Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion

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Author: William Hazlitt

Letter X

Dear Friend, Here I am at St. Bees once more, amid the scenes which I greeted in their barrenness in winter; but which have now put on their full green attire that shews luxuriant to the eye, but speaks a tale of sadness to this heart widowed of its last, its dearest, its only hope! Oh! lovely Bees-Inn! here I composed a volume of law-cases, here I wrote my enamoured follies to her, thinking her human, and that "all below was not the fiend’s"—here I got two cold, sullen answers from the little witch, and here I was ----- and I was damned. I thought the revisiting the old haunts would have soothed me for a time, but it only brings back the sense of what I have suffered for her and of her unkindness the more strongly, till I cannot endure the recollection. I eye the Heavens in dumb despair, or vent my sorrows in the desart air. "To the winds, to the waves, to the rocks I complain"—you may suppose with what effect! I fear I shall be obliged to return. I am tossed about (backwards and forwards) by my passion, so as to become ridiculous. I can now understand how it is that mad people never remain in the same place—they are moving on for ever, FROM THEMSELVES!

Do you know, you would have been delighted with the effect of the Northern twilight on this romantic country as I rode along last night? The hills and groves and herds of cattle were seen reposing in the grey dawn of midnight, as in a moonlight without shadow. The whole wide canopy of Heaven shed its reflex light upon them, like a pure crystal mirror. No sharp points, no petty details, no hard contrasts—every object was seen softened yet distinct, in its simple outline and natural tones, transparent with an inward light, breathing its own mild lustre. The landscape altogether was like an airy piece of mosaic-work, or like one of Poussin’s broad massy landscapes or Titian’s lovely pastoral scenes. Is it not so, that poets see nature, veiled to the sight, but revealed to the soul in visionary grace and grandeur! I confess the sight touched me; and might have removed all sadness except mine. So (I thought) the light of her celestial face once shone into my soul, and wrapt me in a heavenly trance. The sense I have of beauty raises me for a moment above myself, but depresses me the more afterwards, when I recollect how it is thrown away in vain admiration, and that it only makes me more susceptible of pain from the mortifications I meet with. Would I had never seen her! I might then not indeed have been happy, but at least I might have passed my life in peace, and have sunk into forgetfulness without a pang.—The noble scenery in this country mixes with my passion, and refines, but does not relieve it. I was at Stirling Castle not long ago. It gave me no pleasure. The declivity seemed to me abrupt, not sublime; for in truth I did not shrink back from it with terror. The weather-beaten towers were stiff and formal: the air was damp and chill: the river winded its dull, slimy way like a snake along the marshy grounds: and the dim misty tops of Ben Leddi, and the lovely Highlands (woven fantastically of thin air) mocked my embraces and tempted my longing eyes like her, the sole queen and mistress of my thoughts! I never found my contemplations on this subject so subtilised and at the same time so desponding as on that occasion. I wept myself almost blind, and I gazed at the broad golden sunset through my tears that fell in showers. As I trod the green mountain turf, oh! how I wished to be laid beneath it—in one grave with her—that I might sleep with her in that cold bed, my hand in hers, and my heart for ever still—while worms should taste her sweet body, that I had never tasted! There was a time when I could bear solitude; but it is too much for me at present. Now I am no sooner left to myself than I am lost in infinite space, and look round me in vain for suppose or comfort. She was my stay, my hope: without her hand to cling to, I stagger like an infant on the edge of a precipice. The universe without her is one wide, hollow abyss, in which my harassed thoughts can find no resting-place. I must break off here; for the hysterica passio comes upon me, and threatens to unhinge my reason.

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Chicago: William Hazlitt, "Letter X," Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Evans, Sebastian in Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion Original Sources, accessed August 17, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3URVW7GF6FHMWVF.

MLA: Hazlitt, William. "Letter X." Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Evans, Sebastian, in Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion, Original Sources. 17 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3URVW7GF6FHMWVF.

Harvard: Hazlitt, W, 'Letter X' in Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion, ed. and trans. . cited in , Liber Amoris, , the New Pygmalion. Original Sources, retrieved 17 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3URVW7GF6FHMWVF.