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ON POSTHUMOUS FAME.
London Literary and Critical Journal.
LONDON, WEDNESDAY, JULY 2, 1828.
hallowed and everlasting form of being, and the uncountable masses of mankind are a congregate humanity. Whatever they desire thus bccomes more intensely desirable; the good or ill which depends upon the opinions of the world, are to them a greater good and a worse ill than to others, and it is not the praise or contempt of individuals numerically calculated, that is regarded, but the admiration or the scorn ofa grand, universal, personated humanity.
difficulty when we come to explain the phenomenon of its power over the mind, as a passion, that even the mists and darkness of futurity have no influence in weakening; as one, that though BE the love of fame the weakness of great minds, having its objects as much among mere human or the strength of infirm ones; be it an active perishing things as any other, leans itself proudly virtue among many noble passive ones, or the on the hopes of immortality; and, though comonly spring of selfishness in high and generous pletely subject to the influence of the world, natures; be it weakness or strength, vice or making him who feels it the very slave of its virtue, it endures all the checks, the operation of opinions, yet inspiring thoughts that despise the antidotes and antithetical passions, better than any power of death and the grave. No truly ambitious other principle of human character. Whatever is votary of fame ever contented himself with a repupainful or humiliating it ennobles; whatever is ho- tation that he did not expect would be extended nourable ennobles it. Poverty and suffering are beyond his present existence, or which would easily borne, when the nursing mothers of reputa- not ennoble his name with posterity. Tell the tion-genius and patriotism-are only valued by most prosperous of them, that while they live, the multitude, when prosperity or an adventitious their reputation shall go on progressively insuccess couples them with fame. Thus far, how-creasing, but that when they die it must be to ever, there is nothing of difficult explanation. It them like all other earthly possessions-a vanishis the balancing of different species of present ing and lost possession ;-one which, because they good. The valuing of one enjoyment with another are not present to keep it up, will be given to the and setting the greater or less price, as it may be, most eager supplicant;-tell any ardent pursuer of on personal honour and personal comfort; on the the golden mede of reputation that this will be the possession of a name, and the security of privacy; case, and he will no longer deny himself, and on having, in fact, a rich argosy on the wide take upon him the crusader-badge; he will enwaters of the world, or a vessel loaded with dure no more of the watchings and the privations humbler merchandise in port. In each case, it is that have wrung almost every other human joy the enjoyment of something positive, chosen ac- than that of hope out of his heart; he will be no cording to individual disposition, and pursued with longer separate from his fellow men, by the high success in proportion to individual talent. There is aspirations and workings of his soul, nor will he nothing more imaginary in reputation, as any more, with a daring abandonment of present good, when it produces pleasure, than there is in any interests, fling himself upon the unknown ocean other thing that can be gathered from the world. of time! the very constitution of his mind would The pursuit of it, when pursued for itself alone, become changed by such a revelation in all that is not less selfish than any other pursuit of related to itself and individual desires. It would good, and when it ends in success, its re- look towards another destiny, and be borne on sults are no more a visionary pleasure, than the wings of a new created hope. those with which the soberest man of business closes his career. Each has been the object seen, weighed in the balance, and regarded as the reward of their labours long before the different pursuers were near obtaining it; each has been pursued, with no doubt that, when possessed, it would be a palpable, a real, visible, substantial good; and, when actually obtained, if any fallacy be discovered in the expectation, it is full as often on the side of the sober calculators of pounds, shillings and pence, as on that of the supposed deluded votary of fame. Wealth and power require as much exercise of the imagination, or deceptive reasoning to make them en-pendently on objects immediately present or pass-require enticements to exertion from motives that
joyed, as fame does. One possession is as shadowy as another, considered in itself, and equally substantial in reference to the amount of pleasure they produce. The love of fame, therefore, and the most ardent and determined pursuit of it, are as accountable for, on the ordinary principles of human conduct, as any other desire or passion that impels men into action. We want no theory to explain its power over the mind, or to prove its consistency with very high powers of understanding. It has its existence, it is true, in a breath; in the suffrages of a populace, whose individual praises would be despised. But every other object of pursuit depends, in the same manner, either on the value which the opinion and fashion of the world confer upon it, or on the importance which its possessor supposes to belong to it.
But though we may thus easily account for the love of fame, so far as it is a pursuit of one among many other objects of temporal or present good, it involves questions of considerable
Such, and so necessarily and essentially co-eval with futurity, is the fame which men, ambitious of great names, desire. The first step towards the explanation of this mystery is to be discovered in the intellectual character of the individuals whom it distinguishes. The love of fame-the love of it which leads a man to undertake enterprises that are to astonish, or execute works that command the respect of, mankind-exists in minds only of a high and noble temper, whose selfishness is to be fed with food less gross than that which satisfies others. Minds of this class, by the primary principles of their consitution, reflect more inde
That what is above stated is the case; that the true aspirants after fame look at the dispensers of it in a mass, valuing the gift only as it appears to proceed from mankind in the full unity of their highest nature, is evident from two circumstances; the first, that a mere partial reputation gives no proportional satisfaction, and generally leaves him who obtains it disappointed and splenetic; the other is, that the candidate for reputation never, during the pursuit, sets his eye upon a certain number of individuals whom he knows, or has heard of, with the feeling that, if he succeeded in obtaining their praise, he should be satisfied. He may most truly value their approbation, but his desire of fame will be only gratified by obtaining their respect, inasmuch as it seems an important earnest of what is to follow. Again, such a person, after he has succeeded in his pursuit, and gained possession, or supposes he has, of the desired faine, no more turns back to reckon up some certain names recorded in the list of his admirers, than he before looked forward to them as particular objects of ambition. By thus, however, considering the love and passionate desire of fame, some account may be given of its birth in very great and noble minds. It is a possession that, if sought for by itself, manifests as much of selfishness in him who seeks it, as if he had made wealth, or any other object, his pursuit; but it is one, to obtain which many mighty powers are called forth and exercised, and the desire of which may consist and harmonize with the fairest and inost glorious qualities of our nature. There is, it is true, a bright, serene, and majestic virtue which would seem to be dimmed and lowered by this passion-a virtue which subsists by itself, fed by the pure spirit of truth, requiring no quickening by the imagination, and venerable without its glosses; but this is the virtue of a few-the holiest and the mightiest among men.
centre in self, and of these there are none more free from any taint of baseness than the love of reputation; and this, because there is no other species of selfishness which so necessarily connects a man with his fellows-which so compels him to honour humanity, and emancipate himself from the fetters which confine his thoughts to one scene, or his respect and sympathy to one class of objects.
ing before them. They, from the first, more
The desire of posthumous fame, it may be gamystery as has been sometimes supposed. The nature of the minds in which it is found most strongly to exist, by leading them to regard things in their abstract worth, rather than aecording to their actual appearance, gives a permanent value and substance to what, by others, is deemed the airy nothing of a name. By the same operation of mind mankind are looked at in masses, and their applause is the voice of one whole and mighty province of universal being. Thus free from the narrow boundary of an external and particularising observation, the thoughts