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Aiguille de Charmoz, rear their heads into the clouds immediately above the Mer de Glace. The glacier is much more extensive, and the surrounding mountains more sublime, than the immediate accompaniments of the glacier des Bossons. But it has none of the same beauty or singularity of form, and the ice is generally dirty and discoloured by decomposed rock and earth.
Mont Blanc and the glaciers are, at Chamounix, the same all-engrossing objects which the sea forms at a bathing-place in England, or the grand saloon and gaming-table at a bathing-place in Germany. All conversation, all plans, all inquiries, have some reference to these all-interesting objects. You look for the hoary summit of Mont Blanc as soon as you open your window in the morning, and never miss the rays of the dying sun reflected on it in the evening. It forms the barometer of the guides, whose weather-wisdom predicts bad weather when the clouds rest on the summit, or, as they say, when the Mont Blanc puts on his cap; and you find a cluster of guides and travellers standing about the inns, and examining and discussing the aspect of the mountain, whether the snow has increased or diminished in the night, tracing and pointing out the localities of every rock and fissure, and every bearing of its topography, with an interest and busy admiration which every individual partakes. The concourse of visitors is so great during three or four months in the summer, that this valley, where the snow lies for nine months in the year, and which is hemmed in by barriers of mountain and ice on all sides, affords two of the neatest and most comfortable inns that I know on the Continent, with good beds, and a good table at which we used to sit down to a very pleasant dinner at six o'clock, in a society, male and female, entirely English. Conversation was very animated of course, turning principally on the natural wonders around us, and the excursions projected or executed by the various individuals.
The guides at Chamounix are a very peculiar race of people : active, intelligent, and obliging, with a good knowledge of the country, and often a considerable smattering of mineralogy and natural history. To the common quickness and smartness of the Savoyard character, they add a considerable acquaintance with the world from their intercourse with persons of all countries. François Simon accompanied us for many days, and we took leave of him with great regret at Martigny. He as well as most of his compeers was a rigid Catholic, exact in his meagre-days and masses, and his obeisances and cloffings of the cap to every chapel and crucifix. Indulgences and remissions of stated numbers of days in purgatory are proclaimed very liberally on crosses and posts around Chamounix, to all the faithful who shall say an are or a credo before the said crosses or posts. These proclamations are in the name of his excellency the Cardinal Bishop of the diocese; and our friend Simon assured us gravely that he reckoned on laying up in the whole a very important store of redeemed days to set off against the future account against him. Two Catholic priests are resident in the valley, who are apparently very attentive to their parochial duties in instructing the children and attending the sick. One of them with whom we conversed, was a well-informed and sensible man. Every thing we heard and saw would lead us to augur well of the morals and simple habits of these secluded mountaineers.
PORTRAIT OF A SEPTUAGENARY; BY HIMSELF. “ I will conduct you to a hill-side, laborious indeed at the first ascent, but else so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospects and melodious sounds, that the harp of Orpheus was not half so charming.'
AFTER all the critical denunciations against the unfortunate wight, who suffered the smallest inkling of himself or his affairs to transpire in his writings ;-after the pretty general confinement of Auto-biography to players, courtesans, and adventurers ;-after the long absorption of individuality in the royal and literary plural we, the age has at last adopted the right legitimate Spanish formula of " I the King": our writers, from Lord Byron downwards, have become their own heroes, either direct or allegorized ; and if any one will cast his eye over the columns of our periodical literature, he will find one half of the articles to be personal narratives, or auto-biography in some of its innumerable ramifications. If self-preservation be the first law of nature, self-description seems now to be the second, and we may fairly pronounce the present to be the golden age of Egotism. 1, for one, do not complain of this, provided it be done with talent; for a long familiarity with literature has produced its usual effects upon me, making me more solicitous as to the manner than the matter; and as a good horse cannot be of a bad colour, so I hold that an able writer can hardly have a bad subject. We can scarcely expeet so much talent, and we need hardly require so much frankness, as characterised the Confessions of Rousseau, for no paper could fail to be interesting if it gave a faithful transcript of the author's mind. We have enough of dates and registers, and the freaks of fortune, and all the changes and ills that flesh is heir to; but it appears to me, that we are very scantily supplied with histories of mind. Mr. Coleridge, indeed, has given us “ a psychological curiosity,” but as it has reference only to one eventful night, it serves to stimulate rather than allay our appetite for similar revelations. Some of our youngest writers, who can have experienced little vicissitude of mental or bodily estate, indulge in the most trivial detail of personal matter :—may not I then, a not unobservant veteran, record the life of my mind, (if I may so express myself) with as much privilege and immunity as is conceded to these chroniclers of external and physical existence? “That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold;" and thus inspired, I shall proceed to give a sketch of the progress of my mind, so far as I have myself been enabled to pronounce judgment upon it, suppressing some things, but mis-stating none; and occasionally indulging in those diffusive and desultory wanderings which my own experience has proved to be almost inevitable ingredients in the character of a Septuagenary.
Few men perhaps are better qualified for this task; for owing to a defective memory, I have, from a very early age, been in the habit of keeping a Journal, not of facts only, but of feelings, thoughts, and impressions ; and thus I may be said never to have forgotten any thing, or, if I had forgotten it, always to have possessed the power of recovering what I had lost, by a reference to my Diary. Mysterious operation !--Certain hieroglyphics are marked upon paper with a black liquid, which, after a lapse of years, shall have the power
penetrating through the eyes into the sensorium, and of calling up from their
VOL. IV. NO, XV.
sleep recollections which, but for this summons, would have slumbered for ever.
Sometimes these reminiscences have brought up with them roots and off-shoots, and minute appendages of time, place, and circumstance, of which no record existed on paper; but which, unknown to myself, had lain buried in the tenacious soil of even an infirm memory, quietly awaiting the uprising of that master-thought with whose fibres they were intertwined. What an infinite series of such thoughts and images must be stored up in the vast repertory of memory; all, too, so admirably classed, and ticketed, and arranged, that even after the accumulation of years, each is capable of being called up from its hiding-place by a simple, unfelt, and instantaneous act of volition! A Journal is a valuable stimulant to this incomprehensible faculty. A basin of water thrown down a pump, of which the sucker is dry, places at your disposal the inexhaustible fountains of the earth, and a similar outpouring of the past may frequently be procured by the expansion which an old Diary gives to the memory.
Locke is considered as having set at rest the question of innate ideas, but not with me. I was never more convinced by his arguments than pleased with his cumbrous, rambling, and illogical style ; and besides I had, or fancied that I had, proofs in my own experience which upset all his reasoning; for fancies, and imaginations, and dreams, have presented to me combinations which could never have arisen from any external operations in this world, and appeared to me to justify strong presumptions of an ante-natal existence. They were the twilight of a sun that had set—the flutterings of a bird not yet reconciled to his new cage--the convulsions of a spirit in the crisis of transmutation—the yearnings of a soul looking back to the race it had run, before it fully entered upon its new career.
There is nothing preposterous in supposing, that the soul of man is too precious a relic to be inclosed in only one evanescent shrine; while it is hardly consistent with reason or justice, to suppose that its eternal doom, whether for good or ill, can be merited by that fleeting probation to which one human life is limited. What are we to march out of the invisible into the visible world, play our short and sorry pranks, and then return into invisibility, like the figures of a phantasmagoria, which start from the darkness to grin, and mock, and move, and “ squeak and gibber," and then shrink up again into darkness ? Like the performers in a grand theatric procession, we may come in at one door, and having the cradle and the coffin for our O. P. and P. S. strut across the stage of life in all the dignity of tinsel trappings, and so out at the other ; but who shall assure us, that, like the same performers, we may not occasionally run round behind the scenes of the graves, return to the first entrance, and repeat our procession ?-Ay, who shall warrant us against these new incarnations of the old spirit, like the Avatars of the Hindoo God, or the platonic metempsychosis, not however into animal forms, but a new human one, another and the same? I have never been wholly satisfied with the great object of most men's speculation—the looking forward and conjecturing what we are to be in a future world; but have been not less anxious to know what we have been in the past one. I have invoked all the Gods---" quibus imperium est animarum, umbræque silentes, et Chaos et Phlegethon,” that by their auspices I might be enabled—“ pandere res alta terrâ et caligine mersas ;" imploring them to draw up the veil that I might look backward, and have revealed to me
che domains, and appearances, and modes of being in the great Antenatal Infinite. Some one has inscribed in the Catacombs at Paris, “ Rogas ubi post obitum jaceas! ubi non nata jacent!”—but where is this boundless and yet undiscoverable land—this real terra incognita ? The earth has swallowed up and decomposed all that has hitherto existed ; but what encampment is vast enough to contain the marshalled myriads waiting to be called into existence, for we cannot boast, whatever Ovid might, that “one half of round eternity is ours." The world is probably young, just starting on the race of eternity, to which its present existence may bear the same proportion as a grain of sand to itself; and the number of human beings hitherto born, will, of course, be in the same ratio to those not yet animated. Psha ! it is a vain and fantastical speculation ; our faculties are limited, and we may lose the enjoyment of what is proffered by straining too ardently after what is withheld, like the dog who snatched at a reflection in the water and lost his dinner, or the wiseacre who wasted a summer morning in strenuous endeavours to leap beyond his shadow. Yes, such researches, by raising our eyes from the realities of life, may betray us into danger. Thales, the Milesian, while gazing at the moon, fell into a pond : " had you looked into the water," said a countryman to him,"
you might have seen the moon, but by gazing on the moon you could
never have seen the pond.”
I told you I should be desultory and discursive-my signature implies it. Bear with me, Mr. Editor; “ for you yourself are old,” in fame though not in years :~" dum numerat palmas, credidit esse senem.” I proceed to my purpose. Your columns would be inundated were I to pour into them a tithe of the matter which an active mind, and rather an idle life, have accumulated in my Journal; aware, however, that you can grant me but a limited space, I shall only give you a very loose sketch, or summary of the whole, which, for the purpose of condensation, I shall throw into large masses of time, and in conformity to this arrangement, I shall briefly sum up
The first Twenty Years of my Life. There are few things more awful than an infant, bearing, as it always appears to me, the fresh touches of the Creator's hand about it, and being all over redolent of Heaven. With the notions which I entertain of pre-existence, the smile of one of these little cherubs is a pregnant revelation from the regions of bliss ; an antepast of that millenium when sin shall be no more, when the lamb shall lie down with the lion, and the kid with the wolf. How sweet to contemplate those beautiful frames in which an immortal soul is enshrined, before it is agitated by the passions, or debased by crime. What a compound of the angelic and human nature! how lovely as an object; how interesting as a mysterious problem! The appeal of infant innocence is irresistible: infants are mighty in their very helplessness. What must they be then, when, to all these touching sympathies, is added the powerful instinct of parental affection? I call it instinct advisedly, for it will be found that nature is an economist, even of the affections, and proportions them pretty accurately to the wants of the object. Hence it is strongest in the human subject, for no animal is born in so helpless a state, or so long requires assistance. It is more powerful in the mother, because the child is more dependant upon her ministering offices; and in her it is generally most intense towards the deformed in body or mind, the rickety or the ideotic;—not from any perverse or deficient judgment, but from a watchful impulse of nature directing her tenderness in that channel where it is the most needed. Preservation of the species seems to be the pervading principle of the world; and it is wonderful to reflect how actively and perpetually this agency is at work without our being conscious of its presence. Birds and beasts, when they have answered the great purpose of temporary protection, lose this instinct, previously so acute; they even cease to have the smallest recognition of their offspring, and though the pride of man revolts from any analogies drawn from the animal kingdom, I believe that in many of their leading tendencies there is a marvellous accordance between them. Thus I apprehend that parental affection progressively weakens as it ceases to be required; and though a sense of benefits conferred or received may substitute a lively sentiment or principle of friendship, it is no longer an instinct about the preservation of which nature is solicitous. Were our feelings upon these points governed by justice or a balance of benefits, they would be much more powerful towards our parents than our offspring ; but the reverse is notoriously the case.
I am happy to say that I was rather a stupid boy, and in defiance of the poet's maxim, that “the child's the father of the man,” I am prepared to maintain that I ceased to be thus obtuse long before I bad any claim to the toga virilis. Precocity is generally an indication of disease ; and it has been very safely predicated of infant prodigies that they rarely grow up clever, because, in fact, they rarely grow up at all. They “o'er-inform their tenement of clay;"—the fire of intellect burns faster than the body can supply it with aliment, and so they spiritualize and evaporate. Mind and body are yoked together to pursue their mysterious journey with equal steps, nor can one outstrip the other without breaking the harness and endangering the whole machine. I would rather that my child's right shoulder should grow higher than his left, than that his mind should get the start of his body; for the former would only affect his symmetry, the latter is frequently a fatal symptom. Were all authors as ingenious as Dr. Johnson in disclaiming the juvenile miracles of wit attributed to them, the number of our really precocious writers, who have attained subsequent celebrity, would probably be extremely limited. As to solitary instances of preternatural talent in children, limited to one direction, they do not come within the scope of my argument. Such is that incomprehensible faculty of arithmetic in the celebrated Calculating Boy, who in an instant can solve problems which would be an hour's puzzle to our ablest calculators “with all appliances and means to boot," and yet this urchin cannot even explain the process by which he performs the miracle. One would imagine that by some peculiar organization of his brain, a ray of omniscience had shot athwart it, giving us a single glimpse of its divine origin, as when the clouds are opened by lightning, we appear to get a momentary peep into the glories of the innermost heaven.
With such an example of inexplicable intuition we need not despair of future striplings, who, in the intervals of peg-top and cricket, will kindly spare a moment for quadrating the circle, discovering the longitude, explaining the cause of polar attraction, and solving