Upheaved in many a billowy mound
After my experience at Cambridge and Edinburgh, I might have felt some apprehension about my reception at Oxford. I had always supposed the audience assembled there at the conferring of degrees was a more demonstrative one than that at any other of the universities, and I did not wish to be forced into a retreat by calls for a speech, as I was at Cambridge, nor to repeat my somewhat irregular proceeding of addressing the audience, as at Edinburgh. But when I found that Mr. John Bright was to be one of the recipients of the degree I felt safe, for if he made a speech I should be justified in saying a few words, if I thought it best; and if he, one of the most eloquent men in England, remained silent, I surely need not make myself heard on the occasion. It was a great triumph for him, a liberal leader, to receive the testimonial of a degree from the old conservative university. To myself it was a graceful and pleasing compliment; to him it was a grave and significant tribute. As we marched through the crowd on our way from Balliol, the people standing around recognized Mr. Bright, and cheered him vociferously.
If there is a river of mneme as a counterpart of the river lethe, my cup of coffee must have got its water from that stream of memory. If I could borrow that eloquence of Jouffroy which made his hearers turn pale, I might bring up before my readers a long array of pallid ghosts, whom these walls knew well in their earthly habiliments. Only a single one of those I met here still survives. The rest are mostly well-nigh forgotten by all but a few friends, or remembered chiefly in their children and grandchildren.
Nothing is more hackneyed than an American's description of his feelings in the midst of the scenes and objects he has read of all his days, and is looking upon for the first time. To each of us it appears in some respects in the same way, but with a difference for every individual. We may smile at Irving's emotions at the first sight of a distinguished Englishman on his own soil,--the ingenious Mr. Roscoe, as an earlier generation would have called him. Our tourists, who are constantly going forward and back between England and America, lose all sense of the special distinctions between the two countries which do not bear on their personal convenience. Happy are those who go with unworn, unsatiated sensibilities from the New World to the Old; as happy, it may be, those who come from the Old World to the New, but of that I cannot form a judgment.下载
I ought to consider myself highly favored to have lived through such a half century. But it seems to me that in walking the streets of London and Paris I shall revert to my student days, and appear to myself like a relic of a former generation. Those who have been born into the inheritance of the new civilization feel very differently about it from those who have lived their way into it. To the young and those approaching middle age all these innovations in life and thought are as natural, as much a matter of course, as the air they breathe; they form a part of the inner framework of their intelligence, about which their mental life is organized. To men and women of more than threescore and ten they are external accretions, like the shell of a mollusk, the jointed plates of an articulate. This must be remembered in reading anything written by those who knew the century in its teens; it is not likely to be forgotten, for the fact betrays itself in all the writer's thoughts and expressions.
But here I stand once more before the home of the long-suffering, much-laboring, loud-complaining Heraclitus of his time, whose very smile had a grimness in it more ominous than his scowl. Poor man! Dyspeptic on a diet of oatmeal porridge; kept wide awake by crowing cocks; drummed out of his wits by long-continued piano-pounding; sharp of speech, I fear, to his high-strung wife, who gave him back as good as she got! I hope I am mistaken about their everyday relations, but again I say, poor man!--for all his complaining must have meant real discomfort, which a man of genius feels not less, certainly, than a common mortal.