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"O, deem not, midst this worldly strife,
An idle art the poet brings;
Let high philosophy control,
And sages calm the stream of life;
'Tis he refines its fountain-springs,
The nobler passions of the soul."

But, it may be said, the lyre is not always attuned to such lofty strains; it sometimes breathes forth in a "voluptuous swell" the enticements of a refined sensuality, and vibrates to earth-born desires. To this, I might say, that sensuality is not poetry. No thrill of pleasure received by the soul from the senses for which it would be ashamed to thank God as the giver, can claim the protection of poetry. The heavenly muse soars upward, silent and abashed, from the hilarious songs of the debauchee. If it be said, however, that polluting sentiments do take the form of poetry, I reply that such cases are exceptions, and less frequent now, perhaps, than formerly, and that the abuses of a blessing do not argue that it is not such.

Another considerable portion of literature is made up of what are called works of fiction. Can fiction be valuable? Can the false be made to subserve a good end? There may be those who are inclined to look upon all such works as evil, or at best but a waste of time both to the writer and the reader. But are they a mere tissue of falsehood and deceit? Does that language of childhood apply to them in which "telling a story" is but a euphemism for "6 telling a lie?" I do not say but that many books of this class may be falsehoods-false in their representations of life, and false in the principles they recognize that many are written merely to interest without a moral-and that others even tend directly to immorality. But that truth may be, and has been inculcated, and advantageously too, by this means, can hardly be denied.

Fictitious writings may be considered as of three kinds, natural, satirical, and romantic; the first giving us faithful copies of life, the second caricatures, and the third Utopian scenes. In the first case we have a narrative of the conduct of certain natural characters, in certain natural scenes and circumstances. It is not history, for the persons and incidents are created by the imagination. Exactly those characters never existed, but what repug

nance to truth is it, if just such characters have existed and do now? "History is philosophy teaching by example," and what else is fiction when it is true to nature? Let the actors be true men and women, and let the life be life as it is, and virtue may be inculcated and vice discountenanced as effectually as by a didactic treatise or a sermon. And more so; for truth in the abstract has not the pointedness of a direct application of it. We may assent with all readiness to exhortations to righteousness while the heart remains untouched. It is chiefly when the emotions are excited that the conduct is influenced. A moral lesson comes to us with vitality when exemplified in the actions of true human characters. Says Jacob Abbott, who has himself furnished so many useful tales for children, "The development of the moral sentiments in the human heart, in early life, is determined in a far greater degree by sympathy, and by the influence of example, than by formal precepts and didactic instruction."

Again, there is the satirical class of fiction. It looks at humanity upon one side-that of its weakness, and represents that. Its characters are mere personifications of vices and foibles-effigies set up to be burned. Its benefits may, perhaps, well enough be questioned. The object seems desirable enough to drive men out of their vices, by showing those vices up in their deformity. But while the writer employs this purpose, ostensibly even to himself, perhaps, it is not improbable that less worthy motives may have a strong influence in the case. A good reason why he

"Holds his warped mirror to a gaping age,"

may be because the age will gape and be pleased; because it is a pleasant and lucrative employment to lash the vices of men who look on and approve, though they still pursue their chosen ways. Let a satire consist of a light and dashing narrative of sins and follies, with no deep undertone of sad sarcasm, but interspersed with a page or two of express moral precept, delivered in a way as flippant as any of the rest, and its advantages are very doubtful. The view is apt also to be superficial, and the characters to be what Johnson calls "characters of manner rather than characters of nature." Notwithstanding

all this, however, such writing can at times, probably, be made valuable. Ridicule is often a strong weapon when direct reproof and exhortation are powerless. When the satirist pursues vice as one who hunts dangerous wild beasts to the death, rather than as one who takes to the chase for sport, then is he acting for the good of society. When his caricatures of human nature and representations of man as he too often is, are controlled by the conception of what he might and ought to be, then will his writings have their legitimate effect.

Thirdly, the romantic. It neither shows us life in its true and mixed character, nor displays its corrupt side, but creates an ideal world. It flies from this dull everyday life, into a realm of its own creating, whence it can banish petty and perplexing cares. Against this form of fiction, too, are brought up objections, and I am aware that some of them are valid. I know that by thus dwelling on unrealities, by losing one's self in an ideal world, one becomes unfitted for actual life, grows unfamiliar with its scenes, acquires a disrelish for its duties, and shrinks from contact with the public. But this objection lies against an abuse. The proper use is innocent and beneficial. A child brought up without any nourishment and culture of the imagination, has a great source of enjoyment in life put without his reach. He has to content himself with the gross, the material, the common. He is apt to want buoyancy, and faith and hope will be but half-awakened. And as to picturing scenes of purer and happier life than the usual, I think there can be no question of its utility. We sometimes hear people speak of the angelic characters-the Evas and Evangelines of fiction, as defects in the story," they are unnatural, too perfect." Too perfect? Heaven forbid! Let us have a perfect character occasionally, if it be but in imagination. Small injury, methinks, it will be to many of us to have a high ideal set before us. Purity and love and piety complete in human form is altogether too winning a sight to humanity to be without effect in elevating its conceptions and its aims.

I have thus spoken of literature as capable of exerting a favorable influence on character through the departments of poetry and fiction, as vehicles of moral truths.



But I do not wish to limit its value even to those works which are adapted to the inculcation of truth. There are other species of composition, the rejection of which from our libraries would prove a serious loss to the community of readers. Mankind would not willingly part with the treasures of wit and of fancy, of mirth and of melancholy, that find a place in their sympathies. A great mistake is made in supposing that the mind is deriving no benefit, except when it is acquiring positive knowledge or receiving direct precepts. Some seem to think that all reading other than of books of solid truth, may do well enough as play, but that really nothing is gained. Such persons have no adequate idea of the power of slight influences in moulding character. A witty or humorous book does something more than please for the time. The body craves lighter food, at times, than that substantial diet which would promote its growth. And physicians tell us, that, to produce the most beneficial effect, we must have a care to pleasing the palate, as well as to appeasing hunger. So the mind requires, now and then, a sweet bit, or a spicy morsel, to give relish to its solid nourishment. It may grow hardy, but at the same time rough and dull, if fed on hominy. Pleasantry comes in as a tonic.

How enlivening and refreshing at certain seasons are the pages which sparkle with the odd conceptions of the witty genius! How pleasurably the faculties are quickened, by the comprehension of his jests, to keep pace with him in the discovery of the ludicrous relations of things! To strike out Hood from the catalogue of writers, were like robbing a household of the laughter and prattle of childish sunny-heartedness.

And then the realm of fancy; who lifts the wearied mind upon her pinions to the land of dreams, and gives to it the buoyancy of the rarer air through which she soars. Mirth and melancholy have also been mentioned; mirth, that keeps pace with the sunlight and looks ever on the bright side of the earth, and melancholy, that flies unceasingly in the planet's shadow, at the antipodes of mirth. Mirth, "that wrinkled care derides," is necessary to maintain the vigor and elasticity of the mind, which needs frequently to behold a cheerful aspect of life and

of nature, to support in the performance of duty. But it is not well for the soul's earnestness and sympathy, to have it forget that there are grief and suffering and woe among the sons of men. In sadness, the heart acquires that seriousness, which is essential to its perfection. Let writers then remind us of sorrow; let us listen when they tell us

"There is no music in the life

That sounds with idiot laughter solely;
There's not a string attuned to mirth,
But has its chords of melancholy."

I have said that mirth and melancholy take respectively the sunny and the shady sides of the earth, but the two hemispheres touch each other, and he who looks fairly on the globe and sees all its phases, will behold both the darkness and the light. Thus Milton has not only sung to us L'Allegro, but also Il Penseroso. Hood, too, is a most notable example of a heart alive to the ridiculous, yet with a vein of truest sadness. "For your gayer hours" he has a voice of gladness, but with a gentle sympathy, also, does he "steal into your darker musings" with The Lay of the Laborer, The Song of the Shirt, and the Bridge of Sighs.

From the view which we have now taken of literature, it would seem to be no mean blessing. If the "Dream of the Blank Bible" should become a reality, and all other books be affected in like manner, we should expect to see the nations relapsing into a second mental night— into another series of dark ages. Says Tupper,

"Yea, let another Omar burn the full library of knowledge,

And the broad world may perish in the flames, offered on the ashes of its wisdom.

True, we have seen that literature is sometimes made a ministry of evil, rather than of good; but does this dimin-, ish, rather does it not augment, its importance? If books have been made an instrument to corrupt the soul, how much more necessity there is that great and good writers should fill the world with pure and noble thoughts, to overwhelm the offsprings of a depraved imagination, and make their authors hide their heads for shame. What office more important than that of thinking men, to keep

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