« PreviousContinue »
the motions of the planets. Add that the laws by which Music produces its wonders are superinduced above those of mere hearing—a system within a system, for the purpose of the purest pleasure.
You will observe, that the awkwardness of my hand has made me blot over this letter. You must therefore excuse its shortuess, and receive it as a proof of my undying esteem and friendship. Your ever sincere Friend,
J. BLANCO WHITE.
29th. Great pains in the night and morning. It seems as if I was dying.–The whole night in a state of sickness and fainting.
Feb. Ist. So ill as to expect to die within four-and-twenty hours. Mr. Thom, the greatest part of the morning and evening with me.
4th. Very ill: passed the day in bed: a restless night : -better in the morning of Friday the 5th.
Sat. 6th. Got up.
These words are the last entry in his Journal.Increased rheumatism, producing severe stiffness in
the hands and neck, prevented him from ever using his pen again. On Wednesday, February 23rd, he was removed with much difficulty, in a sedan chair, to the house of Mr. Rathbone, Greenbank, near Liverpool. This change had frequently, before, been proposed, and indeed with earnestness and solicitation pressed upon him; but the pains of removal to a frame distressingly sensitive, and now incapable of doing anything for self-relief, with the supposed impossibility of carrying with him all that little apparatus of comfort or alleviation, which the long experience of a confirmed invalid enables him to collect about him, made him always shrink from strange places and circumstances, so long as nothing could be gained from the effort but a temporary benefit. When he felt his end approaching, this reluctance disappeared: he longed to die among friends.
For some short time his spirits seemed to revive at Greenbank. The daily sight of trees and fields, tender nursing, and the face of friends, with the absence of all distresses external to himself, hardly attainable by a helpless sufferer in lodgings, soothed and cheered him ;-but soon, great prostration of strength appeared, and for nearly three months, to use his own words, “he lingered in the face of Death."'
It is so much more easy to give vivid pictures of bodily suffering, than to convey any real image of the Mind which endured them, that perhaps eye
witnesses alone can truly catch the spirit of such times of anguish and patience. Who can describe the torture of a frame with no unwounded part to support its own weight, and yet make the reader subordinate the physical impression, whilst he feels full upon him the large, patient eye, the only member that could be freely moved,-or sees it lifted in love, calmness, and supplication ? For many weeks before his death, stiffness, with severe pain, in the neck, and total inability to move himself, kept him from the use of a bed, and both his days and his nights were passed in the chair in which he died. Long confinement in one position, and the gradual perishing of the powers of life, had produced mortification at the extremities,—and in these circumstances he continued, through sufferings which even witnesses could very faintly know, and with a self-control and patience which only God can compute. His friends did not make a habit of recording whatever of interest he uttered during this period; nor ever was the attempt purposely made to draw from him his final states of mind on the great questions which had been the studies of his life. But he was one who had his being in his highest thoughts, and could not but speak of them,—and occasionally, those who were watching by him were found to have written down some touching words :—these have been collected, although too few and scanty to give any faithful delineation of the solemn grandeur of his last days. On one occasion, when his impression was that he
could not survive the day, as if giving the result of the solemn glance he had been taking at the past and future of his being, he spoke, at intervals, almost in these words, his view of himself:
"In the midst of my sufferings, all the leading thoughts are present with me. I am weak, and therefore my feelings overpower me.--I have contributed my mite to the Liberty of mankind. It is cast into God's treasury.-I stand upon a rock. God's Providence is carried on by the struggles of Reason against the passions.--I have no doubts. I came from God, and I go to Him. The Guide, the Light within us, is not ourselves, nor dependent on our volitions. There is, then, an infinite Source of the rationality we know to be in us, who will receive us to Himself.”
On another occasion, believing himself to be dying, he said :
“I am going, my dear friend, I am leaving you very fast.-I have not formed such definite views of the nature of a future life as many have—but I trust Him who has taken care of me thus far. I should trust a friend, and can I not trust Him!—There is not in my mind the possibility of a doubt.”
In one of those moments of intense pain, when some expression of anguish is irrepressible, he was overheard in prayer :
“Oh my God! oh my God !But I know Thou dost not overlook any of Thy creatures. Thou dost not overlook me.- So much torture-to kill a worm!
Have mercy upon me, oh God! Have mercy upon me! I cry to Thee, knowing I cannot alter Thy ways.-I cannot if I would and I would not if I could. If a word could remove these sufferings, I would not utter it !”
To Mrs. R—-, on first going one morning to ask how he was, he replied :
“ Just life enough to suffer. But I submit, and not only submit, but rejoice.”
Once in great weakness and pain, on opening his eyes and seeing the same friend sitting by him, he
“Still here :-You all are to me the representatives of the merciful compassions of the Almighty.”—
He was not freed, even to the last, from that benign persecution which a dogmatic religion moves even tender hearts to inflict. To an excellent lady, who was impelled to urge the dangers of his Faith upon the dying Confessor, upon the man whose life had been a search for truth, and a martyrdom to what he had found, he dictated the following reply :
Greenbank, March 14, 1841. My ever kind Friend, I am so fully aware of the devoted friendship which dictated your last note, that I require no explanation in regard to the tone of certainty, as to my being in the wrong, which is perceptible throughout the whole of it. But I am so near my end, that I must enter a protest against the supposition which makes me appear like a self-convicted criminal.
You have examined in religion, and the examination has