NEW MAN OF FEELING.
by WILLIAM GODWIN.
Displeased with the phenomena which I observed in the seat of empire, and satiated with the beauties of my paternal estate, I resolved once more to pass over to the Continent; and to seek, in the spectacle of different countries, and the investigation of dissimilar manners, relief from the ennui which devoured me.
This expedient seemed at first to answer my purpose. Novelty and change have a sovereign power over the human mind.
But the efficacy of this remedy did not last long. Wherever I went, I carried a secret uneasiness along with me. When I left Paris for Vienna, or Vienna for Madrid, I journeyed a solitary individual along the tedious road; and, when I entered my inn, the same solitude and uncomfortable sensation entered along with me.
I turned aside to examine remarkable objects, the fame of which had reached me; I visited some celebrated convent of monks; I took the freedom to introduce myself to some elaborate collector of curiosities -to some statesman or general retired from the busy scene -to some philosopher or poet whose lucubrations had delighted the world. I was generally fortunate enough to make my visit agreeable to the host I selected: I flattered his tastes; I expressed, in the honest language of truth and feeling, the sense I entertained of his character and merits. This sort of avocation afforded me a temporary pleasure; but it often left me in a state of more painful sensation than it found me, and impressed upon me the melancholy conviction of the unsubstantial nature of all human enjoyments.
Sometimes I joined company with a fellow-traveller, whom chance directed to the same point, or whom I was able, by some allurement of pleasure or advantage, to prevail upon to pursue my route. In some cases I was disappointed in my companion; found him totally different from what, on a slight observation, I had conceived him to be; / and either separated from him before half our journey was completed, or cursed a hundred times the obligation I had contracted, which, perhaps, for twenty days successively, rendered me the slave of a frigid civility. At other times, it may be, the conversation of 'my fellow traveller afforded me an unfeigned delight; and then I bitterly regretted the fugitive nature of our intercourse. The sensation I felt was such as has been experienced by passengers in a stage-coach, who have just had time to contract a liking for each other -who have whispered to themselves, 'How agreeable, how animated, how well-informed, or how facetious," is this stranger!' -who have met in a domestic way at breakfast, at dinner, and at supper -who have wished each other good night at the close of the day, and met with salutations in the morning; when suddenly the vehicle whirls them into some vast city- the step of the carriage is let down -one passes one way, and another another -one calls for a chaise to convey him up the country, and another hastens with his baggage to the port, being engaged in some distant voyage.
Frequently I sojourned for two, three, or four months in some polite or teamed residence: and, when I had just had time to familiarise myself with its most valuable inhabitants, was impelled to call to mind that this was not my home, and that it was time to withdraw. Why should I stay? The language, the manners, and the scene were not native to me; and it was nothing but the necessity of departing that made me regret a place, which, if I had been compelled to take up my abode in it, would speedily have lost its illusion.
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