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no one be concerned for me as a Desperade : for I am not going to renounce the other parts of our religion, but to add another article of faith to it, without which I can't understand the rest; and if I lose this additional article by failing in this attempt, I have as much religion still left as they that pity
Mr. Cook, who has made a careful study of this remarkable man, thinks that in his later years Asgill renounced his creed in its literal meaning, and interpreted it mystically. It must surely have occurred to so severe a logician that no material form is permanent: had he lived a century and a half later he would have apprehended the great theory of modern science, that no particle of matter is for a moment at rest. The world perishes in all its atoms every instant, and is in all its atoms renewed. Scientific discovery, which to some minds brings the conclusion that the universe is an amazing automaton, convinces present God.
me irrefragably that there exists an ever
Men of intellect, ingenious and inquisitive, are most useful when they bring us news of undiscovered natural processes; but if they turn theory-builders, and construct the universe from their own limited notions, they act like some stonemason employed to chip blocks for a cathedral, who explains and criticizes the scheme of the architect. Quod in natura naturata Lex, in natura naturanta Idea dicitur. They, however, deify Law, being unable to conceive the existence of a Deity with Ideas. I I suppose that famous fly on Æsop's wheel thought the wheel a living power, and ignored the waggoner altogether.
In an essay designedly desultory, I venture to think Asgill worth passing mention, though I differ from him toto coelo. Indeed the idea which I attempt to enforce could never have entered his brain, or he would not have desired to turn this planet into a colony of
Struldbrugs. If the soul be immortal and reproductive, it need no more grieve for the loss of the body than an oak of a thousand summers grieves to drop its foliage in autumn. Asgill talks of the cowardliness of dying’
- which is absurd : but there is ignorant cowardliness in fearing death. Mr. Browning laughs at this fear in a pugnacious fashion, which likewise is absurd ; he, as a great poet, ought to feel that there is no need of struggle for the soul that is akin to the Divinity. The world moves in cycles, with an inexorable regularity behind its apparent irregularity. The baby weeps when its rose dies or its bird flies away: the man who weeps when his best friend dies, and who shudders himself at the threshold of death, is just as babyish. And does not the fear of death shorten life? Is not the mens sana in corpore sano perpetually injured by the terrors of superstition and the potions of empirics? Would not life be lengthened by the utter abolition of Calvinism and calomel ?
LONG LIFE IN LAKELAND.
Vergilium tantum vidi.
IN 1848, during one of the spasms which have periodically shaken France since she destroyed her aristocracy, I was in Westmorland. I had the great happiness to meet Wordsworth. He said many things pregnant of meaning which I shall never forget. We talked of longevity. He remarked, speaking as if he were Roman senator dressed like an English farmer :
Height of hill and movement of water are health-giving. They are associated with
primeval soil and an air always fresh and stimulant. If you want to judge the truth
of this, look at the obituary notices in the Westmorland Gazette.'
When the notion of writing this essay entered my brain, recollecting the great poet's advice, I wrote to the pleasant and erudite gentleman who edited the Gazette then, and who edits it now. I asked him to give me a list of all the local deaths at eighty and upwards for a couple of months, simply saying if they were of males or females. He selected those of December and January 1870 -1871, quoting only from the paper's special district. Thus are they tabulated :
December 3, 1870:
88, f.; 80, m.; 97 (!), m. ; 82, f.; 82, f.
December 10 :
90, f.; 80, f. ; 84, m. ; 90, f. ; 84, m.
82, f.; 84, m. ; 89, f. ; 82, f. ; 82, m. ; 85, m.; 84, f.
80, m. ; 81, m.; 84, m.; 95, f. ; 80, f. ; 80, f.