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Page 58

13. XIII.

The events mentioned in this letter were the
principal ones that occurred during the winter.
The case of Billy Wilmerdings grew quite
desperate. In vain did his father threaten and
the school-master expostulate; he was only the
more sullen and stubborn. In vain did his
mother represent to his weary mind, that, if he
did not study, the boys who knew the dead
languages would throw stones at him in the street;
he only answered that he should like to see them
try it. Till, finally, having lost many of his
illusions, and having even discovered that his
father was not the greatest man in the world,
on the breaking up of the ice in the river, to his
own infinite relief and that of the whole village,
he departed on a coasting trip in a fore-and-aft
schooner, which constituted the entire navigation
of Fairmeadow.


Page 59

Mr. Churchill had really put up in his study the
old white, wine-glass-shaped pulpit. It served
as a play-house for his children, who, whether
in it or out of it, daily preached to his heart,
and were a living illustration of the way to enter
into the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, he himself
made use of it externally as a note-book,
recording his many meditations with a pencil on
the white panels. The following will serve as
a specimen of this pulpit eloquence:—

Morality without religion is only a kind of
dead-reckoning,—an endeavour to find our place
on a cloudy sea by measuring the distance we
have run, but without any observation of the
heavenly bodies.

Many readers judge of the power of a book
by the shock it gives their feelings,—as some
savage tribes determine the power of muskets by
their recoil; that being considered best which
fairly prostrates the purchaser.

Men of genius are often dull and inert in
society; as the blazing meteor, when it descends
to earth, is only a stone.


Page 60

The natural alone is permanent. Fantastic
idols may be worshipped for a while; but at
length they are overturned by the continual and
silent progress of Truth, as the grim statues
of Copan have been pushed from their pedestals
by the growth of forest-trees, whose seeds were
sown by the wind in the ruined walls.

The every-day cares and duties, which men
call drudgery, are the weights and counterpoises
of the clock of time, giving its pendulum a true
vibration, and its hands a regular motion; and
when they cease to hang upon the wheels, the
pendulum no longer swings, the hands no longer
move, the clock stands still.

The same object, seen from the three different
points of view,—the Past, the Present, and
the Future,—often exhibits three different faces
to us; like those sign-boards over shop doors,
which represent the face of a lion as we approach,
of a man when we are in front; and of
an ass when we have passed.

In character, in manners, in style, in all things,
the supreme excellence is simplicity.


Page 61

With many readers, brilliancy of style passes
for affluence of thought; they mistake buttercups
in the grass for immeasurable gold mines under

The motives and purposes of authors are not
always so pure and high, as, in the enthusiasm
of youth, we sometimes imagine. To many the
trumpet of fame is nothing but a tin horn to call
them home, like laborers from the field, at dinnertime;
and they think themselves lucky to get the

The rays of happiness, like those of light, are
colorless when unbroken.

Critics are sentinels in the grand army of
letters, stationed at the corners of newspapers
and reviews, to challenge every new author.

The country is lyric,—the town dramatic.
When mingled, they make the most perfect
musical drama.

Our passions never wholly die; but in the
last cantos of life's romantic epos, they rise up


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again and do battle, like some of Ariosto's heroes,
who have already been quietly interred,
and ought to be turned to dust.

This country is not priest-ridden, but press-ridden.

Some critics have the habit of rowing up
the Heliconian rivers with their backs turned,
so as to see the landscape precisely as the poet
did not see it. Others see faults in a book much
larger than the book itself; as Sancho Panza,
with his eyes blinded, beheld from his wooden
horse the earth no larger than a grain of mustard-seed,
and the men and women on it as large
as hazel-nuts.

Like an inundation of the Indus is the course
of Time. We look for the homes of our childhood,
they are gone; for the friends of our childhood,
they are gone. The loves and animosities
of youth, where are they? Swept away like the
camps that had been pitched in the sandy bed
of the river.

As no saint can be canonized until the Devil's


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Advocate has exposed all his evil deeds, and
showed why he should not be made a saint, so no
poet can take his station among the gods until
the critics have said all that can be said against

It is curious to note the old sea-margins of
human thought! Each subsiding century reveals
some new mystery; we build where monsters
used to hide themselves.