The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 713 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2.

  —­We by proof find there should be
  Twixt man and man such an antipathy,
  That though he can show no just reason why
  For any former wrong or injury,
  Can neither find a blemish in his fame,
  Nor aught in face or feature justly blame,
  Can challenge or accuse him of no evil,
  Yet notwithstanding hates him as a devil.

The lines are from old Heywood’s “Hierarchie of Angels,” and he subjoins a curious story in confirmation, of a Spaniard who attempted to assassinate a King Ferdinand of Spain, and being put to the rack could give no other reason for the deed but an inveterate antipathy which he had taken to the first sight of the King.

  —­The cause which to that act compell’d him
  Was, he ne’er loved him since he first beheld him.]

[Footnote 2:  There are some people who think they sufficiently acquit themselves, and entertain their company, with relating facts of no consequence, not at all out of the road of such common incidents as happen every day; and this I have observed more frequently among the Scots than any other nation, who are very careful not to omit the minutest circumstances of time or place; which kind of discourse, if it were not a little relieved by the uncouth terms and phrases, as well as accent and gesture peculiar to that country, would be hardly tolerable.—­Hints towards an Essay on Conversation.]


We are too hasty when we set down our ancestors in the gross for fools, for the monstrous inconsistencies (as they seem to us) involved in their creed of witchcraft.  In the relations of this visible world we find them to have been as rational, and shrewd to detect an historic anomaly, as ourselves.  But when once the invisible world was supposed to be opened, and the lawless agency of bad spirits assumed, what measures of probability, of decency, of fitness, or proportion—­of that which distinguishes the likely from the palpable absurd—­could they have to guide them in the rejection or admission of any particular testimony?—­That maidens pined away, wasting inwardly as their waxen images consumed before a fire—­that corn was lodged, and cattle lamed—­that whirlwinds uptore in diabolic revelry the oaks of the forest—­or that spits and kettles only danced a fearful-innocent vagary about some rustic’s kitchen when no wind was stirring—­were all equally probable where no law of agency was understood.  That the prince of the powers of darkness, passing by the flower and pomp of the earth, should lay preposterous siege to the weak fantasy of indigent eld—­has neither likelihood nor unlikelihood a priori to us, who have no measure to guess at his policy, or standard to estimate what rate those anile souls may fetch in the devil’s market.  Nor, when the wicked are expressly symbolized by a goat, was it to be wondered at so much, that he should come sometimes in that body, and assert his metaphor.—­That the intercourse was opened at all between both worlds was perhaps the mistake—­but that once assumed, I see no reason for disbelieving one attested story of this nature more than another on the score of absurdity.  There is no law to judge of the lawless, or canon by which a dream may be criticised.

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The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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