The increasing population of the earth must necessarily tend to its improvement, as the means of existence are multiplied by invention.
You have probably made similar reflections in America, where the face of the country, I suppose, resembles the wilds of Norway. I am delighted with the romantic views I daily contemplate, animated by the purest air; and I am interested by the simplicity of manners which reigns around me. Still nothing so soon wearies out the feelings as unmarked simplicity. I am therefore half convinced that I could not live very comfortably exiled from the countries where mankind are so much further advanced in knowledge, imperfect as it is, and unsatisfactory to the thinking mind. Even now I begin to long to hear what you are doing in England and France. My thoughts fly from this wilderness to the polished circles of the world, till recollecting its vices and follies, I bury myself in the woods, but find it necessary to emerge again, that I may not lose sight of the wisdom and virtue which exalts my nature.
What a long time it requires to know ourselves; and yet almost every one has more of this knowledge than he is willing to own, even to himself. I cannot immediately determine whether I ought to rejoice at having turned over in this solitude a new page in the history of my own heart, though I may venture to assure you that a further acquaintance with mankind only tends to increase my respect for your judgment and esteem for your character. Farewell!
I have once more, my friend, taken flight, for I left Tonsberg yesterday, but with an intention of returning in my way back to Sweden.
The road to Laurvig is very fine, and the country the best cultivated in Norway. I never before admired the beech tree, and when I met stragglers here they pleased me still less. Long and lank, they would have forced me to allow that the line of beauty requires some curves, if the stately pine, standing near, erect, throwing her vast arms around, had not looked beautiful in opposition to such narrow rules.
In these respects my very reason obliges me to permit my feelings to be my criterion. Whatever excites emotion has charms for me, though I insist that the cultivation of the mind by warming, nay, almost creating the imagination, produces taste and an immense variety of sensations and emotions, partaking of the exquisite pleasure inspired by beauty and sublimity. As I know of no end to them, the word infinite, so often misapplied, might on this occasion be introduced with something like propriety.
But I have rambled away again. I intended to have remarked to you the effect produced by a grove of towering beech, the airy lightness of their foliage admitting a degree of sunshine, which, giving a transparency to the leaves, exhibited an appearance of freshness and elegance that I had never before remarked. I thought of descriptions of Italian scenery. But these evanescent graces seemed the effect of enchantment; and I imperceptibly breathed softly, lest I should destroy what was real, yet looked so like the creation of fancy. Dryden's fable of the flower and the leaf was not a more poetical reverie.
Adieu, however, to fancy, and to all the sentiments which ennoble our nature. I arrived at Laurvig, and found myself in the midst of a group of lawyers of different descriptions. My head turned round, my heart grew sick, as I regarded visages deformed by vice, and listened to accounts of chicanery that was continually embroiling the ignorant. These locusts will probably diminish as the people become more enlightened. In this period of social life the commonalty are always cunningly attentive to their own interest; but their faculties, confined to a few objects, are so narrowed, that they cannot discover it in the general good. The profession of the law renders a set of men still shrewder and more selfish than the rest; and it is these men, whose wits have been sharpened by knavery, who here undermine morality, confounding right and wrong.