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lic mind into extravagances, and repress every sentiment of sympathy and generosity. Ambition itself is not so reckless of human life as ennui; clemency is the favourite attribute of the former ; but ennui has the tastes of a cannibal, and the sight of human blood, shed for its amusement, makes it greedy after a renewal of the dreadful indulgence. No one need be informed, that the shows of ancient gladiators were attended by an infinitely more numerous throng than is ever gathered by any modern spectacle. And let it not be supposed, that the life of one of these combatants was the more safe, because it depended on the interposition of the Roman fair. The fondness for murderous exhibitions finally raged with such vehemence, that they were at length introduced as an attraction at a banquet, and the guests, as they reclined at table in the luxury of physical ease, have been wet by the life-blood from the veins of the wounded gladiators.
Quinetiam exhilarare viris convivia cæde
Pocula, respersis non parco sanguiné mensis. Time would fail us were we to illustrate the various horrors which attended these amusements, designed to entertain the most refined population of Rome. Time would fail us were we to enumerate the various classifications in the art of murder on the stage, the signals which were made by the multitude in token of relenting clemency, the more usual signal, made by virgins and matrons, demanding the continuance of the combat unto death. Do we not call Titus the delight of the human race ? Do we not praise his commonplace puerility, perdidi diem, the exclamation of conceit, rather than of manliness? And yet it was this philanthropist, this favourite of humanity, who caused the vast amphitheatre to be erected, as it were a monument to all ages of the barbarous civilization of the capital of his empire. And as to the numbers who appeared on these occasions, do we suppose it was a pair ? or a score? We will not ask after the horrors commended and consummated by a Tiberius or a Caligula. Was not Trajan a moderate prince? Was he not disposed to introduce habits of a reasonable industry? Yet the active Trajan kept up a succession of games to cheat the population of Rome of ennui, during a hundred and twenty-three days, in which time ten thousand gladiators were decked for sacrifice.
Thus the vehemence of this passion is evident from the atrocity of the resources by which its cravings are satisfied. We may also remark, that superstition itself, interwoven as it is with all the fears and weaknesses of humanity, subjects the human mind to a bondage less severe and less permanent than that of
VOL. IX.-NO. 17. 6
the terrific craving after something to dissipate the weariness of the heart. At Rome the sacrifices to the heathen deities were abolished before the games of the gladiators were suppressed ; it was less difficult to take from the priests their spoils, from the altars their victims, from the prejudices of the people their religious faith, than to rescue from ennui the miserable wretches whose lives were to be the sport of the idle. The laws already forbade the offering the bull to Jove, when the poet still had to pray that none might perish in the city under the condemnation of pleasure,
Nullus in urbe cadat, cujus sit pæna voluptas. Philosophy itself offers no guarantee against the common infirmities of listlessness. Many a stoic has resisted the attacks of external evils with an exemplary fortitude; and has yet failed in his encounters with time. Strange indeed that time should be an encumbrance to a sage! Strange indeed, that, when life is so short, and philosophy boundless, and time a gift of the most precious nature, dealt out to us in successive moments, a possession which is most coveted, and can the least be hoarded, which comes, but never returns, which departs as soon as given, and is lost even in the receiving, -strange indeed that such a gift, so precious, so transient, so fleeting, should ever press severely upon a philosopher !
And yet wisdom is no security against ennui. The man who made Europe ring with his eloquence, and largely contributed to the spirit of republican enthusiasm, wasted away for months in a state of the most foolish languor, under the idea that he was dying of a polypus at his heart.* Nay, this philosopher, who presumed to believe himself skilled in the ways of man, and an adept in the character of women, who dared to expound religion and proposed to reform Christianity, who committed and confessed the meanest actions,—and yet, as if in the presence of the Supreme Arbiter of life and before the tribunal of Eternal Justice, arrogated to himself an equality with the purest in the innumerable crowd of immortal souls,-he, the proud one, would so far yield to ennui, as to put the final and eternal welfare of his soul at issue on the throw of a stone. La Harpe, no correct writer, nor sound critic, affirms, that Rousseau undertook to decide the question of a Superintending Providence by throwing stones at a tree. That would have been not merely an imbecile but a blasphemous act. As the case stood, Jean Jacques must be acquitted of any charge worse than that of excessive and even ridiculous weakness. « Je m'en vais," he says to himself, "je
* Jean Jacques Rousseau. Confessions, p. 1. I. vi.
m'en vais jeter cette pierre contre l'arbre qui est vis-a-vis de moi : si je le touche, signe de salut ; si je le marque, signe de damnation."
But Jean Jacques passes for an inspired madman. What shall we say to the temperate Spinoza, whose life was not variegated by the brightness of domestic scenes, and who, being cut off from active life and from social love, necessarily encountered a void within himself. It was his favourite resource against the visits of ennui, to catch spiders and teach them to fight; and when he had so far made himself master of the nature of these animals, that he could get them as angry as game cocks, he would, all thin and feeble as he was, break out into a roar of laughter, and chuckle to see his champions engage, as if they, too, were fighting for honour.
Poor Spinoza ! It may indeed be questioned, whether his whole philosophy was not a sort of pastime with him. It may be, that after all he was ingenious because he could not be quiet, and wrote his attacks on religion from a want of something to do. At any rate it has fared strangely with his works. The world had well nigh become persuaded, that Spinoza was but a name for a degraded atheism, and now we have him zealously defended, and in fact we have seen him denominated a saint.* So near are extremes : the ridiculous borders on the sublime ; and the same man is denounced as a parricide of society, and again extolled as a model of sanctity.
But we have a stronger example than either of these. The very philosopher, who first declared experience to be the basis of knowledge, and found his way to truth through the safe places of obseryation, gives in his own character some evidences of participation in the common infirmity. He said very truly, that there is a foolish corner even in the wise man's brain. Yet, if there has ever appeared on earth, a man possessed of reason in its highest perfection, it was Aristotle. He had the gift of seeing the forms of things, undisturbed by the confusing splendour of colours ; his mind, like the art of sculpture, represented objects with the most precise outlines and exact images; but the world in his mind was a colourless world. He understood and has explained the secrets of the human heart, the workings of the human passions; but he performs all these moral dissections with the coolness of an anatomist, engaged in a delicate operation. The nicety of his distinctions, and his deep insight into the nature of man, are displayed without passion, while his con
We remember perfectly well the beginning of an apostrophe to the Jewish philosopher ; “Du heiliger Spinoza." Herder, too, has a good deal to say in defence of him.
stant effort after the discovery of new truth, never for one moment betrays him into mysticism, or tempts him to substitute shadows for realities. One would think, that such a philosopher was the personification of self-possession; that his unruffled mind would always dwell in the serene regions of intelligence; that his step would be on the firm ground of experience; that his progress to the sublime temple of truth and of fame, would have been ever secure and progressive; that happiness itself would have blessed him for his tranquil and dispassionate devotedness to exalted pursuits.
But perhaps the clear perception of the realities of life is not the secret source of contentment. Many a scholar has shrunk from the contest of transient interests, and sought happiness rather in the world of contemplation; and perhaps the studies of antiquity derive a part of their charm, from their affording us a place of refuge against the clamours and persecutions which belong to present rivalries. If the view of human nature, adopted by a large portion of our theologians, is a just one, the heart must recoil with horror from the true consideration of the human world in its natural unmitigated depravity, and throw itself rather into the hopes that belong to the future, and the mercies that attach to the Supreme Intelligence, for relief against the apathy which so cold a contemplation of unmingled evil might naturally produce.
In the mouth of Pindar, life might be called a dream, and it would but pass for the effusion of poetic melancholy. But when the sagacious philosopher asserts it, that all hope is but the dream of waking man, a latent discontent broken from the concealment of an unsatisfied curiosity, a baffled pursuit; when his mind had arrived at that state, nothing but its remarkable vigour could have preserved him from settled gloom.
Again the venerable sage examined into the sources of happiness. It does not consist, he affirms, in voluptuous pleasures, for they are transient, brutalizing, and injurious to the mind; nor in public honours, for they depend on those who bestow them, and it is not felicity to he the recipient of an uncertain bounty ; nor yet does happiness consist in riches, for the care of them is but a toil; and if they are expended, it is plainly a proof, that contentment is sought for in the possession of other things. In the view of the Stagyrite, happiness consists in the pursuit of knowledge, and in the practice of virtue, under the auspices of mind, and nature, and fortune. He that is intelligent, and young, and handsome, and vigorous, and rich, is alone the happy man. Did the world need the sublime wisdom, the high mental endowment of the Stagyrite, to learn, that neither the poor, nor the dull, nor the aged, nor the sick, can
share in the highest bounty of the Universal Father ? When it is remembered that Aristotle was favoured above all his contemporaries in intellectual gifts, we ask the reader to draw an inference as to the state of his mind, which still demanded the beauties of personal attractions, and the lavish liberality of fortune.
When asked what is the most transient of fleeting things, the philosopher made but a harsh answer, in naming “gratitude;" but his mind must have been sadly a prey to ennui, when he could exclaim, “my friends! there are no friends."
He could not be content to sit or stand, when he gave lessons in moral science, but walked to and fro in constant restlessness; and, indeed, if tradition reports rightly, he could not wait the will of Heaven for his release from weariness, but in spite of all his sublime philosophy, and all his expansive genius, he was content to die as the fool dieth.
But ennui kills others beside philosophers. It is not without example, that men have committed suicide, because they have attained their utmost wishes. The man of business, finding himself possessed of a sufficient fortune, retires from active life ; but the habit of action remains, and becomes a power of terrific force. In such cases, the sufferer sits away listless hours of intense suffering; the mind preys upon itself, and sometimes madness ensues, sometimes suicide is committed.
Saul went out to find his father's asses. With the humble employment he seems to have been reasonably pleased, and probably made search with a light heart and an honest one. But, seeking asses, he found a kingdom; and contentment fled when possession was full. In him, the reproofs of conscience and discontent with the world produced a morbid melancholy, and pain itself would have been to him a welcome refuge from ennui.
We detect the same subtle spirit at work, in the slanders in which gossips find relief. Truth is not exciting enough to those who depend on the characters and lives of their neighbours for all their amusement; and if a story is told of more than common interest, ennui is sure to have its joy in adding a few embellishments. If time did not hang heavy, what would become of scandal? Time, the common enemy, must be passed, as the phrase is, and the phrase bears its own commentary ; and since the days of gladiators are passed, where can be the harm of blackening the reputation of the living ? To the pusillanimous and the idle, scandal is the condiment of life, and while backbiting furnishes their entertainment abroad, domestic quarrelling fills up
the leisure hours at home. It is a pretty general rule, that the médisante is a termagant in her household; and, as for our own sex, depend upon it, in nine cases out of ten, the evil