Billeder på siden

speculative nature was impeded by a disputative habit of thought and a fertility of invention which suggested ingenious objections and started new theories at every step. Accordingly, this constitution of mind led him rather to investigate the grounds of an author's hypothesis, and to satisfy his own mind upon the relative probabilities of conflicting opinions, than to plod on patiently through a long course, merely to lay up in his memory the particular views and arguments of each writer, without consideration of their importance or their foundation. He was not content to know what an author's opinions were, but how far they were right, or wrong. The examination of a single metaphysical speculation of Locke, or a moral argument of Butler, usually cost him more time and thought than would carry ordinary minds through a whole volume. It was also remarkable that in the perusal of mere works of fancy– the most interesting poems and romances of the day, he lingered with such delight on the first striking passages, or entered into such minute criticism upon every beauty and defect as he went along, that it usually happened, either that the volume was hurried from him, or that some other engagement interrupted him before he had finished it. A great portion of what he had thus read he could almost repeat from memory; and while the recollection afforded him much ground of future enjoyment, it was sufficient also to set his own mind at work in the same direction. The facility of his disposition also exposed him to many interruptions in his studies. Even in the midst of the most important engagements, he had not resolution to deny himself to any visitor. He used to watch anxiously for every knock at his door lest any one should be disappointed or delayed who sought for him ;. and, such was the good-natured simplicity of his heart, that, however sorely he sometimes felt the intrusion, he still rendered himself so agreeable, even to his most common-place acquaintances, as to encourage a repetition of their importunities. He allowed himself to become the usual deputy of every one who applied to him to perform any of the routine collegiate duties which

[blocks in formation]

he was qualified to discharge; and thus his time was so much invaded, that he seldom had any interval for continued application to his own immediate business. Besides, the social habit of his disposition, which delighted in the company of select friends, and preferred the animated encounter of conversational debate to the less inviting exercise of solitary study, and his varied taste, which could take interest in every object of rational and intellectual enjoyment, served to scatter bis mind, and divert it from that steadiness of application which is actually necessary for the attainment of distinguished eminence in any pursuit.”

But his character was soon to experience a total change from the admission of a new principle into his nature. “ Happening to become acquainted with an interesting and highly respectable family, who resided in the most picturesque part of the county of Dublin, he frequently visited them, sharing in all the refined pleasures of their domestic circle, and partaking with them in the exhilarating enjoyment of the rural and romantic scenery around them. With every member of the family he soon became cordially intimate ; but, with one -- this intimacy gradually and almost unconsciously grew into a decided attachment. The attainment of a fellowship 'would indeed have afforded him means sufficient to realize his hopes; but unhappily, the statute which rendered marriage incompatible with that honorable station, had been lately revived. His prospects of obtaining a competency in any other pursuit were so distant and uncertain, that the family of the young lady deemed it prudent at once to break off all further intercourse, before a mutual engagement had actually taken place.” The effect which so severe a disappointment must have produced on such a being as Wolfe, may be easily conceived. It pressed upon both mind and body. Until this unfortunate epoch of his life he had been in the enjoyment of the most robust health; but the sickness at his heart soon communicated itself to his whole frame.

Even his general deportment was quite altered. “ No one," says the author of College Recollections, “ could now complain of his ardent

and exuberant spirits, nor yet accuse him of being absent or abstracted. He paid a polite attention to every thing that was passing in company; not a seeming, but a real attention, as long as he could keep down the strong sensations of his heart. I have seen him sometimes, apparently overcome, cover his eyes with his hand, and seemingly give a loose to his inward feelings; and then, when he roused himself to resume his place in company, I could see that the expression of his countenance was, as it were, a struggle between tenderness and severity, as if he had felt a tear rising to his eye, and had frowned it away indignantly. It was, of course, when alone, that the power of his affection most overmastered him, and then the influence of abstract studies was but a poor auxiliary against the impetuosity of a domineering passion. The reader will be able to form an opinion of the state in which he passed his private hours from a circumstance which occurred, one evening, in a company where I was present. I had been sitting with some friends on a winter night, after our several studies for the day were over, when we were joined by a visitor whose character would well deserve a longer notice than I can here afford to give of it. He was very much addicted to mathematical pursuits, and had attained a high proficiency in them, but upon most other subjects was but very slightly informed. Indeed he had an inward contempt for all other studies than those in which he himself excelled, and, more particularly, for all connected with taste and imagination.

. What have we here?' said he, looking at the open book upon the table. . Wordsworth's Excursion! This is the man that babbles about green fields. Well, gentlemen, don't let me interrupt your agreeable conversation. Don't, I beg of you, speak sense in compliment to me. I have got some papers of Waller's to look over, and so you may speak poetry while I am examining them,' We resumed our conversation, and he proceeded to the examination of the papers. Some indistinct murmurs drew our attention towards him, and we saw an expression of sarcastic triumph in his countenance. After remaining for

some time silent, and apparently enjoying the discovery he had made, he said, Gentlemen, some of you who are better acquainted with this kind of language than I am, may be able to explain an expression I have met with here, and which I do not think strictly algebraic.' He showed us the paper: it was intended for a calculation of a comet's parhelion distance; but the calculation had been interrupted by some thought which Waller had not been able to suppress, and he had given it expression :

That smile I'll remember for ever."

“ It was in this manner that his passion displayed itself in pursuits so seemingly uncongenial. In one place we found a most ingenious and beautiful solution of a very difficult problem. Even our sarcastic visitor muttered his applause; and just under the calculation there was written; Oh grief, grief!' It was a painful thing to witness the proofs which these papers afforded of the anguish to which poor Waller's mind had become a prey; and to see that his virtuous struggles to disengage himself from the remembrances which were consuming him, were of so little avail. His studies had become more desultory; and his memory was no longer tenacious; and when the examination for the adjudgment of fellowships drew near, he found that he could not, with credit to himself, appear as a candidate. Some time after this I met him on his return from the law-courts. He spoke of some of our old acquaintances, whom he had seen engaged in the labours, or, at least, endeavouring to advance themselves in the knowledge of their profession; and he felt as if - he had remained stationary, during the general progress of all his contemporaries. He spoke as if he could not continue to devote himself to his present studies; that he must have imperious and active duties to perform: and that it was only by active employment in such duties he could hope to atone for his past idleness, and to compensate his friends for the disa appointment he had caused them.”

A few days previous to his ordination, his feelings received another shock by the death of the Rev. Hercules Henry Graves, who had been his fellow student, and one of his most valued and intimate friends. “ Under the deep impression of two such afflictive trials," Mr. Russell observes, “ he was obliged to prepare for removal from society which he loved, — from the centre of science and literature to which he was so much devoted, to an obscure and remote country curacy in the north of Ireland, where he could not hope to meet one individual to enter into his feelings, or to hold communion with him upon the accustomed subjects of his former pursuits."

Mr. Wolfe's first curacy was a temporary one at Ballyclog, in Tyrone. Of the extraordinary change in his situation as compared with the luxury of the metropolis he had quitted, the following extract of a letter from him to one of his college friends, dated December 11, 1817, will give some idea :

“ I am now sitting by myself opposite my turf fire, with my Bible beside me, in the only furnished room of the glebehouse — surrounded by mountains, frost and snow, and with a set of people with whom I am totally unacquainted, except a disbanded artillery-man, his wife, and two children, who attend me, — the churchwarden, and the clerk of the parish.”

Soon after, Mr. Wolfe removed to Castle Caulfield, the principal village of the parish of Donoughmore, in the diocese of Armagh. His journey thither was thus whimsically described by himself:

“ One waggon contained my whole fortune and family (with the exception of a cow, which was driven along-side of the waggon), and its contents were two large trunks, a bed and its appendages; and on the top of these, which were piled up so as to make a very commanding appearance -- sat a woman (my future house-keeper) and her three children, and by their side stood a calf of three weeks old, which has lately become an inmate in my family.”

This, alas ! was but assumed gaiety. Justly might he have said in the words of Desdemona,

« ForrigeFortsæt »