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aim or interest to serve than the gratification of a generous impulse. But the mere honour of an intellectual intercourse with some of the finest spirits of the age is a fair subject of self-congratulation; and after every allowance shall be made for the warmth of compliment, I cannot help feeling that enough of commendation will remain to permit of my pleasing myself with the hope, that there may be something in the following pages not wholly unworthy of perusal.
Divided as I am, by such a dreary distance, from all personal association with the many gifted natures with whom I should be proud and delighted to be more intimately acquainted, it is a source of unspeakable gratification to me in this state of exile, that I am still able to continue even so imperfect an interchange of thought and sentiment as is afforded by epistolary converse; and whatever may be the fate of my humble literary efforts, I must always rejoice that they have met the indulgent eye of the persons to whom I venture to allude—that they have increased the list of my friends both here and in England, and that they have whiled away many a weary hour with an innocent ainusement.
A comparison of the present edition with the first would show that there are numerous additional verses and prose papers included in the one that were not inserted in the other, and that there is scarcely a single essay which is not in some degree enlarged, and I trust improved.
CONTENTS. VOLUME I.
OCEAN SKETCHES, . . . . . . .
ON LITERARY FAME AND LITERARY PURSUITS.
There is nothing more captivating than literary fame; and there are few men, who could resist its fascination if they thought it within their reach. It inflames the heart with a delicious poison. It excites a feverish thirst of praise that grows with what it feeds on, and too often destroys that healthy and tranquil tone of mind which is essential to genuine happiness. Of all human glory, it is the least allied to “a sober certainty” of enjoyment. It is generally attended with wild inquietudes, and a morbid sensibility to the strokes of fate and the mutabilities of opinion. The mariner, who trusts his life and fortunes to the treacherous ocean, regards not the varying winds of heaven with an anxiety so intense, as that with which the poet listens to the fickle voice of popular applause. The fame of the warrior occasions a comparatively temperate excitement. His exertions are chiefly physical ; his achievements are palpable and defined ; his honours are certain and immediate. All classes of men may judge with accuracy and precision of strength and courage, of victory or defeat. A gallant action is as warmly applauded and as fully appreciated by the artisan as by the soldier. Even the reputation of the statesman, though accompanied with greater care and perplexity of mind than the triumphs of the hero, is more open to general comprehension, and is less connected with the profound and subtle workings of the soul than the glory of the poet. The claims of literary genius are so shadowy and equivocal, so reluctantly acknowledged by those best able to decide upon their truth, and so exposed to the misapprehensions of ignorance, and the wilful injustice of jealousy or caprice, that, as Pope feelingly observes, “the life of a wit is a warfare upon earth.” To add to the bitterness of his misfortunes, the man of letters is of all men the least capable of battling with the world, and of supporting his influence by extraneous means. If his intellectual pretensions be disputed, he is helpless and forlorn. He ventures his whole cargo of earthly hopes in the frail bark of fame, and a wreck ruins him for ever. His habits of mind are incapable of change, and render him unfit for a new pursuit. Even when he is most successful, the public taste is so capricious and uncertain that he cannot, like the miser, count and hoard his acquisitions. No man can calculate the precise extent of his reputation. He cannot enter it into a ledger, and exult in his daily gains. The opinions of mankind are more variable and less easily understood than the state of trade. The pilgrim to Fame's distant temple pursues a doubtful path, and is “now in glimmer and now in gloom.” He is like one who struggles through subterranean passages, and catches but occasional glimpses of the external light. Even when he gains the end of a perplexing path, and emerges into the full blaze of day, though dazzled for a while with excess of light, the freshness of the glory too quickly fades, and he pants again for new excitements. He has neither contentment nor repose. His wishes are boundless ; his cares perpetual. He has a craving void in his heart that no glory can fill. The attempt to satisfy his desires is like pouring water into a broken vessel. The more he has the more he covets. His greatest gains are small in comparison to his hopes, that are like hollow things, only swelled the more by every breath of praise.