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Omitted Passages And Variations
by [?]


We have come upon a passage which is omitted from the ‘Confessions,’ and as it is, in every way, characteristic, we shall give it:

My studies have now been long interrupted. I cannot read to myself with any pleasure, hardly with a moment’s endurance. Yet I read aloud sometimes for the pleasure of others–because reading is an accomplishment of mine, and, in the slang use of the word ‘accomplishment’ as a superficial and ornamental attainment, almost the only one I possess–and, formerly, if I had any vanity at all connected with any endowment or attainment of mine, it was with this; for I had observed that no accomplishment was so rare. Players are the worst readers of all; —- reads vilely, and Mrs. —-, who is so celebrated, can read nothing well but dramatic compositions–Milton she cannot read sufferably. People in general read poetry without any passion at all, or else overstep the modesty of nature and read not like scholars. Of late, if I have felt moved by anything in books, it has been by the grand lamentations of ‘Samson Agonistes,’ or the great harmonies of the Satanic speaker in ‘Paradise Regained,’ when read aloud by myself. A young lady sometimes comes and drinks tea with us. At her request and M—-‘s I now and then read W—-‘s poems to them. (W—-, by-the-bye, is the only poet I ever met who could read his own verses. Blank verse he reads admirably.)

This, then, has been the extent of my reading for upwards of sixteen months. It frets me to enter those rooms of my cottage in which the books stand. In one of them, to which my little boy has access, he has found out a use for some of them. Somebody has given him a bow and arrows–God knows who, certainly not I, for I have not energy or ingenuity to invent a walking-stick–thus equipped for action, he rears up the largest of the folios that he can lift, places them on a tottering base, and then shoots until he brings down the enemy. He often presses me to join him; and sometimes I consent, and we are both engaged together in these intellectual labours. We build up a pile, having for its base some slender modern metaphysician, ill able (poor man!) to sustain such a weight of philosophy. Upon this we place the Dutch quartos of Descartes and Spinoza; then a third story of Schoolmen in folio–the Master of Sentences, Suarez, Picus Mirandula, and the Telemonian bulk of Thomas Aquinas; and when the whole architecture seems firm and compact, we finish our system of metaphysics by roofing the whole with Duval’s enormous Aristotle. So far there is some pleasure–building up is something, but what is that to destroying? Thus thinks, at least, my little companion, who now, with the wrath of the Pythian Apollo, assumes his bow and arrows; plants himself in the remotest corner of the room, and prepares his fatal shafts. The bow-string twangs, flights of arrows are in the air, but the Dutch impregnability of the Bergen-op-Zooms at the base receives the few which reach the mark, and they recoil without mischief done. Again the baffled archer collects his arrows, and again he takes his station. An arrow issues forth, and takes effect on a weak side of Thomas. Symptoms of dissolution appear–the cohesion of the system is loosened–the Schoolmen begin to totter; the Stagyrite trembles; Philosophy rocks to its centre; and, before it can be seen whether time will do anything to heal their wounds, another arrow is planted in the schism of their ontology; the mighty structure heaves–reels–seems in suspense for one moment, and then, with one choral crash–to the frantic joy of the young Sagittary–lies subverted on the floor! Kant and Aristotle, Nominalists and Realists, Doctors Seraphic or Irrefragable, what cares he? All are at his feet–the Irrefragable has been confuted by his arrows, the Seraphic has been found mortal, and the greatest philosopher and the least differ but according to the brief noise they have made.