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gratitude. The God who sitteth above, and presides in high authority over all worlds, is mindful of man; and though at this
l moment his energy is felt in the remotest provinces of creation, we may
feel the same security in his providence as if we were the objects of his undivided care.
It is not for us to bring our minds up to this mysterious agency. But such is the incomprehensible fact, that the same being, whose eye is abroad over the whole universe, gives vegetation to every blade of grass, and motion to every particle of blood which circulates through the veins of the minutest animal ; that though his mind takes into his comprehensive grasp immensity and all its wonders, I am as much known to him as if I were the single object of his attention ; that he marks all my thoughts ; that he gives birth to every feeling and every movement within me; and that, with an exercise of power which I can neither describe nor comprehend, the same God who sits in the highest heaven, and reigns over the glories of the firmament, is at my right hand to give me every breath which I draw, and every comfort which I enjoy.
WILLIAM HAZLITT: 1778–1830.
Hazlitt, one of our best critical essayists, was originally an artist. In 1803
he became an author, and continued throughout his life to contribute to the literary and political journals. His most elaborate work was a Life of Napoleon, but he is chiefly known by his Characters of Shakspeare's Plays, Table Talk, The Spirit of the Age, and Lectures on the English Poets.
THE CHARACTER OF HAMLET.
From Characters of Shakspeare's Plays. Hamlet is a name : his speeches and sayings but the idle coinage of the poet's brain. But are they not real? They are as real as our own thoughts. Their reality is in the reader's mind. It is we who are Hamlet. This play has a prophetic truth, which is above that of history. Whoever has become thoughtful and melancholy throu his own mishaps or those of others; whoever has borne about with him the clouded brow of reflection, and thought himself too much i' th' sun ;' whoever has seen the golden lamp of day dimmed by envious mists rising in his own breast, and could find in the world before him only a dull blank, with nothing left remarkable in it; whoever has known 'the pangs of despised love,
the insolence of office, or the spums which patient merit of the unworthy takes ;' he who has felt his mind sink within him, and sadness cling to his heart like a malady; who has had his hopes blighted and his youth staggered by the apparitions of strange things ; who cannot be well at ease, while he sees evil hovering near him like a spectre : whose powers of action have been eaten up by thought; he to whom the universe seems infinite, and himself nothing ; whose bitterness of soul makes him careless of consequences, and who goes to a play, as his best resource to shove off, to a second remove, the evils of life, by a mock-representation of them This is the true Hamlet.
We have been so used to this tragedy, that we hardly know how to criticise it, any more than we should know how to describe our own faces. But we must make such observations as we can. It is the one of Shakspeare's plays that we think of oftenest, because it abounds most in striking reflections on human life, and because the distresses of Hamlet are transferred, by the turn of his mind, to the general account of humanity. Whatever happens to him, we apply to ourselves ; because he applies it so himself as a means of general reasoning. He is a great moraliser, and what makes him worth attending to is, that he moralises on his own feelings and experience. He is not a common-place pedant. If Lear shews the greatest depth of passion, Hamlet is the most remarkable for the ingenuity, originality, and unstudied development of character. There is no attempt to force an interest: everything is left for time and circumstances to unfold. The attention is excited without effort ; the incidents succeed each other as matters of course: the characters think, and speak, and act, just as they might do if left entirely to themselves. There is no set purpose, no straining at a point. The observations are suggested by the passing scene-the gusts of passion come and go like sounds of music borne on the wind. The whole play is an exact transcript of what might be supposed to have taken place at the court of Denmark, at the remote period of time fixed upon, before the modern refinements in morals and manners were heard of. It would have been interesting enough to have been admitted as a bystander in such a scene, at such a time, to have heard and seen something of what was going on. But here we are more than spectators. We have not only the outward pageants and the signs of grief,' but 'we have that within which passes show! We read the thoughts of the heart, we catch the passions living as they rise.
CHARLES LAMB: 1775-1836.
Charles Lamb, a poet and a delightful essayist, was a clerk in the India
House. He wrote a tragedy named John Woodvil; Specimens of English Dramatic Poets who lived about the time of Shakspeare, and several Poems; but his fame rests chiefly on his Essays by Elia, contributed to The London Magazine.
THE HOMES OF THE VERY POOR. From Essays of Elia. Homes there are, we are sure, that are no homes—the home of the very poor man, and another which we shall speak to presently. Crowded places of cheap entertainment, and the benches of alehouses, if they could speak, might bear mournful testimony to the first. To them the very poor man resorts for an image of the home which he cannot find at home. For a starved grate and a scanty firing that is not enough to keep alive the natural heat in the fingers of so many shivering children, with their mother, he finds in the depths of winter always a blazing hearth, and a hob to warm his pittance of beer by. Instead of the clamours of a wife, made gaunt by famishing, he meets with a cheerful attendance beyond the merits of the trifle which he can afford to spend. He has companions which his home denies him, for the very poor man has no visitors. He can look into the goings on of the world, and speak a little to politics. At home there are no politics stirring, but the domestic. All interests, real or imaginary, all topics that should expand the mind of man, an connect him to a sympathy with general existence, are crushed in the absorbing consideration of food to be obtained for the family. Beyond the price of bread, news is senseless and impertinent. At home there is no larder. Here there is at least a show of plenty ; and while he cooks his lean
scrap of butcher's meat before the common bars, or munches his humbler cold viands, his relishing bread and cheese with an onion, in a corner, where no one reflects upon his poverty, he has a sight of the substantial joint providing for the landlord and his family. He takes an interest in the dressing of it; and while he assists in removing the trivet from the fire, he feels that there is such a thing as beef and cabbage, which he was beginning to forget at home.
All this while he deserts his wife and children. But what wife, and what children? Prosperous men, who object to this desertion, image to themselves some clean contented family like that which they go home to. But look at the countenance of the poor wives who follow and persecute their goodman to the door of the publichouse which he is about to enter, when something like shame would restrain him, if stronger misery did not induce him to pass the threshold. That face, ground by want, in which every cheerful, every conversable lineament has been long effaced by miseryis that a face to stay at home with ? Is it more a woman, or a wild cat? Alas! it is the face of the wife of his youth, that once smiled
upon him. It can smile no longer. What comforts can it share? what burdens can it lighten? Oh, 'tis fine to talk of the humble meal shared together! But what if there be no bread in the cupboard ? The innocent prattle of his children takes the sting out of a man's poverty. But the children of the very poor do not prattle. It is none of the least frightful features in that condition, that there is no childishness in its dwellings. "Poor people,' said a sensible old nurse to us once, do not bring up their children-they drag them up. The little careless darling of the wealthier nursery, in their hovel is transformed betimes into a premature reflecting person. No one has time to dandle it; no one thinks it worth while to coax it, to soothe it, to toss it up and down, to humour it. There is none to kiss away its tears. If it cries, it can only be beaten. It has been prettily said, that a' babe is fed with milk and praise. But the aliment of this poor babe was thin, unnourishing; the return to its little baby tricks and efforts to engage attention, bitter ceaseless objurgation. It never had a toy, or knew what a coral meant. It grew up without the lullaby of nurses ; it was a stranger to the patient fondle, the hushing caress, the attracting novelty, the costlier plaything, or the cheaper off-hand contrivance to divert the child, the prattled nonsense (best sense to it), the wise impertinences, the wholesome lies, the apt story interposed that puts a stop to present suffering, and awakens the passions of young wonder. It was never sung to; no one ever told to it a tale of the nursery. It was dragged up, to live or to die as it happened. It had no young dreams. It broke at once into the iron realities of life. A child exists not for the very poor as any object of dalliance; it is only another mouth to be fed—a pair of little hands to be betimes inured to labour. It is the rival, till it can be the co-operator for food with
It is never his mirth, his diversion, his solace-it never makes him young again with recalling his young times. The children of the very poor have no young times. It makes the
very heart to bleed to overhear the casual street-talk between a poor woman and her little girl—a woman of the better sort of poor, in a condition rather above the squalid beings which we have been contemplating. It is not of toys, of nursery-books, of summer holidays (fitting that age), of the promised sight of plays, of praised sufficiency at school. It is of mangling and clear-starching, of the price of coals or potatoes. The questions of the child, that should be the very outpourings of curiosity in idleness, are marked with forecast and melancholy providence. It has come to be a woman before it was a child. It has learned to go to market; it chaffers, it haggles, it envies, it murmurs ; it is knowing, acute, sharpened ; it never prattles. Had we not reason to say that the home of the very poor is no home?
HENRY HALLAM: 1777-1859.'
Hallam, one of the greatest historical writers of the period, was first known
by his contributions to The Edinburgh Review. His chief works are a View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, The Constitutional History of England from the Accession of Henry VII. to the Death of George II., and an Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries.
EFFECTS OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.
From Europe During the Middle Ages. It is the previous state of society, under the grandchildren of Charlemagne, which we must always keep in mind, if we would appreciate the effects of the feudal system upon the welfare of mankind. The institutions of the eleventh century must be compared with those of the ninth, not with the advanced civilisation of modern times. The state of anarchy which we usually term feudal, was the natural result of a vast and barbarous empire feebly administered, and the cause, rather than the effect, of the general establishment of feudal tenures. These, by preserving the mutual relations of the whole, kept alive the feeling of a common country and common duties ; and settled, after the lapse of ages, into the free constitution of England, the firm monarchy of France, and the federal union of Germany.
The utility of any form of policy may be estimated by its effects upon national greatness and security, upon civil liberty and private