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self; yet he expresses no sentiment whatever of overweening conceit. He seems rational and modest; and the application to himself is extremely pathetic:
-Close pent up guilts,
Soon after, we find him actually pronouncing censure upon himself. Hitherto he had been the mere creature of sensibility: he now begins to reflect; and grieves that he had not done so before.
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
At last, he is in a state of perfect contrition, and
less resentment against Goneril and Regan, than self-condemnation
for his treatment of Cordelia, and a perfect, but not extravagant sense of her affection.
Kent. The poor distress'd Lear is i' the town,
Gent. Why, good Sir ?
Kent. A sovereign shame so elbows him, his unkindness, That stript her from his benediction, turn'd her To foreign casualties, gave her dear rights To his dog-hearted daughters: these things sting His mind so venomously, that burning shame Detains him from Cordelia.
I have thus endeavoured to shew, that mere sensibility, undirected by reflection, leads men to an extravagant expression both of social or unsocial feelings; renders them capriciously inconstant in their affections ; variable, and of course irresolute, in their conduct. These things, together with the miseries entailed by such deportment, seem to me well illustrated by Shakespeare, in his Dramatic Character of King Lear.
DRAMATIC CHARACTER OF TIMON OF ATHENS.
SHAKESPEARE, in his Timon of Athens, illustrates the consequences of that inconsiderate profusion which has the appearance of liberality, and is supposed even by the inconsiderate
person himself to proceed from a generous principle; but which, in reality, has its chief origin in the love of distinction. Though this is not the view usually entertained of this singular dramatic character, I persuade myself, if we attend to the design of the poet in all its parts, we shall find, that the opinion now advanced is not without foundation.
The love of distinction is asserted to be the ruling principle. in the conduct of Timon ; yet it is not affirmed, nor is it necessary to affirm, that Timon has no goodness of heart.
He has much goodness, gentleness, and love of society.—These are not inconsistent with the love of distinction; they often reside together; and in particular, that love of distinction which reigned in the conduct of Timon, may easily be shewn to have received its particular bias and direction from original goodness. For without this, what could have determined him to choose one method of making himself conspicuous rather than another? Why did he not seek the distinction conferred by the display of a military or of a political character? Or why did he not aspire after pageantry and parade, the pomp of public buildings, and the ostentation of wealth, unconnected with any
kind of beneficence ? ;
In general, our love of fame or distinction is directed and influenced by some previous cast of temper, or early tendency of disposition. Moved by powers and dispositions leading us to one kind of exertion rather than another, we attribute superior excellence to such exertion. We transfer the same sentiment to the rest of mankind. We fancy, that no pre-eminence can be attained but by such talents as we possess; and it requires an effort of cool reflection, before we can allow that there may be excellence in those things which we cannot relish, or merit in that conduct to which we are not inclined. Guided by early or inherent predilection, men actuated by the love of distinction seek the idol of their desires, in various situations; in the bustle of active life, or in the shade of retirement. Take the following examples. The son of Olorus was present, while yet a boy, at the Olympic games. All Greece was assembled; many feats of dexterity no doubt were exhibited; and every honor that assembled Greece could bestow, was conferred on the victors. Moved by a spectacle so interesting and so inspiriting, the Spartan, Theban, or Athenian youth, who were not yet of vigor sufficient to strive for the wreath, longed, we may readily suppose, for maturer years ; and became, in their ardent imaginations,