Page images
PDF
EPUB

May 26th. I am still irresistibly drawing up plans for works against religious error, though, at the same time, I am oppressed with a perpetual sense of misery. Dr. Sutherland has been reading the Second Travels, and speaks highly of that work. I am confident that those two small volumes contain an unanswerable argument against that monstrous πρώτον ψεύδοςa Churco; only that I never expand my reasons, and few readers will undertake that work for themselves. But this is the original character of my mind, which I cannot alter. The principal strength of my work consists in historical facts applied to the theory of Orthodoxy. Could not those facts be developed into a sketch of the history of Christian belief during the three first centuries ? It is enough to show the absolute want of historical foundations for the present Christianity, to exhibit the total darkness in which theoretical Christianity is lost during the latter part of the first, and a great portion of the second century; to prove the chasm of a hundred years which separate all Christian documents from Christ, and his immediate disciples. I think if I had but middling health, I could give a sound, yet popular view of this fact. But what can I do?

June 15th. Took my last leave of Ferdinand, and felt as if my heart was breaking.

To J

Liverpool, June 18th, 1839. Your letter is this instant arrived. It contains the only words of comfort I have yet received in my deep affliction. I will not conceal that this separation has afflicted me more than any other event in my life. My philosophy is only a guide to me; but it has not steeled my heart against pain. It has taught me to advise Ferdinand to return to India, because I thought it the best thing in his circumstances ; it has enabled me to spare him pain by concealing my own; but as I shook him by the hand on Saturday evening, knowing that I should, in all probability, never see him again, I could hardly contain my anguish within my bosom. Fortunately I was going to bed, where I could give way to my sorrow. I say that yours are the first words of consolation I have heard ; not a soul has been here since Ferdinand left me. I feel, indeed, as Ulysses' dog on the Dunghill : but I endeavour to take my share of misery day by day, and leave the future to develop itself. You are reading Don Quixote again ? Had I not been broken down by disease during the best part of my life, I would have attempted a correction of the first English translation-I forget the name of the translator, which is now very scarce. My wish was to give to the style an air of antiquity, corresponding to that of Cervantes himself. In the serious passages, Sir Philip Sidney's style in the Arcadia would answer admirably; in the comic, Shakspeare ought to be the model. A life of Cervantes was the last thing of this kind I had in contemplation; but the want of books dissuaded me from undertaking the task. I ought to have been near the British Museum.

June 26th, 1839. In no matter whatever, needs a man be reminded of what he believes, except in religion. What a man believes he knows, and what he knows he believes. Why should the priesthood come to us with an inventory of what we believe?—The priesthood do not care about our belief; what they want is our assent; so they make out a list of what we have to assent to, if we are to avoid the consequences of their indignation. The old Romish priesthood do not conceal this : according to them, any one who says, “I believe whatever the Mother Church beberes," has saving Faith. The Protestant Churches desire to disguise their wishes, which are the same as those of Rome, and mince the matter. Yet there never was, nor ever will be, a Priesthood guiltless of the design to take all other men's minds into their keeping.

28th.. Reading from one o'clock till a quarter to eight in the morning, in order to escape from the misery of drowsiness without the possibility of falling asleep.

To Dr. Channing.

Liverpool, June 30th, 1839. My dear Sir, I would have written to you long ago, if the miserable state in which I still continue did not generally deprive me of that power of attention, without which we cannot collect our thoughts. It is true that my life is not in immediate danger; the constant fever has left me, and the dropsy is much less; but I do not enjoy a single hour of rest from distress and pain. It is now more than a year since I last stood on my feet. I have totally lost the use of my kneejoints, and am consequently compelled to sit the whole day, and to lie on my back the whole night. I am wheeled in a chair from my bedroom to my study, and taken to bed early in the same manner. It is only by means of my hands that I can shift myself from the chair to the bed. There is no prospect whatever of relief: death alone can release me from this thraldom. But as you observe in your admirable Letter on Slavery, (the passage came home to my feelings,) this total want of liberty comes from a source which the mind blesses and loves, whether it sends pain or enjoyment. Were it man that kept me even in much slighter confinement, I do not know how I could stand the temptation to self destruction.

I sincerely congratulate you on the publication of that Letter. You have written it under the inspiration of Truth and Humanity. You have dragged the Monster from its fastnesses, you have exposed its hideousness to the world. I cannot imagine a fallacy, either of intellect or feeling, which you have not thoroughly answered.

I wish I could agree with you in the same unqualified manner upon the subject of War. I do not doubt for a moment that War is one of the great evils which are allowed to fall upon mankind; but I cannot class it with the greatest of those evils: I conceive that it has a more abundant compensation of good than pestilence and famine. Have you read Colonel Napier's History of the Peninsular War? It contains the most appalling pictures of destruction that I ever met in any historical book. But out of the very horrors which make the imagination recoil, there breaks out a moral light, a grandeur of character which could not be produced under any other circumstances. In our modern wars, the most perfect contempt of death is very frequently joined with the repose of the evil passions. It is only under the irritation of peculiar antipathies (such as existed between the French and the Spaniards) that the regular, welltrained soldier acts under the ferocious impulses of hatred and offended personal pride. Between the English and the French there existed, during the last war, a generous feeling, of which you will find most noble instances in the above-mentioned work. I must add, that I have found some of the most admirable characters among soldiers. Colonel Napier himself might be mentioned as a remarkable instance. I do not mean to recommend war—God forbid it! but considering that its abolition will be impracticable for a long time, I wish rather to see benevolence employed in suggesting the means of allaying the evils of that scourge, than in directly opposing it. A high discipline, (which is in itself a certain kind of education,) the diffusion of knowledge among the officers, and a general tone of society which will demand the union of humanity and courage in those who are to be considered men of honour,—such apfear to me to be the true remedies, at this period of society, against the unredeemed evils of war.

Believe me, my dear Sir, with sincere respect and affection,

Your friend,

J. BLANCO WHITE.

July 6th, 1839. Exceedingly unwell, with violent convulsions, till about six in the morning. It is not the severity, but the length of this trial that oppresses me.

« PreviousContinue »