CHAPTER IV
Melancholia 1827-1829

IN the autumn of his twenty-first year all this activity suddenly, from one day to the next, seemed to John 'as a dream'. From having felt moody and irritable for some time, and striving to shake this off, he involuntarily asked himself one day: 'Sup- pose that my highest aim in life--complete public reform--could be effected at this very instant, would this really make me hap- py?' And a distinct voice within him answered: 'NO!'--At this his heart sank within him. What was there to live for, if not this?

He was overcome by deep depression. In his Autobiography he gives us a moving account of his suffering. Except for Bunyan's account of a like experience, there is perhaps no more touching description of a young heart helplessly and hopelessly in the throes of deep and bitter melancholia.

With lost hope he was groping about for something to stir heart or mind. He would go to sleep hoping that by the morrow this dull state of nerves would have passed off--only to wake up to the same stifling dejection. He tried all his old favourites: books like Condorcet Turgot, his Plato. He tried to read poetry, to listen to music, but there was no response in him. The days passed into weeks, autumn into winter, and the anguish seemed to grow ever more pressing.

He had been so drilled in intellectual work that he was grinding on even now. In fact, the void seemed far worse when the half

-29-

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