Cambridge, May 14, 1826.—I am studying Madame de Stael, Epictetus, Milton, Racine, and Castilian ballads, with great delight.
There's an assemblage for you. Now tell me, had you rather be the brilliant De Stael or the useful Edgeworth——though De Stael is useful too, but it is on the grand scale, on liberalizing, regenerating principles, and has not the immediate practical success that Edgeworth has. I met with a parallel the other day between Byron and Rousseau, and had a mind to send it to y elder Italian poets, beginning with Berni, from whom I shall proceed to Pulci and Politian.
I read very critically.
Lydia Maria Child. and I think of reading Locke, as introductory to a course of English metaphysics, and then De Stael on Locke's system.
Allow me to introduce this lady to you as a most interesting woman, in my opinion.
She is a natural person, —a most rare thing in this age of cant and pretension.
Her conversation is charming,—she brings all her powers t
at least, as the analytic understanding was concerned.
Every writer whom she studied, as every person whom she knew, she placed in his own class, knew his relation to other writers, to the world, to life, to nature, to herself.
Much as they might delight her, they never swept her away.
She breasted the current of their genius, as a stately swan moves up a stream, enjoying the rushing water the more because she resists it. In a passionate love-struggle she wrestled thus with the genius of De Stael, of Rousseau, of Alfieri, of Petrarch.
The first and most striking element in the genius of Margaret was the clear, sharp understanding, which keenly distinguished between things different, and kept every thought, opinion, person, character, in its own place, not to be confounded with any other.
The god Terminus presided over her intellect.
She knew her thoughts as we know each other's faces; and opinions, with most of us so vague, shadowy, and shifting, were in her mind substantial an
strictures to one who, having a better-disciplined mind, is more sensible of the difficulties in the way of really knowing and doing anything, and who, having more Wisdom, has more Reverence too. All that passed at your house will prove very useful to me; and I trust that I am approximating somewhat to that genuine humility which is so indispensable to true regeneration.
But do not speak of this to——, for I am not yet sure of the state of my mind.
1836.—I have, for the time, laid aside De Stael and Bacon, for Martineau and Southey. I find, with delight, that the former has written on the very subjects I wished most to talk out with her, and probably I shall receive more from her in this way than by personal intercourse,—for I think more of her character when with her, and am stimulated through my affections.
As to Southey, I am steeped to the lips in enjoyment.
I am glad I did not know this poet earlier; for I am now just ready to receive his truly exalting influences in some
strong, and the strong the beautiful; the mute seeks the eloquent, &c.; the butterfly settles always on the dark flower.
Why did Socrates love Alcibiades?
Why did Korner love Schneider?
How natural is the love of Wallenstein for Max; that of De Stael for De Recamier; mine for——. I loved—— for a time, with as much passion as I was then strong enough to feel.
Her face was always gleaming before me; her voice was always echoing in my ear; all poetic thoughts clustered round the dear image.
Tonly when, on talking with people, I find I tell them what they did not know, that my confidence at all returns.
My verses,—I am ashamed when I think there is scarce a line of poetry in them,—all rhetorical and impassioned, as Goethe said of De Stael.
However, such as they are, they have been overflowing drops from the somewhat bitter cup of my existence.
How can I ever write with this impatience of detail?
I shall never be an artist; I have no patient love of execution; I am deli