Omitted Passages And Variations by Thomas De Quincey

Story type: Essay

1.–THE RHAPSODOI.

The following on the ‘Rhapsodoi’ is a variation on that which appeared in ‘Homer and the Homeridae,’ with some quite additional and new thoughts on the subject.

About these people, who they were, what relation they bore to Homer, and why they were called ‘Rhapsodoi,’ we have seen debated in Germany through the last half century with as much rabid ferocity as was ever applied to the books of a fraudulent bankrupt. Such is the natural impertinence of man. If he suspects any secret, or any base attempt to hide and conceal things from himself, he is miserable until he finds out the mystery, and especially where all the parties to it have been defunct for 2,500 years. Great indignation seems reasonably to have been felt by all German scholars that any man should presume to have called himself a rhapsodos at any period of Grecian history without sending down a sealed letter to posterity stating all the reasons which induced him to take so unaccountable a step. No possible solution, given to any conceivable question bearing upon the ‘Rhapsodoi,’ seems by any tendency to affect any question outstanding about Homer. And we do not therefore understand the propriety of intermingling this dispute with the general Homeric litigation. However, to comply with the practice of Germany, we shall throw away a few sentences upon this, as a pure ad libitum digression.

The courteous reader, whom we beg also to suppose the most ignorant of readers, by way of thus founding a necessity and a case of philosophic reasonableness for the circumstantiality of our own explanations, will be pleased to understand that by ancient traditionary usage the word rhapsodia is the designation technically applied to the several books or cantos of the ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey.’ So the word fytte has gained a technical appropriation to our narrative poetry when it takes the ballad form. Now, the Greek word rhapsody is derived from a tense of the verb rhapto, to sew as with a needle, to connect, and ode, a song, chant, or course of singing. If, therefore, you conceive of a rhapsodia, not as the opera, but as the opus of a singer, not as the form, but as the result of his official ministration, viz., as that section of a narrative poem which forms an intelligible whole in itself, whilst in a subordinate relation it is one part of a larger whole–this idea represents accurately enough the use of the word rhapsodia in the latter periods of Greek literature. Suppose the word canto to be taken in its literal etymological sense, it would indicate a metrical composition meant to be sung or chanted. But what constitutes the complexity of the idea in the word rhapsodia is that both its separate elements, the poetry and the musical delivery, are equally essential; neither is a casual, neither a subordinate, element.

Now, the ‘Rhapsodoi,’ as may be supposed, are the personal correlates of the rhapsodia. This being the poem adapted to chanting, those were the chanters. And the only important question which we can imagine to arise is, How far in any given age we may presume the functions of the poetical composer and the musical deliverer to have been united. We cannot perceive that any possible relation between a rhapsody considered as a section of a poem and the whole of that poem, or any possible relation which this same rhapsody considered as a thing to be sung or accompanied instrumentally could bear to the naked-speaking rehearsal of the same poem or to the original text of that poem, ever can affect the main question of Homer’s integrity. The ‘Rhapsodoi’ come to be mentioned at all simply as being one link in the transmission of the Homeric poems. They are found existing before Pisistratus, they are found existing after Pisistratus. And they declined exactly as the art of reading became general. We can approximate pretty closely to the time when the ‘Rhapsodoi’ ceased; but at what time they began we defy any man to say. Plato (Rep. x.) represents them as going back into the days of Homer; nay, according to Plato, Homer himself was a rhapsodos, and itinerated in that character. So was Hesiod. And two remarkable lines, ascribed to Hesiod by one of the Scholiasts upon Pindar, if we could be sure that they were genuine, settle that question:

[Greek: En Delo tote proton ego xai Homeros aoidoi
Melpomen, en nearois umnois rapsantes aoide.]

‘Then, first of all,’ says Hesiod, ‘did I and Homer chant as bards in Delos, laying the nexus of our poetic composition in proaemial hymns.’ We understand him to mean this: There were many singers and harpers who sang or accompanied the words of others; perhaps ancient words–at all events, not their own. Naturally he was anxious to have it understood that he and Homer had higher pretensions. They killed their own mutton. They composed the words as well as sang them. Where both functions were so often united in one man’s person, it became difficult to distinguish them. Our own word bard or minstrel stood in the same ambiguity. You could not tell in many cases whether the word pointed to the man’s poetic or musical faculty. Anticipating that doubt, Hesiod says that they sang as original poets. For it is a remark of Suidas, which he deduces laboriously, that poetry, being uniformly sung in the elder Greece, acquired the name of [Greek: aoide]. This term became technically appropriated to the poetry, or substance of whatever was sung, in contradistinction to the musical accompaniment. And the poet was called [Greek: aoidos] So far Hesiod twice over secures the dignity of their office from misinterpretation. And there, by the word [Greek: raphantes] he indicates the sort of poetry which they cultivated, viz., that which was expanded into long heroic narratives, and naturally connected itself both internally amongst its own parts, and externally with other poems of the same class. Thus, having separated Homer and himself from the mere musicians, next he separates them even as poets from those who simply composed hymns to the Gods. These heroic legends were known to require much more elaborate study and art. Yet, because a critical reviewer might take occasion to tax his piety in thus composing human legends in neglect of the Gods, Hesiod, forestalling him, replies: ‘You’re out there, my friend; we were both pious, and we put our piety into hymns addressed to the Gods, which, with cabinetmakers’ skill, we used also as interludes of transition from one legend to another.’ For it is noticed frequently and especially by a Scholiast on Aristophanes (Pac. 826), that generally speaking the proaemia to the different parts of narrative-poems were entirely detached, [Greek: kai ouden pros to pragma delon], and explain nothing at all that concerns the business.

2.–Mrs. Evans and the ‘Gazette.’

In his autobiographic sketch, ‘Introduction to the World of Strife,’ he tells of his brother’s enterprise in establishing the Gazette, which was to record their doings, and also of Mrs. Evans’s place on the Gazette. The following is evidently a passage which was prepared for that part of the article, but was from some cause or other omitted:

I suppose no creature ever led such a life as I led on the Gazette; sometimes running up, like Wallenstein, to the giddiest pinnacles of honour, then down again without notice or warning to the dust; cashiered–rendered incapable of ever serving H. M. again; nay, actually drummed out of the army, my uniform stripped off, and the ‘rogue’s march’ played after me. And all for what? I protest, to this hour, I have no guess. If any person knows, that person is not myself; and the reader is quite as well able to furnish guesses to me as I to him–to enlighten me upon the subject as I him.

Mrs. Evans was a very important person in the play; I don’t suppose that things could have gone on without her. For, as there was no writer in the Gazette but my brother, so there was no reader of it except Mrs. Evans. And here came in a shocking annoyance to me that, as often as any necessity occurred (which was every third day) for restoring me to my rank, since my brother would not have it supposed that he could be weak enough to initiate such an indulgence, the Gazette threw the onus of this amiable weakness, and consequently of my gratitude, upon Mrs. Evans, affirming that the major-general had received a pardon and an amnesty for all his past atrocities at the request of ‘a distinguished lady,’ who was obscurely indicated in a parenthesis as ‘the truly honourable Mrs. Evans.’ To listen to the Gazette one would have supposed that this woman, who so cordially detested me, spent her whole time in going down on her knees and making earnest supplications to the throne on my behalf. But what signified the representations of the Gazette if I knew them to be false? Aye, but I did not know that they were false. It is true that my obligations to her were quite aerial, and might, as the reader will think, have been supported without any preternatural effort. But exactly these aerial burdens, whether of gratitude or of honour, most oppressed me as being least tangible and incapable of pecuniary or other satisfaction. No sinking fund could meet them. And even the dull unimaginative woman herself, eternally held up to admiration as my resolute benefactress, got the habit (I am sure) of looking upon me as under nameless obligations to her. This raised my wrath. It was not that to my feelings the obligations were really a mere figment of pretence. On the contrary, according to my pains endured, they towered up to the clouds. But I felt that nobody had any right to load me with favours that I had never asked for, and without leave even asked from me; and the more real were the favours, the deeper the wrong done to me. I sought, therefore, for some means of retaliation. And it is odd that it was not till thirty years after that I perceived one. It then struck me that the eternal intercession might have been equally odious to her. To find herself prostrate for ever, weeping like Niobe, and, if the Gazette was to be believed, refusing to raise herself from the mud or the flinty pavement till I had been forgiven, and reinstated in my rank–ah, how loathsome that must have been to her! Ah, how loathsome the whole cycle of favours were to me, considering from whom they came! Then we had effectually plagued each other. And it was not without loud laughter, as of malice unexpectedly triumphant, that I found one night thirty years after, on regretting my powerlessness of vengeance, that, in fact, I had amply triumphed thirty years before. So, undaunted Mrs. Evans, if you live anywhere within call, listen to the assurance that all accounts are squared between us, and that we balanced our mutual debts by mutual disgust; and that, if you plagued me perversely, I plagued you unconsciously.

And though shot and bullets were forbidden fruit, yet something might be done with hard wadding. A good deal of classical literature disappeared in this way, which by one who valued no classics very highly might be called the way of all flesh. The best of authors, he contended, had better perish by this warlike consummation than by the inglorious enmity of bookworms and moths–honeycombed, as most of the books had been which had gone out to India with our two uncles. Even wadding, however, was declared to be inadmissible as too dangerous, after wounds had been inflicted more than once.

3.–A LAWSUIT LEGACY.

De Quincey, in his autobiographic sketch headed ‘Laxton,’ tells of the fortune of Miss Watson, who afterwards became Lady Carbery, and also of the legacy left to her in the form of a lawsuit by her father against the East India Company; and among his papers we find the following passage either overlooked or omitted, for some undiscoverable reason, from that paper, though it has a value in its own way as expressing some of De Quincey’s views on law and equity; and it is sufficiently characteristic to be included here:

In consequence of her long minority, Miss Watson must have succeeded at once to six thousand a year on completing her twenty-first year; and she also inherited a Chancery-suit, which sort of property is now (1853) rather at a discount in public estimation; but let the reader assure himself that even the Court of Chancery is not quite so black as it is painted; that the true ground for the delays and ruinous expenses in ninety-nine out of one hundred instances is not legal chicanery, still less the wilful circuitousness and wordiness of law processes, but the great eternal fact that, what through lapse of time, decays of memory, and loss of documents, and what through interested suppressions of truth, and the dispersions of witnesses, and causes by the score beside, the ultimate truth and equity of human disputes is a matter of prodigious perplexity; neither is there any possibility that the mass of litigations as to property ever can be made cheap except in proportion as it is made dismally imperfect.

No power that ever yet was lodged in senates or in councils could avail, ever has availed, ever will avail, to intercept the immeasurable expansion of that law which grows out of social expansion. Fast as the relations of man multiply, and the modifications of property extend, must the corresponding adaptations of the law run alongside. The pretended arrests applied to this heaving volcanic system of forces by codifications, like those of Justinian or Napoleon, had not lasted for a year before all had broke loose from its moorings, and was again going ahead with redoubling impetus. Equally delusive are the prospects held out that the new system of cheap provincial justice will be a change unconditionally for the better. Already the complaints against it are such in bitterness and extent as to show that in very many cases it must be regarded as a failure; and, where it is not, that it must be regarded as a compromise: once you had 8 degrees of the advantage X, 4 of Y; now you have 7 of X, 5 of Y.

4.–THE TRUE JUSTIFICATIONS OF WAR.

The following was evidently intended to appear in the article on War:

‘Most of what has been written on this subject (the cruelty of war), in connection with the apparently fierce ethics of the Old Testament, is (with submission to sentimentalists) false and profoundly unphilosophic. It is of the same feeble character as the flashy modern moralizations upon War. The true justifications of war lie far below the depths of any soundings taken upon the charts of effeminate earth-born ethics. And ethics of God, the Scriptural ethics, search into depths that are older and less measurable, contemplate interests that are more mysterious and entangled with perils more awful than merely human philosophy has resources for appreciating. It is not at all impossible that a crisis has sometimes arisen for the human race, in which its capital interest may be said to have ridden at single anchor. Upon the issue of a single struggle between the powers of light and darkness–upon a motion, a bias, an impulse given this way or that–all may have been staked. Out of Judaism came Christianity, and the mere possibility of Christianity. From elder stages of the Hebrew race, hidden in thick darkness to us, descended the only pure glimpse allowed to man of God’s nature. Traditionally, but through many generations, and fighting at every stage with storms or with perils more than ever were revealed to us, this idea of God, this holy seed of truth, like some secret jewel passing onwards through armies of robbers, made its way downward to an age in which it became the matrix of Christianity. The solitary acorn had reached in safety the particular soil in which it was first capable of expanding into a forest. The narrow, but at the same time austere, truth of Judaism, furnished the basis which by magic, as it were, burst suddenly and expanded into a vast superstructure, no longer fitted for the apprehension of one single unamiable race, but offering shelter and repose to the whole family of man. These things are most remarkable about this memorable trans-migration of one faith into another, of an imperfect into a perfect religion, viz., that the early stage had but a slight resemblance to the latter, nor could have prefigured it to a human sagacity more than a larva could prefigure a chrysalis; and, secondly, that whereas the product, viz., Christianity, never has been nor will be in any danger of ruin, the germ, viz., the Judaic idea of God, the great radiation through which the Deity kept open His communication with man, apparently must more than once have approached an awful struggle for life. This solitary taper of truth, struggling across a howling wilderness of darkness, had it been ever totally extinguished, could probably never have been reillumined. It may seem an easy thing for a mere human philosophy to recover, and steadily to maintain a pure Hebrew conception of God; but so far is this from being true, that we believe it possible to expose in the closest Pagan approximation to this Hebrew type some adulterous elements such as would have ensured its relapse into idolatrous impurity.’

5.–PHILOSOPHY DEFEATED.

We have come upon a passage which is omitted from the ‘Confessions,’ and as it is, in every way, characteristic, we shall give it:

My studies have now been long interrupted. I cannot read to myself with any pleasure, hardly with a moment’s endurance. Yet I read aloud sometimes for the pleasure of others–because reading is an accomplishment of mine, and, in the slang use of the word ‘accomplishment’ as a superficial and ornamental attainment, almost the only one I possess–and, formerly, if I had any vanity at all connected with any endowment or attainment of mine, it was with this; for I had observed that no accomplishment was so rare. Players are the worst readers of all; —- reads vilely, and Mrs. —-, who is so celebrated, can read nothing well but dramatic compositions–Milton she cannot read sufferably. People in general read poetry without any passion at all, or else overstep the modesty of nature and read not like scholars. Of late, if I have felt moved by anything in books, it has been by the grand lamentations of ‘Samson Agonistes,’ or the great harmonies of the Satanic speaker in ‘Paradise Regained,’ when read aloud by myself. A young lady sometimes comes and drinks tea with us. At her request and M—-‘s I now and then read W—-‘s poems to them. (W—-, by-the-bye, is the only poet I ever met who could read his own verses. Blank verse he reads admirably.)

This, then, has been the extent of my reading for upwards of sixteen months. It frets me to enter those rooms of my cottage in which the books stand. In one of them, to which my little boy has access, he has found out a use for some of them. Somebody has given him a bow and arrows–God knows who, certainly not I, for I have not energy or ingenuity to invent a walking-stick–thus equipped for action, he rears up the largest of the folios that he can lift, places them on a tottering base, and then shoots until he brings down the enemy. He often presses me to join him; and sometimes I consent, and we are both engaged together in these intellectual labours. We build up a pile, having for its base some slender modern metaphysician, ill able (poor man!) to sustain such a weight of philosophy. Upon this we place the Dutch quartos of Descartes and Spinoza; then a third story of Schoolmen in folio–the Master of Sentences, Suarez, Picus Mirandula, and the Telemonian bulk of Thomas Aquinas; and when the whole architecture seems firm and compact, we finish our system of metaphysics by roofing the whole with Duval’s enormous Aristotle. So far there is some pleasure–building up is something, but what is that to destroying? Thus thinks, at least, my little companion, who now, with the wrath of the Pythian Apollo, assumes his bow and arrows; plants himself in the remotest corner of the room, and prepares his fatal shafts. The bow-string twangs, flights of arrows are in the air, but the Dutch impregnability of the Bergen-op-Zooms at the base receives the few which reach the mark, and they recoil without mischief done. Again the baffled archer collects his arrows, and again he takes his station. An arrow issues forth, and takes effect on a weak side of Thomas. Symptoms of dissolution appear–the cohesion of the system is loosened–the Schoolmen begin to totter; the Stagyrite trembles; Philosophy rocks to its centre; and, before it can be seen whether time will do anything to heal their wounds, another arrow is planted in the schism of their ontology; the mighty structure heaves–reels–seems in suspense for one moment, and then, with one choral crash–to the frantic joy of the young Sagittary–lies subverted on the floor! Kant and Aristotle, Nominalists and Realists, Doctors Seraphic or Irrefragable, what cares he? All are at his feet–the Irrefragable has been confuted by his arrows, the Seraphic has been found mortal, and the greatest philosopher and the least differ but according to the brief noise they have made.

For nearly two years I believe that I read no book but one, and I owe it to the author, Mr. Ricardo, to make grateful record of it.

And then he proceeds:

Suddenly, in 1818, a friend in Edinburgh sent me down Mr. Ricardo’s book, etc.

6.–THE HIGHWAYMAN’S SKELETON.

In the account which De Quincey gives of the highwayman’s skeleton, which figured in the museum of the distinguished surgeon, Mr. White, in his chapter in the ‘Autobiographic Sketches’ headed ‘The Manchester Grammar School,’ he was evidently restrained from inserting one passage, which we have found among his papers, from considerations of delicacy towards persons who might then still be living. But as he has there plainly given the names of the leading persons concerned–the famous Surgeon Cruikshank,[1] there can at this time of day be little risk of offending or hurting anyone by presenting the passage, which the curious student of the Autobiography can insert at the proper point, and may feel that its presence adds to the completeness of the impression, half-humorous, half-eerie, which De Quincey was fain to produce by that somewhat grim episode. Here is the passage:

FOOTNOTE:

[1] [Born 1746, died 1800.–ED.]

It was a regular and respectable branch of public industry which was carried on by the highwaymen of England, and all the parties to it moved upon decent motives and by considerate methods. In particular, the robbers themselves, as the leading parties, could not be other than first-rate men, as regarded courage, animal vigour, and perfect horsemanship. Starting from any lower standard than this, not only had they no chance of continued success–their failure was certain as regarded the contest with the traveller, but also their failure was equally certain as regarded the competition within their own body. The candidates for a lucrative section of the road were sure to become troublesome in proportion as all administration of the business upon that part of the line was feebly or indiscreetly worked. Hence it arose that individually the chief highwaymen were sure to command a deep professional interest amongst the surgeons of the land. Sometimes it happened that a first-rate robber was arrested and brought to trial, but from defective evidence escaped. Meanwhile his fine person had been locally advertised and brought under the notice of the medical body. This had occurred in a more eminent degree than was usual to the robber who had owned when living the matchless skeleton possessed by Mr. White. He had been most extensively surveyed with anatomical eyes by the whole body of the medical profession in London: their deliberate judgment upon him was that a more absolutely magnificent figure of a man did not exist in England than this highwayman, and naturally therefore very high sums were offered to him as soon as his condemnation was certain. The robber, whose name I entirely forget, finally closed with the offer of Cruikshank, who was at that time the most eminent surgeon in London. Those days, as is well known, were days of great irregularity in all that concerned the management of prisons and the administration of criminal justice. Consequently there is no reason for surprise or for doubt in the statement made by Mr. White, that Cruikshank, whose pupil Mr. White then was, received some special indulgences from one of the under-sheriffs beyond what the law would strictly have warranted. The robber was cut down considerably within the appointed time, was instantly placed in a chaise-and-four, and was thus brought so prematurely into the private rooms of Cruikshank, that life was not as yet entirely extinct. This I heard Mr. White repeatedly assert. He was himself at that time amongst the pupils of Cruikshank, and three or four of the most favoured amongst these were present, and to one of them Cruikshank observed quietly: ‘I think the subject is not quite dead; pray put your knife in (Mr. X. Y.) at this point.’ That was done; a solemn finis was placed to the labours of the robber, and perhaps a solemn inauguration to the labours of the student. A cast was taken from the superb figure of the highwayman; he was then dissected, his skeleton became the property of Cruikshank, and subsequently of Mr. White. We were all called upon to admire the fine proportions of the man, and of course in that hollow and unmeaning way which such unlearned expressors of judgment usually assume, we all obsequiously met the demand levied upon our admiration. But, for my part, though readily confiding in the professional judgment of anatomists, I could not but feel that through my own unassisted judgment I never could have arrived at such a conclusion. The unlearned eye has gathered no rudimental points to begin with. Not having what are the normal outlines to which the finest proportions tend, an eye so untutored cannot of course judge in what degree the given subject approaches to these.

7.–THE RANSOM FOR WATERLOO.

The following gives a variation on a famous passage in the ‘Dream Fugue,’ and it may be interesting to the reader to compare it with that which the author printed. From these variations it will be seen that De Quincey often wrote and re-wrote his finest passages, and sometimes, no doubt, found it hard to choose between the readings:

Thus as we ran like torrents; thus as with bridal rapture our flying equipage swept over the campo santo of the graves; thus as our burning wheels carried warrior instincts, kindled earthly passions amongst the trembling dust below us, suddenly we became aware of a vast necropolis to which from afar we were hurrying. In a moment our maddening wheels were nearing it.

‘Of purple granite in massive piles was this city of the dead, and yet for one moment it lay like a visionary purple stain on the horizon, so mighty was the distance. In the second moment this purple city trembled through many changes, and grew as by fiery pulsations, so mighty was the pace. In the third moment already with our dreadful gallop we were entering its suburbs. Systems of sarcophagi rose with crests aerial of terraces and turrets into the upper glooms, strode forward with haughty encroachment upon the central aisle, ran back with mighty shadows into answering recesses. When the sarcophagi wheeled, then did our horses wheel. Like rivers in horned floods wheeling in pomp of unfathomable waters round headlands; like hurricanes that ride into the secrets of forests, faster than ever light travels through the wilderness of darkness, we shot the angles, we fled round the curves of the labyrinthine city. With the storm of our horses’ feet, and of our burning wheels, did we carry earthly passions, kindle warrior instincts amongst the silent dust around us, dust of our noble fathers that had slept in God since Creci. Every sarcophagus showed many bas-reliefs, bas-reliefs of battles, bas-reliefs of battlefields, battles from forgotten ages, battles from yesterday; battlefields that long since Nature had healed and reconciled to herself with the sweet oblivion of flowers; battlefields that were yet angry and crimson with carnage.

And now had we reached the last sarcophagus, already we were abreast of the last bas-relief; already we were recovering the arrow-like flight of the central aisle, when coming up it in counterview to ourselves we beheld the frailest of cars, built as might seem from floral wreaths, and from the shells of Indian seas. Half concealed were the fawns that drew it by the floating mists that went before it in pomp. But the mists hid not the lovely countenance of the infant girl that sate wistful upon the ear, and hid not the birds of tropic plumage with which she played. Face to face she rode forward to meet us, and baby laughter in her eyes saluted the ruin that approached. ‘Oh, baby,’ I said in anguish, ‘must we that carry tidings of great joy to every people be God’s messengers of ruin to thee?’ In horror I rose at the thought. But then also, in horror at the thought, rose one that was sculptured in the bas-relief–a dying trumpeter. Solemnly from the field of Waterloo he rose to his feet, and, unslinging his stony trumpet, carried it in his dying anguish to his stony lips, sounding once, and yet once again, proclamation that to thy ears, oh baby, must have spoken from the battlements of death. Immediately deep shadows fell between us, and shuddering silence. The choir had ceased to sing; the uproar of our laurelled equipage alarmed the graves no more. By horror the bas-relief had been unlocked into life. By horror we that were so full of life–we men, and our horses with their fiery forelegs rising in mid-air to their everlasting gallop–were petrified to a bas-relief. Oh, glacial pageantry of death, that from end to end of the gorgeous cathedral for a moment froze every eye by contagion of panic. Then for the third time the trumpet sounded. Back with the shattering burst came the infinite rushing of life. The seals of frost were raised from our stifling hearts.

8.–DESIDERIUM.

Here is another variation on a famous passage in the ‘Autobiographic Sketches,’ which will give the reader some further opportunity for comparison:

At six years of age, or thereabouts (I write without any memorial notes), the glory of this earth for me was extinguished. It is finished–not those words but that sentiment–was the misgiving of my prophetic heart; thought it was that gnawed like a worm, that did not and that could not die. ‘How, child,’ a cynic would have said, if he had deciphered the secret reading of my sighs–‘at six years of age, will you pretend that life has already exhausted its promises? Have you communicated with the grandeurs of earth? Have you read Milton? Have you seen Rome? Have you heard Mozart?’ No, I had not, nor could in those years have appreciated any one of them if I had; and, therefore, undoubtedly the crown jewels of our little planet were still waiting for me in the rear. Milton and Rome and ‘Don Giovanni’ were yet to come. But it mattered not what remained when set over against what had been taken away. That it was which I sought for ever in my blindness. The love which had existed between myself and my departed sister, that, as even a child could feel, was not a light that could be rekindled. No voice on earth could say, ‘Come again!’ to a flower of Paradise like that. Love, such as that is given but once to any. Exquisite are the perceptions of childhood, not less so than those of maturest wisdom, in what touches the capital interests of the heart. And no arguments, nor any consolations, could have soothed me into a moment’s belief, that a wound so ghastly as mine admitted of healing or palliation. Consequently, as I stood more alone in the very midst of a domestic circle than ever Christian traveller in an African Bilidulgerid amidst the tents of infidels, or the howls of lions, day and night–in the darkness and at noon-day–I sate, I stood, I lay, moping like an idiot, craving for what was impossible, and seeking, groping, snatching, at that which was irretrievable for ever.

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