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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 419 Volume 17, New Series, January 10, 1852   By:

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No. 419. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JANUARY 10, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d .


My friends, have you read Elia? If so, follow me, walking in the shadow of his mild presence, while I recount to you my vision of the Lost Ages. I am neither single nor unblessed with offspring, yet, like Charles Lamb, I have had my 'dream children.' Years have flown over me since I stood a bride at the altar. My eyes are dim and failing, and my hairs are silver white. My real children of flesh and blood have become substantial men and women, carving their own fortunes, and catering for their own tastes in the matter of wives and husbands, leaving their old mother, as nature ordereth, to the stillness and repose fitted for her years. Understand, this is not meant to imply that the fosterer of their babyhood, the instructor of their childhood, the guide of their youth, is forsaken or neglected by those who have sprung up to maturity beneath her eye. No; I am blessed in my children. Living apart, I yet see them often; their joys, their cares are mine. Not a Sabbath dawns but it finds me in the midst of them; not a holiday or a festival of any kind is noted in the calendar of their lives, but Grandmamma is the first to be sent for. Still, of necessity, I pass much of my time alone; and old age is given to reverie quite as much as youth. I can remember a time long, long ago when in the twilight of a summer evening it was a luxury to sit apart with closed eyes; and, heedless of the talk that went on in the social circle from which I was withdrawn, indulge in all sorts of fanciful visions. Then my dream people were all full grown men and women. I do not recollect that I ever thought about children until I possessed some of my own. Those waking visions were very sweet sweeter than the realities of life that followed; but they were neither half so curious nor half so wonderful as the dreams that sometimes haunt me now. The imagination of the old is not less lively than that of the young: it is only less original. A youthful fancy will create more new images; the mind of age requires materials to build with: these supplied, the combinations it is capable of forming are endless. And so were born my dream children.

Has it never occurred to you, mothers and fathers, to wonder what has become of your children's lost ages? Look at your little boy of five years old. Is he at all, in any respect, the same breathing creature that you beheld three years back? I think not. Whither, then, has the sprite vanished? In some hidden fairy nook, in some mysterious cloud land he must exist still. Again, in your slim formed girl of eight years, you look in vain for the sturdy elf of five. Gone? No; that cannot be 'a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.' Close your eyes: you have her there! A breeze like, sportive, buoyant thing; a thing of breathing, laughing, unmistakable life; she is mirrored on your retina as plainly as ever was dancing sunbeam on a brook. The very trick of her lip of her eye; the mischief smile, the sidelong saucy glance,

'That seems to say, I know you love me, Mr Grey;'

is it not traced there all, every line, as clear as when it brightened the atmosphere about you in the days that are no more? To be sure it is; and being so, the thing must exist somewhere.

I never was more fully possessed with this conviction than once during the winter of last year. It was Christmas eve. I was sitting alone, in my old armchair, and had been looking forward to the fast coming festival day with many mingled thoughts some tender, but regretful; others hopeful, yet sad; some serious, and even solemn. As I laid my head back and sat thus with closed eyes, listening to the church clock as it struck the hour, I could not but feel that I was passing very slowly and gently it is true towards a time when the closing of the grave would shut out even that sound so familiar to my ear; and when other and more precious sounds of life human voices, dearer than all else, would cease to have any meanings for me and even their very echoes be hushed in the silence of the one long sleep... Continue reading book >>

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