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we have only the smallest part of the evidence to decide upon. Real character is not one thing, but a thousand things; actual qualities do not conform to any factitious standard in the mind, but rest upon their own truth and nature. The dull stupor under which we labour in respect of those whom we have the greatest opportunities of inspecting nearly, we should do well to imitate, before we give extreme and uncharitable verdicts against those whom we only see in passing, or at a distance. If we knew them better, we should be disposed to say less about them.
In the truth of things, there are none utterly worthless, none without some drawback on their pretensions, or some alloy of imperfection. It has been observed that a familiarity with the worst characters lessens our abhorrence of them; and a wonder is often expressed that the greatest criminals look like other men. The reason is that they are like other men in many respects. If a particular individual was merely the wretch we read of, or conceive in the abstract, that is, if he was the mere personified idea of the cri. minal brought to the bar, he would not disappoint the spectator, but would look like what he would be-a monster! But he has other qualities, ideas, feelings, nay, probably virtues, mixed
with the most profligate habits or de.
sperate acts. This need not lessen our abhor. rence of the crime, though it does of the criminal; for it has the latter effect only by showing him to us in different points of view, in which he appears a common mortal, and not the caricature of vice we took him for, or spotted all over with infamy. I do not at the same time think this a lax or dangerous, though it is a charitable view of the subject. In my opinion, no man ever answered in his own mind (except in the agonies of conscience or of repentance, in which latter case he throws the imputation from himself in another way) to the abstract idea of a murderer. He may have killed a man in selfdefence, or “ in the trade of war," or to save himself from starving, or in revenge for an injury, but always so as with a difference," or from mixed and questionable motives. The individual, in reckoning with himself, always takes into the account the considerations of time, place, and circumstance, and never makes out a case of unmitigated, unprovoked villany, of
pure defecated evil” against himself. There are degrees in real crimes : we reason and moralise only by names and in classes. I should be loth, indeed, to say, that " whatever is, is right:" but almost every actual choice inclines
to it, with some sort of imperfect, unconscious bias. This is the reason, besides the ends of secresy, of the invention of slang terms for dif. ferent acts of profligacy committed by thieves, pickpockets, &c. The common names suggest associations of disgust in the minds of others, which those who live by them do not willingly recognise, and which they wish to sink in a technical phraseology. So there is a story of a fellow who, as he was writing down his confession of a murder, stopped to ask how the word murder was spelt; this, if true, was partly because his imagination was staggered by the recollection of the thing, and partly because he shrunk from the verbal admission of it. " Amen stuck in his throat!” The defence made by Eugene Aram of himself against a charge of murder, some years before, shows that he in imagination completely flung from himself the nominal crime imputed to him: he might, indeed, have staggered an old man with a blow, and buried his body in a cave, and lived ever since upon the money he found upon him, but there was “no malice in the case, none at all," as Peachum says. The very coolness, subtlety, and circumspection of his defence (as masterly a legal document as there is upon record) prove that he
was guilty of the act, as much as they prove that he was unconscious of the crime* In the same spirit, and I conceive with great metaphysical truth, Mr. Coleridge, in his tragedy of Remorse, makes Ordonio (his chief character) wave the acknowledgment of his meditated guilt to his own mind, by putting into his mouth that striking soliloquy:
Say, I had lay'd a body in the sun !
I am not sure, indeed, that I have not got this whole train of speculation from him; but I should not think the worse of it on that account. That gentleman, I recollect, once asked me whether I thought that the different members of a family really liked one another so well, or had so much attachment as was generally supposed: and I said that I conceived the regard they had towards each other was expressed by the word interest, rather than by any other ; which he said was the true answer. I do not know that I could mend it now. Natural affection is not pleasure in one another's company, nor admiration of one another's qualities; but it is an intimate and deep knowledge of the things that affect those, to whom we are bound by the nearest ties, with pleasure or pain; it is an anxious, uneasy, fellow-feeling with them, a jealous watchfulness over their good name, a tender and unconquerable yearning for their good. The love, in short, we bear them, is the nearest to that we bear ourselves. Home, according to the old saying, is home, be it never so homely. We love ourselves, not according to our deserts, but our cravings after good: so we love our immediate relations in the next degree (if not, even sometimes a higher one) because we know best what they have suffered and what sits nearest to their hearts. We are implicated, in fact, in their welfare, by habit and sympathy, as we are in our own.
* The bones of the murdered man were dug up in an old hermitage. On this, as one instance of the acuteness which he displayed all through the occasion, Aram remarks, “ Where would you expect to find the bones of a man sooner than in a hermit's cell, except you were to look for them in a cemetery?" See NewGATE CALENDAR for the year 1758 or 9.