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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/678

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

I have no ideas—I feel neither pain nor pleasure; all acts, all sensations, are alike to me; I am an automaton, incapable of thinking, or feeling, or recollecting—of will and of motion." This form of melancholia is a disease, and not a passion. It is a species of dementia akin to those strange aberrations which go by the name of lycanthropy, lypemania, etc.

The true passional melancholy is that reflex, profound, painful feeling of the imperfections of our nature, and of the nothingness of human life, which seizes on certain minds, torturing them, disheartening them, and making their life one long sigh. This feeling is expressed by the gentle poet Virgil, when he says, "Sunt lacrimæ rerum" (everywhere tears). This is the gloomy thought that haunts the mind of Hamlet, the hallucinatory despair of Pascal, the sadness which broods over Oberman and René, the bitter, heart-rending cry of Childe Harold, the grand desolation of Manfred, the inquietude and the agony represented by Albert Dürer's graver and by Feti's pencil. Melancholy so defined has a place in the depths of the heart of every man that philosophically contemplates Destiny, nor need we seek elsewhere an explanation of the sombre humor which distinguishes men of this kind, and which is witnessed to by those books wherein they convey to us the history of their souls' troubles. If such a humor as this had its source in the common ills of life—in its sufferings, its miseries, and its deceptions—we might understand it perhaps in the case of such men as Swift, Rousseau, Shelley, and Leopardi; but, when we meet with it in such favored geniuses as Byron, Goethe, Lamartine, and Alfred de Vigny, we are forced to acknowledge that, in men of the higher stamp, its cause must be the pain they feel on seeing that they cannot slake their ideal thirst.[1] Such is the melancholy which we may call the philosophic.

Besides this, there is another form of melancholy which proceeds from better-defined causes, i. e., from the common griefs and vexations of life. Reverses of fortune, balked ambitions, and disappointments in love, are usually the causes of this kind of sadness, which, being far more active than purely philosophic sadness, often gives rise to organic disorders of the most serious kind. Albert Dürer succumbed to the vexations caused him by his wife. Kepler died the victim of the afflictions heaped upon him by Fate. Disappointment in love is one of the most frequent causes of melancholy. This it is which harassed and tortured Mdlle. de Lespinasse—which troubled and worried the chaste soul of Pamela: it was the death of the beautiful Genoese, Tommasina Spinola, when she heard of Louis XII.'s illness, and of Lady Caroline Lamb, when she went home after the fu-

  1. "What from this barren being do we reap?
    Our senses narrow and our reason frail,
    Life short, and truth a gem which loves the deep."
    —"Childe Harold," iv., 93.