Text: Edgar Allan Poe (???), Omniana (part 01), Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, vol. VI, no. 4, April 1840, 161-162


[page 161:]



Every thing by starts, but nothing long.


Various; that the mind

Of desultory man, studious of change,

And pleased with novelty, may be indulged.




SINCE the sad experience of my school-boy days to this present writing, I have seen little to sustain the notion held by some folks, that school boys are the happiest of all mortals. Says one of the wittiest writers of the day: — “What are the beatitudes of a scholastic paradise? To be fagged, flogged, thumped, coerced to mental labor, and constrained in personal liberty. This may be all very proper and salutary, (so is physic) but it is not happiness; and there is rarely, very rarely, an instance of a boy, while he is in one of these prisons of the body, and tread-mills of the mind, who is not always wishing to get out of it, and to get home.”



“Reading,” says Tessian, in his letters to the prince of Sweden, “is of universal advantage. In perusing the writings of sensible men, we have frequent opportunities of examining our own hearts, and, by that means, of attaining a more certain knowledge of ourselvess, for we find that we are more sensibly touched with incidents, or reflections, of a certain nature; and on the contrary, that we pass over others without the least emotion.” Thus it is easy to discover which of our passions predominate; and which, consequently, require the most attention. We learn to love virtue, and to shun vice. By reading we also learn to judge of the different style of various authors, and insensibly improve our own. If we happen to be blest with a strong memory, we not only recollect frequent lessons, and examples for our own conduct, but have many opportunities of instructing those with whom we converse. And if our memories are not the most extraordinary, it is very certain that reading will, at least by degrees, improve our taste, our understanding, and our elocution.



The infirmity of falsifying our age is at least as old as the times of Cicero, who, hearing one of his contemporaries. attempting to make out that he was ten years younger than he really was, very drily remarked, “Then, at the time you and I were at school together, you were not born.”



People may say what they please about a similarity of opinions being necessary to friendship; a similarity of habits is much more so. It is the man you dine, breakfast, and lodge with, ride or play with, that is your friend — not the man who likes Virgil as well as you do, and agrees with you in an admiration of the music of Bellini and Von Weber.



However well regulated may be one's temper, by the aid of religion, philosophy, and a great intercourse with mankind in the different situations and circumstances of life, he who has acquired the highest attainments in the art of self-control, will, nay must, acknowledge the occasional jostling of his complacency by the rubs it falls to the lot of none to be exempted from.



Speaking of these, Sir William Temple says: — “The greatest pleasure of life is love — the greatest treasure is contentment — the greatest possession is health — the greatest ease is sleep, and the greatest medicine is a true friend.”



It would seem from an account given by the late Rev. John Brand, in his “Popular Antiquities,” that this plant, used as the national cognizance of Ireland, is trefoil; and of the species used in husbandry commonly called clover. It is said that when St. Patrick landed near Wicklow, in the year 433, the pagan inhabitants were ready to stone him, he requested to be heard, and endeavored to explain God to them as the Trinity in Unity, but they could not understand him, until plucking a trefoil from the ground, he said, “Is it not as possible for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as for these leaves, to grow upon a single stock!” It is said this illustration produced immediate conviction on his hearers. [page 162:]



“I am an old fellow,” says Cowper, in one of his letters to Hurdis — “but I had once my dancing days as you have now, yet I could never find that I could learn half as much of a woman's real character by dancing with her, as by conversing with her at home, when I could observe her behaviour at the table, at the fire-side, and all the circumstances, all the trying circumstances of domestic life. We are all good when we are pleased; but she is the good woman who wants no fiddle to sweeten her.”



An advertisement in the (London) Times newspaper, of July, states that there is “To let, in thorough state of repair, a most capital house, with the exception of the ground floor, which is distinct from the other part, etc.” This house must surely have been built upon the long supposed preposterous principles adopted by a set of architects called aerial castle-builders, and must doubtless possess delightful bird-eye views of the surrounding country, though situated in the heart of the town.



Diogenes, being at Olympia, saw, at that celebrated festival, some young men of Rhodes arrayed most magnificently. Smiling, he exclaimed, “This is pride.” Afterwards, meeting some Lacedemonians in a mean and sordid dress, he said, “This is also pride.”



The authorship of this series is not certain, but has often been attributed to Poe, as it is by Heartman and Canny (1943).


[S:0 - BGM, 1840] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Omniana [part 01]