Selections from Evenings in Autumn by Nathan Drake

by Ann Neilson

Born in 1766, Nathan Drake was a British essayist, Shakespeare scholar, and medical practitioner.  According to Charles Dexter Cleveland in English Literature of the Nineteenth Century, “Dr. Drake was kindness, courtesy, and candor personified; and no one can read his eminently instructive writings without feeling that they are the productions of a mind pure, benevolent, and well stored, and distinguished for its refined and delicate taste” (258). Drake’s Evenings in Autumn reflects the moral, pure, and elegant style typical of the author. I have chosen short passages from this 27 paged article in order to reintroduce his writings before the public. These writings also muse and reflect on one of nature’s better seasons. I hope they inspire you as the year begins to close.

Selections from “Introductory. On the influence of Autumnal Scenery over the Mind and Heart”
Nathan Drake
From Evenings in Autumn; a Series of Essays, Narrative and Miscellaneous, Vol. 1

Evening, when the busy scenes of our existence are withdrawn, when the sun descending leaves the world to silence, and to the soothing influence of twilight, has ever been a favorite portion of the day with the wise and good of all nations. There appears to be shed over the universal face of nature, at this period, a calmness and tranquility, a peace and sanctity, as it were, which almost insensibly steals into the breast of man, and disposes him to solitude and meditation. He naturally compares the decline of light and animation with that which attaches to the lot of humanity; and the evening of the day, and the evening of life, become closely assimilated in his mind (2).

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Autumn has, indeed, and particularly the Evening of Autumn, been a chosen season for study and reflection with some of the most exalted spirits of which our country can boast. Milton we know to have been so partial to this period of the year, and so impressed with conviction of its friendliness to poetic inspiration, as to leave it on record that he felt the prompting of his genius most effectual and satisfactory to himself about the Autumnal Equinox; and his attachment to the Twilight of Evening is so conspicuous throughout the whole of his poetry, as to induce one of his commentators, unconscious one would imagine of the delightful influence of such an hour, to conjecture, “that the weakness of our poet’s eyes, to which this kind of light must be vastly pleasant, might be the reason that he so often introduces the mention of it”* (4-5).

*Todd’s Milton, vol. iii, p. 121, note.

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We cannot be surprised, therefore, that this, the evening of the dying year, should be the chosen season with the poet, the philosopher, and the man of sorrows, with him who turns from the too frequent selfishness of human life to the silent sympathy of suffering nature; with him who loves to search into the great and beneficent designs of Providence, and with him who in “thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,” is wont to pour forth the unpremeditated inspiration of devotional fervor. It is scarcely possible, indeed, to listen to the winds of Autumn as they strew the withered foliage around us, without, mentally at least, adopting the very beautiful invocation of a living bard…(15).

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No period of the year, indeed, is better entitled to the appellation of The Season of Philosophic Enthusiasm, than the close of Autumn. There is in the aspect of every thing which surrounds us, as the sun is sinking below the horizon, on a fine evening of October, all that can hush the troubled passions to repose, yet all which, at the same time, is calculated to elevate the mind, and awaken the imagination (17-18).