bold and vast a seizure as a principality ; but 
his successor, born to the possession of supremacy, can enjoy 
nothing of this satisfaction. For him there is neither the charm 
of novelty nor the excitement of action, nor is there the glory of 
achievement ; no mazes of perplexing difficulty gone safely 
through, no summit of hope attained. But there is perpetually 
the same fear of losing the acquisition, the same suspicion of 
friends, the same certainty of enemies, the same, number of virtues 
shut out, and of vices shut in, by his condition. This is the 
end obtained, which is usually thought better than the means. 
And what are the means, than which this end is better ! They 
are such as, we might imagine, no man who had ever spent 
a happy hour with his equals would employ, even if his family 
were as sure of advantage by employing them as we have shown 
that it is sure of detriment. In order that a citizen may become 
a prince, the weaker are seduced, and the wiser are corrupted ; 
for wisdom on this earth is earthly, and stands not above the 
elements of corruption. His successor, finding less tractability, 
works with harder and sharper instruments. The revels are 
over, the dream is broken ; men rise, bestir themselves, and are 
tied down. Their confessors and wives console them, saying, 
"You would not have been tied down had you been quiet." 
The son is warned not to run into the error of his father, by this 
clear demonstration : " Yonder villa was his, with the farms 
about it ; he sold it and them to pay the fine." 

Michel- Angela. And are these the doctrines our children 
must be taught? I will have none, then. I will avoid the 
marriage-bed as I would the bed of Procrustes. Oh that, by 
any exertion of my art, I could turn the eyes of my countrymen 
toward Greece ! I wish to excel in painting or in sculpture, 
partly for my glory, partly for my sustenance, being poor ; but 

Machiavelli and Michel-Angelo. 179 

greatly more to arouse in their breasts the recollection of what 
was higher. Then come the questions, Whence was it ? 
how was it? Surely, too surely, not by Austrians, French, 
and Spaniards, all equally barbarous ; though the Spaniards 
were in contiguity with the Moors, and one sword polished the 

Machiavelli. The only choice left us was the choice of our 
enslaver : we have now lost even that. Our wealthier citizens 
make up their old shopkeeping silks into marquis caps, and 
tranquilly fall asleep under so soft a coverture. Represent to 
them what their grandfathers were, and they shake the head 
with this furred foolery upon it, telling us it is time for the world 
to go to rest. They preach to us from their new cushions on the 
sorrowful state of effervescence in our former jx>pular govern- 
ment, and the repose and security to be enjoyed under hereditary 
princes chosen from among themselves. 

Micbtl-Slngelo. Chosen by whom ? and from what ? our- 
schts ? Well might one of such creatures cry, as Atys did, 
if like Atys he could recover his senses under a worse and more 
shameful eviration, 

Ego non quod habuerim ; 

Ego Mznas ; ego mei pars ; ego vir sterilis ero. 
Jam. jam dolct quod egi 1 

Yes, indeed, there was all this effervescence. Men spoke 
loud; men would have their own, although they might have 
blows with it. And is it a matter of joyance to those wise 
and sober personages, that the government which reared and 
nurtured them to all their wisdom and sobriety, and much other 
more erect and substantial, should be now extinct ? Rivers run 
on and pass away ; pools and morasses are at rest for ever. But 
shall I build my house upon the pool or the morass because 
it lies so still ? or shall I abstain from my recreation by the 
river-side because the stream runs on ? Whatever you have 
objected to republicanism may, in its substance a little modified, 
be objected to royalty, great and small, principalities, and duke- 
doms. In republics, high and tranquil minds are liable to 
neglect, and, what is worse, to molestation ; but those who 
molest them are usually grave men or acute ones, and act openly, 
with fair formalities and professed respect. On the contrary, in 

180 Imaginary Conversations. 

such governments as ours was recently, a young commissaiy of 
police orders you to appear before him ; asks you first whether 
you know why he called you ; and then, turning over his papers 
at his leisure, puts to you as many other idle questions as come 
into his head ; remands you ; calls you back at the door ; gives 
you a long admonition, partly by order (he tells you) of his 
superiors, partly his own ; bids you to be more circumspect 
in future, and to await the further discretion of his Excellency 
the President of the Buon Governo. O Messer Niccolo ! surely 
the rack 3 you suffered is more tolerable, not merely than the 
experience, but even than the possibility, of such arrogance and 

Machiavetti. Caesar's head was placed on the neck of the 
world, and was large enough for it ; but our necks, Messer 
Michel-Angelo, are grasped, wrung, and contracted for the heads 
of geese to surmount them. It was not the kick, it was the ass, 
that made the sick lion roar and die. Either the state of things 
which you have been describing is very near its termination, or 
people are growing low enough to accommodate themselves to 
their abject fortunes. Some fishes, once of the ocean, lost irre- 
trievably, by following up a contracted and tortuous channel, their 
pristine form and nature, and became of a size and quality for 
dead or shallow waters, which narrow and weedy and slimy banks 
confine. There are stages in the manners of principalities, as 
there are in human life. Princes at first are kind and affable ; 
their successors are condescending and reserved ; the next, in- 
different and distant ; the last, repulsive, insolent, and ferocious, 
or, what is equally fatal to arbitrary power, voluptuous and slothful. 
The cruel have many sympathizers ; the selfish, few. These 
wretches bear heavily on the lower classes, and usually fall as 
they are signing an edict of famine, or protecting a favorite who 
enforces it. By one or other of these diseases dies arbitrary 
power ; and much and various purification is necessary to render 
the chamber where it has lain salubrious. Democracies may be 
longer-lived, although they have enemies in most of the rich, in 
more of the timorous, and nearly in all the wise. The former 
will pamper them to feed upon them ; the latter will kiss them 

[ 3 Machiavelli was suspected of complicity in the conspiracy of Boseoli 
and Capponi, against the Medici. See Villari, vol. in., p. 169.] 

Machiiivclli and Michel- Angelo. 181 

to betray them ; the intermediate will slink off and wish them 
well. Those governments alone can be stable, or are worthy of 
being so, in which property and intellect keep the machine in right 
order and regular operation : each being conscious that it is the 
natural ally and reciprocal protector of the other ; that nothing 
ought to be above them ; and that what is below them ought to 
be as little below as possible ; otherwise it never can consistently, 
steadily, and effectually supjiort them. None of these considera- 
tions seem to have been ever entertained by men who, with more 
circumspection and prudence, might have effected the regeneration 
of Italy. The changes they wished to bring about were entirely 
for their own personal aggrandizement. Caesar Borgia and Julius 
the Second would have expelled all strangers from interference in 
our concerns. But the former, although intelligent and acute, 
having a mind less capacious than his ambition ; and the latter 
more ambition than any mind without more instruments could 
manage ; and neither of them the wish or the thought of employ- 
ing the only means suitable to the end, their vast, loose projects 
crumbled under them. 

Michcl-dngelo. Your opinion of Borgia is somewhat high ; 
and I fancied you did not despise Pope Julius. 

MachiavelR. Some of you artists ought to regard him with 
gratitude ; but you yourself must despise the frivolous dotard, 
who, while he should have been meditating and accomplishing 
the deliverance of Italy, which he could have done, and he only, 
was running after you, and breathing at one time caresses, at 
another time menaces, to bring you back into the Vatican, after 
your affront and flight. Instead of this grand work of liberation 
(at least from barbarians) what was he planning ? His whole 
anxiety was about his mausoleum ! Now, certainly, Messer 
Michel- Angelo, the more costly a man's monument is, the more 
manifest, if he himself orders the erection, must be his conscious- 
ness that there is much in him which he would wish to be 
covered over by it, and much which never was his, and which he is 
desirous of appropriating. But no monument is a bed capacious 
enough for his froward and restless imbecilities ; and any that is 
magnificent only shows one the more of them. 

Michel- Angelo. He who deserves a mausoleum is not desirous 

1 82 Imaginary Conversations. 

even of a grave-stone. He knows his mother earth ; he frets for 
no fine cradle, but lies tranquilly and composed at her feet. The 
pen will rise above the pyramid ; but those who would build the 
pyramid would depress the pen. Julius had as little love of true 
glory as of civil liberty, which never ruler more pertinaciously 
suppressed. His only passion, if we may call it one, was vanity. 
Caesar Borgia had penetration and singleness of aim, the great 
constituents of a great man. His birth, which raised him many 
favorers in his ascent to power, raised him more enemies in his 
highest elevation. He had a greater number of friends than he 
could create of fortunes ; and bees, when no hive is vacant, carry 
their honey elsewhere. 

MachiavellL Borgia 4 was cruel, both by necessity and by 
nature : now, no cruel prince can be quite cruel enough ; when 
he is tired of striking, he falls. He who is desirous of becoming 
a prince should calculate first how many estates can be confiscated. 
Pompey learned and wrote fairly out this lesson of arithmetic ; 
but Julius Cxsar tore the copy-book from his hand and threw it 
among those behind him, who repeated it in his ear until he gave 
them the reward of their application. 

Michel- Angela. He alone was able and willing to reform the 
State. It is well for mankind that human institutions want 
revisal and repair. Our bodies and likewise our minds require 
both refreshment and motion ; and, unless we attend to the 
necessities of both, imbecility and dissolution soon ensue. It was 
as easy, in the Middle Ages, for the towns of Italy to form them- 
selves into republics, which many did, as it was for the villages of 
Switzerland ; and not more difficult to retain their immunities. 
We are surely as populous, we are as well armed, we are as strong 
and active, we are as docile to discipline, we are as rich and 
flourishing : we want only their moral courage, their resolute 
perseverance, their public and private virtue, their self-respect and 
mutual confidence. These are indeed great and many wants, and 
have always been ill-supplied since the extinction of the Gracchi'. 

S [ As to the security of a tyrant " all depends whether cruelties are 
done or ill. Those are well done, if we may speak so of evil deeds, 
which are done suddenly for the sake of establishing a safe position, and 
are not continued afterwards. Those are ill done that are long con- 
tinued." Prince, chap, viii.] 

Machiavelli and Michel- Angelo. 183 

The channel that has been dry so many centuries can only be 
replenished by a great convulsion. Even now, if ever we rise 
again to the dignity of men and citizens, it must be from under 
the shield and behind the broadsword of the Switzers. 

Machurvelli. Thirty thousand of them, whenever France 
resumes her arms against the emperor, might be induced to 
establish our independence and secure their own, by engaging them 
to oblige the state of Lombardy first, and successively Rome and 
Naples, to contribute a subsidy, for a certain number of years, on 
the overthrow of their infirm and cumbrous governments. The 
beggars, the idle and indigent of those nations, might, beneficially to 
themselves, be made provisional serfs to our defenders, who on their 
part would have duties as imperative to perform. In the Neapo- 
litan and papal territories, there is an immensity of land ill 
cultivated, or not cultivated at all, claimed and occupied as the 
property of the government, enough for all the paupers of Italy 
to till, and all her defenders to possess. Men must use their 
hands rightly before they can rightly use their reason : those 
usually think well who work well. Beside, I would take especial 
care that they never were in want of religion to instruct and com- 
fort them : they should enjoy a sprinkling of priests and friars, 
with breviaries and mattocks in the midst of them, and the laborer 
in good earnest should be worthy of his hire. The feudal 
system, which fools cry out against, was supremely wise. The 
truckle-bed of valor and freedom is not wadded with floss-silk : 
there are gnarls without and knots within ; and hard is the bolster 
of these younger Dioscuri. Genoa, on receiving the dominion of 
Piedmont, would cede to Tuscany the little she possesses on the 
south of the Trebbia ; Venice would retain what she holds ; 
Bologna would be the capital of all the country to the eastward 
of the Apennines, from the Po to the Ofanto ; Rome, from the 
sources of the Nar to the mouth of the Tiber (which still should 
be a Tuscan river, excepting what is within the walls), and south- 
ward as far as the Vulturous ; Naples would be mistress of the 
rest. These seven republics should send each five deputies yearly, 
for the first twenty days of March, enjoying the means of living 
splendidly in the apartments of the Vatican. For without a high 
degree of splendor no magistrate is at all respected in our country, 
and slightly anywhere else. The consul, invested with the 

184 Imaginary Conversations. 

executive power, should be elected out of the body of legates on 
the third day of each annual session ; he should proceed daily to 
the hall of deliberation, at the Capitol, in state; the trumpet 
should sound as he mounts his carriage, drawn by eight horses, 
and again as he alights ; no troops should accompany him, except- 
ing twelve of the civic guard on each side, twelve before and 
twelve behind, on white chargers richly caparisoned, and 
appertaining to the consular establishment. 

Michd-Angelo. I approve of this ; and I should approve as 
heartily of any means whatsoever by which it might be effected. 
But it appears to me, Messer Niccolo, that the territories of 
Rome and Bologna, although the Bolognese would continue to 
the whole extent of the Apennines, would be less populous than 
the others. 

Machiavelli. Where is the harm of that ? A city may be 
angry and discontented if she cannot tear away somewhat from 
her neighbors. But, in the system I propose, all enjoy equal 
laws ; and, as it cannot be of the slightest advantage to any 
town or hamlet to form a portion of a larger State rather than 
of a smaller, so neither can the smaller State be liable to a 
disadvantage by any town or hamlet lying out of it. Rome has 
always been well contented to repose on her ancient glory. She 
loses nothing by the chain being snapped that held others to 
her ; for it requires no stretch of thought (if it did, I would 
not ask it of her) to recollect that it held her as well as them. 
Bologna's territory would begin with Ferrara on the north, 
and terminate with the Mediterranean on the south ; still, 
excepting the Roman, it would be the least. Her position 
will not allow her more, and well is it that it will not. For 
the priesthood has too long made its holes there, running under- 
ground from Rome ; and you know, Messer Michel-Angelo, 
the dairy will smell disagreeably where the rats have burrowed 

Michel-Angelo. True enough. Let me now make another 
remark. Apparently you would allow no greater number of 
legates from the larger States than from the smaller. 

Machiai)elli. A small community has need for even more to 
protect its interests than a larger. He who has a strong body 
has less occasion for a loud voice, and fewer occasions to cry for 

Machiiivclli and Michel- Angelo. 185 

nee. Five legates from each republic are sufficient in 
number, if they are sufficient in energy and information. If they 
are not, the fault lies with their constituents. The more debaters 
there arc the less business will be done, and the fewer inquiries 
brought to an issue. In federal States, all having the same 
obligations and essentially the same form of government, hardly 
is it possible for any two to quarrel ; and the interest of the 
remainder would require, and compel if necessary, a prompt and 
a firm reconciliation. No State in Europe, desirous of maintaining 
a character for probity, will refuse to another the surrender of a 
criminal or debtor who has escaped to avoid that other's laws. 
If churches and palaces ought not to be sanctuaries for the 
protection of crime, surely whole kingdoms ought not. Our 
republics, by avoiding this iniquity, would obviate the most 
ordinary and most urgent cause of discord. Mortgaging no little 
of what is called the property of the church (subtracted partly 
by fraud from ignorance and credulity, and partly torn by violence 
from debility and dissension), I would raise the money requisite 
to obtain the co-operation of Switzerland and the alliance of 
Savoy ; but taking care that our own forces much outnumber 
the allies, and, in case of war, keeping all the artillery in our 

Michel- Angela. But what would you do with the pope ? 

Macbiavtlli.. A very important consideration. I would 
ish him in Venice, where he would enjoy many advantages 
which Rome herself does not afford him. First, he would be 
successor to Saint Mark as well as to Saint Peter ; secondly, he 
would enjoy the exercise of his highest authority more frequently, 
by crowning a prince every year in the person of the Doge (for 
that title, and every other borne by the chief magistrate of each 
city, should continue), and a princess in the person of the Adriatic, 
and, moreover, of solemnizing the ceremony of their nuptials ; 
thirdly and what is more glorious, he would be within call of the 
Bosniacs, who, hearing his paternal voice, would surely renounce their 
errors, abandon their vices, and come over and embrace the faith. 
The Bull of Indulgences might be a little modified in their favor. 
Germans had no objection to the bill of fare, but stamped and 
sweated to sec the price of the dishes, which more elegant 
men in France and Italy, having tasted them all, thought 

1 86 Imaginary Conversations. 

reasonable enough. But in Bosnia they must be reduced a 
trifle lower; else they will be a stumbling-block to the neo- 
phyte, whose infirmer knees yet totter in mounting the Santa 

Michel- Angela. Do not joke so gravely, Messer Niccolo ; for 
it vexes and saddens me. 

Machiavetti. If you dislike my reasons, take some others very 
different. The nobility and people of Venice have less venera- 
tion for the Holy Father than have the rest of us Catholics, and 
longer opposed his authority. Beside, as they prefer Saint Mark 
to Saint Peter, there would always be a salutary irritation kept 
up in the body of Italy, and all the blood would not run into the 

Michel- Angela. Its coagulation there has paralyzed her. 

Machiavelli. Furthermore, the Venetians would take meas- 
ures that Saint Mark should have fair play, and that his part 
of the pugilistic ring should be as open and wide as the opposite. 
And now, in order to obtain your pardon for joking so infelici- 
tously, let me acknowledge it among my many infirmities, that 
I cannot laugh heartily. I experience the same sad constriction 
as those who cannot bring out a sneeze, or any thing else that 
would fain have its way. You, however, have marvellously 
well performed the operation ; and now the ripples on lip and 
cheek, on beard and whisker, have subsided, let me tell you, 
Messer Michel-Angelo, we form our wisest thoughts and pro- 
jects on the depth and density of men's ignorance ; our strength 
rises from the vast arena of their weaknesses. I know not 
when my scheme will be practicable ; but it has been, and it 
may be again. 

Michel^ Angela. Finally, what is to become of Sicily, Sardinia, 
and Corsica ? 

Machiavelh. I would place these islands at the emperor's 
disposal, to conciliate him. 

Michel-Angelo. It would exasperate France. 

Machiavelli. Let him look to that: it would be worth 
his while. Exasperated or not, France never can rest quiet. 
Her activity is only in her pugnacity : trade, commerce, agri- 
culture, are equally neglected. Indifferent to the harvests on 

Machiavclli and Michel-Angela 187 

the earth before her, she springs on the palm-tree for its scanty 

Michel- Angela. She would not be pleased at your allusion. 

Mach'uroeU'i. I wish she would render it inapplicable. Italy, 
in despite of her, would become once more the richest and most 
powerful of nations, the least liable to attacks, and the 

ed in disturbing her neighbors. Were she one great 
kingdom, as some men and all boys desire, she would be per- 
petually at variance with Hungary,- Germany, France, and 
Spain. 5 The confederacies and alliances of republics are always 
conducive to freedom, and never are hurtful to independence ; 
those of princes are usually injurious to the liberty of the subject, 
and often the origin of wars. Federal republics give sureties for 
the maintenance of peace, in their formation and their position : 
even those States with which any of them is confederated are as 
much interested in impeding it from conquests as from subjection. 
In kingdoms, the case is widely different. Many pestilences 
grow weaker by length of time and extent of action ; but the 
pestilence of kingly power increases in virulence at every stride 
and seizure, and expires in the midst of its victims by the 
lethargy of repletion. At no period of my life have I ne- 
glected to warn my fellow-citizens of the fete impending over 
them. Only a few drops of the sultry and suffocating storm 
have yet fallen : we stop on the road, instead of pushing on ; 
and, whenever we raise our heads, it will be in the midst of the 

Michel" Angela. I do believe that Lorenzo would have covered 
the shame of his parent State, rather than have wantoned with 
its inebriety. 

* The population of France, at this time, amounted to scarcely four- 
teen millions ; Franche-comte, Lorraine, Alsace, and several cities on the 
borders of the Netherlands, not being yet annexed. Her incessant wars, 
of late generally disastrous, had depopulated her provinces, and there was 
less industry than in any other great nation round about her, not except- 
ing the Spanish. Italy was supreme in civilization, commerce, and the 
fine arts, and was at least a* populous as at present. 

J 5 There can be no doubt that Machiavelli desired the unity of Italy, 
that this desire of his i one reason for the admiration which he felt 
for Czsar Borgia as long as Czsar was successful. The views which 
Landor has put in Machiavelli \ mouth he would not have been likely to 
express himself.] 

1 88 Imaginary Conversations. 

Machiavelli. He might, by his example and authority, have 
corrected her abuses ; and by his wealth, united to ours, have 
given work to the poor and idle in the construction of roads, and 
the excavation of canals through the Maremma. 

Michel- Angela. It was easier to kill Antaeus than to lift him 
from the ground. Lorenzo was unable to raise or keep up 
Tuscany : he therefore sought the less glorious triumph of leading 
her captive, laden with all his jewels, and escorted by men of 
genius in the garb of sycophants and songsters. 

Machiavelli. In fact, Messer Michel- Angelo, we had borne 
too long and too patiently the petulance and caprices of a 
brawling and impudent democracy. We received instructions 
from those to whom we should have given them, and we gave 
power to those from whom we should have received it. Re- 
publican as I have lived, and shall die, I would rather any 
other state of social life than naked and rude democracy : 
because I have always found it more jealous of merit, more 
suspicious of wisdom, more proud of riding on great minds, 
more pleased at raising up little ones above them, more fond of 
loud talking, more impatient of calm reasoning, more unsteady, 
more ungrateful, and more ferocious ; above all, because it leads 
to despotism through fraudulence, intemperance, and corruption. 
Let democracy live among the mountains, and regulate her 
village, and enjoy her chalet ; let her live peacefully and con- 
tentedly amid her flocks and herds ; never lay her rough hand 
on the balustrade of the council-chamber ; never raise her 
boisterous voice among the images of liberators and legislators, 
of philosophers and poets. 

Michel-Angela. In the course of human things, you cannot 
hinder her. All governments run ultimately into the great gulf 
of despotism, widen or contract them, straighten or divert them, 
as you will. From this gulf, the Providence that rules all nature 
liberates them. Again they return, to be again absorbed, at 
periods not foreseen or calculable. Every form of government is 
urged onward by another and a different one. The great recep- 
tacle in which so many have perished casts up the fragments, and 
indefatigable man refits them. 

Machiavetti. Other forms may take the same direction as 
democracy, but along roads less miry, and infested with fewer 

Machiavelli and Michel- A ngelo. 189 

Michel- Angela. Messer Niccolo, you have spoken like a 
secretary and a patrician ; I am only a mere mason, as you 
see, and (by your appointment) an engineer. You indeed 
jreat reason to condemn the levity, the stupidity, and the 
ingratitude of the people. But, if they prefer worse men to 
better, the fault carries the punishment with it, or draws it after ; 
and the graver the fault the severer the punishment. Neither the 
populace nor the prince ever chooses the most worthy of all ; 
who indeed, if there were any danger of their choosing him, 
would avoid the nomination ? for it is only in such days as these 
that men really great come spontaneously forward, and move with 
the multitude from the front ; stilling the voice of the crier, and 
scattering the plumes of the impostor. In ordinary times, less 
men are quite sufficient, and arc always ready. In a democracy, 
the bad may govern when better are less required ; but, if they 
govern injudiciously, the illusion under which they were elected 
vanishes, the harm they do is brief, and attended by more peril 
to themselves than to their country. Totally the reverse with 
hereditary princes : being further from the mass of the community, 
they know and care little about us ; they do not want our votes ; 
they would be angry if we talked of our esteem for them ; and, 
if ever they treat us well, their security, not their sympathy, is the 
motive. I agree with you, Messer Niccolo, that never were there 
viler slaves than our populace, except our nobles, and those 
mongrels and curs intermediate who lean indolently on such sap- 
less trunks, and deem it magnificent to stand one palm higher than 
the prostrate. 

Macburvtlli. A fine picture have you been drawing ! another 
Lust Judgment! 

Michel^ Angela. Your nobility, founded in great measure on 
yourself, is such that you would accept from me no apology 
for my remarks on that indiscriminately lavished by our enslavers 
among later families. None in Tuscany, few in Europe, can 
contend in dignity with yours, which has given to our republic 
thirteen chief magistrates. The descendants of a hunter from 
an Alpine keep in Switzerland can offer no pretence to any thing 
resembling it. Yet these are they who bind and bruise us! 
these are they who impose on us as governors men whom we ex- 
punge as citizens. 

190 Imaginary Conversations. 

MachiaveUi. In erecting your fortification, you oppose but a 
temporary obstacle to the insult. My proposal, many years ago, 
was the institution of national guards ; from which service no 
condition whatever, no age, from adolescence to decrepitude, 
should be exempt. But Italy must always be in danger of utter 
servitude, unless her free States, which are still rich and powerful, 
enter into a cordial and strict alliance against all arbitrary rule, 
instead of undermining or beating down each other's prosperity. 
While one great city holds another great city in subjection, as 
Venice does with Padua and Verona, as Florence with Siena and 
Pisa, the subdued will always rejoice in the calamities of the 
subduer, and empty her cup of bitterness into them when she can, 
although without the prospect or hope of recovering her inde- 
pendence. For there are more who are sensible to affronts than 
there are who are sensible to freedom ; and vindictiveness, in 
many breasts the last cherished relic of justice, is in some the only 
sign of it. 

Michel- Angela. Small confederate republics are the most free, 
the most happy, the most productive of emulation, of learning, of 
genius, of glory, in every form and aspect. They also, for the 
reason you have given, are stronger and more durable than if 
united under one principality. This is proved, too, in the history 
of ancient Tuscany, which, under her Lucumons, resisted for 
many centuries the violent and vast irruptions of the Gauls, and 
the systematic encroachments of the wilier Romans. But the 
governors of no country possess so much wisdom as shall teach 
them to renounce a portion of immediate authority for the future 
benefit of those they govern, much less for any advantage to those 
who lie beyond their jurisdiction. 

Machiavelli. Italy, and Europe in general, would avoid the 
most frequent and the worst calamities by manifold and just 
federation, to the exclusion of all princes, ecclesiastical and 
secular. Spain, in the multitude of her municipalities, is divided 
into republics, but jealous and incoherent. Wiser Germany 
possesses in many parts the same advantages, and uses them 

[ 6 The proposal was carried out. See Villari, vol. ii., p. 256. Machia- 
velli's preference for a militia over the mercenaries employed by Italian 
States was due to his conviction that the creation of a nation could be 
effected only by creating a national army.] 

Machiavelli and Michel- Angelo. 191 

better; but the dragon's teeth, not sown by herself, shoot up 
between her cities. Switzerland rears among her snows little, 
fresh, and stout republics. Italy, in particular, is formed for 
them : many of her cities being free ; all bearing within them 
the memory, most the desire, of freedom. No pontiff, no 
despot, can ever be friendly to science ; least of all, to that 
best of sciences which teaches us that liberty and peace are the 
highest of human blessings. And I wonder that the ministers 
of religion (at least all of them who believe in it) do not strenu- 
ously insist on this truth, essentially divine, since the founder 
of Christianity came on earth on purpose to establish peace ; and 
peace cannot exist, and ought not, without liberty. But this 
blessing is neither the produce nor the necessity of one soil only. 
How different is the condition of the free cities in Germany 
from that of territories under the sceptre of princes ! If seven 
or eight are thus flourishing, with such obstacles on every side, 
why might not the rest without any ? What would they all be 
when hindrances were removed, when mutual intercourse, mutual 
instruction, mutual advantages of every kind, were unrestricted ? 
Why should not all be as free and happy as the few ? They 
will be, when learning has made way lor wisdom ; when those 
for whom others have thought begin to think for themselves. 
The intelligent and the courageous should form associations 
everywhere ; and little trust should be reposed on the good-will 
of even good men accustomed to authority and dictation. I 
venerate the arts almost to the same degree as you do ; for 
ignorance is nowhere an obstacle to veneration : but I venerate 
them because, above them, I see the light separating from the 

Mickd- Angela. The arts cannot long exist without the advent 
of freedom. From every new excavation whence a statue rises, 
there rises simultaneously a bright vision of the age that produced 
it ; a strong desire to bring it back again ; a throbbing love, an 
inflaming regret, a resolute despair, beautiful as Hope herself; and 
Hope comes, too, behind. 

Men are not our fellow-creatures because hands and articu- 
late voices belong to them in common with us : they are then, 
and then only, when they precede us, or accompany us, or follow 
us, contemplating one grand luminary, periodically obscured, but 

192 Imaginary Conversations. 

eternally existent in the highest heaven of the soul, without 
which all lesser lights would lose their brightness, their station, 
their existence. 

If these things should ever come to pass, how bold shall be 
the step, how exalted the head, of genius ! Clothed in glorified 
bodies of living marble, instructors shall rise out of the earth, 
deriders of barbarism, conquerors of time, heirs and coequals 
of eternity. Led on by these, again shall man mount the 
ladder that touches heaven ; again shall he wrestle with the 

Machiavelli. You want examples of the arts in their perfec- 
tion : few models are extant. Apollo, Venus, and three or 
four beside, are the only objects of your veneration ; and, al- 
though I do not doubt of its sincerity, I much doubt of its 
enthusiasm, and the more the oftener I behold them. Perhaps 
the earth holds others in her bosom more beautiful than the 
Mother of Love, more elevated than the God of Day. Nothing 
is existing of Phidias, nothing of Praxiteles, nothing of Seopas. 
Their works, collected by Nero, and deposited by him in his 
Golden Palace, were broken by the populace, and their fragments 
cast into the Tiber. 

Michel- Angela. All ? surely not all ! 

MachuwelR. Every one, too certainly. For such was the 
wealth, such the liberality, of this prince, and so solicitous were 
all ranks, and especially the higher, to obtain his favor, I enter- 
tain no doubt that every work of these consummate masters 
was among the thousands in his vast apartments. Defaced and 
fragmentary as they are, they still exist under the waters of the 

Michel-Angelo. The nose is the part most liable to injury. I 
have restored it in many heads, always of marble. But it occurs 
to me (at this instant, for the first time) that wax would serve 
better, both in leaving no perceptible line, and in similarity of 
color. The Tiber, I sadly fear, will not give up its dead until the 
last day ; but do you think the luxurious cities of Sibaris and 
Croton hide no treasures of art under their ruins ? And there are 
others in Southern Italy of Greek origin, and rich (no doubt) in 
similar divine creations. Sculpture awaits but the dawn of free- 
dom to rise up before new worshippers in the fulness of her glory. 

Southey and Landor. 193 

Meanwhile I must work incessantly at our fortress here, to protect 
my poor clay models from the Germans. 

Mih'hiavclli. And from the Italians; although the least fero- 
cious in either army would rather destroy a thousand men than 
the graven image of one. 


Soutbey. Of all the beautiful scenery round KingVweston the 
view from this terrace, and especially from this sun-dial, is the 

Landor. The last time I ever walked hither in company 
(which, unless with ladies, 1 rarely have done anywhere) was 
with a just, a valiant, and a memorable man, Admiral Nichols, 
who usually spent his summer months at the village of Shire- 
hampton, just below us. There, whether in the morning or 
evening, it was seldom I found him otherwise engaged than in 
cultivating his flowers. 

Southey. I never had the same dislike to company in my walks 
and rambles as you profess to have, but of which I perceived no 
sign whatever when I visited you, first at Lantony Abbey, and 
afterward on the Lake of Como. Well do I remember our long 
conversations in the silent and solitary church of Sant* Abondio 
(surely the coolest spot in Italy), and how often I turned back 
my head toward the open door, fearing lest some pious passer-by, 
or some more distant one in the wood above, pursuing the path- 

p The meeting between Landor and Southey, during which this Con- 
versation might have taken place, mu-t have been in the winter of 1836, 
or the early spring of the next year. Landor was then living at Clifton, 
and Southey and he wandered together, revisiting the places Southey had 
known in his youth. (Life, 371.) KingVweston lies lower down the 
Avon than Clifton, on the hills above Shirehampton, just as Landor 
describes it. The two Conversations are taken up with a long criticism 
of Milton in which Landor shows himself a more reasonable and accurate 
critic than was common with him. A large number of the references 
as given in the 1876 edition are incorrect. In the present edition these 
have been corrected to correspond with the Globe edition of Milton, and 
others have been added. (Woik-. ii.. 1846. Works, iv., 1876.)] 


r 94 Imaginary Conversations. 

way that leads to the tower of Luitprand, should hear the roof 
echo with your laughter at the stories you had collected about 
the brotherhood and sisterhood of the place. 

Landor. I have forgotten most of them, and nearly all ; but 
I have not forgotten how we speculated on the possibility that 
Milton might once have been sitting on the very bench we then 
occupied, although we do not hear of his having visited that part 
of the country. Presently we discoursed on his poetry ; as we 
propose to do again this morning. 

S out hey. In that case, it seems we must continue to be seated 
on the turf. 

Landor. Why so ? 

Southey. Because you do not like to walk in company ; it 
might disturb and discompose you : and we never lose our temper 
without losing at the same time many of our thoughts, which are 
loath to come forward without it. 

Landor. From my earliest days I have avoided society as 
much as I could decorously, for I received more pleasure in the 
cultivation and improvement of my own thoughts than in walking 
up and down among the thoughts of others. Yet, as you know, 
I never have avoided the intercourse of men distinguished by virtue 
and genius : of genius, because it warmed and invigorated me by 
my trying to keep pace with it ; of virtue, that if I had any of 
my own it might be called forth by such vicinity. Among all 
men elevated in station who have made a noise in the world 
(admirable old expression!), I never saw any in whose presence 
I felt inferiority, excepting Kosciusco. But how many in the 
lower paths of life have exerted both virtues and abilities which I 
never exerted, and never possessed ! what strength and courage 
and perseverance in some ; in others what endurance and forbear- 
ance ! At the very moment when most, beside yourself, catching 
up half my words, would call and employ against me in its ordi- 
nary signification what ought to convey the most honorific, the 
term self-sufficiency -, I bow my head before the humble, with 
greatly more than their humiliation. You are better-tempered 
than I am, and readier to converse. There are half-hours when, 
although in good-humor and good spirits, I would not be disturbed 
by the necessity of talking, to be the possessor of all the rich 
marshes we see yonder. In this interval there is neither storm 

Southey and Lander. 195 

nor sunshine of thr mind, but calm and (as the farmer would call 
it) growing weather, in which the blades of thought spring up and 
dilate insensibly. Whatever I do, I must do in the open air, or 
in the silence of night ; either is sufficient : but I prefer the hours 
of exercise, or, what is next to exercise, of field-repose. Did 
you happen to know the admiral ? 

Southey. Not personally ; but I believe the terms you have 
applied to him are well merited. After some experience, he con- 
tended that public men, public women, and the public press may 
be all designated by one and the same trisyllable. He is re- 
ported to have been a strict disciplinarian. In the mutiny at the 
Nore he was seized by his crew, and summarily condemned by 
them to be hanged. Many taunting questions were asked him, 
to which he made no reply. When the rope was fastened round 
his neck, the ringleader cried, " Answer this one thing, however, 
before you go, sir ! What would you do with any of us, if we 
were in your power as you are now in ours ? " The admiral, 
then captain, looked sternly and contemptuously, and replied, 
" Hang you, by God! " 1 -in raged at this answer, the mutineer 
tugged at the rope ; but another on the instant rushed forward, 
exclaiming, ** No, captain ! " (for thus he called the fellow) " he 
has been cruel to us, flogging here and flogging there ; but before 
so brave a man is hanged like a dog, you heave me overboard." 
Others among the most violent now interceded ; and an old sea- 
man, not saying a single word, came forward with his knife in his 
hand, and cut the noose asunder. Nichols did not thank him, 
nor notice him, nor speak ; but, looking round at the other ships, 
in which there was the like insubordination, he went toward his 
cabin slow and silent. Finding it locked, he called to a midship- 
man, " Tell that man with a knife to come down and open the 
door." After a pause of a few minutes, it was done ; but he was 
confined below until the quelling of the mutiny. 

Landor. His conduct as controller of the navy was no less 
magnanimous and decisive. In this office he presided at the trial 
of Lord Melville. His lordship was guilty, we know, of all the 
charges brought against him ; but, having more patronage than 
ever minister had before, he refused to answer the questions 
which (to repeat his own expression) might incriminate him : 
and his refusal was given with a smile of indifference, a conscious- 

196 Imaginary Conversations. 

ness of security. In those days, as indeed in most others, the 
main use of power was promotion and protection ; and honest man 
was never in any age among the titles of nobility, and has always 
been the appellation used toward the feeble and inferior by the 
prosperous. Nichols said, on the present occasion, " If this man 
is permitted to skulk away under such pretences, trial is here a 
mockery." Finding no support, he threw up his office as con- 
troller of the navy, and never afterward entered the House of 
Commons. Such a person, it appears to me, leads us aptly and 
becomingly to that steadfast patriot on whose writings you promised 
me your opinion, not incidentally, as before, but turning page 
after page. It would ill beseem us to treat Milton with gener- 
alities. Radishes and salt are the picnic quota of slim spruce re- 
viewers.: let us hope to find somewhat more solid and of better 
taste. Desirous to be a listener and a learner when you discourse 
on his poetry, I have been more occupied of late in examining the 

Southey. Do you retain your high opinion of it ? 

Landor. Experience makes us more sensible of faults than of 
beauties. Milton is more correct than Addison, but less correct 
than Hooker, whom I wish he had been contented to receive as 
a model in style, rather than authors who wrote in another and a 
poorer language ; such, I think, you are ready to acknowledge is 
the Latin. 

Southey. This was always my opinion. 

Landor. However, I do not complain that in oratory and 
history his diction is somewhat poetical. 

Southey. Little do I approve of it in prose on any subject. 
Demosthenes and /Eschines, Lysias and Isaeus, and finally Cicero, 
avoided it. 

Landor. They did : but Chatham and Burke and Grattan 
did not ; nor indeed the graver and greater Pericles, of whom 
the most memorable sentence on record is pure poetry. On the 
fall of the young Athenians in the field of battle, he said, " The 
year hath lost its spring." But how little are these men, even 
Pericles himself, if you compare them as men of genius with Livy ! 
In Livy, as in Milton, there are bursts of passion which cannot 
by the nature of things be other than poetical, nor (being so) 
come forth in other language. If Milton had executed his 

Southey and Landor. 197 

design of writing a history of England, it would probably have 
abounded in such diction, especially in the more turbulent scenes 
and in the darker ages. 

Southey. Then- are quiet hours and places in which a taper 
may be carried steadily, and show the way along the ground ; but 
you must stand a-tiptoe and raise a blazing torch above your head, 
if you would bring to our vision the obscure and time-worn 
figures depicted on the lofty vaults of antiquity. The philosopher 
shows everything in one clear light ; the historian loves strong 
reflections and deep shadows, but, above all, prominent and moving 
characters. We are little pleased with the man who disenchants 
us ; but whoever can make us wonder must himself, we think, be 
wonderful, and deserve our admiration. 

Lamlrjr. Believing no longer in magic and its charms, we 
still shudder at the story told by Tacitus, of those which were 
discovered in the mournful house of Germanicus. 

Southey. Tacitus was also a great poet, and would have 
been a greater, had he been more contented with the external 
and ordinary appearances of things. Instead of which, he 
looked at a part of his pictures through a prism, and at an- 
other part through a camera obscura. If the historian were as 
profuse of moral as of political axioms, we should tolerate him 
less : for in the political we fancy a writer is but meditating ; 
in the moral we regard him as declaiming. In history we desire 
to be conversant with only the great, according to our notions of 
greatness ; we take it as an affront, on such an invitation, to be 
conducted into the lecture-room, or to be desired to amuse 
ourselves in the study. 

Landor. Pray, go on. I am desirous of hearing more. 

Southey. Being now alone, with the whole day before us, 
and having carried, as we agreed at breakfast, each his Milton in 
his pocket, let us collect all the graver faults we can lay our 
hands upon, without a too minute and troublesome research ; not 
in the spirit of Johnson, but in our own. 

Lewr. That is, abasing our eyes in reverence to so great a 
man, but without closing them. The beauties of his poetry we 
may omit to notice, if we can ; but where the crowd claps the 
hands, it will be difficult for us always to refrain. Johnson, I 
think, has been charged unjustly with expressing too freely and 

198 Imaginary Conversations. 

inconsiderately the blemishes of Milton. There are many more 
of them than he has noticed. 

Southey. If we add any to the number, and the literary 
world hears of it, we shall raise an outcry from hundreds 
who never could see either his excellences or his defects, 
and from several who never have perused the noblest of his 

Landor. It may be boyish and mischievous ; but I acknow- 
ledge I have sometimes felt a pleasure in irritating, by the cast of 
a pebble, those who stretch forward to the full extent of the 
chain their open and frothy mouths against me. I shall seize 
upon this conjecture of yours, and say every thing that comes 
into my head on the subject. Beside which, if any collateral 
thoughts should spring up, I may throw them in also ; as you 
perceive I have frequently done in my Imaginary Conversations, 
and as we always do in real ones. 

Southey. When we adhere to one point, whatever the form, 
it should rather be called a disquisition than a conversation. Most 
writers of dialogue take but a single stride into questions the most 
abstruse, and collect a heap of arguments to be blown away by 
the bloated whiffs of some rhetorical charlatan, tricked out in a 
multiplicity of ribbons for the occasion. 

Before we open the volume of poetry, let me confess to you I 
admire his prose less than you do. 

Landor. Probably because you dissent more widely from the 
opinions it conveys ; for those who are displeased with any thing 
are unable to confine the displeasure to one spot. We dislike 
every thing a little when we dislike any thing much. It must 
indeed be admitted that his prose is often too Latinized and stiff. 
But I prefer his heavy-cut velvet, with its ill-placed Roman 
fibula, to the spangled gauze and gummed-on flowers and puffy 
flounces of our present street- walking literature. So do you, I 
am certain. 

Southey. Incomparably. But let those who have gone astray 
keep astray, rather than bring Milton into disrepute by pushing 
themselves into his company and imitating his manner. As 
some men conceive that, if their name is engraven in Gothic 
letters with several superfluous, it denotes antiquity of family, 
so do others that a congestion of words swept together out 

Southey and Landor. 199 

of a corner, and dry chopped sentences which turn the mouth 
awry in reading, make them look like original thinkers. Milton 
is none of these : and his language is never a patchwork. We 
find daily, in almost every book we open, expressions which 
are not English, never were, and never will be : for the 
writers are by no means of sufficiently high rank to be masters 
of the mint. To arrive at this distinction, it is not enough 
to scatter in all directions bold, hazardous, undisciplined thoughts: 
there must be lordly and commanding ones, with a full establish- 
ment of well-appointed expressions adequate to their maintenance. 

Occasionally I have been dissatisfied with Milton, because 
in my opinion that is ill said in prose which oen be said more 
plainly. Not so in poetry : if it were, much of Pindar and 
^Eschylus, and no little of Dante, would be censurable. 

Landor. Acknowledge that he whose poetry I am holding in 
my hand is free from every false ornament in his prose, unless a 
few bosses of Latinity may be called so, and I am ready to 
admit the full claims of your favorite South. Acknowledge that, 
heading all the forces of our language, he was the great antagonist 
of every great monster which infested our country ; and he dis- 
dained to trim his lion-skin with lace. No other English writer 
has equalled Raleigh, Hooker, and Milton, in the loftier parts of 
their works. 

Southfy. But Hooker and Milton, you allow, are sometimes 
pedantic. In Hooker there is nothing so elevated as there is in 

Landor. Neither he, however, nor any modern, nor any 
ancient, has attained to that summit on which the sacred ark of 
Milton strikes and rests. Reflections, such as we indulged in on 
the borders of the Larius, come over me here again. Perhaps 
from the very sod where you are sitting, the poet in his youth sat 
looking at the Sabrina he was soon to celebrate. There is pleasure 
in the sight of a glebe which never has been broken ; but it de- 
lights me particularly in those places where great men have been 
before. I do not mean warriors, for extremely few among the 
most remarkable of them will a considerate man call great, but 
poets and philosophers and philanthropists, the ornaments of society, 
the charmers of solitude, the warders of civilization, the watchmen 
at the gate which tyranny would batter down, and the healers of 

20O Imaginary Conversations. 

those wounds which she left festering in the field. And now, to 
reduce this demon into its proper toad-shape again, and to lose 
sight of it, open your Paradise Lost. 

Southey. Shall we begin with it immediately ? or shall we 
listen a little while to the woodlark ? He seems to know what 
we are about ; for there is a sweetness, a variety, and a gravity in 
his cadences, befitting the place and theme. Another time we 
might afford the whole hour to him. 

Landor. The woodlark, the nightingale, and the ringdove 
have made me idle for many, even when I had gone into the fields 
on purpose to gather fresh materials for composition. A little 
thing turns me from, one idleness to another. More than once, 
when I have taken out my pencil to fix an idea on paper, the 
smell of the cedar, held by me unconsciously across the nostrils, 
hath so absorbed the senses, that what I was about to write down 
has vanished, altogether and irrecoverably. This vexed me ; for 
although we may improve a first thought, and generally do, yet if 
we lose it, we seldom or never can find another so good to replace 
it. The lattermath has less substance, succulence, and fragrance 
than the summer crop. I dare not trust my memory for a moment 
with any thing of my own : it is more faithful in storing up what 
is another's. But am I not doing at this instant something like 
what I told you about the pencil ? If the loss of my own thoughts 
vexed me, how much more will the loss of yours ! Now, pray, 
begin in good earnest. 

Southey. Before we pursue the details of a poem, it is cus- 
tomary to look at it as a whole, and to consider what is the scope 
and tendency, or what is usually called the moral. But surely it 
is a silly and stupid business to talk mainly about the moral of a 
poem, unless it professedly be a fable. A good epic, a good 
tragedy, a good comedy, will inculcate several. Homer does not 
represent the anger of Achilles as being fatal or disastrous to that 
hero, which would be what critics call poetical justice ; but he 
demonstrates in the greater part of the Iliad the evil effects of 
arbitrary power, in alienating an elevated soul from the cause of 
his country. In the Odyssea he shows that every obstacle yields 
to constancy and perseverance ; yet he does not propose to show 
it : and there are other morals no less obvious. Why should the 
machinery of the longest poem be drawn out to establish an 

Southey and Landor. 201 

obvious truth, which a single \erse would exhibit more plainly, 
and impress more memorably? Both in epic and dramatic poetry 
it i.s action, and not moral, that is first demanded. The feelings 
and exploits of the principal agent should excite the principal in- 
The two greatest of human compositions are here de- 
fective : I mean the Iliad and Paradise Lost. Agamemnon is 
leader of the confederate Greeks before Troy, to avenge the 
cause of Menelaus ; yet not only Achilles and Diomed on his 
side, but Hector and Sarpedon on the opposite, interest us more 
than the " king of men," the avenger, or than his brother, the in- 
jured prince, about whom they all are fighting. In the Paradise 
Lost no principal character seems to have been intended. There 
is neither truth nor wit however in saying that Satan is hero of 
the piece, unless, as is usually the case in human life, he is the 
ro who gives the widest sway to the worst passions. 

Adam who acts and suffers most, and on whom the con- 
sequences have most influence. This constitutes him the main 
character; although Eve is the more interesting, Satan the more 
energetic, and on whom the greater force of poetry is displayed. 
The Creator and his angels are quite secondary. 

idar. Must we not confess that every epic hitherto has 
been defective in plan ; and even that each, until the time of 
Tasso, was more so than its predecessors? Such stupendous 
genius, so much fancy, so much eloquence, so much vigor of 
intellect, never were united as in Paradise Lost. Yet it is neither 
so correct nor so varied as the Iliad) nor, however important the 
action, so interesting. The moral itself is the reason why it 
wearies even those who insist on the necessity of it. Founded 
on an event believed by nearly all nations, certainly by all who 
read the poem, it lays down a principle which concerns every man's 
welfare, and a fact which every man's experience confirms : that 

and irremediable misery may arise from apparently small 
offences. But will any one say that, in a poetical view, our 
certainty of moral truth in this position is an equivalent for the 
uncertainty which of the agents is what critics call the hero of 
the piece ? 

Southey. We are informed in the beginning of the Iliad that 
the poet, or the Muse for him, is about to sing the anger of 
Achilles, with the disasters it brought down on the Greeks. But 

2O2 Imaginary Conversations. 

these disasters are of brief continuance, and this anger terminates 
most prosperously. Another fit of anger, from another motive, 
less ungenerous and less selfish, supervenes ; and Hector falls 
because Patroclus had fallen. The son of Peleus, whom the poet 
in the beginning proposed for his hero, drops suddenly out of 
sight, abandoning a noble cause from an ignoble resentment. 
Milton, in regard to the discontinuity of agency, is in the same 
predicament as Homer. 

Let us now take him more in detail. He soon begins to give 
the learned and less obvious signification to English words. In 
the sixth line, 

That on the secret top, &c. 

Here secret is in the same sense as Virgil's 

Sccretosque pios, his dantem jura Catonem. 

Would it not have been better to omit the fourth and fifth verses, 
as encumbrances, and deadeners of the harmony ; and for the 
same reason, the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth ? 

That with no middle flight intends to soar 
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues 
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. 

Landor. Certainly much better : for the harmony of the 
sentence is complete without them, and they make it gasp for 
breath. Supposing the fact to be true, the mention of it is un- 
necessary and unpoetical. Little does it become Milton to run 
in debt with Ariosto for his 

Cose non dette mai ne in prosa o in rima. 

Prosaic enough in a rhymed romance, for such is the Orlamlo 
with all its spirit and all its beauty, and far beneath the dignity 
of the epic. 

Southey. Beside, it interrupts the intensity of the poet's 
aspiration in the words, 

And chiefly thou, O Spirit I 

Again : I would rather see omitted the five which follow that 
beautiful line, 

Dovelike satst brooding on the vast abyss. 

Southey and Landor. 203 

The car, however accustomed to the rhythm of these 
sentences, is relieved of a burden by rejecting them ; and they are 
not wanted for any thing they com . 

Southey. I am sorry that Milton (v. 34) did not always keep 
separate the sublime Satan and "the infernal Serpent." The 
thirty-eighth verse is the first hendecasyllabic in the poem. It is 
much to be regretted, I think, that he admits this metre into epic 
poetry. It is often very efficient in the dramatic, at least in 
Shakspeare, but hardly ever in Milton. He indulges in it much 
less fluently in the Paradise Lost than in the Paradise Regained. 
In the seventy-third verse he tells us that the rebellious angels 

As far removed from God and light of heaven 
As from the centre thrice to the utmost pole. 

Not very far for creatures who could have measured all that 
distance, and a much greater, by a single act of the will. 
V. i 88 ends with the word repair ; 191 with despair. 

335. Nor did they not perceive the evil plight 

In ivkuk tkty were. 

Landor. We are oftener in such evil plight of floundering in 
the prosaic slough about your neighborhood than in Bunhill 

360. And Powers that erst in heaven sat on throne. 

Excuse my asking why you, and indeed most poets in most places, 
make a monosyllable of heaven ? I observe you treat spirit in the 
same manner ; and although not peril, yet perilous. I would not 
insist at all times on an iambic foot, neither would I deprive these 
words of their right to a participation in it. 

Southey. I have seized all fair opportunities of introducing the 
tribrachys, and these are the words that most easily afford one. 
I have turned over the leaves as far as verse 584, where 1 wish 
he had written Damascus (as he does elsewhere) for Damasco, 
which never was the English appellation. Beside, he sinks the 
last vowel in Merbe in Paradise Regained, which follows ; and 
should consistently have done the same in Damasco, following the 

204 Imaginary Conversations. 

practice of the Italian poets, which certainly is better than leaving 
the vowels open and gaping at one another. 

549. Anon th'ey move 

In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood. 

Thousands of years before there were phalanxes, schools of music, 
or Dorians. 

Landor. Never mind the Dorians, but look at Satan : 

571. And now his heart 

Distends with pride, and, hardening in his strength, 
Glories ! 

What an admirable pause is here ! I wish he had not ended one 
verse with " his heart," and the next with " his strength." 
Southey. What think you of 

575. That small infantry 

Warred on by cranes. 

Landor. I think he might easily have turned the flank of that 
small infantry. He would have done much better by writing, not 

For never since created man 
Met such imbodied force as named "with these 
Could merit more than that small infantry 
Warred on by cranes, though all the giant-brood, &c., 

but leaving behind him also these heavy and unserviceable tumbrils, 
it would have been enough to have written, 

Never since created man. 

Met such imbodied force ; though all the brood 
Of Phlegra with the Heroic race were joined. 

But where, in poetry or painting, shall we find any thing that 
approaches the sublimity of that description, which begins v. 589 
and ends in v. 620 ? What an admirable pause at 

Tears, such as angels weep, burst forth ! 

V. 642. But tempted our attempt. Such a play on words 
would be unbecoming in the poet's own person, and even on the 

Southey and Landor. 205 

lightest subject, but is most injudicious and intolerable in the mouth 
of Satan, about to assail the almighty. 

6 7 Z . Undoubted sign 

That in his womb was hid metallic ore. 

I know not exactly which of these words induces you to I-.MM* 
your eyes above the book and cast them on me : perhaps both. 
It was hardly worth his while to display in this place his know- 
ledge of mineralogy, or his recollection that Virgil, in the wooden 
horse before Troy, had said, 

Utfrumqve armato milite complent, 

ami that some modern poets had followed him. 

675. A- when bands 

Of pioneers, with spade and pick-axe arnn-.l. 
Fore-run the royal camp to trench a field 
Or cast a rampart. 

Nothing is gained to the celestial host by comparing it with 
the terrestrial. Angels are not promoted by brigading with 
sappers and miners. Here we are entertained (v. 712) with 

DuUet symphonies . . . and voices sweet, 

among " pilasters and Doric pillars." 

Verse 745 is that noble one on Vulcan, who 

Dropt from the zenith like a falling star, 

The six following are quite superfluous. Instead 
of stopping where the pause is so natural and so necessary, he 
carries the words on, 

Dropt from the zenith, like a falling star, 

On Lemnos, the JEgean isle. Thus they relate, 

Erring; for he, with this rebellious rout, 

Fell long before ; nor aueht avail'd him now 

To have built in heaven nigh towers, nor did he scape 

By all his engines, but was headlong sent 

With his industrious crew to build in hell. 

My good Milton ! why in a passion ? If he was sent to build in 

206 Imaginary Conversations. 

hell, and did build there, give the Devil his due ; and acknowledge 
that on this one occasion he ceased to be rebellious. 

Southey. The verses are insufferable stuff, and would be ill 
placed anywhere. 

Landor. Let me remark that in my copy I find a mark of 
elision before the first letter in scape. 

Soutbey. The same in mine. 

Landor. Scaped is pointed in the same manner at the 
beginning of the fourth book. But Milton took the word 
directly from the Italian scappare, and committed no mutilation. 
We do not always think it necessary to make the sign of an 
elision in its relatives, as appears by scape-grace. Inverse 752, 
what we write herald he more properly writes barald ; in the 
next sovran equally so, following the Italian rather than the 

Southey. At verse 768 we come to a series of twenty lines, 
which, excepting the metamorphosis of the Evil Angels, would 
be delightful in any other situation. The poem is much better 
without these. And, in these verses, I think there are two 
whole ones and two hemistichs which you would strike out : 

As bees 

In spring-time, when the sun with Taurus rides, 
Pour forth their populous youth about the hive 
In clusters : they among fresh dews and flowers 
Fly to and fro, or on the smoothened plank, 
The suburb of their straw-built citadel, 
New rubbed with balm, expatiate and confer 
Their state affairs. So thick the aery crowd, &c. 

Landor. I should be sorry to destroy the suburb of the 
straw-built citadel, or even to remove the smoothened 2 plank, 
if I found them in any other place. Neither the harmony of 
the sentence, nor the propriety and completeness of the simile, 
would suffer by removing all between "/o and fro" and "so 
thick" &c. But I wish I had not been called upon to " Behold 
a 'wonder." 

Southey. (Book II.) 

High on a throne of royal state, which far 
Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind, 
Or where the gorgeous east, &c. 

[ 2 Globe ed. reads : " smoothed."] 

Southey and Landor. 207 

Are not Ormus and Ind within the- gorgeous East? If so, 
would not the sense be better if he had written, instead of " Or 
where," "There where"? 

Landor. Certainly. 

Southey. Turn over, if you please, another two or three pages, 
and tell me whether in your opinion the I 5Oth verse, 

In the wide womb of uncreated night, 

might not also have been omitted advantageously. 

Landor. The sentence is long enough and full enough with- 
out it ; and the omission would cause no visible gap. 


1*6. Thus Belial, with words clothed in reason's garb, 
CounsePd ignoble tote and peaceful sloth, 
Not peace. 

These words are spoken by the poet in his own person, very 
improperly : they would have suited the character of any fallen 
angel ; but the reporter of the occurrence ought not to have 
such a sentence. 

299. Which when Beelzebub perceived (than whom. 
Satan except, none higher sat) with grave 
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seem'd 
A pillar of State. Deep on his front engraven 
Deliberation sat and public care ; 
And princely counsel in his face yet shone 
Majestic, though in ruin: sage he stood, 
With Atlantean shoulders, fit to bear 
The weight of mightiest monarchies. 

Often and often have these verses been quoted, without a sus- 
picion how strangely the corporeal is substituted for the moral. 
However Atlantean his shoulders might be, the weight of 
monarchies could no more be supported by them than by the 
shoulders of a grasshopper. The verses are sonorous ; but they 
are unserviceable as an incantation to make a stout figure look 
like a pillar of State. 

Landor. We have seen pillars of State which made no figure 
at all, and which are quite as misplaced as Milton's. But, 
seriously, the pillar's representative, if any figure but a meta- 

208 Imaginary Conversations. 

phorical one could represent him, would hardly be brought to 
represent the said pillar by rising up ; as, 

Beelzebub in his rising seem'd, &c. 
His fondness for Latinisms induces him to write, 
329. What sit we then projecting peace and war? 

For " Why sit we ? " as quid for cur. To my ear, What sit 
sounds less pleasingly than Why sit. 

I have often wished that Cicero, who so delighted in har- 
monious sentences, and was so studious of the closes, could 
have heard, 

351. So was his will 

Pronounced among the Gods, and, by an oath 
That shook heaven's whole circumference, confirmed. 

Although in the former part of the sentence two cadences are 
the same, 

So was his will, 

And by an oath. 

This is unhappy. But at verse 412 bursts forth again such a 
torrent of eloquence as there is nowhere else in the regions of 
poetry, although strict and thick, in v. 412 sound unpleasantly. 

594. The parching wind 3 

Burns frore, and cold performs the effect offre ! 

The latter part of this verse is redundant, and ruinous to the 

Southey. Milton, like Dante, has mixed the Greek mythology 
with the Oriental. To hinder the damned from tasting a single 
drop of the Lethe, they are ferried over : 

611. Medusa with Gorgonian terror guards 

The ford. 

It is strange that until now they never had explored the banks of 
the other four infernal rivers. 

Landor. It appears to me that his imitation of Shakspeare, 
From beds of raging fire to starve in ice, 
[3 Globe ed. reads : air."] 

Southcy and Landor. 209 

is feeble. Never was poet so little made to imitate another. 
Whether he imitates a good or a bad one, the offence of his 
voluntary degradation is punished in general with ill success. 
Shakspeare, on the contrary, touches not even a worthless thing 
but he renders it precious. 

Southey. To continue the last verse I was reading, 

And of itseli the water Hii- 
All taste of livine wight, as once it fled ' 
The lip of Tantalus. 

No living wight had ever attempted to taste it ; nor was it this 
water that fled the lip of Tantalus at any time ; least of all can 
we imagine that it had already fled it. In the description of Sin 
and Death, and Satan's interview with them, there is a wonderful 
vigor of imagination and of thought, with such sonorous verse as 
Milton alone was capable of composing. But there is also much 
of what is odious and intolerable. The terrific is then sublime, 
and then only, when it fixes you in the midst of all your energies ; 
and not when it weakens, nauseates, and repels you. 

678. God and his Son except, 

Created thing naught valued he. 

This is not the only time when he has used such language, 
evidently with no other view than to defend it by his scholar- 
ship. But no authority can vindicate what is false, and no 
ingenuity can explain what is absurd. You have remarked it 
already in the Imaginary Conversation* , referring to 

Tke fairett of her daughter*, Eve. 

There is something not dissimilar in the form of expression, 
when we find on a sepulchral stone the most dreadful of 
denunciations against any who should violate it : 

Ultimus suum moriatur. 

Lender. I must now be the reader. It is impossible to 
refuse the ear its satisfaction at 

1*614.] Thus roving on 

In confused march forlorn, the adventurous bands 
With shuddering horror pale and eyes aghast, 

iv. O 

2io Imaginary Conversations. 

View'd first their lamentable lot, and found 

No rest. Through many a dark and dreary vale 

They past, and many a region dolorous ; 

O'er many a frozen, many a fiery Alp, 

Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death, 

A universe of death. 

Now who would not rather have forfeited an estate, than that 
Milton should have ended so deplorably ? 

Which God by curse 
Created evil,yor evil only good, 
W 'here all life dies, death lives. 

Southey. How Ovidian ! This book would be greatly 
improved, not merely by the rejection of a couple such as these, 
but by the whole from verse 647 to verse 1007. The number 
would still be 705, fewer by only sixty-four than the first 
would, be after its reduction. 

Verses 1008 and 1009 could be spared. Satan but little 
encouraged his followers by reminding them that, if they took the 
course he pointed out, they were 

So much the nearer danger ; 

nor was it necessary to remind them of the obvious fact by 

Havoc and spoil and ruin are my gain. 4 

Landor. In the third book the Invocation extends to fifty- 
five verses ; of these, however, there are only two which you 
would expunge. He says to the Holy Light, 

But thou 

Revisit'st not these eyes, that toil in vain 
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn, 
So thick a drop serene hath quencht their orbs, 
Or dim suffusion veiled. Yet not the more, &c. 

[ 4 This criticism is very much confused. Southey wishes to exclude 
the meeting with Sin and Death, and, apparently, the whole of Satan's 
journey through chaos. Where he intended to take up the action again 
it is difficult to say ; but as he considers verses 1008 and 1009 to be at 
the end of Satan's speech to his followers, it is plain that he had no very 
clear idea himself. The verses, of course, come at the end of the speech 
by Chaos.] 

Southey and Landor. 2 1 1 

The fantastical Latin expression gutta serena, for amaurosis, was 
never received under any form into our language ; and a thick 
drop serene would be nonsense in any. I think every reader 
would be contented with, 

To find thy piercing ray. Yet not the more 
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt, &c. 

Southey. Pope is not highly reverent to Milton, or to God 
the Father, whom he calls a school-divine. The doctrines, in 
thi.s place (v. So) more Scripturally than poetically laid down, are 
apostolic. But Pope was unlikely to know it : for, while he was 
a papist, he was forbidden to read the Holy Scriptures ; and, 
when he ceased to be a papist, he threw them overboard and 
clung to nothing. The fixedness of his opinions may be 
estimated by his having written at the commencement of his 
Essay, first, 

A mighty maze, a maze without a plan ; 

And then, 

A mighty maze, but not without a plan. 

the seventy-sixth verse, I wish the poet had abstained from 
writing all the rest until we come to 34*; and that after the 
38id, from all that precede the 41 8th. Again, all between 462 
and 497. This about the Fool's Paradise, 

The indulgences, dispenses, pardon*, bulls, 

is too much in the manner of Dante, whose poetry, admirable 
as it often is, is at all times very far removed from the dramatic 
and the epic. 

Landor. Verse 586 is among the few inharmonious in this 

Shoots invisible virtue even to the deep. 

There has lately sprung up among us a Vulcan-descended body 
of splay-foot poets, who, unwilling 

Incudi reddere versus, 

or unable to hammer them into better shape and more solidity, 
tell us how necessary it is to shovel in the dust of a discord now 

212 Imaginary Conversations. 

and then. But Homer and Sophocles and Virgil could do with- 
out it. 

What a beautiful expression is there in verse 546, which I do 
not remember that any critic has noticed ! 

Obtains the brow of some high-climbing hill. 

Here the hill itself is instinct with life and activity. 

Verse 574. " But up or down " in " longitude " are not worth 
the parenthesis. 

[iv. 109.] Farewell remorse ! all good to me is lost. 

Nothing more surprises me in Milton than that his ear should 
have endured this verse. 

Southey. How admirably contrasted with the malignant spirit 
of Satan, in all its intensity, is the scene of Paradise which opens 
at verse 131! The change comes naturally and necessarily to 
accomplish the order of events. 

The fourth book contains several imperfections. The six verses 
after 1 8 1 efface the delightful impression we had just received. 

At one slight bound high overleapt all bound. 

Such a play on words, so grave a pun, is unpardonable : and such 
a prodigious leap is ill represented by the feat of a wolf in a sheep- 
fold ; and still worse by 

A thief bent to unhoard the cash 
Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors, 
Cross-barSd and bolted fast, fear no assault, 
In at the "window climbs, or o'er the tiles. 

Landor. This " in at the window " is very unlike the " bound 
high above all bound;" and climbing "o'er the tiles" is the 
practice of a more deliberate burglar. 

So since into his church lewd hirelings climb. 

I must leave the lewd hirelings where I find them : they are 
too many for me. I would gladly have seen omitted all between 
verses 160 and 205. 


[252.] Betwixt them lawns or level downs, and flocks 
Grazing the tender herb. 

Southey and Landor. 2 1 3 

There had not yet been time for flocks, or even for one 

Landor. At verse 297 commences a series of verses so har- 
monious that my ear is impatient of any other poetry for several 
days after I have read them. I mean thote which begin, 

For contemplation he and valor formed, 
For softness she and sweet attractive grace ; 

and ending with, 

And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay. 

Southey. Here, indeed, is the triumph of our language, and I 
should say of our poetry, if, in your preference of Shakspeare, 
you could endure my saying it. But, since we seek faults rather 
than beauties this morning, tell me whether you are quite con- 
tented with, 

She, as a veil, down to the slender waist 
Her unadorned golden tresses wore, 
Dishevel'J, but in wanton ringlets waved 
As the vine curls her temliils ; iihuh implied 
Subjection, tut rttpiired ivith gentle nvay, 
And by her yielded, by him bett received. 

Landor. Stopping there, you break the link of harmony just 
above the richest jewel that poetry ever wore : 

Yielded with coy submission, modest pride, 
And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay. 

I would rather have written these two lines than all the poetry 
that has been written since Milton's time in all the regions of the 
earth. We shall see again things equal in their way to the best 
of them ; but here the sweetest of images and sentiments is seized 
and carried far away from all pursuers. Never tell me, what I 
think is already on your lips, that the golden tresses in their 
wanton ringlets implied nothing like subjection. Take away, if 
you will, 

And by her yielded, by him best received ; 
and all until you come to, 

[325.] Under a tuft of shade. 

214 Imaginary Conversations. 

Southey. In verse 388, I wish he had employed some other 
epithet for innocence than harmless. 

Verses 620 and 62 i might be spared : 

WhHe other animals inactive range, 
And of their doings God takes no account. 

660. Daughter of God and man, accomplisht Eve ! 

Surely she was not daughter of man ; and, of all the words that 
Milton has used in poetry or prose, this accomplisht is the worst. 
In his time it had already begun to be understood in the sense it 
bears at present. 

Verse 674. " These, then, tho\" harsh sounds so near 

700. Mosaic; underfoot the violet, 

Crocus, and hyacinth, with rich inlay 

Broidered the ground, more colored than with stone 

Of costliest emblem. 

The broidery and mosaic should not be set quite so closely and 
distinctly before our eyes. I think the passage might be much im- 
proved by a few defalcations. Let me read it : 

The roof 

Of thickest covert was inwoven shade, 
Laurel and myrtle, and what higher grew 
Of firm and fragrant leaf; the violet, 
Crocus, and hyacinth. 

I dare not handle the embroidery. Is not this sufficiently 
verbose ? 

Landor. Quite. 

Southey. Yet, if you look into your book again, you will find 
a gap as wide as the bank on either side of it : 

On either side 

Acanthus and each odorous bushy shrub 
Fenced up the verdant wall ; each beauteous flower, 
Iris all hues, roses and jessamin 

Reared high \.\\e\v flourished heads between, and wrought 

He had before told us that there was every tree of fragrant 
leaf: we wanted not "each odorous shrub." Nor can we imagine 

Southey and Landur. 2 i 5 

how it fenced up a verdant wall : it constituted one itself; one 
\ery unlike any thing else in Paradise, and more resembling the 
topiary artifices which had begun to flourish in France. Here is 
indeed an exuberance, and "a wanton growth that mocks our 
scant manuring." 

705. In -hadier bower 

More sacred and sequestered, though butftignd, 
Pan or Sylvanu*. never slept. 

He takes especial heed to guard us against the snares of Paganism, 
at the expense of his poetry. In Italian books, as you remember, 
where Fate, Fortune, Pan, Apollo, or any mythological personage 
is named incidentally, notice is given at the beginning that no 
harm is intended thereby to the Holy Catholic-Apostolic religion. 
But harm is done on this occasion, where it is intended just as 

[719.] On him ivko kaJ ttoU Jove's authentic fire. 

This is a very weak and unsatisfactory verse. By one letter it 
may be much improved, stolen, which also has the advantage of 
rendering it grammatical. The word who coalesces with had. 
Of such coalescences the poetry of Milton is full. In five 
consecutive lines you find three : 

[Hi. 398.] Thee only extolled, Son of thy Father's might 
To execute his vengeance on his foes, 
Not so on man ; him through their malice fallen, 
Father of mercy and grace thou didst not doom 
So strictly, but much more to pity inclined. 

712. The God that made both sky, air, earth, and heaven. 

Both must signify two things or persons, and never can signify 

From verse 735 I would willingly see all removed until we 
come to, 

Hail, wedded love! 

After these eight I would reject thirteen. 
In verses 773 and 774 there is an unfortunate recurrence of 
sound : 

216 Imaginary Conversations. 

The flowery roof 

Showered roses which the morn repaired. Sleep on, 
Blest pair ! 

And somewhat worse in the continuation, 

And O yet happiest, if ye seek 
No happier state, and knoiv to knotu no more. 

Five similar sounds in ten syllables, besides the affectation of 
" know to know." 

780. To their night watches in warlike parade, 

is not only a slippery verse in the place where it stands, but is 
really a verse of quite another metre. And I question whether 
you are better satisfied with the word parade. 

814. As when a spark 

Lights on a heap of nitrous powder, laid 
Fit for the tun, some magazine to store 
Against a rumored war. 

Its fitness for the tun and its convenience for the magazine 
adapt it none the better to poetry. Would there be any detri- 
ment to the harmony or the expression, if we skip over that 
verse, reading, 

Against a rumored war? 

Landor. No harm to either. The verses 933 and 934, I 
perceive, have the same cesura, and precisely that which rhyme 
chooses in preference, and Milton in his blank verse admits the 
least frequently. 

A faithful leader, not to hazard all, 
Through ways of danger by himself untried. 

Presently, what a flagellation he inflicts on the traitor Monk ! 

[947.] To say and straight unsay, pretending first 

Wise to fly pain, professing next the spy, 
Argues no leader, but a liar traced. 

When he loses his temper he loses his poetry, in this place and 

Southey and Landor. 217 

most others. But such coarse hemp and wire were well adapted 
to the stripj>ed shoulders they scourged. 

Satan ! and couldst thou faithful add ? O name ! 

O sacred name of faithfulness profaned ! 

Faithful to whom ? to thy rebellious crew ? 

Army of fiends, fit body to fit head, 

Was this your discipline and faith engaged ? 

Your military obedience, to dissolve 

Allegiance to the acknowledged Power suprenu- ''. 

And thou. sly hypocrite, who now wouldst -.cert) 

Patron of liberty, who more than thou 

Once fawned and cringed? 

You noticed the rhyme of supreme and seem. Great heed 
should be taken against this grievous fault, not only in the 
final syllables of blank verse, but also in the cesuras. In our 
blank verse, it is less tolerable than in the Latin heroic, where 
Ovid and Lucretius, and Virgil himself, are not quite exempt 
from it. 

Southey. It is very amusing to read Johnson for his 
notions of harmony. He quotes these exquisite verses, and 
says, "There are two lines in this passage more remarkably 

[710.] This delicious place, 

For us too Urge, where thy abundance wants 
Partakers, and uncropt/o/b to the ground. 

There are few so dull as to be incapable of perceiving the beauty 
of the rhythm in the last, Johnson goes out of his way to censure 
the best thought and the best verse in Cowley : 

And the soft wings of Peace cover kim round. 

Certainly, it is not iambic where he wishes it to be. Milton, like 
the Italian poets, was rather too fond of this cadence ; but, in the 
instances which Johnson has pointed out for reprobation, it produces 
a fine effect. So in the verse, 

Not Typhon huge, ending in snaky twine. 
It does the same in Samson Agonistcs: 

Retiring from the popular noise, I seek 
This unfrequented place, to find some ease, 
Ease to the body some, none to the mind. 

Johnson tells- us that the third and seventh are weak syllables, 

218 Imaginary Conversations. 

and that the period leaves the ear unsatisfied. Milton's ear 
happened to be satisfied by these pauses ; and so will any ear 
be that is not (or was not intended by nature to be) nine fair 
inches long. Johnson is sensible of the harmony which is pro- 
duced by the pause on the sixth syllable ; but commends it for no 
better reason than because it forms a complete verse of itself. 
There can be no better reason against it. 

In regard to the pause at the third syllable, it is very singular 
and remarkable that Milton never has paused for three lines to- 
gether on any other point. In the 327^1, ^,2 8th, and 3 2 9th of 
Paradise Lost, are these : 

[Bk. i., 326.] His swift pursuers from heaven's gates pursue 5 
The advantage, and descending tread us down, 
Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts 
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf. 

Another, whose name I have forgotten, has censured in like 
manner the defection and falling off in the seventh syllable 
of that very verse, which I remember your quoting as among 
the innumerable proofs of the poet's exquisite sensibility and 

[ii., 873.] And toward the gate rolling her bestial train, 
where another would have written 

And rolling toward the gate, &c. 

On the same occasion, you praised Thomson very highly for 
having once written a most admirable verse where an ordinary 
one was obvious : 

And tremble every feather with desire. 
Pope would certainly have preferred 

And every feather trembles with desire. 

So would Dryden, probably. Johnson, who censures some of the 
most beautiful lines in Milton, praises one in Virgil, with as little 
judgment. He says, " We hear the passing arrow," 

Et fugit horrendum strident elapsa sagitta. 

Now there never was an arrow in the world that made a horrible 
[ 5 Globe ed. reads : "discern."] 

Southey and Lander. 2 j 9 

stridar in its course. The only sound is a very slight one occa- 
sioned by the feather. Homer would never have fallen into such 
an incongruity. 

How magnificent is the close of this fourth book, from, 

[970.] Then when I am thy captive ! 

Landor. I do not agree to the use of golden scales, not 
figurative but real jeweller's gold, for weighing events : 

[lOO2.] Bjtlla ami realm*. In thi>e lit- put two -weighty 
The -eqik-1 each of parting and of fight ; 
The latter q*ifk up-flew and iicitd the beam. 

To pass over the slighter objection of quick anil tick as displeasing 
to the ear, the vulgarity of tic ting the beam is intolerable. He 
might as well, among his angels, and among sights and sounds be- 
fitting them, talk of kicking the bucket. Here, again, he pays a 
penalty for trespassing. 

Southey. I doubt whether (fifth book) there ever was a poet 
in a warm or temperate climate, who at some time or other of his 
life has not written about the nightingale. But no one rivals or 
approaches Milton in his fondness or his success. However, at 
the beginning of this book, in a passage full of beauty, there are 
two expressions, and the first of them relates to the nightingale, 
which I disapprove : 

41. Tunes sweetest his love-labored twig . 

In love-labored, the ear is gained over by the sweetness of the 
sound ; but in the nightingale's song there is neither the reality 
nor the appearance of labor. 

43. Sett o^the face of things, 

is worthier of Addison than of Milton. 

100. But know that in the soul, &c. 

This philosophy on dreams, expounded by Adam, could 
never have U-cn hitherto the fruit of his experience or his 


153. These are thy glorious works, &c. 

220 Imaginary Conversations. 

Who could imagine that Milton, who translated the Psalms worse 
than any man ever translated them before or since, should in this 
glorious hymn have made the 148^1 so much better than the 
original ? But there is a wide difference between being bound to 
the wheels of a chariot and guiding it. He has ennobled that 
more noble one, 

O all ye works of the Lord, &c. 
But in 

185. Ye mists and exhalations that now rise 

From hill or streaming lake, dusky or gray, 
Till the sun faint your fleecy skirts with gold, &c. 

Such a verse might be well ejected from any poem whatsoever ; 
but here its prettiness is quite insufferable. Adam never knew 
any thing either of paint or gold. But, casting out this devil of 
a verse, surely so beautiful a psalm or hymn never rose to the 

Southey. " No fear lest dinner cool " (v. 396) might as well 
never have been thought of: it seems a little too jocose. The 
speech of Raphael to Adam, on the subject of eating and drinking 
and the consequences, is neither angelic nor poetical ; but the Sun 
supping with the Ocean is at least Anacreontic, and not very 
much debased by Cowley. 

[433."! So down they sat 

And to their viands^//. 


711. Meanwhile the eternal eye, whose sight discerns 

Abstrusest thoughts, from forth his holy mount 
And from within the golden lamps that burn 
Nightly before him, saw without their light 
Rebellion rising, &c. 
And smiling to his only Son thus said, &c. 

Bentley, and several such critics of poetry, are sadly puzzled, 
perplexed, and irritated at this. One would take refuge with 
the first grammar he can lay hold on, and cry pars pro toto ; 
another strives hard for another suggestion. But if Milton 
by accident had written both Eternal and Eye with a capital 

Southey and Landor. 221 

letter at the beginning, they would have perceived that he had 
used a noble and sublime expression for the Deity. No one is 
offended at the words : " It is the will of Providence," or " It is 
the will of the Almighty ; " yet Providence is that which sees 
before, and will is different from might. True it is that Provi- 
dence and Almighty are qualities converted into appellations, and 
are well known to signify the Supreme Being ; but if the Eternal 
Eye is less well known to signify him, or not known at all, that 
is no reason why it should be thought inapplicable. It might be 
used injudiciously : for instance, the right hand of the Eternal 
Eye would be singularly so ; but smiles not. The Eternal Eye 
speaks to his only Son. This is more incomprehensible to the 
critics than the preceding. And truly if that eye were like ours, 
and the organ of speech like ours also, it might be strange. Yet 
the very same good people have often heard without wonder of 
a speaking eye in a very ordinary person, and are conversant with 
poets who precede an expostulation, or an entreaty for a reply 
with " Lux mea." There is a much greater fault, which none 
of them has observed, in the beginning of the speech : 

[719.] Son ! thou in whom my glory I behold 

In full resplendence ! keir of all my might. 

Now an heir is the future and not the present possessor ; and he 
to whom he is heir must be extinct before he comes into 
possession. But this is nothing if you compare it with what 
follows, a few lines below : 

[7x9.] Let us advise and to this hazard draw 

With speed what force is left, and all employ 
In our defence, test iaunaret v>e late 
Tkit our kigk place, our ituutuary, our hill. 

Such expressions of derision are very ill-applied, and derogate 
much from the majesty of the Father. We may well imagine 
that far different thoughts occupied the Divine mind at the 
defection of innumerable angels, and their inevitable and ever- 
lasting punishment. 

Southey. The critics do not agree on the meaning of the 

799. Much lew for tku to be our Lord. 

222 Imaginary Conversations. 

Nothing, I think, can be clearer, even without the explanation 
which is given by Abdiel in verse 813 : 

Canst thou with impious obloquy condemn 
The just decree of God, pronounced and sworn 
That to his only Son, by right endued 
With royal sceptre, every soul in heaven 
Shall bend the knee ? 

V. 869. There are those who cannot understand the plainest 
things, yet who can admire every fault that any clever man has 
committed before. Thus, beseeching or besieging, spoken by an 
angel, is thought proper, and perhaps beautiful, because a quibbler 
in a Latin comedy says, amentium haud amantmm. It appears, 
then, on record that the first overt crime of the refractory angels 
was punning : they fell rapidly after that. 

870. These tidings carry to the anointed ting. 

Whatever anointing the kings of the earth may have undergone, 
the King of Heaven had no occasion for it. Who anointed 
him ? When did his reign commence ? 

874. Through the infinite host. 

Although our poet would have made no difficulty of accenting 
" infinite " as we do, and as he himself has done in other places, 
I am inclined to think that the accent is here on the second 
syllable. He does not always accentuate the same word in the 
same place. In verse 888, Bentley and the rest are in a bustle 

IVell didst thou advise ; 
Yet not for thy ad-vice or threats I fly 
These -wicked hosts 6 devoted, lest the -wrath, \c. 

One suggests one thing, another another ; but nothing is more 
simple and easy than the construction, if you put a portion of the 
second verse in a parenthesis, thus, 

Yet (not for thy advice or threats), &c. 

Southey. The archangel Michael is commanded (Book VI., 
[ 6 Globe ed. reads : " tents."] 

Southcy and Landor. 223 

v. 44) to do what the Almighty, who commands it, gave him 
not strength to do, as we find in the sequel, and what was 
reserved for the prowess of the Messiah. 

Landor. V. 115. " Where faith and realty," &c. Bentley, 
more unlucky than ever, here would substitute fealty , as if there 
were any difference between fealty and faith : realc and leale are 
the same in Italian. 


160. Before thy fellows, ambitious to win, &"c. 

Surely this line is a very feeble one, and where so low a tone is 
not requisite for the harmony or effect of the period. But the 
battle of Satan and Michael is worth all the battles in all other 
poets. I wish, however, I had not found 

[331.") A stream of ncctantu humor issuing. 

The ichor of Homer has lost its virtue by exposure and 
application to ordinary use. Yet even this would have been 

[335-] Forthwith on all sides to his aid wot run 

By angels. 

This Latinism is inadmissible ; there is no loophole in our 
language for its reception. He once uses the same form in 
his History : " Now was fought eagerly on both sides." 1 
here the word if should have preceded, and the phrase would 
.still remain a stiff intractable Latinism. In the remainder of 
this book there are much graver faults, amid highest beauty. 
Surely it was unworthy of Milton to follow Ariosto and 
Spenser, and many others, in dragging up his cannon from 
hell ; although it is not, as in the Faerie Quetn, represented 
to us distinctly, 

Ram'J -with bulltti round. 

Landor. I wish he had omitted all from verse 483, 

Whfch into hollow engines, long and round 
Thick ramm'd at the other fore, 

down to 523 ; and again from 546, " barbed with fire," to 

224 Imaginary Conversations. 

verse 628, where the wit, which Milton calls the pleasant vein, 
is worthy of newly-made devils who never had heard any before, 
and falls as foul on the poetry as on the antagonist. 

[656.] Their armour helpt their harm. 

Here helpt means increased. A few lines above, we find " Light 
as the lightning glimpse." We should have quite enough of this 
description if at verse 628 we substituted but for so, and con- 
tinued to verse 644, "They pluckt the seated hills," skipping 
over all until we reach 654, 

Which in the air, &c. 

Southey. I think I would go much farther, and make 
larger defalcations. I would lop off the whole from " Spirits 
of purest light," verse 660 to 831 ; then (for He) reading, 
"God on his impious foes," as far as 843, "his ire." Again, 
omitting nine verses, to "yet half his strength." The 866th 
line is not a verse : it is turned out of an Italian mould, but in a 
state too fluid and incohesive to stand in English. This book 
should close with, 

[874.] Hell at last 

Yawning received them whole, and on them clos'd. 

Landor. The poem would indeed be much the better for all 
the omissions you propose ; if you could anywhere find room for 
those verses which begin at the y6oth, "He in celestial panoply," 
and end with that sublime, 

He onward came : far off his coming shone. 

The remainder, both for the subject and the treatment of it, 
may be given up without a regret. The last verse of the book 
falls " succiso poplite,"- 

Remember ; and fear to transgress. 

Beautiful as are many parts of the Invocation at the commence- 
ment of the seventh book, I should more gladly have seen it 
without the first forty lines, and beginning, 

The affable archangel. 

Southey and Landor. 225 


[126.] But knowledge is as food, and needs no less 
Her temperance over appetite, 

He might have ended here. He goes on thus : 

to know 
In measure what the mind may well contain. 

l r ven this does not satisfy him : he adds, 

Oppresses else with surfeit, and soon turns 
Wisdom to folly, as nouriihmtnt to 'wind. 

Now, certainly Adam could never yet have known any thing 
about the meaning of surfeit ; and we may suspect that the angel 
himself must have been just as ignorant on a section of physics 
which never had existed in the world below, and must have been 
without analogy in the world above. 

Landor. His supper with Adam was unlikely to produce a 

139. At least our envious foe hath fail'd. 

There is no meaning in at least : " at last " would be little better. 
I would not be captious nor irreverent ; but surely the words which 
Milton gives as spoken by the Father to the Son bear the appear- 
ance of boastfulness and absurdity. The Son must already have 
known both the potency and will of the Father. How incom- 
parably more judicious, after five terrific verses, comes at once, 
without any intervention, 

[216.] Silence, ye troubled waves! and thou deep, peace! 

If we can imagine any thought or expression at all worthy of the 
Deity, we find it here. In verse 242 we have another specimen 
of Milton's consummate art : 

And earth, self-balanced, on her centre hung. 

Unhappily, he permitted his learning to render him verbose imme- 
diately after : 

" Let there be light," said God, and forthwith light 
Ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure, 
Sprung from the deep. 

IV. p 

226 Imaginary Conversations. 

The intermediate verse is useless and injurious ; beside, according 
to his own account, light was not " first of things." He repre- 
sents it springing from " the deep " after the earth had " hung on 
her centre," and long after the waters had been apparent. We do 
not want philosophy in the poem : we only want consistency. 

Southey. There is no part of Milton's poetry where harmony 
is preserved, together with conciseness, so remarkably as in the 
verses beginning with 313, and ending at 338 ; but in the midst 
of this beautiful description of the young earth, we find 

And bush with frizzled hair implicit, 

But what poet or painter ever in an equal degree has raised our 
admiration of beasts, fowls, and fish ? I know you have objected 
to the repetition of shoal in the word scull. [402.] 

Landor. Shoal is a corruption of scull, which ought to be 
restored, serving the other with an ejectment to another place. 
Nor do I like fry. But the birds never looked so beautiful since 
they left Paradise. Let me read, however, three or four verses 
in order to offer a remark : 

[437.] Others, on silver lakes and rivers, bathed 

Their downy breast : the swan with arched neck 
Between her white wings mantling proudly, rows 
Her state with oary feet ; yet oft they quit 
The dank, and rising on stiff pennons, tower, &c. 

Frequently, as the great poet pauses at the ninth syllable, it is 
incredible that he should have done it thrice in the space of five 
verses. For which reason, and as nothing is to be lost by it, I 
would place the comma after mantling. No word in the whole 
compass of our language has been so often ill applied or misunder- 
stood by the poet as this. 

Bk. viii., 38. Speed to describe whose swiftness number fails. 

Adam could have had no notion of swiftness in the heavenly 
bodies or the earth : it is among the latest and most wonderful of 

Landor. Let us rise to Eve, and throw aside our algebra. 
The great poet is always greatest at this beatific vision, I wish, 

Southey and Landor. 227 

however, he had omitted the 46th and 4 yth verses, and also the 
6oth, 6 1st, 6zd, and 63d. There is a beautiful irregularity in 
the 6id, 

And from about her shot darts of desire. 

But when he adds, " Into all eyes," as there were but four, we 
must except the angel's two : the angel had no occasion for wish- 
ing to see what he was seeing. 

[76.] He his fabric of the heavens 

Hath left to their disputes, ptrhaft to move 
His laughter. 

I cannot well entertain this opinion of the Creator's risible facul- 
ties and propensities. Milton here carries his anthropomorphism 
much farther than the poem (which needed a good deal of it) 

Southty. I am sorry to find a verse of twelve syllables in 216. 
I mean to say where no syllables coalesce ; in which case there 
are several which contain that number unobjectionably. 

Landor. In my opinion, a greater fault is to be found in the 
passage beginning at verse 287 : 

There gentle sleep 

First found me, and with soft oppression seiz'd 
My drowsied sense, untroubled, though I thought 
I then was passing to my former state, 
Insensible, and forthwith to dissolve. 

How could he think he was passing into a state of which, at 
that time, he knew nothing ? 

[Bk. ix.] 191. Daughter of God and man, immortal Eve! 

Magnificent verse, and worthy of Milton in his own person : but 
Adam, in calling her thus, is somewhat too poetical, and too pre- 
sumptuous ; for what else does he call her, but " daughter of God 
and me " ? Now the idea of daughter could never, by any 
potability, have yet entered his mind. 

318. Affront! us with his foul esteem 

Of our integrity : his foul esteem 
Sticks no dishonor on our front, but turns 
Foul on himself ; 

228 Imaginary Conversations. 

The word affront is to be taken in its plain English sense, not in 
its Italian ; but what a jingle and clash and clumsy play of words ! 
In verse 353, I find, " But bid her well be ware ; " and be 'ware 
is very properly in two words : so should be gone, and can not. 

[Bk. viii.] Z99 To the garden of bliss, thy seat prepared. 
This verse is too slippery, too Italian. 

403. What thinkest thou then of me and this my state? 
Seem I to thee sufficiently possest 
Of happiness or not, who am alone 
From all eternity ? for none I know 
Second to me or like, equal much less. 

This comes with an ill grace, after the long consultation which 
the Father had holden with the Son, equal (we are taught to 
believe) in the godhead. 
411. And through all numbers absolute, though one. 

I wish he had had the courage to resist this pedantic, quibbling 
Latinism. Our language has never admitted the phrase, and 
never will admit it. 

Landor. I have struck it out, you see, and torn the paper in 
doing so. In verse 576, 

Made so adorn, &c. 

I regret that we have lost this beautiful adjective, which was well 
worth bringing from Italy. Here follows some very bad reasoning 
on love, which (being human love) the angel could know nothing 
about, and speaks accordingly. He adds, 

[588.] In loving thou dost well, in passion not. 

Now love, to be perfect, should consist of passion and sentiment, 
in parts as nearly equal as possible, with somewhat of the material 
to second them. 

Southey. We are come to the ninth book, from which I would 
cast away the first forty-seven verses. 

Landor. Judiciously. In the 8 1 st you will find a verb singular 
for two substantives, " the land where flows Ganges and Indus." 
The small fry will carp at this, which is often an elegance ; but 

Southey and Landor. 229 

oftener in Greek than in Latin, in Latin than in French, in 
French than in English. Here follow some of the dullest lines in 
Milton : 

Him, after long debate irresolute 
Of thoughts resolved, his final sentence chose 
Fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud, in whom 
To enter, and his dark suggestion hide 
From sharpest sight : for in the wily snake 
Whatever sleights, none would suspicious mark, 
A* from his wit and native subtilty 
Proceeding, which in other beasts observed, 
Doubt might beget of diabolic power 
Active within, beyond the sense of brute. 

Not to insist on the prosaic of the passage, we may inquire who 
could be suspicious, or who could know any thing about his wit and 
suhtility ? He had been created but a few days ; and probably 
no creature (brute, human, or angelic ) had ever taken the least 
notice of him, or heard anything of his propensities. " Diabolic 
power " had taken no such direction ; and the serpent was so 
obscure a brute that the Devil himself knew scarcely where to 
find him. When, however, he did find him, 

[183.] In labyrinth of many a round self-rolled, 

His head the midst, -welt stored -with ttAtilt wi/, 

he made the most of him. But why had he hitherto borne 
so bad a character ? Who had ever yet been a sufferer by his 
wit and subtilty ? In the very next verses, the poet says he 

Not nocent yet ; but on the grassy herb 
Fearless, unfear'd, he slept. 

Soutbey. These are the contradictions of a dreamer. Horace 
has said of Homer, "aJiquando bonus dormitat" This really 
is no napping; it is heavy snoring. But how fresh and 
vigorous he rises the next moment ! And we are carried by 
him, we know not how, into the presence of Eve, and help 
her to hold down the strong and struggling woodbine for the 
arbor. I wish Milton had forgotten the manner of Euripides 
in his dull reflections, and had not forced into Adam's 

230 Imaginary Conversations. 

[231.] For nothing lovelier can be found 

In woman than to study household good, 
And good works in her husband to promote. 

All this is very true, but very tedious, and very out of place. 

Landor. Let us come into the open air again with her. I 
wish she had not confessed such a predilection for 

581. The smell of sweetest fennel ; 

for, although it is said to be very pleasant to serpents, no serpent 
had yet communicated any of his tastes to womankind. Again, 
I suspect you would wish our good Milton a little farther from 
the schools, when he tells Eve that 

[267.] The wife, where danger or dishonor lurks, 
Safest and seemliest by her husband stays, 
Who guards her, or with her the worst endures. 

But how fully and nobly he compensates the inappropriate 
thought by the most appropriate ! 

[178.] Just then return'd at shut of evening flowers. 


625. To whom the wily adder, blithe and glad. 

I strongly object to the word adder, which reduces the grand 
serpent to very small dimensions. It never is, or has been, 
applied to any other species than the little ugly venomous 
viper of our country. Of such a reptile, it never could be 
said that 

[631.] He ... swiftly roll'd 

In tangles. 

Nor that 

Hope elevates, and joy 
Brightens his crest. 

Here, again, Homer would have run into no such error. But 
error is more pardonable than wantonness, such as he commits 
in verse 648 : 

Fruitless to me, though fruit be here to excess. 

Southey and Landor. 231 

Landor. You have often, no doubt, repeated in writing a 
word you had written just before. Milton has done it inad- 
vertently in 

674. While each part, 

Motion, each act, won audience ere the tongue, &c. 

Evidently each should be and. Looking at the tempter in the 
shape of an addtr^ as he is last represented to us, there is 
something which prepares for a smile on the face of Eve, when 
he says, 

[687.] Lk o* me, 

Me, who have touched and tasted, yet both live 
And life more perfect have attained than fate 
Meant me, 

Now certainly the adder was the most hideous creature that 
i-vrr had crossed her path ; and she had no means of knowing, 
unless by taking his own word for it, that he was a bit wiser 
than the rest, Indeed, she had heard the voices of many long 
before she had heard his ; and, as they all excelled him in state- 
liness, she might well imagine they were by no means inferior to 
him in intellect, and were more likely by their conformation to 
have reached and eaten the apple, although they held their tongues. 
In verse 781, 

She plucked, she rt, 
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her teat, &c. 

Surely he never wrote eat for ate ; nor would he admit a rhyme 
where he could at least palliate it. But although we met together 
for the purpose of plucking out the weeds and briars of this 
boundless and most glorious garden, and not of over-lauding the 
praises of others, we must admire the wonderful skill of Milton 
in this section of his work. He represents Eve as beginning to 
be deceitful and audacious ; as ceasing to fear, and almost as ceas- 
ing to reverence the Creator ; and shuddering not at extinction 
itself, until she thinks 

[828.] Of Adam wedded to another Eve. 

Southty. We shall lose our dinner, our supper, and our sleep, 

232 Imaginary Conversations. 

if we expatiate on the innumerable beauties of the volume : we 
have scarcely time to note the blemishes. Among these, 

[853.] In her face excuse 

Came prologue and apology less 7 prompt. 

There is a levity and impropriety in thus rushing on the stage. 
I think the verses 957, 958, and 959 superfluous, and somewhat 
dull ; beside that they are the repetition of verses 9 1 5 and 9 1 6 
in his soliloquy. 

Landor. I wish that after verse 1 003, 

Wept at completing of the mortal sin, 
every verse were omitted, until we reach the 1 1 2 1 st. 
They sat them down to weep. 

A very natural sequence. We should indeed lose some fine 
poetry ; in which, however, there are passages which even the 
sanctitude of Milton is inadequate to veil decorously. At all 
events, we should get fairly rid of " Herculean Samson." V. 

Southey. But you would also lose such a flood of harmony as 
never ran on earth beyond that Paradise. I mean, 

[1080.] How shall I behold the face 

Henceforth of God or angel, erst with joy 
And rapture so oft beheld ? Those heavenly shapes 
Will dazzle now this earthly with their blaze, 
Insufferably bright. Oh ! might I here 
In solitude live savage ! in some glade 
Obscured, where highest woods, impenetrable 
To star or sunlight, spread their umbrage broad 
And brown as evening. Cover me, ye pines. 
Ye cedars, with innumerable boughs, 
Hide me, where I may never see them more. 

Landor. Certainly, when we read these verses, the ear is 
closed against all others, for the day, or even longer. It some- 
times is a matter of amusement to hear the silliness of good men 

(7 Globe ed. reads : 

"... in her face excuse 
Came prologue, and apology to prompt, 
Which, with bland words at will, she thus addressed."] 

Southey and Landor. 233 

conversing on poetry ; but when they lift up some favorite on their 
shoulders, and tell us to look at one equal in height to Milton, I 
feel strongly inclined to scourge the more prominent fool of the 
two, the moment I can discover which it is. 


1 064. L n g they *** as 'trucken mute. 

Stillingfleet says, " This vulgar expression may owe its origin to 
the stories in romances of the effect of the magical wand." No- 
thing more likely. How many modes of speech are called vulgar, 
in a contemptuous sense, which, because of their propriety and 
aptitude, strike the senses of all who hear them, and remain in 
the memory during the whole existence of the language ! This 
is one, and although of daily parlance, it is highly poetical, and 
among the few flowers of romance that retain their freshness and 

Landor. ^ 

Bk. x., T. 5. For what can 'scape the eye, &c. 

When we find in Milton such words as 'scape, 'sdain, &c., with 
the sign of elision in front of them, we may attribute such a sign 
to the wilfulness of the printer, and the indifference of the author 
in regard to its correction. He wrote both words without it, from 
the Italian scappare and sdegnare. In verse 29, 

Made haste to make appear, ' 
is negligence or worse ; but incomparably worse still is, 

95. And usher in 

The evening cool, when he from wrath more cool. 

Southey. In 1 1 8, he writes revile (a substantive) for rebuke. 
In 130 and 131 are two verses of similar pauses in the same 
place : 

I should conceal, and not expose to blame 
By my complaint. 

The worst of it is, that the words become a verse, and a less 
heavy one, by tagging the two pieces together. 

And not expose to blame by my complaint. 
I agree with you that, in blank verse, the pause, after the fourth 

234 Imaginary Conversations. 

syllable, which Pope and Johnson seem to like the best, is 
very tiresome if often repeated ; and Milton seldom falls into 
it. But he knew where to employ it with effect : for example, 
in this sharp reproof, twice over. Verses 1 45 and 1 46 : 

Was she thy God, that her thou didst obey 
Before his voice ? 

In verse 1 5 5 he represents the Almighty using a most unseemly 
metaphor : 

Which was thy part 
And person. 

A metaphor taken from the masks of the ancient stage certainly 
ill suits " His part and person." 

Landor. Here are seven (v. 175) such vile verses, and 
forming so vile a sentence, that it appears to me a part of God's 
malediction must have fallen on them on their way from Genesis. 
In 194, he says, 

Children thou shalt bring 
In sorrow forth, and to thy husband's will 
Thine shall submit : he over thee shall rule. 

The Deity had commanded the latter part from the beginning : 
it now comes as the completion of the curse. 
Verse 1 98 is no verse at all. 

Because thou hast harkened to the voice of thy wife. 

There are very few who have not done this, bon-gre mal-gre, 
and many have thought it curse enough of itself ; poor Milton, 
no doubt, among the rest. 

Southey. I suspect you will abate a little of your hilarity, 
if you continue to read from verse 220 about a dozen : they 
are most oppressive. 

[z66.] I shall not lag behind, nor err 

The way thou leading. 

Such is the punctuation ; wrong, I think. I would read, 

I shall not lag behind nor err, 
The way thou leading. 

Landor. He was very fond of this Latinism ; but to err a 

Southey and Landor. 235 

way is neither Latin idiom nor English. From 293 to 316, 
what a series of verses! a structure more magnificent and 
wonderful than the terrific bridge itself, the construction of 
which required the united work of the two great vanquishers of 
all mankind. 

Southey. Pity that he could not abstain from a pun at the 
bridge-foot, "by wondrous art pontifical" In verse 348 he 
recurs to the word pontlfice. A few lines above, I mean verse 
3 1 5, there must be a parenthesis. The verses are printed, 

Following the track 

Of Satan to the self-same place where he 
First lighted from his wing and Landed safe 
From out of chaos, to the outside bare 
Of this round world. 

I would place all the words after " Satan," including chaos, 
in a parenthesis ; else we must alter the second to for on ; and 
it is safer and more reverential to correct the punctuation of 
a great poet than the slightest word. Bentley is much addicted 
to this impertinence. 

Landor. In his emendations, as he calls them, both of 
Milton and of Horace, for one happy conjecture he makes at 
least twenty wrong, and ten ridiculous. In the Greek poets, 
and sometimes in Terence, he, beyond the rest of the pack, was 
often brought into the trail by scenting an unsoundness in the 
metre. But let me praise him where few think of praising him, 
or even of suspecting his superiority. He wrote better English 
than his adversary Middleton, and established for his university 
that supremacy in classical literature which it still retains. 

In verse 369 I find "Thou us empower^/." This is ungram- 
matical : it should be empowered/, since it relates to time past. 
Had it related to time present, it would still be wrong : it should 
then be empower^//. I wonder that Bentley has not remarked 
this, for it lay within his competence. 

Southty. That is no reason why he omitted to remark it. I 
like plain English so much that I cannot refrain from censuring 
the phraselogy of verse 345, "With joy and tidings fraught," 
meaning joyful tidings, and defended by Virgil's munera Utitiamque 
dei. Phrases are not good, whether in Latin or English, which 
do not convey their meaning unbroken and unobstructed. The 

236 Imaginary Conversations. 

best understanding would with difficulty master such expressions, 
of which the signification is traditional from the grammarians, but 
beyond the bounds of logic, or even the liberties of speech. You, 
who. have ridiculed Virgil's odor attulit auras, and many similar 
foolish tricks committed by him, will pardon my animadversion 
on a smaller (though no small) fault in Milton. 

Landor. Right. Again I go forward to punctuation. 
Bentley is puzzled again at verse 368. It is printed with the 
following : 

Thou hast achieved our liberty, confined 
Within hell-gates till now ; thou us empower'd 
To fortify thus far, and overlay 
With this portentous bridge, the dark abyss. 

The punctuation should be, 

Thou hast achieved our liberty : confined 

Within hell-gates till now, thou us empowerdst, &c. 

I wonder that Milton should a second time have committed so 
grave a grammatical fault as he does in writing " thou empowera/," 
instead of empoweredr/. Verse 380, 

Parted by the empyreal bounds, 
His quadrature, from thy orbicular world. 

Again the schoolmen, and the crazy philosophers who followed 
them. It was believed that the empyrean is a quadrangle, 
because in the Revelation the Holy City is square. It is lament- 
able that Milton should throw overboard such prodigious stores 
of poetry and wisdom, and hug with such pertinacity the ill-tied 
bladders of crude learning. But see him here again in all his 
glory. I wish indeed he had rejected "the plebeian angel 
militant," and that we might read, missing four verses, 

[441.] He through the midst unmarked 

Ascended his high throne. 

What noble verses, fifteen together ! 

Southey. It is much to be regretted that most of the worst 
verses and much of the foulest language are put into the mouth 

Southey and Landor. 237 

of the Almighty. For instance, verse 630, &c. I am afraid 
you will be less tolerant here than you were about the quadrature. 

My hell-hounds, to lick up the draff and filth . . . 
. . .till crammed and gorged, nigh burst . . . 
With suckt and glutted ottal. 

We are come 

[657.] To the other ti\v. 

Their planetary motions and aspects, 
In sextile, square, and trine, and opposite 

693. Like change on sea and land ; literal blast. 

Although he is partial to this scansion, I am inclined to believe 
that here he wrote sidereal ; because the same scansion as sideral 
recurs in the close of the verse next but one : 

Now /row the north. 

And, if it is not too presumptuous, I should express a doubt 
whether the poet wrote 

[795-] Is nis wnt h ilso? Be it : man is not so. 

Not so and also, in this position, are disagreeable to the ear; 
which might have been avoided by omitting the unnecessary so 
at the close. 

Landor. You are correct. " Ay me" So I find it spelled 
(v. 813), not ah me! as usually. It is wonderful that, of all 
things borrowed, we should borrow the expression of grief. 
One would naturally think that every nation had its own, and 
indeed every man his. Ay me ! is the abime of the Italians. 
Abi lasso! is also theirs. Our gadso, less poetical and senti- 
mental, comes also from them : we need not look for the root. 

Southey. Again I would curtail a long and somewhat foul 
excrescence, terminating with coarse invectives against the female 
sex, and with reflections more suitable to the character and 
experience of Milton than of Adam. I would insert my pruning- 
knife at verse 871, 

To warn all creatures from thee 

and cut clean through, quite to "household peace confound," 
verse 908. 

238 Imaginary Conversations. 

Landor. The reply of Eve is exquisitely beautiful, espe- 

[930.] Both have sinned, but thou 

Against God only, I against God and thee. 

At last her voice fails her, 

Me, me only, just object of his ire. 

Bentley, and thousands more, would read, " Me, only me ! " 
But Milton did not write for Bentley, nor for those thousands 
more. Similar, in the trepidation of grief, is Virgil's " Me, 
me, adsum qui feci," &c. 

1003. Why stand we longer shivering under fears, 

That show no end but death, and have the power 
Of many ways to die the shortest choosing, 
Destruction with destruction to destroy. 

This punctuation is perhaps the best yet published : but, after 
all, it renders the sentence little better than nonsense. Eve, 
according to this, talks at once of hesitation and of choice, 
"shivering under fears," and both of them "choosing the 
shortest way ; " yet she expostulates with Adam why he is 
not ready to make the choice. The perplexity would be solved 
by writing thus : 

Why stand we longer shivering under fears 
That show no end but death ? and have the power 
Of many ways to die ! the shortest choose 
Destruction with destruction to destroy. 

If we persist in retaining the participle choosing, instead of 
the imperitive choose, grammar, sense, and spirit, all escape us. 
1 am convinced that it was an oversight of the transcriber ; and 
we know how easily, in our own works, faults to which the 
eye and ear are accustomed escape our detection, and we are 
surprised when they are first pointed out to us. 
Southey. I wish you could mend as easily, 

1053. O n me *he curse aslope 

Glanced on the ground : with labor I must earn, &c. 

Landor. In the very first verse of the eleventh book, Milton 
is resolved to display his knowledge of the Italian idiom. We 

Southey and Landor. 239 

left Adam and Eve prostrate ; and prostrate he means that they 
should still appear to us, although he writes, 

Thus they, in loneliest plight, repentant flood 

Stavano pregando would signify they continued praying. The 
Spaniards have the same expression : the French, who never 
stand still on any occasion, are without it. 

Southey. It id piteous that Milton, in all his strength, is 
forced to fall back on the old fable of Deucalion and Pyrrha. 
And the prayers which the Son of God presents to the Father 
in a "golden censer, mixed with incense," had never yet been 
offered to the Mediator, and required no such accompaniment 
or conveyance. There are some noble lines beginning at verse 
72 ; but one of them is prosaic in itself, and its discord is profit- 
less to the others. In verse 86, 

Of that defended fruit, 

I must remark that Milton is not quite exempt from the evil 
spirit of saying things for the mere pleasure of defending them. 
Chaucer used the word defend as the English of education then 
used it, in common with the French. It was obsolete in that 
sense when Milton wrote ; so it was even in the age of Spencer, 
who is forced to employ it for the rhyme. 

Landor. This evil spirit, which you find hanging about 
Milton, fell on him from two school-rooms, both of which are 
now become much less noisy and somewhat more instructive, 
although Phillpots is in the one, and although Brougham is in 
the other ; I mean the school-rooms of theology and criticism. 

Southey. You will be glad that he accents contrite (v. 90) 
on the last syllable, but the gladness will cease at the first of 
receptacle, verse 123. 

Landor. I question whether he pronounced it so. My 
opinion is that he pronounced it receptacle, Latinizing as usual, 
and especially in Book VIII., v. 565, 

By attributing overmuch to things, &c. 

We are strange perverters of Latin accentuations. From 
we make "irritate ; from excito, excite. But it must be con- 

240 Imaginary Conversations. 

ceded that the latter is much for the better, and perhaps the 
former also. You will puzzle many good Latin scholars in Eng- 
land, and nearly all abroad, if you make them read any sentence 
containing irrito or excito in any of their tenses. 1 have often 
tried it ; and nearly all, excepting the Italians, have pronounced 
both words wrong. 

[118.] Watchful cherubim, four faces each 

Had, like a double Janus. 

Better left this to the imagination : double Januses are queer 
figures. He continues, 

All their shape 

Spangled with eyes, more numerous than those 
Of Argus. 

At the restoration of learning, it was very pardonable to seize 
on every remnant of antiquity, and to throw together into one 
great storeroom whatever could be collected from all countries, 
and from all authors, sacred and profane. Dante has done it, 
sometimes rather ludicrously. Milton here copies his Argus. 
And, four lines farther on, he brings forward Leticothoc, in her 
own person, although she had then no existence. 

Landor. Nor indeed had subscriptions, to articles or any 
thing else: yet we find "but Fate subscribed not," v. 181. 
And within three more lines, "The bird of Jove." Otherwise, 
the passage is one of exquisite beauty. Among the angels, 
and close at the side of the archangel, " Iris had dipped her 
woof." Verse 267, retire is a substantive, from the Italian and 

How divinely beautiful is the next passage ! It is impos- 
sible not to apply to Milton himself the words he has attributed 
to Eve : 

[281.] From thee 

How shall I part ? and whither wander down 
Into a lower world ? 

My ear, I confess it, is dissatisfied with every thing, for days and 
weeks, after the harmony of Paradise Lost. Leaving this 
magnificent temple, I am hardly to be pacified by the fairy-built 

Southey and Landor. 241 

chambers, the rich cupboards of embossed plate, and the omni- 
genous images of Shakspeare. 

Southey. I must interrupt your transports. 

[385.] His eye might there command where ever stood 

City of old or modern fame. 

Here are twenty-five lines describing cities to exist long after, 
and many which his eye could not have commanded even if they 
existed then, because they were situated on the opposite side of 
the globe. But some of them, the poet reminds us afterward, 
Adam might have seen in spirit. Diffuse as he is, he appears 
quite moderate in comparison with Tasso on a similar occasion, 
who expatiates not only to the length of five-and-twenty lines, 
but to between four and five hundred. 

Landor. At verse 480 there begins a catalogue of diseases, 
which Milton increased in the second edition of the poem. 
He added, 

Demoniac frenzy, moping melancholy, 
And moonstruck madness, pining atrophy, 
Marasmus, and wide-wasting pestilence I 

There should be no comma after " melancholy," as there is in 
my copy. 

Southey. And in mine too. He might have afforded to 
strike out the two preceding verses when these noble ones were 

Intestine stone and ulcer, colic pangs, 

are better to be understood than to be expressed. His descrip- 
tion of old age is somewhat less sorrowful and much less repulsive. 
It closes with, 

[543.] In thy blood will reign 

A melancholy damp of cold and dry. 

Nobody could understand this who had not read the strange 
notions of physicians, which continued down to the age of 
Milton, in which we find such nonsense as " adust humors." 
I think you would be unreluctant to expunge verses 624, 625, 
626, 627. 

IV. o 

242 Imaginary Conversations. 

Landor. Quite : and there is also much verbiage about the 
giants, and very perplexed from verse 688 to 697. But some of 
the heaviest verses in the poem are those on Noah, from 717 to 
737. In the following, we have "vapour and exhalation" which 
signify the same. 

749. Sea covered sea, 

Sea without shore. 

This is very sublime ; and indeed I could never heartily join with 
those who condemn in Ovid 

Omnia pontus erant ; deerant quoque litora ponto. 

It is true, the whole fact is stated in the first hemistich ; but the 
mind's eye moves from the centre to the circumference, and the 
pleonasm carries it into infinity. If there is any fault in this 
passage of Ovid, Milton has avoided it ; but he frequently falls 
into one vastly more than Ovidian, and after so awful a pause as 
is nowhere else in all the regions of poetry : 

How didst thou grieve then, Adam, to behold 
The end of all thy offspring ! end so sad ! 
Depopulation ! 

Thee another food, 

Of tears and sorroiv a food, thee also dr owned) 
And sank thee as thy sons, 

It is wonderful how little reflection on many occasions, and 
how little knowledge on some very obvious ones, is displayed by 
Bentley. To pass over his impudence in pretending to correct the 
words of Milton (whose handwriting was extant), just as he 
would the corroded or corrupt text of any ancient author, here in 
verse 895, "To drown the world with man therein, or beast" 
he tells us that birds are forgot, and would substitute " With man 
or beast or fowl." He might as well have said that fleas are 
forgot. Beast means every thing that is not man. It would be 
much more sensible to object to such an expression as men and 
animals, and to ask, Are not men animals ? and even more so 
than the rest, if anlma has with men a more extensive meaning 
than with other creatures. . Bentley in many things was very acute ; 
but his criticisms on poetry produce the same effect as the water 
of a lead mine on plants. He knew no more about it than Hal lam 

Southey and Landor. 243 

knows, in whom acuteness is certainly not blunted by such a 
weight of learning. 

Southey. We open the twelfth book : we see land at last. 

l.andor. Yes, and dry land too. Happily the twelfth is the 
shortest. In a continuation of six hundred and twenty-five flat 
verses, we are prepared for our passage over several such deserts 
of almost equal extent, and still more frequent, in Paradise Re- 
gained. But, at the close of the poem now under our examina- 
tion, there is a brief union of the sublime and the pathetic for 
about twenty lines, beginning with " All in bright array." 

We are comforted by the thought that Providence had not 
abandoned our first parents, but was still their guide ; that, 
although they had lost Paradise, they were not debarred from 
Eden ; that, although the angel had left them solitary and 
sorrowing, he left them "yet in peace." The termination is 
proper and complete. 

In Johnson's estimate I do not perceive the unfairness of which 
many have complained. Among his first observations is this: 
" Scarcely any recital is wished shorter for the sake of quickening 
the main action." This is untrue : were it true, why remark, as 
he does subsequently, that the poem is mostly read as a duty, not 
as a pleasure. I think it unnecessary to say a word on the moral 
or the subject ; for it requires no genius to select a grand one. 
The heaviest poems may be appended to the loftiest themes. 
Andreini and others, whom Milton turned over and tossed aside, 
are evidences. It requires a large stock of patience to travel 
through Vida ; and we slacken in our march, although accom- 
panied with the livelier sing-song of Sannazar. Let any reader, 
who is not by many degrees more pious than poetical, be 
asked whether he felt a very great interest in the greatest 
actors of Paradise Lost, in what is either said or done by the 
angels or the Creator ; and whether the humblest and weakest 
does not most attract him. Johnson's remarks on the allegory 
of Milton are just and wise ; so are those on the non-materi- 
ality or non-immateriality of Satan. These faults might have 
been easily avoided ; but Milton, with all his strength, chose 
rather to make antiquity his shield-bearer, and to come forward 
under a protection which he might proudly have disdained. 

Southey. You will not countenance the critic, nor Dryden 

244 Imaginary Conversations. 

whom he quotes, in saying that Milton " saw Nature through 
the spectacles of books." 

Landor. Unhappily, both he and Dryden saw Nature from 
between the houses of Fleet Street. If ever there was a poet 
who knew her well, and described her in all her loveliness, it 
was Milton. In the Paradise Lost, how profuse in his descrip- 
tions, as became the time and place ! In the Allegro and Penseroso, 
how exquisite and select ! 

Johnson asks, " What Englishman can take delight in tran- 
scribing passages, which, if they lessen the reputation of Milton, 
diminish in some degree the honor of our country ! " I hope 
the honor of our country will always rest on truth and justice. 
It is not by concealing what is wrong that any thing right can 
be accomplished. There is no pleasure in transcribing such 
passages ; but there is great utility. Inferior writers exercise no 
interest, attract no notice, and serve no purpose. Johnson has 
himself done great good by exposing great faults in great authors. 
His criticism on Milton's highest work is the most valuable of 
alljhis writings. He seldom is erroneous in his censures; but 
he never is sufficiently excited to admiration of what is purest 
and highest in poetry. He has this in common with common 
minds (from which, however, his own is otherwise far remote), 
to be pleased with what is nearly on a level with him, and to 
drink as contentedly a heady beverage, with its discolored 
froth, as what is of the best vintage. He is morbid, not only 
in his weakness, but in his strength. There is much to pardon, 
much to pity, much to respect, and no little to admire, in 

After I have been reading the Paradise Lost, I can take up 
no other poet with satisfaction. I seem to have left the music 
of Handel for the music of the streets, or at best for drums 
and fifes. Although in Shakspeare there are occasional bursts 
of harmony no less sublime ; yet, if there were many such 
in continuation, it would be hurtful, not only in comedy, but 
also in tragedy. The greater part should be equable and con- 
versational. For, if the excitement were the same at the be- 
ginning, the middle, and the end ; if, consequently (as must be 
the case), the language and versification were equally elevated 
throughout, any long poem would be a bad one, and, worst of 

Southey and Landor. 245 

;ill, a drama. In our English heroic verse, such as Milton has 
composed it, there is a much greater variety of feet, of move- 
ment, of musical notes and bars, than in the Greek heroic ; and 
the final sounds are incomparably more diversified. My predilec- 
tion in youth was on the side of Homer ; for I had read the 
Iliad twice, and the Odyssea once, before the Paradise Lost. 
Averse as I am to every thing relating to theology, and especi- 
ally to the view of it thrown open by this poem, I recur to it 
incessantly as the noblest specimen in the world of eloquence, 
harmony, and genius. 

Southey. Learned and sensible men are of opinion that the 
Paradise Lost should have ended with the words, " Providence 
their guide." It might very well have ended there ; but we are 
unwilling to lose sight all at once of our first parents. Only one 
more glimpse is allowed us : we are thankful for it. We have 
seen the natural tears they dropped ; we have seen that they 
wiped them soon. And why was it ? Not because the world 
was all before them ; but because there still remained for them, 
under the guidance of Providence, not indeed the delights ot 
Paradise, now lost for ever, but the genial clime and calm repose 
of Eden. 

Landor. It has been the practice in late years to supplant 
one dynasty by another, political and poetical. Within our 
own memory, no man had ever existed who preferred Lucretius 
on the whole to Virgil, or Dante to Homer. But the great 
Florentine, in these days, is extolled high above the Grecian and 
Milton. Few, I believe, have studied him more attentively or 
with more delight than I have ; but, beside the prodigious dis- 
proportion of the bad to the good, there are fundamental defects 
which there are not in either of the other two. In the Divina 
Commedia the characters are without any bond of union, any 
field of action, any definite aim. There is no central light above 
the Bolge ; and we are chilled in Paradise even at the side of 

Southey. Some poetical Perillus must surely have invented 
the terza rima. I feel in reading it as a school-boy feels when 
he is beaten over the head with a bolster. 

Landor. We shall hardly be in time for dinner. What 
should we have been if we had repeated with just eulogies all the 
noble things in the poem we have been reading ? 

246 Imaginary Conversations. 

Souihey. They would never have weaned you from the 
Mighty Mother who placed her turreted crown on the head of 

Landor. A rib of Shakspeare would have made a Milton ; 
the same portion of Milton, all poets born ever since. 


Southey. As we are walking on, and before we open our 
Milton again, we may digress a little in the direction of those 
poets who have risen up from under him, and of several who seem 
to have never had him in sight. 

Landor. We will, if you please ; and I hope you may not 
find me impatient to attain the object of our walk. However, 
let me confess to you, at starting, that I disapprove of models, 
even of the most excellent. Faults may be avoided, especially if 
they are pointed out to the inexperienced in such bright examples 
as Milton ; and teachers in schools and colleges would do well 
to bring them forward, instead of inculcating an indiscriminate 
admiration. But every man's mind, if there is enough of it, has 
its peculiar bent. Milton may be imitated, and has been, where 
he is stiff, where he is inverted, where he is pedantic ; and probably 
those men we take for mockers were unconscious of their mockery. 
But who can teach, or who is to be taught, his richness, or his 
tenderness, or his strength ? The closer an inferior poet comes 
to a great model, the more disposed am I to sweep him out of 
my way. 

Southey. Yet you repeat with enthusiasm the Latin poetiy of 
Robert Smith, an imitator of Lucretius. 

Landor. I do ; for Lucretius himself has nowhere written 
such a continuity of admirable poetry. He is the only modern 
Latin poet who has composed three sentences together worth 
reading ; and, indeed, since Ovid, no ancient has done it. I 
ought to bear great ill-will toward him ; for he drove me from 
the path of poetry I had chosen, and I crept into a lower. What 

p Works, ii., 1846. Works, iv., 1876.] 

Southey and Lander. 247 

a wonderful thing it is, that the most exuberant and brilliant wit, 
and the purest poetry in the course of eighteen centuries, should 
have flowed from two brothers ! 

Southey. We must see through many ages before we see 
through our own distinctly. Few among the best judges, and 
even among those who desired to judge dispassionately and im- 
partially, have beheld their contemporaries in those proportions in 
which they appeared a century later. The ancients have greatly 
the advantage over us. Scarcely can any man believe that one 
whom he has seen in coat and cravat can possibly be so great as 
one who wore a chlamys and a toga. Those alone look gigantic 
whom Time " multo acre sepsit" or whom childish minds, for the 
amusement of other minds more childish, have lifted upon stilts. 
Nothing is thought so rash as to mention a modern with an 
ancient ; but, when both are ancient, the last-comer often stands 
first. The present form one cluster, the past another. We are 
petulant if some of the existing have pushed by too near us ; but 
we walk up composedly to the past, with all our prejudices 
behind us. We compare them leisurely one with another, and 
feel a pleasure in contributing to render them a plenary, however 
a turdy, justice. In the fervor of our zeal, we often exceed it ; 
which we never are found doing with our contemporaries, unless 
in malice to one better than the rest. Some of our popular and 
most celebrated authors are employed by the booksellers to cry 
up the wares on hand or forthcoming, partly for money and 
partly for payment in kind. Without such management, the 
best literary production is liable to moulder on the shelf. 

Landor. A wealthy man builds an ample mansion, well pro- 
portioned in all its parts, well stored with the noblest models of 
antiquity ; extensive vales and downs and forests stretch away 
from it in every direction ; but the stranger must of necessity pass 
it by, unless a dependent is stationed at a convenient lodge to ad- 
mit and show him in. Such, you have given me to understand, 
is become the state of our literature. The bustlers who rise into 
notice by playing at leap frog over one another's shoulders will 
disappear when the game is over ; and no game is shorter. But 
was not Milton himself kept beyond the paling ? Nevertheless, 
how many toupees and roquelaures, and other odd things with odd 
names, have fluttered among the jays in the cherry orchard, while 

248 Imaginary Conversations. 

we tremble to touch with the finger's end his grave, close-buttoned 
gabardine ! He was called strange and singular long before he 
was acknowledged to be great : so, be sure, was Shakspeare ; so, 
be sure, was Bacon ; and so were all the rest, in the order of 
descent. You are too generous to regret that your liberal praise 
of Wordsworth was seized upon with avidity by his admirers, not 
only to win others to their party, but also to depress your merits. 
Nor will you triumph over their folly in confounding what is piti- 
ful with what is admirable in him ; rather will you smile, and, 
without a suspicion of malice, find the cleverest of these good 
people standing on his low joint-stool with a slender piece of 
wavering tape in his hand, measuring him with Milton back to 
back. There is as much difference between them as there is 
between a celandine and an ilex. The one lies at full length and 
full breadth along the ground ; the other rises up, stiff, strong, 
lofty, beautiful in the play of its slenderer branches, overshadow- 
ing with the infinitude of its grandeur. 

Southey. You will be called to account as resentful ; and not 
for yourself, which you never have been thought, but for another, 
a graver fault in the estimation of most. 

Landor. I do not remember that resentment has ever made 
me commit an injustice. Instead of acrimony, it usually takes the 
form of ridicule ; and the sun absorbs whatever is noxious in the 

Southey. You think me mild and patient ; yet I have found it 
difficult to disengage from my teeth the clammy and bitter heavi- 
ness of some rotten nuts with which my Edinburgh hosts have 
regaled me ; and you little know how tiresome it is to wheeze 
over the chaff and thistle-beards in the chinky manger of 

Landor. We are excellent Protestants in asserting the liberty 
of private judgment on all the mysteries of poetry ; denying the 
exercise of a decretal to any one man, however intelligent and 

[ 2 There are several attacks upon Hallam in this Conversation. Landor 
appears to have had two reasons for disliking him. In the first place, he 
always ascribed to Hallam an unfavourable review of the Pentameron 
which appeared in the Foreign Quarterly; moreover, Landor had met 
Hallam at Sir Charles Elton s, and had been snubbed by him. (See 
Forster's Life, p. 204.] 

Southey and Landor. 249 

enlightened, but assuming it for a little party of our own, with 
Sf/fin the chair. A journalist who can trip up a slippery minister 
fancies himself able to pull down the loftiest poet or the soundest 
critic. It is amusing to see the labors of Lilliput. 

Southey. I have tasted the contents of every bin, down to the 
ginger-beer of Brougham. The balance of criticism is not yet 
fixed to any beam in the public warehouses that offer it, but is 
held unevenly by intemperate hands, and is swayed about by every 
puff of wind. 

Landor. Authors should never be seen by authors, and little 
by other people. The Dalai Lama is a god to the imagination, 
a child to the sight ; and a poet is much the same ; only that the 
child excites no vehemence, while the poet is staked and faggoted 
by his surrounding brethren, all from pure love, however ; partly 
for himself, partly for truth. When it was a matter of wonder 
how Keats, who was ignorant of Greek, could have written his 
Hyperion, Shelley, whom envy never touched, gave as a reason, 
" Because he tvat a Greek. Wordsworth, being asked his 
opinion of the same poem, called it, scoffingly, " a pretty piece of 
paganism." Yet he himself, in the best verses he ever wrote, and 
beautiful ones they are, reverts to the powerful influence of the 
pagan creed. 

Southey. How many who write fiercely or contemptuously 
against us, not knowing us at all, would, if some accident or whim 
had never pushed them in the wrong direction, write with as much 
satisfaction to themselves a sonnet full of tears and tenderness on 
our death ! In the long voyage we both of us may soon expect 
to make, the little shell-fish will stick to our keels, and retard us 
one knot in the thousand. But while we are here, let us step 
aside, and stand close by the walls of the old houses ; making 
room for the swell-mob of authors to pass by, with their puffiness 
of phraseology, their german-silver ornaments, their bossy and ill- 
soldered sentences, their little and light parlor-faggots of trim 
philosophy, and their top-heavy baskets of false language, false 
criticism, and false morals. 

Landor. Our sinews have been scarred and hardened with the 
red-hot implements of Byron ; and, by way of refreshment, we 
are now standing up to the middle in the marsh. We are told 
that the highly-seasoned is unwholesome ; and we have taken in 

250 Imaginary Conversations. 

good earnest to clammy rye-bread, boiled turnips, and scrag of 
mutton. If there is nobody who now can guide as through the 
glades in the Forest of Arden, let us hail the first who will con- 
duct us safely to the gates of Ludlow Castle. But we have other 
reasons left on hand. For going through the Paradise Regained, 
how many days' indulgence will you grant me ? 

Souihey. There are some beautiful passages, as you know, 
although not numerous. As the poem is much shorter than the 
other, I will spare you the annoyance of uncovering its nakedness. 
I remember to have heard you say that your ear would be better 
pleased, and your understanding equally, if there had been a pause 
at the close of the fourth verse. 

Landor. True ; the three following are useless and heavy. I 
would also make another defalcation, of the five after " else mute." 
If the deeds he relates are 

Above heroic, though in secret done, 

it was unnecessary to say that they are 

Worthy to have not remained so long unsung. 

Southey. Satan, in his speech, seems to have caught hoarse- 
ness and rheumatism since we met him last. What a verse is, 

[85.] This is my Son beloved, in him, am pleased ! 

It would not have injured it to have made it English, by writing 
" in him I am pleased." It would only have continued a sadly 
dull one. 

[i 1 8.] Of many a pleasant realm and province wide, 

[139.] The Holy Ghost, and the power of the Highest. 

But this is hardly more prosaic than, " Oh, 3 what a multitude 
of thoughts, at once awakened in me, swarm, while I consider 
what within I feel myself, and hear ! " &c. But the passage has 
reference to the poet, and soon becomes very interesting on that 

[175.] But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles. 

[ 3 Line 195. Globe ed.] 

Southey and Landor. 251 

It is difficult so to modulate our English verse as to render this 
endurable to the ear. The first line in the Gcrusalemme Liberata 
begins with a double trochee, Canto Varme. The word " But " 
is too feeble for the trochee to turn on. We come presently to 
such verses as we shall never see again out of this poem : 

[199.] And he still on was led, but with such thoughts 
Accompanied, of things past and to come, 
Lodged in hi* breast, as well might recommend 
Su^h solitude before choicest society. 

[360.] But was driven 

With them from bliss to the bottomless deep. 

This is dactylic. 

With them from | bliss to the bottomless | deep. 

412. He before had sat 

Among the prime in splendor, now deposed, 
Ejected, emptied, gazed, unpitied. shunn'd, 
A spectacle of ruin or of scorn, &c. 

Or should be am!. 

[436.] Which they who ask'd have seldom understood, 

And, not well under itood, as good not known. 

To avoid the jingle, which perhaps he preferred, he might have 
written " at well ; " but how prosaic ! 

Landor. The only tolerable part of the first book are the six 
closing lines ; and these are the more acceptable because they are 
the closing ones. 

Soutbfy. The second book opens inauspiciously. The Devil 
himself was never so unlike the Devil as these verses are unlike 
verses : 

[7.] Andrew and Simon, famous after known, 

With other* though in holy writ not named, 
Now missing him, &c. 

[17.] Plain fishermen, no greater men them call. 

Landor. I do not believe that any thing short of your friend- 
ship would induce me to read a third time, during my life, the 
Paradise Regained ; and I now feel my misfortune and imprud- 
ence in having given to various friends this poem and many 

2 5 2 

Imaginary Conversations. 

others, in which I have marked with a pencil the faults and 
beauties. The dead level lay wide and without a finger-post ; the 
highest objects appeared, with few exceptions, no higher or orna- 
mental than bulrushes. We shall spend but little time in repeat- 
ing all the passages where they occur ; and it will be a great 
relief to us. Invention, energy, and grandeur of design the 
three great requisites to constitute a great poet, and which no 
poet since Milton hath united are wanting here. Call the design 
a grand one, if you will ; you cannot, however, call it his. 
Wherever there are thought, imagination, and energy, grace in- 
variably follows; otherwise the colossus would be without its 
radiance, and we should sail by with wonder and astonishment, 
and gather no roses and gaze at no images on the sunny isle. 

Southey. Shakspeare, whom you not only prefer to every 
other poet, but think he contains more poetry and more wisdom 
than all the rest united, is surely less grand in his designs than 

Landor. To the eye. But Othello was loftier than the citadel 
of Troy ; and what a Paradise fell before him ! Let us descend ; 
for from Othello we must descend, whatever road we take. Let 
us look at Julius Casar. No man ever overcame such difficulties, 
or produced by his life and death such a change in the world we 
inhabit. But that also is a grand design which displays the in- 
terior workings of the world within us, and where we see the 
imperishable and unalterable passions depicted al fresco on a lofty 
dome. Our other dramatists painted only on the shambles, and 
represented what they found there, blood and garbage. We 
leave them a few paces behind us, and step over the gutter into 
the green-market. There are, however, men rising up among us, 
endowed with exquisiteness of taste and intensity of thought. 
At no time have there been so many who write well in so many 

Southey. Have you taken breath ; and are you ready to go 
on with me ? 

Landor. More than ready, alert. For we see before us 
a longer continuation of good poetry than we shall find again 
throughout the whole poem, beginning at verse i 53, and ter- 
minating at 224. In these, however, there are some bad verses, 
such as, 

Southey and Landor. 253 

[153.] Among daughters of men the fairest found, 

[171.] And made him bow to the gods of his wives. 

Verse 180, 

Cast wanton eyes on the daughters of men. 

is false grammar : " thou cast" for, " them castcdst." I find 
the same fault where I am as much surprised to find it, in 
Shelley : 

Thou lovest, but ne'er knew love's sad satiety. 

Shelley in his Cenct has overcome the greatest difficulty that ever 
was overcome in poetry, although he has not risen to the greatest 
elevation. He possesses less vigor than Byron, and less com- 
mand of language than Keats ; but I would rather have written 

" Music, when soft voices die," 

than all that Beaumont and Fletcher ever wrote, together with all 
of their contemporaries, excepting Shakspeare. 

Southty. It is wonderful that Milton should praise the con- 
tinence of Alexander as well as of Scipio. Few conquerors had 
leisure for more excesses, or indulged in greater, than Alexander. 
He was reserved on one remarkable occasion : we hear of only 
one. Scipio, a much better man, and temperate in all things, 
would have been detested, even in Rome, if he had committed 
that crime from which the forbearance is foolishly celebrated as 
hU chief virtue. 

You will not refuse your approbation to another long pas- 
sage, beginning at verse 260, and ending at 300. But at the 
conclusion of them, where the Devil says that ' beauty 4 stands 
in the admiration only of weak minds," he savors a little of 
the Puritan. Milton was sometimes angry with her ; but never 
had she a more devoted or a more discerning admirer. For 
these forty good verses, you will pardon, 

[143.] After forty days' fasting bad remained. 

[ 4 "For beauty stands in the admiration only of weak minds led 
captive," is line 110. The passage, at whose conclusion it comes, must 
be that praised by Landor above, and not the passage which Southey here 
commends. There is some confusion in the passage as it now stands.") 

254 Imaginary Conversations. 

Landor. Very much like the progress of Milton himself in 
this jejunery. I remember your description of the cookery in 
Portugal and Spain, which my own experience most bitterly 
confirmed; but I never met with a bonito " gris-amber-steamed." 5 
This certainly was reserved for the Devil's own cookery. Our 
Saviour, I think, might have fasted another forty days before he 
could have stomached this dainty ; and the Devil, if he had had 
his wits about him, might have known as much. 

Southey. I have a verse in readiness which may serve as a 
napkin to it : 

[405.] And with these words his temptation pursued ; 

where it would have been very easy to have rendered it less dis- 
agreeable to the ear by a transposition, 

And his temptation with these words pursued. 
I am afraid you will object to a redundant heaviness in 

[427.] Get riches first get -wealth and treasure heap ; 

and no authority will reconcile you to roll-calls of proper names, 
such as 

[361.] Launcelot or Pellias or Pellenore ; 


[446.] Quintius, Fabricius, Curius, Regulus ; 

or, again, to such a verse as 

[428.] Not difficult, if thou hearken to me. 

Verse 461, 

To him who wears the regal diadem, 

is quite superfluous, and adds nothing to the harmony. Verses 
472-476 have the same cesura. This, I believe, has never been 

[ 5 Line 342 (Globe ed.). 

" beasts of chase or fowl of game 
. In pastry built or from the spit or boiled 
Gris-amber steamed." 

There is no bonito in Milton.] 

Southey and Landor. 255 

remarked, and yet is the most remarkable thing in all Milton's 

It is wonderful that any critic should be so stupid, as a 
dozen or two of them have proved themselves to be, in ap- 
plying the last verses of this second book to Christina of 
Sweden : 

To give a kingdom hath been thought 
Greater and nobler done, and to lay down 
Far more magnanimous than to assume. 
Riches are needless then, &c. 

Whether he had written this before or after the abdication of 
Richard Cromwell, they are equally applicable to him. He 
did retire not only from sovereignty but from riches. Christina 
took with her to Rome prodigious wealth, and impoverished 
Sweden by the pension she exacted. 
The last lines are intolerably harsh : 

Oftctt better *wV, 

It may have been written * often : " a great relief to the ear, 
and no detriment to the sense or expression. We never noticed 
his care in avoiding such a ruggedness in verse 40 1 , 

Whose pains have earn'd the/ar-fet spoil. 

He employed "far-/*-/" instead of " far-fetch *d ; " not only 
because the latter is in conversational use, but because no sound 
is harsher than "fetch'd" and especially before two sequent 
consonants, followed by such words as "with that." It is 
curious that he did not prefer " wherewith ; " both because a 
verse ending in "that" is followed by one ending in "quite" 
and because "that" also begins the next. I doubt whether 
you will be satisfied with the first verse I have marked in the 
third book, 

[117.] From that placid aspe*ct and meek regard. 

Landor. The trochee in "placid" is feeble there, and "meek 
regard" conveys no new idea to " placid aspect." Presently we 
come to 

[335*1 Mules after these, camels and dromedaries, 

And wagons fraught with utensils of war. 

256 Imaginary Conversations. 

And here, if you could find any pleasure in a triumph over the 
petulance and frowardness of a weak adversary, you might laugh 
at poor Hallam, who cites the following as among the noble 
passages of Milton : 

[337-] Such forces met not, nor so -wide a camp, 

When Agrican with all his northern powers 
Besieged Albracca, as romances tell, 
The city of Gallafron, from whence to win 
The fairest of her sex, Angelica. 

Southey. How very like Addison when his milk was turned 
to whey ! I wish I could believe that the applauders of this 
poem were sincere, since it is impossible to think them judicious ; 
their quotations, and especially Hallam's, having been selected 
from several of the weakest parts when better were close before 
them : but we have strong evidence that the opinion was given 
in the spirit of contradiction, and from the habit of hostility to 
what is eminent. I would be charitable. Hallam may have 
hit upon the place by hazard ; he may have been in the situa- 
tion of a young candidate for preferment in the church, who 
was recommended to the Chancellor Thurlow. After much 
contemptuousness and ferocity, the chancellor, throwing open on 
the table his Book of Livings, commanded him to choose for 
himself. The young man modestly and timidly thanked him 
for his goodness, and entreated his lordship to exercise his own 
discretion. With a volley of oaths, of which he was at all 
times prodigal, but more especially in the presence of a clergy- 
man, he cried aloud, " Put this pen, sir, at the side of one 
or other." Hesitation was now impossible. The candidate 
placed it without looking where : it happened to be at a bene- 
fice of small value. Thurlow slapped his hand upon the table, 
and roared, " By God ! you were within an ace of the best 
living in my gift ! " 

Landor. Hear the end : 

His daughter, sought by many prowest knights, 
Both Paynim and the peers of Charlemagne. 

Southey* It would be difficult to extract, even from this 
poem, so many schoolboy's verses together. The preceding, 

Southey and Landor. 257 

which also are verbose, are much more spirited ; and the illus- 
tration of one force by the display of another, and which the 
poet tells us is less, exhibits but small discrimination in the 
critic who extols it. To praise a fault is worse than to com- 
mit one. I know not whether any such critic has pointed out 
for admiration the "glass of telescope" by which the Tempter 
might have shown Rome to our Saviour, verse 42, Book IV. 
But we must not pass over lines nearer the commencement, 
verse 10 : 

But as a man who had been matchless held 
In cunning, over-reached where least he thought, 
To salve his credit, and for very spite 
Still will be tempting him who foils him still. 

This is no simile, no illustration ; but exactly what Satan had 
been doing. 

Landor. The Devil grows very dry in the desert, where he 

[178.] Of Academics old and new, with those 

Surname J Peripatetics, and the sect 
Epicurean, and the Stoic severe. 

Soutbey. It is piteous to find the simplicity of the gospel 
overlaid and deformed by the scholastic argumentation of our 
Saviour, and by the pleasure he appears to take in holding a long 
conversation with the adversary: 

Not therefore am I short 
Of knowing what I ought. He who receives 
Light from above, from the fountain of light. 

What a verse, verse 287, &c. ! A dissertation from our Saviour, 
delivered to the Devil in the manner our poet has delivered it, 
was the only thing wanting to his punishment ; and he catches 
it at last. Verse 397 : 

Darkness now rote 

As daylight sunk, and brought in lowering night, 
Her shadowy offspring. 

This is equally bad poetry and bad philosophy : the darkness 
rising and bringing in the night lowering ; when he adds, 

258 Imaginary Conversations. 

Unsubstantial both, 
Privation mere of light and absent day. 

How ? Privation of its absence ! He wipes away with a 
single stroke of the brush two veiy . indistinct and ill-drawn 

Our Saviour meek and with untroubled mind, 
After his airy jaunt, tho' hurried sore. 

How " hurried sore," if with untroubled mind ? 

Hungry and cold, betook him to his rest. 
I should have been quite satisfied with a quarter of this. 

Darkness now rose ; 
Our Saviour meek betook him to his rest. 

Such simplicity would be the more grateful and the more effective 
in preceding that part of Paradise Regained which is the most 
sublimely pathetic. It would be idle to remark the propriety of 
accentuation of concourse, and almost as idle to notice that in 
verse 420 is " 

Thou only stoodst unshaken ; 

and in verse 425, 

Thou satst unappalled. 

But to stand, as I said before, is to remain, or to be, in Milton, 
following the Italian. Never was the eloquence of poetry so 
net forth by words and numbers in any language as in this period. 
Pardon the infernal and hellish. 

Infernal ghosts and hellish furies round 

Environ'd thee : some howl'd, some yell'd, some shriekt, 

Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou 

Satst unappalled in calm and sinless peace. 

The idea of sitting is in itself more beautiful than of standing 
or lying down ; but our Saviour is represented as lying down, 

The tempter watcht, and soon with ugly dreams 
Disturbed his sleep. 

Southey and Landor. 259 

He could disturb but not appall him, as he himself says in 


Southey. It is thought by Joseph Warton and some others, 
that, where the Devil says, 

[500.] Then hear, O Son of David, virgin-born, 

For Son of God to me is yet in doubt, &c., 

he speaks sarcastically in the word virgin-born. But the 
Devil is not so bad a rhetorician as to turn round so suddenly 
from the ironical to the serious. He acknowledges the miracle 
of the nativity ; he pretends to doubt its divinity. 

[541.] So saying he caught him up, and -without 

Of hifftgri/j bore through the air sublime. 

Satan had given good proof that his wing was more than a 
match for a hippogrif's; and, if he had borrowed a hippogrif's 
for the occasion, he could have made no use of it, unless he 
had borrowed the hippogrif too, and rode before or behind 
on him, 

Over the wilderness and Vr the plain. 

Two better verses follow ; but the temple of Jerusalem could 
never have appeared, 

Topt with golden tpiret. 

[581.] So Satan fell ; and straight a fiery globe 

Of angels on full sail of wing flew nigh, 
Who on their plumy vans received him toft. 

He means our Saviour, not Satan. In any ancient we should 
manage a little the duetus fitfrarum, and for the wretched words, 
"him soft" propose to substitute their lord. But by what 
ingenuity can we erect into a verse verse 597 ? 

In the bosom of bliss and light of light. 

In verses 613 and 614 we find rhyme. 

Landor. The angels seem to have lost their voices since they 
left Paradise. Their denunciations against Satan are very angry, 
but very weak : 

260 Imaginary Conversations. 

[629.] Thee and thy legions ; yelling they shall fly 

And beg to hide them in a herd of siuine, 
Lest he command them down into the deep, 
Bound, and to torment sent before their time. 

Surely they had been tormented long before. 

The close of the poem is extremely languid, however much it 
has been commended for its simplicity. 


He, unobserved, 
Home, to his mother's house, private return'd. 

Unobserved and private ; home and his " mother's house" are not 
very distinctive. 

Landor. Milton took but little time in forming the plan of his 
Paradise Regained, doubtful and hesitating as he had been in the 
construction of Paradise Lost. In composing a poem or any 
other work of imagination, although it may be well and proper to 
lay down a plan, I doubt whether any author of any durable work 
has confined himself to it very strictly. But writers will no more 
tell you whether they do or not than they will bring out before 
you the foul copies, or than painters will admit you into the secret 
of composing or of laying on their colors. I confess to you, that 
a few detached thoughts and images have always been the 
beginnings of my works. Narrow slips have risen up, more or 
fewer, above the surface. These gradually became larger and 
more consolidated ; freshness and verdure first covered one part, 
then another ; then plants of firmer and of higher growth, how- 
ever scantily, took their places, then extended their roots and 
branches ; and among them and round about them in a little while 
you yourself, and as many more as I desired, found places for 
study and for recreation. 

Returning to Paradise Regained. If a loop in the netting of 
a purse is let down, it loses the money that is in it ; so a poem 
by laxity drops the weight of its contents. In the animal body, 
not only nerves and juices are necessaiy, but also continuity and 
cohesion. Milton is caught sleeping after his exertions in Paradise 
Lost, and the lock of his strength is shorn off; but here and there 
a prominent muscle swells out from the vast mass of the collapsed. 

Southey. The Samson Agonistes, now before us, is less Ian- 

Southey and Landor. 261 

guid ; but it may be charged with almost the heaviest fault of a 
poem, or indeed of any composition, particularly the dramatic, 
which is, there is insufficient coherency or dependence of part on 
part. Let us not complain that, while we look at Samson and 
hear his voice, we are forced to think of Milton, of his blindness, 
of his abandonment, with as deep a commiseration. If we lay 
open the few faults covered by his transcendent excellences, we 
feel confident that none are more willing (or would be more 
acceptable were he present) to pay him homage. I retain all my 
admiration of his poetry ; you all yours, not only of his poetry, 
but of his sentiments on many grave subjects. 

Landfjr. I do ; but I should be reluctant to see disturbed the 
order and course of things, by alterations at present unnecessary, 
or by attempts at what might be impracticable. When an evil 
can no longer be borne manfully and honestly and decorously, then 
down with it, and put something better in its place. Meanwhile 
guard strenuously against such evil. The vigilant will seldom be 
constrained to vengeance. 

Sou/key. Simple as is the plan of this drama, there are pretti- 
nenes in it which would be far from ornamental anywhere. Milton 
is much more exuberant in them than Ovid himself, who certainly 
would never have been so commended by Quintilian for the 
Media, had he written 

7. Where I, a prisoner chain'd, scarce freely draw 

The air imprisoned also. 

But into what sublimity he soon ascends ! 

[40.] Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him 

Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves. 

Landor. My copy is printed as you read it ; but there ought 
to be commas after eyeless, after Gaza, and after miff. Generally 
our printers or writers put three commas where one would do ; 
but here the grief of Samson is aggravated at every member of the 
sentence. Surely it must have been the resolution of Milton to 
render his choruses as inharmonious as he fancied the Greek were, 
or would be, without the accompaniments of instruments, accen- 
tuation, and chants. Otherwise, how can we account for " aban- 
doned, 6 and by htmself given ovtr ; in slavish habit, itt-Jittcd weeds, 
[Line no. Globe ed.] 

262 Imaginary Conversations. 

over-worn and soiled. Or do my eyes misrepresent ? Can this be he, 
that heroic, that renowned, irresistible Samson ? '' 

Southey. We are soon compensated, regretting only that 
the chorus talks of " Chalybean tempered steel " in the beginning, 
and then informs us of his exploit with the jaw-bone, 

[145.] In Ramath-lehij^woi/j to this day. 

It would be strange indeed if such a victory as was never won 
before were forgotten in twenty years, or thereabout. 

Southey. Passing Milton's oversights, we next notice his 
systematic defects. Fondness for Euripides made him too 
didactic when action was required. Perhaps the French drama 
kept him in countenance, although he seems to have paid little 
attention to it, comparatively. 

Landor. The French drama contains some of the finest 
didactic poetry in the world, and is peculiarly adapted both to 
direct the reason and to control the passions. It is a well-lighted 
saloon of graceful eloquence, where the sword-knot is appended 
by the hand of Beauty, and where the snuff-box is composed of 
such brilliants as, after a peace or treaty, kings bestow on 
diplomatists. Whenever I read a French Alexdrine, I fancy I 
receive a box on the ear in the middle of it, and another at the 
end, sufficient, if not to pain, to weary me intolerably, and to 
make the book drop out of my hand. Moliere and La Fontaine 
can alone by their homoeopathy revive me. Such is the power 
of united wit and wisdom in ages the most desperate ! These 
men, with Montaigne and Charron, will survive existing customs, 
and probably existing creeds. Millions will be captivated by 
them, when the eloquence of Bossuet himself shall interest 
extremely few. Yet the charms of language are less liable to be 
dissipated by time than the sentences of wisdom. While the 
incondite volumes of more profound philosophers are no longer in 
existence, scarcely one of writers who enjoyed in a high degree 
the gift of eloquence is altogether lost. Among the Athenians 
there are indeed some ; but in general they were worthless men, 
squabbling on worthless matters : we have little to regret, excepting 
of Phocion and of Pericles. If we turn to Rome, we retain all 
the best of Cicero ; and we patiently and almost indifferently 
hear that nothing is to be found of Marcus Antonius or 

Southey and Landor. 


Hortensius ; for the eloquence of the bar is and ought always to 
be secondary. 

Southey. You were remarking that our poet paid little atten- 
tion to the French drama. Indeed, in his preface he takes no 
notice of it whatsoever, not even as regards the plot, in which 
consists its chief excellence, or perhaps I should say rather its 
superiority. He holds the opinion that " A plot, whether 
intricate or explicit, is nothing but such economy or disposition 
of the fable as may stand best with verisimilitude and decorum." 
Surely, the French tragedians have observed this doctrine atten- 

Landor. It has rarely happened that dramatic events have 
followed one another in their natural order. The most remark- 
able instance of it is in the King (Edipus of Sophocles. But 
Racine is in general the most skilful of the tragedians, with little 
energy and less invention. I wish Milton had abstained from 
calling " ^Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides the three tragic 
poets unequalled yet by any ; " because it may leave a suspicion 
that he fancied he, essentially undramatic, could equal them, and 
had now done it ; and because it exhibits him as a detractor 
from Shakspeare. I am as sorry to find him in this condition as 
I should have been to find him in a fit of the gout, or treading on 
a nail with naked foot in his blindness. 

Southey. Unfortunately, it is impossible to exculpate him ; 
for you must have remarked where, a few sentences above, are 
these expressions: "This is mentioned to vindicate from the 
small esteem or rather infamy which in the account of many it 
undergoes at this day, with other common interludes ; happening 
through the poet's error of intermixing comick stuff with tragick 
sadness and gravity, or intermixing trivial and vulgar persons, 
which, by all judicious, hath been counted absurd, and brought in 
without discretion, corruptly to gratify the people." 

Landor. It may be questioned whether the people in the 
reign of Elizabeth, or indeed the queen herself, would have been 
contented with a drama without a smack of the indecent or the 
ludicrous. They had alike been accustomed to scenes of ribaldry 
and of bloodshed ; and the palace opened on one wing to the 
brothel, on the other to the shambles. The clowns of Shak- 
speare are still admired by not the vulgar only. 

264 Imaginary Conversations. 

Southey. The more the pity. Let them appear in their 
proper places. But a picture by Morland or Frank Hals ought 
never to break a series of frescoes by the hand of Raphael, or 
of senatorial portraits animated by the sun of Titian. There is 
much to be regretted in, and (since we are alone I will say it) 
a little which might without loss or injury be rejected from, the 
treasury of Shakspeare. 

Landor. It is difficult to sweep away any thing and not to 
sweep away gold-dust with it : but viler dust lies thick in some 
places. The grave Milton, too, has cobwebs hanging on his 
workshop, which a high broom, in a steady hand, may reach with- 
out doing mischief. But let children and short men, and unwary 
ones, stand out of the way. 

Southey. Necessary warning ! for nothing else occasions so 
general satisfaction as the triumph of a weak mind over a stronger. 
And this often happens ; for the sutures of a giant's armor are 
most penetrable from below. Surely no poet is so deeply pathetic 
as the one before us, and nowhere more than in those verses which 
begin at the sixtieth and end with the eighty-fifth. There is 
much fine poetry after this ; and perhaps the prolixity is very 
rational in a man so afflicted, but the composition is the worse for 
it. Samson could have known nothing of the interlunar cave; 
nor could he ever have thought about the light of the soul, and of 
the soul being all in every part. 

Landor. Reminiscences of many sad afflictions have already 
burst upon the poet ; but, instead of overwhelming him, they have 
endued him with redoubled might and majesty. Verses worthier 
of a sovereign poet, sentiments worthier of a pure, indomitable, 
inflexible republican, never issued from the human heart than these 
referring to the army, in the last effort made to rescue the English 
nation from disgrace and servitude : 

[265.] Had Judah that day joined, or one whole tribe, 
They had by this possest the towers of Gath, 
And lorded over them whom now they serve. 
But what more oft, in nations grown corrupt 
And by their vices brought to servitude, 
Than to love bondage more than liberty, 
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty, 
And to despise or envy or suspect 
Whom God hath of his special favor rais'd 

Southey and Landor. 265 

As their deliverer ? If he aught begin, 
How frequent to desert him ! and at last 
To heap ingratitude on worthiest deeds ! 

Southfy. I shall be sorry to damp your enthusiasm, in how- 
ever slight a degree, by pursuing our original plan in the detection 
of blemishes. Eyes the least clear-sighted could easily perceive 
one in 

297. For of such doctrine never was there school 

But the heart of the fool. 
And no man therein doctor but himself. 

They could discern here nothing but the quaint conceit ; and it 
never occurred to them that the chorus knew nothing of schools 
and doctors. A line above, there is an expression not English. 
For " who believe not the existence of God," 

195. Who think not God at all. 

And is it captious to say that, when Manoah's locks are called 
" white as down," whiteness is no characteristic of down ? Per- 
haps you will be propitiated by the number of words in our days 
equally accented on the first syllable, which in this drama the 
great poet, with all his authority, has stamped on the second ; 
such as impulse, ed\ct, contrary, prescript, the substantive contest, 
instinct, crystalline, pretext. 

Landor. I wish we had preserved them all in that good 
condition, excepting the substantive contest, which ought to 
follow the lead of conquest. But " now we have got to the 
worst, let us keep to the worst," is the sound conservative 
maxim of the day. 

Soutbey. I perceive you adhere to your doctrine in the 
termination of Aristo/^/. 

Landor. If we were to say Aris/o///, why not Themis/<x7*, 
Empedoc/f, and Peritlf ? Here, too, neath has always a mark 
of elision before it, quite unnecessarily. From neath comes 
nether, which reminds me that it would be better spelled, as it 
was formerly, nethe. 

But go on : we can do no good yet. 


341. That invincible Samson, far renowned. 

266 Imaginary Conversations. 

Here, unless we place the accent on the third syllable, the verse 
assumes another form, and such as is used only in the ludicrous 
or light poetry, scanned thus : 

That invin | cible Sam | son, &c. 

There is great eloquence and pathos in the speech of Manoah ; 
but the "scorpion's tail behind" in verse 360, is inapposite. Per- 
haps my remark is unworthy of your notice ; but, as you are 
reading on, you seem to ponder on something which is worthy. 

Landor. How very much would literature have lost, if this 
marvellously great and admirable man had omitted the various 
references to himself and his contemporaries ! He had grown 
calmer at the close of life, and saw in Cromwell as a fault what 
he had seen before as a necessity or a virtue. The indignities 
offered to the sepulchre and remains of the greatest of English 
sovereigns, by the most ignominious, made the tears of Milton 
gush from his darkened eyes, and extorted from his generous and 
grateful heart this exclamation : 

[368.] Alas! methinks when God hath chosen one 
To worthiest deeds, if he through frailty err, 
He should not so o'erwhelm, and as a thrall 
Subject him to so foul indignities, 
Be it but for honor's sake of former deeds. 

How supremely grand is the close of Samson's speech ! 
Southey. In verse 439, we know what is meant by 

Slewst them many a slain. 

But the expression is absurd : he could not slay the slain. We 
also may object to 

[553.] Use of strongest wines 

And strongest drinks, 

knowing that wines were the " strongest drinks " in those times : 
perhaps they might have been made stronger by the infusion of 
herbs and spices. You will again be saddened by the deep har- 
mony of those verses in which the poet represents his own con- 
dition. Verse 590: 

All otherwise to me my thoughts portend, &c. 

Southey and Landor. 267 

In verses 729 and 731, the words address and addrest are in- 

And words adJrfit seem into tears dissolved, 
Wt-tting the borders of her silken veil ; 
But now again she motet addreti to speak. 

In verse 734, 

Which to have merited, without excuse, 
I cannot but acknowledge, 

the comma should be expunged after excuse, else the sentence 
higuous. And in 745, " what amends is in my power.'* 
We have no singular, as the French have, for this word ; although 
many use it ignorantly, as Milton does inadvertently. 

934. T\\j/air enchanted cup and warbling charms. 

Here we are forced by the double allusion to recognise the later 
mythos of Circe. The cup alone, or the warbling alone, might 
belong to any other enchantress, any of his own or of a preced- 
ing age, since we know that in all times certain herbs and certain 
incantations were used by sorceresses. 

The chorus in this tragedy is not always conciliating and 
assuaging. Never was anything more bitter against the female sex 
than the verses from i o i o to 1 060. The invectives of Euripides 
are never the outpourings of the chorus, and their venom is cold 
as hemlock ; those of Milton are hot and corrosive : 

It is not virtue, wisdom, valor, wit, 

Strength, fomelinett of shaft , or amplett merit, 

That woman's love can win or long inherit ; 

But what it is, is hard to say, 

Harder to hit, 

Which way soever men refer it : 

Much like thy riddle, Samson, in one day 

Or seven, though one thoulJ muting tit. 

Never has Milton, in poetry or prose, written worse than this. 
The beginning of the second line is untrue ; the conclusion is tauto- 
logical. In the third, it is needless to inform us that what is not 
to be gained is not to be inherited ; or, in the fourth, that what is 
hard to say is hard to hit ; but it really is a new discovery that it 
is harder. Where is the distinction in the idea he would present 

268 Imaginary Conversations. 

of saying and hitting ? However, we will not " musing sit " on 
these dry thorns. 

[1034.] Whate'er it be to wisest men and best, 

Seeming at first all heavenly under virgin veil, &c. 

This is a very ugly misshapen Alexandrine. The verse would 
be better and more regular by the omission of " seeming " or 
" at first," neither of which is necessary. 

Landor. The giant Harapha is not expected to talk wisely ; 
but he never would have said to Samson, 

1081. Thou knowest me now, 

Ifthou at all art known ; much I have heard 
Of thy prodigious strength. 

A pretty clear evidence of his being somewhat known. 
[1133.] And black enchantments, some magician's art. 

No doubt of that. But what glorious lines from 1 1 67 to 1 1 79 ! 
I cannot say so much of these : 

[1313.] Have they not sword-players and every sort 
Of gymnic artists, wrestlers, riders, runners, 
Jugglers and dancers, antics, mummers, mimics ? 

No, certainly not: the jugglers and the dancers they probably 
had, but none of the rest. Mummers are said to derive their 
appellation from the word mum. I rather think mum came 
corrupted from them. Mummer in reality is mime. We know 
how frequently the letter r has obtained an undue place at the 
end of words. The English mummers were men who acted, 
without speaking, in coarse pantomime. There are many things 
which I have marked between this place and verse 1665. 

1634. That to the arched roof gave main support. 

There were no arches in the time of Samson ; but the mention 
of the two pillars in the centre makes it requisite to imagine such 
a structure. Verse 1660, 

O dearly bought revenge, yet glorious. 
It is Milton's practice to make vowels syllabically weak either 

Southey and Landor. 269 

coalesce with or yield to others. In no place but at the end 
of a verse would he protract glorious into a trisyllable. The 
structure of his versification was founded on the Italian, in which 
to and la in some words are monosyllables in all places but the 
last. Verse 1664, 

Among thy *-lain 
Not willingly, but tangled in the fold 
Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoined 
Thee with thy slaughtered foes, in number more 
Than all thy life hath slain before. 

Milton differs extremely from the Athenian dramatists in 
neglecting the beauty of his choruses. Here the third line is 
among his usually bad Alexandrines ; and there is not only 
a debility of rhythm, but also a redundancy of words. The 
verse would be better, and the sense too, without the words 
"i/i death" And "slaughtered" is alike unnecessary in the 
next. Farther on, the chorus talks about the phoenix. Now 
the phoenix, although Oriental, was placed in the Orient by 
the Greeks. If the phoenix " no second knows" it is probable 
it knows " no third" All this nonsense is prated while Samson 
is lying dead before them. But the poem is a noble poem; 
and the characters of Samson and Delilah are drawn with pre- 
cision and truth. The Athenian dramatists, both tragic and 
comic, have always one chief personage, one central light : 
Homer has not in the Iliad, nor has Milton in the Paradise 
Lost, nor has Shakspeare in several of his best tragedies. We 
find it in Racine, in the great Comeille, in the greater Schiller. 
In Calderon, and the other dramatists of Spain, it rarely is 
wanting ; but their principal delight is in what we call plot 
or intrigue, in plainer English (and very like it), intricacy 
and trick. Hurd, after saying of the Samson Agonlstes^ that 
" it is, as might be expected, a masterpiece," tucks up his lawn 
sleeve and displays his slender wrist against Lowth. Nothing 
was ever eaual to his cool effrontery when he says, " This critic, 
and nil such, are greatly out In their judgments," &c. He might 
have profited, both in criticism and in style, by reading Lowth 
more attentively and patiently. In which case, he never would 
have written out in, nor obliged to such freedoms, nor twenty more 

270 Imaginary Conversations. 

such strange things. Lowth was against the chorus. Kurd 
says, " It will be constantly wanting to rectify the wrong con- 
clusions of the audience." Would it not be quite as advisable 
to drop carefully a few drops of laudanum on a lump of sugar, to 
lull the excitement of the sufferers by the tragedy ? The chorus 
in Milton comes well provided with this narcotic. Voltaire 
wrote an opera, and intended it for a serious one, on the same 
subject. He decorated it with choruses sung to Venus and 
Adonis, and represented Samson more gallantly French than 
either. He pulled down the temple on the stage, and cried, 

J'ai re"pare" ma honte, et j'expire en vainqueurl 

And yet Voltaire was often a graceful poet, and sometimes a 
judicious critic. It may be vain and useless to propose for 
imitation the chief excellences of a great author, such being the 
gift of transcendent genius, and not an acquisition to be obtained 
by study or labor ; but it is only in great authors that defects are 
memorable when pointed out, and unsuspected until they are 
distinctly. For which reason, I think it probable that at no 
distant time I may publish your remarks, if you consent to it. 

Southey. It is well known in what spirit I made them, 
and as you have objected to few, if any, I leave them at your 
discretion. Let us now pass on to Lyctdas. It appears 
to me that Warton is less judicious than usual, in his censure 

[5.] Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year. 

I find in his note, " The mellowing year could not affect the 
leaves of the laurel, the myrtle, and the ivy, which last is charac- 
terized before as never sere." The ivy sheds its leaves in the 
proper season, though never all at once, and several hang on the 
stem longer than a year. In verse 89, 

But now my oat proceeds 
And listens to the herald of the sea. 

Does the oat listen ? 

119. Blind mouths that scarce themselves know how to hold 
A sheep-hook. 

Southey and Landor. 271 

Now, although mouths and bellies may designate the possessors 
or bearers, yet surely the blind mouth holding a shepherd's crook 
is a fitter representation of the shepherd's dog than of the shep- 
herd. Verse 145, may he not have written the gloming violet, 
not indeed well, but better than glowing ? 

154. Ay me ! while thee the shoret and sounding seas 
Wash far a 

Surely the shores did nou 

[176.] And hears the iruxprtssrue nuptial song 

In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and Icve. 

What can be the meaning ? 

Landor. It is to be regretted, not so much that Milton has 
adopted the language and scenery and mythology of the ancients, 
as that he confounds the real simple field-shepherds with the 
mitred shepherds of St Paul's Churchyard and Westminster 
Abbey, and ties the two-handed sword against the crook. I 
have less objection to the luxury spread out before me than to be 
treated with goose and mince-pie on the same plate. 

No poetry so harmonious had ever been written in our lan- 
guage ; but in the same free metre both Tasso and Guarini 
had captivated the ear of Italy. In regard to poetry, the Lycidas 
will hardly bear a comparison with the Allegro and Penseroso. 
Many of the ideas in both are taken from Beaumont and Fletcher, 
from Raleigh and Marlowe, and from a poem in the first edition 
of Burton's Melancholy. Each of these has many beauties ; but 
there are couplets in Milton's worth them all. We must, how- 
ever, do what we set about. If we see the faun walk lamely, we 
must look at his foot, find the thorn, and extract it. 

Southey. There are those who defend in the first verses the 
matrimonial, or other less legitimate, alliance of Cerberus and 
Midnight ; but I have too much regard for Melancholy to sub- 
scribe to the filiation, especially as it might exclude her presently 
from the nunnery, whither she is invited as pensive, devout, and^wrr. 
The union of Erebus and Night is much spoken of in- poetical 
circles, and we have authority for announcing it to the public ; 
but Midnight, like Cerberus, is a misnomer. We have occasion- 
ally heard, in objurgation, a man called a son of a dog, on the 

272 Imaginary Conversations. 

mother's side ; but never was there goddess of that parentage. 
You are pleased to find Milton writing pincht instead of pinched. 

I Candor. Certainly ; for there never existed the word 
" pinclW," and never can exist the word " pinc^V." In the 
same verse he writes sed for said. We have both of these, and 
we should keep them diligently. The pronunciation is always 
sed, excepting in rhyme. For the same reason, we should retain 
agen as well as again. 

What a cloud of absurdities has been whiffed against me, by no 
unlearned men, about the Conversation of Tooke and Johnson ! 
Their own petty conceits rise up between their eyes and the 
volume they are negligently reading, and utterly obscure or confound 
it irretrievably, One would represent me as attempting to under- 
mine our native tongue ; another as modernizing ; a third as 
antiquating it. Whereas I am trying to underprop, not to under- 
mine : I am trying to stop the man-milliner at his ungainly work 
of trimming and flouncing ; I am trying to show how graceful is 
our English, not in its stiff decrepitude, not in its riotous luxuriance, 
but in its hale mid-life. I would make bad writers follow good 
ones, and good writers accord with themselves. If all cannot be 
reduced into order, is that any reason why nothing should be done 
toward it ? If languages and men too are imperfect, must we 
never make an effort to bring them a few steps nearer to what is 
preferable ? If we find on the road a man who has fallen from 
his horse, and who has three bones dislocated, must we refuse him 
our aid because one is quite broken ? It is by people who answer in 
the affirmative to these questions, or seem to answer so, it is by 
such writers that our language for the last half-century has fallen 
more rapidly into corruption and decomposition than any other 
ever spoken among men. The worst losses are not always those 
which are soonest felt, but those which are felt too late. 

Southey. I should have adopted all your suggestions in ortho- 
graphy, if I were not certain that my bookseller would protest 
against it as ruinous. If you go no farther than to write compell 
and foretell, the compositor will correct your oversight ; yet surely 
there should be some sign that the last syllable of those verbs 
ought to be spelled differently, as they are pronounced differently, 
from shrivel and level. 

Lander. Let us run back to our plantain. But a bishop 

Southey and Landor. 273 

stands in the way, a bishop no other than Hurd, who says that 
" Milton shows his judgment in celebrating Shakspeare's comedies 
rather than his tragedies." Pity he did not live earlier ! he 
would have served among the mummers both for bishop and fool. 
We now come to the Penseroso, in which title there are 
many who doubt the propriety of the spelling. Marsand, an 
editor of Petrarca, has defended the poet who used equally 
pensiero and ptnscro. The mode is more peculiarly Lombard. 
The Milanese and Comascs invariably say penser. Yet it is 
wonderful how, at so short a distance, and professing to speak the 
same language, they differ in many expressions. The wonder 
ceases with those who have resided long in the country, and are 
curious about such matters, when they discover that at two gates 
of Milan two languages are spoken. The same thing occurs in 
Florence itself, where a street is inhabited by the Camaldolese, 
whose language is as little understood by learned academicians as 
that of Dante himself. Beyond the eastern gates a morning's 
walk, you come into Varlunga, a pastoral district, in which the 
people speak differently from both. 1 have always found a great 
pleasure in collecting the leaves and roots of these phonetic 
simples, especially in hill-countries. Nothing so conciliates many, 
and particularly the uneducated, as to ask and receive instruction 
from them. I have not hesitated to collect it from swineherds 
and Fra Diavolo : I should have looked for it in vain among 
universities and professors. 

Southty. Turning back to the stllcgro, I find an amusing note 
conveying the surprising intelligence, all the way from Oxford, 
that eglantine means really the dog-rose ; and that both dog-rose 
and honeysuckle (for which Milton mistook it) "are often growing 
against the sides or watts of a house." Thus says Mr Thomas 
Warton. I wish he had also told us in what quarter of the 
world a house has sides without walls of some kind or other. 
But it really is strange that Milton should have misapplied the 
word, at a time when botany was become the favorite study. I 
do not recollect whether Cowley had yet written his Latin poems 
on the appearances and Qualities of plants. What are you smiling at ? 

Landor. Our old held of battle, where Milton 

Calls up him who left untold 
The story of Cambuscan bold. 

IV. S 

274 Imaginary Conversations. 

Chaucer like Shakspeare, like Homer, like Milton, like 
every great poet that ever lived derived from open sources 
the slender origin of his immortal works. Imagination is not 
a mere workshop of images, great and small, as there are many 
who would represent it ; but sometimes thoughts also are im- 
agined before they are felt, and descend from the brain into the 
bosom. Young poets imagine feelings to which in reality they 
are strangers. 

Southey. Copy them rather. 

Landor. Not entirely. The copybook acts on the im- 
agination. Unless they felt the truth or the verisimilitude, it 
could not take possession of them. But feelings and images fly 
from distant coverts into their little field, without their conscious- 
ness whence they come, and rear young ones there which are 
properly their"own. Chatterton hath shown as much imagination, 
in the Bristoive Tragedie as in that animated allegory which 

When Freedom dreste in blood-stain'd veste. 

Keats is the most imaginative of our poets, after Chaucer, Spenser, 
Shakspeare, and Milton. 

Southey. I am glad you admit my favorite, Spenser. 

Landor. He is my favorite too, if you admit the expression 
without the signification of precedency. I do not think him 
equal to Chaucer even in imagination ; and he appears to me 
very inferior to him in all other points, excepting harmony. 
Here the miscarriage is in Chaucer's age, not in Chaucer, 
many of whose verses are highly beautiful, but never (as in 
Spenser) one whole period. I love the geniality of his tempera- 
ture, no straining, no effort, no storm, no fury. His vivid 
thoughts burst their way to us through the coarsest integuments 
of language. 

The heart is the creator of the poetical world : only the atmo- 
sphere is from the brain. Do I then undervalue imagination ? 
No indeed ; but 1 find imagination where others never look for 
it, in character multiform yet consistent. Chaucer first united 
the two glorious realms of Italy and England. Shakspeare came 
after, and subjected the whole universe to his dominion. But 
he mounted the highest steps of his throne under those bland 

Southey and Landor. 275 

skies which had warmed the congenial breasts of Chaucer and 

The powers of imagination are but slender when it can invent 
only shadowy appearances : much greater are requisite to make an 
inert and insignificant atom grow up into greatness, to give it 
form, life, mobility, and intellect. Spenser hath accomplished 
the one ; Shakspeare and Chaucer, the other. Pope and Dryden 
have displayed a little of it in their Satires. In passing, let me 
express my wish that writers who compare them in generalities, 
and who lean mostly toward the stronger, would attempt to trim 
the balance by placing Pope among our best critics on poetry, 
while Dryden is knee-deep below John Dennis. You do not 
like either: I read both with pleasure, so long as they keep to 
the couplet. But St Cecilia's music-book is interlined with epi- 
grams ; and Alexander'* Feast smells of gin at second-hand, with 
true Briton fiddlers full c of native talent in the orchestra. 

Southey. Dryden says : " It were an easy matter to produce 
some thousands of Chaucer's verses which are lame for want of 
half, and sometimes a whole, foot, which no pronunciation can 
make otherwise." 

Landor. Certainly no pronunciation but the proper one can 
do it. 

Southey. On the opposite quarter, comparing him with 
Boccaccio, he says : " He has refined on the Italian, and has 
mended his stories in his way of telling. Our countryman 
carries weight, and yet wins the race at disadvantage." 

Landor. Certainly our brisk and vigorous poet carries with 
him no weight in criticism. 

Southey. Vivacity and shrewd sense are Dryden's charac- 
teristics, with quickness of perception rather than accuracy of 
remark, and consequently a facility rather than a fidelity of 

We are coming to our last days, if, according to the prophet 
Joel, "blood and fire and pillars of smoke" are signs of them. 
Again to Milton and the Penseroso. 

90. What worlds, or what vast regions . . . 

Are not vast regions included in world ? In verses 1 1 9, 1 20, 
121, 1 22, the same rhymes are repeated. 

Thus, night, oft see me in thy pale career, 

276 Imaginary Conversations. 

is the only verse of ten syllables, and should be reduced to 
the ranks. You always have strongly objected to epithets which 
designate dresses and decoration ; of which epithets, it must be 
acknowledged, both Milton and Shakspeare are unreasonably 
fond. Civilsuited, froivnced, kercheft, come close together. I 
suspect they will find as little favor in your eyes as embroidered, 
trimmed, and gilded. 

Landor. I am fond of gilding, not in our poetry, but in our 
apartments, where it gives a sunniness greatly wanted by the 
climate. Pindar and Virgil are profuse of gold ; but they reject 
the gilded. 

Southey. I have counted ninety-three lines in Milton where 
gold is used, and only four where gilded is. A question is raised 
whether pale, in 

[156.] To walk the studious cloisters pale, 

is substantive or adjective. What is your opinion ? 

Landor. That it is an adjective. Milton was very Italian, 
as you know, in his custom of adding a second epithet after 
the substantive, where one had preceded it. The Wartons 
followed him. Yet Thomas Warton would read in this verse 
the substantive, giving as his reason that our poet is fond of the 
singular. In the present word there is nothing extraordinary in 
finding it thus. We commonly say, within the pale of the 
church, of the law, &c. But pale is an epithet to which Milton 
is very partial. Just before, he has written "pale career" and 
we shall presently see the " pale-eyed priest." 


With antick pillars massy-proof. 

The Wartons are fond of repeating in their poetry the word 
massy-proof, in my opinion an inelegant one, and, if a com- 
pound, compounded badly. It seems more applicable to castles, 
whose massiveness gave proof of resistance. Antick was probably 
spelled antike by the author, who disdained to follow the fashion 
in antique, Pindaricque, &c., affected by Cowley and others, who 
had been, or would be thought to have been, domiciliated with 
Charles II. in France. 

Landor. Whenever I come to the end of these poems, or 

Southey and Lander 


either of them, it is always with a sigh of regret. We will pass 
by the Arcades, of which the little that is good is copied from 

Southey. Nevertheless, we may consider it as a nebula, which 
was not without its efficiency in forming the star of Comus. 
This Mask is modelled on another by George Peele. Two 
brothers wander in search of a sister enthralled by a magician. 
They call aloud her name, and echo repeats it, as here in Comus. 
Much has also been taken from Putcanus, who borrowed at 
once the best and the worst of his poem from Philostratus. In 
the third verse, I find spirits a dissyllable, which is unusual in 
Milton. ^ 

Landor. I can account for his monosyllabic sound by his 
fondness of imitating the Italian spirto. But you yourself are 
addicted to these quavers, if you will permit me the use of the 
word here ; and I find spirit, peril, &c., occupying no longer a 
time than if the second vowel were wanting. I do not approve 
of the apposition in 

[38.] The nodding horrour of whose shady brows. 

Before which I find 

[21.] Sea-girt isles 

That, like to rich and various gems, inlay 
The unadorned bosom of the deep. 

How can a bosom be unadorned which already is inlaid with 
gems ? 

Southey. You will object no less strongly 

[115.] Sounds and seas with all their finny drove, 

sounds being parts of seas. 

Landor. There are yet graver faults. Where did the 
young lady ever hear or learn such expressions as " Swilled 
insolence?" 7 

[ 1 88 .] The grey-hooded Even, 

Like a sad votarist in palmers weed, 
Rose from the hindmost wheels of Phoebus' wain. 

P Line 178, Globe ed.] 

278 Imaginary Conversations. 

Here is Eve, a manifest female, with her own proper hood upon 
her head, taking the other parts of male attire, and rising (by 
good luck) from under a wagon-wheel. But nothing in Milton, 
and scarcely any thing in Cowley, is viler than 

[195.] Else, O thievish night, 

Why should'st thou, but for some felonious end, 
In thy dark-lantern thus close up the stars. 

It must have been a capacious dark-lantern that held them all. 

That Nature hung in heaven, and filPd their lamps 
With everlasting oil. 

Hardly so bad ; but very bad is *- 

[221.] Does a sable cloud 

Turn forth her silver lining on the night ? 

A greater and more momentous fault is that three soliloquies come 
in succession for about 240 lines together. 

[291.] What time the labored ox 

In his loose traces from the furrow came 
And the swinkt hedger at his supper sat. 

These are blamed by Warton, but blamed in the wrong place. 
The young lady, being in the wood, could have seen nothing of 
ox or hedger, and was unlikely to have made any previous obser- 
vations on their work-hours. But, in the summer, and this was 
in summer, neither the ox nor the hedger are at work. That 
the ploughman always quits it at noon, as Warton says he does, is 
untrue. When he quits it at noon, it is for his dinner. Gray 

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way. 

He may do that, but certainly not at the season when 
The beetle wheels her drony flight. 

Nevertheless, the stricture is captious : for the ploughman may 
return from the field, although not from ploughing ; and ploughman 
may be accepted for any agriculturist. Certainly such must have 
been Virgil's meaning when he wrote 

Quos durus orator 
Observans nido implumes detraxit. 

Southey and Lander. 279 

For ploughing, in Italy more especially, is never the labor in June, 
when the nightingale's young are hatched. Gray's verse is a good 
one, which is more than can be said of Virgil's. 

[230.] Sweet Echo ! sweetest nymph ! that livest unseen 
Within thy airy shell ! 

The habitation is better adapted to an oyster than to Echo. 
We must, however, go on and look after the young gentlemen. 
Comus says, 

[294.] I saw them under a green mantling vine 

Plucking ripe clusters, &c. 

It is much to be regretted that the banks of the Severn in our 
days present no such facilities. You would find some difficulty 
in teaching the readers of poetry to read metrically the exquisite 
verses which follow. What would they make of 

[301.] And 8 as I | past I | worshipt it ! 

These are the true times ; and they are quite unintelligible to those 
who divide our verses into iambics, with what they call licences. 

Southey. We have found the two brothers ; and never were 
two young gentlemen in stilfer doublets. 

[331.] Unmuffle, ye faint stars, &c. 

The elder, although "as smooth as Hebe's his unrazor'd lip," 
talks not only like a man, but like a philosopher of much exper- 

[362.] What need a man forestall his date of grief, &c. 
How should he know that 

[393.] Beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree, 

Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard 

Of dragon watch with unenchanted eye 

To save her blossoms and defend her fruit, &c. ? 

[* Line 301 reads: 

"I was awe-strook. 

And, as I pas*ed, I worshipped. If those you seek, 
It were a journey like the path to Heaven 


irere a journey liKe tne 
help you find them.''] 

280 Imaginary Conversations. 

Landor. We now come to a place where we have only the 
choice of a contradiction or nonsense : 

[378.] She plumes her feathers and lets grow her wings. 

There is no sense in pluming a plume. Beyond a doubt, Milton 
wrote prunes, and subsequently it was printed plumes to avoid what 
appeared a contrariety. And a contrariety it would be, if the 
word prune were to be taken in no other sense than the gardener's. 
We suppose it must mean to cut shorter ; but its real signification 
is to trim, which is usually done by that process. Milton here 
means to smoothen and put in order : pr'me is better. Among the 
strange, unaccountable expressions which within our memory, or a 
little earlier, were carried down, like shingles by a sudden torrent, 
over our language, can you tell me what writer first wrote " un- 
bidden tears " ? 

Southey. No indeed. The phrase is certainly a curiosity, 
although no rarity. I wish some logician, or (it being beyond the 
reach of any) some metaphysician, would attempt to render us an 
account of it. Milton has never used unbidden where it really 
would be significant, and only once unbid. Can you go forward 
with this Elder brother " ? 

Landor. Let us try. I wish he would turn off his ** liveried 
angels," verse 455, and would say nothing about lust. How 
could he have learned that lust 

[464.] By unchaste looks, loose gestures, and foul talk, 
But most by lewd and lavish act of sin, &c. ? 

Can you tell me what wolves are " stabled wolves," verse 534? 

Southey. Not exactly. But here is another verse of the same 
construction as you remarked before : 

[599.] And earth's base built on stubble. But come, let's on. 

This was done by choice, not by necessity. He might have 
omitted the But, and have satisfied the herd bovine and porcine. 
Just below are two others in which three syllables are included in 
the time of two. 

[602.] But for that damn'd magician, let him be girt, &c. 
605. Harpies and hydras, or all the monstrous forms, &c. 

Southey and Landor. 

And again 

615. And crumble all thy sinews. Why, prithee, shepherd. 
Landor. You have crept unsoiled from 



Under the sooty flag of Acheron. 

And you may add many dozens more of similar verses, if you 
think it worth your while to go back for them. In verse 610, 
I find " yet " redundant : 

I love thy courage yt, and bold emprise. 
Commentators and critics bogle sadly a little farther on : 

[632.] But in another country, as he said, 

Bore a bright golden flower ; but not in this soil. 

On which hear T. Warton : " Milton, notwithstanding his 
singular skill in music, appears to have had a very bad ear." 
Warton was celebrated in his time for his great ability in 
raising a laugh in the common-room. He has here shown a 
capacity more extensive in that faculty. Two or three honest 
men have run to Milton's assistance, and have applied a remedy 
to his ear : they would help him to mend the verse. In fact, it 
is a bad one : he never wrote it so. The word but is useless in 
the second line, and comes with the worse grace after the But 
in the preceding. They who can discover faults in versification 
where there are none but of their own imagining have failed to 
notice verse 666 : 

Why are you | vext, lady, | why do you | frown ? 

Now, this in reality is inadmissible, being of a metre quite 
different from the rest. It is dactylic ; and consequently, al- 
though the number of syllables is just, the number of feet is 
defective. But Milton, in reciting it, would bring it back to 
the order he had established. He would read it 

Why are you vext ? 

And then in a faltering and falling accent, and in the tender 

Lady | why do you frown ? 

282 Imaginary Conversations. 

There are some who in a few years can learn all the harmony 
of Milton ; there are others who must go into another state of 
existence for this felicity. 

Southey. I am afraid I am about to check for a moment your 
enthusiasm, in bringing you 

[707.] To those budge doctors of the Stoic fur, 

whom Comus is holding in derision. 

Landor. Certainly it is odd enough to find him in such com- 
pany. It is the first time either Cynic or Stoic ever put on fur ; 
and it must be confessed it little becomes them. We are told 
that, verse 727, 

And live like Nature's bastards, not her sons, 

is taken from the Bible. Whencesoever it may be taken, the 
expression is faulty ; for a son may be a bastard, and quite as 
surely a bastard may be a son. In verse 732, "the unsought 
diamonds " are ill-placed ; and we are told that Doctors War- 
burton and Newton called these four lines "exceeding childish." 
They are so, for all that. I wonder none of the fraternity had 
his fingers at liberty to count the syllables in verse 743 : 

If you let | slip time, like a neglected rose, &c. 
I wish he had cast away the yet in verse 755. 

Think what ; and be advised ; you are but young yet. 

Not only is yet an expletive, and makes the verse inharmonious, 
but the syllables young and yet coming together would of them- 
selves be intolerable anywhere. What a magnificent passage ! 
How little poetry in any language is comparable to this, which 
closes the lady's reply, 

792-799. Thou art not fit to hear thyself convinced ! 

This is worthy of Shakspeare himself in his highest mood, and 
is unattained and unattainable by any other poet. What a trans- 
port of enthusiasm ; what a burst of harmony ! He who writes 
one sentence equal to this will have reached a higher rank in poetry 
than any has done since this was written. 

Southey and Landor. 283 

Soutlxy. I thought it would be difficult to confine you to cen- 
sure, as we first proposed. The anger and wit of Comus effervesce 
into flatness, one dashed upon the other. 

[806.] Come, no more ; 

This is mere moral babble, and direct 
Against the canon laws of our foundation. 

He rolls out from the " cynic tub " to put on cap and gown. 
The laughter of Milton soon assumed a wry, puritanical cast. 
: while he had the mollt, he wanted the facetum in all its 
parts and qualities. It is hard upon Milton, and harder still 
upon inferior poets, that every expression of his used by a pre- 
decessor should be noted as borrowed or stolen. Here, in verse 

Will bathe the drooping spirits in delight 

is traced to several, and might be traced to more. Chaucer, in 
whose songs it is more beautiful than elsewhere, writes, 

His harte bathed in a bath of blisse. 

Probably he took the idea from the bath of knights. You could 
never have seen Chaucer, nor the rest, when you wrote those verses 
at Rugby * on Godiva : you drew them out of the Square Pool, and 
assimilated them to the tranquillity of prayer, such a tranquillity, 
as is the effect of prayer on the boyish mind, when it has any 
effect at all. 

Landor. I have expunged many thoughts for their close re- 
semblance to what others had written, whose works I never saw 
until after. But all thinking men must think, all imaginative men 
must imagine, many things in common, although they differ. 
Some abhor what others embrace ; but the thought strikes them 
equally. With some an idea is productive, with others it lies 
inert. I have resigned and abandoned many things because I un- 
reasonably doubted my legitimate claim to them, and many more 
because I believed I had enough substance in the house without 
them, and that the retention might raise a clamor in my court- 
yard. I do not look very sharply after the poachers on my pro- 
perty. One of your neighbors has broken down a shell in my 
[ See the Conversation between Leofric and Godiva, vol. v."| 

284 Imaginary Conversations. 

grotto, and a town gentleman has lamed a rabbit in my warren : 
heartily welcome both. Do not shut your book : we have time 
left for the rest. 

Southey. Sabrina in person is now before us. Johnson talks 
absurdly, not on the long narration, for which he has reasons, 
but in saying that " it is of no use, because it is false, and there- 
fore unsuitable to a good being." Warton answers this objection 
with great propriety. It may be added that things in themselves 
very false are very true in poetry, and produce not only delight, 
but beneficial moral effects. This is an instance. The part 
before us is copied from Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess. The 
Spirit, in his thanksgiving to Sabrina for liberating the lady, is 
extremely warm in good wishes. After the aspiration, 

[934.] May thy lofty head be crown'd 

With many a tower and terrace round, 

he adds, 

And here and there, thy banks uf>on, 
With groves of myrrh and cinnamon. 

It would have been more reasonable to have said, 

And here and there some fine fat geese, 
And ducklings waiting for green pease. 

The conclusion is admirable, though it must be acknowledged 
that the piece is undramatic. Johnson makes an unanswerable 
objection to the prologue ; but he must have lost all the senses 
that are affected by poetry, when he calls the whole drama 
tediously instructive. There is, indeed, here and there prolixity ; 
yet refreshing springs burst out profusely in every part of the 
wordy wilderness. We are now at the Sonnets. I know your 
dislike of this composition. 

Landor. In English, not in Italian ; but Milton has 
ennobled it in our tongue, and has trivialized it in that. He who 
is deficient in readiness of language is half a fool in writing, and 
more than half in conversation. Ideas fix themselves about the 
tongue, and fall to the ground when they are in want of that 
support. Unhappily, Italian poetry in the age of Milton was 
almost at its worst, and he imitated what he heard repeated or 
praised. It is better to say no more about it, or about his Psalms, 
when we come to them. 

Sou they and Landor. 285 

Soutkty. Among his minor poems several are worthless. 

Landor. True ; but, if they had been lost, we should be 
glad to have recovered them. Cromwell would not allow 
I. ely to omit or diminish a single wart upon his face ; yet there 
were many and great ones. If you had found a treasure of gold 
and silver, and afterwards in the same excavation an urn in which 
only brass coins were contained, would you reject them ? You 
will find in his English Sonnets some of a much higher strain than 
even the best of Dante's. The great poet is sometimes recum- 
bent, but never languid ; often unadorned, I wish I could 
honestly say, not often inelegant. But what noble odes (for 
such we must consider them) are the eighth, the fifteenth, the 
sixteenth, the seventeenth, and, above all, the eighteenth ! There 
is a mild and serene sublimity in the nineteenth. In the twentieth 
there is the festivity of Horace, with a due observance of his 
precept, applicable metaphorically, 

Simplici myrto nihil adlabores. 

This is among the few English poems which are quite classical, 
according to our notions, as the Greeks and Romans have im- 
pressed them. It is pleasing to find Milton, in his later days, 
thus disposed to cheerfulness and conviviality. There are 
climates of the earth, it is said, in which a warm season inter- 
venes between autumn and winter. Such a season came to 
reanimate, not the earth itself, but what was highest upon it. 

A few of Milton's Sonnets are extremely bad : the rest are 
excellent. Among all Shakspeare's, not a single one is very 
admirable, and few sink very low. They are hot and pothery : 
there is much condensation, little delicacy ; like raspberry jam 
without cream, without crust, without bread, to break its viscidity. 
But I would rather sit down to one of them again than to a 
string of such musty sausages as are exposed in our streets at the 
present dull season. Let us be reverent; but only where 
reverence is due, even in Milton and in Shakspeare. It is a 
privilege to be near enough to them to see their faults : never are 
we likely to abuse it. Those in high station, who have the folly 
and the impudence to look down on us, possess none such. Silks 
perish as the silkworms have perished ; kings, as their carpets and 
canopies. There are objects too great for these animalcules of 

286 Imaginary Conversations. 

the palace to see well and wholly. Do you doubt that the 
most fatuous of the Georges, whichever it was, thought him- 
self Newton's superior ? Or that any minister, any peer of 
Parliament, held the philosopher so high as the assayer of the 
mint ? Was it not always in a grated hole, among bars and 
bullion, that they saw whatever they could see of his dignity ? 
Was it ever among the interminable worlds he brought down 
for men to contemplate ? Yet Newton stood incalculably more 
exalted above the glorious multitude of stars and suns, than 
these ignorant and irreclaimable wretches above the multitude 
of the street. Let every man hold this faith, and it will teach 
him what is lawful and right in veneration ; namely, that there 
are divine beings and immortal men on the one side, mortal 
men and brute beasts on the other. The two parties stand com- 
pact ; each stands separate : the distance is wide, but there is 
nothing in the interval. 

Will you go on, after a minute or two, for I am inclined 
to silence ? 

Southey. Next to the Sonnets come the Odes, written much 
earlier. One stanza in that On the Morning of the. Nativity 
has been often admired. What think you of this stanza, the 
fourth ? But the preceding and the following are beautiful too. 

Landor. I think it incomparably the noblest piece of lyric 
poetry in any modern language I am conversant with ; and I 
regret that so much of the remainder throws up the bubbles 
and fetid mud of the Italian. In the thirteenth, what a rhyme 
is harmony with symphony ! In the eighteenth, 

Swinges the scaly horror of his/o/aW tail. 

I wish you would unfold the folded tail for me : I do not like to 
meddle with it. 

Southey. Better to rest on the fourth stanza, and then regard 
fresh beauties in the preceding and the following. Beyond 
these, very far beyond, are the nineteenth and twentieth. But 
why is the priest pale-eyed ? 

Landor. Who knows ? I would not delay you with a 
remark on the modern spelling of what Milton wrote k'ut, 
and what some editors have turned into kiss'd ; a word which 
could not exist in its contraction, and never did exist in speech 

Southey and Landor. 287 

even uncontracted. Yet they make kufd rhyme with whist. 
Let me remark again on the word unexpressive, verse 1 16, used 
before in Lycidas, verse 176, and defended by the authority 
of Shakspeare (As You I Ale It. Act III., 82.), 

The fair, the chaste, the uncxprettivc she. 

This is quite as wrong as resistless for irresistible, and even more 
so. I suspect it was used by Shakspeare, who uses it only 
once, merely to turn into ridicule a fantastic euphuism of the 
day. Milton, in his youth, was fond of seizing on odd things 
wherever he found them. 

1 30. And let the base of heaven's deep organ blow. 

Landor. No, I will not : I am too puritanical in poetry 
for that. 

Southcy. The twenty-third, " And sullen Moloch," is grand, 
until we come to 

The brutish gods of Nile, at fast 
Isis and Osiris and the dog Anubis, haste. 

As fast as what ? We have heard nothing but the ring of 
cymbals calling the grisly king. We come to worse in twenty- 

So when the sun in bed 

Curtain 'd with cloudy reJ, 

Pillmvs kit chin, &c. 

| x xvii . ] And all about the courtly stable 

Brigkt-harnett angels sit ... in order serviceable. 

They would be the less scroictablt by being seated, and not the 
more so for being harnessed. 

The Passion. The five first verses of the sixth stanza are 
good, and very acceptable after the "letters where my tears 
have tvatht a wanmsh white." The last two verses are guilty 
of such an offence as Cowley himself was never indicted for. 
The sixth stanza lies between two others full of putrid conceits, 
like a large pearl which has exhausted its oyster. 

Landor. But can any thing be conceived more exquisite 

Grove and spring 
Would soon unbosom all their echoes mild? 

288 Imaginary Conversations. 

This totally withdraws us from regarding the strange superfetation 
just below. 

The Circumcision, verse 6 : 

Now mourn ; and if sad share with us to bear. 

Death of an Infant. It is never at a time when the feelings 
are most acute that the poet expresses them ; but sensibility and 
taste shrink alike, on such occasions, from witticisms and 
whimsies. Here are too many ; but the last two stanzas are 
very beautiful. Look at the note. Here are six verses, four of 
them in Shakspeare, containing specimens of the orthography you 
recommend : 

Sweet Rose ! fair flower, untimely pluckt, soon faded, 
Pluckt in the bud and faded in the spring, 
Bright Orient pearle, alack too timely shaded ! 
Fair creature kifd too soon by Death's sharp sting. 


Sweete lovely Rose ! ill pluckt before thy time, 
Fair worthy sonne, not conquered, but betraid. 

Southey. The spelling of Milton is not always to be copied, 
though it is better on the whole than any other writer's. He 
continues to write Jift and sixt. In what manner would he write 
eighth ? If he omitted the final h, there would be irregularity 
and confusion. Beside, how would he continue ? Would he 
say the tent for the tenth, and the thir tent, four tent, &c.? 

Landor. We have corrected and fixed a few inconsiderate 
and random spellings ; but we have as frequently taken the wrong 
and rejected the right. No edition of Shakspeare can be valuable 
unless it strictly follows the first editors, who knew and observed 
his orthography. 


. . . from thy prefixed seat didst post. St. 9, v. 59. 

We find the same expression more than once in Milton, surely 
one very unfit for grave subjects in his time as in ours. 

Let us, sitting beneath the sundial, look at the poem On 
Time : 

Call on the lazy leaden-stepping Hours 
Whose speed is but the heavy plummet's pace. 

Southey and Landor. 289 

Now, although the Hours may be the lazier for the lead about 
them, the plummet is the quicker for it. 

And glut thyself with what thy womb devours. 

It is incredible how many disgusting images Milton indulges in. 

Landor. In his age, and a century earlier, it was called 
strength. The Graces are absent from this chamber of Ilithyia. 
But the poet would have defended his position with the horse of 

Uterumque armato milite complent. 


Then long eternity shall greet our bliss 
With an individual kiss, 

meaning undivided ; and he employs the same word in the same 
sense again in the Paradise Lost. How much more properly 
than as we are now in the habit of using it, calling men and 
women, who never saw one another, individuals, and often 
employing it beyond the person : for instance, " a man's indi- 
vidual pleasure," although the pleasure is divided with another 
or with many. The last part, from " When every thing " 
to the end, is magnificent. The word sincerely bears its Latin 

The next is, At a Solemn Music. And I think you will 
agree with me that a sequence of rhymes never ran into 
such harmony as those at the conclusion, from " That we on 

Landor. Excepting the commencement of Dryden's Religio 
Laicij where indeed the poetry is of a much inferior order; 
for the head of Dryden does not reach so high as to the loins 
of Milton. 

Southey. No, nor to the knees. We now come to the 
Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester. He has often much 
injured this beautiful metre by the prefix of a syllable which 
distorts every foot. The entire change in the dllcgro, to welcome 
Euphrosyne, is admirably judicious. The flow in the poem 
before us is trochaic : he turns it into the iambic, which is 
exactly its opposite. The verses beginning 


290 Imaginary Conversations. 

The God that sits at marriage-feast, 
are infinitely less beautiful than Ovid's. These, 

He at their invoking came, 

But with a scarce well-lighted flame, 

bear a faint resemblance to 

Fax quoque quam tenuit lacrimoso stridula fumo 
Usque fuit, nullosque invent motibus ignes. 

Here the conclusion is ludicrously low, 

No marchioness, but now a queen. 

In Vacation Exercise : 

Driving dumb silence from the portal door, 
Where he had mutely sat two years before. 

What do you think of that ? 

Landor. Why, I think it would have been as well if he had 
sat there still. In the 2yth verse, he uses the noun substantive 
suspect for suspicion ; and why not ? I have already given my 
reasons for its propriety. From verse 33 to 44 is again such 
a series of couplets as you will vainly look for in any other 

Southey. " On the JEns." Nothing can be more ingenious. 
It was in such subjects that the royal James took delight. I 
know not what the rivers have to do with the present ; but they 
are very refreshing after coming out of the schools. 

The Epitaph on Shakspeare is thought unworthy of Milton. I 
entertain a very different opinion of it, considering it was the first 
poem he ever published. Omit the two lines, 

Thou in our wonder and astonishment 
Hast built thyself a live-long monument, 

and the remainder is vigorous, direct, and enthusiastic ; after 
invention, the greatest qualities of all great poetry. 

On the Forces of Conscience. Milton is among the least witty 
of mankind. He seldom attempts a witticism unless he is angry; 
and then he stifles it by clenching his fist. His unrhymed 
translation of Quis multd gracilis is beautiful for four lines only. 

Southey and Landor. 291 

Plain in thy neatness is almost an equivoke ; neat in thy plainness of 
attire would be nearer the mark. 

Landor. Simplex mitnditis does not mean that, nor plain in 
thy "ornaments," as Waiton thinks; but, without any reference 
to ornaments, plain in attire. Mundus muliebris (and from mundus 
mundit'uc) means the toilet ; and always will mean it, as long as 
the world lasts. We now come upon the Psalms ; so let us 
close the book. 

Southey. Willingly ; for I am desirous of hearing you say a 
little more about the Latin poetry of Milton than you have said 
in your Dissertation. 

Landor. Johnson gives his opinion more freely than favorably. 
It is wonderful that a critic, so severe in his censures on the 
absurdities and extravagances of Cowley, should prefer the very 
worst of them to the gracefulness and simplicity of Milton. His 
gracefulness he seldom loses ; his simplicity he not always retains. 
But there is no Latin verse of Cowley worth preservation. 
Thomas May, indeed, is an admirable imitator of Lucan ; so 
good a one, that, if in Lucan you find little poetry, in May you 
find none. But his verses sound well upon the anvil. It is 
surprising that Milton, who professedly imitated Ovid, should so 
much more rarely have run into conceits than when he had no 
such leader. His early English poetry is full of them, and in the 
gravest the most. The best of his Latin poems is that addressed to 
Christina in the name of Cromwell : it is worthy of the classical and 
courtly Bembo. But, in the second verse, lucida stella violates 
the metre : stella serena would be more descriptive and applicable. 
It now occurs to me, that he who edited the last Ainsworttis 
Dictionary calls Cowley poetarum stculi sui facile princcps, and 
totally omits all mention of Shakspeare in the obituary of 
illustrious men. Among these he has placed not only the most 
contemptible critics, who bore indeed some relation to learning, 
but even such people as Lord Cornwallis and Lord Thurlow. 
Egregious ass ! above all other asses by a good ear's length ! 
Ought a publication so negligent and injudicious to be admitted 
into our public schools, after the world has been enriched by the 
erudition of Facciolati and Furlani ? Shall we open the book 
again, and, go straight on ? 

Southey. If you please. But as you insist on me saying most 

292 Imaginary Conversations. 

about the English, I expect at your hands a compensation in the 

Landor. I do not promise you a compensation ; but I will 
waste no time in obeying your wishes. Severe and rigid as 
the character of Milton has been usually represented to us, it 
is impossible to read his Elegies without admiration for his 
warmth of friendship and his eloquence in expressing it. His 
early love of Ovid, as a master in poetry, is enthusiastic. 

[23.] Non tune lonio quidquam cessisset Homero, 

Neve foret victo laus tibi prima, Maro ! 

Neve is often used by the moderns for neque, very improperly. 
Although we hear much about the Metamorphoses and the JEneid 
being left incomplete, we may reasonably doubt whether the 
authors could have much improved them. There is a deficiency 
of skill in the composition of both poems ; but every part is 
elaborately worked out. Nothing in Latin can excel the beauty 
of Virgil's versification. Ovid's at one moment has the fluency, 
at another the discontinuance, of mere conversation. Sorrow, 
passionate, dignified, and deep, is never seen in the Metamorphoses 
as in the JEneid ; nor in the JEneid is any eloquence so sustained, 
any spirit so heroic, as in the contest between Ajax and Ulysses. 
But Ovid frequently, in other places, wants that gravity and 
potency in which Virgil rarely fails : declamation is no substitute 
for it. Milton, in his Latin verses, often places words beginning 
with sc 9 sty spy &c., before a dactyl, which is inadmissible. 

[53.] Ah! quoties dignse stupui miracula formae 

Quae possit senium vel reparare Jovis. 

No such difficult a matter as he appears to represent it ; for 
Jupiter, to the very last, was much given to such reparations. 
This elegy, with many slight faults, has great facility and spirit of 
its own, and has caught more by running at the side of Ovid and 
Tibullus. In the second elegy, alipes is a dactyl ; pes, simple or 
compound, is long. This poem is altogether unworthy of its 
author. The third is on the death of Launcelot Andrews, Bishop 
of Winchester. It is florid, puerile, and altogether deficient in 
pathos. The conclusion is curious : 

Flebam turbatos Cepheleia pellice somnos ; 
Talia contingant somnia s<epe mlhi. 

Southey and Landor. 293 

Ovid has expressed the same wish in the same words ; but the 
aspiration was for somewhat very dissimilar to a Bishop of Win- 
chester. The fourth is an epistle to Thomas Young, his preceptor, 
a man whose tenets were puritanical, but who encouraged in his 
scholar the love of poetry. Much of this piece is imitated from 
Ovid. There are several thoughts which -might have been 
omitted, and several expressions which might have been improved. 
For instance : 

[ill.] Namque eris ipse Dei radiante sub fgide tutus, 

lllc tibi custos et pugil ille tibi. 

All the verses after these are magnificent. The next is on 
Spring, very inferior to its predecessors. 

[39.] Nam dolus et czdes et vis, cum nocte recessit 

Neve giganteum Dii metuert scelus. 

How thick the faults lie here ! But the invitation of the Earth 
to the Sun is quite Ovidian. 

[122.] Semicaperque deus semideusque caper 

is too much so. Elegy the sixth is addressed to Deodati. 

Mitto tibi sanam non pleno ventre salutem, 
Qua tu, distento, forte carere potes. 

I have often observed, in modern Latinists of the first order, that 
they use indifferently forte and forsan or for sit an. Here is an 
example. Forte is, by accident^ without the implication of a 
doubt; forsan always implies one. Martial wrote bad Latin 
when he wrote ** Si forsan." Runchenius himself writes ques- 
tionably to D'Orville, " sed forte res non est tanti." It surely 
would be better to have written fortasse. I should have less 
wondered to find forte in any modern Italian (excepting Bembo, 
who always writes with as much precision as Cicero or Caesar) ; 
because ma forsc, their idiom, would prompt sed forte. 

[19.] Naso Corallxis mala carmina misit ab agris. 

Untrue. He himself was discontented with them because they 
had lost their playfulness ; but their only fault lies in their adula- 
tion. I doubt whether all the elegiac verses that have been 
written in the Latin language ever since are worth the books of 

294 Imaginary Conversations. 

them he sent from Pontus. Deducting one couplet from Joannes 
Secundus, I would strike the bargain. 

[79.] Si modo saltern. 

The saltern is here redundant and contrary to Latinity. 

Southey. This elegy, I think, is equable and pleasing, without 
any great fault or great beauty. 

Landor. In the seventh, he discloses the first effects of love 
on him. Here are two verses which I never have read without 
the heart-ache : 

[15.] Ut mihi adhuc refugam quaerebant lumina noctem 
Nee matutinum sustinuere jubar . 

We perceive at one moment the first indication of love and of 
blindness. Happy, had the blindness been as unreal as the love. 
Cupid is not exalted by a comparison with Paris and Hylas, nor 
the frown of Apollo magnified by the Parthian. He writes, as 
many did, author for auctor, very improperly. In the sixtieth verse 
is again neve for nee ; nor is it the last time. But here come 
beautiful verses: 

[99.] Deme meos tandem, verum nee deme, furores ; 
Nescio cur, miser est suaviter omnis amans. 

I wish cur had been qui. Subjoined to this elegy are ten verses 
in which he regrets the time he had wasted in love. Probably it 
was on the day (for it could not have cost him more) on which 
he composed it. 

Southey. The series of these compositions exhibits little more 
than so many exercises in mythology. You have repeated to me 
all that is good in them, and in such a tone of enthusiasm as made 
me think better of them than I had ever thought before. The 
first of his epigrams, on Leonora Baroni, has little merit ; the 
second, which relates to Tasso, has much. 

Landor. I wish, however, that in the sixth 10 line he had 
substituted ilia for eddem, and not on account of the metre ; for 
eadem becomes a spondee, as eodem in Virgil's "uno eodemque 
igni." And sibi, which ends the poem, is superfluous ; if there 
must be any word, it should be , which the metre rejects. The 

[ 10 The tenth line of this poem runs 

" Voce eadem poteras composuisse tua."] 

Southey and Landor. 295 

Scazons against Salmasius arc a miserable copy of Persius's heavy 
prologue to his satires ; and, moreover, a copy at second-hand : 
for Menage had imitated it in his invective against Mommor, 
whom he calls Gargilius. He begins, 

Quis expedivit psittaco suo x tu P c - 

But Persius's and Menage's at least are metrical, which Milton's 
in one instance are not. The fifth foot should be an iambic. 
In primatum we have a spondee. The iambics which follow, on 
Salmasius again, are just as faulty. They start with a false quan- 
tity, and go on stumbling with the same infirmity. The epigram 
on More, the defender of Salmasius, is without wit : the pun is 
very poor. The next piece, a fable of the Farmer and Master, is 
equally vapid. But now comes the Bellipotens Vlrgo^ of which 
we often have spoken, but of which no one ever spoke too highly. 
Christina was flighty and insane ; but it suited the policy of Crom- 
well to flatter a queen almost as vain as Elizabeth, who could still 
command the veterans of Gustavus Adolphus. We will pass 
over the Greek verses. They are such as no boy of the sixth 
form would venture to show up in any of our public schools. 
We have only one Alcaic ode in the volume, and a very bad one 
it is. The canons of this metre 11 were unknown in Milton's 
tinu-. But, versed as he was in mythology, he never should have 

Nee puppe lustrasses Charontis 
Horribiles barathri recessus. 

The good Doctor Goslyn was not rowed in that direction, nor 
could any such place be discovered from the bark of Charon, 
from whom Dr Goslyn had every right, as Vice-Chancellor of 
the University, to expect civility and attention. 

Southty. We come now to a longer poem, and in heroic verse, 
on the Gunpowder Plot. It appears to me to be even more 
Ovidian than the Elegies. Monstrosus Typhoeus, Mavortigena 
Ouirinus, tru> Pope, and the mendicant friars meet strangely. 
However, here they are; and now comes Saint Peter, and 

[ Landor i> referring to the faulty form used by Milton in the third 
line of the Archaic Atanza. Five out of the twelve are incorrect.] 

296 Imaginary Conversations. 


Hie Dolus intortis semper sedet ater ocellis. 

Though ocellus is often used for oculus, being a diminutive, it 
is, if not always a word of endearment, yet never applicable 
to what is terrific or heroic. In the i6$d verse the Pope is 
represented as declaring the Protestant religion to be the true 

Et quotquot fidei caluere cupidine verz. 

This poem, which ends poorly, is a wonderful work for a boy of 
seventeen, although much less so than Chatterton's Bristoive 
Tragedie and JElia. 

Southey. I suspect you will be less an admirer of the next, on 
Ob'ttum Praulis Elienses, 

[13.] Qui rex sacrorum ilia fuisti in insula 

Qua nomen Anguilla tenet, 

where he wishes Death were dead. 

[24.] Et imfrecor ned nccem. 


[43.] Sub regna furvi luctuosa Tartari 

Sedcique subterraneai. 

Landor. He never has descended before to such a bathos 
as this, where he runs against the coming blackamoor in the 
dark. However, he recovers from the momentary stupefaction ; 
and there follow twenty magnificent verses, such as Horace 
himself, who excels in this metre, never wrote in it. But the 
next, Naturam non pati senium, is still more admirable. I wish 
only he had omitted the third verse. 

Heu quam perpetuis erroribus acta fatiscit 

Avia mens hominum, tenebrisque immersa profundis 

CEdipodioniam volvit sub pectore noctem. 

Sublime as vohlt sub pectore noctem is, the lumbering and ill- 
composed word, (Edipodioniam, spoils it. Beside, the sentence 
would go on very well, omitting the whole line. Gray has 
much less vigor and animation in the fragment of his philosophi- 
cal poem. Robert Smith alone has more, how much more! 

Southey and Landor. 297 

Enough to rival Lucretius in his noblest passages, and to deter 
the most aspiring from an attempt at Latin poetry. The next is 
also on a philosophical subject, and entitled, De Idea Platonica 
quemadmodum Aristotcles intellex'it. This is obscure. Aristoteles 
knew, as others do, that Plato entertained the whimsy of God 
working from an archetype ; but he himself was too sound and 
solid for the admission of such a notion. The first five verses 
are highly poetical ; the sixth is Cowleian. At the close, he 
scourges Plato for playing the fool so extravagantly, and tells 
him either to recall the poets he has turned out of doors, or 
to go out himself. There are people who look up in astonish- 
ment at this archetypus gtgas^ frightening God while he works 
at him. Milton has invested him with great dignity, and slips 
only once into the poetical corruptions of the age. 

Southey. Lover as you are of Milton, how highly must you 
be gratified by the poem he addresses to his father ! 

Landor. I am happy, remote as we are, to think of the 
pleasure so good a father must have felt on this occasion, and 
how clearly he must have seen in prospective the glory of his 

In the verses after the forty-second, 

Carmina regales epulas ornare solebant, 
Cum nondum luxus vastzque immensa vorago 
Nota gulz. et modico fumabat cocna Lyzo, 
Turn de more sedens feste ad convivia vates, &c. 

I wish he had omitted the two intermediate lines, and had 

Carmina regales epulas ornare solebant, 
Cum, de more, &c. 

The four toward the conclusion, 

At tibi, chare pater, &c. 

must have gratified the father as much almost by the harmony 
as the sentiment. 

Southey. The scazons to SaJsilli are a just and equitable return 
for his quatrain ; for they are full of false quantities, without an 
iota of poetry. 

Landor. But how gloriously he bursts forth again in all his 

298 Imaginary Conversations. 

splendor for Manso ! for Manso, who before had enjoyed the 
immortal honor of being the friend of Ta sso ! 

[70.] Diis dilecte senex ! te Jupiter aequus oportet 
Nascentem et miti lustrarit lumine Phoebus, 
Atlantisque nepos ; neqve enim nisi charus ab ortu, 
Diis superis poterit magnofa'visse poet<e. 

And the remainder of the poem is highly enthusiastic. What 
a glorious verse is, 

[84.] Frangam Saxonicas Britonum sub Marte phalanges ! 

Southey. I have often wondered that our poets, and Milton 
more especially, should be the partisans of the Britons rather 
than of the Saxons. I do not add the Normans ; for very few 
of our poets are Norman by descent. The Britons seem to 
have been a barbarous and treacherous race, inclined to drunken- 
ness and quarrels. Was the whole nation ever worth this noble 
verse of Milton ? It seems to come sounding over the ^Egean 
Sea, and not to have been modulated on the low country of the 

Landor. In his pastoral on the loss of Diodati, entitled 
Epitaphium Damonis, there are many beautiful verses : for 

[66.] Ovium quoque tasdet, at illae 

Mcerent, inque suum convertunt ora magistrum. 

The pause at marent, and the word also, show the great master. 
In Virgil himself it is impossible to find anything more scientific. 
Here, as in Lycidas, mythologies are intermixed, and the heroic 
bursts forth from the pastoral. Apollo could not for ever be 
disguised as the shepherd-boy of Admetus. 

[60.] Supra caput imber et Eurus 

Triste sonant, fractaque agitato crepuscula 

Southey. This is finely expressed ; but he found the idea 
not untouched before. Gray and others have worked upon 
it since. It may be well to say little on the Presentation of the 
poems to the Bodleian Library. Strophes and antistrophes are 
here quite out of place ; and on no occasion has any Latin poet 

Southey and Landor. 299 

so jumbled together the old metres. Many of these are irregular 
and imperfect. 

[60.] Ion Actea genitus Creusa 

is not a verse ; authorum is not Latin. 

[78.] Et tutela dabit solers Rottsi 

is defective in metre. This Pindaric ode to Rouse, the libra- 
rian, is indeed fuller of faults than any other of his Latin compo- 
sitions. He tells us himself that he has admitted a spondee 
for the third foot in the Phalsecian verse, because Catullus had 
done so in the second. He never wrote such bad verses, or 
gave such bad reasons, all his life before. But beautifully and 
justly has he said, 

[86.] Si quid meremur sana posteritas sciet. 

Landor. I find traces in Milton of nearly all the best Latin 
poets, excepting Lucretius. This is singular; for there is in 
both of them a generous warmth and a contemptuous severity. 
I admire and love Lucretius. There is about him a simple 
majesty, a calm and lofty scorn of every thing pusillanimous and 
abject ; and, consistently with this character, his poetry is mascu- 
line, plain, concentrated, and energetic. But since invention 
was precluded by the subject, and glimpses of imagination could 
be admitted through but few and narrow apertures, it is the in- 
sanity of enthusiasm to prefer his poetical powers to those of 
Virgil, of Catullus, and of Ovid ; in all of whom every part of 
what constitutes the true poet is much more largely displayed. 
The excellence of Lucretius is, that his ornaments are never out 
of place, and are always to be found wherever there is a place 
for them. Ovid knows not what to do with his, and is as fond 
of accumulation as the frequenter of auction -rooms. He is 
playful so out of season, that he reminds me of a young lady I 
saw at Sta. Maria Novella, who at one moment crossed herself, 
and at the next tickled her companion ; by which process they 
were both put upon their speed at their prayers, and made very 
good and happy. Small as is the portion of glory which accrues 
to Milton from his Latin poetry, there are single sentences in 
it, ay, single images, worth all that our island had produced 

300 Imaginary Conversations. 

before. In all the volume of Buchanan, I doubt whether you 
can discover a glimpse of poetry ; and few sparks fly off the 
anvil of May. 

There is a confidence of better days expressed in this closing 
poem. Enough is to be found in his Latin to insure him a high 
rank and a lasting name. It is, however, to be regretted that 
late in life he ran back to the treasures of his youth, and estimated 
them with the fondness of that undiscerning age. No poet ever 
was sorry that he abstained from early publication. But Milton 
seems to have cherished his first effusions with undue partiality. 
Many things written later by him are unworthy of preservation, 
especially those which exhibit men who provoked him into 
bitterness. Hatred, the most vulgar of vulgarisms, could never 
have belonged to his natural character. He must have contracted 
the distemper from theologians and critics. The scholar in his 
days was half clown and half trooper. College life could leave 
but few of its stains and incrustations on a man who had stepped 
forward so soon into the amenities of Italy, and had conversed so 
familiarly with the most polished gentlemen of the most polished 

Southey. In his attacks on Salmasius, and others more obscure, 
he appears to have mistaken his talent in supposing he was witty. 

Landor. Is there a man in the world wise enough to know 
whether he himself is witty or not, to the extent he aims at ? I 
doubt whether any question needs more self-examination. It is 
only the fool's heart that is at rest upon it. He never asks how 
the matter stands, and feels confident he has only to stoop for it. 
Milton's dough, it must be acknowledged, is never the lighter for 
the bitter barm he kneads up with it. 

Southey. The Sabbath of his mind required no levities, no 
excursions or amusements. But he was not ill-tempered. The 
worst-tempered men have often the greatest and readiest store of 
pleasantries. Milton, on all occasions indignant and wrathful at 
injustice, was unwilling to repress the signification of it when it 
was directed against himself. However I can hardly think he felt 
so much as he expresses ; but he seized on bad models in his 
resolution to show his scholarship. Disputants, and critics in 
particular, followed one another with invectives ; and he was 
thought to have given the most manifest proof of original genius 

Southey and Landor. 301 

who had invented a new form of reproach. I doubt if Milton 
was so contented with his discomfiture of Satan, or even with his 
creation of Eve, as with the overthrow of Salmasius under the 
loads of fetid brimstone he fulminated against him. 

It is fortunate we have been sitting quite alone while we 
detected the blemishes of a poet we both venerate. The mali- 
cious are always the most ready to bring forward an accusation of 
malice ; and we should certainly have been served, before long, 
with a writ pushed under the door. 

Landor. Are we not somewhat like two little beggar-boys, 
who, forgetting that they are in tatters, sit noticing a few stains 
and rents in their father's raiment ? 

Southey. But they love him. 

Let us now walk homeward. We leave behind us the Severn 
and the sea and the mountains ; and, if smaller things may be 
mentioned so suddenly after greater, we leave behind us the sun- 
dial, which marks, as we have been doing in regard to Milton, 
the course of the great luminary by a slender line of shadow. 

Landor. After witnessing his glorious ascension, we are 
destined to lower our foreheads over the dreary hydropathy and 
flannelly voices of the swathed and sinewless. 

Southey. Do not be over-sure that you are come to the worst, 
even there. Unless you sign a certificate of their health and 
vigor, your windows and lamps may be broken by the mischievous 
rabble below. 

Landor. Marauders will cook their greens and bacon, though 
they tear down cedar panels for the purpose. 

Southey. There is an incessant chatterer 12 who has risen to 
the first dignities of State by the same means as nearly all men 
rise now by ; namely, opposition to whatever is done or projected 
by those invested with authority. He will never allow us to 
contemplate greatness at our leisure : he will not allow us indeed 
to look at it for a moment. Caesar must be stripped of his laurels 
and left bald ; or some reeling soldier, some insolent swaggerer, 
some stilted ruffian, thrust before his triumph. If he fights, he 
does not know how to use his sword ; if he speaks, he speaks vile 
Latin. I wonder that Cromwell fares no better ; for he lived a 
hypocrite, and he died a traitor. I should not recall to you this 
[* 2 Lord Brougham.] 

302 Imaginary Conversations. 

ridiculous man, to whom the Lords have given the run of the House, 
a man pushed off his chair by every party he joins, and enjoying 
all the disgraces he incurs, were it not that he has also, in the 
fulness of his impudence, raised his cracked voice and incondite 
language against Milton. 

Landor. I hope his dapple fellow-creatures in the lanes will 
be less noisy and more modest as we pass along them homeward. 

Southey. Wretched as he is in composition, superficial as he is 
in all things, without a glimmer of genius or a grain of judgment, 
yet his abilities and acquirements raise him somewhat high above 
those more quiescent and unaspiring ones you call his fellow- 

Landor. The main difference is, that they are subject to have 
their usual burdens laid upon them all their lives, while his of the 
woolsack is taken off for ever. The allusion struck me from the 
loudness and dissonance of his voice, the wilfulness and perverse- 
ness of his disposition, and his habitude of turning round on a 
sudden and kicking up behind. 


Parker. Most happy am I to encounter you, Mr Marvel. 
It is some time, I think, since we met. May I take the liberty 

P The Controversy, of which the Rehearsal Transprosed was part, began 
with three books written by Dr Parker, "the most sanguine hound of the 
clerical pack, who seemed to have a mitre in his eye" (Thompson's 
"Life of Marvel," iii., 470). These were Ecclesiastical Polity (1670), A 
Defence of Ecclesiastical Polity (1671), and A Preface to a Reprint of Bishop 
Brambalfs Vindication of himself and the rest of the Episcopal Clergy from the 
charge of Popery (1671). Marvel's book was an attack on all three. 
Dr Parker retorted with a Reproof to the Rehearsal Transprosed, which pro- 
voked the second part of the Rehearsal Transprosed from which (p. 498, 
Thompson ed.) Landor has quoted the passage given in the note below. 
He has, however, omitted several words, and^curiously enough, one passage, 

* He wrote a work entitled, as Hooker's was, Ecclesiastical Polity, in 
which are these words : " It is better to submit to the unreasonable im- 
positions of Nero and Caligula than to hazard the dissolution of the 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 303 

of inquiring what brought you into such a lonely quarter as Bun- 
hillfields ? 

Marvel. My lord, I return at this instant from visiting an 

in which Marvel denies that he was ever on friendly terms with Parker. 
In Captain Thompson's Life (p. 474) an account is given of one conversa- 
tion between Marvel and Parker, which was not likely to have led to 
another. Parker was not made bishop of Oxford until some years after 
Marvel's death. The full text of the passage quoted by Landor is as 
follows: "At His Majesty's happy return, J. M. did partake, even as you 
if did for all your huffing, of his regal clemency, and has ever since 
expiated himself in a retired Alienee. It was after that, I well remember 
it, that being one day at his house, I there first met you, and accidentally. 
Since that I have been scarce four or five times in your company, but, 
whether it were my foresight or my good fortune, I never contracted any 
friendship or confidence with you. But then it was, when you, as I told 
you, wandered up and down Moorfields, astrologizing upon the duration 
of His Majesty's government, that you frequented J. M. incessantly, 
and haunted his house day by day. What discourses you there used he 
is too generous to remember. But, he never having in the least provoked 
you, for you to insult thus over his old age, to traduce him by your tcara 
meats, and in your own person, as a schoolmaster, who was born and 
hath lived much more ingenuously and liberally than yourself; to have 
done all this, and lay at last my simple book to his charge, without ever 
taking care to inform yourself better, which you had so easie opportunity 
to do ; nay, when you yourself, too, have said, to my knowledge, that you 
saw no such great matter in it but that I might be the author : it is in- 
humanely and inhospitably done, and will, I nope, be a warning to all 
others, as it is to me, to avoid (I will not say such a Judas) but a man 
that creeps into all companies to jeer, trepan, and betray them." (Works, 
ii., 1846. Works, iv., 1876.)] 

State." It is plain enough to what imposition he recommended the duty 
of submission ; for, in our fiscal sense of the word, none ever bore more 
lightly on the subject than Caligula's and Nero's : even the provinces were 
taxed very moderately and fairly by them. He adds, " Princes may with 
less danger give liberty to mm'- ^ in - and debaucheries than to their con- 
sciences." Marvel answered him in his Reheartal Trantfroted^ in which he 
says of Milton: "I well remember that, being one day at his house, I 
there first met you, and accidentally. Then it was that you wandered up 
and down Moorfields, astrologizing upon the duration of His Majesty's 
government. You frequented John Milton incessantly, and haunted his 
house day by day. What discourses you there used he is too generous to 
remember; but, he never having in the least provoked you, it is in- 
humanely and inhospitably done to insult thus over his old age. I hope 
it will be a warning to all others, as it is to me, to avoid, I will not say 
such a Judas, but a man that creeps into all companies, to jeer, trepan, 
and betray them." 

304 Imaginary Conversations. 

old friend of ours, hard by, in Artillery Walk ; who, you will be 
happy to hear, bears his blindness and asthma with truly Christian 

Parker. And pray, who may that old friend be, Mr Marvel ? 
Marvel. Honest John Milton. 

Parker. The same gentleman whose ingenious poem, on our 
first parents, you praised in some elegant verses prefixed to it ? 

Marvel. The same who likewise, on many occasions, merited 
and obtained your lordship's approbation. 

Parker. I am happy to understand that no harsh measures 
were taken against him, on the return of our most gracious sove- 
reign. And it occurs to me that you, Mr Marvel, were earnest 
in his behalf. Indeed, I myself might have stirred upon it, had 
Mr Milton solicited me in the hour of need. 

Marvel. He is grateful to the friends who consulted at the 
same time his dignity and his safety ; but gratitude can never be 
expected to grow on a soil hardened by solicitation. Those who 
are the most ambitious of power are often the least ambitious of 
glory. It requires but little sagacity to foresee that a name will 
become invested with eternal brightness by belonging to a bene- 
factor of Milton. / might have served him ! is not always the 
soliloquy of late compassion or of virtuous repentance : it is fre- 
quently the cry of blind and impotent and wounded pride, angry 
at itself for having neglected a good bargain, a rich reversion. 
Believe me, my lord bishop, there are few whom God has pro- 
moted to serve the truly great. They are never to be superseded, 
nor are their names to be obliterated in earth or heaven. Were 
I to trust my observation rather than my feelings, I should be- 
lieve that friendship is only a state of transition to enmity. The 
wise, the excellent in honor and integrity, whom it was once our 
ambition to converse with, soon appear in our sight no higher than 
the ordinary class of our acquaintance ; then become fit objects to 
set our own slender wits against, to contend with, to interrogate, 
to subject to the arbitration, not of their equals, but of ours ; and, 
lastly, what indeed is less injustice and less indignity, to neglect, 
abandon, and disown. 

Parker. I never have doubted that Mr Milton is a learned 
man, indeed, he has proven it; and there are many who, 
like yourself, see considerable merit in his poems. I confess 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 305 

that I am an indifferent judge in these matters ; and I can only 
hope that he has now corrected what is erroneous in his doctrines. 

Maruf/. Latterly, he hath never changed a jot, in acting or 

Parker. Wherein I hold him blamable, well aware as I 
am that never to change is thought an indication of rectitude 
and wisdom. But if every thing in this world is progressive ; 
if every thing is defective ; if our growth, if our faculties, are 
obvious and certain signs of it, then surely we should and 
must be different in different ages and conditions. Conscious- 
ness of error is, to a certain extent, a consciousness of under- 
standing ; and correction of error is the plainest proof of energy 
and mastery. 

Marvel. No proof of the kind is necessary to my friend ; 
and it was not always that your lordship looked down on him 
so magisterially in reprehension, or delivered a sentence from so 
commanding an elevation. I, who indeed am but a humble 
man, am apt to question my judgment where it differs from his. 
I am appalled by any supercilious glance at him, and disgusted 
by any austerity ill assorted with the generosity of his mind. 
When I consider what pure delight we have derived from it, 
what treasures of wisdom it has conveyed to us, I find him 
supremely worthy of my gratitude, love, and veneration ; and the 
neglect in which I now discover him leaves me only the more 
room for the free effusion of these sentiments. How shallow in 
comparison is every thing else around us, trickling and dimpling 
in the pleasure-grounds of our literature ! If we are to build 
our summer-houses against ruined temples, let us at least abstain 
from ruining them for the purpose. 

Parker. Nay, nay, Mr Marvel ! so much warmth is uncalled 

Marvel. Is there any thing offensive to your lordship in my 
expressions ? 

Parker. I am not aware that there is. But let us generalize 
a little ; for we are prone to be touchy and testy in favor of our 

Marvel. I believe, my lord, this fault, or sin, or whatso- 
ever it may be designated, is among the few that are wearing 
fast away. 

306 Imaginary Conversations. 

Parker. Delighted am I, my dear sir, to join you in your 
innocent pleasantry. But, truly and seriously, I have known 
even the prudent grow warm and stickle about some close 

Marvel. Indeed ! so indecorous before your lordship ? 

Parker. We may remember when manners were less polite 
than they are now ; and not only the seasons of life require an 
alteration of habits, but likewise the changes of society. 

Marvel. Your lordship acts up to your tenets. 

Parker. Perhaps you may blame me, and more severely than 
I would blame our worthy friend Mr John Milton, upon finding 
a slight variation in my exterior manner, and somewhat more 
reserve than formerly ; yet wiser and better men than I presume 
to call myself have complied with the situation to which it hath 
pleased the Almighty to exalt them. 

Marvel. I am slow to censure any one for assuming an 
air and demeanor which, he is persuaded, are more becoming 
than what he has left off. And I subscribe to the justice of 
the observation, that wiser and better men than your lordship 
have adapted their language and their looks to elevated station. 
But sympathy is charity, or engenders it ; and sympathy requires 
proximity, closeness, contact; and at every remove, and more 
especially at every gradation of ascent, it grows a little colder. 
When we begin to call a man our worthy friend, our friend- 
ship is already on the wane. In him who has been raised 
above his old companions, there seldom remains more warmth 
than what turns every thing about it vapid : familiarity sidles 
towards affability, and kindness courtesies into condescension. 

Parker. I see, we are hated for rising. 

Marvel. Many do really hate others for rising ; but some, 
who appear to hate them for it, hate them only for the bad 
effects it produces on the character. 

Parker. We are odious, I am afraid, sometimes for the 
gift, and sometimes for the giver ; and malevolence cools her 
throbs by running to the obscurity of neglected merit. We 
know whose merit that means. 

Marvel. What ! because the servants of a king have stamped 
no measure above a certain compass, and such only as the vulgar 
are accustomed to handle, must we disbelieve the existence of any 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 307 

r in its capacity, or decline the use of it in things lawful 
and commendable ? Little men like these have no business at 
all with the mensuration of higher minds: gaugers are not 

Parker. Really, Mr Marvel, I do not understand metaphors. 

Marvel. Leaving out arithmetic and mathematics, and the 
sciences appertaining to them, I never opened a page without one : 
no, not even a title-page with a dozen words in it. Perhaps I 
am unfortunate in my tropes and figures : perhaps they come, by 
my want of dexterity, too near your lordship. I would humbly 
ask, Is there any criminality in the calculation and casting up of 
manifold benefits, or in the employment of those instruments by 
which alone they are to be calculated and cast up ? 

Parker. Surely none whatever. 

Marvel. It has happened to me and my schoolfellows, that, 
catching small fish in the shallows and ditches of the Humber, 
we called a minnow a perch, and a dace a pike ; because they 
pleased us in the catching, and because we really were ignorant of 
their quality. In like manner do some older ones act in regard 
to men. They who are caught and handled by them are treated 
with distinction, because they are so caught and handled, and 
because self-love and self-conceit dazzle and delude the senses ; 
while those whom they neither can handle nor catch are without 
a distinctive name. We are informed by Aristoteles, in his 
Treatise on Natural Ifutory, that solid horns are dropped and that 
hollow ones are permanent. Now, although we may find solid men 
cast on the earth and hollow men exalted, yet never will I believe 
in the long duration of the hollow, or in the long abasement of the 
solid. Milton, although the generality may be ignorant of it, is 
quite as great a genius as Bacon, bating the chancellorship, which 
goes for little where a great man is estimated by a wise one. 

Parker. Rather enthusiastic ! ay, Mr Marvel ! the one 
name having been established for almost a century, the other 
but recently brought forward, and but partially acknowledged. 
By coming so much later into the world, he cannot be quite so 
original in his notions as Lord Verulam. 

Marvel. Solomon said that, even in his time, there was 
nothing new under the sun : he said it unwisely and untruly. 

Parker. Solomon ? untruly ? unwisely ? 

308 Imaginary Conversations. 

Marvel. The spectacles which, by the start you gave, had so 
nearly fallen from the bridge of your'nose, attest it. Had he any ? 
It is said, and apparently with more reason than formerly, that 
there are no new thoughts. What do the fools mean who say 
it ! They might just as well assert that there are no new men, 
because other men existed before with eyes, mouth, nostrils, 
chin, and many other appurtenances. But as there are myriads 
of forms between the forms of Scarron and Hudson * on one side, 
and of Mercury and Apollo on the other, so there are myriads of 
thoughts, of the same genus, each taking its peculiar conformation. 
^Eschylus and Racine, struck by the same idea, would express a 
sentiment very differently. Do not imagine that the idea is the 
thought : the idea is that which the thought generates, rears up to 
maturity, and calls after its own name. Every note in music has 
been sounded frequently ; yet a composition of Purcell may be 
brilliant by its novelty. There are extremely few roots in a 
language ; yet the language may be varied, and novel too, age 
after age. Chessboards and numerals are less capable of exhibiting 
new combinations than poetry ; and prose likewise is equally 
capable of displaying new phases and phenomena in images and 
reflections. Good prose, to say nothing of the original thoughts 
it conveys, may be infinitely varied in modulation. It is only an 
extension of metres, an amplification of harmonies, of which even 
the best and most varied poetry admits but few. Comprehending 
at once the prose and poetry of Milton, we could prove, before 
" fit audience," that he is incomparably the greatest master of 
harmony that ever lived. 

There may be, even in these late days, more originality of 
thought, and flowing in more channels of harmony, more bursts 
and breaks and sinuosities, than we have yet discovered. The 
admirers of Homer never dreamed that a man more pathetic, 
more sublime, more thoughtful, more imaginative, would follow. 

Parker. Certainly not. 

Marvel. Yet Shakspeare came, in the memory of our 

Parker. Mr William Shakspeare, of Stratford upon Avon ? 
A remarkably clever man : nobody denies it. 

Marvel. At first, people did not know very well what to 
* A dwarf in that age. 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 309 

make of him. He looked odd ; he seemed witty ; he drew 
tears. But a grin and a pinch of snuff can do that. 

Every great author is a great reformer ; and the reform is 
either in thought or language. Milton is zealous and effective 
in both. 

Parker. Some men conceive that, if their name is engraven 
in Gothic letters, it signifies and manifests antiquity of family ; 
and others, that a congestion of queer words and dry chopped 
sentences, which turn the mouth awry in reading, make them 
look like original thinkers. I have seen fantastical folks of this 
description who write <wtnd instead of go, and are so ignorant 
of grammar as even to put wended for went. I do not say that 
Mr Milton is one of them ; but he may have led weak men 
into the fault. 

Marvel. Not only is he not one of them, but his language is 

.1 patchwork of old and new : all is of a piece. Beside, 

lie only writer whom it is safe to follow in spelling : others 

are inconsistent ; some for want of learning, some for want of 

reasoning, some for want of memory, and some for want of care. 

But there are certain words which ceased to be spelled properly 

just before his time : the substantives chllde and wildc, and the 

verbs Jindf and winds, for instance. 

Parker. Therein we agree. We ought never to have devi- 
ated from those who delivered to us our Litany, of which the 
purity is unapproachable and the harmony complete. Our tongue 
has been drooping ever since. 

Marvel. Until Milton touched it again with fire from 

Parker. Gentlemen seem now to have delegated the cor- 
rection of the press to their valets, and the valets to have de- 
volved it on the chambermaids. But I would not advise you 
to start a fresh reformation in this quarter ; for the Round- 
heads can't spell, and the RoyaJists won't ; and, if you bring 
back an ancient form retaining all its beauty, they will come 
forward from both sides against you on a charge of coining. 
We will now return, if you please, to the poets we were speaking 
of. Both Mr Shakspeare and Mr Milton have considerable 
merit in their respective ways ; but both, surely, are unequal. Is 
it not so, Mr Marvel ? 

310 Imaginary Conversations. 

Marvel. Under the highest of their immeasurable Alps, all 
is not valley and verdure : in some places, there are frothy 
cataracts, there are the fruitless beds of noisy torrents, and there 
are dull and hollow glaciers. He must be a bad writer, or 
however a very indifferent one, in whom there are no inequalities. 
The plants of such table-land are diminutive, and never worth 
gathering. What would you think of a man's eyes to which 
all things appear of the same magnitude and at the same elevation ? 
You must think nearly so of a writer who makes as much of 
small things as of great. The vigorous mind has mountains 
to climb and valleys to repose in. Is there any sea without 
its shoals ? On that which the poet navigates, he rises in- 
trepidly as the waves rise round him, and sits composedly as 
they subside. 

Parker. I can listen to this ; but where the authority of 
Solomon is questioned and rejected, I must avoid the topic. 
Pardon me ; I collect from what you threw out previously, that, 
with strange attachments and strange aversions, you cherish 
singular ideas about greatness. 

Marvel. To pretermit all reference to myself, our evil 
humors, and our good ones too, are brought out whimsically. 
We are displeased by him who would be similar to us, or who 
would be near, unless he consent to walk behind. To-day 
we are unfriendly to a man of genius, whom ten days hence 
we shall be zealous in extolling, not because we know any 
thing more of his works or his character, but because we have 
dined in his company and he has desired to be introduced to us. 
A flat ceiling seems to compress those animosities which flame 
out furiously under the open sky. 

Parker. Sad prejudices ! sad infirmities ! 

Marvel. The sadder are opposite to them. Usually men, in 
distributing fame, do as old maids and old misers do : they give 
every thing to those who want nothing. In literature, often a 
man's solitude, and oftener his magnitude, disinclines us from 
helping him if we find him down. We are fonder of warming 
our hands at a fire already in a blaze than of blowing one. I 
should be glad to see some person as liberal of fame in regard to 
Milton as in regard to those literators of the town who speedily 
run it out. 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 3 1 1 

Parker. 1 have always called him a man of parts. But, Mr 
Marvel, we may bestow as injudiciously as we detract. 

Marvel. Perhaps as injudiciously, certainly not as injuri- 
ously. If indeed we are to be called to account for the mis- 
application of our bestowals, a heavy charge will lie against me 
for an action I committed in my journey hither from Hull. I 
saw an old man working upon the road, who was working upon 
the same road, and not far from the same spot, when I was first 
elected to represent that city in Parliament. He asked me for 
something to make him Jr'tnL ; which, considering the heat of the 
weather and the indication his nose exhibited of his propensities, 
did appear superfluous. However, I gave him a shilling, in addi- 
tion to as many good wishes as he had given me. 

Parker. Not reflecting that he would probably get intoxi- 
cated with it ? 

Marvel. I must confess I had all that reflection, with its 
whole depth of shade, upon my conscience ; and I tried as well 
as I could to remove the evil. I inquired of him whether he 
was made the happier by the shilling. He answered, that, if I 
was none the worse for it, he was none. " Then," said I, 
" honest friend ! since two are already the happier, prythee try 
whether two more may not become so : therefore, drink out of 
it at supper with thy two best friends." 

Parker. I would rather have advised frugality and laying-by. 
Perhaps he might have had a wife and children. 

Marvel. He could not then, unless he were a most unlucky 
man, be puzzled in searching for his two best friends. My 
project gave him more pleasure than my money ; and I was 
happy to think that he had many hours for his schemes and 
anticipations between him and sunset. 

Parker. When I ride or walk, I never carry loose money 
about me, lest, through an inconsiderate benevolence, I be tempted 
in some such manner to misapply it. To be robbed would give 
me as little or less concern. 

Marvel. A man's self is often his worst robber. He steals 
from his own bosom and heart what God has there deposited, 
and he hides it out of his way, as dogs and foxes do with bones. 
But the robberies we commit on the body of our superfluities, 
and store up in vacant places, in places of poverty and sorrow, 

312 Imaginary Conversations. 

these, whether in the dark or in the daylight leave us neither in 
nakedness nor in fear, are marked by no burning-iron of conscience, 
are followed by no scourge of reproach ; they never deflower 
prosperity, they never distemper sleep. 

Parker. I am ready at all times to award justice to the 
generosity of your character, and no man ever doubted its consist- 
ency. Believing you to be at heart a loyal subject, I am thrown 
back on the painful reflection that all our acquaintance are not 
equally so. Mr Milton, for example, was a republican ; yet he 
entered into the service of a usurper ; you disdained it. 

Marvel. Events proved that my judgment of Cromwell's 
designs was correcter than his ; but the warier man is not always 
the wiser, nor the more active and industrious in the service of 
his country. 

Parker. His opinions on religion varied also considerably, 
until at last the vane almost wore out the socket, and it could turn 
no longer. 

Marvel. Is it nothing in the eyes of an Anglican bishop to 
have carried the gospel of Christ against the Talmudists of Rome; 
the word of God against the traditions of men ; the liberty of 
conscience against the conspiracy of tyranny and fraud ? If so, 
then the Protector, such was Milton, not of England only, 
but of Europe, was nothing. 

Parker. You are warm, Mr Marvel. 

Marvel. Not by any addition to my cloth, however. 

Parker. He hath seceded, I hear, from every form of public 
worship ; and doubts are entertained whether he believes any 
longer in the co-equality of the Son with the Father, or indeed 
in his atonement for our sins. Such being the case, he forfeits 
the name and privileges of a Christian. 

Marvel. Not with Christians, if they know that he keeps the 
ordinances of Christ. Papists, Calvinists, Lutherans, and every 
other kind of scoria, exploding in the furnace of zeal, and 
cracking off from Christianity, stick alike to the side of this 
gloomy, contracted, and unwholesome doctrine. But the steadiest 
believer in the divinity of our Lord, and in his atonement for us, 
if pride, arrogance, persecution, malice, lust of station, lust of 
money, lust of power, inflame him, is incomparably less a Christian 
than he who doubteth all that ever was doubted of his genealogy 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 313 

and hereditary rights, yet who never swerveth from his command- 
ments. A wise man will always he a Christian, because the 
perfection of wisdom is to know where lies tranquillity of mind, 
and how to attain it, which Christianity teaches ; but men equally 
wi>e may differ and diverge on the sufficiency of testimony, and 
still fa it her on matters which no testimony can affirm and no 
intellect comprehend. To strangle a man because he has a 
narrow swallow, shall never be inserted among the "infallible 
cures," in my Book of Domestic Remedies. 

PtirLcr. We were talking gravely : were it not rather more 
>c-t inly to continue in the same strain, Mr Marvel ? 

Marvel. I was afraid that my gravity might appear too 
specific ; but, with your lordship's permission and exhortation, 
1 will proceed in serious reflections, to which indeed, on this 
occasion, I am greatly more inclined. Never do I take the 
liberty to question or examine any man on his religion, or to look 
over his shoulder on his account-book with his God. But I 
know that Milton, and every other great poet, must be religious ; 
for there is nothing so godlike as a love of order, with a power of 
bringing great things into it. This power, unlimited in the one, 
limited (but incalculably and inconceivably great) in the other, 
belongs to the Deity and the poet. 

Parker. I shudder. 

Marvel. Wherefore ? at seeing a man what he was designed 
to be by his Maker, his Maker's image ? But pardon me, my 
lord ! the surprise of such a novelty is enough to shock you. 

Reserving to myself for a future time the liberty of defending 
my friend on theology, in which alone he shifted his camp, I may 
remark what has frequently happened to me. I have walked 
much : finding one side of the road miry, I have looked toward 
the other and thought it cleaner ; I have then gone over, and 
when there I have found it just as bad, although it did not seem 
nearly so, until it was tried. This, however, has not induced me 
to wish that the overseer would bar it up ; but only to wish that 
both sides were mended effectually with smaller and more binding 
materials, not with large loose stones, nor with softer stuff, soon 
converted into mud. 

Parker. Stability, then, and consistency are the qualities most 
desirable ; and these I look for in Mr Milton. However fond 

314 Imaginary Conversations. 

he was of Athenian terms and practices, he rejected them after he 
had proved them. 

Marvel. It was not in his choice to reject or establish. He 
saw the nation first cast down and lacerated by fanaticism, and 
then utterly exhausted by that quieter blood-sucker, hypocrisy. 
A powerful arm was wanted to drive away such intolerable pests, 
and it could not but be a friendly one. Cromwell and the saner 
part of the nation were unanimous in beating down Presbyterianism, 
which had assumed the authority of the Papacy without its lenity. 

Parker. He, and those saner people, had subverted already 
the better form of Christianity which they found in the Anglican 
church. Your Samson had shaken its pillars by his attack on 

Marvel. He saw the prelates, in that reign, standing as ready 
there as anywhere to wave the censer before the king, and under 
its smoke to hide the people from him. He warned them as an 
angel would have done, nay, as our Saviour has done, that the 
wealthy and the proud, the flatterer at the palace and the flatterer 
at the altar, in short, the man for the world, is not the man for 

Parker. We must lay gentle constructions and liberal inter- 
pretations on the Scriptures. 

Marvel. Then let us never open them. If they are true, we 
should receive them as they are ; if they are false, we should re- 
ject them totally. We cannot pick and choose : we cannot say to 
the Omniscient, " We think you right here ; we think you wrong 
there ; however, we will meet you halfway, and talk it over with 
you." This is such impiety as shocks us even in saying we must 
avoid it ; yet our actions tend to its countenance and support. 
We clothe the ministers of Christ in the same embroidery as was 
worn by the proudest of his persecutors, and they mount into 
Pilate's chair. The Reformation has effected little more than 
melting down the gold lace of the old wardrobe, to make it enter 
the pocket more conveniently. 

Parker. Who would have imagined Mr John Milton 
should ever have become a seceder and sectarian ? he who, 
after the days of adolescence, looked with an eye of fondness 
on the idle superstitions of our forefathers, and celebrated them in 
his poetry ! 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 315 

Marvel. When superstitions are only idle, it is wiser to look 
on them kindly than unkindly. I have remarked that those 
which serve best for poetry have more plumage than talon, and 
those which serve best for policy have more talon than plumage. 
Milton never countenanced priestcraft, never countenanced fraud 
and fallacy. 

Parker. The business is no easy one to separate devotion 
from practices connected with it. There is much that may 
seem useless, retained through ages in an intermixture with 
what i.s better; and the better would never have been so 
good as it is, if you had cast away the rest. What is chaff 
when the grain is threshed was useful to the grain before its 

Marvel. Since we are come unaware on religion, I would 
entreat of your lordship to enlighten me, and thereby some others 
of weak minds and tender consciences, in regard to the criminality 
of pretence to holiness. 

Parker. The Lord abominates, as you know, Mr Marvel, 
from the Holy Scriptures, all hypocrisy. 

Marvel. If we make ourselves or others who are not holy 
seem holy, are we worthy to enter his kingdom ? 
Parker. No ; most unworthy. 

Marvel. What if we set up, not only for good men, but for 
exquisitely religious, such as violate the laws and religion of the 
country ? 

Parker. Pray, Mr Marvel, no longer waste your time and mine 
in such idle disquisitions. We have beheld such men lately, and 
abominate them. 

Marvel. Happily for the salvation of our souls, as I con- 
ceive, we never went so far as to induce, much less to authorize, 
much less to command, any one to fall down and worship 

Parker. Such insolence and impudence would have brought 
about the blessed Restoration much earlier. 

Marv:l. We are now come to the point. It seems wonder- 
ful to pious and considerate men, unhesitating believers in God's 
holy word, that although the Reformation under his guidance 
was brought about by the prayers and fasting of the bishops, 
and others well deserving the name of saints, chiefly of the 

316 Imaginary Conversations. 

equestrian order, no place in the calendar hath ever been assigned 
to them. 

Parker. Perhaps, as there were several, a choice might have 
seemed particular and invidious. Perhaps, also, the names of 
many as excellent having been removed from the rubric, it was 
deemed unadvisable to inaugurate them. 

Marvel. Yet, my lord bishop, we have inserted Charles the 
Martyr. Now, there have been saints not martyrs, but no martyr 
not a saint. 

Parker. Do you talk in this manner, you who had the 
manliness to praise his courage and constancy to Cromwell's 
face ? 

Marvel. Cromwell was not a man to undervalue the courage 
and constancy of an enemy ; and, had he been, I should have 
applauded one in his presence. But how happens it that the 
bishops, priests, and deacons throughout England treat Charles as 
a saint and martyr, and hold his death-day sacred, who violated 
those ecclesiastical ordinances the violation whereof you would 
not only reprobate in another, but visit with exemplary punish- 
ment ? Charles was present at plays in his palace on the Sabbath. 
Was he a saint in his lifetime ; or only after his death ? If in 
his lifetime, the single miracle performed by him was to act 
against his established church without a diminution of holiness. 
If only in his death, he holds his canonization by a different 
tenure from any of his blessed predecessors. 

It is curious and sorrowful that Charles the Martyr should have 
suffered death on the scaffold for renewing the custom of arbitrary 
loans and forced benevolences, which the usurper Richard III. 
abolished. Charles, to be sure, had the misfortune to add the 
practice of torture and mutilation, to which those among the 
English who are most exposed to it bear a great dislike. Being 
a martyr, he is placed above the saints in dignity : they tortured 
only themselves. 

Parker. Let me bring to your recollection, that plays were 
not prohibited on the Sabbath by our great Reformers. 

Marvel. But if it is un-Christianlike now, it was then ; and 
a saint must have been aware of it, although it escaped a 

Parker. You scoff, Mr Marvel ! I never answer the scoffer. 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 3 1 7 

Marvel. I will now be serious. Is the canonization of 
Charles the effect of a firm conviction that he was holier than 
all those ejected from the calendar ; or is it merely an ebullition 
of party-spirit, an ostentatious display of triumphant spite against 
his enemies ? In this case, and there are too many and too 
cogent reasons for believing it, would it not be wiser never to 
have exhibited to the scrutinizing Church of Rome a consecration 
mtire ivjuvhensibK- than the former desecrations ? Either you 
must acknowledge that saints are not always to be followed in 
their practices, or you must allow men, women, and children to 
dance and frequent the playhouses on Sundays, as our martyr did 
before he took to mutilating and maiming ; and he never left off 
the custom by his own free-will. 

Parker. I think, Mr Marvel, you might safely leave these 
considerations to us. 

Marvel. Very safely, my lord ! for you are perfectly sure 
never to meddle with them : you are sure to leave them as they 
are, solely from the pious motive that there may be peace in our 
days, according to the Litany. On such a principle, there have 
been many, and still perhaps there may be some remaining, who 
would not brush the dust from the bench, lest they should raise 
the moths and discover the unsoundness and corrosions. But 
there is danger lest the people at some future day should be wiser, 
braver, more inquisitive, more pertinacious : there is danger lest, 
on finding a notorious cheat and perjurer set up by Act of Parlia- 
ment among the choice and sterling old saints, they undervalue 
not only saints but Parliaments. 

Parker. I would rather take my ground where politics are 
unmingled with religion ; and I see better reason to question the 
wisdom of Mr Milton than the wisdom of our most gracious 
King's privy council. We enjoy, thank God ! liberty of con- 
science. I must make good my objection on the quarter of 
consistency, lest you think me resolute to find fault where there 
is none. Your friend continued to serve the Protector when he 
had reconstructed a House of Lords, which formerly he called 
an abomination. 

Marvel. He never served Cromwell but when Cromwell 
served his country ; and he would not abandon her defence for 
the worst wounds he had received in it. He was offended at the 

318 Imaginary Conversations. 

renewal of that house, after all the labor and pains he had taken 
in its demolition ; and he would have given his life, if one man's 
life could have paid for it, to throw down again so unshapely and 
darkening an obstruction. From his youth upward, he had felt 
the Norman rust entering into our very vitals ; and he now saw 
that, if we had received from the bravest of nations a longer 
sword, we wore a heavier chain to support it. He began his 
History from a love of the Saxon institutions, than which the 
most enlightened nations had contrived none better ; nor can we 
anywhere discover a worthier object for the meditations of a 
philosophical or for the energies of a poetical mind. 

Parker. And yet you republicans are discontented even with 

Marvel. We are not mere Saxons. A wise English repub- 
lican will prefer (as having grown up with him) the Saxon in- 
stitutions generally and mainly, both in spirit and practice, to 
those of Rome and Athens. But the Saxon institutions, how- 
ever excellent, are insufficient. The moss must be rasped off the 
bark, and the bark itself must be slit, to let the plant expand. 
Nothing is wholesomer than milk from the udder ; but would you 
always dine upon it ? The seasons of growth, physical and in- 
tellectual, require different modes of preparation, different instru- 
ments of tillage, different degrees of warmth and excitement. 
Whatever is bad in our Constitution we derive from the Normans, 
or from the glosses put against the text under their Welsh and 
Scotch successors : the good is thrown back to us out of what 
was ours before. Our boasted Magna Charta is only one side of 
the old Saxon coat ; and it is the side that has the broken loop- 
holes in it. It hangs loose, and at every breeze 'tis a hard matter 
to keep it on. In fact, the Magna Charta neither is, nor ever was 
long together, of much value to the body of the people. Our 
princes could always do what they wished to do, until lately ; 
and this palladium was so light a matter that it was easily 
taken from the town-hall to the palace. It has been holden 
back or missing whenever the people most loudly called for it. 
Municipalities in other words, small republics are a nation's 
main-stay against aristocratical and regal encroachments. 

Parker. If I speak in defence of the peerage, you may think 
me interested. 

niiivu Mani'l and Bishop Parker. 319 

Bring forward what may fairly recommend the in- 
stitution, and I shall think you less interested than ingenious. 

Parker. Yet surely you, who are well connected, cannot be 
insensible of the advantages it offers to persons of family. 

Marvel. Is that any proof of its benefit to the public ? And 
persons of family ! who are they? Between the tided man of 
ancient and the titled man of recent times, the difference, if any 
is in favor of the last. Suppose them both raised for merit (here 
indeed we do come to theory !), the benefits that society has re- 
1 from him are nearer us. It is probable that many in the 
poor and abject are of very ancient families, and particularly in 
our county, where the contests of the York and Lancaster broke 
down, in many places, the high and powerful. Some of us may 
look back six or seven centuries, and find a stout ruffian at the 
beginning ; but the great ancestor of the pauper, who must be 
somewhere, may stand perhaps far beyond. 

Parker. If we ascend to the Tower of Babel, and come to the 
confusion of tongues, we come also to a confusion of ideas. A 
man of family, in all countries, is he whose ancestor attracted by 
some merit, real or imputed, the notice of those more eminent, 
who promoted him in wealth and station. Now, to say nothing 
of the humble, the greater part even of the gentry had no such 

Marvel. I look to a person of very old family as I do to any 
thing else that is very old ; and I thank him for bringing to me a 
page of romance which probably he himself never knew or heard 
about. Usually, with all his pride and pretensions, he is much 
less conscious of the services his ancestor performed than my 
spaniel is of his own when he carries my glove or cane for me. 
I would pat them both on the head for it ; and the civiler and 
more reasonable of the two would think himself well rewarded. 

Parker. The additional name may light your memory to the 
national service. 

Mantel. We extract this benefit from any ancient peer ; this 
phosphorus, from a rotten post. 

Parser. I do not complain or wonder that an irreligious man 
should be adverse not only to prelaty, but equally to a peerage. 

Marvel. Herodotus tells us that among the Egyptians a herald 
was a herald because he was a herald's son, and not for the clear- 

320 Imaginary Conversations. 

ness of his voice. He had told us before that the Egyptians were 
worshippers of cats and crocodiles ; but he was too religious a 
man to sneer at that. It was an absurdity that the herald should 
hold his office for no better reason than because his father held it. 
Herodotus might peradventure have smiled within his sleeve at no 
other being given for the privileges of the peer ; unless he thought 
a loud voice, which many do, more important than information 
and discretion. 

Parker. You will find your opinions discountenanced by both 
our universities. 

Marvel. I do not want anybody to corroborate my opinions. 
They keep themselves up by their own weight and consistency. 
Cambridge on one side and Oxford on the other could lend me 
no effectual support ; and my skiff shall never be impeded by the 
sedges of Cam, nor grate on the gravel of Isis. 

Parker. Mr Marvel, the path of what we fondly call 
patriotism is highly perilous. Courts at least are safe. 

Marvel. I would rather stand on the ridge of Etna than 
lower my head in the Grotto del Cane. By the one I may share 
the fate of a philosopher ; by the other I must suffer the death of 
a cur. 

Parker. We are all of us dust and ashes. 

Marvel. True, my lord ; but in some we recognize the dust 
of gold and the ashes of the phoenix ; in others, the dust of the 
gateway and the ashes of turf and stubble. With the greatest 
rulers upon earth, head and crown drop together, and are over- 
looked. It is true, we read of them in history ; but we also read 
in history of crocodiles and hyaenas. With great writers, whether 
in poetry or prose, what falls away is scarcely more or other than 
a vesture. The features of the man are imprinted on his works ; 
and more lamps burn over them, and more religiously, than are 
lighted in temples or churches. Milton, and men like him, 
bring their own incense, kindle it with their own fire, and 
leave it unconsumed and unconsumable ; and their music, by 
day and by night, swells along a vault commensurate with the 
vault of heaven. 

Parker. Mr Marvel, I am admiring the extremely fine lace 
of your cravat. 

Marvel. It cost me less than lawn would have done ; and it 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 321 

wins me a reflection. Very few can think that man a great man, 
whom they have been accustomed to meet, dressed exactly like 
themselves ; more especially if they happen to find him, not in 
park, forest, or chase, but warming his limbs by the reflected heat 
of the bricks in Artillery Walk. In England, a man becomes a 
great man by living in the middle of a great field ; in Italy, by 
living in a walled city ; in France, by living in a courtyard: no 
matter what lives they lead there. 

Parker. 1 am afraid, Mr Marvel, there is some slight 
bitterness in your observation. 

Marvel. Bitterness, it may be, from the bruised laurel of 

What falsehoods will not men put on, if they can only pad 
them with a little piety ! And how few will expose their whole 
faces, from a fear of being frost-bitten by poverty ! But Milton 
was among the few. 

Parker. Already have we had our Deluge: we are now 
once more upon dry land again, and we behold the same creation 
as rejoiced us formerly. Our late gloomy and turbulent times 
are pasted for ever. 

Marvel. Perhaps they are, if anything is for ever ; but the 
sparing Deluge may peradventure be commuted for unsparing 
fare, as we are threatened. The arrogant, the privileged, the 
stiff upholders of established wrong, the deaf opponents of 
equitable reformation, the lazy consumers of ill-requited in- 
dustry, the fraudulent who, unable to stop the course of the sun, 
pervert the direction of the gnomon, -all these, peradventure, 
may be gradually consumed by the process of silent contempt, 
or suddenly scattered by the tempest of popular indignation. 
As we see in masquerades the real judge and the real soldier 
stopped and mocked by the fictitious, so do we see in the 
carnival of to-day the real man of dignity hustled, shoved aside, 
and derided by those who are invested with the semblance by 
the milliners of the court. The populace is taught to respect 
this livery alone, and is proud of being permitted to look 
through the grating at such ephemeral frippery. And yet false 
gems and false metals have never been valued above real ones. 
Until our people alter these notions ; until they estimate the 
wise and virtuous above the silly and profligate, the man of 

IV. X 

322 Imaginary Conversations. 

genius above the man of title; until they hold the knave 
and cheat of St James's as low as the knave and cheat of 
St Giles's, they are fitter for the slave-market than for any 
other station. 

Parker. You would have no distinctions, I fear. 

Marvel. On the contrary, I would have greater than exist 
at present. You cannot blot or burn out an ancient name ; you 
cannot annihilate past services ; you cannot subtract one single 
hour from eternity, nor wither one leaf on his brow who hath 
entered into it. Sweep away from before me the soft grubs of 
yesterday's formation, generated by the sickliness of the plant 
they feed upon ; sweep them away unsparingly, then will you 
clearly see distinctions, and easily count the men who have 
attained them worthily. 

Parker. In a want of respect to established power and 
principles, originated most of the calamities we have latterly 

Marvel. Say rather, in the averseness of that power and 
the inadequacy of those principles to resist the encroachment 
of injustice ; say rather, on their tendency to distort the poor 
creatures swaddled up in them ; add, moreover, the reluctance 
of the old women who rock and dandle them to change their 
habiliments for fresh and wholesome ones. A man will break 
the windows of his own house, that he may not perish by foul 
air within ; now, whether is he, or those who bolted the door on 
him, to blame for it ? If he is called mad or inconsiderate, it is 
only by those who are ignorant of the cause and insensible of the 
urgency. I declare I am rejoiced at seeing a gentleman, whose 
ancestors have signally served their country, treated with deference 
and respect ; because it evinces a sense of justice and of grati- 
tude in the people, and because it may incite a few others, whose 
ambition would take another course, to desire the same. Different 
is my sentence, when he who has not performed the action 
claims more honor than he who performed it, and thinks himself 
the worthier if twenty are between them than if there be one 
or none. Still less accordant is it with my principles, and less 
reducible to my comprehension, that they who devised the ruin 
of cities and societies should be exhibited as deserving much 
higher distinction than they who have corrected the hearts 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 323 

and enlarged the intellects, and have performed it not only 
without the hope of reward, but almost with the certainty of 

Parker. Ever too hard upon great men, Mr Marvel ! 

Marvel. Little men in lofty places, who throw long shadows 
because our sun is setting, the men so little and the places 
so lofty, that, casting my pebble, I only show where they stand. 
They would be less contented with themselves, if they had 
obtained their preferment honestly. Luck and dexterity always 
give more pleasure than intellect and knowledge ; because they 
fill up what they fall on to the brim at once, and people run to 
them with acclamations at the splash. Wisdom is reserved and 
noiseless, contented with hard earnings, and daily letting go some 
early acquisition, to make room for better specimens. But great 
is the exultation of a worthless man, when he receives, for the 
chips and raspings of his Bridewell logwood, a richer reward than 
the best and wisest for extensive tracts of well-cleared truths ; 
when he who has sold his country 

Parkrr. Forbear, forbear, good Mr Marvel ! 

Marvel. When such is higher in estimation than, he who 
would have saved it; when his emptiness is heard above the 
voice that has shaken fanaticism in her central shrine, that hath 
bowed down tyrants to the scaffold, that hath raised up nations 
from the dust, that alone hath been found worthy to celebrate, as 
angels do, creating and redeeming Love, and to precede with its 
solitary sound the trumpet that will call us to our doom. 

Parser. I am unwilling to feign ignorance of the gentleman 
you designate ; but really now you would make a very Homer 
of him. 

Marvel. It appears to me that Homer is to Milton what 
a harp is to an organ, though a harp under the hand of Apollo. 

Parker. I have always done him justice : I have always 
called him a learned man. 

Marvel. Call him henceforward the most glorious one that 
ever existed upon earth. If two Bacon and Shakspeare 
have equalled him in diversity and intensity of power, did either 
of these spring away with such resolution from the sublimest 
heights of genius, to liberate and illuminate with patient labor 
the manacled human race ? And what is his recompence ? The 

324 Imaginary Conversations. 

same recompence as all men like him have received, and will 
receive for ages. Persecution follows righteousness : the Scorpion 
is next in succession to Libra. The fool, however, who ventures 
to detract from Milton's genius, in the night which now appears 
to close on him, will, when the dawn has opened on his dull 
ferocity, be ready to bite off a limb, if he might thereby limp 
away from the trap he has prowled into. Among the gentler, 
the better, and the wiser, few have entered yet the awful struc- 
ture of his mind ; few comprehend, few are willing to contem- 
plate, its vastness. Politics now occupy scarcely a closet in it. 
We seldom are inclined to converse on them ; and, when we 
do, it is jocosely rather than austerely. For even the bitterest 
berries grow less acrid when they have been hanging long on the 
tree. Beside, it is time to sit with our hats between our legs, 
since so many grave men have lately seen their errors, and 
so many brave ones have already given proofs enough of their 
bravery, and trip aside to lay down their laurels on gilt tables 
and velvet cushions. If my friend condemns any one now, it 
is Cromwell, and principally for reconstructing a hereditary 
house of peers. He perceives that it was done for the purpose 
of giving the aristocracy an interest in the perpetuation of power 
in his family, of which he discovered the folly just before his 
death. He derides the stupidity of those who bandy about the 
battered phrase of useful checks and necessary counterpoises. He 
would not desire a hindrance on his ste.ward in the receipt of 
his rent, if he had any, nor on his attorney in prosecuting his 
suit ; he would not recommend any interest in opposition to that 
of the people ; he would not allow an honest man to be arrested 
and imprisoned for debt, while a dishonest one is privileged to be 
exempt from it ; and he calls that nation unwise, and those laws 
iniquitous, which tolerate so flagrant an abuse. He would not 
allow a tradesman, who lives by his reputation for honesty, 
to be calumniated as dishonest, without the means of vindicat- 
ing his character unless by an oppressive and dilatory procedure, 
while a peer, who perhaps may live by dishonesty, as some are 
reported to have done in former reigns, recurs to an immediate 
and uncostly remedy against a similar accusation. He would not 
see Mother Church lie with a lawyer on the woolsack, nor the 
ministry of the apostles devolve on the Crown, sacred and uncon- 
taminated as we see it is. 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 325 

Parker. No scoffs ' at the Crown, I do beseech you, Mr 
M.iru'l! whatever enmity you and Mr Milton may bear against 
the peers. He would have none of them, it seems. 

Marvel. He would have as many as can prove, by any pre- 
cedent or argument, that virtue and abilities are hereditary ; and 
I believe he would stint them exactly to that number. In regard 
to their services, he made these observations a few days ago : 
"Why, in God's name, friend Andrew, do we imagine that a 
thing can be made stable by pulling at it perpetually in different 
directions ? Where there are contrary and conflicting interests, 
one will predominate at one time, another at another. Now, what 
interest at any time ought to predominate against the public ? We 
hear, indeed, that when the royal power is oppressive to them, the 
peers push their horns against the leopards ; but did they so in the 
time of James or his son ? And are not the people strong enough 
to help and right themselves, if they were but wise enough? 
And if they were wise enough, would they whistle for the wolves 
to act in concert with the shepherd-dogs ? Our consciences tell 
us," added he, " that we should have done some good, had our 
intentions been well seconded and supported. Collegians and 
barristers and courtiers may despise the poverty of our intellects, 
throw a few of their old scraps into our satchels, and send the 
beadle to show us the road we ought to take : nevertheless, we 
are wilful, and refuse to surrender our old customary parochial 

Parker. And could not he let alone the poor innocent 
collegians ? 

Marvel. Nobody ever thought them more innocent than he, 
unless when their square caps were fanning the flames round 
heretics; and every man is liable to be a heretic in his turn. 
Collegians have always been foremost in the cure of the lues of 
heresy by sweating and caustic. 

Parker. Sir ! they have always been foremost in maintaining 
the unity of the faith. 

Marvel. So zealously, that whatever was the king's faith was 
theirs. And thus it will always be, until their privileges and im- 
munities are in jeopardy; then shall you see them the most 
desperate incendiaries. 

Parker. After so many species of religion, generated in the 

326 Imaginary Conversations. 

sty of old corruptions, we return to what experience teaches us is 
best. If the Independents, or any other sect, had reason on their 
side and truly evangelical doctrine, they would not die away and 
come to nothing as they have done. 

Marvel. Men do not stick very passionately and tenaciously 
to a pure religion : there must be honey on the outside of it, and 
warmth within, and latitude around, or they make little bellow 
and bustle about it. That Milton has been latterly no frequenter 
of public worship may be lamented, but is not unaccountable. 
He has lived long enough to perceive that all sects are animated 
by a spirit of hostility and exclusion, a spirit the very opposite 
to the gospel. There is so much malignity, hot-blooded and 
cold-blooded, in zealots, that I do not wonder at seeing the 
honest man, who is tired of dissension and controversy, wrap him- 
self up in his own quiet conscience, and indulge in a tranquillity 
somewhat like sleep apart. Nearly all are of opinion that devo- 
tion is purer and more ardent in solitude, but declare to you that 
they believe it to be their duty to set an example by going to 
church. Is not this pride and vanity ? What must they conceive 
of their own value and importance, to imagine that others will 
necessarily look up to them as guides and models ! A- hint of 
such an infirmity arouses all their choler ; and from that moment 
we are unworthy of being saved by them. But if they abandon 
us to what must appear to them so hopeless a condition, can we 
doubt whether they would not abandon a babe floating like Moses 
in a basket on a wide and rapid river ? I have always found these 
people, whatever may be the sect, self-sufficient, hard-hearted, in- 
tolerant, and unjust, in short, the opposite of Milton. What 
wonder, then, if he abstains from their society ; particularly in 
places of worship, where it must affect a rational and religious 
man the most painfully ? He thinks that churches, as now con- 
stituted, are to religion what pest-houses are to health, that they 
often infect those who ailed nothing, and withhold them from 
freedom and exercise. Austerity hath oftener been objected to 
him than indifference. That neither of the objections is well- 
founded, I think I can demonstrate by an anecdote. Visiting 
him last month, I found him hearing read by his daughter the 
treatise of Varro On Agriculture ; and I said, laughingly, " We 
will walk over your farm together." He smiled, although he 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 327 

could not see that I did ; and he answered, " I never wish to 
pome DO a farm, because I can enjoy the smell of the hay and of 
the hawthorn in a walk to Hampstead, and can drink fresh milk 
there." After a pause, he added, " I cannot tell (for nobody is 
more ignorant in these matters) in what our agriculture differs 
from the ancient ; but I am delighted to be reminded of a custom 
which my girl has been recalling to my memory, the custom 
of crowning with a garland of sweet herbs, once a year, the 
brink of wells. Andrew ! the old moss-grown stones were not 
neglected, from under which the father and son, the wife and 
daughter, drew the same pure element with the same thankfulness 
as their hale progenitors." His piety is infused into all the 
moods of his mind : here it was calm and gentle, at other times 
it was ardent and enthusiastic. The right application of homely 
qualities is of daily and general use. We all want glass for the 
window : few want it for the telescope. 

Parker. It is very amiable to undertake the defence of a 
person who, whatever may be his other talents, certainly has 
possessed but in a moderate degree the talent of making or of 
retaining friends. 

Marvel. He, by the constitution of the human mind, or 
rather by its configuration under those spiritual guides who claim 
the tutelage of it, must necessarily have more enemies than even 
another of the same principles. The great abhor the greater, 
who can humble but cannot raise them. The king's servants 
hate God's as much (one would fancy) as if he fed them better, 
dressed them finelier, and gave them more plumy titles. Poor 
Milton has all these against him : what is wanting in weight is 
made up by multitude and multiformity. Judges and privy 
counsellors throw axes and halters in his path; divines grow 
hard and earthy about him; slim, straddling, blotchy writers, 
those of quality in particular, feel themselves cramped and stunted 
under him ; and people of small worth in every way detract from 
his, stamping on it as if they were going to spring over it. What- 
they pick up against him, they take pains to circulate ; and 
are sorrier at last that the defamation is untrue than that they 
helped to propagate it. I wish truth were as prolific as false- 
hood, and as many were ready to educate her offspring. But 
although we sec the progeny of falsehood shoot up into amazing 

328 Imaginary Conversations. 

stature, and grow day by day more florid, yet they soon have 
reached their maturity, soon lose both teeth and tresses. As 
the glory of England is in part identified with Milton's, his 
enemies are little less than parricides. If they had any sight 
beyond to-day, what would they give, how would they implore 
and supplicate, to be forgotten ! 

Parker. Very conscientious men may surely have reprehended 
him, according to the lights that God has lent them, 

Marvel. They might have burned God's oil in better inves- 
tigations. Your conscientious men are oftener conscientious in 
withholding than in bestowing. 

Parker. Writers of all ranks and conditions, from the lowest 
to the highest, have disputed with Mr Milton on all the topics he 
has undertaken. 

Marvel. And I am grieved to think that he has noticed 
some of them. Salmasius alone was not unworthy sublimi flagello. 
But what would your lordship argue from the imprudence and 
irreverence of the dwarfs ? The most prominent rocks and head- 
lands are most exposed to the violence of the sea ; but those 
which can repel the waves are in little danger from the corrosion 
of the limpets. 

Parker. Mr Milton may reasonably be censured for writing 
on subjects whereof his knowledge is imperfect or null : on courts, 
for instance. The greater part of those who allow such a license 
to their pens, and he among the rest, never were admitted into 
them. I am sorry to remark that our English are the foremost 
beagles in this cry. 

Marvel. If Milton was never admitted within them, he 
never was importunate for admittance ; and, if none were 
suffered to enter but such as are better and wiser than he, 
the gates of Paradise are themselves less glorious, and with 
less difficulty thrown open. The great, as we usually call the 
fortunate, are only what Solomon says about them, "the 
highest part of the dust of the world ; " and this highest part 
is the lightest. Do you imagine that all the ministers and kings 
under the canopy of heaven are, in the sight of a pure Intelli- 
gence, equivalent to him whom this pure Intelligence hath 
enabled to penetrate with an unfailing voice the dense array of 
distant generations ? Can princes give more than God can ; or 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 329 

arc their gifts better ? That they are usually thought so, is no 
conclusive proof of the fact. On the contrary, with me at least, 
what is usually thought on any subject of importance, and on 
many of none, lies under the suspicion of being wrong ; for 
surely the number of those who think correctly is smaller than 
of those who think incorrectly, even where passions and interests 
interfere the least, Of those who appear to love God, and who 
sincerely think they do, the greater part must be conscious that 
they are not very fond of the men whom he hath shown himself 
the most indulgent to, and the most enriched with abilities and 
virtues. Among the plants of the field we look out for the 
salubrious, and we cultivate and cull them ; to the wholesomer 
of our fellow-creatures we exhibit no such partiality : we think 
we do enough when we only pass them without treading on 
them ; if we leave them to blossom and run to seed, it is 

Parker. Mr Milton hath received his reward from his 

Marvel. His services are hardly yet begun ; and no mortal 
man, no series of transitory generations, can repay them. God 
will not delegate this; no, not even to his angels. I venture 
no longer to stand up for him on English ground ; but, since 
we both are Englishmen by birth, I may stand up for the 
remainder of our countrymen. Your lordship is pleased to 
remark that they are the first beagles in the cry against courts. 
Now I speak with all the freedom and all the field-know- 
ledge of a Yorkshireman, when I declare that your lordship 
is a bad sportsman in giving a hound's title to dogs that hunt 

Parker. Mr Marvel ! a person of your education should 
abstain from mentioning thus contemptuously men of the same 
rank and condition as yourself. 

Marvel. All are of the same rank and condition with me 
who have climbed as high, who have stood as firmly, and who 
have never yet descended. Neglect of time, subserviency to 
fortune, compliance with power and passions, would thrust men 
far below me, although they had been exalted higher, to the 
uncalculating eye, than mortal ever was exalted. Sardanapalus 
had more subjects and more admirers than Cromwell ; whom, 

330 Imaginary Conversations. 

nevertheless, I venture to denominate the most sagacious and 
prudent, the most tolerant and humane, the most firm and 
effective, prince in the annals of our country. 

Parker. Usurpers should not be thus commended. 
Marvel. Usurpers are the natural and imprescriptible succes- 
sors of imbecile, unprincipled, and lawless kings. In general, 
they too are little better furnished with virtues, and even their 
wisdom seems to wear out under the ermine. Ambition makes 
them hazardous and rash : these qualities raise the acclama- 
tions of the vulgar, to whom meteors are always greater than 
stars, and the same qualities which raised them precipitate them 
into perdition. Sometimes obstreperous mirth, sometimes gipsy- 
like mysteriousness, sometimes the austerity of old republicanism, 
and sometimes the stilts of modem monarchy, come into play, 
until the crowd hisses the actor off the stage, pelted, broken- 
headed, and stumbling over his sword. Cromwell used none of 
these grimaces. He wore a mask while it suited him ; but its 
features were grave, and he threw it off in the heat of action. 

Parker. On the whole, you speak more favorably of a man 
who was only your equal than of those whom legitimate power 
has raised above you. 

Marvel. Never can I do so much good as he did. He 
was hypocritical, and, in countermining perfidy, he was perfidious ; 
but his wisdom, his valor, and his vigilance saved the nation 
at Worcester and Dunbar. He took unlawful and violent 
possession of supreme authority ; but he exercised it with mode- 
ration and discretion. Even fanaticism had with him an English 
cast of countenance. He never indulged her appetite in blood, 
nor carried her to hear the music of tortures reverberated by the 
arch of a dungeon. He supplied her with no optical glass at the 
spectacle of mutilations ; he never thought, as Archbishop Laud 
did, he could improve God's image by amputating ears and slitting 
noses ; he never drove men into holy madness with incessant 
howlings, like the lycanthropic saints of the North. 

Having, then, before me not only his arduous achievements, 
but likewise his abstinence from those evil practices in which 
all our sovereigns, his predecessors, had indulged, I should be 
the most insolent and the most absurd of mortals if I supposed 
that the Protector of England was only my equal. But I am 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 331 

not obliged by the force of truth and duty to admit even to 
this position those whom court servility may proclaim to the 
populace as my superiors. A gardener may write sweet lupin on 
the cover of rape seed ; but the cover will never turn rape-seed 
into sweet lupin. Something more than a couple of beasts, 
couchant or rampant, blue or blazing, or than a brace of birds 
with a claw on a red curtain, is requisite to raise an earl 
or a marquis up to me, although lion-king-at-arms and garter- 
kings-at-arms equip them with all their harness, and beget them a 
grandfather each. I flap down with the border of my glove, 
and brush away and blow off these gossamer pretensions ; and 
I take for my motto, what the king bears for his, I hope as 
a model for all his subjects, ** Dieu et mon droit." 

Parker. Mr Marvel ! Mr Marvel ! I did not think you so 
proud a man. 

Marvel. No, my lord ? not when you know that Milton 
is my friend? If you wish to reduce me and others to our 
level, pronounce that name, and we find it. The French motto, 
merely from its being French, recalls my attention to what I 
was about to notice when your lordship so obligingly led me 
to cover. I will now undertake to prove that the English 
beagles are neither the first nor the best in scenting what lieth 
about courts. A French writer, an ecclesiastic, a dignitary, a 
bishop, wrote lately, 

' Courts are full of ill offices : it is there that all the passions are in an 
uproar ; * it is there that hatred and friendship change incessantly for 
interest, and nothing is constant but the desire of injuring. Friend, 
as Jeremiah says, is fraudulent to friend, brother to brother. The art 
of ensnaring has nothing dishonorable in it excepting ill success. In 
short, virtue herself, often false, becomes more to be dreaded than vice." 

Now, if there were any like place upon earth, would not even 
the worst prince, the worst people, insist on its destruction ? 
What brothel, what gaming-house, what den of thieves, what 
wreck, what conflagration, ought to be surrounded so strictly 
by the protectors of property, the guardians of morals, and the 
ministers of justice ? Should any such conspirator, any aider or 

The original is defective in logic. "C'est la que toutes les passions 
se reunissent pour s'entre-chocquer et te detrwre." So much the better, 
were it true. 

332 Imaginary Conversations. 

abettor, any familiar or confidant, of such conspiracy be suffered 
to live at large ? Milton, in the mildness of his humanity, would 
at once let loose the delinquents, and would only nail up for ever 
the foul receptacle. 

Parker. The description is exaggerated. 

Marvel. It is not a schoolboy's theme, beginning with, 
" Nothing is more sure," or, " Nothing is more deplorable ; " 
it is not an undergraduate's exercise, drawn from pure fresh 
thoughts, where there are only glimpses through the wood before 
him, or taken up in reliance on higher men to whom past ages 
have bowed in veneration : no, the view is taken on the spot 
by one experienced and scientific in it, by the dispassionate, 
the disinterested, the clear-sighted, and clear-souled Massillon. 

Parker. To show his eloquence, no doubt. 

Marvel. No eloquence is perfect, none worth showing, none 
becoming a Christian teacher, but that in which the postulates 
are just, and the deductions not carried beyond nor cast beside 
them, nor strained hard, nor snatched hastily. I quote not 
from stern republicans ; I quote not from loose lay people : 
but from the interior of the court, from the closet of the palace, 
from under the canopy and cope of Episcopacy herself. In 
the same spirit, the amiable and modest Penelon speaks thus : 
" Alas ! to what calamities are kings exposed ! The wisest of 
them are often taken by surprise ; men of artifice, swayed by 
self-interest, surround them ; the good retire from them, because 
they are neither supplicants nor flatterers, and because they wait 
to be inquired for, and princes know not where they are to 
be found. Oh how unhappy is a king, to be exposed to the 
designs of the wicked ! " 

It is impossible to draw any other deduction from this hypo- 
thesis than the necessity of abolishing the kingly office, not only 
for the good of the people, but likewise of the functionaries. 
Why should the wisest and the best among them be subject to so 
heavy a calamity, a calamity so easily avoided ? Why should 
there be tolerated a focus and point of attraction for wicked 
men ? Why should we permit the good to be excluded, whether 
by force or shame, from any place which ought to be a post of 
honor ? Why do we suffer a block to stand in their way, which 
by its nature hath neither eyes to discern them, nor those about it 
who would permit the use of the discovery if it had ? 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 333 

Parker. Horrible questions ! leading God knows whither ! 

Marvel. The questions are originally not mine. No person 
who reasons on what he reads can ever have read the works of 
Fenelon, and not have asked them. If what he says is true, 
they follow necessarily ; and the answer is ready for every one of 
them. That they are true we may well surmise; for surely 
nobody was less likely to express his sentiments with prejudice or 
precipitancy or passion. He and Massillon are such witnesses 
against courts and royalty as cannot be rejected. They bring 
forward their weighty and conclusive evidence, not only without 
heat, but without intention, and disclose what they overheard as 
they communed with their conscience. There may be malice in 
the thoughts, and acrimony in the expressions, of those learned 
men who, as you remark, were never admitted into courts ; 
although malice and acrimony are quite as little to be expected 
in them as in the spectators at a grand amphitheatre, because they 
could only be retired and look on, and were precluded from the 
arena in the combat of man and beast. 

Parker. There may be malice where there is no acrimony : 
there may be here. 

Marvel. The existence of either is impossible in well- 
regulated minds. 

Parker. I beg your pardon, Mr Marvel. 

Marvel. What, my lord ! do you admit that even in well- 
regulated minds the worst passions may be excited by royalty ? 
It must, then, be bad indeed ; worse than Milton, worse than 
Massillon, worse than F6nelon, represents it. The frugal re- 
publican may detest it for its vicious luxury and inordinate expendi- 
ture ; the strict religionist, as one of the worst curses an offended 
God inflicted on a disobedient and rebellious people ; the man of 
calmer and more indulgent piety may grieve at seeing it, with all 
its devils, possess the swine, pitying the poor creatures into which 
it is permitted to enter, not through their fault, but their infirmity, 
not by their will, but their position. 

Parker. And do you imagine it is by their will that what is 
inrooted is taken away from them ? 

Marvel. Certainly not. Another proof of their infirmity. 
Did you ever lose a rotten tooth, my lord, without holding up 
your hand against it ? Or was there ever one drawn at which 

334 Imaginary Conversations. 

you did not rejoice when it was done ? All the authorities we 
have brought forward may teach us, that the wearer of a crown 
is usually the worse for it ; that it collects the most vicious 
of every kind about it, as a nocturnal blaze in uncultivated lands 
collects poisonous reptiles; and that it renders bad those who, with- 
out it, might never have become so. But no authority, before your 
lordship, ever went so far as to throw within its noxious .agency 
the little that remained uncorrupted : none ever told us, for our 
caution, that it can do what nothing else can ; namely, that it can 
excite the worst passions in well-regulated minds. 

O Royalty ! if this be true, I, with my lord bishop, will detest 
and abhor thee as the most sweeping leveller ! Go, go, thou 
indivisible in the infernal triad with Sin and Death ! 

Parker. I must not hear this. 

Marvel. I spoke hypothetically, and stood within your own 
premises, referring to no actual state of things, and least of all 
inclined to touch upon the very glorious one in which we live. 
Royalty is in her place, and sits gracefully by the side of our 
second Charles. 

Parker. Here, Mr Marvel, we have no divergence of opinion. 

Marvel. Enjoying this advantage, I am the more anxious 
that my friend should partake in it, whose last political conversa- 
tion with me was greatly more moderate than the language of the 
eloquent French bishop. "We ought," said he, "to remove 
any thing by which a single fellow-creature may be deteriorated : 
how much rather, then, that which deteriorates many millions, 
and brands with the stamp of servitude the brow of the human 
race ! " 

Parker. Do you call this more moderate ? 

Marvel. I call it so, because it is more argumentative. It is 
in the temper and style of Milton to avoid the complaining tone 
of the one prelate, and the declamatory of the other. His hand 
falls on his subject without the softener of cuff or ruffle. 

Parker. So much the worse. But better as it is than with 
an axe in it ; for God knows where it might fall. 

Marvel. He went on saying that the most clear-sighted kings 
can see but a little way before them and around them, there being 
so many mediums ; and that delegated authority is liable to gross 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 335 

Parker. Republics, too, must delegate a portion of their 
authority to agents at a distance. 

Marvel. Every agent in a well-regulated republic is a portion 
of itself. Citizen must resemble citizen in all political essentials ; 
but what is privileged bears little resemblance to what is unprivi- 
leged. In fact, the words privilege and prerogative are manifestoes 
of injustice, without one word added. 

rker. Yet the people would not have your republic when 
they had tried it. 

Marvel. Nor would the people have God when they had tried 
him. But is this an argument why we should not obey his 
ordinances, and serve him with all our strength ? 

Parker. Oh, strange comparison ! I am quite shocked, Mr 
Man-el ! 

Marvel. What ! at seeing any work of the Deity at all re- 
semble the Maker, at all remind us of him ? May I be often so 
shocked, that light thoughts and troublesome wishes and unworthy 
resentments may be shaken off me ; and that the Giver of all good 
may appear to me and converse with me in the garden he has 
planted ! 

lor. Then walk humbly with him, Mr Marvel. 

Marvel. Every day I bend nearer to the dust that is to receive 
me ; and, if this were not sufficient to warn me, the sight of my 
old friend would. I repress my own aspirations that 1 may con- 
tinue to repeat his words, tending to prove the vast difference 
between the administration of a kingly government and a common- 
wealth, where all offices in contact with the people are municipal, 
where the officers are chosen on the spot by such as know them 
personally, and by such as have an immediate and paramount in- 
terest in giving them the preference. This, he insisted, is the 
greatest of all advantages; and this alone (but truly it is not 
alone) would give the republican an incontestable superiority over 
every other system. 

Parker. Supposing it in theory to have its merits, the laws no 
longer permit us to recommend it in practice. 

Marvel. I am not attempting to make or to reclaim a convert. 
The foot that has slipped back is less ready for progress than the 
foot that never had advanced. 

Parker. Sir ! I know my duty to God and my king. 

336 Imaginary Conversations. 

Marvel. I also have attempted to learn mine, however un- 

Parker. There is danger, sir, in holding such discourses. 
The cause is no longer to be defended without a violation of the 

Marvel. I am a republican, and will die one ; but rather, if 
the choice is left me, in my own bed ; yet on turf or over the 
ladder unreluctantly, if God draws thitherward the cause and con- 
science, and strikes upon my heart to waken me. I have been, 
I will not say tolerant and indulgent (words applicable to children 
only), but friendly and cordial toward many good men whose 
reason stood in opposition and almost (if reason can be hostile) in 
hostility to mine. When we desire to regulate our watches, we 
keep them attentively before us, and touch them carefully, gently, 
delicately, with the finest and best-tempered instrument, day after 
day. When we would manage the minds of men, finding them 
at all different from our own, we thrust them away from us with 
blind impetuosity, and throw them down in the dirt to make them 
follow us the quicklier. In the turbulence of attack from all 
directions, our cause hath been decried by some, not for being 
bad in itself, but for being supported by bad men. What ! are 
there no pretenders to charity, to friendship, to devotion ? Should 
we sit uneasy and shuffling under it, and push our shoulders against 
every post to rub it off, merely for the Scotch having worn it in 
common with us, and for their having shortened, unstitched, and 
sold it ? 

Parker. Their history is overrun more rankly than any other, 
excepting the French, with blood and treachery.* 

Marvel. Half of them are Menteiths.f Even their quietest 
and most philosophical spirits are alert and clamorous in defence 
of any villany committed by power or compensated by wealth. 
In the degeneracy of Greece, in her utter subjugation, was 
there one historian or one poet vile enough to represent as 

* Undoubtedly such were the sentiments of Milton and Marvel ; and 
they were just. But Scotland in our days has produced not only the 
calmest and most profound reasoners, she has also given birth to the most 
enlightened and energetic patriots. 

f Menteith was the betrayer of Wallace, the bravest hero, the hero in 
most points, our island has gloried in since Alfred. 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 337 

blameless the conduct of Clytemnestra ? Yet what labors of 
the press are bestowed on a Queen of Scotland, who com- 
mitted the same crime without the same instigation, who had 
been educated in the principles of Christianity, who had con- 
i from her girlhood with the polite and learned, and who 
]>ent only a very few years among the barbarians of the 

Parker. Her subjects were angry, not that she was punished, 
but that she was unpaid for. They would have sold her cheaper 
than they sold her grandson ; and, being so reasonable, they were 
outrageous that there were no bidders. Mr Marvel ! the Scotch 
ilways been cringing when hungry, always cruel when full : 
their avarice is without satiety, their corruption is without shame, 
and their ferocity is without remorse. 

Marvel. Among such men there may be demagogues, there 
t be republicans; there may be lovers of free quarters, 
then- cannot be of freedom. Reverencing the bold and the 
sincere, and in them the character of our country, we English- 
men did not punish those ministers who came forth uncited, 
and who avowed in the House of Commons that they had been 
the advisers of the Crown in all the misdemeanors against which 
we brought the heaviest charges. We bethought us of the in- 
gratitude, of the injuries, of the indignities, we had sustained ; 
we bethought us of our wealth transferred from the nation to 
raise up enemies against it ; we bethought us of patient piety and 
of tranquil courage in chains, in dungeons, tortured, maimed, 
mangled, for the assertion of truth and of freedom, of religion 
and of law. 

Parker. Our most gracious king is disposed to allow a con- 
siderable latitude, repressing at the same time that obstinate spirit 
which prevails across the border. Much of the Scottish charac- 
ter may be attributed to the national religion, in which the 
damnatory has the upper hand of the absolving. 

Marvel. Our judges are merciful to those who profess the 
king's reputed and the duke's acknowledged tenets; but let a 
man stand up for the Independents, and out pops Mr Attorney- 
General, throws him on his back, claps a tongue-scraper into his 
mouth, and exercises it resolutely and unsparingly. 

Parker. I know nothing of your new-fangled sects ; but 

338 Imaginary Conversations. 

the doctrines of the Anglican and the Romish church ap- 

Marvel. The shepherd of the seven hills teaches his sheep 
in what tone to bleat before him, just as the Tyrolean teaches 
his bullfinch, first by depriving him of sight, and then by 
making him repeat a certain series of notes at stated intervals. 
Prudent and quiet people will choose their churches as they 
choose their ale-houses, partly for the wholesomeness of the 
draught, and partly for the moderation of the charges ; but 
the host in both places must be civil, and must not damn you, 
body and soul, by way of invitation. The wheat-sheaf is a 
very good sign for the one, and a very bad one for the other. 
Tithes are more ticklish things than tenets, when men's brains 
are sound ; and there are more and worse stumbling-blocks at 
the barn-door than at the church-porch. I never saw a priest, 
Romanist or Anglican, who would tuck up his surplice to 
remove them. Whichever does it first will have the most 
voices for him : but he must be an Englishman, and serve 
only Englishmen ; he must resign the cook's perquisites to the 
Spaniard ; he must give up not only the fat, but the blood ; 
and he must keep fewer fagots in the kitchen. Since what- 
ever the country, whatever the state of civilization, the Church 
of Rome remains the same ; since under her influence the 
polite Louis at the present day commits as much bloodshed 
and perfidy, and commands as many conflagrations and rapes 
to her honor and advancement as the most barbarous kings 
and prelates in times past, I do hope that no insolence, no 
rapacity, no profligacy, no infidelity, in our own lord spiritual 
will render us either the passive captives of her insinuating 
encroachments, or the indifferent spectators of her triumphal 
entrance. We shall be told it was the religion of Alfred, 
the religion of the Plantagenets. There may be victory, there 
may be glory, there may be good men, under all forms and 
fabrics of belief. Titus, Trajan, the two Antonines, the two 
Gordians, Probus, Tacitus, rendered their countrymen much 
happier than the Plantagenets, or the greater and better Alfred, 
could do. Let us receive as brethren our countrymen of every 
creed, and reject as Christians those only who refuse to receive 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 339 

Parker. Most willingly, if such is the pleasure of the King 
and Privy Council. And I am delighted to find you, who are 
so steadfast a republican, extolling the emperors. 

Marvel. Your idea of emperor is incorrect or inadequate. 
Cincinnatus and Cato were emperors in the Roman sense of 
the word. The Germans and Turks and Marocchines cut out 
theirs upon another model. These Romans, and many more in 
the same station, did nothing without the consent, the approba- 
tion, the command (for such was the expression), of the senate 
and the people. They lived among the wiser and better citizens, 
with whom they conversed as equals, and, where it was proper 
(for instance, on subjects of literature), as inferiors. From these 
they took their wives, and with the sons and daughters of these 
they educated their children. In the decline of the Common- 
wealth, kings themselves, on the boundaries of the empire, were 
daily and hourly conversant with honest and learned men. All 
princes in our days are so educated as to detest the un malleable 
and unmelting honesty which will receive no impression from 
them ; nor do they even let you work for them unless they can 
bend you double. We must strip off our own clothes, or they 
never will let us be measured for their livery, which has now 
become our only protection. 

Parker. It behooves us to obey ; otherwise we can expect no 
forbearance and no tranquillity. 

Marvel. I wish the tranquillity of our country may last 
beyond our time, although we should live (which we cannot 
expect to do) twenty years. 

Parker. God grant we may ! 

Marvel. Life clings with the pertinacity of an impassioned 
mistress to many a man who is willing to abandon it, while he 
who too much loves it loses it. 

Parker. Twenty years ! 

Marvel. I have enjoyed but little of it at a time when it 
becomes a necessary of life, and I fear I shall leave as little for a 

Parker. But in regard to living, we are both of us hale 
men ; we may hope for many days yet ; we may yet see many 

Marvel. I have lived to see one too many. 

340 Imaginary Conversations. 

Parker. Whoever goes into political life must be contented 
with the same fare as others of the same rank who embark in the 
same expedition. 

Marvel. Before his cruise is over, he learns to be satisfied 
with a very small quantity of fresh provisions. His nutriment 
is from what is stale, and his courage from what is heady ; he 
looks burly and bold, but a fatal disease is lying at the bottom 
of an excited and inflated heart. We think to thrive by sur- 
rendering our capacities ; but we can no more live, my lord 
bishop, with breathing the breath of other men, than we can 
by not breathing our own. Compliancy will serve us poorly and 
ineffectually. Men, like columns, are only strong while they are 

Parker. You were speaking of other times ; and you always 
speak best among the Greeks and Romans. Continue, pray ! 

Marvel. Sovereignty, in the heathen world, had sympathies 
with humanity ; and power never thought herself contaminated 
by touching the hand of wisdom. It was before Andromache 
came on the stage, painted and patched and powdered, with a 
hogshead-hoop about her haunches and a pack-saddle on her pole, 
surmounted with upright hair larded and dredged ; it was before 
Orestes was created monseigneur; it was before there strutted 
under a triumphal arch of curls, and through a Via Sacra of 
plumery, Louis the Fourteenth. 

Parker. The ally of His Majesty 

Marvel. And something more. A gilded organ-pipe, puffed 
from below for those above to play. 

Parker. Respect the cousin 

Marvel. I know not whose cousin ; but the acknowledged 
brat of milliner and furrier, with perruquier for godfather. And 
such, forsooth, are the make-believes we must respect ! A nucleus 
of powder ! an efflorescence of frill ! 

Parker. Subject and prince stand now upon another footing 
than formerly. 

Marvel. Indeed they do. How dignified is the address 
of Plutarch to Trajan ! how familiar is Pliny's to Vespasian ! 
how tender, how paternal, is Fronto's to Antoninus ! how 
totally free from adulation and servility is Julius Pollux to the 
ungentle Commodus! Letters were not trampled down dis- 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 341 

dainfully either in the groves of Antioch or under the colon- 
nades of Palmyra. Not pleasure, the gentle enfeebler of the 
human intellect ; not tyranny and bigotry, its violent assailants, 
crossed the walk of the philosopher, to stand between him and 
his speculations. What is more : two ancient religions, the 
Grecian and Egyptian, met in perfectly good temper at Alex- 
andria, lived and flourished there together for many centuries, 
united in honoring whatever was worthy of honor in each com- 
munion, and never heard of persecution for matters of opinion 
until Christianity came and taught it. Thenceforward, for fifteen 
hundred years, blood has been perpetually spouting from under- 
neath her footsteps ; and the wretch, clinging exhausted to the 
cross, is left naked by the impostor, who pretends to have stripped 
him only to heal his wounds. 

Parker. Presbyterians, and other sectaries, were lately as cruel 
and hypocritical as any in former times. 

Marvel. They were certainly not less cruel, and perhaps even 
more hypocritical. English hearts were contracted and hardened 
by an open exposure to the North : they now are collapsing into 
the putridity of the South. We were ashamed of a beggarly dis- 
temper, but parasitical and skin-deep ; we are now ostentatious of 
a gentlemanly one, eating into the very bones. 

Parker. Our children may expect from Lord Clarendon a 
fair account of the prime movers in the late disturbances. 

Marvel. He knew but one party, and saw it only in its gala 
suit. He despises those whom he left on the old litter ; and he 
fancies that all who have not risen want the ability to rise. No 
doubt, he will speak unfavorably of those whom I most esteem : 
be it so ; if their lives and writings do not controvert him, they 
are unworthy of my defence. Were I upon terms of intimacy 
with him, I would render him a service by sending him the best 
translations, from Greek and Latin authors, of maxims left us by 
the wisest men, maxims which my friends held longer than their 
fortunes, and dearer than their lives. And are the vapors of 
such quagmires as Clarendon to overcast the luminaries of man- 
kind ? Should a Hyde lift up, I will not say his hand, I will 
not say his voice, should he lift up his eyes against a Milton ? 

Parkrr. Mr Milton would have benefited the world much 
more by coming into its little humors, and by complying with it 

342 Imaginary Conversations. 

Marvel. As the needle turns away from the rising sun, from 
the meridian, from the Occident, from regions of fragrancy and 
gold and gems, and moves with unerring impulse to the frosts and 
deserts of the North, so Milton and some few others, in politics, 
philosophy, and religion, walk through the busy multitude, wave 
aside the importunate trader, and, after a momentary oscillation 
from external agency, are found in the twilight and in the storm 
pointing with certain index to the pole-star of immutable truth. 

Parker. The nation in general thanks him little for what he 
has been doing. 

Marvel. Men who have been unsparing of their wisdom, like 
ladies who have been unfrugal of their favors, are abandoned by 
those who owe most to them, and hated or slighted by the rest. 
I wish beauty in her lost estate had consolations like genius. 
Parker. Fie, fie ! Mr Marvel ! Consolations for frailty ! 
Marvel. What wants them more ? The reed is cut down, 
and seldom does the sickle wound the hand that cuts it. There 
it lies ; trampled on, withered, and soon to be blown away. 

Parker. We should be careful and circumspect in our pity, 
and see that it falls on clean ground. Such a laxity of morals 
can be taught only in Mr Milton's school. He composed, I 
remember, a Treatise on Divorce, and would have given it great 

Marvel. He proved by many arguments what requires but 
few, that happiness is better than unhappiness ; that, when two 
persons cannot agree, it is wiser and more Christianlike that they 
should not disagree ; that, when they cease to love each other, it 
is something if they be hindered by the gentlest of checks from 
running to the extremity of hatred ; and, lastly, how it conduces 
to circumspection and forbearance to be aware that the bond of 
matrimony is not indissoluble, and that the bleeding heart may be 
saved from bursting. 

Parker. Monstrous sophistry ! abominable doctrines ! What 
more, sir ! what more ? 

Marvel. He proceeds to demonstrate that boisterous manners, 
captious contradictions, jars, jealousies, suspicions, dissensions, are 
juster causes of separation than the only one leading to it through 
the laws ; which fault, grievous as it is to morality and religion, 
may have occurred but once, and may have been followed by 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 343 

immediate and most sorrowful repentance, and by a greater 
anxiety to be clear of future offence than before it was com- 
mitted ; in itself, it is not so irreconcilable and inconsistent 
with gentleness, good-humor, generosity, and even conjugal 

Parker. Palpable perversion ! 

Marvel. I suppose it to have been committed but once ; and 
then there is the fairest inference, the most reasonable as well as 
the most charitable supposition, nay, almost the plainest proof, 
of the more legitimate attachment. 

Parker. Fear, apprehension of exposure, of shame, of 
abandonment, may force the vagrant to retrace her steps. 

Marvel. God grant, then, the marks of them never may be 
discovered ! 

Parker. Let the laws have their satisfaction. 

Marvel. Had ever the Harpies theirs, or the Devil his? 
And yet when were they stinted? Are the laws or are we the 
better or the milder for this satisfaction ? or is keenness of 
appetite a sign of it ? 

Parker. Reverence the laws of God, Mr Marvel, if you 
contemn those of your country. Even the Parliament, which 
you and Mr Milton must respect, since no King was coexistent 
with it, discountenanced and chastised such laxity. 

Marvel. I dare not look back upon a Parliament which was 
without the benefit of a King, and had also lost its spiritual 
guides, the barons of your bench; but well do I remember 
that our blessed Lord and Saviour was gentler in his rebuke 
to the woman who had offended, than he was to Scribes and 

Parker. There is no argument of any hold on men of 
slippery morals. 

Marvel. My morals have indeed been so slippery that they 
have let me down on the ground and left me there. Every year 
I have grown poorer ; yet never was I conscious of having spent 
my money among the unworthy, until the time came for them to 
show it by their ingratitude. My morals have not made me slip 
into an Episcopal throne 

Parker. Neither have mine me, sir ! and I would have you 
to know it, Mr Marvel ! 

344 Imaginary Conversations. 

Marvel. Your lordship has already that satisfaction. 

Parker. Pardon my interruption, my dear sir ! and the 
appearance of warmth, such as truth and sincerity at times 
put on. 

Marvel. It belongs to your lordship to grant pardon ; it is 
ours, who have offended, to receive it. 

Parker. Mr Marvel, I have always admired your fine 
gentlemanly manners, and regretted that you never have turned 
your wit to good account, in an age when hardly any thing 
else is held of value. Sound learning rises indeed, but rises 
slowly ; piety, although in estimation with the King, is less 
prized by certain persons who have access to his presence ; 
wit, Mr Marvel, when properly directed, not too high nor too 
low, will sooner or later find a patron. It is well at all times 
to avoid asperity and acrimony, and to submit with a willing 
mind to God's dispensations, be what they may. Probably a 
great part of your friend's misfortunes may be attributed to the 
intemperance of his rebukes. 

Marvel. Then what you call immoral and impious did him 
less harm ? 

Parker. I would not say that altogether. To me, indeed, 
his treatise on Divorce is most offensive : the treatise on Prelaty 
is contemptible. 

Marvel. Nevertheless, in the narrow view of my humble 
understanding, there is no human eloquence at all comparable 
to certain parts of it. And permit me to remind your lordship, 
that you continued on the most friendly terms with him long 
after its publication. 

Parker. I do not give up a friend for a trifle. 

Marvel. Your lordship, it appears, must have more than a 
trifle for the surrender. I have usually found that those who 
make faults of foibles, and crimes of faults, have within themselves 
an impulse toward worse, and give ready way to such impulse 
whenever they can secretly or safely. There is a gravity which 
is not austere nor captious, which belongs not to melancholy, nor 
dwells in contraction of heart, but arises from tenderness and 
hangs upon reflection. 

Parker. Whatsoever may be the gravity of Mr Milton, 
I have heard indistinctly that he has not always been the 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 345 

kindest of husbands. Being a sagacious and a prudent man, 
he ought never to have taken a wife until he had ascertained 
IKT character. 

Marvel. Pray inform me whether the wisest men have been 
the most fortunate, or, if you prefer the expression, the most 
provident, in their choice ? Of Solomon's wives (several hun- 
dreds) is it recorded that a single one sympathized with him, 
loved him, respected him, or esteemed him ? His wisdom and 
his poetry flowed alike on barren sand ; his cedar frowned on 
him ; his lily drooped and withered before he had raised up 
his head from its hard, cold glossiness, or had inhaled its frag- 
rance with a second sigh. Disappointments sour most the less 
experienced. Young ladies are ready in imagining that marriage 
is all cake and kisses ; but very few of them are housewives 
long, before they discover that the vinous fermentation may be 
followed too soon by the acetous. Rarely do they discover, and 
more rarely do they admit, that such is the result of their own 
mismanagement. What woman can declare with sincerity that 
she never in the calmer days of life has felt surprise and shame 
also, if she is virtuous and sensible at recollecting how nearly 
the same interest was excited in her by the most frivolous 
and least frivolous of her admirers. The downy thistle-seed, 
hard to be uprooted, is carried by the lightest breath of air, and 
takes an imperceptible hold on what it catches : it falls the more 
readily into the more open breast ; but sometimes the less open is 
vainly buttoned up against it. 

Milton has, I am afraid, imitated too closely the authoritative 
voice of the patriarchs, and been somewhat too Oriental (I for- 
bear to say Scriptural) in his relations as a husband. But who, 
whether among the graver or less grave, is just to woman? 
There may be moments when the beloved tells us, and tells 
us truly, that we are dearer to her than life. Is not this enough ? 
Is it not above all merit ? Yet, if ever the ardor of her en- 
thusiasm subsides ; if her love ever loses, later in the day, the 
spirit and vivacity of its early dawn ; if between the sigh and the 
blush an interval is perceptible ; if the arm mistakes the chair for 
the shoulder, what an outcry is there ! what a proclamation of 
her injustice and her inconstancy ! what an alternation of shrink- 
ing and spurning at the coldness of her heart! Do we ask 

346 Imaginary Conversations. 

within if our own has retained all its ancient loyalty, all its own 
warmth, and all that was poured into it ? Often the true lover 
has little of true love compared with what he has undeservedly 
received and unreasonably exacts. But let it also be remem- 
bered that marriage is the metempsychosis of women, that 
it turns them into different creatures from what they were before. 
Liveliness in the girl may have been mistaken for good temper ; 
the little pervicacity which at first is attractively provoking, at 
last provokes without its attractiveness ; negligence of order and 
propriety, of duties and civilities, long endured, often deprecated, 
ceases to be tolerable, when children grow up and are in danger 
of following the example. It often happens that, if a man 
unhappy in the married state were to disclose the manifold causes 
of his uneasiness, they would be found, by those who were 
beyond their influence, to be of such a nature as rather to excite 
derision than sympathy. The waters of bitterness do not fall 
on his head in a cataract, but through a colander, one, how- 
ever, like the vases of the Danaides, perforated only for re- 
plenishment. We know scarcely the vestibule of a house of 
which we fancy we have penetrated into all the corners. We 
know not how grievously a man may have suffered, long before 
the calumnies of the world befell him as he reluctantly left his 
house-door. There are women from whom incessant tears of 
anger swell forth at imaginary wrongs ; but, of contrition for 
their own delinquencies, not one. 

Milton, in writing his treatise, of which probably the first 
idea was suggested from his own residence, was aware that the 
laws should provide, not only against our violence and injustice, 
but against our levity and inconstancy ; and that a man's capri- 
ciousness or satiety should not burst asunder the ties by which 
families are united. Do you believe that the crime of adultery 
has never been committed to the end of obtaining a divorce ? 
Do you believe that murder, that suicide, never has been com- 
mitted because a divorce was unattainable ? Thus the most 
cruel tortures are terminated by the most frightful crimes. 
Milton has made his appeal to the authority of religion : we 
lower our eyes from him, and point to the miseries and guilt 
on every side before us, caused by the corrosion or the violent 
disruption of bonds which humanity would have loosened. He 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 347 

would have tried with a patient ear and with a delicate hand the 
chord that offended by its harshness ; and, when he could not 
reduce it to the proper tone, he would remove it for another. 

Parkfr. Mr Marvel ! Mr Marvel ! I cannot follow you 
among these fiddlesticks. The age is notoriously irreligious. 

Marvel. I believe it ; I know it ; and, without a claim to 
extraordinary acuteness, I fancy I can discover by what means, 
and by whose agency, it became so. The preachers who exhibit 
most vehemence are the very men who support the worst corrup- 
tions, corruptions not a portion of our nature, but sticking 
o by our slovenly supineness. Of what use is it to rail 
against our infirmities, of what use even to pity and bemoan 
them, if we help not in removing the evils that rise perpetually 
out of them ? Were every man to sweep the mire from before 
his house every morning, he would have little cause to complain 
of dirty street*. Some dust might be carried into them by the 
wind ; the tread of multitudes would make unsound what was 
solid, yet, nothing being accumulated, the labor of removing the 
obstructions would be light. Another thing has increased the 
irreligion and immorality of the people, beside examples in 
elevated stations. Whatever is over-constrained will relax or 
crack. The age of Milton (for that was his age in which he 
was heard and honored) was too religious, if any thing can 
be called so. Prelaty now lays a soft and frilled hand upon our 
childishness. Forty years ago she stripped up her sleeve, scourged 
us heartily, and spat upon us, to remove the smart, no doubt ! 
This treatment made people run in all directions from her ; not 
unlike the primeval man described by Lucretius, fleeing before 
the fiercer and stronger animals : 

Vivm videns viro sepeliri viscera busto, 
At quos ecfugium servarat, corpore adeso 
Poetcrius, tremulas super ulcera tetra tenentes 
Palmas, horrificis adcibant vocibus orcum. 

Parker. Dear me ! what a memory you possess, good Mr 
Marvel ! You pronounce Latin verses charmingly. I wish you 
would go on to the end of the book. 

Marvel. Permit me to go on a shorter distance, to the 
conclusion of my remarks. As popery caused the violence 

348 Imaginary Conversations. 

of the Reformers, so did prelaty (the same thing under an- 
other name) the violence of the Presbyterians and Anabaptists. 
She treated them inhumanly : she reduced to poverty, she exiled, 
she maimed, she mutilated, she stabbed, she shot, she hanged, 
those who followed Christ in the narrow and quiet lane, rather 
than along the dust of the market-road, and who conversed with 
him rather in the cottage than the tollbooth. She would have 
nothing pass unless through her hands ; and she imposed a heavy 
and intolerable tax on the necessaries both of physical and of 
spiritual life. This baronial privilege our Parliament would have 
suppressed : the King rose against the suppression, and broke his 
knuckles in the cogs of the mill. 

Parker. Sad times, Mr Marvel, sad times ! It fills me with 
heaviness to hear of them. 

Marvel. Low places are foggy first ; days of sadness wet 
trie people to the skin ; they hang loosely for some time upon 
the ermine, but at last they penetrate it, and cause it to be 
thrown off. I do not like to hear a man cry out with pain ; 
but I would rather hear one than twenty. Sorrow is the growth 
of all seasons : we had much, however, to relieve it. Never 
did our England, since she first emerged from the ocean, rise 
so high above surrounding nations. The rivalry of Holland, 
the pride of Spain, the insolence of France, were thrust back by 
one finger each ; yet those countries were then more powerful 
than they had ever been. The sword of Cromwell was preceded 
by the mace of Milton ; by that mace which, when Oliver had 
rendered his account, opened to our contemplation the garden- 
gate of Paradise. And there were some around not unworthy to 
enter with him. In the compass of sixteen centuries, you will 
not number on the whole earth so many wise and admirable men 
as you could have found united in that single day, when England 
showed her true magnitude and solved the question, Which is 
most, one or a million ? There were giants in those days ; but 
giants who feared God, and not who fought against him. Less 
men, it appears, are braver. They show him a legal writ of 
ejectment, seize upon his house, and riotously carouse therein. 
But the morning must come ; and heaviness, we know, cometh 
in the morning. 

Parser. Wide is the difference between carousal and austerity. 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 349 

Your friend miscalculated the steps to fortune, in which as we all 
arc the architects of our own, if we omit the insertion of one or 
two, the rest are useless in furthering our ascent. He was too 
passionate, Mr Marvel, he was indeed. 

Marvel. Superficial men have no absorbing passion : there are 
no whirlpools in a shallow. I have often been amused at thinking 
in what estimation the greatest of mankind were holden by their 
contemporaries. Not even the most sagacious and prudent one 
could discover much of them, or could prognosticate their future 
course in the infinity of space ! Men like ourselves are permitted 
to stand near, and indeed in the very presence of, Milton. What 
do they see ? dark clothes, gray hair, and sightless eyes ! Other 
men have better things : other men, therefore, are nobler ! The 
stars themselves are only bright by distance ; go close, and all is 
earthy. But vapors illuminate these : from the breath and from 
the countenance of God comes light on worlds higher than they, 
worlds to which he has given the forms and names of Shak- 
speare and of Milton. 

Parker. After all, I doubt whether much of his doctrine is 
remaining in the public mind. 

Marvel. Others are not inclined to remember all that we re- 
member, and will not attend to us if we propose to tell them half. 
Water will take up but a certain quantity of salt, even of the finest 
and purest. If the short memories of men are to be quoted against 
the excellence of instruction, your lordship would never have cen- 
sured them from the pulpit for forgetting what was delivered by 
their Saviour. It is much, my lord bishop, that you allow my 
friend even the pittance of praise you have bestowed ; for, if you 
will permit me to express my sentiments in verse, which I am in 
the habit of doing, I would say, 

Men like the ancient kalends, nones, and ides, 
Are reckoned backward, and the first stand last. 

I am confident that Milton is heedless of how little weight he is 
held by those who are of none ; and that he never looks toward 
those somewhat more eminent, between whom and himself there 
have crept the waters of oblivion. As the pearl ripens in the 
obscurity of its shell, so ripens in the tomb all the fame that is 
truly precious. In fame he will be happier than in friendship. 

350 Imaginary Conversations. 

Were it possible that one among the faithful of the angels could 
have suffered wounds and dissolution in his conflict with the false, 
I should scarcely feel greater awe at discovering on some bleak 
mountain the bones of this our mighty defender, once shining in 
celestial panoply, once glowing at the trumpet-blast of God, but 
not proof against the desperate and the damned, than I have felt 
at entering the humble abode of Milton, whose spirit already 
reaches heaven, yet whose corporeal frame hath no quiet or safe 
resting-place here below. And shall not I, who loved him early, 
have the lonely and sad privilege to love him still ? Or shall 
fidelity to power be a virtue, and fidelity to tribulation an 
offence ? 

Parker. We may best show our fidelity by our discretion. 
It becomes my station, and suits my principles, to defend the Eng- 
lish Constitution, both in Church and State. 

Marvel. You highly praised the Defence of the English 
People: you called it a masterly piece of rhetoric and ratio- 

Parker. I might have admired the subtilty of it, and have 
praised the Latinity. 

Marvel. Less reasonably. But his godlike mind shines glori- 
ously throughout his work ; only perhaps we look the more intently 
at it for the cloud it penetrates. Those who think we have enough 
of his poetry still regret that we possess too little of his prose, and 
wish especially for more of his historical compositions. Davila 
and Bacon 

Parker. You mean Lord Verulam. 

Marvel. That idle title was indeed thrown over his shoulders ; 
but the trapping was unlikely to rest long upon a creature of such 
proud paces. He and Davila are the only men of high genius 
among the modems who have attempted it ; and the greater of 
them has failed. He wanted honesty, he perverted facts, he 
courted favor : the present in his eyes was larger than the future. 

Parker. The Italians, who far excel us in the writing of his- 
tory, are farther behind the ancients. 

Marvel. True enough. From Guicciardini and Machiavelli, 
the most celebrated of them, we acquire a vast quantity of trivial 
information. There is about them a sawdust which absorbs much 
blood and impurity, and of which the level surface is dry ; but no 

Andrew Marvel and Bishop Parker. 351 

by what agency rose such magnificent cities above the 
hovels of France and Germany, none 

Ut fortis Etruria crevit, 

or, on the contrary, how the mistress of the world sank in the 
ordure of her priesthood. 

Scilicet et rerum facta est nequissima Roma. 

We are captivated by no charms of description, we are detained 
by no peculiarities of character : we hear a clamorous scuffle in 
the street, and we close the door. How different the historians 
of antiquity ! We read Sallust, and always are incited by the 
desire of reading on, although we are surrounded by conspirators 
and barbarians ; we read Livy, until we imagine we are standing 
in an august pantheon, covered with altars and standards, over 
which are the four fatal letters that spellbound all mankind.* 
We step forth again among the modern Italians : here we find 
plenty of rogues, plenty of receipts for making more ; and little 
else. In the best passages, we come upon a crowd of dark 
reflections, which scarcely a glimmer of glory pierces through ; 
and we stare at the tenuity of the spectres, but never at their 

Give me the poetical mind, the mind poetical in all things ; 

give me the poetical heart, the heart of hope and confidence, 

beats the more strongly and resolutely under the good 

thrown down, and raises up fabric after fabric on the same 


Parker. At your time of life, Mr Marvel ? 

Marvel. At mine, my lord bishop ! I have lived with Milton. 
Such creative and redeeming spirits are like kindly and renovat- 
ing Nature. Volcano comes after volcano; yet covereth she 
with herbage and foliage, with vine and olive, and with what- 
else refreshes and gladdens her, the Earth that has been 
gasping under the exhaustion of her throes. 

Parker. He has given us such a description of Eve's beauty 
as appears to me somewhat too pictorial, too luxuriant, too 
suggestive, too I know not what. 

S. P. Q. R. 

352 Imaginary Conversations. 

Marvel. The sight of beauty, in her purity and beatitude, 
turns us from all unrighteousness, and is death to sin. 

Parker. Before we part, my good Mr Marvel, let me assure 
you that we part in amity, and that I bear no resentment in my 
breast against your friend. I am patient of Mr Milton ; I am 
more than patient, I am indulgent, seeing that his influence on 
society is past. 

Marvel. Past it is, indeed. What a deplorable thing is 
it that folly should so constantly have power over wisdom, and 
wisdom so intermittently over folly ! But we live morally, as 
we used to live politically, under a representative system ; and 
the majority (to employ a phrase of people at elections) carries 
the day. 

Parker. Let us piously hope, Mr Marvel, that God in his 
good time may turn Mr Milton from the error of his ways, and 
incline his heart to repentance, and that so he may finally be 
prepared for death. 

Marvel. The wicked can never be prepared for it ; the good 
always are. What is the preparation which so many ruffled 
wrists point out ? to gabble over prayer and praise and con- 
fession and contrition. My lord, heaven is not to be won by 
short hard work at the last, as some of us take a degree at the 
university, after much irregularity and negligence. I prefer a 
steady pace from the outset to the end ; coming in cool, and 
dismounting quietly. Instead of which, I have known many old 
playfellows of the Devil spring up suddenly from their beds, and 
strike at him treacherously; while he, without a cuff, laughed 
and made grimaces in the corner of the room. 


Jlddison. Dick ! I am come to remonstrate with you on 
those unlucky habits which have been so detrimental to your 
health and fortune. 

[ a Mr Aitken, in his erudite " Life of Steele," says, concerning the sub- 
ject of this Conversation : " The most trustworthy account is that told by 
Benjamin Victor to Garrick in a letter written in 1762. He says that 

Steele and Addison. 353 

Steele. Many thanks, Mr Addison : but really my fortune is 
not much improved by your arresting me for the hundred pounds; 
nor is my health, if spirits are an indication of it, on seeing my 
furniture sold by auction to raise the money. 

Addison. Pooh, pooh, Dick ! what furniture had you about 
the house ? 

Steele. At least I had the arm-chair, of which you never 
before had dispossessed me longer than the evening ; and happy 
should I have been to enjoy your company in it again and again, 
if you had left it me. 

Addison. We will contrive to hire another. I do assure you, 
my dear Dick, I have really felt for you. 

Steelt. I only wish, my kind friend, you had not put out 
your feelers quite so far, nor exactly in this direction ; and 
that my poor wife had received an hour's notice : she might 
have carried a few trinkets to some neighbor. She wanted her 
salts ; and the bailiff thanked her for the bottle that contained 
them, telling her the gold head of it was worth pretty nearly 

Addison. Lady Steele then wanted her smelling-bottle ? 
Dear me ! the weather, I apprehend, is about to change. Have 
you any symptoms of your old gout ? 

Steele. My health has been long on the decline, you know. 

Adduon. Too well I know it, my dear friend, and I hinted 
it as delicately as I could. Nothing on earth beside this con- 
sideration should have induced me to pursue a measure in appear- 
ance so unfriendly. You must grow more temperate, you really 

Steele. Mr Addison, you did not speak so gravely and so 

he had his relation first from Wilkes, but that afterwards, in 17x5, he 
had a full confirmation of it from Steele's own lips. According to 
Victor's letter, Steele borrowed 1000 from Addison .... on the house 
at Hampton Wick, giving bond and judgment for the repayment of the 
money at the end of twelve months. Upon the forfeiture of the bond, 
Addison *s attorney proceeded to execution, the house and furniture being 
sold, and the surplus sent to Steele with a ' genteel letter ' stating the 
friendly reason tor this extraordinary proceeding, viz.: to awaken him, 
if possible, from a lethargy that must end in his inevitable ruin." .... 
The affair seems to have caused no interruption in the friendship between 
Steele and Addison. (Ablett's Literary Hours, 1837. Works, ii., 1846. 
Works, v., 1876.)] 

354 Imaginary Conversations. 

firmly when we used to meet at Will's. You always drank as 
much as I did, and often invited and pressed me to continue, 
when I was weary, sleepy, and sick. 

Addison. You thought so, because you were drunk. Indeed, 
at my own house I have sometimes asked you to take another 
glass, in compliance with the rules of society and hospitality. 

Steele. Once, it is true, you did it at your house, the only 
time I ever had an invitation to dine in it. The countess was 
never fond of the wit that smells of wine : her husband could 
once endure it. 

Addison. We could talk more freely, you know, at the 
tavern. There we have dined together some hundred times. 

Steele. Most days, for many years. 

Addison. Ah, Dick ! since we first met there, several of our 
friends are gone off the stage. 

Steele. And some are still acting. 

Addison. Forbear, my dear friend, to joke and smile at 
infirmities or vices. Many have departed from us in conse- 
quence, I apprehend, of indulging in the bottle. When passions 
are excited, when reason is disturbed, when reputation is sullied, 
when fortune is squandered, and when health is lost by it, a 
retreat is sounded in vain. Some cannot hear it ; others will not 
profit by it. 

Steele. I must do you the justice to declare, that I never saw 
any other effect of hard drinking upon you than to make you 
more circumspect and silent. 

Addison. If ever I urged you, in the warmth of my heart, 
to transgress the bounds of sobriety, I entreat you, as a Christian, 
to forgive me. 

Steele. Most willingly, most cordially. 

Addison. I feel confident that you will think of me, speak 
of me, and write of me, as you have ever done, without a 
diminution of esteem. We are feeble creatures : we want one 
another's aid and assistance, a want ordained by Providence 
to show us at once our insufficiency and our strength. We 
must not abandon our friends from slight motives, nor let our 
passions be our interpreters in their own cause. Consistency is 
not more requisite to the sound Christian than to the accom- 
plished politician. 

Steele and Addison. 355 

Stee/f. I am inconsistent in my resolutions of improvement, 
no man ever was more so ; but my attachments have a nerve 
in them neither to be deadened by ill-treatment nor loosened 
by indulgence. A man grievously wounded knows by the acute- 
ness of the pain that a spirit of vitality is yet in him : I know 
that I retain my friendship for you by what you have made me 

Adduon. Entirely for your own good, I do protest, if you 
could see it. 

Stftk. Alas ! all our sufferings are so ; the only mischief is, 
that we have no organs for perceiving it. 

Addison. You reason well, my worthy sir ; and, relying on 
your kindness in my favor (for every man has enemies, and 
those mostly who serve their friends best), I say, Dick, on 
these considerations, since you never broke your word with me, 
and since I am certain you would be sorry it were known that 
only fourscore pounds* worth could be found in the house, I 
renounce for the present the twenty yet wanting. Do not beat 
about for an answer ; say not one word ; farewell ! 

Stede. Ah ! could not that cold heart,* often and long as 
I reposed on it, bring me to my senses? I have indeed been 
drunken ; but it is hard to awaken in such heaviness as this 
of mine is. I shared his poverty with him : I never aimed to 
share his prosperity. Well, well ; I cannot break old habits : 
I love my glass ; I love Addison. Each will partake in killing 
me. Why cannot I see him again in the arm-chair, his right 
hand upon his heart under the fawn-colored waistcoat, his brow 
erect and clear as his conscience ; his wig even and composed as 
his temper, with measurely curls and antithetical top-knots, like 
his style ; the calmest poet, the most quiet patriot : dear Addison ! 
drunk, deliberate, moral, sentimental, foaming over with truth 
and virtue, with tenderness and friendship, and only the worse in 
one ruffle for the wine. 

* Doubts are now entertained whether the character of Addison is 
fcurly represented by Pope and Johnson. It is better to make this state- 
ment than to omit a Comtnatum which had appeared elsewhere. 

356 lamginary Conversations. 


La Fontaine. I am truly sensible of the honor I receive, 
M. de la Rochefoucault, in a visit from a personage so dis- 
tinguished by his birth and by his genius. Pardon my ambition, 
if I confess to you that I have long and ardently wished for the 
good fortune, which I never could promise myself, of knowing 
you personally. 

Rochefoucault. My dear M. de la Fontaine ! 

La Fontaine. Not " de la," not " de la." I am La Fontaine 
purely and simply. 

Rochefoucault. The whole ; not derivative. You appear, in 
the midst of your purity, to have been educated at court, in the 
lat) of the ladies. What was the last day (pardon ! ) I had the 
misfortune to miss you there ? 

La Fontaine. I never go to court. They say one cannot go 
without silk stockings ; and I have only thread, plenty of them 
indeed, thank God! Yet (would you believe it?) Nanon, in 
putting a solette to the bottom of one, last week, sewed it so care- 
lessly she made a kind of cord across ; and I verily believe it will 
lame me for life, for I walked the whole morning upon it. 

Rochefoucault. She ought to be whipped. 

La Fontaine. I thought so too, and grew the warmer at 
being unable to find a wisp of osier or a roll of packthread in 
the house. Barely had I begun with my garter, when in came 
the Bishop of Grasse, my old friend Godeau, and another lord, 
whose name he mentioned ; and they both interceded for her so 
long and so touchingly, that at last I was fain to let her rise up 
and go. I never saw men look down on the erring and afflicted 
more compassionately. The bishop was quite concerned for me 
also. But the other, although he professed to feel even more, 
and said that it must surely be the pain of purgatory to me, took 

[ l The date of this Conversation, which is strictly " Imaginary," can 
be fixed. In 1679 La Fontaine went to Court to present a copy of his 
works to the King, and forgot the book. Rochefoucault died in the 
year 1680. The Conversation is one of the best. Both the characters 
are well kept up, and there is very little Theology. (Works, ii., 1846. 
Works, v., 1876.)] 

La Fontaine and La Rochefoucault. 357 

a pinch of snuff, opened his waistcoat, drew down his ruffles, and 
seemed rather more indifferent. 

Rochefoucault. Providentially, in such moving scenes, the 
worst is soon over. But Godeau's friend was not too sensitive. 

La Fontaine. Sensitive ! no more than if he had been 
educated at the butcher's or the Sorbonne. 

Rochefoucault. I am afraid there are as many hard hearts 
under satin waistcoats, as there are ugly visages under the same 
material in miniature-cases. 

Fontaine. My lord, I could show you a miniature-case 
which contains your humble servant, in which the painter has 
done what no tailor in his senses would do : he has given me 
credit for a coat of violet silk, with silver frogs as large as 
tortoises. But I am loath to get up for it while the generous 
of this dog (if I mentioned his name, he would jump up) 
places such confidence on my knee. 

Rochffoucmilt. Pray do not move on any account ; above all, 
lest you should disturb that amiable gray cat, fast asleep in his 
innocence on your shoulder. 

La Fontaine. Ah, rogue ! art thou there ? Why, thou hast 
not licked my face this half-hour ! 

Rochefoucault. And more too, I should imagine. I do not 
judge from his somnolency, which if he were president of the 
Parliament could not be graver, but from his natural sagacity. 
Cats weigh practicabilities. What sort of tongue has he ? 

La Fontaine. He has the roughest tongue and the tenderest 
heart of any cat in Paris. If you observe the color of his coat, 
it is rather blue than grey, a. certain indication of goodness in 
these contemplative creatures. 

Rochffoucault. We were talking of his tongue alone ; by which 
cats, like men, are flatterers. 

La Fontaine. Ah ! you gentlemen of the court are much 
mistaken in thinking that vices have so extensive a range. There 
are some of our vices, like some of our diseases, from which the 
quadrupeds are exempt ; and those, both diseases and vices, are 
the most discreditable. 

Rochefoucault. I do not bear patiently any evil spoken of the 
court ; for it must be acknowledged, by the most malicious, that 
the court is the purifier of the whole nation. 

358 Imaginary Conversations. 

La Fontaine. I know little of the court, and less ot the whole 
nation ; but how can this be ? 

Rochefoucault. It collects all ramblers and gamblers ; all the 
market-men and market-women who deal in articles which God 
has thrown into their baskets, without any trouble on their part ; 
all the seducers, and all who wish to be seduced ; all the duellists 
who erase their crimes with their swords, and sweat out their 
cowardice with daily practice; all the nobles whose patents of 
nobility lie in gold snuff-boxes, or have worn Mechlin ruffles, or 
are deposited within the archives of knee-deep waistcoats; all 
stock-jobbers and church -jobbers, the black-legged and the red- 
legged game, the flower of the justaucorps, the robe, and the 
soutane. If these were spread over the surface of France, instead 
of close compressure in the court or cabinet, they would corrupt 
the whole country in two years. As matters now stand, it will 
require a quarter of a century to effect it. 

La Fontaine. Am I not right, then, in preferring my beasts 
to yours? But if yours were loose, mine (as you prove to me) 
would be the last to surfer by it, poor dear creatures ! Speaking 
of cats, I would have avoided all personality that might be offen- 
sive to them : I would not exactly have said in so many words, 
that, by their tongues, they are flatterers, like men. Language 
may take a turn advantageously in favor of our friends. True, 
we resemble all animals in something. I am quite ashamed and 
mortified that your lordship, or anybody, should have had the 
start of me in this reflection. When a cat flatters with his tongue, 
he is not insincere : you may safely take it for a real kindness. 
He is loyal, M. de la Rochefoucault ! my word for him, he is 
loyal. Observe, too, if you please, no cat ever licks you when he 
wants anything from you ; so that there is nothing of baseness in 
such an act of adulation, if we must call it so. For my part, I 
am slow to designate by so foul a name that (be it what it may) 
which is subsequent to a kindness. Cats ask plainly for what 
they want. 

Rochefoucault. And, if they cannot get it by protocols, they 
get it by invasion and assault. 

La Fontaine. No ! no ! usually they go elsewhere, and fondle 
those from whom they obtain it. In this I see no resemblance 
to invaders and conquerors. I draw no parallels: I would 

La Fontaine and La Rochefoucault. 359 

excite no heart-burnings between us and them. Let all have 
their due. 

I do not like to lift this creature off, for it would waken him, 
else I could find out, by some subsequent action, the reason why 
he has not been on the elert to lick my cheek for so long 
a time. 

Rochefoucault. Cats are wary and provident. He would not 
enter into any contest with you, however friendly. He only licks 
your face, I presume, while your beard is but a match for his 

La Fontaine. Ha ! you remind me. Indeed, I did begin to 
think my beard was rather of the roughest ; for yesterday Madame 
de Rambouillet sent me a plate of strawberries, the first of the 
season, and raised (would you believe it?) under glass. One of 
these strawberries was dropping from my lips, and I attempted to 
stop it. When I thought it had fallen to the ground, " Look for 
it, Nanon ; pick it up and eat it," said I. 

Master ! " cried the wench, " your beard has skewered and 
spitted it." " Honest girl," I answered, " come cull it from the 
bed of its adoption." 

d resolved to shave myself this morning ; but our wisest 
and best resolutions too often come to nothing, poor mortals ! 

Rocbefoucault. We often do very well every thing but the only 
thing we hope to do best of all ; and our projects often drop 
from us by their weight. A little while ago, your friend Moliere 
exhibited a remarkable proof of it. 

/ / Fontaine. Ah, poor Moliere ! the best man in the 
world; but flighty, negligent, thoughtless. He throws him- 
self into other men, and does not remember where. The 
sight of an eagle, M. de la Rochefoucault, but the memory 
of a fly ! 

Rochefoucault. I will give you an example ; but perhaps it is 
already known to you. 

La Fontaine. Likely enough. We have each so many 
friends, neither of us can trip but the other is invited to the 
laugh. Well, I am sure he has no malice, and I hope I have 
none ; but who can see his own faults ? 

Rocbefoucault. He had brought out a new edition of his 

360 Imaginary Conversations. 

La Fontaine. There will be fifty ; there will be a hundred : 
nothing in our language, or in any, is so delightful, so graceful, 
I will add, so clear at once and so profound. 

Rochefoucault. You are among the few who, seeing well his 
other qualities, see that Molire is also profound. In order to 
present the new edition to the Dauphin, he had put on a sky- 
blue velvet coat, powdered with fleur-de-lis. He laid the 
volume on his library-table ; and, resolving that none of the 
courtiers should have an opportunity of ridiculing him for any 
thing like absence of mind, he returned to his bed-room, which, 
as may often be the case in the economy of poets, is also his 
dressing-room. Here he surveyed himself in his mirror, as well 
as the creeks and lagoons in it would permit. 

La Fontaine. I do assure you, from my own observation, 
M. de la Rochefoucault, that his mirror is a splendid one. I 
should take it to be nearly three feet high, reckoning the frame 
with the Cupid above and the elephant under. I suspected it 
was the present of some great lady ; and, indeed, I have since 
heard as much. 

Rochefoucault. Perhaps, then, the whole story may be quite 
as fabulous as the part of it which I have been relating. 

La Fontaine. In that case, I may be able to set you right 

Rochefoucault. He found his peruke a model of perfection : 
tight, yet easy ; not an inch more on one side than on the other. 
The black patch on the forehead 

La Fontaine. Black patch, too ! I would have given a 
fifteen-sous piece to have caught him with that black patch. 

Rochefoucault. He found it lovely, marvellous, irresistible. 
Those on each cheek 

La Fontaine. Do you tell me he had one on each cheek ? 

Rochefoucault. Symmetrically. The cravat was of its proper 
descent, and with its appropriate charge of the best Strasburg 
snuff upon it. The waistcoat, for a moment, puzzled and per- 
plexed him. He was not quite sure whether the right number 
of buttons were in their holes ; nor how many above nor how 
many below it was the fashion of the week to leave without 
occupation. Such a piece of ignorance is enough to disgrace any 
courtier on earth. He was in the act of striking his forehead 

I a Fontaine and La Rochefoucault. 361 

with desperation ; but he thought of the patch, fell on his knees, 
and thanked Heaven for the intervention. 

Fontaine. Just like him ! just like him ! good soul ! 
Rocbefoucault. The breeches ah ! those require attention : 
all proj>er ; every thing in its place, magnificent ! The stockings 
rolled up, neither too loosely nor too negligently, a picture ! 
The buckles in the shoes all but one soon set to rights, 
well thought of! And now the sword, ah, that cursed sword ! 
it will bring at least one man to the ground if it has its own way 
much longer. Up with it ! up with it higher ! Allans ! we are 
out of danger. 

La Fontaine. Delightful ! I have him before my eyes. 
What simplicity ! ay, what simplicity ! 

Rochefoucault. Now for hat. Feather in? Five at least. 

He took up hat and plumage, extended his ami to the full 
length, raised it a foot above his head, lowered it thereon, 
opened his fingers, and let them fall again at his side. 

La Fontaine. Something of the comedian in that ; ay, M. 
de la Rochefoucault ? But, on the stage or off, all is natural in 

Rocbefoucault. Away he went. He reached the palace, 
stood before the Dauphin Oh, consternation ! Oh, despair ! 
" Morbleu ! bdte que je suis," exclaimed the hapless man, " le 
livre, oft done est-il ? " You are forcibly struck, I perceive, by 
this adventure of your friend. 

La Fontaint. Strange coincidence ! quite unaccountable ! 
There are agents at work in our dreams, M. de la Rochefou- 
cault, which we shall never see out of them, on this side the 
grave. [To b'tnuelf.] Sky-blue? No. Fleurs de-lis ? Bah! 
bah ! Patches ? I never wore one in my life. 

Rochefotuault. It well becomes your character for generosity, 
M. la Fontaine, to look grave and ponder and ejaculate on 
a friend's untoward accident, instead of laughing, as those who 
little know you might expect. I beg your pardon for relating 
the occurrence. 

La Fonta'mt. Right or wrong, I cannot help laughing any 
longer. Comical, by my faith ! above the tip-top of comedy. 
Excuse my flashes and dashes and rushes of merriment. In- 

362 Imaginary Conversations. 

controllable ! incontrollable ! Indeed the laughter is immoderate. 
And you all the while are sitting as grave as a judge ; I mean a 
criminal one, who has nothing to do but to keep up his popularity 
by sending his rogues to the gallows. The civil, indeed, have 
much weighty matter on their minds: they must displease one 
party ; and sometimes a doubt arises whether the fairer hand or 
the fuller shall turn the balance. 

Rochefoucauh. I congratulate you on the return of your 
gravity and composure. 

La Fontaine. Seriously now : all my lifetime I have been 
the plaything of dreams. Sometimes they have taken such 
possession of me, that nobody could persuade me afterward they 
were other than real events. Some are very oppressive, very 
painful, M. de la Rochefoucauh ! I have never been able, al- 
together, to disembarrass my head of the most wonderful vision 
that ever took possession of any man's. There are some truly 
important differences ; but in many respects this laughable adven- 
ture of my innocent, honest friend, Molire, seemed to have befallen 
myself. I can only account for it by having heard the tale when 
I was half-asleep. 

Rochefoucauh. Nothing more probable. 

La Fontaine. You absolutely have relieved me from an in- 

Rochefoucauh. I do not yet see how. 

La Fontaine. No longer ago than when you entered this 
chamber, I would have sworn that I myself had gone to the 
Louvre, that I myself had been commanded to attend the Dau- 
phin, that I myself had come into his presence,* had fallen on 
my knee, and cried, " Peste ! ou est done le livre ! " Ah, M. 
de la Rochefoucault ! permit me to embrace you : this is really 
to find a friend at court. 

Rochefoucault. My visit is even more auspicious than I could 
have ventured to expect : it was chiefly for the purpose of asking 
your permission to make another at my return to Paris. I am 
forced to go into the country on some family affairs ; but, hear- 
ing that you have spoken favorably of my Maxims, I presume to 
express my satisfaction and delight at your good opinion. 

La Fontaine. Pray, M. de la Rochefoucault, do me the 
* This happened. 

La Fontaine and La Rochefoucault. 363 

favor to continue here a few minutes : I would gladly reason 
with you on some of your doctrines. 

Rochefoucault. For the pleasure of hearing your sentiments on 
the topics I have treated, I will, although it is late, steal a few 
minutes from the court, of which I must take my leave on parting 
for the province. 

La Fontaine. Are you quite certain that all your Maxims 
are true, or, what is of greater consequence, that they are all 
original ? I have lately read a treatise written by an English- 
man, M. Hobbes ; so loyal a man that, while others tell you 
kings are appointed by God, he tells you God is appointed by 

Rochefoucault. Ah ! such are precisely the men we want. If 
he establishes this verity, the rest will follow. 

/.,/ Fontaine. He does not seem to care so much about the 
rest. In his treatise I find the ground-plan of your chief 

Rochefoucault. I have indeed looked over his publication ; 
and we agree on the natural depravity of man. 

La Fontaine. Reconsider your expression. It appears to me 
that what is natural is not depraved, that depravity is deflection 
from nature. Let it pass : I cannot, however, concede to you 
that the generality of men are naturally bad. Badness is acci- 
dental, like disease. We find more tempers good than bad, where 
proper care is taken in proper time. 
Kocbefoucault. Care is not nature. 

La Fontaine. Nature is soon inoperative without it ; so soon, 
indeed, as to allow no opportunity for experiment or hypothesis. 
Life itself reouires care, and more continually than tempers and 
morals do. The strongest body ceases to be a body in a few 
days without a supply of food. When we speak of men as being 
naturally bad or good, we mean susceptible and retentive and 
communicative of them. In this case (and there can be no other 
true or ostensible one), I believe that the more are good ; and 
nearly in the same proportion as there are animals and plants 
produced healthy and vigorous than wayward and weakly. 
Strange is the opinion of M. Hobbes, that, when God hath 
poured so abundantly his benefits on other creatures, the only one 
capable of great good should be uniformly disposed to greater evil. 

364 Imaginary Conversations. 

Rocbefoucauh. Yet Holy Writ, to which Hobbes would 
reluctantly appeal, countenances the supposition. 

La Fontaine. The Jews, above all nations, were morose and 
splenetic. Nothing is holy to me that lessens in my view the 
beneficence of my Creator. If you could show him ungentle and 
unkind in a single instance, you would render myriads of men so 
throughout the whole course of their lives, and those too among 
the most religious. The less that people talk about God, the 
better. He has left us a design to fill up. He has placed the 
canvas, the colors, and the pencils within reach ; his directing 
hand is over ours incessantly ; it is our business to follow it, and 
neither to turn round and argue with our master, nor to kiss and 
fondle him. We must mind our lesson, and not neglect our time: 
for the room is closed early, and the lights are suspended in 
another, where no one works. If every man would do all the 
good he might within an hour's walk from his house, he would 
live the happier and the longer ; for nothing is so conducive to 
longevity as the union of activity and content. But, like children, 
we deviate from the road, however well we know it, and run 
into mire and puddles in despite of frown and ferule. 

Rochefoucault. Go on, M. la Fontaine ! pray go on. We 
are walking in the same labyrinth, always within call, always 
within sight of each other. We set out at its two extremities, 
and shall meet at last. 

La Fontaine. I doubt it. From deficiency of care proceed 
many vices, both in men and children, and more still from care 
taken improperly. M. Hobbes attributes not only the order and 
peace of society, but equity and moderation and every other 
virtue, to the coercion and restriction of the laws. The laws, as 
now constituted, do. a great deal of good ; they also do a great 
deal of mischief. They transfer more property from the right 
owner in six months than all the thieves of the kingdom do in 
twelve. What the thieves take, they soon desseminate abroad 
again ; what the laws take, they hoard. The thief takes a part 
of your property ; he who prosecutes the thief for you takes an- 
other part ; he who condemns the thief goes to the tax-gatherer 
and takes the third. Power has been hitherto occupied in no 
employment but in keeping down wisdom. Perhaps the time 
may come when wisdom shall exert her energy in repressing the 
sallies of power. 

La Fontaine and La Rochefoucault. 365 

Rochtfoucault. I think it more probable that they will agree ; 
that they will call together their servants of all liveries, to collect 
what they can lay their hands upon ; and that meanwhile they 
will sit together like good housewives, making nets from our 
purses to cover the coop for us. If you would be plump and in 
rather, pick up your millet and be quiet in your darkness. 
Speculate on nothing here below, and I promise you a nosegay in 

La Fontamf. Believe me, I shall be most happy to receive it 
there at your hands, my lord duke. 

The greater number of men, I am inclined to think, with all 
the defects of education, all the frauds committed on their 
credulity, all the advantages taken of their ignorance and supine- 
ness, are disposed, on most occasions, rather to virtue than to vice, 
rather to the kindly affections than the unkindly, rather to the 
social than the selfish. 

RocbefoucauU. Here we differ; and, were my opinion the 
same as yours, my book would be little read and less commended. 
La Fontainf. Why think so ? 

Rocbtfoiuault. For this reason. Every man likes to hear evil 
of all men ; every man is delighted to take the air of the common, 
though not a soul will consent to stand within his own allotment. 
No inclo8ure-act ! no finger-posts ! You may call every creature 
under heaven fool and rogue, and your auditor will join with you 
heartily : hint to him the slightest of his own defects or foibles, 
and he draws the rapier. You and he are the judges of the 
world, but not its denizens. 

La Fontaine. M. Hobbes has taken advantage of these 
weaknesses. In his dissertation, he betrays the timidity and 
malice of his character. It must be granted he reasons well, 
according to the view he has taken of things ; but he has given 
no proof whatever that his view is a correct one. I will believe 
that it is, when I am persuaded that sickness is the natural state 
of the body, and health the unnatural. If you call him a sound 
philosopher, you may call a mummy a sound man. Its darkness, 
its hardness, its forced uprightness, and the place in which you 
find it, may commend it to you ; give me rather some weakness 
and peccability, with vital warmth and human sympathies. A 
shrewd reasoner is one thing; a sound philosopher is another. 

366 Imaginary Conversations. 

I admire your power and precision. Monks will admonish us 
how little the author of the Maxims knows of the world ; and 
heads of colleges will cry out, " A libel on human nature ! " but 
when they hear your titles, and, above all, your credit at court, 
they will cast back cowl and peruke, and lick your boots. You 
start with great advantages. Throwing off from a dukedom, you 
are sure of enjoying, if not the tongue of these puzzlers, the full 
cry of the more animating, and will certainly be as long-lived as 
the imperfection of our language will allow. I consider your 
Maxims as a broken ridge of hills, on the shady side of which 
you are fondest of taking your exercise ; but the same ridge hath 
also a sunny one. You attribute (let me say it again) all actions 
to self-interest. Now a sentiment of interest must be preceded 
by calculation, long or brief, right or erroneous. Tell me, then, 
in what region lies the origin of that pleasure which a family in 
the country feels on the arrival of an unexpected friend. I say 
a family in the country ; because the sweetest souls, like the 
sweetest flowers, soon canker in cities, and no purity is rarer 
there than the purity of delight : if I may judge from the few 
examples I have been in a position to see, no earthly one can be 
greater. There are pleasures which lie near the surface, and 
which are blocked up by artificial ones, or are diverted by some 
mechanical scheme, or are confined by some stiff evergreen 
vista of low advantage. But these pleasures do occasionally 
burst forth in all their brightness ; and, if ever you shall by 
chance find one of them, you will sit by it, I hope, complacently 
and cheerfully, and turn toward it the kindliest aspect of your 

Rochefoucault. Many, indeed most people, will differ from 
me. Nothing is quite the same to the intellect of any two 
men, much less of all. When one says to another, " I am 
entirely of your opinion," he uses in general an easy and 
indifferent phrase, believing in its accuracy without exami- 
nation, without thought. The nearest resemblance in opinions, 
if we could trace every line of it, would be found greatly more 
divergent than the nearest in the human form or countenance, 
and in the same proportion as the varieties of mental qualities 
are more numerous and fine than of the bodily. Hence, I do 
not expect nor wish that my opinions should in all cases be 

L.i Fontaine and La Rochefoucault. 367 

similar to those of others ; but in many I shall be gratified if, 
by just degrees and after a long survey, those of others approxi- 
to mine. Nor does this my sentiment spring from a love 
of power, as in many good men quite unconsciously, when they 
would make proselytes, since I shall see few and converse with 
fewer of them, and profit in no way by their adherence and 
favor, but it springs from a natural and a cultivated love of all 
truths whatever, and from a certainty that these delivered by me 
are conducive to the happiness and dignity of man. You shake 
your head. 

La Fontaine. Make it out. 

Rucbtfoucault. I have pointed out to him at what passes 

he hath deviated from his true interest, and where he hath 

mistaken selfishness for generosity, coldness for judgment, con- 

>n of heart for policy, rank for merit, pomp for dignity, 

of all mistakes, the commonest and the greatest. I am accused 

of paradox and distortion. On paradox I shall only say that 

new moral truth has been called so. Inexperienced and 

negligent observers see no difference in the operations of ravelling 

and unravelling : they never come close enough ; they despise 

plain work. 

La Fontaine. The more we simplify things, the better we 
descry their substances and qualities. A good writer will not 
coil them up and press them into the narrowest possible space, 
nor macerate them into such particles that nothing shall be 
remaining of their natural contexture. You are accused of this 
too, by such as have forgotten your title-page, and^who look for 
treatises where maxims only have been promised. Some of them, 
perhaps, arc spinning out sermons and dissertations from the 
poorest paragraph in the volume. 

Rocbtfoucautt. Let them copy and write as they please; 
against or for, modestly or impudently. I have hitherto had no 
assailant who is not of too slender a make to be detained an hour 
in the stocks he has unwarily put his foot into. If you hear of 
any, do not tell of them. On the subjects of my remarks, had 
others thought as I do, my labor would have been spared me. I 
am ready to point out the road where I know it to whosoever 
wants it ; but I walk side by side with few or none. 

La Fontaint. We usually like those roads which show us the 

368 Imaginary Conversations. 

fronts of our friends' houses and the pleasure-grounds about them, 
and the smooth garden-walks, and the trim espaliers, and look at 
them with more satisfaction than at the docks and nettles that are 
thrown in heaps behind. The Offices of Cicero are imperfect : 
yet who would not rather guide his children by them than by the 
line and compass of harder-handed guides ; such as Hobbes, for 
instance ? 

Rochefoucault. Imperfect as some gentlemen in hoods may call 
the Offices, no founder of a philosophical or of a religious sect has 
been able to add to them any thing important. 

La Fontaine. Pity, that Cicero carried with him no better 
authorities than reason and humanity ! He neither could work 
miracles, nor damn you for disbelieving them. Had he lived 
fourscore years later, who knows but he might have been another 
Simon Peter, and have talked Hebrew as fluently as Latin, all at 
once ! Who knows but we might have heard of his patrimony ! 
Who knows but our venerable popes might have claimed 
dominion from him, as descendant from the kings of Rome ! 

Rochefoucault. The hint, some centuries ago, would have 
made your fortune, and that saintly cat there would have kittened 
in a mitre. 

La Fontaine. Alas ! the hint could have done nothing : 
Cicero could not have lived later. 

Rochefoucault. I warrant him. Nothing is easier to correct 
than chronology. There is not a lady in Paris, nor a jockey in 
Normandy, that is not eligible to a professor's chair in it. I have 
seen a man's ancestor, whom nobody ever saw before, spring back 
over twenty generations. Our Vatican Jupiters have as little 
respect for old Chronos as the Cretan had : they mutilate him 
when and where they think necessary, limp as he may by the 

La Fontaine. When I think, as you make me do, how am- 
bitious men are, even those whose teeth are too loose (one would 
fancy) for a bite at so hard an apple as the devil of ambition 
offers them, I am inclined to believe that we are actuated not so 
much by selfishness as you represent it, but under another form, 
the love of power. Not to speak of territorial dominion or 
political office, and such other things as we usually class under its 
appurtenances, do we not desire an exclusive control over what is 

L.i Fontaiiu' and La Rochefoucault. 369 

beautiful and lovely, the possession of pleasant fields, of well- 
situated houses, of cabinets, of images, of pictures, and indeed of 
many things pleasant to see but useless to possess ; even of rocks, 
of streams, and of fountains ? These things, you will tell me, 
their utility. True, but not to the wisher; nor does the 
idea of it enter his mind. Do not we wish that the object of our 
love should be devoted to us only ; and that our children should 
love us better than their brothers and sisters, or even than the 
mother who bore them ? Love would be arrayed in the purple 
robe of sovereignty, mildly as he may resolve to exercise his power. 

Rochefoucault. Many things which appear to be incontro- 
vertible are such for their age only, and must yield to others 
which, in their age, are equally so. There are only a few points 
that arc always above the waves. Plain truths, like plain dishes, 
are commended by everybody, and everybody leaves them whole. 
It it were not even more impertinent and presumptuous to praise 
a great writer in his presence than to censure him in his absence, 
I would venture to say that your prose, from the few specimens 
you have given of it, is equal to your verse. Yet, even were I 
the possessor of such a style as yours, I would never employ it to 
support my Maxims. You would think a writer very impudent 
and self-sufficient who should quote his own works : to defend 
them is doing more. We are the worst auxiliaries in the world 
to the opinions we have brought into the field. Our business is 
to measure the ground, and to calculate the forces ; then let them 
try their strength. If the weak assails me, he thinks me weak ; 
if the strong, he thinks me strong. He is more likely to compute 
ill his own vigor than mine. At all events, I love inquiry, even 
when I myself sit down. And I am not offended in my walks 
if my visitor asks me whither does that alley lead ? It proves 
that he is ready to go on with me ; that he sees some space before 
him ; and that he believes there may be something worth looking 

La Fontaine. You have been standing a long time, my lord 
duke : I must entreat you to be seated. 

Rocbefoucault. Excuse me, my dear M. la Fontaine ; I would 
much rather stand. 

La Fontaine. Mercy on us ! have you been upon your legs 
ever since you rose to leave me ? 

2 A 

370 Imaginary Conversations. 

Rochefoucault. A change of position is agreeable: a friend 
always permits it. 

La Fontaine. Sad doings ! sad oversight ! The other two 
chairs were sent yesterday evening to be scoured and mended. 
But that dog is the best-tempered dog, an angel of a dog, I do 
assure you: he would have gone down in a moment, at a word. 
I am quite ashamed of myself for such inattention. With your 
sentiments of friendship for me, why could you not have taken 
the liberty to shove him gently off, rather than give me this 
uneasiness ? 

Rochefoucault. My true and kind friend ! we authors are too 
sedentary ; we are heartily glad of standing to converse, whenever 
we can do it without any restraint on our acquaintance. 

La Fontaine. I must reprove that animal when he uncurls his 
body. He seems to be dreaming of Paradise and Houris. Ay, 
twitch thy ear, my child ! I wish at my heart there were as 
troublesome a fly about the other : God forgive me ! The rogue 
covers all my clean linen ! shirt and cravat ! What cares he ! 

Rochefoucault. Dogs are not very modest. 

La Fontaine. Never say that, M. de la Rochefoucault ! The 
most modest people upon earth ! Look at a dog's eyes ; and he 
half-closes them, or gently turns them away, with a motion of the 
lips, which he licks languidly, and of the tail, which he stirs 
tremulously, begging your forbearance. I am neither blind nor 
indifferent to the defects of these good and generous creatures. 
They are subject to many such as men are subject to : among 
the rest, they disturb the neighborhood in the discussion of their 
private causes ; they quarrel and fight on small motives, such as a 
little bad food, or a little vain-glory, or the sex. But it must be 
something present or near that excites them ; and they calculate 
not the extent of evil they may do or suffer. 

Rochefoucault. Certainly not : how should dogs calculate ? 

La Fontaine. I know nothing of the process. I am unable 
to inform you how they leap over hedges and brooks, with exer- 
tion just sufficient, and no more. In regard to honor and a sense 
of dignity, let me tell you, a dog accepts the subsidies of his 
friends, but never claims them. A dog would not take the field 
to obtain power for a son, but would leave the son to obtain it by 
his own activity and prowess. He conducts his visitor or inmate 

La Fontaine and La Rochefoucault. 371 

out a-hunting, and makes a present of the game to him as freely 
as an emperor to an elector. Fond as he is of slumber, which 
is indeed one of the pleasantcst and best things in the universe, 
particularly after dinner, he shakes it off as willingly as he would 
a gadfly, in order to defend his master from theft or violence. 
Let the robber or assailant speak as courteously as he may, he 
waives your diplomr.tical terms, gives his reasons in plain language, 
and makes war. I could say many other things to his advantage ; 
but I never was malicious, and would rather let both parties plead 
for themselves : give me the dog, however. 

Rochefoucault. Faith ! I will give you both, and never boast 
of my largess in so doing. 

La Fontaine. I trust I have removed from you the suspicion 
of selfishness in my client, and I feel it quite as easy to make a 
properer disposal of another ill attribute, namely, cruelty, 
which we vainly try to shuffle off our own shoulders upon others, 
by employing the offensive and most unjust term "brutality." 
But to convince you of my impartiality, now. I have defended the 
dog from the first obloquy, I will defend the man from the last, 
hoping to make you think better of each. What you attribute to 
cruelty, both while we are children and afterward, may be assigned 
for the greater part to curiosity. Cruelty tends to the extinction 
of life, the dissolution of matter, the imprisonment and sepulture 
of truth ; and, if it were our ruling and chief propensity, the 
human race would have been extinguished in a few centuries after 
its appearance. Curiosity, in its primary sense, implies care and 

Rochefoucault. Words often deflect from their primary sense. 
We find the most curious men the most idle and silly, the least 
observant and conservative. 

La Foniainf. So we think, because we see every hour the 
idly curious, and not the strenuously ; we see only the persons of 
the one set, and only the works of the other. 

More is heard of cruelty than of curiosity, because, while 
curiosity is silent both in itself and about its object, cruelty 
on most occasions is like the wind, boisterous in itself, and 
exciting a murmur and bustle in all the things it moves among. 
Added to which, many of the higher topics, whereto our curi- 
osity would turn, are intercepted from it by the policy of our 

372 Imaginary Conversations. 

guides and rulers ; while the principal ones on which cruelty is 
most active are pointed to by the sceptre and the truncheon, 
and wealth and dignity are the rewards of their attainment. 
What perversion ! He who brings a bullock into a city for its 
sustenance is called a butcher, and nobody has the civility to take 
off the hat to him, although knowing him as perfectly as I know 
Matthieu le Mince, who served me with those fine kidneys you 
must have remarked in passing through the kitchen: on the 
contrary, he who reduces the same city to famine is styled 
M. le General, or M. le Marechal ; and gentlemen like you, 
unprejudiced (as one would think) and upright, make room for 
him in the antechamber. 

Rochefoucault. He obeys orders, without the degrading influence 
of any passion. 

La Fontaine. Then he commits a baseness the more, a 
cruelty the greater. He goes off at another man's setting, as 
ingloriously as a rat-trap : he produces the worst effects of 
fury, and feels none, a Cain unirritated by a brother's 

Rochefoucault. I would hide from you this little rapier, 
which, 'like the barber's pole, I have often thought too obtrusive 
in the streets. 

La Fontaine. Never shall I think my countrymen half civi- 
lized, while on the dress of a courtier is hung the instrument of 
a cut-throat. How deplorably feeble must be that honor which 
requires defending at every hour of the day ! 

Rochefoucault. Ingenious as you are, M. la Fontaine, I do 
not believe that, on this subject, you could add any thing to 
what you have spoken already ; but, really, I do think one of 
the most instructive things in the world would be a dissertation 
on dress by you. 

La Fontaine. Nothing can be devised more commodious than 
the dress in fashion. Perukes have fallen among us by the 
peculiar dispensation of Providence. As in all the regions of 
the globe the indigenous have given way to stronger creatures, 
so have they (partly at least) on the human head. At present 
the wren and the squirrel are dominant there. Whenever I have 
a mind for a filbert, I have only to shake my foretop. Improve- 
ment does not end in that quarter. I might forget to take my 

Li Fontaine and La Rochefoucault. 373 

pinch of snuff when it would do me good, unless I saw a store 
of it on another's cravat. Furthermore, the slit in the coat 
behind tells in a moment what it was made for, a thing of 
which, in regard to ourselves, the best preachers have to remind 
us all our lives. Then the central part of our habiliment has 
either its loophole or its portcullis in the opposite direction, still 
more demonstrative. All these are for very mundane purposes ; 
but religion and humanity have whispered some later utilities. 
We pray the more commodiously, and of course the more fre- 
quently, for rolling up a royal ell of stocking round about our 
knees ; and our high-heeled shoes must surely have been worn 
by some angel, to save those insects which the flat-footed would 
have crushed to death. 

Rochefoucault. Ah ! the good dog has awakened : he saw me 
and my rapier, and ran away. Of what breed is he ? for I know 
nothing of dogs. 

La Fontaine. And write so well ! 

Rochefoucault. Is he a trufler ? 

La Fontaine. No, not he ; but quite as innocent. 

Rochefoucault. Something of the shepherd-dog, I suspect ? 

La Fontaine. Nor that neither; although he fain would 
make you believe it. Indeed, he is very like one : pointed 
nose, pointed ears, apparently stiff, but readily yielding ; long 
hair, particularly about the neck ; noble tail over his back, 
three curls deep, exceedingly pleasant to stroke down again ; 
straw-color all above, white all below. He might take it ill if 
you looked for it ; but so it is, upon my word, An ermeline 
might envy it. 

Rochefoucault. What are his pursuits ? 

La Fontaine. As to pursuit and occupation, he is good 
for nothing. In fact, I like those dogs best, and those 
men too. 

Rochefoucault. Send Nanon, then, for a pair of silk stockings, 
and mount my carriage with me : it stops at the Louvre. 

374 Imaginary Conversations. 


Cahin. Are you sure, O Melancthon, that you yourself are 
imong the elect ? 

Melancthon. My dear brother, so please it God, I would 
rather be among the many. 

Calvin. Of the damned ? 

Melancthon. Alas ! no. But I am inclined to believe that 
the many will be saved and will be happy, since Christ came into 
the world for the redemption of sinners. 

Cahin. Hath not our Saviour said explicitly that many are 
called, but few chosen ? 

Melancthon. Our Saviour ? hath he said it ? 

Cahin. Hath he, forsooth ! Where is your New Testa- 

Melancthon. In my heart. 

Calvin. Without this page, however. 

Melancthon. When we are wiser and more docile, that is, 
when we are above the jars and turmoils and disputations of the 
world, our Saviour will vouchsafe to interpret what, through 
the fumes of our intemperate vanity, is now indistinct or dark. 
He will plead for us before no inexorable judge. He came to 
remit the sins of man ; not the sins of a few, but of many ; not 
the sins of many, but of all. 

Cahin. What! of the benighted heathen too? of the 
pagan ? of the idolater ? 

Melancthon. I hope so ; but I dare not say it. 

Cahin. You would include even the negligent, the indif- 
ferent, the sceptic, the unbeliever. 

Melancthon. Pitying them for a want of happiness in a want 
of faith. They are my brethren ; they are God's children. He 
will pardon the presumption of my wishes for their welfare ; my 
sorrow that they have fallen, some through their blindness, others 
through their deafness, others through their terror, others through 
their anger peradventure at the loud denunciations of unforgiving 
man. If I would forgive a brother, may not he, who is im- 

L 1 Works, ii., 1846. Works, v., 1876.] 

Melancthon and Calvin. 


measurably better and more merciful, have pity on a child ? He 
came on earth to take our nature upon him : will he punish, will 
he reprehend us, for an attempt to take as much as may be of his 
upon oursei 

Cafa'in. There is no bearing any such fallacies. 

Melancthon. Is it harder to bear these fallacies (as they 

appear to you, and perhaps are, for we all are fallible, and many 

even of our best thoughts are fallacies), is it harder, O my 

friend, to bear these, than to believe in the eternal punishment of 

roneous ? 

Cahin. Erroneous, indeed ! Have they not the Book of 
now at last laid open before them, for their guidance ? 

Melancthon. No, indeed ; they have only two or three places, 
dog-eared and bedaubed, which they are commanded to look into 
and study. These are so uninviting that many close again the 
volume of salvation, clasp it tight, and throw it back in our faces. 

I would rather show a man green fields than gibbets ; and, if 
I called him to enter the service of a plenteous house and power- 
ful master, he may not be rendered the more willing to enter it 
by my pointing out to him the stocks in the gateway, and telling 
him that nine-tenths of the household, however orderly, must 
occupy that position. The book of good news, under your in- 
terpretation, tells people not only that they may go and be damned, 
but that, unless they are lucky, they must inevitably. Again, it 
informs another set of inquirers that, if once they have been under 
what they feel to be the influence of grace, they never can 
relapse. All must go well who have once gone well ; and a 
name once written in the list of favorites can never be erased. 

Calvin. This is certain. 

Melancthon. Let us hope, then, and in holy confidence let 
us believe, that the book is large and voluminous ; that it 
begins at an early date of man's existence ; and that, amid 
the agitation of inquiry, it comprehends the humble and sub- 
missive doubter. For doubt itself, between the richest patrimony 
and utter destitution, is quite sufficiently painful ; and surely it is 
.1 h irdship to be turned over into a criminal court for having lost 
in a civil one. But if all who have once gone right can never go 
astray, how happens it that so large a part of the angels fell off 
from their allegiance ? They were purer and wiser than we are, 

376 Imaginary Conversations. 

and had the advantage of seeing God face to face. They were the 
ministers of his power ; they knew its extent, yet they defied it. 
If we err, it is in relying too confidently on his mercies, not in 
questioning his omnipotence. If our hopes forsake us, if the 
bonds of sin bruise and corrode us, so that we cannot walk up- 
right, there is, in the midst of these calamities, no proof that we 
are utterly lost. Danger far greater is there in the presumption 
of an especial favor, which men incomparably better than ourselves 
can never have deserved. Let us pray, O Calvin, that we may 
hereafter be happier than our contentions and animosities will 
permit us to be at present ; and that our opponents, whether now 
in the right or in the wrong, may come at last where all error 

Calvin. I am uncertain whether such a wish is rational ; and 
I doubt more whether it is religious. God hath willed them to 
walk in their blindness. To hope against it, seems like repining 
at his unalterable decree, a weak indulgence in an unpermitted 
desire ; an unholy entreaty of the heart that he will forego his 
vengeance, and abrogate the law that was from the beginning. Of 
one thing I am certain : we must lop off the unsound. 

Melancthon. What a curse hath metaphor been to religion ! 
It is the wedge that holds asunder the two great portions of the 
Christian world. We hear of nothing so commonly as fire and 
sword. And here, indeed, what was metaphor is converted into 
substance and applied to practice. The unsoundness of doctrine 
is not cut off nor cauterised ; the professor is. The head falls on 
the scaffold, or fire surrounds the stake, because a doctrine is 
bloodless and incombustible. Fierce, outrageous animals, for 
want of the man who has escaped them, lacerate and trample his 
cloak or bonnet. This, although the work of brutes, is not half 
so brutal as the practice of theologians, seizing the man himself, 
instead of bonnet or cloak. 

Calvin. We must leave such matters to the magistrate. 

Melancthon. Let us instruct the magistrate in his duty : this 
is ours. Unless we can teach humanity, we may resign the charge 
of religion. For fifteen centuries, Christianity has been conveyed 
into many houses, in many cities, in many regions, but always 
through slender pipes ; and never yet into any great reservoir in 
any part of the earth. Its principal ordinances have never been 

Mekmcthon and Calvin. 377 

observed in the polity of any State whatever. Abstinence from 
spoliation, from oppression, from bloodshed, has never been incul- 
cated by the chief priests of any. These two facts excite the 
doubts of many in regard to a Divine origin and a Divine pro- 
tection. Wherefore, it behooves us the more especially to preach 
forbearance. If the people are tolerant one toward another in the 
same country, they will become tolerant in time toward those 
whom rivers or seas have separated from them. For, surely, it is 
strange and wonderful that nations which are near enough for 
hostility should never be near enough for concord. This arises 
from bad government ; and bad government arises from a negligent 
choice of counsellors by the prince, usually led or terrified by a 
corrupt, ambitious, wealthy (and therefore un-Christian) priest- 
hood. While their wealth lay beyond the visible horizon, they 
tarried at the cottage, instead of pricking on for the palace. 

Cafoin. By the grace and help of God, we will turn them 
back again to their quiet and wholesome resting-place, before the 
people lay a rough hand upon the silk. 

Jiut you evaded my argument on predestination. 

Mdancthon. Our blessed Lord himself, in his last hours, ven- 
tured to express a wish before his Heavenly Father that the bitter 
cup might pass away from him. I humbly dare to implore that a 
cup much bitterer may be removed from the great body of man- 
kind, a cup containing the poison of eternal punishment, where 
agony succeeds to agony, but never death. 

Cahin. I come armed with the gospel. 

Mekiutbon. Tremendous weapon ! as we have seen it through 
many ages, if man wields it against man ; but, like the fabled spear 
of old mythology, endued with the faculty of healing the saddest 
wound its most violent wielder can inflict. Obscured and rusting 
with the blood upon it, let us hasten to take it up again, and apply 
it, as best we may, to its appointed uses. 

The life of our Saviour is the simplest exposition of his 
words. Strife is what he both discountenanced and forbade. 
We ourselves are right-minded, each of us all ; and others are 
right-minded in proportion as they agree with us, chiefly in 
matters which we insist 'are well worthy of our adherence, but 
which whosoever refuses to embrace displays a factious and 
un-Christian spirit. These for the most part are matters which 

378 Imaginary Conversations. 

neither they nor we understand, and which, if we did under- 
stand them, would little profit us. The weak will be supported 
by the strong, if they can ; if they cannot, they are ready to be 
supported even by the weaker, and cry out against the strong as 
arrogant or negligent, or deaf or blind ; at last, even their strength 
is questioned, and the more if, while there is fuiy all around 
them, they are quiet. 

I remember no discussion on religion in which religion was not 
a sufferer by it, if mutual forbearance and belief in another's good 
motives and intentions are (as I must always think they are) its 
proper and necessary appurtenances. 

Calvin. Would you never make inquiries ? 

Melancthon. Yes, and as deep as possible : but into my own 
heart ; for that belongs to me, and God hath entrusted it most 
especially to my own superintendence. 

Calvin. We must also keep others from going astray by 
showing them the right road, and, if they are obstinate in 
resistance, then by coercing and chastising them through the 

Melancthon. It is sorrowful to dream that we are scourges 
in God's, hand, and that he appoints for us no better work than 
lacerating one another. I am no enemy to inquiry where I see 
abuses, and where I suspect falsehood. The Romanists, our 
great oppressors, think it presumptuous to search into things 
abstruse ; and let us do them the justice to acknowledge that, 
if it is a fault, it is one which they never commit. But 
surely we are kept sufficiently in the dark by the infirmity of 
our nature : no need to creep into a corner and put our hands 
before our eyes. To throw away or turn aside from God's 
best gifts is verily a curious sign of obedience and submission. 
He not only hath given us a garden to walk in ; but he hath 
planted it also for us, and he wills us to know the nature and 
properties of every thing that grows up within it. Unless we 
look into them and handle them and register them, how shall we 
discover this to be salutary, that to be poisonous ; this annual, 
that perennial ? 

Calvin. Here we coincide ; and I am pleased to find in 
you less apathy than I expected. It becomes us, moreover, to 
denounce God's vengeance on a sinful world. 

Melaficthon and Calvin. 379 

Mrlnncthon. Is it not better and pleasanter to show the 
wanderer by what course of life it may be avoided ? Is it not 
better and pleasanter to enlarge on God's promises of salvation, 
than to insist on his denunciations of wrath ? Is it not better 
and pleasanter to lead the wretched up to his mercy-seat, than 
to hurl them by thousands under his fiery chariot ? 

Calvin. We have no option. By our Heavenly Father 
many are called, but few are chosen. 

Mdanctbon. There is scarcely a text in the Holy Scriptures 
to which there is not an opposite text, written in characters 
equally large and legible; and there has usually been a sword 
laid upon each. Even the weakest disputant is made so con- 
ceited by what he calls religion, as to think himself wiser than 
the wisest who thinks differently from him ; and he becomes so 
ferocious by what he calls holding it fast, that he appears to me 
as if he held it fast much in the same manner as a terrier holds 
a rat, and you have about as much trouble in getting it from 
between his incisors. When at last it does come out, it is 
mangled, distorted, and extinct. 

Calvin. M. Melancthon, you have taken a very perverse 
view of the subject. Such language as yours would extinguish 
that zeal which is to enlighten the nations, and to consume the 
tares by which they are overrun. 

Melanfthon. The tares and the corn are so intermingled 
throughout the wide plain which our God hath given us to 
cultivate, that I would rather turn the patient and humble into 
it to weed it carefully, than a thresher who would thresh wheat 
and tare together before the grain is ripened, or who would 
carry fire into the furrows when it is. 

Calvin. Yet even the most gentle, and of the gentler sex, are 
inflamed with a holy zeal in the propagation of the faith. 

Mclanctbon. I do not censure them for their earnestness 
in maintaining truth. We not only owe our birth to them, 
but also the better part of our education ; and, if we were not 
divided after their hrst lesson, we should continue to live in a 
widening circle of brothers and sisters all our lives. After our 
infancy and removal from home, the use of the rod is the 
principal thing we learn of our alien preceptors ; and, catching 
their dictatorial language, we soon begin to exercise their instru- 

380 Imaginary Conversations. 

ment of enforcing it, and swing it right and left, even after we are 
paralyzed by age, and until death's hand strikes it out of ours. I 
am sorry you have cited the gentler part of the creation to appear 
before you, obliged as I am to bear witness that I myself have 
known a few specimens of the fair sex become a shade less fair 
among the perplexities of religion. Indeed, I am credibly 
informed that certain of them have lost their patience, running up 
and down in the dust where many roads diverge. This, surely, is 
not walking humbly with their God, nor walking with him at all ; 
for those who walk with him are always readier to hear his voice 
than their own, and to admit that it is more persuasive. But at 
last the zealot is so infatuated, by the serious mockeries he imitates 
and repeats, that he really takes his own voice for God's. Is it 
not wonderful that the words of eternal life should have hitherto 
produced only eternal litigation ; and that, in our progress heaven- 
ward, we should think it expedient to plant unthrifty thorns over 
bitter wells of blood in the wilderness we leave behind us ? 

Calvin. It appears to me that you are inclined to tolerate even 
the rank idolatry of our persecutors. Shame ! shame ! 

Melancthon. Greater shame if I tolerated it within my 
own dark heart, and waved before it the foul incense of self- 

Calvin. I do not understand you. What I do understand is 
this, and deny it at your peril, I mean at the peril of your 
salvation, that God is a jealous God : he himself declares it. 

Melancthon. We are in the habit of considering the God of 
Nature as a jealous God, and idolatry as an enormous evil, an 
evil which is about to come back into the world, and to subdue 
or seduce once more our strongest and most sublime affections. 
Why do you lift up your eyes and hands ? 

Calvin. An evil about to come back ! about to come ! Do 
we not find it in high places ? 

Melancthon. We do indeed, and always shall, while there are 
any high places upon earth. Thither will men creep, and there 
fall prostrate. 

Calvin. Against idolatry we still implore the Almighty that 
he will incline our hearts to keep his law. 

Melancthon. The Jewish law ; the Jewish idolatry : you fear 
the approach of this, and do not suspect the presence of a worse. 

Melancthon and Calvin. 


Calvin. A worse than that which the living God hath 
denounced ? 

Melancthon. Even so. 

Calvin. Would it not offend, would it not wound to the 
quick, a mere human creature, to be likened to a piece of metal 
or stone, a calf or monkey ? 

Melancthon. A mere human creature might be angry ; because 
his influence among his neighbours arises in great measure from 
the light in which he appears to them ; and this light does not 
emanate from himself, but may be thrown on him by any hand 
that is expert at mischief. Beside, the likeness of such animals to 
him could never be suggested by reverence or esteem, nor be 
regarded as a type of any virtne. The mere human creature, 
such as human creatures for the most part are, would be angry ; 
because he has nothing which he can oppose to ridicule but resent- 

Ca/vin. I am in consternation at your lukewarmness. If you 
treat idolaters thus lightly, what hope can I entertain of discussing 
with you the doctrine of grace and predestination ? 

Melancthon. Entertain no such hope at all. Wherever I 
find in the Holy Scriptures a disputable doctrine, I interpret it as 
judges do, in favor of the culprit ; such is man. The benevolent 
judge is God. But, in regard to idolatry, I see more criminals 
who are guilty of it than you do. I go beyond the stone-quarry 
and the pasture, beyond the graven image and the ox-stall. If 
we bow before the distant image of good, while there exists with- 
in our reach one solitary object of substantial sorrow, which 
sorrow our efforts can remove, we are guilty (I pronounce it) of 
idolatry : we prefer the intangible effigy to the living form. 
Surely we neglect the service of our Maker, if we neglect his 
children. He left us in the chamber with them, to take care of 
them, to feed them, to admonish them, and occasionally to amuse 
them ; instead of which, after a warning not to run into the fire, 
we slam the door behind us in their faces, and run eagerly down- 
stairs to dispute and quarrel with our fellows of the household 
who are about their business. The wickedness of idolatry does 
not consist in any inadequate representation of the Deity ; for, 
whether our hands or our hearts represent him, the representation 
is almost alike inadequate. Every man does what he hopes and 

382 Imaginary Conversations. 

believes will be most pleasing to his God ; and God, in his 
wisdom and mercy, will not punish gratitude in its error. 

Calvin. How do you know that ? 

Melancthon. Because I know his loving-kindness, and ex- 
perience it daily. 

Calvin. If men blindly and wilfully run into error when God 
hath shown the right way, be will visit it on their souls. 

Melancthon. He will observe from the serenity of heaven 
a serenity emanating from his presence that there is scarcely 
any work of his creation on earth which hath not excited, in 
some people or other, a remembrance, an admiration, a symbol, 
of his power. The evil of idolatry is this : Rival nations have 
raised up rival deities ; war hath been denounced in the name 
of Heaven ; men have been murdered for the love of God ; and 
such impiety hath darkened all the regions of the world, that the 
Lord of all things hath been invoked by all simultaneously as the 
Lord of hosts. This is the only invocation in which men of 
every creed are united, an invocation to which Satan, bent on 
the perdition of the human race, might have listened from the 
fallen angels. 

Calvin. We cannot hope to purify men's hearts until we lead 
them away from the abomination of Babylon ; nor will they be 
led away from it until we reduce the images to dust. So long 
as they stand, the eye will hanker after them, and the spirit be 

Melancthon. And long afterward, I sadly fear. 

We attribute to the weakest of men the appellations and powers 
of Deity ; we fall down before them ; we call the impious and 
cruel by the title of gracious and most religious : and, even in the 
house of God himself, and before his very altar, we split his 
Divine Majesty asunder, and offer the largest part to the most 
corrupt and most corrupting of his creatures. 

Calvin. Not we, M. Melancthon. I will preach, .1 will 
exist, in no land of such abomination. 

Melancthon. So far, well ; but religion demands more. Our 
reformers knock off the head from Jupiter: thunderbolt and 
sceptre stand. The attractive, the impressive, the august, they 
would annihilate ; leaving men nothing but their sordid fears of 
vindictive punishment, and their impious doubts of our Saviour's 

Mekmcihon and Calvin. 383 

..'vm. We should teach men to retain for ever the fear 

od before their eyes, never to cease from the apprehension 

of his wrath, to be well aware that he often afflicts when he is 

farthest from wrath, and that such infliction is a benefit bestowed 

by him. 

Melancthon. What ! if only a few are to be saved when the 
infliction is over ? 

Calvin. It becometh not us to repine at the number of vessels 
which the supremely wise Artificer forms, breaks, and casts away, 
or at the paucity it pleaseth him to preserve. The ways of 
Providence are inscrutable. 

Melancthon. Some of them are, and some of them are not ; 
and in these it seems to be his design that we should see and 
adore his wisdom. We fancy that all our inflictions are sent us 
directly and immediately from above: sometimes we think it in 
piety and contrition, but oftener in moroseness and discontent. 
It would, however, be well if we attempted to trace the causes of 
them. We should probably find their origin in some region of 
the heart which we never had well explored, or in which we had 
secretly deposited our worst indulgences. The clouds that inter- 
cept the heavens from us come not from the heavens, but from 
the earth. 

Why should we scribble our own devices over the Book of 
God, erasing the plainest words, and rendering the Holy Scrip- 
tures a worthless palimpsest? Cannot we agree to show the 
nations of the world that the whole of Christianity is practicable, 
although the better parts never have been practised, no not even 
by the priesthood in any single one of them ? Bishops, con- 
fessors, saints, martyrs, have never denounced to king or people, 
nor ever have attempted to delay or mitigate, the most accursed 
of crimes, the crime of Cain, the crime indeed whereof Cain's 
was only a germ, the crime of fratricide ; war, war, devastating, 
depopulating, soul-slaughtering, heaven-defying war. Alas ! the 
gentle call of mercy sounds feebly, and soon dies away, leaving 
no trace on the memory : but the swelling cries of vengeance, in 
which we believe we imitate the voice of Heaven, run and rever- 
berate in loud peals and multiplied echoes along the whole vault 
of the brain. All the man is shaken by them ; and he shakes all 
the earth. 

384 Imaginary Conversations. 

Calvin ! I beseech you, do you who guide and govern so 
many, do you (whatever others may) spare your brethren. 
Doubtful as I am of lighter texts, blown backward and forward 
at the opening of opposite windows, I am convinced and certain 
of one grand immovable verity. It sounds strange ; it sounds 

Calvin. I am curious to hear it. 

Melancthon. You shall. This is the tenet : There is nothing 
on earth divine beside humanity. 


Milton. Friend ! let me pass. 

Dominican. Whither ? To whom ? 

Milton. Into the prison ; to Galileo Galilei. 

Dominican. Prison ! We have no prison. 

Milton. No prison here ! What sayest thou ? 

Dominican. Son ! For heretical pravity indeed, and some 
other less atrocious crimes, we have a seclusion, a confinement, a 
penitentiary : we have a locality for softening the obdurate, and 
furnishing them copiously with reflection and recollection ; but 
prison we have none. 

Milton. Open ! 

Dominican (to himself). What sweetness! what authority! 
what a form ! what an attitude ! what a voice ! 

Milton. Open ! Delay me no longer. 

Dominican. In whose name ? 

Milton. In the name of humanity and of God. 

Dominican. My sight staggers ; the walls shake ; he must be 
do angels ever come hither ? 

Milton. Be reverent, and stand apart. [To Galileo.'] Pardon 
me, sir, an intrusion. 

[ At the date of Milton's journey into Italy, Galileo had been for some 
time free from actual imprisonment. He was living at Arcetri, near 
Florence. His blindness was just bectfme complete. (Works, ii., 1846. 
Works, v., 1876.)] 

Galileo, Milton, and a Dominican. 385 

Galilto. Young man ! if I may judge by your voice and 
manner, you are little apt to ask pardon or to want it. I am as 
happy at hearing you as you seem unhappy at seeing me. I per- 
ceive at once that you are an Englishman. 

Milton. I am. 

Galileo. Speak, then, freely ; and I will speak freely, too. In 
no other man's presence, for these many years, indeed, from my 
childhood, have I done it. 

Milton. Sad fate for any man ! most sad for one like you ! 
the follower of truth, the companion of reason in her wanderings 
on earth ! 

ilco. We live among priests and princes and empoisoners. 
Your dog, by his growling, seems to be taking up the quarrel 
against them. 

Milton. We think and feel alike in many things. I have 
observed that the horses and dogs of every country bear a resem- 
blance in character to the men. We English have a wonderful 
variety of both creatures. To begin with the horses : some are 
remarkable for strength, others for spirit ; while in France there 
is little diversity of race, all are noisy and windy, skittish and 
mordacious, prancing and libidinous, fit only for a rope, and fond 
only of a ribbon. Where the ribbon is not to be had, the jowl 
of a badger will do : any thing but what is native to the creature 
is a decoration. In Flanders, you find them slow and safe, tract- 
able and substantial. In Italy, there are few good for work, none 
for battle ; many for light carriages, for standing at doors, and for 
every kind of street-work. 

Gattfo. Do let us get among the dogs. 

Milton. In France, they are finely combed and pert and 
pettish ; ready to bite if hurt, and to fondle if carressed ; without 
fear, without animosity, without affection. In Italy, they creep 
and shiver and rub their skins against you, and insinuate their 
slender beaks into the patronage of your hand, and lick it, and 
look up modestly, and whine decorously, and supplicate with 
grace. The moment you give them anything, they grow impor- 
tunate ; and, the moment you refuse them, they bite. In Spain 
and England, the races are similar ; so, indeed, are those of the 
men. Spaniards are Englishmen in an ungrafted state, however, 
with this great difference, that the English have ever been the 
iv. 2 B 

386 Imaginary Conversations. 

least cruel of nations, excepting the Swedes ; and the Spaniards 
the most cruel, excepting the French. Then they were, under 
one and the same religion, the most sanguinary and sordid of all 
the institutions that ever pressed upon mankind. 

Galileo. To the dogs, to the dogs again, be they of what 
breed they may ! 

Milton. The worst of them could never have driven you up 
into this corner, merely because he had been dreaming, and you 
had disturbed his dream. How long shall this endure . ? 

Galileo. I sometimes ask God how long. I should 
repine, and almost despair, in putting the question to myself or 

Milton. Be strong in him through reason, his great gift. 

Galileo. I fail not, and shall not fail. I can fancy that the 
heaviest link in my heavy chain has dropped off me since you 

Milton. Let me, then, praise our God for it ! Not those 
alone are criminal who placed you here, but those no less who 
left unto them the power of doing it. If the learned and 
intelligent in all the regions of Europe would unite their learning 
and intellect, and would exert their energy*in disseminating the 
truth throughout the countries they inhabit, soon must the 
ignorant and oppressive, now at the summit of power, resign their 
offices ; and the most versatile nations, after this purifying and 
perfect revolution, rest for ages. But, bursting from their 
collegiate kennels, they range and hunt only for their masters ; 
and are content at last to rear up and catch the offal thrown 
among them negligently, and often too with scourges on their 
cringing spines, as they scramble for it. Do they run through 
mire and thorns, do they sweat from their tongues* ends, do they 
breathe out blood, for this ? The Dominican is looking in ; not 
to interrupt us, I hope, for my idle exclamation. 

Galileo. Continue to speak generously, rationally, and in 
Latin ; and he will not understand one sentence. The fellow is 
the most stupid, the most superstitious, the most hard-hearted, and 
the most libidinous in the confraternity. He is usually at my 
door, that he may not be at others', where he would be more in 
the way of his superiors. You Englishmen are inclined to 
melancholy ; but what makes you so very grave, so much graver 
than before ? 

Galileo, Milton, and a Dominican. 387 

Milton. I hardly know which is more afflicting, to hear 
the loudest expression of intolerable anguish from the weak who 
are sinking under it, or to witness an aged and venerable man 
bearing up against his sufferings with unshaken constancy. And, 
alas, that blindness should consummate your sufferings ! 

Galilfo. There are worse evils than blindness, and the best 
men suffer most by them. The spirit of liberty, now rising up in 
your country, will excite a blind enthusiasm, and leave behind a 
hitter disappointment. Vicious men will grow popular, and the 
interests of die nation will be entrusted to them ; because 
they descend from their station in order, as they say, to serve 

Milton. Profligate impostors? We know there are such 
among us ; but truth shall prevail against them. 

Galileo. In argument, truth always prevails finally ; in politics, 
falsehood always : else would never States fall into decay. Even 
good men, if indeed good men will ever mix with evil ones for 
any purpose, take up the trade of politics, at first intending to deal 
honestly ; the calm bower of the conscience is soon converted 
into the booth of inebriating popularity; the shouts of the 
multitude then grow unexciting, then indifferent, then trouble- 
some ; lastly, the riotous supporters of the condescendent fall- 
ing half-asleep, he looks agape in their faces, springs upon his 
legs again, flings the door behind him, and escapes in the 
livery of Power. When Satan would have led our Saviour into 
temptation, he did not conduct him where the looser passions 
were wandering ; he did not conduct him amid flowers and 
herbage, where a fall would have only been a soilure to our frail 
human nature : no, he led him up to an exceedingly high mountain, 
and showed him places and towers and treasuries, knowing that 
it was by those alone that he himself could have been so utterly 
lost to rectitude and beatitude. Our Saviour spurned the tempta- 
tion, and the greatest of his miracles was accomplished. After 
which, even the father of lies never ventured to dispute his divine 

Dominican. I must not suffer you to argue on theology ; you 
may pervert the young man. 

Milton. In addition to confinement, must this fungus of 
vapid folly stain your cell ? If so, let me hope you have re- 

388 Imaginary Conversations. 

ceived the assurance that the term of your imprisonment will be 

Galileo. It may be, or not, as God wills : it is for life. 

Milton. For life ! 

Galileo. Even so. I regret that I cannot go forth ; and my 
depression is far below regret when I think that, if ever I should 
be able to make a discovery, the world is never to derive the 
benefit. I love the fields, and the country air, and the sunny sky, 
and the starry ; and I could keep my temper when, in the midst 
of my calculations, the girls brought me flowers from lonely 
places, and asked me their names, and puzzled me. But now I 
fear lest a compulsory solitude should have rendered me a little 
moroser. And yet methinks I could bear again a stalk to be 
thrown in my face, as a deceiver, for calling the blossom that 
had been on it Andromeda ; and could pardon as easily as ever 
a slap on the shoulder for my Ursa Major. Pleasant Arcetri ! 

Milton. I often walk along its quiet lanes, somewhat too full 
of the white eglantine in the narrower parts of them. They are 
so long and pliant, a little wind is enough to blow them in the 
face ; and they scratch as much as their betters. 

Galileo. Pleasant Arcetri ! 

Milton. The sigh that rises at the thought of a friend may be 
almost as genial as his voice. 'Tis a breath that seems rather to 
come from him than from ourselves. 

Galileo. I sighed not at any thought of friendship. How 
do I know that any friend is left me ? I was thinking that, in 
those unfrequented lanes, the birds that were frightened could fly 
away. Pleasant Arcetri ! Well : we (I mean those who are 
not blind) can see the stars from all places ; we may know that 
there are other worlds, and we may hope that there are happier. 
So, then, you often walk to that village? 

Milton. Oftener to Fiesole. 

Galileo. You like Fiesole better ? 

Milton. Must I confess it ? For a walk, I do. 

Galileo. So did I, so did I. What friends we are already ! 
I made some observations from Fiesole. 

Milton. I shall remember it on my return, and shall revisit 
the scenery with fresh delight. Alas ! is this a promise I can 
keep, when I must think of you here ? 

Milton, and a Dominican. 389 

Gafi/fo. My good, compassionate young man ! I am con- 
cerned that my apartment allows you so little space to walk 

Mi/ton. Could ever I have been guilty of such disrespect ! 

sir, far remote, far beyond all others, is that sentiment from 
my heart ! It swelled, and put every sinew of every limb into 
motion, ;it your indignity. No, no ! Suffer me still to bend in 
reverence and humility on this hand, now stricken with years and 
with captivity ! on this hand, which science has followed, which 
God himself has guided, and before which all the worlds above 
us, in all their magnitudes and distances, have been thrown open. 

GafiltQ. Ah, my too friendly enthusiast ! may yours do more, 
and with' impunity. 

Milton. At least, be it instrumental in removing from the 
earth a few of her heaviest curses ; a few of her oldest and worst 
impediments to liberty and wisdom, mitres, tiaras, crowns, and 
the trumpery whereon they rest. I know but two genera of 
the annual and the perennial. Those who die down, and 
leave behind them no indication of the places whereon they grow, 
are cognate with the gross matter about them ; those on the con- 
trary, who, ages after their departure, are able to sustain the 
lowliest, and to exalt the highest, those are surely the spirits 
of God, both when upon earth and when with him. What do 

1 see, in letting fall the sleeve ? The scars and lacerations on 
your arms show me that you have fought for your country. 

Galilfo. I cannot claim that honor. Do not look at them. 
My guardian may understand that. 

Milton. Great God ! they are the marks of the torture ! 

Galileo. My guardian may understand that likewise. Let us 
converse about something else. 

Milton. Italy ! Italy ! Italy ! drive thy poets into exile, into 
prison, into madness! spare, spare thy one philosopher! What 
track can the mind pursue, in her elevations or her plains or her 
recesses, without the dogging and prowling of the priesthood ? 

Ga/ilfo. They have not done with me yet. A few days 
ago they informed me that I was accused or suspected of 
disbelieving the existence of devils. When I protested that in my 
opinion there are almost as many devils as there are men, arid that 
every wise man is the creator of hundreds at his first appearance, 

390 Imaginary Conversations. 

they told me with much austerity and scornfulness of rebuke, that 
this opinion is as heretical as the other ; and that we have no 
authority from Scripture for believing that the complement ex- 
ceeded some few legions, several of which were thinned and 
broken by beating up their quarters, thanks chiefly to the 
Dominicans. I bowed, as became me ; for these are worthy 
masters, and their superiors, the successors of Peter, would burn 
us for teaching any thing untaught before. 

Milton. They would burn you, then, for resembling the great 
apostle himself? 

Galileo. In what but denying the truth and wearing chains ? 

Milton. Educated with such examples before them, literary 
societies are scarcely more tolerant to the luminaries of imagina- 
tion than theological societies are to the luminaries of science. I 
myself, indeed, should hesitate to place Tasso on an equality, or 
nearly on an equality, with Ariosto ; yet, since his pen hath been 
excelled on the Continent by only two in sixteen centuries, he 
might have expected more favor, more forbearance, than he found. 
I was shocked at the impudence of his critics in this country : 
their ignorance less surprised me.* 

Galileo. Of yours I am unable to speak. 

Milton. So much the better. 

Galileo. Instead of it, you will allow me to express my ad- 
miration of what (if I understand any thing) I understand. No 
nation has produced any man, except Aristoteles, comparable to 
either of the Bacons. The elder was the more wonderful ; the 
later in season was the riper and the greater. Neither of them 
told all he knew, or half he thought ; and each was alike prodigal 
in giving, and prudent in withholding. The learning and genius 

* Criticism is still very low in Italy. Tiraboschi has done little for it : 
nothing can be less exact than his judgments on the poets. There is not 
one remarkable sentence, or one happy expression, in all his volumes. 
The same may be said of Abbate Cesarotti, and of the Signor Calsabigi, 
who wrote on Alfieri. There is scarcely a glimpse of poetry in Alfieri ; 
yet his verses are tight-braced, and his strokes are animating, not, indeed, 
to the Signor Calsabigi. The Italians are grown more generous to their 
literary men in proportion as they are grown poorer in them. Italy is 
the only great division of Europe where there never hath existed a Review 
bearing some authority or credit. These things do not greatly serve 
literature ; but they rise from it, and show it. 

(iulileo, Milton, and a Dominican. 391 

of Francis k\l him onward to many things which his nobility and 
statelinrss disallowed. Hence was he like the leisurely and rich 
agriculturist, who goeth out a-field after dinner, well knowing 
where lie the nests and covies ; and in such idle hour throweth 
his hat partly over them, and they clutter and run and rise 
and escape from him without his heed, to make a louder whirr 
thereafter, and a longer flight elsewhere. 

Mil ton. I believe I have discovered no few inaccuracies in 
his reasoning, voluntary or involuntary. But I apprehend he 
committed them designedly, and that he wanted in wisdom but 
the highest, the wisdom of honesty. It is comfortable to escape 
from him, and return again to Sorrento and Tasso. He should 
have been hailed as the worthy successor, not scrutinized as the 
presumptuous rival, of the happy Ferrarese. He was ingenious, 
he was gentle, he was brave ; and what was the reward ? Did 
contend for his residence within them ? Did princes throw 
open their palaces at his approach ? Did academies send deputa- 
tions to invite and solicit his attendance? Did senators cast 
branches of laurel under his horse's hoofs ? Did prelates and 
princes hang tapestries from their windows, meet him at the gates, 
and conduct him in triumph to the Capitol ? Instead of it, his 
genius was derided, his friendship scorned, his love rejected ; he 
li\< d despairingly, he died broken-hearted. 

Galileo. My friend ! my friend ! you yourself in your language 
are almost a poet. 

Aft/ton. 1 may be, in time to come. 

Gaftleo. What! with such an example before your eyes? 
Rather be a philosopher : you may be derided in this too ; but 
you will not be broken-hearted. I am ashamed when I reflect 
that the worst enemies of Torquato, pushing him rudely against 
Ariosto, are to be found in Florence. 

Milton. Be the difference what it may between them, youi 
academicians ought to be aware that the lowest of the animals are 
nearer to the highest of them, than these highest are to the lowest 
of those two. For in what greatly more do they beneht the 
world than the animals do, or how much longer remain in the 
memory of their species ? 

Galileo. Little, very little ; and the same thing may be easily 
proved of those whom they praise and venerate. My knowledge 

392 Imaginary Conversations. 

of poetry is narrow ; and, having little enthusiasm, I discover 
faults where beauties escape me. I never would venture to say 
before our Italians what 1 will confess to you. In reading the 
Gerusalemme Liberata, I remarked that among the epithets the 
poet is fondest of grande : I had remarked that Virgil is fondest 
of altus. Now, we cannot make any thing greater or higher by 
clapping these words upon it : where the substructure is not suf- 
ficiently broad and solid, they will not stick. The first verses in 
the Gerusalemme, for instance, are 

Canto le arme pietose e '1 capitano 
Che \\gran sepolcro libero di Cristo. 

Surely, the poet would rather have had a great captain than a 
great cenotaph. 

Milton. He might have written, with a modester and less 
sonorous exordium, 

Canto le arme pietose e '1 capitano, 
Lvi che il sepolcro libero di Cristo. 

Galileo. It would not have done for our people, either the 
unlearned or learned. They must have high, gigantic, immense ; 
they must have ebony, gold, azure ; they must have honey, 
sugar, cinnamon, as regularly in their places as blue-lettered 
jars, full or empty, are found in apothecaries' shops. Dante 
and Ariosto, different as they are, equally avoided these sweet 
viscidities. I wish you would help me to exonerate Tasso 
from the puffy piece of impediment at the beginning of his 

Milton. Let us imagine that he considered all Jerusalem as 
the sepulchre of Christ. 

Galileo. No friend or countryman hath said it for him. We 
will accept it, and go on. Our best histories, excepting Giovio's 
and Davila's, contain no picture, no character, no passion, no 
eloquence ; and Giovio's is partial and faithless. Criticism is 
more verbose and less logical here than among the French, the 
Germans, and the Dutch. 

Milton. Let us return to Ariosto and Tasso, who, whateve 
the academicians may gabble in their assemblies, have delighted 
the most cultivated minds, and will delight them for incalculable 

Essex and Spenser. 393 

Uleo. An academician, a dunghill-cock, and a worm do 
indeed form a triangle more nearly equilateral than an academician, 
a Lodovico, and a Torquato. The Dominican is listening yet. 
Behold, he comes in ! 

n-minican. Young gentleman, I did not suspect, when you 
entered, that you would ever talk about authors whose writings 
are prohibited. Ariosto is obscene. I have heard the same of 
Tasao, in some part or other. 

Milton. Prythee, begone ! 

Domini fan. We retire together. 

Galileo. It would be better to leave me, if he urges it; 
otherwise I may never expect again the pleasure I have received 

Dominican. Signer Galileo, do you talk of pleasure to young 
persons ? Most illustrious signorino, the orders of my superior 
are to reconduct you. 

Mi/ton. Adieu, then, O too great man ! 

Galileo. For to-day, adieu ! 

Dominican (out of the door\. In my lowly cell, O signorino 
(if your excellency in her inborn gentleness could condescend to 
favor her humblest slave with her most desired presence), are 
prepared some light refreshments. 

Milton. Swallow them, swallow them ; thou seemest thirsty : 
I enter but one cell here. 

Dominican (aside ^ having bowed respectfully). Devil ! heretic ! 
never shall thou more ! 


Essex. Instantly on hearing of thy arrival from Ireland, 1 
sent a message to thee, good Edmund, that I might learn, from 
one so judicious and dispassionate as thou art, the real state of 

n Spenaer had served in Ireland as the Secretary to Lord Grey, the 
Deputy, and had been rewarded by a large grant of the Desmond 
property. Upon the rebellion of the Earl of Desmond, an attack was 
made upon his hou*e, so suddenly, that, though Spenser himself escaped, 

394 Imaginary Conversations. 

things in that distracted country ; it having pleased the Queen's 
Majesty to think of appointing me her deputy, in order to bring 
the rebellious to submission. 

Spenser. Wisely and well considered ; but more worthily 
of her judgment than her affection. May your lordship over- 
come, as you have ever done, the difficulties and dangers you 

Essex. We grow weak by striking at random ; and knowing 
that I must strike, and strike heavily, I would fain see exactly 
where the stroke shall fall. 

Some attribute to the Irish all sorts of excesses ; others tell 
us that these are old stories ; that there is not a more inoffensive 
race of merry creatures under heaven, and that their crimes are 
all hatched for them here in England, by the incubation of 
printers' boys, and are brought to market at times of distressing 
dearth in news. From all that I myself have seen of them, I 
can only say that the civilized (I mean the richer and titled) are 
as susceptible of heat as iron, and as impenetrable to light as 
granite. The half-barbarous are probably worse ; the utterly 
barbarous may be somewhat better. Like game-cocks, they must 
spur when they meet. One fights because he fights an English- 
man ; another, because the fellow he quarrels with comes from a 
distant county ; a third, because the next parish is an eyesore to 
him, and his fist-mate is from it. The only thing in which they 
all agree as proper law is the tooth-for-tooth act. Luckily, we 
have a bishop who is a native, and we call him before the Queen. 
He represented to Her Majesty that every thing in Old Ireland 
tended to re-produce its kind, crimes among others ; and he 
declared frankly that if an honest man is murdered, or, what is 
dearer to an honest man, if his honor is wounded in the person of 
his wife, it must be expected that he will retaliate. Her Majesty 
delivered it as her opinion, that the latter case of vindictiveness 

one of his children was left behind and perished in the fire. He himself 
returned to England to die soon after, and to the Earl of Essex he owed 
his tomb. 

(First printed (1834) with "The Citation of William Shakespeare." 
Works, ii. 1846; Works, v. 1876. In the first edition there are 
certain prefaces and appendices to this Conversation, which are only 
intelligible when read with "The Citation;" they are not reprinted 

Essex and Spenser. 395 

was more likely to take effect than the former. But the bishop 
replied, that in his conscience he could not answer for either if 
the man was up. The dean of the same diocese gave us a more 
favorable report. Being a justice of the peace, he averred most 
solemnly that no man ever had complained to him of murder, 
ting one who had lost so many fore-teeth by a cudgel that 
his deposition could not be taken exactly ; added to which, his 
head was a little clouded with drunkenness ; furthermore, that 
extremely few women had adduced sufficiently clear proofs of 
violence, excepting those who were wilful, and resisted with tooth 
and nail. In all which cases, it was difficult nay, impossible 
to ascertain which violence began first and lasted longest. 

There is not a nation upon earth that pretends to be so super- 
latively generous and high-minded ; and there is not one (I speak 
from experience) so utterly base and venal. I have positive proof 
that the nobility, in a mass, are agreed to sell, for a stipulated 
11 their rights and privileges, so much per man ; and the 
Queen is inclined thereunto. But would our Parliament consent 
to pay money for a cargo of rotten pilchards ? And would not 
our captains be readier to swamp than to import them ? The 
noisiest rogues in that kingdom, if not quieted by a halter, may 
be quieted by making them brief-collectors, and by allowing 
them, first, to encourage the incendiary ; then, to denounce and 
hang him ; and, lastly, to collect all the money they can, running 
up and down with the whining ferocity of half-starved hyenas, 
under pretence of repairing the damages their exhausted country 
hath sustained. Others ask, modestly, a few thousands a year, 
and no more, from those whom they represent to us as naked and 
famished ; and prove clearly, to every dispassionate man who hath 
a single drop of free blood in his veins, that at least this pittance 
is due to them for abandoning their liberal and lucrative pro- 
fessions, and for endangering their valuable lives on the tempes- 
tuous seas, in order that the voice of truth may sound for once 
upon the shores of England, and humanity cast her shadow on the 
council -chamber. 

I gave a dinner to a party of these fellows a few weeks ago. 
I know not how many kings and princes were among them, nor 
how many poets and prophets and legislators and sages. When 
they were half-drunk, they coaxed and threatened ; when they 

396 Imaginary Conversations. 

had gone somewhat deeper, they joked, and croaked and hic- 
coughed, and wept over sweet ] reland ; and, when they could 
neither stand nor sit any longer, they fell upon their knees and 
their noddles, and swore that limbs, life, liberty, Ireland, and 
God himself, were all at the Queen's sen-ice. It was only their 
holy religion, the religion of their forefathers, here sobs inter- 
rupted some, howls others, execrations more, and the liquor they 
had ingulfed the rest. I looked down on them with stupor and 
astonishment, seeing faces, forms, dresses, much like ours, and 
recollecting their ignorance, levity, and ferocity. My pages drew 
them gently by the heels down the steps ; my grooms set them 
upright (inasmuch as might be) on their horses ; and the people 
in the streets, shouting and pelting, sent forward the beasts to 
their straw. 

Various plans have been laid before us for civilizing or coercing 
them. Among the pacific, it was proposed to make an offer to 
five hundred of the richer Jews in the Hanse-towns and in 
Poland, who should be raised to the dignity of the Irish peerage, 
and endowed with four thousand acres of good forfeited land, on 
condition of each paying two thousand pounds, and of keeping up 
ten horsemen and twenty foot, Germans or Poles, in readiness for 

The Catholics bear nowhere such ill-will toward Jews as 
toward Protestants. Brooks make even worse neighbors than 
oceans do. 

I myself saw no objection to the measure ; but our gracious 
Queen declared she had an insuperable one, they stank ! We 
all acknowledged the strength of the argument, and took out 
our handkerchiefs. Lord Burleigh almost fainted ; and Raleigh 
wondered how the Emperor Titus could bring up his men against 

" Ah ! " said he, looking reverentially at Her Majesty, " the 
star of Berenice shone above him ! And what evil influence 
could that star not quell ! what malignancy could it not anni- 
hilate ! " 

Hereupon he touched the earth with his brow, until the Queen 

" Sir Walter ! lift me up those laurels." 

At which manifestation of princely good-will he was ad- 

Essex and Spenser. 


vancing to kiss Her Majesty's hand ; but she waved it, and said 

Stand there, dog! " 

Now what tale have you for us ? 

Spenser. Interrogate me, my lord, that I may answer each 
question distinctly, my mind being in sad confusion at what I 
have seen and undergone. 

Essex. Give me thy account and opinion of these very affairs 
as thou leftest them ; for I would rather know one part well than 
all imperfectly ; and the violences of which I have heard within 
the day surpass belief. 

Why weepest thou, my gentle Spenser? Have the rebels 
tacked thy house ? 

Spenser. They have plundered and utterly destroyed it. 

Es/fx. I grieve for thee, and will see thee righted. 

Spenser. In this they have little harmed me. 

^x. How ! I have heard it reported that thy grounds are 
fertile, and thy mansion * large and pleasant. 

Sterner. If river and lake and meadow-ground and mountain 
could render any place the abode of pleasantness, pleasant was 
mine, indeed ! 

On the lovely banks of Mulla I found deep contentment. 
Under the dark aiders did I muse and meditate. Innocent hopes 
were my gravest cares, and my playfullest fancy was with kindly 
wishes. Ah ! surely of all cruelties the worst is to extinguish 
our kindness. Mine is gone : I love the people and the land no 
longer. My lord, ask me not about them : I may speak injuri- 

Essex. Think rather, then, of thy happier hours and busier 
occupations ; these likewise may instruct me. 

Stenser. The first seeds I sowed in the garden, ere the old 
castle was made habitable for my lovely bride, were acorns from 
Penshurst. I planted a little oak before my mansion at the birth 
of each child. My sons, I said to myself, shall often play in the 
shade of them when I am gone ; and every year shall they take 
the measure of their growth, as fondly as I take theirs. 

Essex. Well, well ; but let not this thought make thee weep 
so bitterly. 

It was purchased by a victualler and banker, the father or grandfather 
of Lord Rivt-rsdale. 

398 Imaginary Conversations. 

Spenser. Poison may ooze from beautiful plants ; deadly grief 
from dearest reminiscences. 

I must grieve, I must weep : it seems the law of God, and the 
only one that men are not disposed to contravene. In the per- 
formance of this alone do they effectually aid one another. 

Essex. Spenser ! I wish I had at hand any arguments or 
persuasions, of force sufficient to remove thy sorrow ; but, 
really, I am not in the habit of seeing men grieve at any 
thing except the loss of favor at court, or of a hawk, or of 
a buck-hound. And were I to swear out my condolences to 
a man of thy discernment, in the same round roll-call phrases 
we employ with one another upon these occasions, I should 
be guilty, not of insincerity, but of insolence. True grief hath 
ever something sacred in it ; and, when it visiteth a wise man 
and a brave one, is most holy. 

Nay, kiss not my hand : he whom God smiteth hath God 
with him. In his presence what am I ? 

Spenser. Never so great, my lord, as at this hour, when you 
see aright who is greater. May he guide your counsels, and 
preserve your life and glory ! 

Essex. Where are thy friends ? Are they with thee ? 

Spenser. Ah, where, indeed ! Generous, true-hearted Philip ! 
where art thou, whose presence was unto me peace and safety ; 
whose smile was contentment, and whose praise renown ? My 
lord ! I cannot but think of him among still heavier Josses : he 
was my earliest friend, and would have taught me wisdom. 

Essex. Pastoral poetry, my dear Spenser, doth not require 
tears and lamentations. Dry thine eyes ; rebuild thine house : 
the Queen and Council, I venture to promise thee, will make 
ample amends for every evil thou hast sustained. What ! does 
that enforce thee to wail yet louder ? 

Spenser. Pardon me, bear with me, most noble heart ! I have 
lost what no Council, no Queen, no Essex, can restore. 

Essex. We will see that. There are other swords, and other 
arms to wield them, beside a Leicester's and a Raleigh's. Others 
can crush their enemies, and serve their friends. 

Spenser. O my sweet child ! And of many so powerful, 
many so wise and so beneficent, was there none to save thee ? 
None ! none ! 

Essex and Spenser. 399 

Essex. I now perceive that thou lamentest what almost every 
father is destined to lament. Happiness must be bought, although 
the payment may be delayed. Consider; the same calamity might 
have befallen thee here in London. Neither the houses of am- 
bassadors, nor the palaces of kings, nor the altars of God himself, 
are asylums against death. How do I know but under this very 
roof there may sleep some latent calamity, that in an instant shall 
with gloom every inmate of the house, and every far de- 
pendent ? 

Spenser. God avert it ! 

Esstx. Every day, every hour of the year, do hundreds mourn 
what thou mournest. 

Spenser. Oh, no, no, no ! Calamities there are around us ; 
calamities there are all over the earth ; calamities there are in all 
seasons : but none in any season, none in any place, like mine. 

Essex. So say all fathers, so say all husbands. Look at any 
old mansion-house, and let the sun shine as gloriously as it may 
on the golden vanes, or the arms recently quartered over the gate- 
way or the embayed window, and on the happy pair that haply is 
toying at it : nevertheless, thou mayest say that of a certainty the 
same fabric hath seen much sorrow within its chambers, and heard 
many wailings ; and each time this was the heaviest stroke of all. 
Funerals have passed along through the stout-hearted knights 
upon the wainscot, and amid the laughing nymphs upon the arras. 
Old servants have shaken their heads as if somebody had deceived 
them, when they found that beauty and nobility could perish. 

rnund ! the things that are too true pass by us as if they 
were not true at all ; and when they have singled us out, then 
only do they strike us. Thou and 1 must go too. Perhaps the 
next year may blow us away with its fallen leaves.* 

Spenser. For you, my lord, many years (I trust) are waiting: 
I never shall sec those fallen leaves. No leaf, no bud, will spring 
upon the earth before I rink into her breast for ever. 

Essex. Thou, who art wiser than most men, shouldst bear 
with patience, equanimity, and courage what is common to all. 

Spenser. Enough, enough, enough ! have all men seen their 
infant burned to ashes before their eyes ? 

Essex. Gracious God ! Merciful Father ! what is this ? 
It happened so. 

400 Imaginary Conversations. 

Spenser. Burned alive ! burned to ashes ! burned to ashes ! 
The flames dart their serpent tongues through the nursery-window. 
I cannot quit thee, my Elizabeth ! I cannot lay down our 
Edmund ! Oh, these flames ! They persecute, they enthrall 
me ; they curl round my temples ; they hiss upon my brain ; 
they taunt me with their fierce, foul voices ; they carp at me, they 
wither me, they consume me, throwing back to me a little of life 
to roll and suffer in, with their fangs upon me. Ask me, my 
lord, the things you wish to know from me : I may answer them ; 
I am now composed again. Command me, my gracious lord ! 
I would yet serve you : soon I shall be unable. You have 
stooped to raise me up ; you have borne with me ; you have 
pitied me, even like one not powerful. You have brought 
comfort, and will leave it with me ; for gratitude is comfort. 

Oh ! my memory stands all a tip-toe on one burning point : 
when it drops from it, then it perishes. Spare me : ask me 
nothing ; let me weep before you in peace, the kindest act of 

Essex. I should rather have dared to mount into the 
midst of the conflagration than I now dare entreat thee not 
to weep. The tears that overflow thy heart, my Spenser, will 
staunch and heal it in their sacred stream ; but not without hope 
in God. 

Spenser. My hope in God is that I may soon see again 
what he has taken from me. Amid the myriads of angels, 
there is not one so beautiful ; and even he (if there be any) 
who is appointed my guardian could never love me so. Ah ! 
these are idle thoughts, vain wanderings, distempered dreams. 
If there ever were guardian angels, he who so wanted one 
my helpless boy would not have left these arms upon my 

Essex. God help and sustain thee, too gentle Spenser ! I 
never will desert thee. But what am I ? Great they have called 
me ! Alas, how powerless then and infantile is greatness in the 
presence of calamity ! 

Come, give me thy hand: let us walk up and down the 
gallery. Bravely done ! I will envy no more a Sidney or a 

'ii Hare and Walter Landor. 401 


Archdeaton Hare. In some of your later writings, I perceive, 
you have not strictly followed the line you formerly laid down 
for spelling. 

ier Landor. I found it inexpedient ; since, whatever the 

pains I took, there was, in every sheet almost, some deviation on 

the side of the compositor. Inconsistency was forced on me 

struggles and reclamations. At last, nothing is 

r me but to enter my protest, and to take the smooth path 

instead of the broken-up highway. 

Archdeacon Hare. It is chiefly in the preterites and parti- 
ciples that I have followed you perseveringly. We are rich 
in having two for many of our verbs, and unwise in corrupt- 
ing the spelling, and thereby rendering the pronunciation dif- 
ficult. We pronounce "astonisht ; " we write "astonished " or 
"attonish'd, an unnecessary harshness. Never was spoken 
drop/r</ or lop^v/ or hop/*J or prop//, but dropt, &c. ; yet, 
with the choice before us, we invariably take the wrong. I 
do not resign a right to "astonish^/" or "diminish*/." They 
may, with many like them, be useful in poetry ; and several 
such terminations add dignity and solemnity to what we read 

[> The first part of this Conversation is concerned with words and 
But the latter and larger part is extremely interesting. It is in 
part an answer to De Quincey's rather cpiteful " Notes on Walter Savage 
Landor H (Works, viii., ed. 1851), and in part an answer to a reviewer 
who had quoted from that book. Landor does not seem to have read 
De Quincey's attack. Had he done so, he must have noticed the parallel 
drawn between himself and Plato. " Both are unread," says De Quincey, 
"both inclined to be voluptuous; both had a hankering after purple 
and fine linen ... and both bestowed pains as elaborate upon the secret 
art of a dialogue, as a lapidary would upon the cutting of a Sultan's 
Had Landor read this, his retort would have been rougher, 
though not less contemptuous. Archdeacon Hare is so well known, that 
nothing need be said of him here, except that he was a faithful friend 
to Landor, believed in him, saw the first editions of the Conversations 
through the press, and printed some in the Philological Muteum, a 
magazine edited by him at Cambridge. ("Last Fruit," 1853; Works, 

2 C 

4O2 Imaginary Conversations. 

in our church, the sanctuary at once of our faith and of our 

Walter Landor. In more essential things than preterites and 
participles, 1 ought rather to have been your follower than you 
mine. No language is purer or clearer than yours. Vigorous 
streams from the mountain do not mingle at once with the turbid 
lake, but retain their force and their color in the midst of it. We 
are sapped by an influx of putridity. 

Archdeacon Hare. Come, come ; again to our spelling-book. 

Walter Landor. Well then, we differ on the spelling of 
honour, favour, &c. You would retain the u : I would eject 
it, for the sake of consistency. We have dropped it in author, 
emperor, ambassador. Here again, for consistency and compli- 
ancy, I write " embassador ; " because I write, as all do, " em- 
bassy." I write theater, sepulch^r, meter, in their English form 
rather than the French. The best authors have done it. All 
write "hexameter" and "pentameter." 

Archdeacon Hare. It is well to simplify and systematize 
wherever we can do it conveniently. 

Walter Landor. And without violence to vested rights ; 
which words have here some meaning. Why " amend," if 
"emendation " ? . Why not "pont//*," if " cait/f" ? 

Archdeacon Hare. Why, then, should grander be left in 
solitary state ? The Englishman less easily protrudes his nether 
jaw than the Frenchman, as "grandeur" seems to require. 
Grandeur (or grander, if you will have it so) sounds better. 

Walter Landor. I will have it so ; and so will you and others 
at last. 

Archdeacon Hare. Meanwhile, let us untie this last knot of 
Norman bondage on the common law of language in our land. 

Walter Landor. Set about it : no authority is higher than 
yours. I will run by the side of you, or be your herald, or (what 
better becomes me) your pursuivant. 

There is an affectation of scholarship in compilers of spelling- 
books, and in the authors they follow for examples, when they 
bring forward phenomena and the like. They might as well bring 
forward mysteria. We have no right to tear Greek and Latin 
declensions out of their grammars : we need no vortices when we 
have vortexes before us ; and while we have memorandums, fac* 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 403 

totums, ultimatums, let cur shepherd-dogs bring back to us by the 
ear such as have wandered from the flock. 

Archeacon Hare. We have " stimuli/ ; " why " stimuli " ? 
why " stimuli " ? Why " recipe " ? why " receipt " ? we might 
as reasonably write "dece//>/" and "conce//>/." I believe we are 
the only people who keep the Dramatis Persona on the stage, or 
announce their going off by "exeunt : " "<://" for departure is 
endurable, and kept in countenance by transit. Let us deprecate 
the danger of hearing of a friend's obit, which seems imminent : a 
"post-obit" is bad enough. An item I would confine to the 
ledger. I have no mind for animus. 

Walter Landor. Besides these, there are two expressions either 
of which is quite enough to bring down curses and mortality on 
the poet. " Stand c onfest " (even if not written "confcr.rV") is 
one ; " unbidden tears" the other. I can imagine no such non- 
sense as unbidden tears. Why do we not write the verb control 
with an e at the end, and the substantive with u, as soul ? We 
might as reasonably write who/ for whole. Very unreasonably do 
we write wholly with a double / ; wholy and soly might follow 
the type of holy. We see printed befal with one /, but never fal; 
and yet in the monosyllable we should not be doubtful of the 
accentuation. It is but of late that we contro/, reca/, appa/: we 
do not yet ro/. Will any one tell me who put such a lazy beast 
to our niiffu/fofi-train, and spelled on the front of the carriage 
ammunition ? We write enter and inter equally with a single final 
r : surely the latter wants another. 

Archdeacon Hare. What is quite as censurable, while we 
reject the good of our own countrymen, we adopt the bad of the 
foreigner. We are much in the habit of using the WOrdJKhutier. 
Surely, we might let the French take and torture our freebooter. 
In our fondness for making verbs out of substantives, we even go 
to the excess of flibustering. And now from coarse vulgarity let 
us turn our eyes towards inconsiderate refinement. When I was 
a boy, every girl among the poets was a nymph, whether in 
country or town. Johnson countenanced them, and, arm-in-arm 
with Pope, followed them even into Jerusalem : " Ye nymphs of 
Solyma/' &c. 

Walter Landor. Pity they ever found their way back ! 

Archdeacon Hare. Few even now object to muse and bard. 

404 Imaginary Conversations. 

Walter I^andor. Nor would I, in their proper places : the 
muse in Greece and Italy ; the bard, on our side of the Alps, up 
almost as far as Scandinavia, quite as far as the Cimbrian Cher- 
sonese. But the bard looks better at nine or ten centuries off than 
among gentlemen in roquelaures or paletots. Johnson, a great 
reprehender, might fairly and justly have reprehended him in the 
streets of London, whatever were his own excesses among the 
" nymphs of Solyma." In the midst of his gravity, he was not 
quite impartial, and, extraordinary as were his intellectual powers, 
he knew about as much of poetry as of geography. In one of his 
letters he talks of Guadaloupe as being in another hemisphere. 
Speaking of that island, his very words are these : " Whether you 
return hither, or stay in another hemisphere." At the com- 
mencement of his Satire on the Vanity of Human Wishes (a 
noble specimen of declamation), he places China nearer to us 
than Peru. 

Archdeacon Hare. The negligences of Johnson may easily be 
forgiven, in consideration of the many benefits he has conferred 
on literature. A small poet, no great critic, he was a strenuous 
and lofty moralist. Your pursuers are of another breed, another 
race. They soon tire themselves, hang out their tongues, and 
drop along the road. Time is not at all misapplied by you in the 
analysis and valuation of Southey's and Wordsworth's poetry, 
which never has been done scrupulously and correctly. But surely 
gravel may be carted and shot down on the highway without the 
measure of a Winchester bushel. Consider if what you have taken 
in hand is worthy of your workmanship. 

Walter Landor. The most beautiful tapestry is worked on ex- 
tremely coarse canvas. Open a volume of Bayle's Biographical 
Dictionary^ and how many just and memorable observations will 
you find on people of no " note or likelihood " ! 

Archdeacon Hare. Unhappily for us, we are insensible of the 
corruptions that creep yearly into our language. At Cambridge 
or Oxford (I am ignorant which of them claims the glory of the 
invention), some undergraduate was so facetious as to say, "Well, 
while you are discussing the question, I will discuss my wine." 
The gracefulness of this witticism was so captivating that it took 
possession not only of both universities, but seized also on " men 
about town." Even the ladies, the vestals who preserve the purity 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 405 

of language, caught up the expression from those who were liber- 
tines in it. 

Walter Landor. Chesterfield and Horace Walpole, who are 
among the most refined of our senators, have at present no more 
authority in language than in dress. By what we see, we might 
imagine that the one article is to be cast aside after as short a 
wear as the other. It occurs to me at this moment, that, when 
we have assumed the habiliments of the vulgar, we are in clanger 
of contracting their coarseness of language and demeanor. 

Archdeacon Hare. Certainly the Romans were logatt in their 
tongue as well as in their wardrobe. Purity and gravity of style 
were left uncontaminated and unshaken by the breath of Tiberius 
and his successor. The Antonines spoke better Latin than the 
Triumvir Antonius ; and Marcus Aurelius, although on some 
occasions he preferred the Greek, was studious to maintain his 
own idiom strong and healthy. When the tongue is paralysed, 
the limbs soon follow. No nation hath long survived the de- 
crepitude of its language. 

There is perpetually an accession of slang to our vernacular, 
which is usually biennial or triennial. 

Walter Landor. I have been either a fortunate or a prudent 
man to have escaped for so many years together to be " pitched 
among "giant trees," "monster meetings/' "glorious fruit," 
"splendid cigars, dogs, horses, and bricks," "palmy days," "rich 
oddities ; " to owe nobody a farthing for any other fashionable 
habits of rude device and demi-saison texture ; and, above all, to 
have never come in at the " eleventh hour" which has been sound- 
ing all day long the whole year. They do me a little injustice 
who say that such good fortune is attributable to my residence in 
Italy. The fact is, I am too cautious and too aged to catch dis- 
orders, and I walk fearlessly through these epidemics. 

Archdeacon Hare. Simply to open is insufficient: we "open up" 
and "open out" A gentleman indues a coat ; it will be difficult 
to exue if he tries : he must lie down and sleep in it. 

"Foolery" was thought of old sufficiently expressive: nothing 
short of tomfoolery will do now. To repudiate was formerly to 
put away what disgraced us: it now signifies (in America at 
least) to reject the claims of justice and honor. We hear people 
re-read, and see them re-write; and are invited to a spread, 

406 Imaginary Conversations. 

where we formerly went to a dinner or collation. We cut down 
barracks to a single barrack ; but we leave the " stocks " in good 
repair. We are among ambitions and among peoples, until Stern- 
hold and Hopkins call us into a quieter place, and we hear once 

" All people that on earth do dwell." 

Shall we never have done with " rule and exception" " ever and 
anon" " many a time and oft" ? 

Walter Landor. It is to be regretted that Home Tooke and 
Bishop Lowth were placed so far apart, by many impediments and 
obstructions, that they never could unite in order to preserve the 
finials and pinnacles of our venerable fabric, to stop the innovations 
and to diminish the anomalies of our language. Southey, although 
in his youth during their time, might have assisted them ; for 
early in life he had studied as sedulously the best of our old 
authors as they had, and his judgment was as mature at twenty- 
five as theirs at fifty. He agreed with me that mind, fad, kind, 
blind, behind, should have a final e, in order to signify the sound ; 
and that the verb wind should likewise, for the same reason. I 
brought Fairfax's Tasso with me, and showed him that Fairfax 
had done it, and had spelled many other words better than our 
contemporaries, or even than the most part of his own. 

Archdeacon hare. There are two expressions of frequent 
occurrence, equally wrong, " incorrect orthography " and 
"vernacular idiom" Distempers in language, as in body, 
which rise from the crowded lane, creep up sometimes to where 
the mansions are higher and better ventilated. I think you once 
remarked to me that you would just as properly write pillager 
for pillager, as messenger for messager. The more excusable 
vulgar add to these dainties their sausciger. Have you found any- 
thing more to notice where you have inserted those slips of paper 
in your Fairfax ? 

Walter Landor. Much ; to run over all would be tedious. 
He writes with perfect propriety dismaid, applte, chefe, hart, wisht, 
husht, spred. Southey was entirely of my opinion that, if lead in 
the present is led in the preterite, read should be red. There is 
no danger of mistaking the adjective for the verb by it. He 
ridiculed the spelling of Byron, redde ; which is quite as ridicu- 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 407 

lous as the conceit of that antiquarian society which calls itself the 
" Roxburgh/ Club ; " e was never added to burgh. 

Hoxu-'.l, .1 \i-ry careful writer, an excellent authority, writes 
forrtn, frend, Mahomdism, toung, cxtemporal, shipwrack, cole, onely, 
sutable, plaid, askt, begger, apparance, brest, yeer, lanch,peect, tresure, 
r, incertain, k'mde, perle. 

Drayton and Daniel may be associated with Howell. Dray- 
ton in his prose wrote red ; and there is no purer or more con- 
dderate author. He writes also ransack/, distinguish/, dispers/, 
worship/, admonish/, tax/, deck/, wrack/, profes/, extol*/, purchas/. 
He writes fained, tucb, ycers, "Jnely, dore. 

Thomas More writes lerned, clereness, preste (priest), 
sbolde, woldf, leve, yere, harte, mynde, here (hear), herer (hearer), 
apptrej spelter^ seke, greoousyfyndc, doute, wherof, seme, dede, nede, 
tetlx (teeth), precher, pcplc, senc (seen), eres (ears), toke, therfor, 
mete (meat), frend, therin, fere (fear), a we<ver, rede (read). A 
host of these words only show that the best authors avoided the 
double vowel. 

Chaucer, in consecutive verses, writes were (wear) and bere 
(bear) and beven zndfoule. 

4 Upon her thombe or in her purse to bere." 
There is no foule that flieth under heven." 

Camden w rites forralne and iland. 

It was late before ea was employed in place of the simple vowel 
f . Chaucer writes " eny pecock" Shal and w/7, so written by 
him, are more proper than shall and will, by avoiding the form of 
substantives. Caxton writes, as many of his time, iuerk, not 
" work." Tyndal, long after, writes doo for do. Spenser writes 
dore instead of door. Sackville writes pearst. Dryden is less 
accurate than Cowley and Waller and Sprat. Speaking of 
Cowley, he says, " He never could forgive a conceit/' meaning 
forevo. In our own age, many (Burke among the rest) say, 
By this means." It would be affectation to say, By this 
mean," in the singular ; but the proper expression is, By these 

Archdeacon Hare. In regard to terminations, it is difficult to 
account for the letter e when we say " by and by;." There is 
none in accounting for it in Good-^," which is the most com- 

408 Imaginary Conversations. 

prehensivc of all contractions : it is, " Good be with ye ! " or 
" God be with ye ! " which in effect is the same. Formerly ye 
was more universal than you. Ignorant critics reprehend it 
wrongly in such a position as, " I would not hurt ye." But it is 
equally good English as, " Te would not hurt me." No 
word is more thoroughly vernacular, from of old to this present 
day, among the people throughout the land. We should keep 
our homely, well-seasoned words, and never use the grave for 
light purposes. 

Among the many we misapply is the word destiny. We hear 
of a man controlling the destiny of another. Nothing on earth 
can control the destined, whether the term be applied strictly or 
laxly. Element is another, meaning only a constituent. Graver 
still is incarnation. We hear about the mission of fellows whose 
highest could be only to put a letter into the post-office. 

We usually set ' before neath, improperly : the better spelling 
is net be, whence nether. We also prefix the same ' to fore. We 
say (at least those who swear do), " ' 'fore God ; " never, " tafore 
God." Cause in like manner is a word of itself, no less than 
" ^cause." But this form is properer for poetry. 

Chaucer writes peple, as we pronounce it. 

Skelton writes sault and mault, also in accordance with the 
pronunciation ; and there is exactly the same reason for it as in 
fault. It could not be going far out of our way to bring them 
back again, and then cry hault, which we do only with the pen 
in hand. 

We are in the habitude of writing onwardj, backward/, 
towards, afterward/ ; he more gracefully drops the final s. We 
write strip/, whip/ ,- yet hesitate at trip/ and worship/. We 
possess in many cases two for one of the preterites ; and, to show 
our impartiality and fairness, we pronounce the one and write the 
other. We write said and laid, but never staid or plaid. We 
write offiaal ; why not influenaal, circumstanr/al, difFerenaal ? 
We write entrance the substantive like entrance the verb. Shak- 
speare wisely wrote, 

" That sounds the fatal entrance of Duncan," &c. 

WoncUrous is a finer word than 'wondrous. 

It is not every good scholar, or every fair poet, who possesses 

Archdeacon ll.uv and Walter Lander. 409 

the copiousness and exhibits the discrimination of Shakspearc. 
u hen we take the hand he offers us, we are accused of 

Walter L.andor. So far from innovating, the words I propose 
are brought to their former and legitimate station. You have 
>ned the greater part, and have thought the remainder worth 
your notice. Every intelligent and unprejudiced man will agree 
with you. I prefer high authorities to lower, analogy to fashion, 
a Restoration to a Usurpation. Innovators, and worse than in- 
novators, were those Reformers called who disturbed the market- 
place of manorial theology, and went back to religion where she 
stood alone in her original purity. We English were the last 
people to adopt the reformed style in the calendar, and we seem 
determined to be likewise the last in that of language. We are 
ordered to please the public ; we are forbidden to instruct it. 
Not only publishers and booksellers are against us, but authors 
too ; and even some of them who are not regularly in the service 
of those masters. The outcry is, "We have not ventured to 
aJter what we find in use, and why should be?" 

Archdeacon Hare. If the most learned and intelligent, in that 
age which has been thought by many the most glorious in our 
literature, were desirous that the language should be settled and 
fixed, how much more desirable is it that its accretion of cor- 
ruptions should be now removed ! It may be difficult ; and still 
more difficult to restore the authority of the ancient dynasty. 

Walter Laiulnr. We never have attempted it. But there are 
certain of their laws and usages which we would not willingly 
call obsolete. Often in the morning I have looked among your 
books for them, and I deposit in your hands the first-fruits of my 
research. It is only for such purposes that I sit hours together 
in a library. Either in the sunshine or under the shade of trees, 
I must think, meditate, and compose. 

Archdeacon Hare. Thoughts may be born in a room above- 
stairs or below ; but they are stronger and healthier for early 
exercise in the open air. It is not only the conspirator to 
whom is appropriate the " modo citus modo tardus incessus : 
it is equally his who follows fancy, and his also who searches 
after truth. 

Walter Landor. The treasures of your library have some- 

410 Imaginary Conversations. 

times tempted me away from your pictures ; and I have ceased 
for a moment to regret that by Selections and Compendiums we 
had lost a large portion of the most noble works, when I find so 
accurate a selection, so weighty a compendium, carried about with 
him who is now walking at my side. 

Archdeacon Hare. I would have strangled such a compli- 
ment ere it had attained its full growth : however, now it is not 
only full-grown but over-grown, let me offer you in return, not a 
compliment, but a congratulation, on your courage in using the 
plural " compendium.? " where another would have pronounced 
" compendia.'' 

Walter Landor. Would that other, whoever he may be, have 
said musea ? All I require of people is consistency, and rather 
in the right than in the wrong. When we have admitted a 
Greek or Latin or French word, we ought to allow it the right 
of citizenship, and induce it to comply and harmonize with the 
rest of the vocular community. " Pindari^ " went away with 
Cowley, and died in the same ditch with him ; but " oblique " is 
inflexible, and stands its ground. He would do well who should 
shove it away, or push it into the ranks of the new militia. 
" Antique " is the worst portion of Gray's heritage. His former 
friend, Horace Walpole, had many antiques and other trifles at 
Strawberry-hill ; but none so worthless as this. In honest truth, 
we neither have, nor had then, a better and purer writer than he, 
although he lived in the time of the purest and best, Goldsmith, 
Sterne, Fielding, and Inchbald. He gave up his fashionable 
French for a richer benefice. He would not use "rouge" but 
" red ; " very different from the ladies and gentlemen of the 
present day, who bring in entremets and lardes, casting now and 
then upon the lukewarm hearth a log of Latin, and, in the sleeping- 
room they have prepared for us, spread out as counterpane a 
remnant of Etruscan, from under a courier's saddle-bag. 

Chaucer, who had resided long in France, and much among 
courtiers, made English his style. Have you patience to read a 
list of the words he spelled better than we do ; and not he only, 
but his remote successors ? 

Archdeacon Hare. I have patience, and more than patience, 
to read or hear or see whatever is better than ourselves. Such 
investigations have always interested me, you know of old. 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 41 1 

':er Landor. Rare quality ! I scarcely know where to find 
another who possesses it, or whose anger would not obtain the 

conscience at the imputation. 

your eyes run down this catalogue. Here are sivete and 
svvote, finde, tber, <wel, herken, her k, gilt (guilt), shal, don (done), 
(works), tveping, dene, tlefaulte, tber of, speking, erthe, 
beretb (beareth), seate, mete (meat), shuld (should), bevy, hevn, 
grrvous, grete, bete, yere, fode (food) ; we still say fodder, not 
fooder ; ete (cat), lede, throt, iuel, drede, shal, gess (guess), ful, 
wberas, trespas, bet'wene, repe, slepe, sbete, frend, dedly, deities, 
teres, herlng, clereness, juge, plese, speke, wold (would), ded, tred, 
her eve, tbred, peple, dore, dreme, deme, res on, tndede, meke, feble, 
wtde, nedf,fele, cese, pece, dedly, deme, resonable, slepe, titel, refrain, 

Archdeacon Hare. In adding the vowel, he makes it available 
for verse. Covetise, how much better than covetiousness > 
Among the words which might be brought back again to adorn 
our poetical diction is befornc (before). Here is dis temperament 
(for inclemency of season) ; for/ft (forgive), another good word ; 
so is wanbope (despair). Has no poet the courage to step forth 
and to rescue these maidens of speech, unprotected beneath the 
very castle-walls of Chaucer ? 

Walter Landor. If they are resolved to stitch up his rich old 
tapestry with muslin, they would better let it stay where it is. 

Archdeacon Hare. Several more words are remaining in which 
a single vowel is employed where we reduplicate. Sheres, atpere, 
speche, wele, beretb, reson, mening, pleasance, stele, coles, mekeness, 
reve (bereave) rore, tong, corageousjorbere, kepe, othe (oath), cese, 
sbepe, dreme, verse (worse), reken (reckon). Certainly this old 

lling is more proper than its substitute. To rcken is to look 

*y* *JJL *J 

over an account before casting it up. Here are grevancc,lerne, 
bete, seke, speke, fre*e (freeze), cbese, dense, tretise, meke. Here 1 
find axe (ask, which is now a vulgarism, though we use tax 1( 
task. With great propriety he writes persever ; we, with great 
impropriety, persevere. He uses the word spiced for overmce, 
which in common use is gingerly. I think you would not be a 
stickler for the best of these, whichever it may be. 

Walter Landor. No, indeed ; but there are in Chaucer, as 
there are in other of our old yet somewhat later writers, things 

412 Imaginary Conversations. 

which with regret I see cast aside for worse. I wish every 
editor of an author, whether in poetry or prose, would at least 
add a glossary of his words as he spelled and wrote them, without 
which attention the history of a language must be incomplete. 
Heine in his Virgil, Wakefield in his Lucretius, have preserved 
the text itself as entire as possible. Greek words do not appear 
in their spelling to have been subject to the same vicissitudes as 

I have not been engaged in composing a grammar or vocabu- 
lary, nor is a conversation a treatise ; so with your usual kindness 
you will receive a confused collection of words, bearing my mark 
on them and worthy of yours. They are somewhat like an Italian 
pastry, of heads and necks and feet and gizzards of a variety of 
birds of all sorts and sizes. If my simile is undignified, let me 
go back into the Sistine Chapel, where Michel Angelo displays 
the same thing more gravely and grandly in his Last Judgment. 

Archdeacon Hare. Do not dissemble your admiration of this 
illustrious man, nor turn into ridicule what you reverence. Among 
the hardy and false things caught from mouth to mouth is the 
apothegm, that " there is only a step from the sublime to the 
ridiculous." There was indeed but a step from Bonaparte's. 

Walter Landor. I perceive you accept the saying as his. It 
was uttered long before his birth, and so far back as the age of 
Louis the Fourteenth. Another is attributed to him, which was 
spoken by Barrere in the Convention. He there called the 
English " cette nation boutiquiere. 

Archdeacon Hare. Well, now empty out your sack of words, 
and never mind which comes first. 

Walter Landor. Probably there are several of them which 
we have noticed before. Here are a few things which I have 
marked with my pencil from time to time ; others are obliterated, 
others lost. 

There is a very good reason why ravel and travel should be 
spelled with a single / .- pronunciation requires it. Equally does 
pronunciation require a double / in befell, expell, compell. 

We often find kneeled instead of knelt ; yet I do not remember 
feeled forfeit. Shaftesbury, and the best writers of his age and 
later, wrote cou'd, shou'd, ivou'd : we do not, although in 
speaking we never insert the /. Hurd writes, " Under the 
circumstances." Circumstances are about us, not above us. 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 4 1 3 

* Master of the situation " is the only expression we have 
borrowed Lvly of the Spanish, and it is not worth having. 

I have observed rent as preterite of rend, improper ; as ment 
would be of mend. 

" All too well," &c., the world all used needlessly. "All the 
greater," &c. These expressions are among the many which 
have latterly been swept out of the servants' hall, who often say 
(no doubt), ** I am all the better for my dinner." 

Daresay is now written as one word. 

Egotist should be egoist ; to doze should not be written dose, as 
it often is. 

I once was present when a scholar used the words vexed 

question ; he was not laughed at, although he was thought a 

pedant for it. Many would willingly be thought pedants who 

can be ; but they can more cheaply be thought affected, as 

would be if they assumed this Latinism. In our English 

sense, many a question vexes: none is vexed. The sea is 

vfxalum when it is tossed hither and thither, to and fro ; but a 

question, however unsettled, has never been so called in good 


" Sought his bedchamber ; " improper, because he knew 
where it was. To seek is to go after what may or may not be 
found. Firstly is not English. To gather a rose is improper. 
To gather two roses would be proper. Better to cult, which 
may be said of choosing one out of several ; cull is from the 
Italian cogliere, originally in Latin colligare. But to us, in our 
vernacular, the root is invisible : not so to gather, of which we 
are reminded by together. 

There is a bull of the largest Irish breed in nearly the most 
beautiful of Wordsworth's poems : 

I lived upon what casual bounty yields, 
Now coldly given, now utterly refuted." 

The Irish need not cry out for their potatoes, if they can live 
upon what they cannot get. 

The child is father of the man," 

says Wordsworth, well and truly. The verse animadverted on 
must have been written before the boy had begotten his parent. 

414 Imaginary Conversations. 

What can be sillier than those verses of his which many have 
quoted with unsuspicious admiration ? 

" A maid whom there was none to praise, 
And very few to love." 

He might have written more properly, if the rhyme and metre 
had allowed it, 

A maid whom there were none to love, 
And very few to praise. 

For surely the few who loved her would praise her. Here he 
makes love subordinate to praise : there were some who loved 
her, none (even of these) who praised her. Readers of poetry 
hear the bells, and seldom mind what they are ringing for. 
Where there is laxity there is inexactness. 

Frequently there are solid knolls in the midst of Wordsworth's 
morass ; but never did I expect to find so much animation, 
such vigor, such succinctness, as in the paragraph beginning 

" All degrees and shapes of spurious form," 

and ending with 

" Left to herself, unheard of and unknown." 

Here, indeed, the wagoner's frock drops off, and shows to our 
surprise the imperial purple underneath it. Here is the brevity 
and boldness of Cowper ; here is heart and soul ; here is the tixuv 
(3aai\ixr) of poetry. 

I believe there are few, if any, who enjoy more heartily than I 
do the best poetry of my contemporaries, or who have commended 
them both in private and in public with less parsimony and reserve. 
Several of them, as you know, are personally my friends, although 
we seldom meet, Perhaps in some I may desiderate the pure 
ideal of what is simply great. If we must not always look up at 
Theseus and the Amazons, we may however catch more frequent 
glimpses of the Graces, with their zones on, and their zones only. 
Amplification and diffuseness are the principal faults of those who 
are now standing the most prominent. Dilution does not always 
make a thing the clearer : it may even cause turbidity. 

Archdeacon Hare. Stiffness is as bad as laxness. Pindar and 

Archdeacon Huiv and Walter Landor. 415 

r, Milton and Shakspeare, never caught the cramp in 
their mountain streams : their movements arc as easy as they are 

Walter Landor. The strongest are the least subject to stiffness. 
Diffuseness is often the weakness of vanity. The vain poet is of 
opinion that nothing of his can be too much: he sends to you 
basketful after basketful of juiceless fruit, covered with scentless 

Archdeacon Hare. Many an unlucky one is like the big and 
bouncing foot-ball, which is blown up in its cover by unseemly 
purling, and serves only for the game of the day. I am half- 
inclined to take you to task, my dear friend, feeling confident and 
certain that I should do it without offence. 

Walter Landor. Without offence, but not without instruction. 
Here I am ready at the desk, with both hands down. 

Archdeacon Hare. To be serious. Are you quite satisfied 
that you never have sought a pleasure in detecting and exposing 
the faults of authors, even good ones ? 

Waiter Landor. I have here and there sought that pleasure, 
and found it. To discover a truth, and to separate it from a 
falsehood is surely an occupation worthy of the best intellect, and 
not at all unworthy of the best heart. Consider how few of our 
countrymen have done it, or attempted it, on works of criticism : 
how few of them have analysed and compared. Without these 
two processes, there can be no sound judgment on any production 
of genius. We are accustomed to see the beadle limp up into the 
judge's chair, to hear him begin with mock gravity, and to find 
him soon dropping it for his natural banter. He condemns with 
the black cap on ; but we discover through its many holes and 
dissutures the uncombed wig. Southey is the first and almost 
the only one of our critics who moves between his intellect and 
his conscience, close to each. 

Archdeacon Hare. How much better would it be if our re- 
viewers and magazine-men would analyze, in this manner, to the 
extent of their abilities, and would weigh evidence before they 
pass sentence. But they appear to think that, unless they hazard 
much, they can win little ; while in fact they hazard and lose a 
great deal more than there is any possibility of their recovering. 
One rash decision ruins the judge's credit, which twenty correcter 

416 Imaginary Conversations. 


never can restore. Animosity, or perhaps something more ignoble, 
usually stimulates rampant inferiority against high desert. 

I have never found you disconcerted by any injustice toward 
yourself, not even by the assailants of this our Reformation. 

Walter Landor. If we know a minor, whose guardians and 
trustees have been robbing him of his patrimony, or misapplying 
it, or wearing out the land by bad tillage, would we not attempt 
to recover for him whatever we could ; and especially if we were 
intimate with the family, if we had enjoyed the shade of its 
venerable woods, the refreshing breezes from its winding streams, 
and had in our early days taken our walks among them for study, 
and in our still earlier gone into the depths of its forests for our 
recreation ? 

Archdeacon Hare. Next in criminality to him who violates 
the laws of his country, is he who violates the language. In this 
he is a true patriot, and somewhat beside, 

" Qui consulta patrum qui leges juraque servat." 

Byron is among the defaulters. On Napoleon he says, 
" Like be of Babylon/' " The annal of Gibbon." " I have 
eat" &c. There is a passage in Tacitus on a vain poet, Lu- 
terius, remarkably applicable to our lately fashionable one ; 
" Studia ilia, ut plena vecordiae, ita inania et fluxa sunt : nee 
quidquam grave ac serium ex eo metuas qui, suorum ipse 
flagitiorum proditor, non virorum animis sed muliercularum 

Walter Landor. It suits him perfectly. I would, however, 
pardon him some false grammar and some false sentiment, for 
his vigorous application of the scourge to the two monsters of 
dissimilar configuration who degraded and disgraced, at the same 
period, the two most illustrious nations in the world. The Ode 
against Napoleon is full of animation : against the other there 
is less of it ; for animation is incompatible with nausea. Byron 
had good action ; but he tired by fretting, and tossing his head, 
and rearing. 

Archdeacon Hare. Let reflections for a moment give way 
to recollections. In the morning we were interrupted in some 
observations on the aspirate. 

Walter Landor. Either I said, or was about to say, that 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 417 

the aspirate, wherever it is written, should be pronounced. If 
we say " a house," why not say " a hour ; " if " a horse," why 
not "a honor?" Nobody says "an heavy load," "an heavenly 
joy," "an holy man," "an hermit," "an high place," " an 
huge monster," "an holly-bough," "an happy day." Let the 
minority yield here to the majority. Our capaciousness in 
admitting or rejecting the service of the aspirate was contracted 
from the French. The Italians, not wanting it, sent it off, and 
called it back merely for a mark discriminatory ; for instance in 
the verb Ho t hi'.:. 

Archdeacon Hare. You have been accused of phonetic 

Walter LanJor. Inconsiderately, and with even less foun- 
dation than falsehood has usually under it. Nothing seems 
to me more grossly absurd, or more injurious to an ancient 
family, the stem of our words and thoughts. Such a scheme, 
about fourscore years ago, was propounded by Elphinstone ; 
it has lately been reproduced, only to wither and die down 

Archdeacon Hare. I always knew, and from yourself, that 
you are a "good hater" of innovation, and that your efforts 
were made strenuously on the opposite side, attempting to 
recover in our blurred palimpsests what was written there of 
old. We have dropped a great deal of what is good, as you 
just now have shown ; and we have taken into our employment 
servants without a character, or with a worthless one. We 
adorn our new curtains with faded fringe, and embellish stout 
buckskin with point-lace. 

Walter Landor. After this conversation, if it ever should 
reach the public ear, I may be taken up for a brawl in the 
street, more serious than an attack on the new grammar- 

Archdeacon Hare. What can you mean ? Taken up ? For 
a brawl? 

Walter Landor. Little are you aware that I have lately 
been accused of a graver offence, and one committed in the 

Archdeacon Hare. And in the dark you leave me. Pray 


2 D 

4i 8 Imaginary Conversations. 

Walter Landor. I am indicted for perpetrating an Epic. 

Archdeacon Hare. Indeed ! I am glad to hear the announce- 
ment. And when does the cause come into court ? And who 
is the accuser ? And what are his grounds ? 

Walter Landor. Longer ago by some years than half a 
century, I wrote Geb'ir. The cause and circumstances I have 
detailed elsewhere. 

Archdeacon Hare. Is this the epic ? 

Walter Landor. It appears so. 

Archdeacon Hare. Already you look triumphant from that 
ancient car. 

Walter Landor. No, truly : I am too idle for a triumph ; 
and the enemy's forces were so small that none could legiti- 
mately be decreed. 

" Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor 
Qui face barbaricos calamoque sequare colonos." 

" Surely shall some one come, alert and kind, 
With torch and quill to guide the blundering hind." 

Archdeacon Hare. Clowns and boys and other idlers, if they 
see a head above a garden-wall, are apt to throw a pebble at it ; 
which mischief they abstain from doing when the head is on 
their level and near. 

Walter Landor. Nobody reads this poem, I am told ; and 
nothing more likely. 

Archdecaon Hare. Be that as it may, the most disappointed 
of its readers would be the reader who expected to find an epic 
in it. To the epic not only its certain spirit, but its certain form, 
is requisite ; and not only in the main body, but likewise in 
the minute articulations. I do not call epic that which is in 
lyric metre, nor indeed in any species of rhyme. The cap and 
bells should never surmount the helmet and breastplate : Ariosto 
and Tasso are lyrical romancers. Your poem, which Southey 
tells us he took for a model, is in blank verse. 

Walter Landor. Southey, whom I never had known or cor- 
responded with, hailed it loudly in the Critical Review, on its 
first appearance. He recommended it to Charles Wynne ; 
Charles Wynne, to the Hebers ; they, to your uncle Shipley, 
Dean of St Asaph's. Southey's splendid criticism, whatever 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 419 

may be the defects and deficiences of the poem, must have 
attracted at the time some other readers ; yet I believe (though 
I never heard or inquired) that they were not numerous. Frere, 
Canning, and Bobus Smith were among them. Enough for 

Within these few months, a wholesale dealer in the brittle 
crockery of market criticism has picked up some shards of it, and 
stuck them in his shelves. Among them is my Sea-Shell, which 
Wordsworth clapped into his pouch. There it became incrusted 
compost of mucus and shingle; there it lost its "pearly 
hue within, and its memory of where it had abided. 

Archdeacon Hare. But Wordsworth had the industry and 
skill to turn every thing to some account. 

Walter Landor. Perfectly true. And he is indebted to me 
for more than the value of twenty Shells : he is indebted to me 
for praise, if not more profuse, yet surely more discriminating, 
than of those critics who were collected at wakes and hired by 
party. Such hospital-nurses kill some children by starving, and 
others by pampering with unwholesome food. 

Archdeacon Hare. I have often heard you express your 
admiration of Wordsworth ; and I never heard you complain, or 
notice, that he owed any thing to you. 

Walter Landor. Truly he owes me little. My shell may be 
among the prettiest on his mantelpiece ; but a trifle it is at best. 
I often wish, in his longest poem, he had obtained an inclosure- 
act, and subdivided it. What a number of delightful idyls it 
would have afforded! It is pity that a vapor of metaphysics 
should overhang and chill any portion of so beautiful a plain ; of 
which, however, the turf would be finer and the glebe solider for , 
a moderate expenditure in draining and top-dressing. 

Archdeacon Hare. Your predilections led you to rank Southey 

Walter Landor. Wordsworth has not written three poems so 
excellent as Thalaba, the Curse of Kchama, and Roderic ; nor, 
indeed, any poem exhibiting so great a variety of powers. 
Southey had abundance of wit and humor, of which Wordsworth, 
like greater men, such, for instance, as Goethe and Milton, 
was destitute. The present age will easily pardon me for placing 
here the German and the Englishman together : the future, I 

42O Imaginary Conversations. 

sadly fear, would, without some apology, be inexorable. If 
Wordsworth wants the diversity and invention of Southey, no 
less than the humor, he wants also the same geniality belonging 
in the same degree to Cowper, with terseness and succinctness. 

Archdeacon Hare. You have often extolled, and in the 
presence of many the beauty of his rural scenes, and the truth of 
his rural characters. 

Walter Landor. And never will I forego an opportunity. In 
the delineation of such scenes and characters, far, infinitely far, 
beneath him are Virgil and Theocritus. Yet surely it is an act 
of grievous cruelty, however unintentional, in those who thrust him 
into the same rank and file with Milton. He wants muscle, 
breadth of shoulder, and height. 

Archdeacon Hare. Sometimes he may be prosaic. 

Walter Landor. He slithers on the soft mud, and cannot stop 
himself until he comes down. In his poetry there is as much of 
prose as there is of poetry in the prose of Milton. But prose 
on certain occasions can bear a great deal of poetry : on the 
other hand, poetry sinks and swoons under a moderate weight 
of prose ; and neither fan nor burned feather can bring her to 
herself again. 

It is becoming and decorous that due honors be paid to 
Wordsworth ; undue have injured him. Discriminating praise, 
mingled with calm censure, is more beneficial than lavish 
praise without it. Respect him : reverence him ; abstain from 
worshipping him. Remember, no ashes are lighter than those of 
incense, and few things burn out sooner. 

Archdeacon Hare. It appears that you yourself, of late, have 
not suffered materially by the wafting of the thurible. 

Walter Landor. Faith ! I had quite forgotten what we were 
speaking about last. 

It was about myself, I suspect, and the worthy at Edinburgh 
who reviews me. According to him, it appears that only two 
had read Gebir, namely, Southey and Mr De Quincey. 1 
have mentioned a few others. I might have added Coleridge, to 
whom Southey lent it, and who praised it even more enthu- 
siastically, until he once found Southey reciting a part of it in 
company ; after which, I am told, he never mentioned it, or 
slightly. In the year of its publication, Carey, translator of Dante, 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 421 

.used it. His opinion of it I keep to myself, as one among 
the few which I value. This was long before Mr De Quincey 
knew Soother. It is marvellous that a man of so retentive a 
memory as Southey should have forgotten a thing to which he 
himself had given its importance : it is less so that Mr De 
Quincey imagined it, under the influence of that narcotic the 
effects of which he so ingenuously and so well described, before 
he exhibited this illustration. 

He had another imaginary conversation with Southey, in which 

agree that Gebtr very much resembled the Argonauiics of 

ius Flaccus. Hearing of this, about a twelvemonth ago, I 

attempted to read that poem ; but was unsuccessful. Long before, 

and when my will was stronger, I foundered in the midst of 

Statius. Happily, in my school-days I had mastered Lucan and 


Archdeacon Hare. They are grandly declamatory ; but decla- 
mation overlays and strangles poetry, and disfigures even satire. 

Walter l^andor. Reserving the two mentioned, and Martial, 
I doubt whether the most speculative magazine-man would 
hazard five pounds for the same quantity of English poetry 
(rightly called letter-press) as all the other post-Ovidian poets 
have left behind. After the banishment of Ovid, hardly a breath 
of pure poetry breathed over the Campagna di Roma. Declama- 
tion was spouted in floodgate verse : Juvenal and Lucan are high 
in that school, in which, at the close of the poetical day, was heard 
the street cow-horn of Statius. 

Archdeacon Hare. Even for the company of such as these, I 
think I would have left the Reeker in Auld Reekie. Flies are 
only the more troublesome and importunate for being driven off, 
and they will keep up with your horse, however hard you ride, 
without any speed or potency of their own. 

-.her Landor. True ; but people who sell unsound wares, 
and use false scales and measures, ought to be pointed out and put 
down, although we ourselves may be rich enough to lose an ounce 
or two by their filching. 

Archdeacon Hare. No one ever falls among a crowd of literary 
men without repenting of it sooner or later. You may encounter 
a single hound outside the kennel ; but there is danger if you 
enter in among them, even with a kind intention and a bland 

422 Imaginary Conversations. 

Walter Landor. It must be a dog in the distemper that raises 
up his spine at me. I have spoken favorably of many an author ; 
undeservedly, of none : therefore both at home and abroad I have 
received honorary visits from my countrymen and from foreigners. 

Archdeacon Hare. Possibly there may be some of them incon- 
tinent of the acrimonious humor pricking them in the paroxysm 
of wit. I know not whether there be any indication of it in the 
soil under your shovel. Grains of wit, however, may sometimes be 
found in petulance, as grains of gold in quartz ; but petulance is 
not wit nor quartz gold. 

Are you aware how much thought you have here been throw- 
ing away ? 

Walter Landor. My dear friend ! thought is never thrown 
away : wherever it falls, or runs, or rests, it fertilizes. I speak 
not of that thought which has evil in it, or which tends to evil, 
but of that which is the exercise of intellect on the elevated and 
healthy training-ground of truth. We descend ; and, as we 
descend, we may strike off the head of a thistle, or blow away the 
wandering seed of a dandelion which comes against the face ; but, 
in a moment, forgetting them totally, we carry home with us 
freshness and strength. 

Archdeacon Hare. I have never known you, at any former 
time, take much trouble about your literary concerns. 

Walter Landor. Never have I descended to repel an attack, 
and never will ; but I must defend the understanoUng and con- 
sistency of a wiser and better man in Southey. Never have I 
feared that a little and loose petard would burst or unhinge the 
gates of my fortress, or that a light culverin at a vast distance 
below would dismantle or reach the battlements. 

Archdeacon Hare. It is dangerous to break into a park where 
the paling is high ; for it may be difficult to find the way out 
again, or to escape the penalty of transgression. You never before 
spoke a syllable about your Shell. 

Walter Landor. The swallow builds her nest under a Doric 
architrave, but does not build it of the same materials. 

Archdeacon Hare. It is amusing to observe the off-hand facility 
and intrepid assurance with which small writers attack the greater, 
as small birds do, pursuing them the more vociferously the higher 
the flight. Milton stooped and struck down two or three of these 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 423 

obstreperous chatterers, of which the feathers he scattered are all 
that remains ; and these are curiosities. 

It is moroseness to scowl at the levity of impudence ; it is 
affability, not without wisdom, to be amused by it. Graver men, 
critics of note, have seen very indistinctly where the sun has been 
too bright for them. Gifford, the translator of Juvenal, who 
was often so grave that ordinary people took him for judicious, 
thought wit the better part of Shakspeare, and in which alone 
he was superior to his contemporaries. Another finds him sadly 
deficient in his female characters. Johnson's ear was insensible to 
Milton's diapason ; and in his Life of Somerville he says, 

If blank verse be not tumid and gorgeous, it is crippled 

Walter Landor. Johnson had somewhat of the medlar in his 
nature : one side hard and austere, the other side unsound. We 
call him affected for his turgidity : this was not affected ; it was 
the most natural part of him. He hated both affectation and 

Archdeacon Hare. Two things intolerable, whether in prose 
or poetry. Wordsworth is guiltless at least of affectation. 

Walter Landor. True ; but he often is as tame as an abbess's 
cat, which in kittcnhood has undergone the same operation as the 
Holy Father's choristers. 

Archdeacon Hare. Sometimes, indeed, he might be more 
succinct. A belt is good for the breath, and without it we fail 
in the long run. And yet a man will always be more looked at 
whose dress flutters in the air than he whose dress sits tight upon 
him ; but he will soon be left on the roadside. Wherever there 
is a word beyond what is requisite to express the meaning, that 
word must be peculiarly beautiful in itself or strikingly harmonious ; 
either of which qualities may be of some service in fixing the 
attention and enforcing the sentiment. But the proper word in 
the proper place seldom leaves any thing to be desiderated on the 
score of harmony. The beauty of health and strength is more 
attractive and impressive than any beauty conferred by ornament. 
I know the delight you feel, not only in Milton's immortal verse, 
but (although less) in Wordsworth's. 

Walter Landor. A Mozart to a Handel ! But who is not 
charmed by the melody of Mozart ? Critics have their favontes 

424 Imaginary Conversations. 

and, like the same rank of people at elections, they chair one 
candidate and pelt another. 

Archdeacon Hare. A smaller object may be so placed before 
a greater as to intercept the view of it in its just proportions. 
This is the favorite manoeuvre in the Review-field. Fierce 
malignity is growing out of date. Nothing but fairness is spoken 
of ; regret at the exposure of faults, real or imaginary, has taken 
the place of derision, sarcasm, and arrogant condemnation. 
Nothing was wanting to Byron's consistency when he had ex- 
pressed his contempt of Shakspeare. 

Walter Landor. GifFords, who sniffed at the unsavory skirts 
of Juvenal, and took delight in paddling among the bubbles of 
azote, no longer ply the trade of critics to the same advantage. 
Generosity, in truth or semblance, is expected and required. 
Chattertons may die in poverty and despair ; but Keatses are ex- 
posed no longer to a lingering death under that poison which 
paralyzes the heart, contempt. 

Archdeacon Hare. In youth the appetite for fame is strongest. 
It is cruel and inhuman to withhold the sustenance which is 
necessary to the growth, if not the existence, of genius, 
sympathy, encouragement, commendation. Praise is not fame ; 
but the praise of the intelligent is its precursor. Vaticide is no 
crime in the statute-book : but a crime, and a heavy crime, it is ; 
and the rescue of a poet from a murderous enemy, although 
there is no oaken crown decreed for it, is among the higher 

Walter Landor. Many will pass by; many will take the 
other side; many will cherish the less deserving: but some 
one, considerate and compassionate, will raise up the neglected ; 
and, where a strong hand does it, several less strong will presently 
be ready to help. Alas ! not always. There is nothing in the 
ruins of Rome which throws so chilling a shadow over the heart 
as the monument of Keats. 

Our field of poetry at the present time is both wider and 
better cultivated than it has ever been. But if the tyrant of old 
who walked into the growing corn, to inculcate a lesson of order 
by striking off the heads of the higher poppies, were to enter 
ours, he would lay aside his stick, so nearly on a level is the 
crop. Every year there is more good poetry written now, in 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 425 

this our country, than was written between the Metamorphoses 
and the Divina Commcdia. We walk no longer in the cast-off 
clothes of the ancients, often ill sewn at first, and now ill-fitting. 
\Vc h.ivc pulpier hVsh, stouter limbs ; we take longer walks, ex- 
plore wider fields, and surmount more craggy and more lofty 
eminences. From these let us take a leisurely look at Fancy 
and Imagination. Your friend Wordsworth was induced to 
his minor poems under the separate heads of these two, 
probably at the suggestion of Coleridge, who persuaded him, as 
M himself told me, to adopt the name of Lyrical Ballads. He 
was sorry, he said, that he took the advice. And well he might 
be ; for lyre and ballad belong not to the same age or the same 
people. It would have puzzled Coleridge to have drawn a 
straight boundary-line between the domains of Fancy and those 
of Imagination, on a careful survey of these pieces ; or perhaps 
to have given a satisfactory definition of their qualities. 
Archdeacon Hare. Do you believe you yourself can ? 
Walter Landor. I doubt it. The face is not the same, but 
the resemblance is sisterly ; and, even by the oldest friends 
and intimates of the family, one is often taken for the other, so 
nearly are they alike. Fancy is Imagination in her youth and 
adolescence. Fancy is always excursive ; Imagination, not seldom, 
is sedate. It is the business of Imagination, in her maturity, to 
create and animate such beings as are worthy of her plastic hand ; 
certainly not by invisible wires to put marionettes in motion, nor 
to pin butterflies on blotting-paper. Vigorous thought, elevated 
sentiment, just expression, development of character, power to 
bring man out from the secret haunts of his soul, and to place 
him in strong outline against the sky, belong to Imagination. 
Fancy is thought to dwell among the Fairies and their congeners ; 
and they frequendy lead the weak and ductile poet far astray. 
He is fond of playing at tittle-go among them ; and, when he grows 
bolder, he acts among the Witches and other such creatures ; but 
his hankering after the Fairies still continues. Their tiny rings, 
in which the intelligent see only the growth of funguses, are no 
arena for action and passion. It was not in these circles that 
Homer and jEschylus and Dante strove. 

Archdeacon Jferv. But Shakespeare sometimes entered them, 
who, with infinitely greater power, moulded his composite and 

426 Imaginary Conversations. 

consistent man, breathing into him an immortality never to be 

Walter Landor. Shakespeare's full strength and activity were 
exerted on Macbeth and Othello: he trifled with Ariel and 
Titania ; he played with Caliban ; but no other would have 
thought of playing with him, any more than of playing with 
Cerberus. Shakespeare and Milton and Chaucer have more 
imagination than any of those to whom the quality is peculiarly 
attributed. It is not inconsistent with vigor and gravity. There 
may be a large and effuse light without 

" The motes that people the sunbeams." 

Imagination follows the steps of Homer throughout the Troad, 
from the ships on the strand to Priam and Helen on the city- 
wall. Imagination played with the baby Astyanax at the de- 
parture of Hector from Andromache ; and was present at the 
noblest scene of the Iliad, where, to repeat a verse of Cowper's 
on Achilles, more beautiful than Homer's own, 

" His hand he placed 
On the old man's hand, and pushed h gently aii-ay. 

No less potently does Imagination urge -flLschylus on, from 
the range of beacons to the bath of Agamemnon ; nor expand 
less potently the vulture's wing over the lacerated bosom on the 
rocks of Caucasus. With the earliest flowers of the freshly 
created earth, Imagination strewed the nuptial couch of Eve. 
Not Ariel, nor Caliban, nor Witches who ruled the elements, 
but Eve and Satan and Prometheus, are the most wondrous and 
the most glorious of her works. Imagination takes the weaker 
hand of Vigil out of Dante's who grasps it, and guides the 
Florentine exile through the triple world. 

Archdeacon Hare. Whatever be your enthusiasm for the 
great old masters, you must often feel, if less of so strong an 
impulse, yet a cordial self-congratulation in having bestowed so 
many eulogies on poetical contemporaries, and on others whose 
genius is apart from poetry. 

Walter Landor. Indeed I do. Every meed of Justice is 
delivered out of her own full scale. The poets, and others who 
may rank with them, indeed, all the great men, have borne 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 427 

towards me somewhat more than civility. The few rudenesses I 
over heard of are from such as neither I nor you ever meet 
in society, and such as warm their fingers and stomachs round less 
ornamental hearths. 

When they to whom we have been unknown, or indifferent, 
begin to speak a little well of us, we are sure to find some honest 
old friend ready to trim the balance. I have had occasion to 
smile at this. 

Archdeacon Hare. We sometimes stumble upon sly invidi- 
ousness and smouldering malignity, quite unexpectedly, and in 
places which we should have believed were above the influence of 
such malaria. When Prosperity pays to Wisdom her visit in 
state, would we not, rather than halloo the yard-dog against her, 
clear the way for her, and adorn the door with garlands ? How 
fond arc people in general of clinging to a great man's foibles ! 
they can climb no higher. It is not the solid, it is the carious, 
that grubs feed upon. 

Waiter Landor. The practice of barring out the master is 
still continued in the world's great school-room. Our sturdy 
boys do not fear a flogging : they fear only a book or a lecture. 

Archdeacon Hare. Authors are like cattle going to a fair: 
those of the same field can never move on without butting one 

Walter Landor. It has been my fortune and felicity, from 
my earliest days to have avoided all competitions. My tutor 
at Oxford could never persuade me to write a piece of Latin 
poetry for the prize, earnest as he was that his pupil should be a 
winner at the forthcoming Enctma. Poetry was always my 
amusement ; prose, my study and business. I have published 
five volumes of Imaginary Conversations: cut the worst of them 
through the middle, and there will remain in this <lecima 
fraction quite enough to satisfy my appetite for fame. 
dine late ; but the dining-room will be well lighted, the guests 
few and select. - 

In this age of discovery it may haply be discovered who first 
among our Cisalpine nations led Greek to converse like Oreek, 
Roman like Roman, in poetry or prose. Gentlemen of 
have patronized them occasionally,-have taken them under the 
arm, have recommended their own tailor, their own perfumer, 

428 Imaginary Conversations. 

and have lighted a cigar for them from their own at the door of 
the Traveller's or Athenaum : there they parted. 

Archdeacon Hare. Before we go into the house again, let me 
revert to what you seem to have forgotten, the hasty and inac- 
curate remarks on Gelir. 

Walter Landor. It is hardly worth our while. Evidently 
they were written by a very young person, who, with a little 
encouragement, and induced to place his confidence in somewhat 
safer investment than himself, may presently do better things. 

Archdeacon Hare. Southey too, I remember, calls the poem 
in some parts obscure. 

Walter Landor. It must be, if Southey found it so. I never 
thought of asking him where lies the obscurity ; I would have 
attempted to correct whatever he disapproved. 

Archdeacon Hare. He himself, the clearest of writers, pro- 
fesses that he imitated your versification ; and the style of his 
Colloquies is in some degree modified by yours. 

Waller Landor. Little cause had he for preferring any other 
to his own. 

Perhaps the indicium ore alio is my obscurity. Goethe is 
acknowledged by his highest admirers to be obscure in several 
places ; which he thinks a poet may and should be occasion- 
ally. I differ from him, and would avoid it everywhere : he 
could see in the dark. This great poet carries it with him 
so far as into epigram. I now regret that I profited so little 
by the calm acuteness of Southey. In what poet of the last 
nineteen centuries, who has written so much, is there less 
intermixture of prose, or less contamination of conceit ? In what 
critic, who has criticised so many, less of severity or assumption ? 

I would never fly for shelter under the strongest wing ; but 
you know that commentators, age after age, have found obscurities 
in Pindar, in Dante, and in Shakespeare. 

Archdeacon Hare. And it is not in every place the effect of 
time. You have been accused, I hear, either by this writer or 
some such another, of turgidity. 

Walter Landor. Certainly by this : do not imagine there is 
anywhere such another. 

Archdeacon Hare. Without a compliment, no poet of ours is 
less turgid. Guests may dispense with pottage and puff-paste, 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 429 

\vith radishes and water-cresses, with salad and cream-cheese, who 
" implentur veteris bacchi pinguisque ferinae." 

::r Landor. Encouraged by your commendation, let me 
read to you (for I think I placed it this evening in my pocket) 
what was transcribed for me as a curiosity, out of the same Article. 
Yes j here it is : 

Hi* great defect is a certain crudeness of the judgment, implied in the 
election of the subject-matter, and a further want of skill and perspicuity 
in the treatment. Except in a few passages, it has none of those peculiar 
graces of style and sentiment which render the writings of our more pro- 
minent modern authors so generally delightful." 

Archdeacon Hare. Opinion on most matters, but chiefly on 
literary, and, all above, on poetical, seems to me like an empty 
eggshell in a duck-pond, turned on its stagnant water by the 
slightest breath of air ; at one moment the cracked side nearer to 
sight, at another the sounder, but the emptiness at all times 

Is your detractor a brother poet. 

Walter Landor. An incipient one he may be. Poets in that 
stage of existence, subject to sad maladies, kick hard for life, and 
scratch the nurse's face. Like some trees, fir trees, for 
instance, they must attain a certain height and girth before they 
are terviceablt or sightly. 

Archdeacon Hare. The weakest wines fall soonest into the 
acetous fermentation : the more generous retain their sweetness 
with their strength. Somewhat of this diversity is observable in 
smaller wits and greater, more especially in the warm climate 
where poetry is the cultivation. 

.her Londor. The ancients often hung their trophies on 
obtruncated and rotten trees: we may do the like at present, 
leaving our enemies for sepulture. 

Archdeacon Hare. Envy of pre-eminence is universal and ever- 
lasting. Little men, whenever they find an opportunity, follow 
the steps of greater in this dark declivity. The apple of discord 
was full-grown soon after the creation. It fell between the two 
first brothers in the garden of Eden ; it fell between two later on 
the plain of Thebes. Narrow was the interval, when again it 
gleamed portentously on the short grass of Ida. .It rolled into 
the palace of Pella, dividing Philip and " Philip's godlike son ; 

430 Imaginary Conversations. 

it followed that insatible youth to the extremities of his conquests, 
and even to his sepulchre ; then it broke the invincible phalanx 
and scattered the captains wide apart. It lay in the gates of 
Carthage, so that they could not close against the enemy ; it lay 
between the generous and agnate families of Scipio and Gracchus. 
Marius and Sulla, Julius and Pompeius, Octavius and Antonius, 
were not the last who experienced its fatal malignity. King 
imprisoned king ; emperor stabbed emperor ; pope poisoned pope, 
contending for God's vicegerency. The roll-call of their names, 
with a cross against each, is rotting in the lumber-room of history. 
Do not wonder, then, if one of the rabble runs after you from the 
hustings, and, committing no worse mischief, snatches at the 
colors in your hatband. 

Walter Landor. Others have snatched more. My quarry lies 
upon a high common a good way from the public road, and every- 
body takes out of it what he pleases " with privy paw, and nothing 
said " beyond, A curse on the old fellow! how hard his granite is ! 
one can never make it jit." This is all I get of quit-rent or 
acknowledgment. I know of a poacher who noosed a rabbit on 
my warren, and I am told he made such a fricassee of it that 
there was no taste of rabbit or sauce. I never had him taken 
up : he is at large, dressed in new clothes, and worth money. 

Archdeacon Hare. Your manors are extensive, comprehending 

" Prata, arva, ingentes sylvas, saltusque paludesque 
Usque ad oceanum." 

Walter Landor. I never drive the poor away, if they come 
after dry sticks only; but they must not with impunity lop or 
bum my plantations. 

Archdeacon Hare. I regret that your correspondent was 
sickened or tired of transcribing. 

Walter Landor. Here is another slip from the same crab- 
tree. It is objected that most of my poems are occasional. 

Archdeacon Hare. In number they may be ; but in quantity 
of material 1 doubt whether they constitute a seventh. We will 
look presently, and we shall find perhaps that the gentleman is 
unlucky at his game of hazard. 

Walter Landor. Certainly his play is not deep. We who are 
sober dare not sit down at a table where a character may be lost at 

Archdeacon Hare and Walter Landor. 431 

a cast : they alone are so courageous who have nothing to be 
seized on. 

Archdeacon Hare. The gentleman sweeps the cloth with little 
caution and less calculation. Of your poems, the smaller alone 
are occasional : now not only are the smaller, but the best, of 
Catullus and Horace, and all of Pindar. Were not the speeches 
of Lysias, jEschincs, Demosthenes, occasional ? Draw nearer 
home: what but occasional were the Letters of Junius? 
Materiem svjxrabat opus. 

Walter Landor, True. The ministers and their king are 
now mould and worms: they were little better when above- 
ground ; but the bag-wig and point-lace of Junius are suspended 
aloft upon a golden peg, for curiosity and admiration. 

ArcLiltacon Hare. Regarding the occasional in poetry, is 
there less merit in taking and treating what is before us, than 
in seeking and wandering through an open field as we would for 
mushrooms ? 

Walter Landor. \ stand out a rude rock in the middle of a 

, with no exotic or parasitical plant on it, and few others. 

Eddies and dimples and froth and bubbles pass rapidly by, 

without shaking me. Here, indeed, is little room for pic-nic 

and polka, 

Archdeacon Hare. Praise and censure are received by you with 
nearly the same indifference. 

Walter Landor. Not yours. Praise on poetry, said to be the 
most exhilarating of allj affects my brain but little. Certainly, I 
never attempted to snatch " the peculiar graces so generally de- 
lightful." My rusticity has at least thus much of modesty in it. 

Archdeacon Hare. 

"The richest flowers hare not most honey-cells. 
You seldom find the bee about the rose. 
Oftcner the beetle eating into it. 
The tiolet leas attracts the noisy hum 
Than the minute and poisonous bloom of box. 
Poets know this ; Nature's invited guests 
Draw near and note it down and ponder it ; 
The Idler sect it, sees unheedingly, 
Unheedingly the rifler of the hive." 

your critic wiser, more experienced, and of a more poetical 
mind than Southey ? Utri horum crtdit'u, Qu'tntes ? 

432 Imaginary Conversations. 

Vanity and presumption are not always the worst parts of 
the man they take possession of, although they are usually 
the most prominent. Malignity sticks as closely to him, and 
keeps more cautiously out of sight. Sorry I have often 
been to see a fellow-Christian one of much intellect and 
much worth, one charitable to the poor, one attendant on 
the sick, one compassionate with the sufferer, one who never 
is excited to anger, but by another's wrongs enjoying a 
secret pleasure in saying unpleasant things at no call of duty ; 
inflicting wounds which may be long before they heal ; and not 
only to those who are unfriendly or unknown, but likewise to the 
nearest and the friendliest. Meanwhile those who perhaps are 
less observant of our ritual not only abstain from so sinful an 
indulgence, but appear to be guided in their demeanor by the 
less imperative and less authoritative dictate of philosophy. I 
need not exhort or advise you, who have always done it, to 
disregard the insignificant and obscure, so distant from you, so 
incapable of approaching you. Only look before you at this 
instant ; and receive a lesson from Nature, who is able and ready 
at all times to teach us, and to teach men wiser than we are. 
Unwholesome exhalations creep over the low marshes of Peven- 
sey ; but they ascend not to Beachyhead nor to Hurstmonceaux. 



Land or, Walter Savage 

Imaginary conversations