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ness of his stomach, turned the superstition on his side into an elegance and an exaltation. The fact we allude to is, that Johnson would never go down Cranbourne Alley, or some street thereabout. He always turned and went round about. Had he been gay and confident, not overwhelmed with scrofula, and with the more gloomy parts of his creed, he might have sworn as Socrates did, that it was his guardian angel that told him not to go that way. Had it been Jeremy Taylor — Jeremy the amiable and the handsome, the Sir Charles Grandison of Christianity, who, with equal comfort to his security, pronounced a panegyric upon a wedding ring, or a description of eternal torments (so much can superstition pervert a sweet nature)
- he, if he had thought he had an intimation from within, would have infallibly laid it to the account of the prettiest angel of the skies. Was it something of a like vanity in Socrates (too superior to his fellows, not to fall into some disadvantage of that sort)? or was it an unhealthy movement within him happily turned ? or was it a joke which was to be taken for serious, by those who liked ? or did it arise from one of those perplexities of not knowing what to conclude, to which the greatest minds may be subject when they attain to the end of their experience, and stand between the known world and the unknown ? or, lastly, was it owing (as we fear is most likely) partly to a superstition retained from his nurse, and partly to a determination to construe an occasional fancy, thus warranted, into a conscious certainty, and so turn his interest with heaven to the account of his effect among men ? Such, we fear, is the most reasonable conjecture, and such we take to be the general impression; though with a delicacy, equally singular and creditable to them, mankind (with rare exceptions) seem to have agreed to say as little about the matter as possible, choosing rather to give so great a man the benefit of their ignorance, than lose any part of their reverence for his wisdom. One thing must not be forgotten; that this pretension to an unusual sense of his attendant spirit assisted in getting him into trouble. He was accused of introducing false gods, — a singular charge, which shows how much the opinion of a guardian deity had gone out of use. On the other hand, he argued (with a true look of feeling, and which must afterwards have had great effect), that it was not his fault if he beheld in omens and intimations the immediate influence of his guardian angel, and not merely the omens themselves. That he did believe in the latter somehow or other, is generally admitted.
It is not a little curious, that this is the only story of a good demon that has come down to us in the records of antiquity. Some philosophers had theirs long afterwards; but these were evident imitations. Stories of bad demons, according to the vulgar notion, are more numerous. Two are to be found in the life of Apollonius of Tyana. Another is in Pausanus, and a third is the famous one of Brutus. These injurious persons were seldom however bad by nature. They become so from ill usage, being in fact, the souls of men who had been ill treated when alive.
ON THE GENII OF ANTIQUITY AND THE
H E bad demon was thought to be of formidable
shape, black, frowning, and brutal. A man, according to Pausanias, fought with one, and drove him into the sea. As we have told the
story before (in the “Indicator”), * and it is little to tell, we shall proceed to give the noblest passage ever written about demons, in the scene out of Shakespeare. The spirit that appeared to Brutus has been variously represented. Some made it of the common order of malignant appearances; others have described it as resembling Cæsar. This was the light in which it was beheld by our great poet.
With what exquisite art; that is to say, with what exquisite nature, has he not introduced this scene, and made us love and admire the illustrious patriot, who having done what he could upon earth, and prepared for his last effort, is about to encounter the menaces of fate. How admirably, by the help of the little boy and the lute, has he painted him, who was only a dictator and a warrior because he was a great humanist, the Platonic philosopher in action, the ideal, yet not passionless, man, — such a one as Shakespeare loved, not because he loved only select human nature, but because he loved all that human nature contained !
We must confess, that in our opinion the address to the Ghost is not so good as in simple old Plutarch. There is too much astonishment and agitation in it; if not for na
* In the article on the “Household Gods of the Ancients." - ED.
ture, at least for the superinduced and philosophic nature, that we are led to suppose was in Brutus; and the same objection might be made to what follows. The household are called up in too much alarm. It is Brutus's care for his servants, his bidding them take their rest, and what he says to the little lute-player, overcome with sleep, that render the scene so charming. The divine scene also between him and Cassius, where he tells him that “ Portia is dead,” has just preceded it.
Brutus. Lucius, my gown. [Exit Lucius.] Farewell, good Messala ;
Cassius. O, my dear brother !
Bru. Every thing is well.
Farewell, every one.
[Exeunt Cas., Tit., and Mes. Re-enter Lucius with the gown. Give me the gown. Where is thy instrument?
Lucius. Here in the tent.
What, thou speak’st drowsily?
Luc. Varro and Claudius.
Enter Varro and CLAUDIUS.
Varro. Calls my lord ?
Bru. I pray you, sirs, lie in my tent and sleep;
Var. So please you, we will stand, and watch your pleasure.
(Servants lie down.
[Music and a song.
It may be, I shall otherwise think me.
Luc. I was sure, your lordship did not give it me.
Bru. Bear with me, good boy, I am much forgetful.
Luc. Ay, my lord, an it please you.
It does, my boy.
Luc. It is my duty, sir.
Bru. I should not urge thy duty past thy might; I know young bloods look for a time of rest.
Luc. I have slept, my lord, already.
Bru. It is well done ; and thou shalt sleep again;
Enter the Ghost of CÆSAR.
Ghost. Thy evil spirit, Brutus.
Why com'st thou?
Ay, at Philippi.
[He sits down.