L’Acerbo No. 1


The favourable notice taken of my Essay in the last Attic number, has induced me to submit to the Attic Audience part of a series of Essays which amused a few of the leisure evenings of Positive House. In composing them I received considerable assistance from my fellow students, and it is at their suggestion that I now venture to communicate them to you.

I am Sir
Your most obedient

Philemon Beauclerc

L’Acerbo No. 1

Can the gay beings accustomed to bask in the beams of Apollo, can the damsels whose brilliant eyes have sought fresh lustre from electricity, sacrifice a few of their lively moments to the lucubrations of a man of sorrows. An unhappy wanderer, crossed in every prospect of his youth, robbed of every object dear to awakening fancy or early affections? Yet dread not here to find the unhallowed gloom of misanthropy. No! That power which created and preserves us, chastens us but in mercy, and when it sees the youthful mind too fondly ardent in its hopes, too confident in itself and others, by the loss of those we love reminds us we are mortal, and unveils to us their errors that we may learn to see and correct our own. Dear lost companions of my happier days! Friends with whom I hoped to have shared my noon of life, and softened the rigours of declining age! How do I blush when I think for what trivial faults I have condemned you! Faults now slight compared with those my own memory retraces! What trifles have I suffered to embitter the enjoyment of days whose return I would buy with half my existence. Yet let me hope the bitter cup has not been drunk in vain, that by experience I have purchased equanimity, and that cheerful submission which teaches us rather to rejoice at the blessings bestowed or the misery spared, than to repine at the loss of good which is unattainable.

Let not then even the giddy and volatile fear to peruse my papers. I would not rob them of their smiles. I would rather lead them to reflections that may render those smiles permanent. I may perhaps sometimes check the loud laugh of animal spirits, but I hope never to throw a shade over “the calm sunshine of a cloudless breast”. I would rather hope that those who come to me their hearts swelling with sorrow may quit me with the tranquil smile of serenity.

I have not prescribed to myself any peculiar path, sometimes my attention may be diverted by those evanescent flowers that spring beneath my feet, and frequently, I hope, those who have been enticed to follow me up a rugged hill, may find, as on the Mountains of Abyssinia, a green and fruitful region to reward their labour. I shall not prize the fading flower above the fruit it ought to lead to, but where it blossoms I will not seek the thorn, and should any of my fellow-labourers be inclined to interweave their gayer buds with mine I shall not reject their offering.

From what I have said, it is evident that mine will be a miscellaneous paper and that the name I have adopted is not inappropriate. The title of “L’Acerbo” was first applied by Cecco d’Ascoli, the contemporary and enemy of Dante, to a poem in five books, a collection of all the sciences of his time. Astronomy, Philosophy, Religion. M. Ginguené has conjectured that it ought rather to be spelled “L’Acervo” the heap. This work is less remarkable for its own merit than for the lamentable fate of the author who was burned alive at Florence, as a sorcerer, in 1327, at the age of seventy, after having been for many years professor of judicial astrology in the University of Bologna. Like him, I shall make Science one of my objects. In this institution and in a circle like this it would be difficult to avoid it, but it will by no means exclusively employ my attention and it will be exhibited rather in the garb of reflection, than the formal vest of technical propriety. The instructions of Electromagus have made my readers familiar with the important facts of modern discovery, and far be it from my wish to rival him in a theme he has so ably handled. But the ideas which suggested themselves to my mind, while listening to his discourses have induced me to think that there was yet another point of view in which Science might be rendered interesting; that the union of Literature and Reflection, might soften the rigid air which has rendered her repulsive to many, and without diminishing her dignity, might make her more generally attractive.

Should I succeed in my endeavours on this subject, or on others to which my attention may be directed, and should the assistance I am promised in my lighter papers, at all equal my expectations, I trust that these essays may deserve the approbation of the students of Positive House, possibly be thought not unworthy the notice of the Attic Society.