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Omitted Passages And Varied Readings
by [?]


Variation on the opening of ‘Coleridge and Opium-eating.’

What is the deadest thing known to philosophers? According to popular belief, it is a door-nail. For the world says, ‘Dead as a door-nail!’ But the world is wrong. Dead may be a door-nail; but deader and most dead is Gillman’s Coleridge. Which fact in Natural History we demonstrate thus: Up to Waterloo it was the faith of every child that a sloth took a century for walking across a street. His mother, if she ‘knew he was out,’ must have had a pretty long spell of uneasiness before she saw him back again. But Mr. Waterton, Baptist of a new generation in these mysteries, took that conceit out of Europe: the sloth, says he, cannot like a snipe or a plover run a race neck and neck with a first-class railway carriage; but is he, therefore, a slow coach? By no means: he would go from London to Edinburgh between seedtime and harvest. Now Gillman’s Coleridge, vol. i., has no such speed: it has taken six years to come up with those whom chiefly it concerned. Some dozen of us, Blackwood-men and others, are stung furiously in that book during the early part of 1838; and yet none of us had ever perceived the nuisance or was aware of the hornet until the wheat-fields of 1844 were white for the sickle. In August of 1844 we saw Gillman.


The Fathers grant to the Oracles a real power of foresight and prophecy, but in all cases explain these supernatural functions out of diabolic inspiration. Van Dale, on the other hand, with all his Vandalish followers, treats this hypothesis, both as regards the power itself of looking into the future and as regards the supposed source of that power, in the light of a contemptible chimera. They discuss it scarcely with gravity: indeed, the very frontispiece to Van Dale’s book already announces the repulsive spirit of scoffing and mockery in which he means to dismiss it; men are there represented in the act of juggling and coarsely exulting over their juggleries by protruding the tongue or exchanging collusive winks with accomplices. Now, in a grave question obliquely affecting Christianity and the course of civilization, this temper of discussion is not becoming, were the result even more absolutely convincing than it is. Everybody can see at a glance that it is not this particular agency of evil spirits which Van Dale would have found so ridiculous, were it not that he had previously addicted himself to viewing the whole existence of evil spirits as a nursery fable. Now it is not our intention to enter upon any speculation so mysterious. It is clear from the first that no man by human researches can any more add one scintillation of light to the obscure indications of Scripture upon this dark question, than he can add a cubit to his stature. We do not know, nor is it possible to know, what is even likely to be the exact meaning of various Scriptural passages partly, perhaps, adapted to the erring preconceptions of the Jews; for never let it be forgotten that upon all questions alike, which concerned no moral interest of man, all teachers alike who had any heavenly mission, patriarchs or lawgivers conversing immediately with God, prophets, apostles, or even the Founder of our religion Himself, never vouchsafe to reveal one ray of illumination. And to us it seems the strangest oversight amongst all the oversights of commentators that, in respect to the Jewish errors as to astronomy, etc., they should not have seen the broad open doctrine which vindicates the profound Scriptural neglect of errors however gross in that quality of speculation. The solution of this neglect is not such as to leave a man under any excuse for apologizing or shuffling. The solution is technical, precise, and absolute. It is not sufficient to say, as the best expounders do generally say, that science, that astronomy for instance, that geology, that physiology, were not the kind of truth which divine missionaries were sent to teach; that is true, but is far short of the whole truth. Not only was it negatively no part of the offices attached to a divine mission that it should extend its teaching to merely intellectual questions (an argument which still leaves the student to figure it as a work not indispensable, not absolutely to be expected, yet in case it were granted as so much of advantage, as a lucro ponatur), but in the most positive and commanding sense it was the business of revelation to refuse all light of this kind. According to all the analogies which explain the meaning of a revelation, it would have been a capital schism in the counsels of Providence, if in one single instance it had condescended to gratify human curiosity by anticipation with regard to any subject whatever, which God had already subjected to human capacity through the ample faculties of the human intellect.


The evangelist, stepping forward, touched her forehead. ‘She is mortal,’ he said; and guessing that she was waiting for some one amongst the youthful revellers, he groaned heavily; and then, half to himself and half to her, he said, ‘O flower too gorgeous, weed too lovely, wert thou adorned with beauty in such excess, that not Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like thee, no nor even the lily of the field, only that thou mightest grieve the Holy Spirit of God?’ The woman trembled exceedingly, and answered, ‘Rabbi, what should I do? For, behold! all men forsake me.’

Brief had been the path, and few the steps, which had hurried her to destruction. Her father was a prince amongst the princes of Lebanon; but proud, stern, and inflexible.


[1] ‘Against flies’–whence he must have merited the anger of Beelzebub, whom Syrians held to be the tutelary god of flies; meaning probably by ‘flies’ all insects whatever, as the Romans meant by passer and passerculus, all little birds of whatsoever family, and by malum every fruit that took the shape and size of a ball. How honoured were the race of flies, to have a deity of the first rank for their protector, a Caesar for their enemy! Caesar made war upon them with his stylus; he is supposed to have massacred openly, or privately and basely to have assassinated, more than seven millions of that unfortunate race, who however lost nothing of that indomitable pertinacity in retaliating all attacks, which Milton has noticed with honour in ‘Paradise Regained.’ In reference to this notorious spirit of persecution in the last prince of the Flavian house, Suetonius records a capital repartee: ‘Is the Emperor alone?’ demanded a courtier. ‘Quite alone.’ ‘Are you sure? Really now is nobody with him?’ Answer: ‘Ne musca quidem.