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Arthur H. Hallam
by [?]

“PRAESENS imperfectum,–perfectum, plusquam perfectum

“The idea of thy life shall sweetly creep
Into my study of imagination;
And every lovely organ of thy life
Shall come apparelled in more precious habit–
More moving delicate, and full of life,
Into the eye and prospect of my soul,
Than when thou livedst indeed.”


In the chancel of Clevedon Church, Somersetshire, rest the mortal remains of Arthur Henry Hallam, eldest son of our great philosophic historian and critic,–and the friend to whom “In Memoriam” is sacred. This place was selected by his father, not only from the connection of kindred, being the burial-place of his maternal grandfather, Sir Abraham Elton, but likewise “on account of its still and sequestered situation, on a lone hill that overhangs the Bristol Channel.” That lone hill, with its humble old church, its outlook over the waste of waters, where “the stately ships go on,” was, we doubt not, in Tennyson’s mind, when the poem, “Break, break, break,” which contains the burden of that volume in which are enshrined so much of the deepest affection, poetry, philosophy, and godliness, rose into his “study of imagination”–“into the eye and prospect of his soul.”[1]

Footnote [1]: The passage from Shakspeare prefixed to this paper, contains probably as much as can be said of the mental, not less than the affectionate conditions, under which such a record as In Memoriam is produced, and may give us more insight into the imaginative faculty’s mode of working, than all our philosophizing and analysis. It seems to let out with the fulness, simplicity, and unconsciousness of a child–“Fancy’s Child”–the secret mechanism or procession of the greatest creative mind our race has produced. In itself, it has no recondite meaning, it answers fully its own sweet purpose. We are not believers, like some folks, in the omniscience of even Shakspeare. But, like many things that he and other wise men and many simple children say, it has a germ of universal meaning, which it is quite lawful to bring out of it, and which may be enjoyed to the full without any wrong to its own original beauty and fitness. A dew-drop is not the less beautiful that it illustrates in its structure the law of gravitation which holds the world together, and by which “the most ancient heavens are fresh and strong.” This is the passage. The Friar speaking of Claudio, hearing that Hero “died upon his word,” says,–

“The idea of her life shall sweetly creep
Into his study of imagination;
And every lovely organ of her life
Shall come apparelled in more precious habit–
More moving delicate, and full of life,
Into the eye and prospect of his soul,
Than when she lived indeed.”

We have here expressed in plain language the imaginative memory of the beloved dead, rising upon the past, like moonlight upon midnight,–

“The gleam, the shadow, and the peace supreme.”

This is its simple meaning–the statement of a truth, the utterance of personal feeling. But observe its hidden abstract significance–it is the revelation of what goes on in the depths of the soul, when the dead elements of what once was, are laid before the imagination, and so breathed upon as to be quickened into a new and higher life. We have first the Idea of her Life–all he remembered and felt of her, gathered into one vague shadowy image, not any one look, or action, or time–then the idea of her life creeps–is in before he is aware, and SWEETLY creeps,–it might have been softly or gently, but it is the addition of affection to all this, and bringing in another sense–and now it is in his study of imagination–what a place! fit for such a visitor. Then out comes the Idea, more particular, more questionable, but still ideal, spiritual–every lovely organ of her life–then the clothing upon, the mortal putting on its immortal, spiritual body–shall come apparelled in more precious habit, more moving delicate–this is the transfiguring, the putting on strength, the poco piu–the little more which makes immortal,–more full of life, and all this submitted to–the eye and prospect of the soul.