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An essay by Thomas De Quincey

Increased Possibilities Of Sympathy In The Present Age

Title:     Increased Possibilities Of Sympathy In The Present Age
Author: Thomas De Quincey [More Titles by De Quincey]

Some years ago I had occasion to remark that a new era was coming on by hasty strides for national politics, a new organ was maturing itself for public effects. Sympathy--how great a power is that! Conscious sympathy--how immeasurable! Now, for the total development of this power, _time_ is the most critical of elements. Thirty years ago, when the Edinburgh mail took ninety-six hours in its transit from London, how slow was the reaction of the Scottish capital upon the English! Eight days for the _diaulos_[1] of the journey, and two, suppose, for getting up a public meeting, composed a cycle of _ten_ before an act received its commentary, before a speech received its refutation, or an appeal its damnatory answer. What was the consequence? The sound was disconnected from its echo, the kick was severed from the recalcitration, the '_Take you this!_' was unlinked from the '_And take you that!_' Vengeance was defeated, and sympathy dissolved into the air. But now mark the difference. A meeting on Monday in Liverpool is by possibility reported in the London _Standard_ of Monday evening. On Tuesday, the splendid merchant, suppose his name were Thomas Sands, who had just sent a vibration through all the pulses of Liverpool, of Manchester, of Warrington, sees this great rolling fire (which hardly yet has reached his own outlying neighbourhoods) taken up afar off, redoubled, multiplied, peal after peal, through the vast artilleries of London. Back comes rolling upon him the smoke and the thunder--the defiance to the slanderer and the warning to the offender--groans that have been extorted from wounded honour, aspirations rising from the fervent heart--truth that had been hidden, wisdom that challenged co-operation.

And thus it is that all the nation, thus 'all that mighty heart,' through nine hundred miles of space, from Sutherlandshire by London to the myrtle climate of Cornwall, has become and is ever more becoming one infinite harp, swept by the same breeze of sentiment, reverberating the same sympathies

'Here, there, and in all places at one time.'[2]

Time, therefore, that ancient enemy of man and his frail purposes, how potent an ally has it become in combination with great mechanic changes! Many an imperfect hemisphere of thought, action, desire, that could not heretofore unite with its corresponding hemisphere, because separated by ten or fourteen days of suspense, now moves electrically to its integration, hurries to its complement, realizes its orbicular perfection, spherical completion, through that simple series of improvements which to man have given the wings and _talaria_ of Gods, for the heralds have dimly suggested a future rivalship with the velocities of light, and even now have inaugurated a race between the child of mortality and the North Wind.



[1] 'The _diaulos_ of the journey.' We recommend to the amateur in words this Greek phrase, which expresses by one word an egress linked with its corresponding regress, which indicates at once the voyage outwards and the voyage inwards, as the briefest of expressions for what is technically called '_course of post,' i.e._, the reciprocation of post, its systole and diastole.

[2] Wordsworth.

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Thomas De Quincey's essay: Increased Possibilities Of Sympathy In The Present Age