Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 133.djvu/157

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
151
THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

sigh. Another declares that he was heard many times to cry, "O God! have pity on me, miserable sinner!" — "which having given occasion to those around him to ask him whether he now believed in the existence of a God whose judgments he had every reason to fear after his death, he replied that the words had only escaped him unintentionally, by force of habit." Amongst still other tales, we read that he kept constantly in readiness "a preparation of mandragora juice, which he drank as soon as he felt the approach of death, . . . and having drawn the curtains of his bed, fell into a deep sleep, losing consciousness, and thus passed from this life into eternity." Even the worthy and usually scrupulous Colerus cannot refrain from contributing a glimmer of lurid fancy to the scene; and allows his dislike of Ludwig Meyer's opinions to draw him into writing that no sooner was Spinoza dead than he "seized a ducat, some small money that the deceased had left on the table, and a silver-handled knife, and retreated with his booty." Colerus himself has thoroughly demonstrated the falsehood of all of these absurd stories, except the last, which may fairly enough be written down as too absurd to need refutation. It is possible, as suggested by the writer of Muller's manuscript, that Spinoza in his last moments may have given his old and tried friend some small articles as keepsakes; and that this may have been the germ from which the libel grew.

Let us sum up. Spinoza was no abstract pedant, susceptible of being fully described by the statement of a handbook of literature that he was a "mathematician and metaphysician," and lived "from such a date to such a date, in such and such places;" on the contrary, he was largely and eminently human. There are two natures in Spinoza, that of the man of quick, wide sympathies, to whom nothing that is human is foreign, as well as that of the mystic, extra-mundane reasoner. In the early years of his life we can trace, with considerable sureness, the quick flashes of the fiery southern blood that fed his veins. He was never wanting in impulsiveness, but impulse in him was always more or less controlled by reason; and the control of reason grew through the lifelong practice of reflection and restraint into an ever more perfect mastery. The grandeur and the majestic pride of the Portuguese he retained to the last. His Jewish descent appears in the lofty confidence that enabled him to stand fast in the isolation of his philosophic vision, withdrawn from fellowship with the thoughts of men; alone, like the Hebrew prophets of old time, with God. Laboring unremittingly in the practice of piety, he succeeded in moulding his soul at length into a form of consummate moral beauty. He has been accused of pusillanimity, we have found him constantly brave; of bitterness, and we have met with the greatest sweetness of disposition and of behavior everywhere in his life; of sensuality, and we have found every reason to believe that his life was one of perfect purity. We have seen him to have been totally devoid of ambition, that so general concomitant of genius; in all relations of life we have found him surpassingly modest, affable, sincere, and generous. In his contempt, not only of riches, but even of comfort, he was almost quixotic. He loved truth passionately, and with perfect disinterestedness. To the preservation of the independence and integrity of his soul he made unheard-of sacrifices, and it is by his splendid solution of this thorny practical problem, more than for aught else that he has wrung from us our unbounded admiration and our unbounded gratitude. Let us not fall short of the truth through fear of falling into exaggeration: Spinoza's life was of a beauty to which history can hardly find a parallel; on that Sunday afternoon of the 21st of February, two hundred years ago, there cracked as noble and as sweet a heart as ever beat in human breast. Arthur Bolles Lee.




THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

BY GEORGE MACDONALD, AUTHOR OF "MALCOLM," ETC.

CHAPTER XLIV.

THE MIND OF THE AUTHOR.

The next was the last day of the reading. They must finish the tale that morning, and on the following set out to return home, travelling as they had come. Clementina had not the strength of mind to deny herself that last indulgence — a long four days' ride in the company of this strangest of attendants. After that, if not the deluge, yet a few miles of Sahara.

"'It is the opinion of many that he has entered into a Moravian mission, for the use of which he had previously drawn considerable sums,' " read Malcolm, and paused with book half closed.