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if by magic, rush upon his mind. The engine recoils, he is caught in his own snare.
A servant girl, for some pique, or for an angry word, determines to poison her mistress. She knows before hand (just as well as she does afterwards) that it is at least a hundred chances to one she will be hanged if she succeeds, yet this has no more effect
her than if she had never heard of any
such matter. The only idea that occupies her mind and hardens it against every other, is that of the affront she has received, and the desire of revenge ; she broods over it; she meditates the mode, she is haunted with her scheme night and day; it works like poison; it
grows into a madness, and she can have no peace till it is accomplished and off her mind; but the moment this is the case, and her passion is assuaged, fear takes place of hatred, the slightest suspicion alarms her with the certainty of her fate from which she before wilfully averted her thoughts ; she runs wildly from the officers before they know any thing of the matter; the gallows stares her in the face, and if none else accuses her, so full is she of her danger and her guilt, that she probably betrays herself. She at first would see no consequences to result from her crime but the getting rid of a present uneasiness ; she now sees
the very worst. The whole seems to depend on the turn given to the imagination, on our immediate disposition to attend to this or that view of the subject, the evil or the good. As long as our intention is unknown to the world, before it breaks out into action, it seems to be deposited in our own bosoms, to be a mere feverish dream, and to be left with all its consequences under our imaginary controul : but no sooner is it realized and known to others, than it appears to have escaped from our reach, we fancy the whole world are up in arms against us, and vengeance is ready to pursue and overtake us. So in the pursuit of pleasure, we see only that side of the question which we approve: the disagreeable consequences (which may take place) make no part of our intention or concern, or of the wayward exercise of our will : if they should happen we cannot help it; they form an ugly and unwished-for contrast to our favourite speculation : we turn our thoughts another way, repeating the adage quod sic mihi ostendis incredulus odi. It is a good remark in Vivian Grey,' that a bankrupt walks the streets the day before his name is in the Gazette with the same erect and confident brow as ever, and only feels the mortification of his situation after it
becomes known to others. Such is the force of sympathy, and its power to take off the edge of internal conviction! As long as we can impose upon the world, we can impose upon ourselves, and trust to the flattering appearances, though we know them to be false. We put off the evil day as long as we can, make a jest of it as the certainty becomes more painful, and refuse to acknowledge the secret to ourselves till it can no longer be kept from all the world. In short, we believe just as little or as much as we please of those things in which our will can be supposed to interfere ; and it is only by setting aside our own interests and inclinations on more general questions that we stand any chance of arriving at a fair and rational judgment. Those who have the largest hearts have the soundest understandings ; and he is the truest philosopher who can forget himself.
This is the reason why are often said to be mad, for thinking only of the abstract truth and of none of its worldly adjuncts,—it seems like an absence of mind, or as if the devil had got into them! If belief were not in some degree voluntary, or Were grounded entirely on strict evidence and absolute proof, every one would be a martyr to his opinions, and we should have no power of
evading or glossing over those matter-of-fact conclusions for which positive vouchers could be produced, however painful these conclusions might be to our own feelings, or offensive to the prejudices of others.