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Among the various classes of knowledge, that which relates to what may be denominated the biography of the mind must be regarded as one of the most important. By this expression it is intended to make a clear distinction between the mental and physical phenomena, which are in general blended together in the term biography. Where a man was born, in what schools he was instructed, what profession or trade, if any, he followed, what connexions he formed, in what sphere he lived, where he died, with many other particulars respecting any notorious individual, possess a certain degree of interest; but incomparably less than what concerns the habits of his mind, the processes of his thought, and the formation of his character.
In contemplating some minds we look upon a dead level, a sort of quiet lake, so enclosed and contracted as never to have been ruffled by the inward stirrings of anxious thought, or the winds and storms of controversy. There is little to discover and little to instruct. There is a surface smooth enough, but too flat and tame to be truly interesting; and though they may excite to approval and even some admiration, they fade from the memory. Others there are, whose peculiarities are such, or who have passed through such courses of thought and action, as to awaken the utmost attention, and claim a scrupulous inquiry. We ask, What led them to the extraordinary changes they underwent--what influenced at this or that time, their decisions—what altered their decisions--what fixed and unfixed them in their revolutions of sentiment-by what motives were they urged, and where at last they landed ?
There may be a great apparent similarity between caprice and principle; Fet are they widely different. Both admit of great changes ; but changes upon different grounds ; and nicely to distinguish these differences is a pro