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November 9, 2011 / dlw43

Excerpt from Henry MacKenzie’s A Man of Feeling

“There is at least,” said the stranger, “one advantage in the poetical inclination, that it is an incentive to philanthropy. There is a certain poetic ground, on which a man cannot tread without feelings that enlarge the heart: the causes of human depravity vanish before the romantic enthusiasm he professes, and many who are not able to reach the Parnassian heights, may yet approach so near as to be bettered by the air of the climate.”

“I have always thought so,” replied Harley; “but this is an argument with the prudent against it: they urge the danger of unfitness for the world.”

“I allow it,” returned the other; “but I believe it is not always rightfully imputed to the bent for poetry: that is only one effect of the common cause. – Jack, says his father, is indeed no scholar; nor could all the drubbings from his master ever bring him one step forward in his accidence or syntax: but I intend him for a merchant. – Allow the same indulgence to Tom. – Tom reads Virgil and Horace when he should be casting accounts; and but t’other day he pawned his great-coat for an edition of Shakespeare. – But Tom would have been as he is, though Virgil and Horace had never been born, though Shakespeare had died a link-boy; for his nurse will tell you, that when he was a child, he broke his rattle, to discover what it was that sounded within it; and burnt the sticks of his go-cart, because he liked to see the sparkling of timber in the fire. – ’Tis a sad case; but what is to be done? – Why, Jack shall make a fortune, dine on venison, and drink claret. – Ay, but Tom – Tom shall dine with his brother, when his pride will let him; at other times, he shall bless God over a half-pint of ale and a Welsh-rabbit; and both shall go to heaven as they may. – That’s a poor prospect for Tom, says the father. – To go to heaven! I cannot agree with him.”

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