BOOK I. MISS BROOKE.
10. CHAPTER X.
"He had catched a great cold, had he had no other clothes to wear
than the skin of a bear not yet killed."--FULLER.
Young Ladislaw did not pay that visit to which Mr. Brooke had
invited him, and only six days afterwards Mr. Casaubon mentioned
that his young relative had started for the Continent, seeming by this
cold vagueness to waive inquiry. Indeed, Will had declined to fix
on any more precise destination than the entire area of Europe.
Genius, he held, is necessarily intolerant of fetters: on the one
hand it must have the utmost play for its spontaneity; on the other,
it may confidently await those messages from the universe which
summon it to its peculiar work, only placing itself in an attitude
of receptivity towards all sublime chances. The attitudes of
receptivity are various, and Will had sincerely tried many of them.
He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken
too much, simply as an experiment in that form of ecstasy; he had
fasted till he was faint, and then supped on lobster; he had made
himself ill with doses of opium. Nothing greatly original had resulted
from these measures; and the effects of the opium had convinced him
that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution
and De Quincey's. The superadded circumstance which would evolve
the genius had not yet come; the universe had not yet beckoned.
Even Caesar's fortune at one time was, but a grand presentiment.
We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes
may be disguised in helpless embryos.--In fact, the world is full
of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities.
Will saw clearly enough the pitiable instances of long incubation
producing no chick, and but for gratitude would have laughed
at Casaubon, whose plodding application, rows of note-books, and small
taper of learned theory exploring the tossed ruins of the world,
seemed to enforce a moral entirely encouraging to Will's generous
reliance on the intentions of the universe with regard to himself.
He held that reliance to be a mark of genius; and certainly it is no
mark to the contrary; genius consisting neither in self-conceit nor
in humility, but in a power to make or do, not anything in general,
but something in particular. Let him start for the Continent, then,
without our pronouncing on his future. Among all forms of mistake,
prophecy is the most gratuitous.