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with serene satisfaction life's vessel gliding down the stream of the past, and even in the clouds of the future, they behold the picture of their little bark sailing securely onward. But few, indeed, are those to whom such pleasure is allotted :-few are those who will not feel in all its pathos, the saying of Ali, that "the remembrance of youth is a sigh.”
Many years have past by me in their silent march to eternity, but I regret not their departure. If they have taken with them beloved friends and mirthful feelings, the buoyancy of hope and the eagerness of enjoyment, they have, happily, also taken the violence of the passions. If they have brought me neglect, and weakness, and uselessness, and something of apathy, which I would not have, they have also brought me,-which is a blessing that annuls the evil,—a quietude of mind, a serenity of feeling, which is the richest treasure that man can possess. There is a joy in the free wild pulse of youth, there is a pleasure in the strong and steady beat of manhood's feel ng, but there is deeper pleasure, there is a profounder joy in the calm and lake-like tranquillity of senescence.
From the bosom of retirement, with a mind yet clear, and a memory retentive beyond the common, while age has shed around me its stillness, but not its sluggishness, and ere the concerns of preparing for a greater journey to be undertaken, have driven from my thoughts the remembrance of the lesser one I have completed, I take up my pen to trace the record of some of the scenes that I have witnessed, and some of the acts that I have done.
Dreams, books, are each a world; and books we know
I was born near the village of Merton, a small town in one of the Atlantic States, not far distant from the metropolis of the east. I had the misfortune to lose my mother, at an earlier period than I can remember. My father resided alone with myself, who was his only son, in a small house which stood by itself at a short distance from the neighbouring village. He had inherited a large fortune, and had formerly lived in one of the cities, with some degree of splendour, and not altogether undistinguished for rank and talent. By one of those sudden reverses, to which in a mercantile country even those not engaged in commerce are liable, he at length found himself deprived of a large estate, and reduced from affluence to a scanty competence. He continued for some time in his former situation, enduring the misery of one of the bitterest struggles to which a man can be subject, that of endea. vouring to maintain the standing to which his rank entitles him, but to which his income is unequal, and being constantly tempted to a hopeless rivalry, and exposed to the mortification of being excelled by his equals. Before many years, however, his better understanding, and the pressure of difficulties which had grown too strong to be resisted, induced him to give up his city residence and
seek a dwelling in some humbler town. Shortly after his removal to Merton my mother died, and the contracted expenses of his diminished establishment, and the income from a small office which he held, enabled him to support himself in comfort.
My father was exceedingly reserved in his temper, and generally left my conduct to my own control, and my inclinations and feelings to their natural course. Though not particularly literary in his taste, he had a fine library which contained good editions of all the best classics of ancient and modern literature. This
was my favourite resort from my earliest years. The loneliness of my situation compelled me to seek some employment to divert my time, and I found abundance there. I read whatever fell in my way without much reference to system or utility. I found liter are the best refuge from the fatigue of thought and the yet greater fatigue of idleness. My constant devotion generated a love for reading which, after a long lapse of years, still remains in all its force.
My books became my constant companions, for I found in the silent instructors that were ranged around my walls, calmer disputants and wiser counsellors than the living circle of acquaintance could exhibit. Making study both a business and an amusement, I drew from the same sources the topic of my toil and the light of my leisure ;—perceiving, with D’Aguesseau, that the best relaxation was change. My most habitual delight, however, was in the productions of the muse; to them I turned as to a shady valley, for refreshment after every weariness and repose from every anxiety. The effusions of the highest sort of poetry, which are Wisdom speaking in the voice of Pleasure, are the best diversion in hours of gayety, and the best solace in times of trouble.
I, at this time, went rarely into company of any sort; for the meditations which engaged my mind, and the sentiments which employed my feelings, had neither their origin nor their sphere in the outer world around me, and in the sensitive temper of my natural disposition, I found much to detach me from society and much to induce me to my study. I call to mind one occasion on which I accepted an invitation to tea at the house of one of my
acquaintances. It was in August, and the broad summer sun was yet gleaming through the trees, as I ascended the steps of the little portico in front of the dwelling, and descried, by ear and eye, the youthful company assembled in the drawing-room. As I entered the apartment and approached the gaily-dressed group which was collected near the windows in animated conversation, my eye fell upon one female countenance which was not familiar to me, and whose deep, dark glance, as with one flash it met my own, roused a feeling in my breast, before unknown, and seemed in an instant to create a sense within me and an atmosphere around me, which gave me consciousness as of another being. I inquired from the lady of the house, the name of her stranger guest. She told me that she was a resident of the same village with myself, who had been absent for several years and had recently returned; and taking me up to her, presented me to her as Emily Wilson. As I came nearer to her, I thought that I had never seen features at once so exquisite in form, and so interesting in expression. There was in her eye a passion combined with timidness, which agitated and attracted; and while its fearfulness forbade its trembling glance to fix for more than an instant on what it gazed at, its fervour fitted it in that instant to pierce and penetrate to the depths of the bosom.
A proposal was presently made that the party should walk out into the adjoining grounds to look at the beauty of the sunset. Lingering behind the rest, Emily and myself followed, until a diverging path, striking off through the thick shrubbery, enabled us to take a course which led to a sequestered part of the lawn, where our conversation might not be overheard. From the first moment that I had spoken to her, my sense had been wrapped in an intensity of interest that scarcely left me capacity to note what I was saying. The lapse of nioments, and the diversion of the splendid scene on high, which brought the brightest magnificence of heaven to abate the engrossment of the best lustre of earth, conveyed a more intelligent appreciation of the new feeling which possessed me. While we talked of the scene before us, yet having an earnest reference to unspoken sentiments within, and
while the similarity of the unseen light, in which external objects were regarded, proved an inward sympathy which
was yet unuttered, there thrilled through my veins the ► depths of a joy which had hitherto been a stranger to
what I knew of bliss, and I recognised as among the conditions of life a broad and full and fervent gladness, to whose robustness of delight my past experience brought no parallel. In the impression of that moment, I apprehended how tenuous, shadowy, and like the stuff of dreams, is the gratification of that airy company of borrowed thoughts, which till then, had been my sole delight: and I learned that the mental life which is founded on what is alien and fed on what is foreign, is but half vital. That ideal world which our own passions create around us, and which is peopled with interests drawn from the recesses of our own breasts,
strength which is unknown to the visions of fancy. I found that the sphere with which my lonely meditations had encircled me, was animated with only the moving shadows of those feelings whose substances were now around me, and that the forms which there were only modelled in design, were here carved in reality.
Our conversation was protracted in forgetfulness of the advancing evening; and it was not until the opposite quarter of the heaven was glittering with its stars that we rejoined the party which had returned to the house. I left the company early ; but it was with an ardour of soul and a strength of aspiration which made me far other than I was before, that I trod the path which led me home. I was even as if a new spirit had entered into me—a “ mounting spirit,” that filled me with ambition, and impelled me to pass from meditation to action. I felt that it was to Emily that I was indebted for the new power with which I was filled, and that in her society alone could I look for that energy of interest without which henceforth existence would be a dull and dreary thing. In the heart of every man that loves, there is an instinctive impulse that urges him to covet glory in the eyes of her whom he would attach, and I now felt that to attain an eminence which would excite the admiration of Emily would be both delightful in labour and plenteous