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On Music: No. I. with reference to the Principles of the Beautiful
in that Art
To * *
THERE are many people who like to be taken unprepared in their pleasures, and who think with the poet, that
"Grata superveniet quæ non sperabitur hora. Unquestionably a capital prize in the lottery, a good fat legacy from an unthought-of relation, or the discovery (Iapd dókav кai iXTída, like snow in the dog-days) of a valuable mine on some miserable half-dozen acres of barren land, are agreeable episodes in our transit through the long epic of the best of all possible worlds.
De gustibus, however, non est dis--, and I humbly beseech the admirers of " an agreeable surprise," not to denounce me, either to the Society for the Suppression of Vice as a wicked, or to the Constitutional Society as a disloyal writer, if I profess myself, in opposition to their orthodoxy, an admirer of recurrent pleasures. Darwin and the modern physiologists have shown, that those vital movements which are associated in circles, and are renewed at regular intervals, are performed with the greatest facility and precision; and if any sceptic presume to doubt their authority, (for, what indeed is the authority of a physical fact, when opposed to metaphysical theory?) I appeal to the Christmas pudding and minced-pie of the school-boy, and to the rent-day of the landlord, while I defy the deepest calculator upon 'Change to prove that the dividends are, in the least, less acceptable for their half-yearly repetitions. Who is there that has not experienced the disagreeable effects which are felt through the whole constitution, when, the circle of recurring actions coming round, and the appetite being wound u b ̧ the arrival of the customary dinner-hour, some unlucky despiser of times and of seasons chooses to keep the whole party waiting, by his non-appearance? Now the sharpness of this disappointment is an indisputable measure of the intensity of the pleasure so delayed. But if you have still any hesitation in assigning the palm of superiority to the recurrent, over the occasional pleasures, ask the lawyers whether they do not derive an exquisite delight from the circle of terms and returns, and whether sessions and circuits are not sources of content, increasing in vivacity in proportion as their successive repetitions produce a greater certainty and force in the circulation of fees.
Agreeably to this principle we find, that the older we grow, the more tenaciously we hold by stated festivities, keeping birth-days and wedding-days with a more superstitious reverence, notwithstanding that each return brings us a move nearer to age, ugliness, and death, and therefore might be expected to excite far other feelings than those of merriment and rejoicing. It is scarcely necessary, in confirmation of my theory, to remark on the pleasures which are derived from the natural succession of the seasons, with all the delights of Michaelmas goose, house-lamb, pigeons, and 'sparagus, the July venison-feast, the oysters of St. James's-day, and the annual marrow-pudding of my
Lord Mayor's dinner. For my own part, I honestly confess myself alive to the just complaints and pathetic regrets of that unfortunate lady, who, when inhumanly called upon by Death at that season of the year when good living abounds (Death has no gallantry in his dealings with the ladies, as the old ballad shows,) exclaimed with horror and indignation "What, now? die now? when mackarel and green peas are just coming into the market."
By this time, I suppose, Mr. Editor, you are tempted to exclaim, "Quorsum hæc tam putida?" but do not be in a hurry, my answer is at hand, "Ad te inquam;" for I am now coming to my argumentum ad hominem." It is in literature, more especially, that I am attached to periodical pleasures, insomuch that I doubt whether my morning's tea and toast would digest without the "peptic persuader" of a newspaper: and I verily believe, that half the fascination of Sir W. Scott's novels is derived from their near approach to periodical appearances. The weekly literary journals have added essentially to my "stock of innocent amusement:" the reviews and magazines are as necessary to my being as my food; but THE Magazine, the NEW MONTHLY MAZINE, is the merum sal which gives condiment to life, and preserves the stagnating pool of existence from duckweed and putrescence.
Indeed, indeed I do not flatter you, Mr. Editor, when I assert, that the neomenia of your journal is an important epoch in my family; and the moment when, the fire stirred, the red curtains drawn, the tea-urn smoking, and the Argand lamp gently raised-I put the paperknife into the foldings of the first sheet of a new number, is a moment of breathless expectation and delight to every member of the fire-side. Here, however, I must pause to censure a bad habit in which you indulge, of anticipating the amusement of the month, by a regular program (that is a nice new word I have just imported from France, to supply the hacknied common-place of a "bill of the play")—a regular program, I say, in the second page of your coloured cover. This would be the ruin of my peace of mind, did I not possess the requisite force of character to avert my eyes, and hurry on-O noctes cœnæque deum!-to the monthly list of new publications. A plague of such foretastes of paradise, say I; let me begin at the beginning, and like the sailor, who, when seated in a conjuror's booth, was blown into a cabbage-garden by an unlucky explosion of gunpowder, exclaim, as I read on from article to article,-"What the devil will the fellow do next?"-For nothing annoys me half so much as being asked to consult the livre des postes of your " modo Thebis modo ponit Athenis" contributors. Having thus ventured to "hint a fault, and hesitate dislike," by way of aigre doux, I must notice a point in which I hold your management highly praiseworthy, You do not often balk a growing interest by abruptly concluding with that reference "to the coming-on of time," (To be continued in our next.)" This practice I hold to be a most disingenuous mode of treating a "gentle reader." For if it be a merit to begin with the beginning in writing (as I have already said it is in reading), surely it is not less commendable to end with the end. It is a rule which stage-managers strongly impress upon manufacturers of tragedy and dovetailers of melodram, to "lay it on thick in the fourth act," that is, to work the plot to such a pitch of intricacy, that, at the falling of the curtain, the audience may curse the fiddlers, and sit upon thorns till the actors come on