1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Wilson

William Smith of North Leith, 1860 ca.; Mary Wilson Gordon, Christopher North (1862; 1894) 159-67.



In the course of lectures which I attended [in 1837], he began by treating of the desire of knowledge; the feeling of admiration; sympathy; desire of society; emulation; envy; anger; revenge; self; self-esteem; the love of fame or glory, and the love of power.

The most memorable points in the lectures were: (1.) a highly wrought description of Envy, founded on Spenser's picture of Lucifera riding in the glorious chariot of Pride, and preceded by six Passions (the fifth of which is Envy) riding each on a appropriate animal; (2.) a very minute and purely metaphysical analysis of the idea of Self; and, (3.) a highly poetical illustration of the workings of the Love of Power. This last display I can never forget; and sure am I that no one present can forget it either. It appeared to have been a lecture whose place in the course and powerful eloquence were previously not unknown to fame. For when I went to the class-room at the usual hour of the last day of November, I found it already overcrowded with an audience, comprising many strangers of note and several professors, all in a high state of expectation. Conspicuous in the center of the front bench was the new Professor of Logic, Sir William Hamilton, eager with anticipation as the others.