The final step in the progression of influences was, strange to say, a dream. Our residence was then on Grosvenor street,—a Florid Gothic one after the model of Desdemona’s House in Venice. My own little room was fitted up in a Moorish fashion.
After the scene with Quinet on Prospect Point, I sat up till a late hour, for I found a letter from Grace, telling jocularly of their journey just commenced in the delightful Old World, and seriously of Alexandra’s ambitions. I sat thinking with my arms folded on the table till I fell asleep. Then I felt at first that I was lifted up on the Mountain again, and leaving that presently, was carried out into space far away among the stars. Phosphorescent mists and cloud masses passed over the region, and among these appeared various figures, the last of which was, that of a certain old Professor of ours.
The most apparently dissimilar things come to us in dreams. A lecture of the Professor’s had once greatly impressed me: “Conscience is Reason,” he said. “To do a right thing is to do simply the reasonable thing; to do wrong is to do what is unreasonable.—
“Now think,” he said, “what this means.”
What could such words have to do with a dream?
“What is Duty?” he proceeded, “Whence the conviction, the mysterious fact, that whatever my inclination may be, I ought to do some act—ought to do it though the cup of pleasure be dashed from the lifting hand, though a loved face most pale, though the stars in their high courses reel, and the gulfs of perdition smoke,—why is it that the grave, unalterable ‘Ought’ must still demand reverence?”
His voice rose.
The familiar name caught my ear, and I attended.
“To him Heaven gave it to solve the problem. Think what Reason is! Be men for once and attend to one deep matter! Think what Reason is!—the divinest part of us, and common with the Divine, as with every Intelligence; speaking not of the voice of the individual, but one sound everywhere to all. It is more truth than metaphor to name it the VOICE OF GOD.”
In my dream, the Professor repeated, as if with mystic significance, the cry: “Conscience is Reason!” and as these words vaguely reached me, his figure dissolved into a rolling cloud, which grew at once into a shape of giant form, and addressed me in echoing tones: “The unalterable Ought! the unalterable Ought!” reverberating from the depths and heights.
I awoke at the sound, and collecting my energies—for I had been half-asleep,—stretched out my hand to my note-book, looked up the lecture, and with the words swaying before me, read sleepily:—
“Leave us Reason in any existence;—strip us of sight, sound, touch, and all the external constitution of nature, clothe us with whatever feelings and powers, place us in whatever scenes may come—but gift us with this universal faculty, our power of knowing truth. Otherwise, with rudder lost, we are dreamers on a drifting wreck, and where were the Divine One, and this harmonious architecture of the universe, and all things trustworthy, proportioned, eternal, exalting?”