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Title: Famous Reviews
Author: Johnson, R. Brimley, 1867-1932 [Editor]
Language: English
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FAMOUS REVIEWS


_FROM THE SAME PUBLISHERS_


FAMOUS SPEECHES. First Series. From Cromwell to Gladstone. Selected and
Edited with Introductory Notes by HERBERT PAUL. In demy 8vo, cloth, 470
pp. 7s. 6d. net.

FAMOUS SPEECHES. Second Series. From Lord Macaulay to Lord Rosebery.
Selected and Edited with Introductory Notes by HERBERT PAUL. In demy
8vo, cloth, 398 pp. 7s. 6d. net.

FAMOUS SERMONS BY ENGLISH PREACHERS. From the VENERABLE BEDE to H.P.
LIDDON. Edited with Historical and Biographical Notes by Canon DOUGLAS
MACLEANE, M.A. In demy 8vo, cloth gilt. 6s. net.



FAMOUS REVIEWS

SELECTED AND EDITED

WITH INTRODUCTORY NOTES

BY

R. BRIMLEY JOHNSON



  Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
  But are not critics to their judgment too?
  _Pope_.


LONDON

1914



CONTENTS

PREFACE

OF CRITICISM AND THE CRITIC

THE EDINBURGH REVIEW: EDITOR'S NOTE

From _The Edinburgh Review_
(founded 1802)

LORD JEFFREY ON--    [SOUTHEY'S "THALABA"
                      [SOUTHEY'S LAUREATE LAYS
                      [THOMAS MOORE
                      [WORDSWORTH'S "EXCURSION"
                      ["ENDYMION"

LORD BROUGHAM ON BYRON

SYDNEY SMITH ON HANNAH MORE

MACAULAY ON--        [SOUTHEY'S COLLOQUIES
                      [CROKER'S "BOSWELL"
                      [W. E. GLADSTONE
                      [MADAME D'ARBLAY

ANONYMOUS ON--       [WORDSWORTH
                      [MATURIN'S "MELMOTH"

THE QUARTERLY REVIEW: EDITOR'S NOTE

From _The Quarterly Review_
(founded 1809)

GIFFORD ON--         [WEBER'S "FORD"
                      [KEATS

CROKER ON--          [SYDNEY SMITH
                      [MACAULAY

LOCKHART ON--        [THE AUTHOR OF "VATHEK"
                      [S. T. COLERIDGE

SIR WALTER SCOTT ON JANE AUSTEN

ARCHBISHOP WHATELY ON JANE AUSTEN

W. E. GLADSTONE ON TENNYSON'S POEMS

CANON WILBERFORCE ON--[DARWIN
                      [CARDINAL NEWMAN

ANONYMOUS ON SCOTT'S--["WAVERLEY"
                      ["TALES OF MY LANDLORD"

ANONYMOUS ON--       [LEIGH HUNT'S "RIMINI"
                      ["SHAKESPEARE HIMSELF AGAIN"
                      [MOXON'S SONNETS
                      ["VANITY FAIR" AND "JANE EYRE"
                      [GEORGE ELIOT

BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE: EDITOR'S NOTE

From _Blackwood's Magazine_
(founded 1817)

PROFESSOR WILSON ON--[POPE AND WORDSWORTH
(_Christopher North_) [LORD BYRON
                      [DR. JOHNSON
                      [CRUMBS FROM THE "NOCTES"

ANONYMOUS ON--       [S. T. COLERIDGE
                      [THE COCKNEY SCHOOL I
                      ["    "       "     III
                      ["    "       "     IV
                      [SHELLEY'S "PROMETHEUS"

THE WESTMINSTER REVIEW: EDITOR'S NOTE

From _The Westminster Review_
(founded 1824)

J. S. MILL ON--      [TENNYSON'S POEMS
                      [MACAULAY'S "LAYS"

JOHN STERLING ON CARLYLE

FRASER'S MAGAZINE: EDITOR'S NOTE

From _Fraser's Magazine_

THACKERAY ON DICKENS'S CHRISTMAS STORIES

CHARLES KINGSLEY ON THE LAKE POETS

ANONYMOUS ON CHRISTMAS BOOKS, 1837

W. F. FOX: EDITOR'S NOTE

From _The Monthly Repository_
W. F. FOX ON BROWNING'S "PAULINE"

DE QUINCEY: EDITOR'S NOTE

From Tail's _Edinburgh Magazine_

DE QUINCEY ON POPE



PREFACE

Although regular literary organs, and the critical columns of the press,
are both of comparatively recent origin, we find that almost from the
beginning our journalists aspired to be critics as well as newsmongers.
Under Charles II, Sir Roger L'Estrange issued his _Observator_ (1681),
which was a weekly review, not a chronicle; and John Dunton's _The
Athenian Mercury_ (1690), is best described as a sort of early "Notes
and Queries." Here, as elsewhere, Defoe developed this branch of
journalism, particularly in his _Review_ (1704), and in _Mist's Journal_
(1714). And, again, as in all other departments, his methods were not
materially improved upon until Leigh Hunt, and his brother John, started
_The Examiner_ in 1808, soon after the rise of the Reviews. Addison and
Steele, of course, had treated literary topics in _The Spectator_ or
_The Tatler_; but the serious discussion of contemporary writers began
with the Whig _Edinburgh_ of 1802 and the Tory _Quarterly_ of 1809.

By the end of George III's reign every daily paper had its column of
book-notices; while 1817 marks an epoch in the weekly press; when
William Jerdan started _The Observator_ (parent of our _Athenaeum_) in
order to furnish (for one shilling weekly) "a clear and instructive
picture of the moral and literary improvement of the time, and a
complete and authentic chronological literary record for reference."

Though probably there is no form of literature more widely practised,
and less organised, than the review, it would be safe to say that every
example stands somewhere between a critical essay and a publisher's
advertisement. We need not, however, consider here the many influences
which may corrupt newspaper criticism to-day, nor concern ourselves with
those legitimate "notices of books" which only aim at "telling the
story" or otherwise offering guidance for an "order from the library."

The question remains, on which we do not propose to dogmatise, whether
the ideal of a reviewer should be critical or explanatory: whether, in
other words, he should attempt final judgment or offer comment and
analysis from which we may each form our own opinion. Probably no hard
and fast line can be drawn between the review and the essay; yet a good
volume of criticism can seldom be gleaned from periodicals. For one
thing all journalism, whether consciously or unconsciously, must contain
an appeal to the moment. The reviewer is introducing new work to his
reader, the essayist, or critic proper, may nearly always assume some
familiarity with his subject. The one hazards prophecy; the other
discusses, and illumines, a judgment already formed, if not established.
It is obvious that such reviews as Macaulay's in the _Edinburgh_ were
often permanent contributions to critical history; while, on the other
hand, many ponderous effusions of the _Quarterly_ are only interesting
as a sign of the times.

The fame of a review, however, does not always depend on merit. The
scandalous attacks on the Cockney school, for example, were neither good
literature nor honest criticism. We still pause in wonder before the
streams of virulent personal abuse and unbridled licence in temper which
disgrace the early pages of volumes we now associate with sound and
dignified, if somewhat conventional, utterances on the art of Literature
as viewed from the table-land of authority. And, as inevitably the most
famous reviews are those which attend the birth of genius, we must
include more respectable errors of judgment, if we find also several
remarkable appreciations which prove singular insight.

Following the "early" reviews, whether distinguished for culpable
blindness, private hostility, or rare sympathy, we must depend for our
second main source of material upon that fortunate combination of
circumstances when one of the mighty has been invited to pass judgment
upon his peers. When Scott notices Jane Austen, Macaulay James Boswell,
Gladstone and John Stuart Mill Lord Tennyson, the article acquires a
double value from author and subject. Curiously enough, as it would seem
to us in these days of advertisement, many such treasures of criticism
were published anonymously; and accident has often aided research in the
discovery of their authorship. It is only too probable that more were
written than we have yet on record.

In reviewing, as elsewhere, the growth of professionalism has tended to
level the quality of work. The mass of thoroughly competent criticism
issued to-day has raised enormously the general tone of the press; but
genuine men of letters are seldom employed to welcome, or stifle, a
newcomer; though Meredith, and more frequently Swinburne, have on
occasion elected to pronounce judgment upon the passing generation; as
Mrs. Meynell or Mr. G.K. Chesterton have sometimes said the right thing
about their contemporaries. The days when postcard notices from
Gladstone secured a record in sales are over; and, from whatever
combination of causes, we hear no more of famous reviews.

R. BRIMLEY JOHNSON.


It is with regret that I have found it impossible to print more than a
few of the following reviews complete. The writing of those days was, in
almost every case, extremely prolix, and often irrelevant. It nearly
always makes heavy reading in the originals. The _principle_ of
selection adopted is to retain the most pithy, and attractive, portion
of each article: omitting quotations and the discussion of particular
passages. It therefore becomes necessary to remark--in justice to the
writers--that most of the criticisms here quoted were accompanied by
references to what was regarded by the reviewer as evidence supporting
them. Most of the authors, or books, noticed however, are sufficiently
well known for the reader to have no difficulty in judging for himself.

R. B. J.



OF CRITICISM AND CRITIC


DR. JOHNSON

There is a certain race of men, that either imagine it their duty, or
make it their amusement, to hinder the reception of every work of
learning or genius, who stand as sentinels in the avenues of fame, and
value themselves upon giving ignorance and envy the first notice of a
prey.

To these men, who distinguish themselves by the appellation of Critics,
it is necessary for a new author to find some means of recommendation.
It is probable, that the most malignant of these persecutors might be
somewhat softened, and prevailed on, for a short time, to remit their
fury. Having for this purpose considered many expedients, I find in the
records of ancient times, that Argus was lulled by music, and Cerberus
quieted with a sop; and am, therefore, inclined to believe that modern
critics, who, if they have not the eyes, have the watchfulness of Argus,
and can bark as loud as Cerberus, though, perhaps, they cannot bite with
equal force, might be subdued by methods of the same kind. I have heard
that some have been pacified with claret and a supper, and others laid
asleep with the soft notes of flattery.--_The Rambler_.


CHRISTOPHER NORTH

I care not one single curse for all the criticism that ever was canted
or decanted, or recanted. Neither does the world. The world takes a poet
as it finds him, and seats him above or below the salt. The world is as
obstinate as a million mules, and will not turn its head on one side or
another for all the shouting of the critical population that ever was
shouted. It is very possible that the world is a bad judge. Well, then--
appeal to posterity, and be hanged to you--and posterity will affirm the
judgment, with costs.--_Noctes Ambrosianae, Sept_., 1825.

Our current literature teems with thought and feeling,--with passion and
imagination. There was Gifford, and there are Jeffrey, and Southey ...
and twenty--forty--fifty--other crack contributors to the Reviews,
Magazines and Gazettes, who have said more tender, and true, and fine,
and deep things in the way of criticism, than ever was said before since
the reign of Cadmus, ten thousand times over,--not in long, dull, heavy,
formal, prosy theories--but flung off-hand, out of the glowing mint--a
coinage of the purest ore--and stamped with the ineffaceable impress of
genius.--_Noctes Ambrosianae_, April, 1829.


The cause of a wrong taste is a defect of judgment.
EDMUND BURKE.


We must not underrate him who uses wit for subsistence, and flies from
the ingratitude of the age even to a bookseller for redress.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH.


The critical faculty is a _rara avis_; almost as rare, indeed, as the
phoenix, which appears only once in five hundred years. ARTHUR
SCHOPENHAUER.


The Supreme Critic ... is ... that Unity, that Oversoul, within which
every man's particular being is contained and made one with all other.
R. W. EMERSON.


Criticism's best spiritual work which is to keep man from a
self-satisfaction which is retarding and vulgarising, to lead him
towards perfection, by making his mind dwell upon what is excellent in
itself, and the absolute beauty and fitness of things.
MATTHEW ARNOLD.


The whole history of criticism has been a triumph of authors over
critics.
R. G. MOULTON.


Our criticism is disabled by the unwillingness of the critic to learn
from an author, and his readiness to mistrust him.
D. H. HOWELLS.


We have too many small schoolmasters; yet not only do I not question in
literature the high utility of criticism, but I should be tempted to say
that the part it plays may be the supremely beneficent one when it
proceeds from deep sources, from the efficient combination of experience
and perception. In this light one sees the critic as the real helper of
mankind, a torch-bearing outrider, the interpreter _par excellence_.
HENRY JAMES.



FAMOUS REVIEWS

       *       *       *       *       *

THE EDINBURGH REVIEW

"A confederacy (the word _conspiracy_ may be libellous) to defend the
worst atrocities of the French, and to cry down every author to whom
England was dear and venerable. A better spirit now prevails in the
_Edinburgh Review_ from the generosity and genius of Macaulay. But in
the days when Brougham and his confederates were writers in it, more
falsehood and more malignity marked its pages than any other journal in
the language."


W.S. LANDOR.

Landor is speaking, of course, with his usual impetuosity, particularly
moved by antipathy to Lord Brougham. A fairer estimate of the "bluff and
blue" exponent of Whig principles may be obtained from our brief
estimate of Jeffrey below. His was the informing spirit, at least in its
earliest days, and that spirit would brook no divided sway.


FRANCIS LORD JEFFREY
(1773-1850)

Jeffrey was editor of the _Edinburgh Review_ from its foundation in
October 10th, 1802, till June, 1829; and continued to write for it until
June, 1848. He was more patronising in his abuse than either _Blackwood_
or the _Quarterly_, and on the whole fairer and more dignified; though
he was considerably influenced by political bias. In fact, his
judgments--though versatile--were narrow, his most marked limitations
arising from blindness to the imaginative.

The short, vivacious figure (so low that he might pass under your chin
without ever catching the eye even for a moment, says Lockhart), was far
more impressive when familiar than at first sight. Lord Cockburn praises
his legal abilities (whether as judge or advocate) almost without
qualification; but Wilson derides his appearance in the House:--"A cold
thin voice, doling out little, quaint, metaphysical sentences with the
air of a provincial lecturer on logic and _belles-lettres_. A few good
Whigs of the old school adjourned upstairs, the Tories began to converse
_de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis_, the Radicals were either snoring
or grinning, and the great gun of the north ceased firing amidst such a
hubbub of inattention, that even I was not aware of the fact for several
minutes."

He has been called "almost a lecturer in society," and it is clear that
his difficulty always was to cease talking. Men as different as Macaulay
and Charles Dickens have spoken with deep personal affection of his
memory.

In one of Carlyle's inimitable "pen-portraits" he is described as "a
delicate, attractive, dainty little figure, as he merely walked about,
much more if he were speaking: uncommonly bright, black eyes, instinct
with vivacity, intelligence and kindly fire; roundish brow, delicate
oval face, full, rapid expression; figure light, nimble, pretty, though
so small, perhaps hardly five feet four in height.... His voice clear,
harmonious, and sonorous, had something of metallic in it, something
almost plangent ... a strange, swift, sharp-sounding, fitful modulation,
part of it pungent, _quasi latrant_, other parts of it cooing, bantery,
lovingly quizzical, which no charm of his fine ringing voice (_metallic_
tenor, of sweet tone), and of his vivacious rapid looks and pretty
little attitudes and gestures, could altogether reconcile you to, but in
which he persisted through good report and bad."

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps Jeffrey's most famous criticism was the "This will never do" on
Wordsworth; of which Southey wrote to Scott, "Jeffrey, I hear, has
written what his friends call a _crushing_ review of the Excursion. He
might as well seat himself on Skiddaw, and fancy that he crushed the
mountain."

It is obvious, indeed, that the Lake poets had little respect for their
"superior" reviewers; whose opinions, on the other hand, were not
subject to influences from high places. It will be noticed that Jefferey
is even more severe on Southey's Laureate "Lays" than on his "Thalaba."

The review on Moore, quoted below, was followed by formal arrangements
for a duel at Chalk Farm on 11th August, 1806; but the police had orders
to interrupt, and pistols were loaded with paper. Even the semblance of
animosity was not maintained, as we find Moore contributing to the
_Edinburgh_ before the end of the same year.

We fear that the appreciation of Keats was partly influenced by
political considerations; since Leigh Hunt had so emphatically welcomed
him into the camp. It remains, however, a pleasing contrast to the
ferocious onslaught on _Endymion_ of Gifford printed below.


HENRY LORD BROUGHAM
(1779-1868)

Brougham was intimately associated with Jeffrey in the foundation of the
_Edinburgh Review_: he is said to have written eighty articles in the
first twenty numbers, though like all his work, the criticism was spoilt
by egotism and vanity. The fact is that an over-brilliant versatility
injured his work. Combining "in his own person the characters of Solon,
Lycurgus, Demosthenes, Archimedes, Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Chesterfield,
and a great many more," his restless genius accomplished nothing
substantial or sound. His writing was far less careful than his oratory.
A man from whom almost everything was expected, and who was always
before the eye of the public; he has been described as "the God of
Whiggish idolatry," and as "impossible" in society. Harriet Martineau is
unsparing in her criticism of his manners and language; and evidently he
was an inveterate swearer. His enthusiasm for noble causes was
infectious; only, as Coleridge happily expressed it, "because his heart
was placed in what should have been his head, you were never sure of
him--you always doubted his sincerity."

In the Opposition and at the Bar this eloquent energy had full scope,
"but as Lord Chancellor his selfish disloyalty offended his colleagues
while," as O'Connell remarked, "If Brougham knew a little of Law, he
would know a little of everything." Unquestionably his obvious failings
obscured his real eminence, and even hinder us, to-day, from doing full
justice to his memory.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the following, somewhat heavy-handed, review which inspired the
_English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_, with all its "extraordinary powers
of malicious statement"--truly a Roland for his Oliver.


SYDNEY SMITH
(1771-1845)

The third founder of the _Edinburgh_ and one of its most aggressive
reviewers, until March, 1827, Sydney Smith has been described as "most
provokingly and audaciously personal in his strictures.... He was too
complacent, too aboundingly self-satisfied, too buoyantly full of
spirits, to hate anybody; but he burlesques them, derides them, and
abuses them with the most exasperating effrontery--in a way that is
great fun to the reader, but exquisite torture to the victim." At the
same time, his wit was always governed by commonsense (its most
prevailing distinction); and, though almost unique among humorists for
his personal gaiety, "his best work was done in promoting practical
ends, and his wit in its airiest gambols never escaped his control."
There was, in fact, considerable independence--and even courage--in his
seriously inspired attacks on various abuses, and on every form of
affectation and cant. Though his manners and conversation were not
precisely those we generally associate with the Cloth, Sydney Smith
published several volumes of sermons, and always accepted the
responsibilities of his position as a clergyman with becoming industry.
Croker's veiled sarcasm in the _Quarterly_ (printed below) was no more
bitter, or truthful, than similar utterances on any Whig.

       *       *       *       *       *

We know little to-day of--

  The sacred dramas of Miss Hannah More
  Where Moses and the little muses snore,

but, in her own day, she was flattered in society and a real influence
among the serious-minded. She understood the poor and gave them
practical advice. Sydney Smith, of course, would be in sympathy with her
"good works," but could not resist his joke.


THOMAS BABINGTON LORD MACAULAY
(1800-1859)

To quote one of his own favourite expressions, "every schoolboy knows"
the outlines of Macaulay's life and work. We have recited the Lays,
probably read some of the History, possibly even heard of his eloquent
and unmeasured attacks on those whose literary work incurred his
displeasure. We know that his memory was phenomenal, if his statements
were not always accurate. The biographers tell us further that no one
could be more simple in private life, or more devoted to his own family:
his nephews and nieces having no idea that their favourite "Uncle Tom"
was a great man. Criticism, of course, is by no means so unanimous. Mr.
Augustine Birrell has wittily remarked that his "style is ineffectual
for the purpose of telling the truth about anything"; and James Thomson
epitomised his political bias in a biting paragraph:--"Macaulay,
historiographer in chief to the Whigs, and the great prophet of Whiggery
which never had or will have a prophet, vehemently judged that a man who
could pass over from the celestial Whigs to the infernal Tories must be
a traitor false as Judas, an apostate black as the Devil." Always a boy
at heart, and singularly careless of his appearance, Macaulay was so
phenomenally successful in every direction that envy may account for
most personal criticism not inspired by recognised opponents. Those who
called him a bore were most probably over-sensitive about their own
inability to hold up against arguments, or opinions, they longed to
combat.

He was a student at Lincoln's Inn when the brilliant article on the
translation of a newly-found treatise by Milton on _Christian Doctrine_
appeared in the _Edinburgh_ (1825), and inaugurated a new power in
English prose. Macaulay himself declared that it was "overloaded with
gaudy and ungraceful argument"; but it secured his literary reputation
and determined much of his career. He became an influence on the
_Edinburgh_, probably somewhat modifying its whole tone, and generally
identified with its reputation. "The son of a Saint," says Christopher
North, "who seems himself to be something of a reviewer, is insidious as
the serpent, but fangless, as the glow worm"; and the Tory press were,
naturally, up in arms against the champion critic of their pet
prodigies.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Southey_ received, as we must now admit, more than his fair share of
abuse from the Liberal press, for the comfortable conservatism of his
maturity; and Macaulay did not love the Laureate. We note that
_Blackwood's_ defended him with spirit, and Wilson's protracted, and
furious, attack on Macaulay for this particular review may be found in
the _Nodes Ambrosianae_, April, 1830.

_Croker_, in all probability, deserved much of the scorn here poured
upon his editorial labour (though it _had_ merits which his critic
deliberately ignores); Wilson, again _(Noctes Ambrosianae,_ November,
1831), examines, and professes to confute, almost every criticism in the
review. Croker himself found a convenient occasion for revenge in his
review of Macaulay's History printed below.

The interesting recognition of _Gladstone_ awakes pleasanter sentiments;
especially when we notice the return compliment (in the same
_Quarterly_, but twenty-seven years later than Croker's attack) of the
statesman's generous tribute. "Macaulay," says Gladstone, "was
singularly free of vices ... one point only we reserve, a certain tinge
of occasional vindictiveness. Was he envious? Never. Was he servile? No.
Was he insolent? No.... Was he idle? The question is ridiculous. Was he
false? No; but true as steel and transparent as crystal. Was he vain? We
hold that he was not. At every point in the ugly list he stands the
trial."

       *       *       *       *       *

ANONYMOUS

This earlier notice of Wordsworth is certainly in exact sympathy with
Jeffrey on the Excursion, and may very well have come from the same pen.
At any rate, it introduces the Edinburgh attitude towards the Lakers.

The criticism of Maturin has all the tone of moral authority which
provoked many readers of the Review, and was, probably, in part
responsible for the less "measured" attitude adopted by the _Quarterly_.



LORD JEFFREY ON SOUTHEY'S "THALABA"

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, October, 1802]

_Thalaba, the Destroyer: A Metrical Romance_. By ROBERT SOUTHEY. 2 vols.
12 mo. London.

Poetry has this much, at least, in common with religion, that its
standards were fixed long ago, by certain inspired writers, whose
authority it is no longer lawful to call in question; and that many
profess to be entirely devoted to it, who have no _good works_ to
produce in support of their pretensions. The catholic poetical church,
too, has worked but few miracles since the first ages of its
establishment; and has been more prolific, for a long time, of Doctors,
than of Saints: it has had its corruptions and reformation also, and has
given birth to an infinite variety of heresies and errors, the followers
of which have hated and persecuted each other as cordially as other
bigots.

The author who is now before us, belongs to a _sect_ of poets, that has
established itself in this country within these ten or twelve years, and
is looked upon, we believe, as one of its chief champions and apostles.
The peculiar doctrines of this sect, it would not, perhaps, be very easy
to explain; but, that they are _dissenters_ from the established systems
in poetry and criticism, is admitted, and proved indeed, by the whole
tenor of their compositions. Though they lay claim, we believe, to a
creed and a revelation of their own, there can be little doubt, that
their doctrines are of _German_ origin, and have been derived from some
of the great modern reformers in that country. Some of their leading
principles, indeed, are probably of an earlier date, and seem to have
been borrowed from the great apostle of Geneva. As Mr. Southey is the
first author, of this persuasion, that has yet been brought before us
for judgment, we cannot discharge our inquisitorial office
conscientiously, without premising a few words upon the nature and
tendency of the tenets he has helped to promulgate.

The disciples of this school boast much of its originality, and seem to
value themselves very highly, for having broken loose from the bondage
of ancient authority, and re-asserted the independence of genius.
Originality, however, we are persuaded, is rarer than mere alteration;
and a man may change a good master for a bad one, without finding
himself at all nearer to independence. That our new poets have abandoned
the old models, may certainly be admitted; but we have not been able to
discover that they have yet created any models of their own; and are
very much inclined to call in question the worthiness of those to which
they have transferred their admiration. The productions of this school,
we conceive, are so far from being entitled to the praise of
originality, that they cannot be better characterised, than by an
enumeration of the sources from which their materials have been derived.
The greater part of them, we apprehend, will be found to be composed of
the following elements: (1) The antisocial principles, and distempered
sensibility of Rousseau--his discontent with the present constitution of
society--his paradoxical morality, and his perpetual hankerings after
some unattainable state of voluptuous virtue and perfection. (2) The
simplicity and energy (_horresco referens_) of Kotzebue and Schiller.
(3) The homeliness and harshness of some of Cowper's language and
versification, interchanged occasionally with the _innocence_ of Ambrose
Philips, or the quaintness of Quarles and Dr. Donne. From the diligent
study of these few originals, we have no doubt that an entire art of
poetry may be collected, by the assistance of which, the very _gentlest_
of our readers may soon be qualified to compose a poem as correctly
versified as Thalaba, and to deal out sentiment and description, with
all the sweetness of Lamb, and all the magnificence of Coleridge.

The authors, of whom we are now speaking, have, among them,
unquestionably, a very considerable portion of poetical talent, and
have, consequently, been enabled to seduce many into an admiration of
the false taste (as it appears to us) in which most of their productions
are composed. They constitute, at present, the most formidable
conspiracy that has lately been formed against sound judgment in matters
poetical; and are entitled to a larger share of our censorial notice,
than could be spared for an individual delinquent. We shall hope for the
indulgence of our readers, therefore, in taking this opportunity to
inquire a little more particularly into their merits, and to make a few
remarks upon those peculiarities which seem to be regarded by their
admirers as the surest proofs of their excellence.

Their most distinguishing symbol, is undoubtedly an affectation of great
simplicity and familiarity of language. They disdain to make use of the
common poetical phraseology, or to ennoble their diction by a selection
of fine or dignified expressions. There would be too much _art_ in this,
for that great love of nature with which they are all of them inspired;
and their sentiments, they are determined shall be indebted, for their
effect, to nothing but their intrinsic tenderness or elevation. There is
something very noble and conscientious, we will confess, in this plan of
composition; but the misfortune is, that there are passages in all
poems, that can neither be pathetic nor sublime; and that, on these
occasions, a neglect of the embellishments of language is very apt to
produce absolute meanness and insipidity. The language of passion,
indeed, can scarcely be deficient in elevation; and when an author is
wanting in that particular, he may commonly be presumed to have failed
in the truth, as well as in the dignity of his expression. The case,
however, is extremely different with the subordinate parts of a
composition; with the narrative and description, that are necessary to
preserve its connection; and the explanation, that must frequently
prepare us for the great scenes and splendid passages. In these, all the
requisite ideas may be conveyed, with sufficient clearness, by the
meanest and most negligent expressions; and if magnificence or beauty is
ever to be observed in them, it must have been introduced from some
other motive than that of adapting the style to the subject. It is in
such passages, accordingly, that we are most frequently offended with
low and inelegant expressions; and that the language, which was intended
to be simple and natural, is found oftenest to degenerate into mere
slovenliness and vulgarity. It is in vain, too, to expect that the
meanness of those parts may be redeemed by the excellence of others. A
poet, who aims at all at sublimity or pathos, is like an actor in a high
tragic character, and must sustain his dignity throughout, or become
altogether ridiculous. We are apt enough to laugh at the mock-majesty of
those whom we know to be but common mortals in private; and cannot
permit Hamlet to make use of a single provincial intonation, although it
should only be in his conversation with the grave-diggers.

The followers of simplicity are, therefore, at all times in danger of
occasional degradation; but the simplicity of this new school seems
intended to ensure it. _Their_ simplicity does not consist, by any
means, in the rejection of glaring or superfluous ornament--in the
substitution of elegance to splendour, or in that refinement of art
which seeks concealment in its own perfection. It consists, on the
contrary, in a very great degree, in the positive and _bonâ fide_
rejection of art altogether, and in the bold use of those rude and
negligent expressions, which would be banished by a little
discrimination. One of their own authors, indeed, has very ingeniously
set forth (in a kind of manifesto that preceded one of their most
flagrant acts of hostility), that it was their capital object "to adapt
to the uses of poetry, the ordinary language of conversation among the
middling and lower orders of the people." What advantages are to be
gained by the success of this project, we confess ourselves unable to
conjecture. The language of the higher and more cultivated orders may
fairly be presumed to be better than that of their inferiors: at any
rate, it has all those associations in its favour, by means of which, a
style can ever appear beautiful or exalted, and is adapted to the
purposes of poetry, by having been long consecrated to its use. The
language of the vulgar, on the other hand, has all the opposite
associations to contend with; and must seem unfit for poetry (if there
were no other reason), merely because it has scarcely ever been employed
in it. A great genius may indeed overcome these disadvantages; but we
can scarcely conceive that he should court them. We may excuse a certain
homeliness of language in the productions of a ploughman or a milkwoman;
but we cannot bring ourselves to admire it in an author, who has had
occasion to indite odes to his college bell, and inscribe hymns to the
Penates.

But the mischief of this new system is not confined to the depravation
of language only; it extends to the sentiments and emotions, and leads
to the debasement of all those feelings which poetry is designed to
communicate. It is absurd to suppose, that an author should make use of
the language of the vulgar, to express the sentiments of the refined.
His professed object, in employing that language, is to bring his
compositions nearer to the true standard of nature; and his intention to
copy the sentiments of the lower orders, is implied in his resolution to
make use of their style. Now, the different classes of society have each
of them a distinct character, as well as a separate idiom; and the names
of the various passions to which they are subject respectively, have a
signification that varies essentially according to the condition of the
persons to whom they are applied. The love, or grief, or indignation of
an enlightened and refined character, is not only expressed in a
different language, but is in itself a different emotion from the love,
or grief, or anger, of a clown, a tradesman, or a market-wench. The
things themselves are radically and obviously distinct; and the
representation of them is calculated to convey a very different train of
sympathies and sensations to the mind. The question, therefore, comes
simply to be--which of them is the most proper object for poetical
imitation? It is needless for us to answer a question, which the
practice of all the world has long ago decided irrevocably. The poor and
vulgar may interest us, in poetry, by their _situation_; but never, we
apprehend, by any sentiments that are peculiar to their condition, and
still less by any language that is characteristic of it. The truth is,
that it is impossible to copy their diction or their sentiments
correctly, in a serious composition; and this, not merely because
poverty makes men ridiculous, but because just taste and refined
sentiment are rarely to be met with among the uncultivated part of
mankind; and a language, fitted for their expression, can still more
rarely form any part of their "ordinary conversation."

The low-bred heroes, and interesting rustics of poetry, have no sort of
affinity to the real vulgar of this world; they are imaginary beings,
whose characters and language are in contrast with their situation; and
please those who can be pleased with them, by the marvellous, and not by
the nature of such a combination. In serious poetry, a man of the
middling or lower order _must necessarily_ lay aside a great deal of his
ordinary language; he must avoid errors in grammar and orthography; and
steer clear of the cant of particular professions, and of every
impropriety that is ludicrous or disgusting: nay, he must speak in good
verse, and observe all the graces in prosody and collocation. After all
this, it may not be very easy to say how we are to find him out to be a
low man, or what marks can remain of the ordinary language of
conversation in the inferior orders of society. If there be any phrases
that are not used in good society, they will appear as blemishes in the
composition, no less palpably, than errors in syntax or quality; and, if
there be no such phrases, the style cannot be characteristic of that
condition of life, the language of which it professes to have adopted.
All approximation to that language, in the same manner, implies a
deviation from that purity and precision, which no one, we believe, ever
violated spontaneously.

It has been argued, indeed (for men will argue in support of what they
do not venture to practise), that as the middling and lower orders of
society constitute by far the greater part of mankind, so, their
feelings and expressions should interest more extensively, and may be
taken, more fairly than any other, for the standards of what is natural
and true. To this it seems obvious to answer, that the arts that aim at
exciting admiration and delight, do not take their models from what is
ordinary, but from what is excellent; and that our interest in the
representation of any event, does not depend upon our familiarity with
the original, but on its intrinsic importance, and the celebrity of the
parties it concerns. The sculptor employs his art in delineating the
graces of Antinous or Apollo, and not in the representation of those
ordinary forms that belong to the crowd of his admirers. When a
chieftain perishes in battle, his followers mourn more for him, than for
thousands of their equals that may have fallen around him.

After all, it must be admitted, that there is a class of persons (we are
afraid they cannot be called _readers_), to whom the representation of
vulgar manners, in vulgar language, will afford much entertainment. We
are afraid, however, that the ingenious writers who supply the hawkers
and ballad-singers, have very nearly monopolised that department, and
are probably better qualified to hit the taste of their customers, than
Mr. Southey, or any of his brethren, can yet pretend to be. To fit them
for the higher task of original composition, it would not be amiss if
they were to undertake a translation of Pope or Milton into the vulgar
tongue, for the benefit of those children of nature.

There is another disagreeable effect of this affected simplicity, which,
though of less importance than those which have been already noticed, it
may yet be worth while to mention: This is, the extreme difficulty of
supporting the same low tone of expression throughout, and the
inequality that is consequently introduced into the texture of the
composition. To an author of reading and education, it is a style that
must always be assumed and unnatural, and one from which he will be
perpetually tempted to deviate. He will rise, therefore, every now and
then, above the level to which he has professedly degraded himself; and
make amends for that transgression, by a fresh effort of descension. His
composition, in short, will be like that of a person who is attempting
to speak in an obsolete or provincial dialect; he will betray himself by
expressions of occasional purity and elegance, and exert himself to
efface that impression, by passages of unnatural meanness or absurdity.

In making these strictures on the perverted taste for simplicity, that
seems to distinguish our modern school of poetry, we have no particular
allusion to Mr. Southey, or the production now before us: On the
contrary, he appears to us, to be less addicted to this fault than most
of his fraternity; and if we were in want of examples to illustrate the
preceding observations, we should certainly look for them in the
effusions of that poet who commemorates, with so much effect, the
chattering of Harry Gill's teeth, tells the tale of the one-eyed
huntsman "who had a cheek like a cherry," and beautifully warns his
studious friend of the risk he ran of "growing double."

       *       *       *       *       *

The _style_ of our modern poets, is that, no doubt, by which they are
most easily distinguished: but their genius has also an internal
character; and the peculiarities of their taste may be discovered,
without the assistance of their diction. Next after great familiarity of
language, there is nothing that appears to them so meritorious as
perpetual exaggeration of thought. There must be nothing moderate,
natural, or easy, about their sentiments. There must be a "qu'il
mourut," and a "let there be light," in every line; and all their
characters must be in agonies and ecstasies, from their entrance to
their exit. To those who are acquainted with their productions, it is
needless to speak of the fatigue that is produced by this unceasing
summons to admiration, or of the compassion which is excited by the
spectacle of these eternal strainings and distortions. Those authors
appear to forget, that a whole poem cannot be made up of striking
passages; and that the sensations produced by sublimity, are never so
powerful and entire, as when they are allowed to subside and revive, in
a slow and spontaneous succession. It is delightful, now and then, to
meet with a rugged mountain, or a roaring stream; but where there is no
funny slope, nor shaded plain, to relieve them--where all is beetling
cliff and yawning abyss, and the landscape presents nothing on every
side but prodigies and terrors--the head is apt to gow giddy, and the
heart to languish for the repose and security of a less elevated region.

The effect even of genuine sublimity, therefore, is impaired by the
injudicious frequency of its exhibition, and the omission of those
intervals and breathing-places, at which the mind should be permitted to
recover from its perturbation or astonishment: but, where it has been
summoned upon a false alarm, and disturbed in the orderly course of its
attention, by an impotent attempt at elevation, the consequences are
still more disastrous. There is nothing so ridiculous (at least for a
poet) as to fail in great attempts. If the reader foresaw the failure,
he may receive some degree of mischievous satisfaction from its punctual
occurrence; if he did not, he will be vexed and disappointed; and, in
both cases, he will very speedily be disgusted and fatigued. It would be
going too far, certainly, to maintain, that our modern poets have never
succeeded in their persevering endeavours at elevation and emphasis; but
it is a melancholy fact, that their successes bear but a small
proportion to their miscarriages; and that the reader who has been
promised an energetic sentiment, or sublime allusion, must often be
contented with a very miserable substitute. Of the many contrivances
they employ to give the appearance of uncommon force and animation to a
very ordinary conception, the most usual is, to wrap it up in a veil of
mysterious and unintelligible language, which flows past with so much
solemnity, that it is difficult to believe it conveys nothing of any
value. Another device for improving the effect of a cold idea, is, to
embody it in a verse of unusual harshness and asperity. Compound words,
too, of a portentous sound and conformation, are very useful in giving
an air of energy and originality; and a few lines of scripture, written
out into verse from the original prose, have been found to have a very
happy effect upon those readers to whom they have the recommendation of
novelty.

The qualities of style and imagery, however, form but a small part of
the characteristics by which a literary faction is to be distinguished.
The subject and object of their compositions, and the principles and
opinions they are calculated to support, constitute a far more important
criterion, and one to which it is usually altogether as easy to refer.
Some poets are sufficiently described as the flatterers of greatness and
power, and others as the champions of independence. One set of writers
is known by its antipathy to decency and religion; another, by its
methodistical cant and intolerance. Our new school of poetry has a moral
character also; though it may not be possible, perhaps, to delineate it
quite so concisely.

A splenetic and idle discontent with the existing institutions of
society, seems to be at the bottom of all their serious and peculiar
sentiments. Instead of contemplating the wonders and the pleasures which
civilization has created for mankind, they are perpetually brooding over
the disorders by which its progress has been attended. They are filled
with horror and compassion at the sight of poor men spending their blood
in the quarrels of princes, and brutifying their sublime capabilities in
the drudgery of unremitting labour. For all sorts of vice and profligacy
in the lower orders of society, they have the same virtuous horror, and
the same tender compassion. While the existence of these offences
overpowers them with grief and confusion, they never permit themselves
to feel the smallest indignation or dislike towards the offenders. The
present vicious constitution of society alone is responsible for all
these enormities: the poor sinners are but the helpless victims or
instruments of its disorders, and could not possibly have avoided the
errors into which they have been betrayed. Though they can bear with
crimes, therefore, they cannot reconcile themselves to punishments; and
have an unconquerable antipathy to prisons, gibbets, and houses of
correction, as engines of oppression, and instruments of atrocious
injustice. While the plea of moral necessity is thus artfully brought
forward to convert all the excesses of the poor into innocent
misfortunes, no sort of indulgence is shown to the offences of the
powerful and rich. Their oppressions, and seductions, and debaucheries,
are the theme of many an angry verse; and the indignation and abhorrence
of the reader is relentlessly conjured up against those perturbators of
society, and scourges of mankind.

It is not easy to say, whether the fundamental absurdity of this
doctrine, or the partiality of its application, be entitled to the
severest reprehension. If men are driven to commit crimes, through a
certain moral necessity; other men are compelled, by a similar
necessity, to hate and despise them for their commission. The
indignation of the sufferer is at least as natural as the guilt of him
who makes him suffer; and the good order of society would probably be as
well preserved, if our sympathies were sometimes called forth in behalf
of the former. At all events, the same apology ought certainly to be
admitted for the wealthy, as for the needy offender. They are subject
alike to the overruling influence of necessity, and equally affected by
the miserable condition of society. If it be natural for a poor man to
murder and rob, in order to make himself comfortable, it is no less
natural for a rich man to gormandise and domineer, in order to have the
full use of his riches. Wealth is just as valid an excuse for the one
class of vices, as indigence is for the other. There are many other
peculiarities of false sentiment in the productions of this class of
writers, that are sufficiently deserving of commemoration; but we have
already exceeded our limits in giving these general indications of their
character, and must now hasten back to the consideration of the singular
performance which has given occasion to all this discussion.

The first thing that strikes the reader of Thalaba, is the singular
structure of the versification, which is a jumble of all the measures
that are known in English poetry (and a few more), without rhyme, and
without any sort of regularity in their arrangement. Blank odes have
been known in this country about as long as English sapphics and
dactylics; and both have been considered, we believe, as a species of
monsters, or exotics, that were not very likely to propagate, or thrive,
in so unpropitious a climate. Mr. Southey, however, has made a vigorous
effort for their naturalisation, and generously endangered his own
reputation in their behalf. The melancholy fate of his English sapphics,
we believe, is but too generally known; and we can scarcely predict a
more favourable issue to the present experiment. Every combination of
different measures is apt to perplex and disturb the reader who is not
familiar with it; and we are never reconciled to a stanza of a new
structure, till we have accustomed our ear to it by two or three
repetitions. This is the case, even where we have the assistance of
rhyme to direct us in our search after regularity, and where the
definite form and appearance of a stanza assures us that regularity is
to be found. Where both of these are wanting, it may be imagined that
our condition will be still more deplorable; and a compassionate author
might even excuse us, if we were unable to distinguish this kind of
verse from prose. In reading verse, in general, we are guided to the
discovery of its melody, by a sort of preconception of its cadence and
compass; without which, it might often fail to be suggested by the mere
articulation of the syllables. If there be any one, whose recollection
does not furnish him with evidence of this fact, he may put it to the
test of experiment, by desiring any of his illiterate acquaintances to
read off some of Mr. Southey's dactylics, or Sir Philip Sidney's
hexameters. It is the same thing with the more unusual measures of the
ancient authors. We have never known any one who fell in, at the first
trial, with the proper rhyme and cadence of the _pervigilium Veneris_,
or the choral lyrics of the Greek dramatists. The difficulty, however,
is virtually the same, as to every new combination; and it is an
unsurmountable difficulty, where such new combinations are not repeated
with any degree of uniformity, but are multiplied, through the whole
composition, with an unbounded licence of variation. Such, however, is
confessedly the case with the work before us; and it really seems
unnecessary to make any other remark on its versification.

The author, however, entertains a different opinion of it. So far from
apprehending that it may cost his readers some trouble to convince
themselves that the greater part of the book is not mere prose, written
out into the form of verse, he is persuaded that its melody is more
obvious and perceptible than that of our vulgar measures. "One
advantage," says Mr. Southey, "this metre _assuredly_ possesses; the
dullest reader cannot distort it into discord: he may read it with a
_prose mouth_, but its flow and fall will still be perceptible." We are
afraid, there are duller readers in the world than Mr. Southey is aware
of.

       *       *       *       *       *

The subject of this poem is almost as ill chosen as the diction; and the
conduct of the fable as disorderly as the versification. The corporation
of magicians, that inhabit "the Domdaniel caverns, under the roots of
the ocean," had discovered, that a terrible _destroyer_ was likely to
rise up against them from the seed of Hodeirah, a worthy Arab, with
eight fine children. Immediately the murder of all those innocents is
resolved on; and a sturdy assassin sent with instructions to destroy the
whole family (as Mr. Southey has it) "root and branch." The good man,
accordingly, and seven of his children, are dispatched; but a cloud
comes over the mother and the remaining child; and the poem opens with
the picture of the widow and her orphan wandering, by night, over the
desarts of Arabia. The old lady, indeed, might as well have fallen under
the dagger of the Domdanielite; for she dies, without doing anything for
her child, in the end of the first book; and little Thalaba is left
crying in the wilderness. Here he is picked up by a good old Arab, who
takes him home, and educates him like a pious mussulman; and he and the
old man's daughter fall in love with each other, according to the
invariable custom in all such cases. The magicians, in the meantime, are
hunting him over the face of the whole earth; and one of them gets near
enough to draw his dagger to stab him, when a providential _simoom_ lays
him dead on the sand. From the dead sorcerer's finger, Thalaba takes a
ring, inscribed with some unintelligible characters, which he is enabled
to interpret by the help of some other unintelligible characters that he
finds on the forehead of a locust; and soon after takes advantage of an
eclipse of the sun, to set out on his expedition against his father's
murderers, whom he understands (we do not very well know how) he has
been commissioned to exterminate. Though they are thus seeking him, and
he seeking them, it is amazing what difficulty they find in meeting:
they do meet, however, every now and then, and many sore evils does the
Destroyer suffer at their hands. By faith and fortitude, however, and
the occasional assistance of the magic implements he strips them of, he
is enabled to baffle and elude their malice, till he is conducted, at
last, to the Domdaniel cavern, where he finds them assembled, and pulls
down the roof of it upon their heads and his own; perishing, like
Samson, in the final destruction of his enemies.

From this little sketch of the story, our readers will easily perceive,
that it consists altogether of the most wild and extravagant fictions,
and openly sets nature and probability at defiance. In its action, it is
not an imitation of anything; and excludes all rational criticism, as to
the choice and succession of its incidents. Tales of this sort may amuse
children, and interest, for a moment, by the prodigies they exhibit, and
the multitude of events they bring together: but the interest expires
with the novelty; and attention is frequently exhausted, even before
curiosity has been gratified. The pleasure afforded by performances of
this sort, is very much akin to that which may be derived from the
exhibition of a harlequin farce; where, instead of just imitations of
nature and human character, we are entertained with the transformation
of cauliflowers and beer-barrels, the apparition of ghosts and devils,
and all the other magic of the wooden sword. Those who can prefer this
eternal sorcery, to the just and modest representation of human actions
and passions, will probably take more delight in walking among the holly
griffins, and yew sphinxes of the city gardener, than in ranging among
the groves and lawns which have been laid out by a hand that feared to
violate nature, as much as it aspired to embellish her; and disdained
the easy art of startling by novelties, and surprising by impropriety.

Supernatural beings, though easily enough raised, are known to be very
troublesome in the management, and have frequently occasioned much
perplexity to poets and other persons who have been rash enough to call
for their assistance. It is no very easy matter to preserve consistency
in the disposal of powers, with the limits of which we are so far from
being familiar; and when it is necessary to represent our spiritual
persons as ignorant, or suffering, we are very apt to forget the
knowledge and the powers with which we had formerly invested them. The
ancient poets had several unlucky rencounters of this sort with Destiny
and the other deities; and Milton himself is not a little hampered with
the material and immaterial qualities of his angels. Enchanters and
witches may, at first sight, appear more manageable; but Mr. Southey has
had difficulty enough with them; and cannot be said, after all, to have
kept his fable quite clear and intelligible. The stars had said, that
the Destroyer might be cut off in that hour when his father and brethren
were assassinated; yet he is saved by a special interposition of heaven.
Heaven itself, however, had destined him to extirpate the votaries of
Eblis; and yet, long before this work is done, a special message is sent
to him, declaring, that, if he chooses, the death-angel is ready to take
him away instead of the sorcerer's daughter. In the beginning of the
story, too, the magicians are quite at a loss where to look for him; and
Abdaldar only discovers him by accident, after a long search; yet, no
sooner does he leave the old Arab's tent, than Lobaba comes up to him,
disguised and prepared for his destruction. The witches have also a
decoy ready for him in the desart; yet he sups with Okba's daughter,
without any of the sorcerers being aware of it; and afterwards proceeds
to consult the simorg, without meeting with any obstacle or molestation.
The simoom kills Abdaldar, too, in spite of that ring which afterwards
protects Thalaba from lightning, and violence, and magic. The
Destroyer's arrow then falls blunted from Lobaba's breast, who is
knocked down, however, by a shower of sand of his own raising; and this
same arrow, which could make no impression on the sorcerer, kills the
magic bird of Aloadin, and pierces the rebellious _spirit_ that guarded
the Domdaniel door. The whole infernal band, indeed, is very feebly and
heavily pourtrayed. They are a set of stupid, undignified, miserable
wretches, quarrelling with each other, and trembling in the prospect of
inevitable destruction. None of them even appears to have obtained the
price of their self-sacrifice in worldly honours and advancement, except
Mohareb; and he, though assured by destiny that there was one death-blow
appointed for him and Thalaba, is yet represented, in the concluding
scene, as engaged with him in furious combat, and aiming many a deadly
blow at that life on which his own was dependent. If the innocent
characters in this poem were not delineated with more truth and feeling,
the notoriety of the author would scarcely have induced us to bestow so
much time on its examination.

Though the tissue of adventures through which Thalaba is conducted in
the course of this production, be sufficiently various and
extraordinary, we must not set down any part of the incidents to the
credit of the author's invention. He has taken great pains, indeed, to
guard against such a supposition; and has been as scrupulously correct
in the citation of his authorities, as if he were the compiler of a true
history, and thought his reputation would be ruined by the imputation of
a single fiction. There is not a prodigy, accordingly, or a description,
for which he does not fairly produce his vouchers, and generally lays
before his readers the whole original passage from which his imitation
has been taken. In this way, it turns out, that the book is entirely
composed of scraps, borrowed from the oriental tale books, and travels
into the Mahometan countries, seasoned up for the English reader with
some fragments of our own ballads, and shreds of our older sermons. The
composition and harmony of the work, accordingly, is much like the
pattern of that patch-work drapery that is sometimes to be met with in
the mansions of the industrious, where a blue tree overshadows a
shell-fish, and a gigantic butterfly seems ready to swallow up Palemon
and Lavinia. The author has the merit merely of cutting out each of his
figures from the piece where its inventor had placed it, and stitching
them down together in these judicious combinations.

It is impossible to peruse this poem, with the notes, without feeling
that it is the fruit of much reading, undertaken for the express purpose
of fabricating some such performance. The author has set out with a
resolution to make an oriental story, and a determination to find the
materials of it in the books to which he had access. Every incident,
therefore, and description--every superstitious usage, or singular
tradition, that appeared to him susceptible of poetical embellishment,
or capable of picturesque representation, he has set down for this
purpose, and adopted such a fable and plan of composition, as might
enable him to work up all his materials, and interweave every one of his
quotations, without any _extraordinary_ violation of unity or order.
When he had filled his common-place book, he began to write; and his
poem is little else than his common-place book versified.

It may easily be imagined, that a poem constructed upon such a plan,
must be full of cumbrous and misplaced description, and overloaded with
a crowd of incidents equally unmeaning and ill assorted. The tedious
account of the palace of Shedad, in the first book--the description of
the Summer and Winter occupations of the Arabs, in the third--the
ill-told story of Haruth and Maruth--the greater part of the occurrences
in the island of Mohareb--the paradise of Aloadin, etc., etc.--are all
instances of disproportioned and injudicious ornaments, which never
could have presented themselves to an author who wrote from the
suggestions of his own fancy; and have evidently been introduced, from
the author's unwillingness to relinquish the corresponding passages in
D'Herbelot, Sale, Volney, etc., which appeared to him to have great
capabilities for poetry.

This imitation, or admiration of Oriental imagery, however, does not
bring so much suspicion on his taste, as the affection he betrays for
some of his domestic models. The former has, for the most part, the
recommendation of novelty; and there is always a certain pleasure in
contemplating the _costume_ of a distant nation, and the luxuriant
landscape of an Asiatic climate. We cannot find the same apology,
however, for Mr. Southey's partiality to the drawling vulgarity of some
of our old English ditties.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the extracts and observations which we have hitherto presented to
our readers, it will be natural for them to conclude, that our opinion
of this poem is very decidedly unfavourable; and that we are not
disposed to allow it any sort of merit. This, however, is by no means
the case. We think it written, indeed, in a very vicious taste, and
liable, upon the whole, to very formidable objections: But it would not
be doing justice to the genius of the author, if we were not to add,
that, it contains passages of very singular beauty and force, and
displays a richness of poetical conception, that would do honour to more
faultless compositions. There is little of human character in the poem,
indeed; because Thalaba is a solitary wanderer from the solitary tent of
his protector: But the home group, in which his infancy was spent, is
pleasingly delineated; and there is something irresistibly interesting
in the innocent love, and misfortunes, and fate of his Oneiza. The
catastrophe of her story is given, it appears to us, with great spirit
and effect, though the beauties are of that questionable kind, that
trespass on the border of impropriety, and partake more of the character
of dramatic, than of narrative poetry. After delivering her from the
polluted paradise of Aloadin, he prevails on her to marry him before his
mission is accomplished. She consents with great reluctance; and the
marriage feast, with its processions, songs, and ceremonies, is
described in some joyous stanzas. The book ends with these verses--

  And now the marriage feast is spread,
  And from the finished banquet now
      The wedding guests are gone.
       *       *       *       *       *
  Who comes from the bridal chamber?
  It is Azrael, the Angel of Death.

The next book opens with Thalaba lying distracted upon her grave, in the
neighbourhood of which he had wandered, till  "the sun, and the wind,
and the rain, had rusted his raven locks"; and there he is found by the
father of his bride, and visited by her ghost, and soothed and
encouraged to proceed upon his holy enterprise. He sets out on his
lonely way, and is entertained the first night by a venerable dervise:
As they are sitting at meal, a _bridal procession_ passes by, with
dance, and song, and merriment. The old dervise blessed them as they
passed; but Thalaba looked on, "and breathed a low deep groan, and hid
his face." These incidents are skilfully imagined, and are narrated in a
very impressive manner.

Though the _witchery_ scenes are in general but poorly executed, and
possess little novelty to those who have read the Arabian Nights
Entertainments, there is, occasionally, some fine description, and
striking combination. We do not remember any poem, indeed, that
presents, throughout, a greater number of lively images, or could afford
so many subjects for the pencil.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the productions of this author, it appears to us, bear very
distinctly the impression of an amiable mind, a cultivated fancy, and a
perverted taste. His genius seems naturally to delight in the
representation of domestic virtues and pleasures, and the brilliant
delineation of external nature. In both these departments, he is
frequently very successful; but he seems to want vigour for the loftier
flights of poetry. He is often puerile, diffuse, and artificial, and
seems to have but little acquaintance with those chaster and severer
graces, by whom the epic muse would be most suitably attended. His
faults are always aggravated, and often created, by his partiality for
the peculiar manner of that new school of poetry, of which he is a
faithful disciple, and to the glory of which he has sacrificed greater
talents and acquisitions, than can be boasted of by any of his
associates.



ON SOUTHEY'S LAUREATE LAYS

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, June, 1816]

_The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale_. By ROBERT SOUTHEY, Esq.,
Poet Laureate, &c., &c. 12mo. pp. 78. London, 1816.


A poet laureate, we take it, is naturally a ridiculous person: and has
scarcely any safe course to follow, in times like the present, but to
bear his faculties with exceeding meekness, and to keep as much as
possible in the shade. A stipendiary officer of the Royal household,
bound to produce two lyrical compositions ever year, in praise of his
Majesty's person and government, is undoubtedly an object which it is
difficult to contemplate with gravity; and which can only have been
retained in existence, from that love of antique pomp and establishment
which has embellished our Court with so many gold-sticks and white rods,
and such trains of beef-eaters and grooms of the stole--though it has
submitted to the suppression of the more sprightly appendages of a
king's fool, or a court jester. That the household poet should have
survived the other wits of the establishment, can only be explained by
the circumstance of his office being more easily converted into one of
mere pomp and ceremony, and coming thus to afford an antient and
well-sounding name for a moderate sinecure. For more than a century,
accordingly, it has existed on this footing; and its duties, like those
of the other personages to whom we have just alluded, have been
discharged with a decorous gravity and unobtrusive quietness, which has
provoked no derision, merely because it has attracted no notice.

The present possessor, however, appears to have other notions on the
subject; and has very distinctly manifested his resolution not to rest
satisfied with the salary, sherry, and safe obscurity of his
predecessors, but to claim a real power and prerogative in the world of
letters, in virtue of his title and appointment. Now, in this, we
conceive, with all due humility, that there is a little mistake of fact,
and a little error of judgment. The laurel which the King gives, we are
credibly informed, has nothing at all in common with that which is
bestowed by the Muses; and the Prince Regent's warrant is absolutely of
no authority in the court of Apollo. If this be the case, however, it
follows, that a poet laureate has no sort of precedency among poets,--
whatever may be his place among pages and clerks of the kitchen;--and
that he has no more pretensions as an author, than if his appointment
had been to the mastership of the stag-hounds. When he takes state upon
him with the public, therefore, in consequence of his office, he really
is guilty of as ludicrous a blunder as the worthy American _Consul_, in
one of the Hanse towns, who painted the Roman _fasces_ on the pannel of
his buggy, and insisted upon calling his foot-boy and clerk his
_lictors_. Except when he is in his official duty, therefore, the King's
house-poet would do well to keep the nature of his office out of sight;
and, when he is compelled to appear in it in public, should try to get
through with the business as quickly and quietly as possible. The brawny
drayman who enacts the Champion of England in the Lord Mayor's show, is
in some danger of being sneered at by the spectators, even when he paces
along with the timidity and sobriety that becomes his condition; but if
he were to take it into his head to make serious boast of his prowess,
and to call upon the city bards to celebrate his heroic acts, the very
apprentices could not restrain their laughter,--and "the humorous man"
would have but small chance of finishing his part in peace.

Mr. Southey could not be ignorant of all this; and yet it appears that
he could not have known it all. He must have been conscious, we think,
of the ridicule attached to his office, and might have known that there
were only two ways of counteracting it,--either by sinking the office
altogether in his public appearances, or by writing such very good
verses in the discharge of it, as might defy ridicule, and render
neglect impossible. Instead of this, however, he has allowed himself to
write rather worse than any Laureate before him, and has betaken himself
to the luckless and vulgar expedient of endeavouring to face out the
thing by an air of prodigious confidence and assumption:--and has had
the usual fortune of such undertakers, by becoming only more
conspicuously ridiculous. The badness of his official productions indeed
is something really wonderful,--though not more so than the amazing
self-complacency and self-praise with which they are given to the world.
With the finest themes in the world for that sort of writing, they are
the dullest, tamest, and most tedious things ever poor critic was
condemned, or other people vainly invited, to read. They are a great
deal more wearisome, and rather more unmeaning and unnatural, than the
effusions of his predecessors, Messrs. Pye and Whitehead; and are
moreover disfigured with the most abominable egotism, conceit and
dogmatism, than we ever met with in any thing intended for the public
eye. They are filled, indeed, with praises of the author himself, and
his works, and his laurel, and his dispositions; notices of his various
virtues and studies; puffs of the productions he is preparing for the
press, and anticipations of the fame which he is to reap by their means,
from a less ungrateful age; and all this delivered with such an oracular
seriousness and assurance, that it is easy to see the worthy Laureate
thinks himself entitled to share in the prerogatives of that royalty
which he is bound to extol, and has resolved to make it

 --his great example as it is his theme.

For, as sovereign Princes are permitted, in their manifestoes and
proclamations, to speak of their own gracious pleasure and royal wisdom,
without imputation of arrogance, so, our Laureate has persuaded himself
that he may address the subject world in the same lofty strains, and
that they will listen with as dutiful an awe to the authoritative
exposition of his own genius and glory. What might have been the success
of the experiment, if the execution had been as masterly as the design
is bold, we shall not trouble ourselves to conjecture; but the contrast
between the greatness of the praise and the badness of the poetry in
which it is conveyed, and to which it is partly applied, is abundantly
decisive of its result in the present instance, as well as in all the
others in which the ingenious author has adopted the same style. We took
some notice of the _Carmen Triumphale_, which stood at the head of the
series. But of the Odes which afterwards followed to the Prince Regent,
and the Sovereigns and Generals who came to visit him, we had the
charity to say nothing; and were willing indeed to hope, that the
lamentable failure of that attempt might admonish the author, at least
as effectually as any intimations of ours. Here, however, we have him
again, with a _Lay of the Laureate_, and a _Carmen Nuptiale_, if
possible still more boastful and more dull than any of his other
celebrations. It is necessary, therefore, to bring the case once more
before the Public, for the sake both of correction and example; and as
the work is not likely to find many readers, and is of a tenor which
would not be readily believed upon any general representation, we must
now beg leave to give a faithful analysis of its different parts, with a
few specimens of the taste and manner of its execution.

Its object is to commemorate the late auspicious marriage of the
presumptive Heiress of the English crown with the young Prince of
Saxe-Cobourg; and consists of a Proem, a Dream, and an Epilogue--with a
L'envoy, and various annotations. The Proem, as was most fitting, is
entirely devoted to the praise of the Laureate himself; and contains an
account, which cannot fail to be very interesting, both to his Royal
auditors and to the world at large, of his early studies and
attainments--the excellence of his genius--the nobleness of his views--
and the happiness that has been the result of these precious gifts. Then
there is mention made of his pleasure in being appointed Poet Laureate,
and of the rage and envy which that event excited in all the habitations
of the malignant. This is naturally followed up by a full account of all
his official productions, and some modest doubts whether his genius is
not too heroic and pathetic for the composition of an _Epithalamium,_--
which doubts, however, are speedily and pleasingly resolved by the
recollection, that as Spenser made a hymn on his own marriage, so, there
can be nothing improper in Mr. Southey doing as much on that of the
Princess Charlotte. This is the general argument of the Proem. But the
reader must know a little more of the details. In his early youth, the
ingenious author says he aspired to the fame of a poet; and then Fancy
came to him, and showed him the glories of his future career, addressing
him in these encouraging words--

  Thou whom rich Nature at thy happy birth
  Blest in her bounty with the largest dower
  That Heaven indulges to a child of earth!

Being fully persuaded of the truth of her statements, we have then the
satisfaction of learning that he has lived a very happy life; and that,
though time has made his hair a little grey, it has only matured his
understanding; and that he is still as habitually cheerful as when he
was a boy. He then proceeds to inform us, that he sometimes does a
little in poetry still; but that, of late years, he spends most of his
time in writing histories--from which he has no doubt that he will one
day or another acquire great reputation.

  Thus in the ages which are past I live,
  And those which are to come my sure reward will give....

We come next, of course, to the Dream; and nothing more stupid or heavy,
we will venture to say, ever arose out of sleep, or tended to sleep
again. The unhappy Laureate, it seems, just saw, upon shutting his eyes,
what he might have seen as well if he had been able to keep them open--a
great crowd of people and coaches in the street, with marriage favours
in their bosoms; church bells ringing merrily, and _feux-de-joie_ firing
in all directions. Eftsoons, says the dreaming poet, I came to a great
door, where there were guards placed to keep off the mob; but when they
saw my Laurel crown, they made way for me, and let me in!--

  But I had entrance through that guarded door,
  In honour to the Laureate crown I wore.

When he gets in, he finds himself in a large hall, decorated with
trophies, and pictures, and statues, commemorating the triumphs of
British valour, from Aboukir to Waterloo. The room, moreover, was filled
with a great number of ladies and gentlemen very finely dressed; and in
two chairs, near the top, were seated the Princess Charlotte and Prince
Leopold. Hitherto, certainly, all is sufficiently plain and probable;--
nor can the Muse who dictated this to the slumbering Laureate be accused
of any very extravagant or profuse invention. We come, now, however, to
allegory and learning in abundance. In the first place, we are told,
with infinite regard to the probability as well as the novelty of the
fiction, that in this drawing-room there were two great lions couching
at the feet of the Royal Pair;--the Prince's being very lean and in poor
condition, with the hair rubbed off his neck as if from a heavy collar--
and the Princess's in full vigour, with a bushy mane, and littered with
torn French flags. Then there were two heavenly figures stationed on
each side of the throne, one called Honour, and the other Faith;--so
very like each other, that it was impossible not to suppose them brother
and sister. It turns out, however, that they were only second cousins;
or so at least we interpret the following precious piece of theogony.

  Akin they were,--yet not as thus it seemed,
  For he of VALOUR was the eldest son,
  From Areté in happy union sprung.
  But her to Phronis Eusebeia bore,
  She whom her mother Dicé sent to earth;
  What marvel then if thus their features wore
    Resemblant lineaments of kindred birth?
  Dicé being child of Him who rules above,
  VALOUR his earth-born son; so both derived from Jove.
                                                   p. 29.

This, we think, is delicious; but there is still more goodly stuff
toward. The two heavenly cousins stand still without doing any thing;
but then there is a sound of sweet music, and a whole "heavenly company"
appear, led on by a majestic female, whom we discover, by the emblems on
our halfpence, to be no less a person than Britannia, who advances and
addresses a long discourse of flattery and admonition to the Royal
bride; which, for the most part, is as dull and commonplace as might be
expected from the occasion; though there are some passages in which the
author has reconciled his gratitude to his Patron, and his monitory duty
to his Daughter, with singular spirit and delicacy. After enjoining to
her the observance of all public duties, and the cultivation of all
domestic virtues, Britannia is made to sum up the whole sermon in this
emphatic precept--

  Look to thy Sire, and in his steady way
 --learn thou to tread.

Now, considering that Mr. Southey was at all events incapable of
sacrificing truth to Court favour, it cannot but be regarded as a rare
felicity in his subject, that he could thus select a pattern of private
purity and public honour in the person of the actual Sovereign, without
incurring the least suspicion either of base adulation or lax
morality....

It is impossible to feel any serious or general contempt for a person of
Mr. Southey's genius;--and, in reviewing his other works, we hope we
have shown a proper sense of his many merits and accomplishments. But
his Laureate odes are utterly and intolerably bad; and, if he had never
written any thing else, must have ranked him below Colley Cibber in
genius, and above him in conceit and presumption. We have no toleration
for this sort of perversity, or prostitution of great gifts; and do not
think it necessary to qualify the expression of opinions which we have
formed with as much positiveness as deliberation.--We earnestly wish he
would resign his livery laurel to Lord Thurlow, and write no more odes
on Court galas. We can assure him too, most sincerely, that this wish is
not dictated in any degree by envy, or any other hostile or selfish
feeling. We are ourselves, it is but too well known, altogether without
pretensions to that high office--and really see no great charms either
in the salary or the connexion--and, for the glory of writing such
verses as we have now been reviewing, we do not believe that there is a
scribbler in the kingdom so vile as to think it a thing to be coveted.



ON THOMAS MOORE

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, July, 1806]

_Epistles, Odes, and other Poems_. By THOMAS MOORE, Esq. 4to. pp. 350.
London, 1806.


A singular sweetness and melody of versification,--smooth, copious, and
familiar diction,--with some brilliancy of fancy, and some show of
classical erudition, might have raised Mr. Moore to an innocent
distinction among the song-writers and occasional poets of his day: But
he is indebted, we fear, for the celebrity he actually enjoys to
accomplishments of a different description; and may boast, if the boast
can please him, of being the most licentious of modern versifiers, and
the most poetical of those who, in our times, have devoted their talents
to the propagation of immorality. We regard his book, indeed, as a
public nuisance; and would willingly trample it down by one short
movement of contempt and indignation, had we not reason to apprehend,
that it was abetted by patrons who are entitled to a more respectful
remonstrance, and by admirers who may require a more extended exposition
of their dangers.

There is nothing, it will be allowed, more indefensible than a
cold-blooded attempt to corrupt the purity of an innocent heart; and we
can scarcely conceive any being more truly despicable, than he who,
without the apology of unruly passion or tumultuous desires, sits down
to ransack the impure places of his memory for inflammatory images and
expressions, and commits them laboriously to writing, for the purpose of
insinuating pollution into the minds of unknown and unsuspecting
readers.

This is almost a new crime among us. While France has to blush for so
many tomes of "Poesies Erotiques," we have little to answer for, but the
coarse indecencies of Rochester and Dryden; and these, though
sufficiently offensive to delicacy and good taste, can scarcely be
regarded as dangerous. There is an antidote to the poison they contain,
in the open and undisguised profligacy with which it is presented. If
they are wicked, they have the honesty at least to profess wickedness.
The mark of the beast is set visibly on their foreheads; and though they
have the boldness to recommend vice, they want the effrontery to make
her pass for virtue. In their grossest immoralities, too, they scarcely
ever seem to be perfectly in earnest; and appear neither to wish nor to
hope to make proselytes. They indulge their own vein of gross riot and
debauchery; but they do not seek to corrupt the principles of their
readers; and are contented to be reprobated as profligate, if they are
admired at the same time for wit and originality.

The immorality of Mr. Moore is infinitely more insidious and malignant.
It seems to be his aim to impose corruption upon his readers, by
concealing it under the mask of refinement; to reconcile them
imperceptibly to the most vile and vulgar sensuality, by blending its
language with that of exalted feeling and tender emotion; and to steal
impurity into their hearts, by gently perverting the most simple and
generous of their affections. In the execution of this unworthy task, he
labours with a perseverance at once ludicrous and detestable. He may be
seen in every page running round the paltry circle of his seductions
with incredible zeal and anxiety, and stimulating his jaded fancy for
new images of impurity, with as much melancholy industry as ever outcast
of the muses hunted for epithets or metre.

It is needless, we hope, to go deep into the inquiry, why certain
compositions have been reprobated as licentious, and their authors
ranked among the worst enemies of morality. The criterion by which their
delinquency may be determined, is fortunately very obvious: no scene can
be tolerated in description, which could not be contemplated in reality,
without a gross violation of propriety: no expression can be pardoned in
poetry to which delicacy could not listen in the prose of real life.

No writer can transgress those limits, and be held guiltless; but there
are degrees of guiltiness, and circumstances of aggravation or apology,
which ought not to be disregarded. A poet of a luxuriant imagination may
give too warm a colouring to the representation of innocent endearments,
or be betrayed into indelicacies in delineating the allurements of some
fair seducer, while it is obviously his general intention to give
attraction to the picture of virtue, and to put the reader on his guard
against the assault of temptation. Mr. Moore has no such apology;--he
takes care to intimate to us, in every page that the raptures which he
celebrates do not spring from the excesses of an innocent love, or the
extravagance of a romantic attachment; but are the unhallowed fruits of
cheap and vulgar prostitution, the inspiration of casual amours, and the
chorus of habitual debauchery. He is at pains to let the world know that
he is still fonder of roving, than of loving; and that all the Caras and
the Fannys, with whom he holds dalliance in these pages, have had each a
long series of preceding lovers, as highly favoured as their present
poetical paramour: that they meet without any purpose of constancy, and
do not think it necessary to grace their connexion with any professions
of esteem or permanent attachment. The greater part of the book is
filled with serious and elaborate description of the ecstasies of such
an intercourse, and with passionate exhortations to snatch the joys,
which are thus abundantly poured forth from "the fertile fount of
sense."

To us, indeed, the perpetual kissing, and twining, and panting of these
amorous persons, is rather ludicrous than seductive; and their eternal
sobbing and whining, raises no emotion in our bosoms, but those of
disgust and contempt. Even to younger men, we believe, the book will not
be very dangerous: nor is it upon their account that we feel the
indignation and alarm which we have already endeavoured to express. The
life and conversation of our sex, we are afraid is seldom so pure as to
leave them much to learn from publications of this description; and they
commonly know enough of the reality, to be aware of the absurd illusions
and exaggerations of such poetical voluptuaries. In them, therefore,
such a composition can work neither corruption nor deception; and it
will, in general, be despised and thrown aside, as a tissue of sickly
and fantastical conceits, equally remote from truth and respectability.
It is upon the other sex, that we conceive its effects may be most
pernicious; and it is chiefly as an insult upon their delicacy, and an
attack upon their purity, that we are disposed to resent its
publication.

The reserve in which women are educated; the natural vivacity of their
imaginations; and the warmth of their sensibility, renders them
peculiarly liable to be captivated by the appearance of violent
emotions, and to be misled by the affectation of tenderness or
generosity. They easily receive any impression that is made under the
apparent sanction of these feelings; and allow themselves to be seduced
into any thing, which they can be persuaded is dictated by disinterested
attachment, and sincere and excessive love. It is easy to perceive how
dangerous it must be for such beings to hang over the pages of a book,
in which supernatural raptures, and transcendent passion, are
counterfeited in every page; in which, images of voluptuousness are
artfully blended with expressions of refined sentiment, and delicate
emotion; and the grossest sensuality is exhibited in conjunction with
the most gentle and generous affections. They who have not learned from
experience, the impossibility of such an union, are apt to be captivated
by its alluring exterior. They are seduced by their own ignorance and
sensibility; and become familiar with the demon, for the sake of the
radiant angel to whom he has been linked by the malignant artifice of
the poet.

We have been induced to enter this strong protest, and to express
ourselves thus warmly against this and the former publications of this
author, both from what we hear of the circulation which they have
already obtained, and from our conviction that they are calculated, if
not strongly denounced to the public, to produce, at this moment,
peculiar and irremediable mischief. The style of composition, as we have
already hinted, is almost new in this country: it is less offensive than
the old fashion of obscenity; and for these reasons, perhaps, is less
likely to excite the suspicion of the moralist, or to become the object
of precaution to those who watch over the morals of the young and
inexperienced. We certainly have known it a permitted study, where
performances, infinitely less pernicious, were rigidly interdicted.

There can be no time in which the purity of the female character can
fail to be of the first importance to every community; but it appears to
us, that it requires at this moment to be more carefully watched over
than at any other; and that the constitution of society has arrived
among us to a sort of crisis, the issue of which may be powerfully
influenced by our present neglect or solicitude. From the increasing
diffusion of opulence, enlightened or polite society is greatly
enlarged, and necessarily becomes more promiscuous and corruptible; and
women are now beginning to receive a more extended education, to venture
more freely and largely into the fields of literature, and to become
more of intellectual and independent creatures, than they have yet been
in these islands. In these circumstances, it seems to be of incalculable
importance, that no attaint should be given to the delicacy and purity
of their expanding minds; that their increasing knowledge should be of
good chiefly, and not of evil; that they should not consider modesty as
one of the prejudices from which they are now to be emancipated; nor
found any part of their new influence upon the licentiousness of which
Mr. Moore invites them to be partakers. The character and the morality
of women exercises already a mighty influence upon the happiness and the
respectability of the nation; and it is destined, we believe, to
exercise a still higher one: But if they should ever cease to be the
pure, the delicate, and timid creatures that they now are--if they
should cease to overawe profligacy, and to win and to shame men into
decency, fidelity, and love of unsullied virtue--it is easy to see that
this influence, which has hitherto been exerted to strengthen and refine
our society, will operate entirely to its corruption and debasement;
that domestic happiness and private honour will be extinguished, and
public spirit and national industry most probably annihilated along with
them.

There is one other consideration which has helped to excite our
apprehension on occasion of this particular performance. Many of the
pieces are dedicated to persons of the first consideration in the
country, both for rank and accomplishments; and the author appears to
consider the greater part of them as his intimate friends, and undoubted
patrons and admirers. Now, this we will confess is to us a very alarming
consideration. By these channels, the book will easily pass into
circulation in those classes of society, which it is of most consequence
to keep free of contamination; and from which its reputation and its
influence will descend with the greatest effect to the great body of the
community. In this reading and opulent country, there are no fashions
which diffuse themselves so fast, as those of literature and immorality:
there is no palpable boundary between the _noblesse_ and the
_bourgeoisie_, as in old France, by which the corruption and
intelligence of the former can be prevented from spreading to the
latter. All the parts of the mass, act and react upon each other with a
powerful and unintermitted agency; and if the head be once infected, the
corruption will spread irresistibly through the whole body. It is doubly
necessary, therefore, to put the law in force against this delinquent,
since he has not only indicated a disposition to do mischief, but seems
unfortunately to have found an opportunity.



ON WORDSWORTH'S "THE
EXCURSION"

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, November, 1814]

_The Excursion, being a portion of the Recluse, a Poem_. By WILLIAM
WORDSWORTH. 4to. pp. 447. London, 1814.


This will never do. It bears no doubt the stamp of the author's heart
and fancy; but unfortunately not half so visibly as that of his peculiar
system. His former poems were intended to recommend that system, and to
bespeak favour for it by their individual merit;--but this, we suspect,
must be recommended by the system--and can only expect to succeed where
it has been previously established. It is longer, weaker, and tamer,
than any of Mr. Wordsworth's other productions; with less boldness of
originality, and less even of that extreme simplicity and lowliness of
tone which wavered so prettily, in the Lyrical Ballads, between
silliness and pathos. We have imitations of Cowper, and even of Milton
here, engrafted on the natural drawl of the Lakers--and all diluted into
harmony by that profuse and irrepressible wordiness which deluges all
the blank verse of this school of poetry, and lubricates and weakens the
whole structure of their style.

Though it fairly fills four hundred and twenty good quarto pages,
without note, vignette, or any sort of extraneous assistance, it is
stated in the title--with something of an imprudent candour--to be but
"a portion" of a larger work; and in the preface, where an attempt is
rather unsuccessfully made to explain the whole design, it is still more
rashly disclosed, that it is but "a part of the second part of a _long_
and laborious work"--which is to consist of three parts.

What Mr. Wordsworth's ideas of length are, we have no means of
accurately judging; but we cannot help suspecting that they are liberal,
to a degree that will alarm the weakness of most modern readers. As far
as we can gather from the preface, the entire poem--or one of them, for
we really are not sure whether there is to be one or two--is of a
biographical nature; and is to contain the history of the author's mind,
and of the origin and progress of his poetical powers, up to the period
when they were sufficiently matured to qualify him for the great work on
which he has been so long employed. Now, the quarto before us contains
an account of one of his youthful rambles in the vales of Cumberland,
and occupies precisely the period of three days; so that, by the use of
a very powerful _calculus_, some estimate may be formed of the probable
extent of the entire biography.

This small specimen, however, and the statements with which it is
prefaced, have been sufficient to set our minds at rest in one
particular. The case of Mr. Wordsworth, we perceive, is now manifestly
hopeless; and we give him up as altogether incurable, and beyond the
power of criticism. We cannot indeed altogether omit taking precautions
now and then against the spreading of the malady;--but for himself,
though we shall watch the progress of his symptoms as a matter of
professional curiosity and instruction, we really think it right not to
harass him any longer with nauseous remedies,--but rather to throw in
cordials and lenitives, and wait in patience for the natural termination
of the disorder. In order to justify this desertion of our patient,
however, it is proper to state why we despair of the success of a more
active practice.

A man who has been for twenty years at work on such matter as is now
before us, and who comes complacently forward with a whole quarto of it
after all the admonitions he has received, cannot reasonably be expected
to "change his hand, or check his pride," upon the suggestion of far
weightier monitors than we can pretend to be. Inveterate habit must now
have given a kind of sanctity to the errors of early taste; and the very
powers of which we lament the perversion, have probably become incapable
of any other application. The very quantity, too, that he has written,
and is at this moment working up for publication upon the old pattern,
makes it almost hopeless to look for any change of it. All this is so
much capital already sunk in the concern; which must be sacrificed if it
be abandoned: and no man likes to give up for lost the time and talent
and labour which he has embodied in any permanent production. We were
not previously aware of these obstacles to Mr. Wordsworth's conversion;
and, considering the peculiarities of his former writings merely as the
result of certain wanton and capricious experiments on public taste and
indulgence, conceived it to be our duty to discourage their repetition
by all the means in our power. We now see clearly, however, how the case
stands;--and, making up our minds, though with the most sincere pain and
reluctance, to consider him as finally lost to the good cause of poetry,
shall endeavour to be thankful for the occasional gleams of tenderness
and beauty which the natural force of his imagination and affections
must still shed over all his productions,--and to which we shall ever
turn with delight, in spite of the affectation and mysticism and
prolixity, with which they are so abundantly contrasted.

Long habits of seclusion, and an excessive ambition of originality, can
alone account for the disproportion which seems to exist between this
author's taste and his genius; or for the devotion with which he has
sacrificed so many precious gifts at the shrine of those paltry idols
which he has set up for himself among his lakes and his mountains.
Solitary musings, amidst such scenes, might no doubt be expected to
nurse up the mind to the majesty of poetical conception,--(though it is
remarkable, that all the greater poets lived or had lived, in the full
current of society):--But the collision of equal minds,--the admonition
of prevailing impressions--seems necessary to reduce its redundancies,
and repress that tendency to extravagance or puerility, into which the
self-indulgence and self-admiration of genius is so apt to be betrayed,
when it is allowed to wanton, without awe or restraint, in the triumph
and delight of its own intoxication. That its flights should be graceful
and glorious in the eyes of men, it seems almost to be necessary that
they should be made in the consciousness that men's eyes are to behold
them,--and that the inward transport and vigour by which they are
inspired, should be tempered by an occasional reference to what will be
thought of them by those-ultimate dispensers of glory. An habitual and
general knowledge of the few settled and permanent maxims, which form
the canon of general taste in all large and polished societies--a
certain tact, which informs us at once that many things, which we still
love and are moved by in secret, must necessarily be despised as
childish, or derided as absurd, in all such societies--though it will
not stand in the place of genius, seems necessary to the success of its
exertions; and though it will never enable any one to produce the higher
beauties of art, can alone secure the talent which does produce them,
from errors that must render it useless. Those who have most of the
talent, however, commonly acquire this knowledge with the greatest
facility;--and if Mr. Wordsworth, instead of confining himself almost
entirely to the society of the dalesmen and cottagers, and little
children, who form the subjects of his book, had condescended to mingle
a little more with the people that were to read and judge of it, we
cannot help thinking, that its texture would have been considerably
improved: At least it appears to us to be absolutely impossible, that
any one who had lived or mixed familiarly with men of literature and
ordinary judgment in poetry (of course we exclude the coadjutors and
disciples of his own school), could ever have fallen into such gross
faults, or so long mistaken them for beauties. His first essays we
looked upon in a good degree as poetical paradoxes,--maintained
experimentally, in order to display talent, and court notoriety;--and so
maintained, with no more serious belief in their truth, than is usually
generated by an ingenious and animated defence of other paradoxes. But
when we find, that he has been for twenty years exclusively employed
upon articles of this very fabric, and that he has still enough of raw
material on hand to keep him so employed for twenty years to come, we
cannot refuse him the justice of believing that he is a sincere convert
to his own system, and must ascribe the peculiarities of his
composition, not to any transient affectation, or accidental caprice of
imagination, but to a settled perversity of taste or understanding,
which has been fostered, if not altogether created, by the circumstances
to which we have already alluded.

The volume before us, if we were to describe it very shortly, we should
characterize as a tissue of moral and devotional ravings, in which
innumerable changes are rung upon a few very simple and familiar ideas:
--but with such an accompaniment of long words, long sentences, and
unwieldy phrases--such a hubbub of strained raptures and fantastical
sublimities, that it is often extremely difficult for the most skilful
and attentive student to obtain a glimpse of the author's meaning--and
altogether impossible for an ordinary reader to conjecture what he is
about. Moral and religious enthusiasm, though undoubtedly poetical
emotions, are at the same time but dangerous inspirers of poetry;
nothing being so apt to run into interminable dulness or mellifluous
extravagance, without giving the unfortunate author the slightest
intimation of his danger. His laudable zeal for the efficacy of his
preachments, he very naturally mistakes for the ardour of poetical
inspiration;--and, while dealing out the high words and glowing phrases
which are so readily supplied by themes of this description, can
scarcely avoid believing that he is eminently original and impressive:--
All sorts of commonplace notions and expressions are sanctified in his
eyes, by the sublime ends for which they are employed; and the mystical
verbiage of the methodist pulpit is repeated, till the speaker
entertains no doubt that he is the elected organ of divine truth and
persuasion. But if such be the common hazards of seeking inspiration
from those potent fountains, it may easily be conceived what chance Mr.
Wordsworth had of escaping their enchantment,--with his natural
propensities to wordiness, and his unlucky habit of debasing pathos with
vulgarity. The fact accordingly is, that in this production he is more
obscure than a Pindaric poet of the seventeenth century; and more
verbose "than even himself of yore"; while the wilfulness with which he
persists in choosing his examples of intellectual dignity and tenderness
exclusively from the lowest ranks of society, will be sufficiently
apparent, from the circumstance of his having thought fit to make his
chief prolocutor in this poetical dialogue, and chief advocate of
Providence and Virtue, _an old Scotch Pedlar_--retired indeed from
business--but still rambling about in his former haunts, and gossiping
among his old customers, without his pack on his shoulders. The other
persons of the drama are, a retired military chaplain, who has grown
half an atheist and half a misanthrope--the wife of an unprosperous
weaver--a servant girl with her infant--a parish pauper, and one or two
other personages of equal rank and dignity.

The character of the work is decidedly didactic; and more than nine-tenths
of it are occupied with a species of dialogue, or rather a series
of long sermons or harangues which pass between the pedlar, the author,
the old chaplain, and a worthy vicar, who entertains the whole party at
dinner on the last day of their excursion. The incidents which occur in
the course of it are as few and trifling as can be imagined;--and those
which the different speakers narrate in the course of their discourses,
are introduced rather to illustrate their arguments or opinions, than
for any interest they are supposed to possess of their own.--The
doctrine which the work is intended to enforce, we are by no means
certain that we have discovered. In so far as we can collect, however,
it seems to be neither more nor less than the old familiar one, that a
firm belief in the providence of a wise and beneficent Being must be our
great stay and support under all afflictions and perplexities upon
earth--and that there are indications of his power and goodness in all
the aspects of the visible universe, whether living or inanimate--every
part of which should therefore be regarded with love and reverence, as
exponents of those great attributes. We can testify, at least, that
these salutary and important truths are inculcated at far greater
length, and with more repetitions, than in any ten volumes of sermons
that we ever perused. It is also maintained, with equal conciseness and
originality, that there is frequently much good sense, as well as much
enjoyment, in the humbler conditions of life; and that, in spite of
great vices and abuses, there is a reasonable allowance both of
happiness and goodness in society at large. If there be any deeper or
more recondite doctrines in Mr. Wordsworth's book, we must confess that
they have escaped us;--and, convinced as we are of the truth and
soundness of those to which we have alluded, we cannot help thinking
that they might have been better enforced with less parade and
prolixity. His effusions on what may be called the physiognomy of
external nature, or its moral and theological expression, are eminently
fantastic, obscure, and affected.--It is quite time, however, that we
should give the reader a more particular account of this singular
performance.

It opens with a picture of the author toiling across a bare common in a
hot summer day, and reaching at last a ruined hut surrounded with tall
trees, where he meets by appointment with a hale old man, with an
iron-pointed staff lying beside him. Then follows a retrospective account
of their first acquaintance--formed, it seems, when the author was at a
village school; and his aged friend occupied "one room,--the fifth part
of a house" in the neighbourhood. After this, we have the history of
this reverend person at no small length. He was born, we are happy to
find, in Scotland--among the hills of Athol; and his mother, after his
father's death, married the parish schoolmaster--so that he was taught
his letters betimes: But then, as it is here set forth with much
solemnity,


  From his sixth year, the boy, of whom I speak,
    In summer, tended cattle on the hills.

And again, a few pages after, that there may be no risk of mistake as to
a point of such essential importance--

  From early childhood, even, as hath been said,
  From his _sixth year_, he had been sent abroad,
  _In summer_, to tend herds: Such was his task!

In the course of this occupation, it is next recorded, that he acquired
such a taste for rural scenery and open air, that when he was sent to
teach a school in a neighbouring village, he found it "a misery to him,"
and determined to embrace the more romantic occupation of a Pedlar--or,
as Mr. Wordsworth more musically expresses it,

  A vagrant merchant bent beneath his load;

--and in the course of his peregrinations had acquired a very large
acquaintance, which, after he had given up dealing, he frequently took a
summer ramble to visit.  The author, on coming up to this interesting
personage, finds him sitting with his eyes half shut;--and, not being
quite sure whether he's asleep or awake, stands "some minutes space" in
silence beside him. "At length," says he, with his own delightful
simplicity--

  At length I hailed him--_seeing that his hat
  Was moist_ with water-drops, as if the brim
  Had newly scooped a running stream!--
 --"'Tis," said I, "a burning day;
  My lips are parched with thirst;--but you, I guess,
  Have somewhere found relief."

Upon this, the benevolent old man points him out a well in a corner, to
which the author repairs; and, after minutely describing its situation,
beyond a broken wall, and between two alders that "grew in a cold damp
nook," he thus faithfully chronicles the process of his return--

  My thirst I slaked--and from the cheerless spot
  Withdrawing, straightway to the shade returned,
  Where sate the old man on the cottage bench.

The Pedlar then gives an account of the last inhabitants of the deserted
cottage beside them. These were, a good industrious weaver and his wife
and children. They were very happy for a while; till sickness and want
of work came upon them; and then the father enlisted as a soldier, and
the wife pined in the lonely cottage--growing every year more careless
and desponding, as her anxiety and fears for her absent husband, of whom
no tidings ever reached her, accumulated. Her children died, and left
her cheerless and alone; and at last she died also; and the cottage fell
to decay. We must say, that there is very considerable pathos in the
telling of this simple story; and that they who can get over the
repugnance excited by the triteness of its incidents, and the lowness of
its objects, will not fail to be struck with the author's knowledge of
the human heart, and the power he possesses of stirring up its deepest
and gentlest sympathies. His prolixity, indeed, it is not so easy to get
over. This little story fills about twenty-five quarto pages; and
abounds, of course, with mawkish sentiment, and details of preposterous
minuteness. When the tale is told, the travellers take their staffs, and
end their first day's journey, without further adventure, at a little
inn.

The Second book sets them forward betimes in the morning. They pass by a
Village Wake; and as they approach a more solitary part of the
mountains, the old man tells the author that he is taking him to see an
old friend of his, who had formerly been chaplain to a Highland
regiment--had lost a beloved wife--been roused from his dejection by the
first euthusiasm [Transcriber's note: sic] of the French Revolution--had
emigrated on its miscarriage to America--and returned disgusted to hide
himself in the retreat to which they were now ascending. That retreat is
then most tediously described--a smooth green valley in the heart of the
mountain, without trees, and with only one dwelling. Just as they get
sight of it from the ridge above, they see a funeral train proceeding
from the solitary abode, and hurry on with some apprehension for the
fate of the misanthrope--whom they find, however, in very tolerable
condition at the door, and learn that the funeral was that of an aged
pauper who had been boarded out by the parish in that cheap farm-house,
and had died in consequence of long exposure to heavy rain. The old
chaplain, or, as Mr. Wordsworth is pleased to call him, the Solitary,
tells this dull story at prodigious length; and after giving an inflated
description of an effect of mountain-mists in the evening sun, treats
his visitors with a rustic dinner--and they walk out to the fields at
the close of the second book.

The Third makes no progress in the excursion. It is entirely filled with
moral and religious conversation and debate, and with a more ample
detail of the Solitary's past life, than had been given in the sketch of
his friend. The conversation is exceedingly dull and mystical; and the
Solitary's confessions insufferably diffuse. Yet there is very
considerable force of writing and tenderness of sentiment in this part
of the work.

The Fourth book is also filled with dialogues ethical and theological;
and, with the exception of some brilliant and forcible expressions here
and there, consists of an exposition of truisms, more cloudy, wordy, and
inconceivably prolix, than any thing we ever met with.

In the beginning of the Fifth book, they leave the solitary valley,
taking its pensive inhabitant along with them, and stray on to where the
landscape sinks down into milder features, till they arrive at a church,
which stands on a moderate elevation in the centre of a wide and fertile
vale. Here they meditate for a while among the monuments, till the vicar
comes out and joins them;--and recognizing the pedlar for an old
acquaintance, mixes graciously in the conversation, which proceeds in a
very edifying manner till the close of the book.

The Sixth contains a choice obituary, or characteristic account of
several of the persons who lie buried before this groupe of moralizers;
--an unsuccessful lover, who finds consolation in natural history--a
miner, who worked on for twenty years, in despite of universal ridicule,
and at last found the vein he had expected--two political enemies
reconciled in old age to each other--an old female miser--a seduced
damsel--and two widowers, one who devoted himself to the education of
his daughters, and one who married a prudent middle-aged woman to take
care of them.

In the beginning of the Eighth Book, the worthy vicar expresses, in the
words of Mr. Wordsworth's own epitome, "his apprehensions that he had
detained his auditors too long--invites them to his house--Solitary,
disinclined to comply, rallies the Wanderer, and somewhat playfully
draws a comparison between his itinerant profession and that of a
knight-errant--which leads to the Wanderer giving an account of changes
in the country, from the manufacturing spirit--Its favourable effects--
The other side of the picture," etc., etc. After these very poetical
themes are exhausted, they all go into the house, where they are
introduced to the Vicar's wife and daughter; and while they sit chatting
in the parlour over a family dinner, his son and one of his companions
come in with a fine dish of trouts piled on a blue slate; and, after
being caressed by the company, are sent to dinner in the nursery.--This
ends the eighth book.

The Ninth and last is chiefly occupied with the mystical discourses of
the Pedlar; who maintains, that the whole universe is animated by an
active principle, the noblest seat of which is in the human soul; and
moreover, that the final end of old age is to train and enable us

  To hear the mighty stream of _Tendency_
  Uttering, for elevation of our thought,
  A clear sonorous voice, inaudible
  To the vast multitude whose doom it is
  To run the giddy round of vain delight--

with other matters as luminous and emphatic. The hostess at length
breaks off the harangue, by proposing that they should all make a little
excursion on the lake,--and they embark accordingly; and, after
navigating for some time along its shores, and drinking tea on a little
island, land at last on a remote promontory, from which they see the sun
go down,--and listen to a solemn and pious, but rather long prayer from
the Vicar. They then walk back to the parsonage door, where the author
and his friend propose to spend the evening;--but the Solitary prefers
walking back in the moonshine to his own valley, after promising to take
another ramble with them--

  If time, with free consent, be yours to give,
  And season favours.

--And here the publication somewhat abruptly closes.

Our abstract of the story has been so extremely concise, that it is more
than usually necessary for us to lay some specimens of the work itself
before our readers. Its grand staple, as we have already said, consists
of a kind of mystical morality: and the chief characteristics of the
style are, that it is prolix and very frequently unintelligible: and
though we are very sensible that no great gratification is to be
expected from the exhibition of those qualities, yet it is necessary to
give our readers a taste of them, both to justify the sentence we have
passed, and to satisfy them that it was really beyond our power to
present them with any abstract or intelligible account of those long
conversations which we have had so much occasion to notice in our brief
sketch of its contents.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is no beauty, we think, it must be admitted, in such passages; and
so little either of interest or curiosity in the incidents they
disclose, that we can scarcely conceive that any man to whom they had
actually occurred, should take the trouble to recount them to his wife
and children by his idle fireside--but, that man or child should think
them worth writing down in blank verse, and printing in magnificent
quarto, we should certainly have supposed altogether impossible, had it
not been for the ample proofs which Mr. Wordsworth has afforded to the
contrary.

Sometimes their silliness is enhanced by a paltry attempt at effect and
emphasis:--as in the following account of that very touching and
extraordinary occurrence of a lamb bleating among the mountains. The
poet would actually persuade us that he thought the mountains themselves
were bleating;--and that nothing could be so grand or impressive.
"List!" cries the old Pedlar, suddenly breaking off in the middle of one
of his daintiest ravings--

            --"List!--I heard,
  From yon huge breast of rock, a solemn bleat;
  Sent forth as if it were the Mountain's voice!
  As if the visible Mountain made the cry!
  Again!"--The effect upon the soul was such
  As he expressed; for, from the Mountain's heart
  The solemn bleat appeared to come; there was
  No other--and the region all around
  Stood silent, empty of all shape of life.
 --It was a lamb--left somewhere to itself!

What we have now quoted will give the reader a notion of the taste and
spirit in which this volume is composed; and yet, if it had not
contained something a good deal better, we do not know how we should
have been justified in troubling him with any account of it. But the
truth is, that Mr. Wordsworth, with all his perversities, is a person of
great powers; and has frequently a force in his moral declamations, and
a tenderness in his pathetic narratives, which neither his prolixity nor
his affectation can altogether deprive of their effect.

       *       *       *       *       *

Besides those more extended passages of interest or beauty, which we
have quoted, and omitted to quote, there are scattered up and down the
book, and in the midst of its most repulsive portions, a very great
number of single lines and images, that sparkle like gems in the desart,
and startle us with an intimation of the great poetic powers that lie
buried in the rubbish that has been heaped around them. It is difficult
to pick up these, after we have once passed them by; but we shall
endeavour to light upon one or two. The beneficial effect of intervals
of relaxation and pastime on youthful minds, is finely expressed, we
think, in a single line, when it is said to be--

  Like vernal ground to Sabbath sunshine left.

The following image of the bursting forth of a mountain-spring, seems to
us also to be conceived with great elegance and beauty.

  And a few steps may bring us to the spot,
  Where haply crown'd with flowrets and green herbs;
  The Mountain Infant to the Sun comes forth
  Like human life from darkness.--

The ameliorating effects of song and music on the minds which most
delight in them, are likewise very poetically expressed.

 --And when the stream
  Which overflowed the soul was passed away,
  A consciousness remained that it had left,
  Deposited upon the silent shore
  Of Memory, images and precious thoughts,
  That shall not die, and cannot be destroyed.

Nor is any thing more elegant than the representation of the graceful
tranquillity occasionally put on by one of the author's favourites; who,
though gay and airy, in general--

  Was graceful, when it pleased him, smooth and still
  As the mute Swan that floats adown the stream,
  Or on the waters of th' unruffled lake
  Anchored her placid beauty. Not a leaf
  That flutters on the bough more light than he,
  And not a flower that droops in the green shade,
  More winningly reserved.--

Nor are there wanting morsels of a sterner and more majestic beauty; as
when, assuming the weightier diction of Cowper, he says, in language
which the hearts of all readers of modern history must have responded--

                 --Earth is sick,
  And Heaven is weary of the hollow words
  Which States and Kingdoms utter when they speak
  Of Truth and Justice.

These examples, we perceive, are not very well chosen--but we have not
leisure to improve the selection; and, such as they are, they may serve
to give the reader a notion of the sort of merit which we meant to
illustrate by their citation.--When we look back to them, indeed, and to
the other passages which we have now extracted, we feel half inclined to
rescind the severe sentence which we passed on the work at the
beginning:--But when we look into the work itself, we perceive that it
cannot be rescinded. Nobody can be more disposed to do justice to the
great powers of Mr. Wordsworth than we are; and, from the first time
that he came before us, down to the present moment, we have uniformly
testified in their favour, and assigned indeed our high sense of their
value as the chief ground of the bitterness with which we resented their
perversion. That perversion, however, is now far more visible than their
original dignity; and while we collect the fragments, it is impossible
not to lament the ruins from which we are condemned to pick them. If any
one should doubt of the existence of such a perversion, or be disposed
to dispute about the instances we have hastily brought forward, we would
just beg leave to refer him to the general plan and the characters of
the poem now before us.--Why should Mr. Wordsworth have made his hero a
superannuated Pedlar? What but the most wretched and provoking
perversity of taste and judgment, could induce any one to place his
chosen advocate of wisdom and virtue in so absurd and fantastic a
condition? Did Mr. Wordsworth really imagine, that he favourite
doctrines were likely to gain any thing in point of effect or authority
by being put into the mouth of a person accustomed to higgle about tape,
or brass sleeve-buttons? Or is it not plain that, independent of the
ridicule and disgust which such a personification must give to many of
his readers, its adoption exposes his work throughout to the charge of
revolting incongruity, and utter disregard of probability or nature?
For, after he has thus wilfully debased his moral teacher by a low
occupation, is there one word that he puts into his mouth, or one
sentiment of which he makes him the organ, that has the most remote
reference to that occupation? Is there any thing in his learned,
abstracted, and logical harangues, that savours of the calling that is
ascribed to him? Are any of their materials such as a pedlar could
possibly have dealt in? Are the manners, the diction, the sentiments, in
any, the very smallest degree, accommodated to a person in that
condition? or are they not eminently and conspicuously such as could not
by possibility belong to it? A man who went about selling flannel and
pocket-handkerchiefs in this lofty diction, would soon frighten away all
his customers; and would infallibly pass either for a madman, or for
some learned and affected gentleman, who, in a frolic, had taken up a
character which he was peculiarly ill qualified for supporting.

The absurdity in this case, we think, is palpable and glaring; but it is
exactly of the same nature with that which infects the whole substance
of the work--a puerile ambition of singularity engrafted on an unlucky
predilection for truisms; and an affected passion for simplicity and
humble life, most awkwardly combined with a taste for mystical
refinements, and all the gorgeousness of obscure phraseology. His taste
for simplicity is evinced, by sprinkling up and down his interminable
declamations, a few descriptions of baby-houses, and of old hats with
wet brims; and his amiable partiality for humble life, by assuring us,
that a wordy rhetorician, who talks about Thebes, and allegorizes all
the heathen mythology, was once a pedlar--and making him break in upon
his magnificent orations with two or three awkward notices of something
that he had seen when selling winter raiment about the country--or of
the changes in the state of society, which had almost annihilated his
former calling.



ON KEATS

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, August, 1820]

1. _Endymion: A Poetic Romance_. By JOHN KEATS. 8vo. pp. 207. London,
1818.

2. _Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and other Poems._ By JOHN
KEATS, Author of _Endymion_. 12mo. pp. 200. London, 1820.

We had never happened to see either of these volumes till very lately--
and have been exceedingly struck with the genius they display, and the
spirit of poetry which breathes through all their extravagance. That
imitation of our older writers, and especially of our older dramatists,
to which we cannot help flattering ourselves that we have somewhat
contributed, has brought on, as it were, a second spring in our poetry;
--and few of its blossoms are either more profuse of sweetness or richer
in promise, than this which is now before us. Mr. Keats, we understand,
is still a very young man; and his whole works, indeed, bear evidence
enough of the fact. They are full of extravagance and irregularity, rash
attempts at originality, interminable wanderings, and excessive
obscurity. They manifestly require, therefore, all the indulgence that
can be claimed for a first attempt:--but we think it no less plain that
they deserve it; for they are flushed all over with the rich lights of
fancy, and so coloured and bestrewn with the flowers of poetry, that
even while perplexed and bewildered in their labyrinths, it is
impossible to resist the intoxication of their sweetness, or to shut our
hearts to the enchantments they so lavishly present. The models upon
which he has formed himself, in the Endymion, the earliest and by much
the most considerable of his poems, are obviously the Faithful
Shepherdess of Fletcher, and the Sad Shepherd of Ben Jonson;--the
exquisite metres and inspired diction of which he has copied with great
boldness and fidelity--and, like his great originals, has also contrived
to impart to the whole piece that true rural and poetical air which
breathes only in them and in Theocritus--which is at once homely and
majestic, luxurious and rude, and sets before us the genuine sights and
sounds and smells of the country, with all the magic and grace of
Elysium. His subject has the disadvantage of being mythological; and in
this respect, as well as on account of the raised and rapturous tone it
consequently assumes, his poetry may be better compared perhaps to the
Comus and the Arcades of Milton, of which, also, there are many traces
of imitation. The great distinction, however, between him and these
divine authors, is, that imagination in them is subordinate to reason
and judgment, while, with him, it is paramount and supreme--that their
ornaments and images are employed to embellish and recommend just
sentiments, engaging incidents, and natural characters, while his are
poured out without measure or restraint, and with no apparent design but
to unburden the breast of the author, and give vent to the overflowing
vein of his fancy. The thin and scanty tissue of his story is merely the
light framework on which his florid wreaths are suspended; and while his
imaginations go rambling and entangling themselves everywhere, like wild
honeysuckles, all idea of sober reason, and plan, and consistency, is
utterly forgotten, and is "strangled in their waste fertility." A great
part of the work, indeed, is written in the strangest and most
fantastical manner that can be imagined. It seems as if the author had
ventured everything that occurred to him in the shape of a glittering
image or striking expression--taken the first word that presented itself
to make up a rhyme, and then made that word the germ of a new cluster of
images--a hint for a new excursion of the fancy--and so wandered on,
equally forgetful whence he came, and heedless whither he was going,
till he had covered his pages with an interminable arabesque of
connected and incongruous figures, that multiplied as they extended, and
were only harmonized by the brightness of their tints, and the graces of
their forms. In this rash and headlong career he has of course many
lapses and failures. There is no work, accordingly, from which a
malicious critic could cull more matter for ridicule, or select more
obscure, unnatural, or absurd passages. But we do not take _that_ to be
our office;--and just beg leave, on the contrary, to say, that any one
who, on this account, would represent the whole poem as despicable, must
either have no notion of poetry, or no regard to truth.

It is, in truth, at least as full of genius as of absurdity; and he who
does not find a great deal in it to admire and to give delight, cannot
in his heart see much beauty in the two exquisite dramas to which we
have already alluded, or find any great pleasure in some of the finest
creations of Milton and Shakespeare. There are very many such persons,
we verily believe, even among the reading and judicious part of the
community--correct scholars we have no doubt many of them, and, it may
be, very classical composers in prose and in verse--but utterly ignorant
of the true genius of English poetry, and incapable of estimating its
appropriate and most exquisite beauties. With that spirit we have no
hesitation in saying that Mr. K. is deeply imbued--and of those beauties
he has presented us with many striking examples. We are very much
inclined indeed to add, that we do not know any book which we would
sooner employ as a test to ascertain whether any one had in him a native
relish for poetry, and a genuine sensibility to its intrinsic charm. The
greater and more distinguished poets of our country have so much else in
them to gratify other tastes and propensities, that they are pretty sure
to captivate and amuse those to whom their poetry is but an hindrance
and obstruction, as well as those to whom it constitutes their chief
attraction. The interest of the stories they tell--the vivacity of the
characters they delineate--the weight and force of the maxims and
sentiments in which they abound--the very pathos and wit and humour they
display, which may all and each of them exist apart from their poetry
and independent of it, are quite sufficient to account for their
popularity, without referring much to that still higher gift, by which
they subdue to their enchantments those whose souls are attuned to the
finer impulses of poetry. It is only where those other recommendations
are wanting, or exist in a weaker degree, that the true force of the
attraction, exercised by the pure poetry with which they are so often
combined, can be fairly appreciated--where, without much incident or
many characters, and with little wit, wisdom, or arrangement, a number
of bright pictures are presented to the imagination, and a fine feeling
expressed of those mysterious relations by which visible external things
are assimilated with inward thoughts and emotions, and become the images
and exponents of all passions and affections. To an unpoetical reader
such passages always appear mere raving and absurdity--and to this
censure a very great part of the volume before us will certainly be
exposed, with this class of readers. Even in the judgment of a fitter
audience, however, it must, we fear, be admitted, that, besides the riot
and extravagance of his fancy, the scope and substance of Mr. K.'s
poetry is rather too dreary and abstracted to excite the strongest
interest, or to sustain the attention through a work of any great
compass or extent. He deals too much with shadowy and incomprehensible
beings, and is too constantly rapt into an extramundane Elysium, to
command a lasting interest with ordinary mortals--and must employ the
agency of more varied and coarser emotions, if he wishes to take rank
with the seducing poets of this or of former generations. There is
something very curious too, we think, in the way in which he, and Mr.
Barry Cornwall also, have dealt with the Pagan mythology, of which they
have made so much use in their poetry. Instead of presenting its
imaginary persons under the trite and vulgar traits that belong to them
in the ordinary systems, little more is borrowed from these than the
general conception of their conditions and relations; and an original
character and distinct individuality is bestowed upon them, which has
all the merit of invention, and all the grace and attraction of the
fictions on which it is engrafted. The antients, though they probably
did not stand in any great awe of their deities, have yet abstained very
much from any minute or dramatic representation of their feelings and
affections. In Hesiod and Homer, they are coarsely delineated by some of
their actions and adventures, and introduced to us merely as the agents
in those particular transactions; while in the Hymns, from those
ascribed to Orpheus and Homer, down to those of Callimachus, we have
little but pompous epithets and invocations, with a flattering
commemoration of their most famous exploits--and are never allowed to
enter into their bosoms, or follow out the train of their feelings, with
the presumption of our human sympathy. Except the love-song of the
Cyclops to his Sea Nymph in Theocritus--the Lamentation of Venus for
Adonis in Moschus--and the more recent Legend of Apuleius, we scarcely
recollect a passage in all the writings of antiquity in which the
passions of an immortal are fairly disclosed to the scrutiny and
observation of men. The author before us, however, and some of his
contemporaries, have dealt differently with the subject;--and,
sheltering the violence of the fiction under the ancient traditionary
fable, have created and imagined an entire new set of characters, and
brought closely and minutely before us the loves and sorrows and
perplexities of beings, with whose names and supernatural attributes we
had long been familiar, without any sense or feeling of their personal
character. We have more than doubts of the fitness of such personages to
maintain a permanent interest with the modern public;--but the way in
which they are here managed, certainly gives them the best chance that
now remains for them; and, at all events, it cannot be denied that the
effect is striking and graceful.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a fragment of a projected Epic, entitled "Hyperion," on the
expulsion of Saturn and the Titanian deities by Jupiter and his younger
adherents, of which we cannot advise the completion: For, though there
are passages of some force and grandeur, it is sufficiently obvious,
from the specimen before us, that the subject is too far removed from
all the sources of human interest, to be successfully treated by any
modern author. Mr. Keats has unquestionably a very beautiful
imagination, and a great familiarity with the finest diction of English
poetry; but he must learn not to misuse or misapply these advantages;
and neither to waste the good gifts of nature and study on intractable
themes, nor to luxuriate too recklessly on such as are more suitable.



LORD BROUGHAM ON BYRON

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, January, 1808]

_Hours of Idleness: A series of Poems, Original and Translated._ By
GEORGE GORDON, LORD BYRON, a minor. Newark, 1807.

The poesy of this young lord belongs to the class which neither gods nor
men are said to permit. Indeed, we do not recollect to have seen a
quantity of verse with so few deviations in either direction from that
exact standard. His effusions are spread over a dead flat, and can no
more get above or below the level, than if they were so much stagnant
water. As an extenuation of this offence, the noble author is peculiarly
forward in pleading minority. We have it in the title-page, and on the
very back of the volume; it follows his name like a favourite part of
his _style_. Much stress is laid upon it in the preface, and the poems
are connected with this general statement of his case, by particular
dates, substantiating the age at which each was written. Now, the law
upon the point of morality, we hold to be perfectly clear. It is a plea
available only to the defendant; no plaintiff can offer it as a
supplementary ground of action. Thus, if any suit could be brought
against Lord Byron, for the purpose of compelling him to put into court
a certain quantity of poetry; and if judgment were given against him, it
is highly probable that an exception would be taken, were he to deliver
_for poetry_, the contents of this volume. To this he might plead
_minority;_ but as he now makes voluntary tender of the article, he hath
no right to sue, on that ground, for the price is in good current
praise, should the goods be unmarketable. This is our view of the law on
the point, and we dare to say, so will it be ruled. Perhaps, however, in
reality, all that he tells us about his youth, is rather with a view to
increase our wonder, than to soften our censures. He possibly means to
say, "See how a minor can write! This poem was actually composed by a
young man of eighteen, and this by one of only sixteen!" But, alas, we
all remember the poetry of Cowley at ten, and Pope at twelve; and so far
from hearing, with any surprise, that very poor verses were written by a
youth from his leaving school to his leaving college, inclusive, we
really believe this to be the most common of all occurrences; that it
happens in the life of nine men in ten who are educated in England; and
that the tenth man writes better verse than Lord Byron.

His other plea of privilege, our author rather brings forward to wave
it. He certainly, however, does allude frequently to his family and
ancestors--sometimes in poetry, sometimes in notes; and while giving up
his claim on the score of rank, he takes care to remember us of Dr.
Johnson's saying, that when a nobleman appears as an author, his merit
should be handsomely acknowledged. In truth, it is this consideration
only, that induces us to give Lord Byron's poems a place in our review,
besides our desire to counsel him, that he do forthwith abandon poetry,
and turn his talents, which are considerable, and his opportunities,
which are great, to better account.

With this view, we must beg leave seriously to assure him, that the mere
rhyming of the final syllable, even when accompanied by a certain number
of feet; nay, although (which does not always happen) those feet should
scan regularly, and have been all counted accurately upon the fingers--
is not the whole art of poetry. We would entreat him to believe, that a
certain portion of liveliness, somewhat of fancy, is necessary to
constitute a poem; and that a poem in the present day, to be read, must
contain at least one thought, either in a little degree different from
the ideas of former writers, or differently expressed. We put it to his
candour, whether there is anything so deserving the name of poetry in
verses like the following, written in 1806, and whether, if a youth of
eighteen could say anything so uninteresting to his ancestors, a youth
of nineteen should publish it.

  Shades of heroes farewell! your descendant, departing
  From the seat of his ancestors, bids you, adieu! etc., etc.

Lord Byron should also have a care of attempting what the greatest poets
have done before him, for comparisons (as he must have had occasion to
see at his writing-master's) are odious. Gray's ode on Eton College,
should really have kept out the ten hobbling stanzas "on a distant view
of the village and school of Harrow." ...

However, be this as it may, we fear his translations and imitations are
great favourites with Lord Byron. We have them of all kinds, from
Anacreon to Ossian; and, viewing them as school exercises, they may
pass. Only why print them after they have had their day and served their
turn?...

It is a sort of privilege of poets to be egotists; but they should "use
it as not abusing it"; and particularly one who piques himself (though
indeed at the ripe age of nineteen) of being "an infant bard"--("The
artless Helicon I boast is youth";)--should either not know, or not seem
to know, so much about his own ancestry. Besides a poem on the family
seat of the Byrons, we have another on the self same subject, introduced
with an apology, "he certainly had no intention of inserting it"; but
really, "the particular request of some friends," etc., etc. It
concludes with five stanzas on himself, "the last and youngest of a
noble line." There is a good deal also about his maternal ancestors, in
a poem on Lachin-y-gair, a mountain where he spent part of his youth,
and might have learnt that a _pibroch_ is not a bagpipe, any more than a
duet means a fiddle....

But whatever judgment may be passed on the poems of this noble junior,
it seems we must take them as we find them, and be content; for they are
the last we shall ever have from him. He is at best, he says, but an
intruder into the groves of Parnassus; he never lived in a garret, like
thorough-bred poets; and "though he once roved a careless mountaineer in
the Highlands of Scotland," he has not of late enjoyed this advantage.
Moreover, he expects no profit from his publication; and whether it
succeeds or not, "it is highly improbable, from his situation and
pursuits hereafter," that he should again condescend to become an
author. Therefore, let us take what we can get and be thankful. What
right have we poor devils to be nice? We are well off to have got so
much from a man of this Lord's station, who does not live in a garret,
but "has the sway" of Newstead Abbey. Again we say, let us be thankful;
and, with honest Sancho, bid God bless the giver, nor look the gift
horse in the mouth.



SYDNEY SMITH ON HANNAH MOORE

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, April, 1809]

_Caelebs in Search of a Wife; comprehending Observations on Domestic
Habits and Manners, Religion and Morals._ 2 vols. London, 1809.


This book is written, or supposed to be written (for we would speak
timidly of the mysteries of superior beings), by the celebrated Mrs.
Hannah Moore! We shall probably give great offence by such indiscretion;
but still we must be excused for treating it as a book merely human,--an
uninspired production,--the result of mortality left to itself, and
depending on its own limited resources. In taking up the subject in this
point of view, we solemnly disclaim the slightest intention of indulging
in any indecorous levity, or of wounding the religious feelings of a
large class of very respectable persons. It is the only method in which
we can possibly make this work a proper object of criticism. We have the
strongest possible doubts of the attributes usually ascribed to this
authoress; and we think it more simple and manly to say so at once, than
to admit nominally superlunary claims, which, in the progress of our
remarks, we should virtually deny.

Caelebs wants a wife; and, after the death of his father, quits his
estate in Northumberland to see the world, and to seek for one of its
best productions, a woman, who may add materially to the happiness of
his future life. His first journey is to London, where, in the midst of
the gay society of the metropolis, of course, he does not find a wife;
and his next journey is to the family of Mr. Stanley, the head of the
Methodists, a serious people, where, of course, he does find a wife. The
exaltation, therefore, of what the authoress deems to be the religious,
and the depretiation of what she considers to be the worldly character,
and the influence of both upon matrimonial happiness, form the subject
of this novel--rather of this _dramatic sermon_.

The machinery upon which the discourse is suspended, is of the slightest
and most inartificial texture, bearing every mark of haste, and
possessing not the slightest claim to merit. Events there are none; and
scarcely a character of any interest. The book is intended to convey
religious advice; and no more labour appears to have been bestowed upon
the story, than was merely sufficient to throw it out of the dry,
didactic form. Lucilla is totally uninteresting; so is Mr. Stanley; Dr.
Barlow still worse; and Caelebs a mere clod or dolt. Sir John and Lady
Belfield are rather more interesting--and for a very obvious reason,
they have some faults;--they put us in mind of men and women;--they seem
to belong to one common nature with ourselves. As we read, we seem to
think we might act as such people act, and therefore we attend; whereas
imitation is hopeless in the more perfect characters which Mrs. Moore
has set before us; and therefore, they inspire us with very little
interest.

There are books however of all kinds; and those may not be unwisely
planned which set before us very pure models. They are less probable,
and therefore less amusing than ordinary stories; but they are more
amusing than plain, unfabled precept. Sir Charles Grandison is less
agreeable than Tom Jones; but it is more agreeable than Sherlock and
Tillotson; and teaches religion and morality to many who would not seek
it in the productions of these professional writers.

But, making every allowance for the difficulty of the task which Mrs.
Moore has prescribed to herself, the book abounds with marks of
negligence and want of skill; with representations of life and manners
which are either false or trite.

Temples to friendship and virtue must be totally laid aside, for many
years to come, in novels. Mr. Lane, of the Minerva Press, has given them
up long since; and we were quite surprised to find such a writer as Mrs.
Moore busied in moral brick and mortar. Such an idea, at first, was
merely juvenile; the second time a little nauseous; but the ten
thousandth time, it is quite intolerable. Caelebs, upon his first
arrival in London, dines out,--meets with a bad dinner,--supposes the
cause of that bad dinner to be the erudition of the ladies of the
house,--talks to them upon learned subjects, and finds them as dull and
ignorant as if they had piqued themselves upon all the mysteries of
housewifery. We humbly submit to Mrs. Moore, that this is not humorous,
but strained and unnatural. Philippics against frugivorous children
after dinner, are too common. Lady Melbury has been introduced into
every novel for these four years last past. Peace to her ashes!...

The great object kept in view throughout the whole of this introduction,
is the enforcement of religious principle, and the condemnation of a
life lavished in dissipation and fashionable amusement. In the pursuit
of this object, it appears to us, that Mrs. Moore is much too severe
upon the ordinary amusements of mankind, many of which she does not
object to in this, or that degree; but altogether. Caelebs and Lucilla,
her _optimus_ and _optima_, never dance, and never go to the play. They
not only stay away from the comedies of Congreve and Farquhar, for which
they may easily enough be forgiven; but they never go to see Mrs.
Siddons in the Gamester, or in Jane Shore. The finest exhibition of
talent, and the most beautiful moral lessons, are interdicted, at the
theatre. There is something in the word _Playhouse_, which seems so
closely connected, in the minds of these people, with sin, and Satan,--
that it stands in their vocabulary for every species of abomination. And
yet why? Where is every feeling more roused in favour of virtue, than at
a good play? Where is goodness so feelingly, so enthusiastically learnt?
What so solemn as to see the excellent passions of the human heart
called forth by a great actor, animated by a great poet? To hear Siddons
repeat what Shakespeare wrote! To behold the child, and his mother--the
noble, and the poor artisan,--the monarch, and his subjects--all ages
and all ranks convulsed with one common passion--wrung with one common
anguish, and, with loud sobs and cries, doing involuntary homage to the
God that made their hearts! What wretched infatuation to interdict such
amusements as these! What a blessing that mankind can be allured from
sensual gratification, and find relaxation and pleasure in such
pursuits! But the excellent Mr. Stanley is uniformly paltry and narrow,
--always trembling at the idea of being entertained, and thinking no
Christian safe who is not dull. As to the spectacles of impropriety
which are sometimes witnessed in parts of the theatre; such reasons
apply, in much stronger degree, to not driving along the Strand, or any
of the great public streets of London, after dark; and if the virtue of
well educated young persons is made of such very frail materials, their
best resource is a nunnery at once. It is a very bad rule, however,
never to quit the house for fear of catching cold.

Mrs. Moore practically extends the same doctrine to cards and
assemblies. No cards--because cards are employed in gaming; no
assemblies--because many dissipated persons pass their lives in
assemblies. Carry this but a little further, and we must say,--no wine,
because of drunkenness; no meat, because of gluttony; no use, that there
may be no abuse! The fact is, that Mr. Stanley wants not only to be
religious, but to be at the head of the religious. These little
abstinences are the cockades by which the party are known,--the rallying
points for the evangelical faction. So natural is the love of power,
that it sometimes becomes the influencing motive with the sincere
advocates of that blessed religion, whose very characteristic excellence
is the humility which it inculcates.

We observe that Mrs. Moore, in one part of her work, falls into the
common error about dress. She first blames ladies for exposing their
persons in the present style of dress; and then says, if they knew their
own interest,--if they were aware how much more alluring they were to
men when their charms are less displayed, they would make the desired
alteration from motives merely selfish.

  "Oh! if women in general knew what was their real interest! if they
   could guess with what a charm even the _appearance_ of modesty
  invests its possessor, they would dress decorously from mere
  self-love, if not from principle. The designing would assume modesty
  as an artifice; the coquet would adopt it as an allurement; the pure
  as her appropriate attraction; and the voluptuous as the most
  infallible art of seduction." I. 189.

If there is any truth in this passage, nudity becomes a virtue; and no
decent woman, for the future, can be seen in garments.

We have a few more of Mrs. Moore's opinions to notice.--It is not fair
to attack the religion of the times, because, in large and
indiscriminate parties, religion does not become the subject of
conversation. Conversation must and ought to grow out of materials on
which men can agree, not upon subjects which try the passions. But this
good lady wants to see men chatting together upon the Pelagian heresy--
to hear, in the afternoon, the theological rumours of the day--and to
glean polemical tittle-tattle at a tea-table rout. All the disciples of
this school uniformly fall into the same mistake. They are perpetually
calling upon their votaries for religious thoughts and religious
conversation in every thing; inviting them to ride, walk, row, wrestle,
and dine out religiously;--forgetting that the being to whom this
impossible purity is recommended, is a being compelled to scramble for
his existence and support for ten hours out of the sixteen he is awake;
--forgetting that he must dig, beg, read, think, move, pay, receive,
praise, scold, command and obey;--forgetting, also, that if men
conversed as often upon religious subjects as they do upon the ordinary
occurrences of the world, that they would converse upon them with the
same familiarity, and want of respect,--that religion would then produce
feelings not more solemn or exalted than any other topics which
constitute at present the common furniture of human understandings.

We are glad to find in this work, some strong compliments to the
efficacy of works,--some distinct admissions that it is necessary to be
honest and just, before we can be considered as religious. Such sort of
concessions are very gratifying to us; but how will they be received by
the children of the Tabernacle? It is quite clear, indeed, throughout
the whole of the work, that an apologetical explanation of certain
religious opinions is intended; and there is a considerable abatement of
that tone of insolence with which the improved Christians are apt to
treat the bungling specimens of piety to be met with in the more antient
churches.

So much for the extravagances of this lady.--With equal sincerity, and
with greater pleasure, we bear testimony to her talents, her good sense,
and her real piety. There occurs every now and then in her productions,
very original, and very profound observations. Her advice is very often
characterised by the most amiable good sense, and conveyed in the most
brilliant and inviting style. If, instead of belonging to a trumpery
gospel faction, she had only watched over those great points of religion
in which the hearts of every sect of Christians are interested, she
would have been one of the most useful and valuable writers of her day.
As it is, every man would wish his wife and his children to read
_Caelebs_;--watching himself its effects;--separating the piety from
the puerility;--and showing that it is very possible to be a good
Christian, without degrading the human understanding to the trash and
folly of Methodism.



MACAULAY ON SOUTHEY

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, January, 1830]

SOUTHEY'S "COLLOQUIES"

_Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of
Society_. By ROBERT SOUTHEY, Esq., LL.D., Poet Laureate. 2 vols. 8vo.
London, 1829.


It would be scarcely possible for a man of Mr. Southey's talents and
acquirements to write two volumes so large as those before us, which
should be wholly destitute of information and amusement. Yet we do not
remember to have read with so little satisfaction any equal quantity of
matter, written by any man of real abilities. We have, for some time
past, observed with great regret the strange infatuation which leads the
Poet Laureate to abandon those departments of literature in which he
might excel, and to lecture the public on sciences of which he has still
the very alphabet to learn. He has now, we think, done his worst. The
subject which he has at last undertaken to treat is one which demands
all the highest intellectual and moral qualities of a philosophical
statesman, an understanding at once comprehensive and acute, a heart at
once upright and charitable. Mr. Southey brings to the task two
faculties which were never, we believe, vouchsafed in measure so copious
to any human being, the faculty of believing without a reason, and the
faculty of hating without a provocation.

It is, indeed, most extraordinary, that a mind like Mr. Southey's, a
mind richly endowed in many respects by nature, and highly cultivated by
study, a mind which has exercised considerable influence on the most
enlightened generation of the most enlightened people that ever existed,
should be utterly destitute of the power of discerning truth from
falsehood. Yet such is the fact. Government is to Mr. Southey one of the
fine arts. He judges of a theory, of a public measure, of a religion or
a political party, of a peace or a war, as men judge of a picture or a
statue, by the effect produced on his imagination. A chain of
associations is to him what a chain of reasoning is to other men; and
what he calls his opinions are in fact merely his tastes....

Now in the mind of Mr. Southey reason has no place at all, as either
leader or follower, as either sovereign or slave. He does not seem to
know what an argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He never
troubles himself to answer the arguments of his opponents. It has never
occurred to him, that a man ought to be able to give some better account
of the way in which he has arrived at his opinions than merely that it
is his will and pleasure to hold them. It has never occurred to him that
there is a difference between assertion and demonstration, that a rumour
does not always prove a fact, that a single fact, when proved, is hardly
foundation enough for a theory, that two contradictory propositions
cannot be undeniable truths, that to beg the question is not the way to
settle it, or that when an objection is raised, it ought to be met with
something more convincing than "scoundrel" and "blockhead."

It would be absurd to read the works of such a writer for political
instruction. The utmost that can be expected from any system promulgated
by him is that it may be splendid and affecting, that it may suggest
sublime and pleasing images. His scheme of philosophy is a mere
day-dream, a poetical creation, like the Domdaniel cavern, the Swerga,
or Padalon; and indeed it bears no inconsiderable resemblance to those
gorgeous visions. Like them, it has something of invention, grandeur,
and brilliancy. But, like them, it is grotesque and extravagant, and
perpetually violates even that conventional probability which is
essential to the effect of works of art.

The warmest admirers of Mr. Southey will scarcely, we think, deny that
his success has almost always borne an inverse proportion to the degree
in which his undertakings have required a logical head. His poems, taken
in the mass, stand far higher than his prose works. His official Odes,
indeed, among which the Vision of Judgement must be classed, are, for
the most part, worse than Pye's and as bad as Cibber's; nor do we think
him generally happy in short pieces. But his longer poems, though full
of faults, are nevertheless very extraordinary productions. We doubt
greatly whether they will be read fifty years hence; but that, if they
are read, they will be admired, we have no doubt whatever....

The extraordinary bitterness of spirit which Mr. Southey manifests
towards his opponents is, no doubt, in a great measure to be attributed
to the manner in which he forms his opinions. Differences of taste, it
has often been remarked, produce greater exasperation than differences
on points of science. But this is not all. A peculiar austerity marks
almost all Mr. Southey's judgments of men and actions. We are far from
blaming him for fixing on a high standard of morals and for applying
that standard to every case. But rigour ought to be accompanied by
discernment; and of discernment Mr. Southey seems to be utterly
destitute. His mode of judging is monkish. It is exactly what we should
expect from a stern old Benedictine, who had been preserved from many
ordinary frailties by the restraints of his situation. No man out of a
cloister ever wrote about love, for example, so coldly and at the same
time so grossly. His descriptions of it are just what we should hear
from a recluse who knew the passion only from the details of the
confessional. Almost all his heroes make love either like Seraphim or
like cattle. He seems to have no notion of any thing between the
Platonic passion of the Glendoveer who gazes with rapture on his
mistress's leprosy, and the brutal appetite of Arvalan and Roderick. In
Roderick, indeed, the two characters are united. He is first all clay,
and then all spirit. He goes forth a Tarquin, and comes back too
ethereal to be married. The only love scene, as far as we can recollect,
in Madoc, consists of the delicate attentions which a savage, who has
drunk too much of the Prince's excellent metheglin, offers to Goervyl.
It would be the labour of a week to find, in all the vast mass of Mr.
Southey's poetry, a single passage indicating any sympathy with those
feelings which have consecrated the shades of Vaucluse and the rocks of
Meillerie.

Indeed, if we except some very pleasing images of paternal tenderness
and filial duty, there is scarcely any thing soft or humane in Mr.
Southey's poetry. What theologians call the spiritual sins are his
cardinal virtues, hatred, pride, and the insatiable thirst of vengeance.
These passions he disguises under the name of duties; he purifies them
from the alloy of vulgar interests; he ennobles them by uniting them
with energy, fortitude, and a severe sanctity of manners; and he then
holds them up to the admiration of mankind. This is the spirit of
Thalaba, of Ladurlad, of Adosinda, of Roderick after his conversion. It
is the spirit which, in all his writings, Mr. Southey appears to affect.
"I do well to be angry," seems to be the predominant feeling of his
mind. Almost the only mark of charity which he vouchsafes to his
opponents is to pray for their reformation; and this he does in terms
not unlike those in which we can imagine a Portuguese priest interceding
with Heaven for a Jew, delivered over to the secular arm after a
relapse.

We have always heard, and fully believe, that Mr. Southey is a very
amiable and humane man; nor do we intend to apply to him personally any
of the remarks which we have made on the spirit of his writings. Such
are the caprices of human nature. Even Uncle Toby troubled himself very
little about the French grenadiers who fell on the glacis of Namur. And
Mr. Southey, when he takes up his pen, changes his nature as much as
Captain Shandy, when he girt on his sword. The only opponents to whom
the Laureate gives quarter are those in whom he finds something of his
own character reflected. He seems to have an instinctive antipathy for
calm, moderate men, for men who shun extremes, and who render reasons.
He treated Mr. Owen of Lanark, for example, with infinitely more respect
than he has shown to Mr. Hallam or to Dr. Lingard; and this for no
reason that we can discover, except that Mr. Owen is more unreasonably
and hopelessly in the wrong than any speculator of our time.

Mr. Southey's political system is just what we might expect from a man
who regards politics, not as matter of science, but as matter of taste
and feeling. All his schemes of government have been inconsistent with
themselves. In his youth he was a republican; yet, as he tells us in his
preface to these Colloquies, he was even then opposed to the Catholic
Claims. He is now a violent Ultra-Tory. Yet, while he maintains, with
vehemence approaching to ferocity, all the sterner and harsher parts of
the Ultra-Tory theory of government, the baser and dirtier part of that
theory disgusts him. Exclusion, persecution, severe punishments for
libellers and demagogues, proscriptions, massacres, civil war, if
necessary, rather than any concession to a discontented people; these
are the measures which he seems inclined to recommend. A severe and
gloomy tyranny, crushing opposition, silencing remonstrance, drilling
the minds of the people into unreasoning obedience, has in it something
of grandeur which delights his imagination. But there is nothing fine in
the shabby tricks and jobs of office; and Mr. Southey, accordingly, has
no toleration for them. When a Jacobin, he did not perceive that his
system led logically, and would have led practically, to the removal of
religious distinctions. He now commits a similar error. He renounces the
abject and paltry part of the creed of his party, without perceiving
that it is also an essential part of that creed. He would have tyranny
and purity together; though the most superficial observation might have
shown him that there can be no tyranny without corruption.

It is high time, however, that we should proceed to the consideration of
the work which is our more immediate subject, and which, indeed,
illustrates in almost every page our general remarks on Mr. Southey's
writings. In the preface, we are informed that the author,
notwithstanding some statements to the contrary, was always opposed to
the Catholic Claims. We fully believe this; both because we are sure
that Mr. Southey is incapable of publishing a deliberate falsehood, and
because his assertion is in itself probable. We should have expected
that, even in his wildest paroxysms of democratic enthusiasm, Mr.
Southey would have felt no wish to see a simple remedy applied to a
great practical evil. We should have expected that the only measure
which all the great statesmen of two generations have agreed with each
other in supporting would be the only measure which Mr. Southey would
have agreed with himself in opposing. He has passed from one extreme of
political opinion to another, as Satan in Milton went round the globe,
contriving constantly to "ride with darkness." Wherever the thickest
shadow of the night may at any moment chance to fall, there is Mr.
Southey. It is not every body who could have so dexterously avoided
blundering on the daylight in the course of a journey to the antipodes.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not by the intermeddling of Mr. Southey's idol, the omniscient and
omnipotent State, but by the prudence and energy of the people, that
England has hitherto been carried forward in civilisation; and it is to
the same prudence and the same energy that we now look with comfort and
good hope. Our rulers will best promote the improvement of the nation by
strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties, by leaving
capital to find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price,
industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and folly their
natural punishment, by maintaining peace, by defending property, by
diminishing the price of law, and by observing strict economy in every
department of the state. Let the Government do this: the People will
assuredly do the rest.



ON CROKER'S "BOSWELL"

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, September, 1831]

_The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Including a Journal of a Tour to the
Hebrides, by James Boswell, Esq. A new Edition, with numerous Additions
and Notes._ By JOHN WILSON CROKER, LL.D., F.R.S. 5 vols., 8vo. London,
1831.

This work has greatly disappointed us. Whatever faults we may have been
prepared to find in it, we fully expected that it would be a valuable
addition to English literature; that it would contain many curious
facts, and many judicious remarks; that the style of the notes would be
neat, clear, and precise; and that the typographical execution would be,
as in new editions of classical works it ought to be, almost faultless.
We are sorry to be obliged to say that the merits of Mr. Croker's
performance are on a par with those of a certain leg of mutton on which
Dr. Johnson dined, while travelling from London to Oxford, and which he,
with characteristic energy, pronounced to be "as bad as bad could be,
ill fed, ill killed, ill kept, and ill dressed." This edition is ill
compiled, ill arranged, ill written, and ill printed.

Nothing in the work has astonished us so much as the ignorance or
carelessness of Mr. Croker with respect to facts and dates. Many of his
blunders are such as we should be surprised to hear any well educated
gentleman commit, even in conversation. The notes absolutely swarm with
misstatements, into which the editor never would have fallen, if he had
taken the slightest pains to investigate the truth of his assertions, or
if he had even been well acquainted with the book on which he undertook
to comment.

We will give a few instances--

       *       *       *       *       *

We will not multiply instances of this scandalous inaccuracy. It is
clear that a writer who, even when warned by the text on which he is
commenting, falls into such mistakes as these, is entitled to no
confidence whatever. Mr. Croker has committed an error of five years
with respect to the publication of Goldsmith's novel, an error of twelve
years with respect to the publication of part of Gibbon's History, an
error of twenty-one years with respect to an event in Johnson's life so
important as the taking of the doctoral degree. Two of these three
errors he has committed, while ostentatiously displaying his own
accuracy, and correcting what he represents as the loose assertions of
others. How can his readers take on trust his statements concerning the
births, marriages, divorces, and deaths of a crowd of people, whose
names are scarcely known to this generation? It is not likely that a
person who is ignorant of what almost everybody knows can know that of
which almost everybody is ignorant. We did not open this book with any
wish to find blemishes in it. We have made no curious researches. The
work itself, and a very common knowledge of literary and political
history, have enabled us to detect the mistakes which we have pointed
out, and many other mistakes of the same kind. We must say, and we say
it with regret, that we do not consider the authority of Mr. Croker,
unsupported by other evidence, as sufficient to justify any writer who
may follow him in relating a single anecdote or in assigning a date to a
single event.

Mr. Croker shows almost as much ignorance and heedlessness in his
criticisms as in his statements concerning facts. Dr. Johnson said, very
reasonably as it appears to us, that some of the satires of Juvenal are
too gross for imitation. Mr. Croker, who, by the way, is angry with
Johnson for defending Prior's tales against the charge of indecency,
resents this aspersion on Juvenal, and indeed refuses to believe that
the doctor can have said anything so absurd. "He probably said--some
_passages_ of them--for there are none of Juvenal's satires to which the
same objection may be made as to one of Horace's, that it is
_altogether_ gross and licentious."[1] Surely Mr. Croker can never have
read the second and ninth satires of Juvenal.

[1] I. 167.

Indeed the decisions of this editor on points of classical learning,
though pronounced in a very authoritative tone, are generally such that,
if a schoolboy under our care were to utter them, our soul assuredly
should not spare for his crying. It is no disgrace to a gentleman who
has been engaged during near thirty years in political life that he has
forgotten his Greek and Latin. But he becomes justly ridiculous if, when
no longer able to construe a plain sentence, he affects to sit in
judgment on the most delicate questions of style and metre. From one
blunder, a blunder which no good scholar would have made, Mr. Croker was
saved, as he informs us, by Sir Robert Peel, who quoted a passage
exactly in point from Horace. We heartily wish that Sir Robert, whose
classical attainments are well known, had been more frequently
consulted. Unhappily he was not always at his friend's elbow; and we
have therefore a rich abundance of the strangest errors. Boswell has
preserved a poor epigram by Johnson, inscribed "Ad Lauram parituram."
Mr. Croker censures the poet for applying the word puella to a lady in
Laura's situation, and for talking of the beauty of Lucina. "Lucina," he
says, "was never famed for her beauty."[1] If Sir Robert Peel had seen
this note, he probably would have again refuted Mr. Croker's criticisms
by an Appeal to Horace. In the secular ode, Lucina is used as one of the
names of Diana, and the beauty of Diana is extolled by all the most
orthodox doctors of the ancient mythology, from Homer in his Odyssey, to
Claudian in his Rape of Proserpine. In another ode, Horace describes
Diana as the goddess who assists the "laborantes utero puellas." But we
are ashamed to detain our readers with this fourth-form learning.

       *       *       *       *       *

A very large proportion of the two thousand five hundred notes which the
editor boasts of having added to those of Boswell and Malone consists of
the flattest and poorest reflections, reflections such as the least
intelligent reader is quite competent to make for himself, and such as
no intelligent reader would think it worth while to utter aloud. They
remind us of nothing so much as of those profound and interesting
annotations which are penciled by sempstresses and apothecaries' boys on
the dog-eared margins of novels borrowed from circulating libraries;
"How beautiful!" "Cursed Prosy!" "I don't like Sir Reginald Malcolm at
all." "I think Pelham is a sad dandy." Mr. Croker is perpetually
stopping us in our progress through the most delightful narrative in the
language, to observe that really Dr. Johnson was very rude, that he
talked more for victory than for truth, that his taste for port wine
with capillaire in it was very odd, that Boswell was impertinent, that
it was foolish in Mrs. Thrale to marry the music-master; and so forth.

We cannot speak more favourably of the manner in which the notes are
written than of the matter of which they consist. We find in every page
words used in wrong senses, and constructions which violate the plainest
rules of grammar. We have the vulgarism of "mutual friend," for "common
friend." We have "fallacy" used as synonymous with "falsehood." We have
many such inextricable labyrinths of pronouns as that which follows:
"Lord Erskine was fond of this anecdote; he told it to the editor the
first time that he had the honour of being in his company." Lastly, we
have a plentiful supply of sentences resembling those which we subjoin.
"Markland, _who_, with Jortin and Thirlby, Johnson calls three
contemporaries of great eminence."[2] "Warburton himself did not feel,
as Mr. Boswell was disposed to think he did, kindly or gratefully _of_
Johnson."[3] "It was _him_ that Horace Walpole called a man who never
made a bad figure but as an author."[4] One or two of these solecisms
should perhaps be attributed to the printer, who has certainly done his
best to fill both the text and the notes with all sorts of blunders. In
truth, he and the editor have between them made the book so bad, that we
do not well see how it could have been worse.

[2] IV. 377.
[3] IV. 415.
[4] II. 461.

When we turn from the commentary of Mr. Croker to the work of our old
friend Boswell, we find it not only worse printed than in any other
edition with which we are acquainted, but mangled in the most wanton
manner. Much that Boswell inserted in his narrative is, without the
shadow of a reason, degraded to the appendix. The editor has also taken
upon himself to alter or omit passages which he considers as indecorous.
This prudery is quite unintelligible to us. There is nothing immoral in
Boswell's book, nothing which tends to inflame the passions. He
sometimes uses plain words. But if this be a taint which requires
expurgation, it would be desirable to begin by expurgating the morning
and evening lessons. The delicate office which Mr. Croker has undertaken
he has performed in the most capricious manner. One strong, old-fashioned,
English word, familiar to all who read their Bibles, is
changed for a softer synonyme in some passages, and suffered to stand
unaltered in others. In one place a faint allusion made by Johnson to an
indelicate subject, an allusion so faint that, till Mr. Croker's note
pointed it out to us, we had never noticed it, and of which we are quite
sure that the meaning would never be discovered by any of those for
whose sake books are expurgated, is altogether omitted. In another
place, a coarse and stupid jest of Dr. Taylor on the subject, expressed
in the broadest language, almost the only passage, as far as we
remember, in all Boswell's book, which we should have been inclined to
leave out, is suffered to remain.

We complain, however, much more of the additions than of the omissions.
We have half of Mrs. Thrale's book, scraps of Mr. Tyers, scraps of Mr.
Murphy, scraps of Mr. Cradock, long prosings of Sir John Hawkins, and
connecting observations by Mr. Croker himself, inserted into the midst
of Boswell's text.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Life of Johnson_ is assuredly a great, a very great work. Homer is
not more decidedly the first of heroic poets, Shakspeare is not more
decidedly the first of dramatists, Demosthenes is not more decidedly the
first of orators than Boswell is the first of biographers. He has no
second. He has distanced all his competitors so decidedly that it is not
worth while to place them. Eclipse is first, and the rest nowhere.

We are not sure that there is in the whole history of the human
intellect so strange a phenomenon as this book. Many of the greatest men
that ever lived have written biography. Boswell was one of the smallest
men that ever lived, and he has beaten them all. He was, if we are to
give any credit to his own account or to the united testimony of all who
knew him, a man of the meanest and feeblest intellect. Johnson described
him as a fellow who had missed his only chance of immortality by not
having been alive when the _Dunciad_ was written. Beauclerk used his
name as a proverbial expression for a bore. He was the laughing-stock of
the whole of that brilliant society which has owed to him the greater
part of its fame. He was always laying himself at the feet of some
eminent man, and begging to be spit upon and trampled upon. He was
always earning some ridiculous nickname, and then "binding it as a crown
unto him," not merely in metaphor, but literally. He exhibited himself,
at the Shakespeare Jubilee, to all the crowd which filled
Stratford-on-Avon, with a placard round his hat bearing the inscription
of
Corsica Boswell. In his Tour, he proclaimed to all the world that at
Edinburgh he was known by the appellation of Paoli Boswell. Servile and
impertinent, shallow and pedantic, a bigot and a sot, bloated with
family pride, and eternally blustering about the dignity of a born
gentleman, yet stooping to be a talebearer, an eavesdropper, a common
butt in the taverns of London, so curious to know everybody who was
talked about, that, Tory and High Churchman as he was, he manoeuvred, we
have been told, for an introduction to _Tom Paine_, so vain of the most
childish distinctions, that when he had been to court he drove to the
office where his book was printing without changing his clothes, and
summoned all the printer's devils to admire his new ruffles and sword;
such was this man, and such he was content and proud to be. Everything
which another man would have hidden, everything the publication of which
would have made another man hang himself, was matter of gay and
clamorous exultation to his weak and diseased mind. What silly things he
said, what bitter retorts he provoked, how at one place he was troubled
with evil presentiments which came to nothing, how at another place, on
waking from a drunken doze, he read the prayerbook and took a hair of
the dog that had bitten him, how he went to see men hanged and came away
maudlin, how he added five hundred pounds to the fortune of one of his
babies because she was not scared at Johnson's ugly face, how he was
frightened out of his wits at sea, and how the sailors quieted him as
they would have quieted a child, how tipsy he was at Lady Cork's one
evening and how much his merriment annoyed the ladies, how impertinent
he was to the Duchess of Argyle and with what stately contempt she put
down his impertinence, how Colonel Macleod sneered to his face at his
impudent obtrusiveness, how his father and the very wife of his bosom
laughed and fretted at his fooleries; all these things he proclaimed to
all the world, as if they had been subjects for pride and ostentatious
rejoicing. All the caprices of his temper, all the illusions of his
vanity, all his hypochondriac whimsies, all his castles in the air, he
displayed with a cool self-complacency, a perfect unconsciousness that
he was making a fool of himself, to which it is impossible to find a
parallel in the whole history of mankind. He has used many people ill;
but assuredly he has used nobody so ill as himself.

That such a man should have written one of the best books in the world
is strange enough. But this is not all. Many persons who have conducted
themselves foolishly in active life, and whose conversation has
indicated no superior powers of mind, have left us valuable works.
Goldsmith was very justly described by one of his contemporaries as an
inspired idiot, and by another as a being

  Who wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll.

La Fontaine was in society a mere simpleton. His blunders
would not come in amiss among the stories of Hierocles. But
these men attained literary eminence in spite of their weaknesses.
Boswell attained it by reason of his weaknesses. If he had not been a
great fool, he would never have been a great writer. Without all the
qualities which made him the jest and the torment of those among whom he
lived, without the officiousness, the inquisitiveness, the effrontery,
the toad-eating, the insensibility to all reproof, he never could have
produced so excellent a book. He was a slave, proud of his servitude, a
Paul Pry, convinced that his own curiosity and garrulity were virtues,
an unsafe companion who never scrupled to repay the most liberal
hospitality by the basest violation of confidence, a man without
delicacy, without shame, without sense enough to know when he was
hurting the feelings of others or when he was exposing himself to
derision; and because he was all this, he has, in an important
department of literature, immeasurably surpassed such writers as
Tacitus, Clarendon, Alfieri, and his own idol Johnson.

Of the talents which ordinarily raise men to eminence as writers,
Boswell had absolutely none. There is not in all his books a single
remark of his own on literature, politics, religion, or society, which
is not either common-place or absurd. His dissertations on hereditary
gentility, on the slave-trade, and on the entailing of landed estates,
may serve as examples. To say that these passages are sophistical would
be to pay them an extravagant compliment. They have no pretence to
argument, or even to meaning. He has reported innumerable observations
made by himself in the course of conversation.

Of those observations we do not remember one which is above the
intellectual capacity of a boy of fifteen. He has printed many of his
own letters, and in these letters he is always ranting or twaddling.
Logic, eloquence, wit, taste, all those things which are generally
considered as making a book valuable, were utterly wanting to him. He
had, indeed, a quick observation and a retentive memory. These
qualities, if he had been a man of sense and virtue, would scarcely of
themselves have sufficed to make him conspicuous; but because he was a
dunce, a parasite, and a coxcomb, they have made him immortal.

Those parts of his book which, considered abstractedly, are most utterly
worthless, are delightful when we read them as illustrations of the
character of the writer. Bad in themselves, they are good dramatically,
like the nonsense of Justice Shallow, the clipped English of Dr. Caius,
or the misplaced consonants of Fluellen. Of all confessors, Boswell is
the most candid.

       *       *       *       *       *

Johnson came among [the distinguished writers of his age] the solitary
specimen of a past age, the last survivor of the genuine race of Grub
Street hacks; the last of that generation of authors whose abject misery
and whose dissolute manners had furnished inexhaustible matter to the
satirical genius of Pope. From nature he had received an uncouth figure,
a diseased constitution, and an irritable temper. The manner in which
the earlier years of his manhood had been passed had given to his
demeanour, and even to his moral character, some peculiarities appalling
to the civilised beings who were the companions of his old age. The
perverse irregularity of his hours, the slovenliness of his person, his
fits of strenuous exertion, interrupted by long intervals of
sluggishness, his strange abstinence, and his equally strange voracity,
his active benevolence, contrasted with the constant rudeness and the
occasional ferocity of his manners in society, made him, in the opinion
of those with whom he lived during the last twenty years of his life, a
complete original. An original he was, undoubtedly, in some respects.
But if we possessed full information concerning those who shared his
early hardships, we should probably find that what we call his
singularities of manner were, for the most part, failings which he had
in common with the class to which he belonged. He ate at Streatham Park
as he had been used to eat behind the screen at St. John's Gate, when he
was ashamed to show his ragged clothes. He ate as it was natural that a
man should eat, who, during a great part of his life, had passed the
morning in doubt whether he should have food for the afternoon. The
habits of his early life had accustomed him to bear privation with
fortitude, but not to taste pleasure with moderation. He could fast;
but, when he did not fast, he tore his dinner like a famished wolf, with
the veins swelling on his forehead, and the perspiration running down
his cheeks. He scarcely ever took wine. But when he drank it, he drank
it greedily and in large tumblers. These were, in fact, mitigated
symptoms of that same moral disease which raged with such deadly
malignity in his friends Savage and Boyse. The roughness and violence
which he showed in society were to be expected from a man whose temper,
not naturally gentle, had been long tried by the bitterest calamities,
by the want of meat, of fire, and of clothes, by the importunity of
creditors, by the insolence of booksellers, by the derision of fools, by
the insincerity of patrons, by that bread which is the bitterest of all
food, by those stairs which are the most toilsome of all paths, by that
deferred hope which makes the heart sick. Through all these things the
ill-dressed, coarse, ungainly pedant had struggled manfully up to
eminence and command. It was natural that, in the exercise of his power,
he should be "eo immitior, quia toleraverat," that, though his heart was
undoubtedly generous and humane, his demeanour in society should be
harsh and despotic. For severe distress he had sympathy, and not only
sympathy, but munificent relief. But for the suffering which a harsh
word inflicts upon a delicate mind he had no pity; for it was a kind of
suffering which he could scarcely conceive. He would carry home on his
shoulders a sick and starving girl from the streets. He turned his house
into a place of refuge for a crowd of wretched old creatures who could
find no other asylum; nor could all their peevishness and ingratitude
weary out his benevolence. But the pangs of wounded vanity seemed to him
ridiculous; and he scarcely felt sufficient compassion even for the
pangs of wounded affection. He had seen and felt so much of sharp
misery, that he was not affected by paltry vexations; and he seemed to
think that everybody ought to be as much hardened to those vexations as
himself. He was angry with Boswell for complaining of a
head-ache, with Mrs. Thrale for grumbling about the dust on the road, or
the smell of the kitchen. These were, in his phrase, "foppish
lamentations," which people ought to be ashamed to utter in a world so
full of sin and sorrow. Goldsmith crying because the Good-natured Man
had failed, inspired him with no pity. Though his own health was not
good, he detested and despised valetudinarians. Pecuniary losses, unless
they reduced the loser absolutely to beggary, moved him very little.
People whose hearts had been softened by prosperity might weep, he said,
for such events; but all that could be expected of a plain man was not
to laugh. He was not much moved even by the spectacle of Lady Tavistock
dying of a broken heart for the loss of her lord. Such grief he
considered as a luxury reserved for the idle and the wealthy. A
washer-woman, left a widow with nine small children, would not have
sobbed herself to death.

A person who troubled himself so little about small or sentimental
grievances was not likely to be very attentive to the feelings of others
in the ordinary intercourse of society. He could not understand how a
sarcasm or a reprimand could make any man really unhappy. "My dear
doctor," said he to Goldsmith, "what harm does it do to a man to call
him Holofernes?" "Pooh, ma'am," he exclaimed to Mrs. Carter, "who is the
worse for being talked of uncharitably?" Politeness has been well
defined as benevolence in small things. Johnson was impolite, not
because he wanted benevolence, but because small things appeared smaller
to him than to people who had never known what it was to live for
fourpence halfpenny a day.

The characteristic peculiarity of his intellect was the union of great
powers with low prejudices. If we judged of him by the best parts of his
mind, we should place him almost as high as he was placed by the
idolatry of Boswell; if by the worst parts of his mind, we should place
him even below Boswell himself. Where he was not under the influence of
some strange scruple, or some domineering passion, which prevented him
from boldly and fairly investigating a subject, he was a wary and acute
reasoner, a little too much inclined to scepticism, and a little too
fond of paradox. No man was less likely to be imposed upon by fallacies
in argument, or by exaggerated statements of facts. But, if while he was
beating down sophisms and exposing false testimony, some childish
prejudices, such as would excite laughter in a well managed nursery,
came across him, he was smitten as if by enchantment. His mind dwindled
away under the spell from gigantic elevation to dwarfish littleness.
Those who had lately been admiring its amplitude and its force were now
as much astonished at its strange narrowness and feebleness as the
fisherman in the Arabian tale, when he saw the Genie, whose stature had
overshadowed the whole sea-coast, and whose might seemed equal to a
contest with armies, contract himself to the dimensions of his small
prison, and lie there the helpless slave of the charm of Solomon.

       *       *       *       *       *

The characteristic faults of his style are so familiar to all our
readers, and have been so often burlesqued, that it is almost
superfluous to point them out. It is well-known that he made less use
than any other eminent writer of those strong plain words, Anglo-Saxon
or Norman-French, of which the roots lie in the inmost depths of our
language; and that he felt a vicious partiality for terms which, long
after our own speech had been fixed, were borrowed from the Greek and
Latin, and which, therefore, even when lawfully naturalised must be
considered as born aliens, not entitled to rank with the king's English.
His constant practice of padding out a sentence with useless epithets,
till it became as stiff as the best of an exquisite, his antithetical
forms of expression, constantly employed even where there is no
opposition in the ideas expressed, his big words wasted on little
things, his harsh inversions, so widely different from those graceful
and easy inversions which give variety, spirit, and sweetness to the
expression of our great old writers, all these peculiarities have been
imitated by his admirers and parodied by his assailants, till the public
has become sick of the subject.

Goldsmith said to him, very wittily, and very justly, "If you were to
write a fable about little fishes, doctor, you would make the little
fishes talk like whales." No man surely ever had so little talent for
personation as Johnson. Whether he wrote in the character of a
disappointed legacy-hunter or an empty town fop, of a crazy virtuoso or
a flippant coquette, he wrote in the same pompous and unbending style.
His speech, like Sir Piercy Shafton's Euphuistic eloquence, bewrayed him
under every disguise. Euphelia and Rhodoclea talk as finely as Imlac the
poet, or Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia. The gay Cornelia describes her
reception at the country-house of her relations, in such terms as these:
"I was surprised, after the civilities of my first reception, to find,
instead of the leisure and tranquillity which a rural life always
promises, and, if well conducted, might always afford, a confused
wildness of care, and a tumultuous hurry of diligence, by which every
face was clouded, and every motion agitated." The gentle Tranquilla
informs us, that she "had not passed the earlier part of life without
the flattery of courtship, and the joys of triumph; but had danced the
round of gaiety amidst the murmurs of envy and the gratulations of
applause, had been attended from pleasure to pleasure by the great, the
sprightly, and the vain, and had seen her regard solicited by the
obsequiousness of gallantry, the gaiety of wit, and the timidity of
love." Surely Sir John Falstaff himself did not wear his petticoats with
a worse grace. The reader may well cry out, with honest Sir Hugh Evans,
"I like not when a 'oman has a great peard: I spy a great peard under
her muffler."[5]

[5] It is proper to observe that this passage bears a very close
    resemblance to a passage in the _Rambler_ (No. 20). The resemblance
    may possibly be the effect of unconscious plagiarism.

We had something more to say. But our article is already too long; and
we must close it. We would fain part in good humour from the hero, from
the biographer, and even from the editor, who, ill as he has performed
his task, has at least this claim to our gratitude, that he has induced
us to read Boswell's book again. As we close it, the club-room is before
us, and the table on which stands the omelet for Nugent, and the lemons
for Johnson. There are assembled those heads which live for ever on the
canvas of Reynolds. There are the spectacles of Burke and the tall thin
form of Langton, the courtly sneer of Beauclerk and the beaming smile of
Garrick, Gibbon tapping his snuff-box and Sir Joshua with his trumpet in
his ear. In the foreground is that strange figure which is as familiar
to us as the figures of those among whom we have been brought up, the
gigantic body, the huge massy face, seamed with the scars of disease,
the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the grey wig with the
scorched foretop, the dirty hands, the nails bitten and paired to the
quick. We see the eyes and mouth moving with convulsive twitches; we see
the heavy form rolling; we hear it puffing; and then comes the "Why,
sir!" and the "What then, sir?" and the "No, Sir!" and the "You don't
see your way through the question, sir!"

What a singular destiny has been that of this remarkable man! To be
regarded in his own age as a classic, and in ours as a companion. To
receive from his contemporaries that full homage which men of genius
have in general received from posterity! To be more intimately known to
posterity than other men are known to their contemporaries! That kind of
fame which is commonly the most transient is, in his case, the most
durable. The reputation of those writings, which he probably expected to
be immortal, is every day fading; while those peculiarities of manner
and that careless table-talk the memory of which, he probably thought,
would die with him, are likely to be remembered as long as the English
language is spoken in any quarter of the globe.



ON W. E. GLADSTONE

[From _The Edinburgh Review_, April, 1839]

_The State in its Relations with the Church_. By W. E. GLADSTONE, Esq.,
Student of Christ Church, and M.P. for Newark. 8vo. Second Edition.
London, 1839.

The author of this volume is a young man of unblemished character, and
of distinguished parliamentary talents, the rising hope of those stern
and unbending Tories who follow, reluctantly and mutinously, a leader
whose experience and eloquence are indispensable to them, but whose
cautious temper and moderate opinions they abhor. It would not be at all
strange if Mr. Gladstone were one of the most unpopular men in England.
But we believe that we do him no more than justice when we say that his
abilities and his demeanour have obtained for him the respect and good
will of all parties. His first appearance in the character of an author
is therefore an interesting event; and it is natural that the gentle
wishes of the public should go with him to his trial.

We are much pleased, without any reference to the soundness or
unsoundness of Mr. Gladstone's theories, to see a grave and elaborate
treatise on an important part of the Philosophy of Government proceed
from the pen of a young man who is rising to eminence in the House of
Commons. There is little danger that people engaged in the conflicts of
active life will be too much addicted to general speculation. The
opposite vice is that which most easily besets them. The times and tides
of business and debate tarry for no man. A politician must often talk
and act before he has thought and read. He may be very ill informed
respecting a question; all his notions about it may be vague and
inaccurate; but speak he must; and if he is a man of ability, of tact,
and of intrepidity, he soon finds that, even under such circumstances,
it is possible to speak successfully. He finds that there is a great
difference between the effect of written words, which are perused and
reperused in the stillness of the closet, and the effect of spoken words
which, set off by the graces of utterance and gesture, vibrate for a
single moment on the ear. He finds that he may blunder without much
chance of being detected, that he may reason sophistically, and escape
unrefuted. He finds that, even on knotty questions of trade and
legislation, he can, without reading ten pages, or thinking ten minutes,
draw forth loud plaudits, and sit down with the credit of having made an
excellent speech.... The tendency of institutions like those of England
is to encourage readiness in public men, at the expense both of fulness
and of exactness. The keenest and most vigorous minds of every
generation, minds often admirably fitted for the investigation of truth,
are habitually employed in producing arguments such as no man of sense
would ever put into a treatise intended for publication, arguments which
are just good enough to be used once, when aided by fluent delivery and
pointed language. The habit of discussing questions in this way
necessarily reacts on the intellects of our ablest men, particularly of
those who are introduced into parliament at a very early age, before
their minds have expanded to full maturity. The talent for debate is
developed in such men to a degree which, to the multitude, seems as
marvellous as the performance of an Italian _Improvisatore._

But they are fortunate indeed if they retain unimpaired the faculties
which are required for close reasoning or for enlarged speculation.
Indeed we should sooner expect a great original work on political
science, such a work, for example, as the Wealth of Nations, from an
apothecary in a country town, or from a minister in the Hebrides, than
from a statesman who, ever since he was one-and-twenty, had been a
distinguished debater in the House of Commons.

We therefore hail with pleasure, though assuredly not with unmixed
pleasure, the appearance of this work. That a young politician should,
in the intervals afforded by his parliamentary avocations, have
constructed and propounded, with much study and mental toil, an original
theory on a great problem in politics, is a circumstance which,
abstracted from all consideration of the soundness or unsoundness of his
opinions, must be considered as highly creditable to him. We certainly
cannot wish that Mr. Gladstone's doctrines may become fashionable among
public men. But we heartily wish that his laudable desire to penetrate
beneath the surface of questions, and to arrive, by long and intent
meditation, at the knowledge of great general laws, were much more
fashionable than we at all expect it to become.

Mr. Gladstone seems to us to be, in many respects, exceedingly well
qualified for philosophical investigation. His mind is of large grasp;
nor is he deficient in dialectical skill. But he does not give his
intellect fair play. There is no want of light, but a great want of what
Bacon would have called dry light. Whatever Mr. Gladstone sees is
refracted and distorted by a false medium of passions and prejudices.
His style bears a remarkable analogy to his mode of thinking, and indeed
exercises great influence on his mode of thinking. His rhetoric, though
often good of its kind, darkens and perplexes the logic which it should
illustrate. Half his acuteness and diligence, with a barren imagination
and a scanty vocabulary, would have saved him from almost all his
mistakes. He has one gift most dangerous to a speculator, a vast command
of a kind of language, grave and majestic, but of vague and uncertain
import; of a kind of language which affects us much in the same way in
which the lofty diction of the Chorus of Clouds affected the
simple-hearted Athenian.

  [Greek: o gae tou phthegmatos, os hieron, kai semnon, kai teratodes.]

When propositions have been established, and nothing remains but to
amplify and decorate them, this dim magnificence may be in place. But if
it is admitted into a demonstration, it is very much worse than absolute
nonsense; just as that transparent haze, through which the sailor sees
capes and mountains of false sizes and in false bearings, is more
dangerous than utter darkness. Now, Mr. Gladstone is fond of employing
the phraseology of which we speak in those parts of his works which
require the utmost perspicuity and precision of which human language is
capable; and in this way he deludes first himself, and then his readers.
The foundations of his theory which ought to be buttresses of adamant,
are made out of the flimsy materials which are fit only for perorations.
This fault is one which no subsequent care or industry can correct. The
more strictly Mr. Gladstone reasons on his premises, the more absurd are
the conclusions which he brings out; and, when at last his good sense
and good nature recoil from the horrible practical inferences to which
this theory leads, he is reduced sometimes to take refuge in arguments
inconsistent with his fundamental doctrines, and sometimes to escape
from the legitimate consequences of his false principles, under cover of
equally false history.

It would be unjust not to say that this book, though not a good book,
shows more talent than many good books. It abounds with eloquent and
ingenious passages. It bears the signs of much patient thought. It is
written throughout with excellent taste and excellent temper; nor does
it, so far as we have observed, contain one expression unworthy of a
gentleman, a scholar, or a Christian. But the doctrines which are put
forth in it appear to us, after full and calm consideration, to be
false, to be in the highest degree pernicious, and to be such as, if
followed out in practice to their legitimate consequences, would
inevitably produce the dissolution of society; and for this opinion we
shall proceed to give our reasons with that freedom which the importance
of the subject requires, and which Mr. Gladstone, both by precept and by
example, invites us to use, but, we hope, without rudeness, and, we are
sure, without malevolence.

Before we enter on an examination of this theory, we wish to guard
ourselves against one misconception. It is possible that some persons
who have read Mr. Gladstone's book carelessly, and others who have
merely heard in conversation, or seen in a newspaper, that the member
for Newark has written in defence of the Church of England against the
supporters of the voluntary system, may imagine that we are writing in
defence of the voluntary system, and that we desire the abolition of the
Established Church. This is not the case. It would be as unjust to
accuse us of attacking the Church, because we attack Mr. Gladstone's
doctrines, as it would be to accuse Locke of wishing for anarchy,
because he refuted Filmer's patriarchal theory of government, or to
accuse Blackstone of recommending the confiscation of ecclesiastical
property, because he denied that the right of the rector to tithe was
derived from the Levitical law. It is to be observed, that Mr. Gladstone
rests his case on entirely new grounds, and does not differ more widely
from us than from some of those who have hitherto been considered as the
most illustrious champions of the Church. He is not content with the
Ecclesiastical Polity, and rejoices that the latter part of that
celebrated work "does not carry with it the weight of Hooker's plenary
authority." He is not content with Bishop Warburton's Alliance of Church
and State. "The propositions of that work generally," he says, "are to
be received with qualification"; and he agrees with Bolingbroke in
thinking that Warburton's whole theory rests on a fiction. He is still
less satisfied with Paley's defence of the Church, which he pronounces
to be "tainted by the original vice of false ethical principles," and
"full of the seeds of evil." He conceives that Dr. Chalmers has taken a
partial view of the subject, and "put forth much questionable matter."
In truth, on almost every point on which we are opposed to Mr.
Gladstone, we have on our side the authority of some divine, eminent as
a defender of existing establishments.

Mr. Gladstone's whole theory rests on this great fundamental
proposition, that the propagation of religious truth is one of the
principal ends of government, as government. If Mr. Gladstone has not
proved this proposition, his system vanishes at once.

We are desirous, before we enter on the discussion of this important
question, to point out clearly a distinction which, though very obvious,
seems to be overlooked by many excellent people. In their opinion, to
say that the ends of government are temporal and not spiritual is
tantamount to saying that the temporal welfare of man is of more
importance than his spiritual welfare. But this is an entire mistake.
The question is not whether spiritual interests be or be not superior in
importance to temporal interests; but whether the machinery which
happens at any moment to be employed for the purpose of protecting
certain temporal interests of a society be necessarily such a machinery
as is fitted to promote the spiritual interests of that society. Without
a division of labour the world could not go on. It is of very much more
importance that men should have food than that they should have
pianofortes. Yet it by no means follows that every pianoforte-maker
ought to add the business of a baker to his own; for, if he did so, we
should have both much worse music and much worse bread. It is of much
more importance that the knowledge of religious truth should be wisely
diffused than that the art of sculpture should flourish among us. Yet it
by no means follows that the Royal Academy ought to unite with its
present functions those of the Society for Promoting Christian
Knowledge, to distribute theological tracts, to send forth missionaries,
to turn out Nollekens for being a Catholic, Bacon for being a methodist,
and Flaxman for being a Swedenborgian. For the effect of such folly
would be that we should have the worst possible Academy of Arts, and the
worst possible Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. The
community, it is plain, would be thrown into universal confusion, if it
were supposed to be the duty of every association which is formed for
one good object to promote every other good object.

As to some of the ends of civil government, all people are agreed. That
it is designed to protect our persons and our property; that it is
designed to compel us to satisfy our wants, not by rapine, but by
industry; that it is designed to compel us to decide our differences,
not by the strong hand, but by arbitration; that it is designed to
direct our whole force, as that of one man, against any other society
which may offer us injury; these are propositions which will hardly be
disputed.

Now these are matters in which man, without any reference to any higher
being, or to any future state, is very deeply interested. Every human
being, be he idolater, Mahometan, Jew, Papist, Socinian, Deist, or
Atheist, naturally loves life, shrinks from pain, desires comforts which
can be enjoyed only in communities where property is secure. To be
murdered, to be tortured, to be robbed, to be sold into slavery, these
are evidently evils from which men of every religion, and men of no
religion, wish to be protected; and therefore it will hardly be disputed
that men of every religion, and of no religion, have thus far a common
interest in being well governed.

But the hopes and fears of man are not limited to this short life and to
this visible world. He finds himself surrounded by the signs of a power
and wisdom higher than his own; and, in all ages and nations, men of all
orders of intellect, from Bacon and Newton, down to the rudest tribes of
cannibals, have believed in the existence of some superior mind. Thus
far the voice of mankind is almost unanimous. But whether there be one
God, or many, what may be God's natural and what His mortal attributes,
in what relation His creatures stand to Him, whether He have ever
disclosed Himself to us by any other revelation than that which is
written in all the parts of the glorious and well ordered world which He
has made, whether His revelation be contained in any permanent record,
how that record should be interpreted, and whether it have pleased Him
to appoint any unerring interpreter on earth, these are questions
respecting which there exists the widest diversity of opinion, and
respecting some of which a large part of our race has, ever since the
dawn of regular history, been deplorably in error.

Now here are two great objects: one is the protection of the persons and
estates of citizens from injury; the other is the propagation of
religious truth. No two objects more entirely distinct can well be
imagined. The former belongs wholly to the visible and tangible world in
which we live; the latter belongs to that higher world which is beyond
the reach of our senses. The former belongs to this life; the latter to
that which is to come. Men who are perfectly agreed as to the importance
of the former object, and as to the way of obtaining it, differ as
widely as possible respecting the latter object. We must, therefore,
pause before we admit that the persons, be they who they may, who are
trusted with power for promotion of the former object, ought always to
use that power for the promotion of the latter object.

       *       *       *       *       *

The truth is, that Mr. Gladstone has fallen into an error very common
among men of less talents than his own. It is not unusual for a person
who is eager to prove a particular proposition to assume a _major_ of
huge extent, which includes that particular proposition, without ever
reflecting that it includes a great deal more. The fatal facility with
which Mr. Gladstone multiplies expressions stately and sonorous, but of
indeterminate meaning, eminently qualifies him to practise this sleight
on himself and on his readers. He lays down broad general doctrines
about power, when the only power of which he is thinking is the power of
governments, and about conjoint action when the only conjoint action of
which he is thinking is the conjoint action of citizens in a state. He
first resolves on his conclusion. He then makes a _major_ of most
comprehensive dimensions, and having satisfied himself that it contains
his conclusion, never troubles himself about what else it may contain:
and as soon as we examine it we find that it contains an infinite number
of conclusions, every one of which is a monstrous absurdity.

It is perfectly true that it would be a very good thing if all the
members of all the associations in the world were men of sound religious
views. We have no doubt that a good Christian will be under the guidance
of Christian principles, in his conduct as director of a canal company
or steward of a charity dinner. If he were, to recur to a case which we
have before put, a member of a stage-coach company, he would, in that
capacity, remember that "a righteous man regardeth the life of his
beast." But it does not follow that every association of men must,
therefore, as such association, profess a religion. It is evident that
many great and useful objects can be attained in this world only by
co-operation. It is equally evident that there cannot be efficient
co-operation, if men proceed on the principle that they must not
co-operate for one object unless they agree about other objects. Nothing
seems to us more beautiful or admirable in our social system than the
facility with which thousands of people, who perhaps agree only on a
single point, can combine their energies for the purpose of carrying that
single point. We see daily instances of this. Two men, one of them
obstinately prejudiced against missions, the other president of a
missionary society, sit together at the board of a hospital, and
heartily concur in measures for the health and comfort of the patients.
Two men, one of whom is a zealous supporter and the other a zealous
opponent of the system pursued in Lancaster's schools, meet at the
Mendicity Society, and act together with the utmost cordiality. The
general rule we take to be undoubtedly this, that it is lawful and
expedient for men to unite in an association for the promotion of a good
object, though they may differ with respect to other objects of still
higher importance.

       *       *       *       *       *

If, indeed, the magistrate would content himself with laying his
opinions and reasons before the people, and would leave the people,
uncorrupted by hope or fear, to judge for themselves, we should see
little reason to apprehend that his interference in favour of error
would be seriously prejudicial to the interests of truth. Nor do we, as
will hereafter be seen, object to his taking this course, when it is
compatible with the efficient discharge of his more especial duties. But
this will not satisfy Mr. Gladstone. He would have the magistrate resort
to means which have a great tendency to make malcontents, to make
hypocrites, to make careless nominal conformists, but no tendency
whatever to produce honest and rational conviction. It seems to us quite
clear that an inquirer who has no wish except to know the truth is more
likely to arrive at the truth than an inquirer who knows that, if he
decides one way, he shall be rewarded, and that, if he decides the other
way, he shall be punished. Now, Mr. Gladstone would have governments
propagate their opinions by excluding all dissenters from all civil
offices. That is to say, he would have governments propagate their
opinions by a process which has no reference whatever to the truth or
falsehood of those opinions, by arbitrarily uniting certain worldly
advantages with one set of doctrines, and certain worldly inconveniences
with another set. It is of the very nature of argument to serve the
interests of truth; but if rewards and punishments serve the interests
of truth, it is by mere accident. It is very much easier to find
arguments for the divine authority of the Gospel than for the divine
authority of the Koran. But it is just as easy to bribe or rack a Jew
into Mahometanism as into Christianity.

From racks, indeed, and from all penalties directed against the persons,
the property, and the liberty of heretics, the humane spirit of Mr.
Gladstone shrinks with horror. He only maintains that conformity to the
religion of the state ought to be an indispensable qualification for
office; and he would, unless we have greatly misunderstood him, think it
his duty, if he had the power, to revive the Test Act, to enforce it
rigorously, and to extend it to important classes who were formerly
exempt from its operation.

This is indeed a legitimate consequence of his principles. But why stop
here? Why not roast dissenters at slow fires? All the general reasonings
on which this theory rests evidently leads to sanguinary persecution. If
the propagation of religious truth be a principal end of government, as
government; if it be the duty of government to employ for that end its
constitutional power; if the constitutional power of governments
extends, as it most unquestionably does, to the making of laws for the
burning of heretics; if burning be, as it most assuredly is, in many
cases, a most effectual mode of suppressing opinions; why should we not
burn? If the relation in which government ought to stand to the people
be, as Mr. Gladstone tells us, a paternal relation, we are irresistibly
led to the conclusion that persecution is justifiable. For the right of
propagating opinions by punishment is one which belongs to parents as
clearly as the right to give instruction. A boy is compelled to attend
family worship: he is forbidden to read irreligious books: if he will
not learn his catechism, he is sent to bed without his supper: if he
plays truant at church-time a task is set him. If he should display the
precocity of his talents by expressing impious opinions before his
brothers and sisters, we should not much blame his father for cutting
short the controversy with a horse-whip. All the reasons which lead us
to think that parents are peculiarly fitted to conduct the education of
their children, and that education is the principal end of a parental
relation, lead us also to think that parents ought to be allowed to use
punishment, if necessary, for the purpose of forcing children, who are
incapable of judging for themselves, to receive religious instruction
and to attend religious worship. Why, then, is this prerogative of
punishment, so eminently paternal, to be withheld from a paternal
government? It seems to us, also, to be the height of absurdity to
employ civil disabilities for the propagation of an opinion, and then to
shrink from employing other punishments for the same purpose. For
nothing can be clearer than that, if you punish at all, you ought to
punish enough. The pain caused by punishment is pure unmixed evil, and
never ought to be inflicted, except for the sake of some good. It is
mere foolish cruelty to provide penalties which torment the criminal
without preventing the crime. Now it is possible, by sanguinary
persecution unrelentingly inflicted, to suppress opinions. In this way
the Albigenses were put down. In this way the Lollards were put down. In
this way the fair promise of the Reformation was blighted in Italy and
Spain. But we may safely defy Mr. Gladstone to point out a single
instance in which the system which he recommends has succeeded.

       *       *       *       *       *

But we must proceed in our examination of his theory. Having, as he
conceives, proved that it is the duty of every government to profess
some religion or other, right or wrong, and to establish that religion,
he then comes to the question what religion a government ought to
prefer; and he decides this question in favour of the form of
Christianity established in England. The Church of England is, according
to him, the pure Catholic Church of Christ, which possesses the
apostolical succession of ministers, and within whose pale is to be
found that unity which is essential to truth. For her decisions he
claims a degree of reverence far beyond what she has ever, in any of her
formularies, claimed for herself; far beyond what the moderate school of
Bossuet demands for the Pope; and scarcely short of what that school
would ascribe to Pope and General Council together. To separate from her
communion is schism. To reject her traditions or interpretations of
Scripture is sinful presumption.

Mr. Gladstone pronounces the right of private judgment, as it is
generally understood throughout Protestant Europe, to be a monstrous
abuse. He declares himself favourable, indeed, to the exercise of
private judgment, after a fashion of his own. We have, according to him,
a right to judge all the doctrines of the Church of England to be sound,
but not to judge any of them to be unsound. He has no objection, he
assures us, to active inquiry into religious questions. On the contrary,
he thinks such inquiry highly desirable, as long as it does not lead to
diversity of opinion; which is much the same thing as if he were to
recommend the use of fire that will not burn down houses, or of brandy
that will not make men drunk. He conceives it to be perfectly possible
for mankind to exercise their intellects vigorously and freely on
theological subjects, and yet to come to exactly the same conclusions
with each other and with the Church of England. And for this opinion he
gives, as far as we have been able to discover, no reason whatever,
except that everybody who vigorously and freely exercises his
understanding on Euclid's Theorems assents to them. "The activity of
private judgment," he truly observes, "and the unity and strength of
conviction in mathematics vary directly as each other." On this
unquestionable fact he constructs a somewhat questionable argument.
Everybody who freely inquires agrees, he says, with Euclid. But the
Church is as much in the right as Euclid. Why, then, should not every
free inquirer agree with the Church? We could put many similar
questions. Either the affirmative or the negative of the proposition
that King Charles wrote the _Icon Basilike_ is as true as that two sides
of a triangle are greater than the third side. Why, then, do Dr.
Wordsworth and Mr. Hallam agree in thinking two sides of a triangle
greater than the third side, and yet differ about the genuineness of the
_Icon Basilike?_ The state of the exact sciences proves, says Mr.
Gladstone, that, as respects religion, "the association of these two
ideas, activity of inquiry, and variety of conclusion, is a fallacious
one." We might just as well turn the argument the other way, and infer
from the variety of religious opinions that there must necessarily be
hostile mathematical sects, some affirming, and some denying, that the
square of the hypothenuse is equal to the squares of the sides. But we
do not think either the one analogy or the other of the smallest value.
Our way of ascertaining the tendency of free inquiry is simply to open
our eyes and look at the world in which we live; and there we see that
free inquiry on mathematical subjects produces unity, and that free
inquiry on moral subjects produces discrepancy. There would undoubtedly
be less discrepancy if inquirers were more diligent and candid. But
discrepancy there will be among the most diligent and candid, as long as
the constitution of the human mind, and the nature of moral evidence,
continue unchanged. That we have not freedom and unity together is a
very sad thing; and so it is that we have not wings. But we are just as
likely to see the one defect removed as the other. It is not only in
religion that this discrepancy is found. It is the same with all matters
which depend on moral evidence, with judicial questions, for example,
and with political questions. All the judges will work a sum in the rule
of three on the same principle, and bring out the same conclusion. But
it does not follow that, however honest and laborious they may be, they
will all be of one mind on the Douglas case. So it is vain to hope that
there may be a free constitution under which every representative will
be unanimously elected, and every law unanimously passed; and it would
be ridiculous for a statesman to stand wondering and bemoaning himself
because people who agree in thinking that two and two make four cannot
agree about the new poor law, or the administration of Canada.

There are two intelligible and consistent courses which may be followed
with respect to the exercise of private judgment; the course of the
Romanist, who interdicts private judgment because of its inevitable
inconveniences; and the course of the Protestant, who permits private
judgment in spite of its inevitable inconveniences. Both are more
reasonable than Mr. Gladstone, who would have private judgment without
its inevitable inconveniences. The Romanist produces repose by means of
stupefaction. The Protestant encourages activity, though he knows that
where there is much activity there will be some aberration. Mr.
Gladstone wishes for the unity of the fifteenth century with the active
and searching spirit of the sixteenth. He might as well wish to be in
two places at once.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have done; and nothing remains but that we part from Mr. Gladstone
with the courtesy of antagonists who bear no malice. We dissent from his
opinions, but we admire his talents; we respect his integrity and
benevolence; and we hope that he will not suffer political avocations so
entirely to engross him, as to leave him no leisure for literature and
philosophy.



ON MADAME D'ARBLAY


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, January, 1843]

ART. IX.--_Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay_. 5 vols. 8vo. London,
1842.

Though the world saw and heard little of Madame D'Arblay during the last
forty years of her life, and though that little did not add to her fame,
there were thousands, we believe, who felt a singular emotion when they
learned that she was no longer among us. The news of her death carried
the minds of men back at one leap, clear over two generations, to the
time when her first literary triumphs were won. All those whom we have
been accustomed to revere as intellectual patriarchs, seemed children
when compared with her; for Burke had sate up all night to read her
writings, and Johnson had pronounced her superior to Fielding, when
Rogers was still a schoolboy, and Southey still in petticoats. Yet more
strange did it seem that we should just have lost one whose name had
been widely celebrated before any body had heard of some illustrious men
who, twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, were, after a long and splendid
career, borne with honour to the grave. Yet so it was. Frances Burney
was at the height of fame and popularity before Cowper had published his
first volume, before Person had gone up to college, before Pitt had
taken his seat in the House of Commons, before the voice of Erskine had
been once heard in Westminster Hall. Since the appearance of her first
work, sixty-two years had passed; and this interval had been crowded,
not only with political, but also with intellectual revolutions.
Thousands of reputations had, during that period, sprung up, bloomed,
withered, and disappeared. New kinds of composition had come into
fashion, had gone out of fashion, had been derided, had been forgotten.
The fooleries of Della Crusca, and the fooleries of Kotzebue, had for a
time bewitched the multitude, but had left no trace behind them; nor had
misdirected genius been able to save from decay the once flourishing
school of Godwin, of Darwin, and of Radcliffe. Many books, written for
temporary effect, had run through six or seven editions, and had then
been gathered to the novels of Afra Behn, and the epic poems of Sir
Richard Blackmore. Yet the early works of Madame D'Arblay, in spite of
the lapse of years, in spite of the change of manners, in spite of the
popularity deservedly obtained by some of her rivals, continued to hold
a high place in the public esteem. She lived to be a classic. Time set
on her fame, before she went hence, that seal which is seldom set except
on the fame of the departed. Like Sir Condy Rackrent in the tale, she
survived her own wake, and overheard the judgment of posterity.

Having always felt a warm and sincere, though not a blind admiration for
her talents, we rejoiced to learn that her Diary was about to be made
public. Our hopes, it is true, were not unmixed with fears. We could not
forget the fate of the Memoirs of Dr. Burney, which were published ten
years ago. The unfortunate book contained much that was curious and
interesting. Yet it was received with a cry of disgust, and was speedily
consigned to oblivion. The truth is, that it deserved its doom. It was
written in Madame D'Arblay's later style--the worst style that has ever
been known among men. No genius, no information, could have saved from
proscription a book so written. We, therefore, open the Diary with no
small anxiety, trembling lest we should light upon some of that peculiar
rhetoric which deforms almost every page of the Memoirs, and which it is
impossible to read without a sensation made up of mirth, shame and
loathing. We soon, however, discovered to our great delight that this
Diary was kept before Madame D'Arblay became eloquent. It is, for the
most part, written in her earliest and best manner; in true woman's
English, clear, natural, and lively. The two works are lying side by
side before us, and we never turn from the Memoirs to the Diary without
a sense of relief. The difference is as great as the difference between
the atmosphere of a perfumer's shop, fetid with lavender water and
jasmine soap, and the air of a heath on a fine morning in May. Both
works ought to be consulted by every person who wishes to be well
acquainted with the history of our literature and our manners. But to
read the Diary is a pleasure; to read the Memoirs will always be a task.

       *       *       *       *       *

The progress of the mind of Frances Burney, from her ninth to her
twenty-fifth year, well deserves to be recorded. When her education had
proceeded no further than the horn-book, she lost her mother, and
thenceforward she educated herself. Her father appears to have been as
bad a father as a very honest, affectionate, and sweet-tempered man can
well be. He loved his daughter dearly; but it never seems to have
occurred to him that a parent has other duties to perform to children
than that of fondling them. It would indeed have been impossible for him
to superintend their education himself. His professional engagements
occupied him all day. At seven in the morning he began to attend his
pupils, and, when London was full, was sometimes employed in teaching
till eleven at night. He was often forced to carry in his pocket a tin
box of sandwiches, and a bottle of wine and water, on which he dined in
a hackney-coach while hurrying from one scholar to another. Two of his
daughters he sent to a seminary at Paris; but he imagined that Frances
would run some risk of being perverted from the Protestant faith if she
were educated in a Catholic country, and he therefore kept her at home.
No governess, no teacher of any art or of any language, was provided for
her. But one of her sisters showed her how to write; and, before she was
fourteen, she began to find pleasure in reading.

It was not, however, by reading that her intellect was formed. Indeed,
when her best novels were produced, her knowledge of books was very
small. When at the height of her fame, she was unacquainted with the
most celebrated works of Voltaire and Molière; and, what seems still
more extraordinary, had never heard or seen a line of Churchill, who,
when she was a girl, was the most popular of living poets. It is
particularly deserving of observation, that she appears to have been by
no means a novel-reader. Her father's library was large; and he had
admitted into it so many books which rigid moralists generally exclude,
that he felt uneasy, as he afterwards owned, when Johnson began to
examine the shelves. But in the whole collection there was only a single
novel, Fielding's Amelia.

An education, however, which to most girls would have been useless, but
which suited Fanny's mind better than elaborate culture, was in constant
progress during her passage from childhood to womanhood. The great book
of human nature was turned over before her. Her father's social position
was very peculiar. He belonged in fortune and station to the middle
class. His daughters seem to have been suffered to mix freely with those
whom butlers and waiting-maids call vulgar. We are told that they were
in the habit of playing with the children of a wig-maker who lived in
the adjoining house. Yet few nobles could assemble in the most stately
mansions of Grosvenor Square or St. James's Square, a society so various
and so brilliant as was sometimes to be found in Dr. Burney's cabin. His
mind, though not very powerful or capacious, was restlessly active; and,
in the intervals of his professional pursuits, he had contrived to lay
up much miscellaneous information. His attainments, the suavity of his
temper, and the gentle simplicity of his manners, had obtained for him
ready admission to the first literary circles. While he was still at
Lynn, he had won Johnson's heart by sounding with honest zeal the
praises of the English Dictionary. In London the two friends met
frequently, and agreed most harmoniously. One tie, indeed, was wanting
to their mutual attachment. Burney loved his own art passionately; and
Johnson just knew the bell of St. Clement's church from the organ. They
had, however, many topics in common; and on winter nights their
conversations were sometimes prolonged till the fire had gone out, and
the candles had burned away to the wicks. Burney's admiration of the
powers which had produced Rasselas and The Rambler, bordered on
idolatry. He gave a singular proof of this at his first visit to
Johnson's ill-furnished garret. The master of the apartment was not at
home. The enthusiastic visitor looked about for some relique which he
might carry away; but he could see nothing lighter than the chairs and
the fire-irons. At last he discovered an old broom, tore some bristles
from the stump, wrapped them in silver paper, and departed as happy as
Louis IX when the holy nail of St. Denis was found. Johnson, on the
other hand, condescended to growl out that Burney was an honest fellow,
a man whom it was impossible not to like.

Garrick, too, was a frequent visitor in Poland Street and St. Martin's
Lane. That wonderful actor loved the society of children, partly from
good-nature, and partly from vanity. The ecstasies of mirth and terror
which his gestures and play of countenance never failed to produce in a
nursery, flattered him quite as much as the applause of mature critics.
He often exhibited all his powers of mimicry for the amusement of the
little Burneys, awed them by shuddering and crouching as if he saw a
ghost, scared them by raving like a maniac in St. Lukes', and then at
once became an auctioneer, a chimney-sweeper, or an old woman, and made
them laugh till the tears ran down their cheeks.

But it would be tedious to recount the names of all the men of letters
and artists whom Frances Burney had an opportunity of seeing and
hearing. Colman, Twining, Harris, Baretti, Hawkesworth, Reynolds, Barry,
were among those who occasionally surrounded the tea-table and
supper-tray at her father's modest dwelling. This was not all. The
distinction which Dr. Burney had acquired as a musician, and as the
historian of music, attracted to his house the most eminent musical
performers of that age. The greatest Italian singers who visited England
regarded him as the dispenser of fame in their art, and exerted
themselves to obtain his suffrage. Pachierotti became his intimate
friend. The rapacious Agujari, who sang for nobody else under fifty
pounds an air, sang her best for Dr. Burney without a fee; and in the
company of Dr. Burney even the haughty and eccentric Gabrielli
constrained herself to behave with civility. It was thus in his power to
give, with scarcely any expense, concerts equal to those of the
aristocracy. On such occasions the quiet street in which he lived was
blocked up by coroneted chariots, and his little drawing-room was
crowded with peers, peeresses, ministers, and ambassadors. On one
evening, of which we happen to have a full account, there were present
Lord Mulgrave, Lord Bruce, Lord and Lady Edgecumbe, Lord Barrington from
the War-Office, Lord Sandwich from the Admiralty, Lord Ashburnham, with
his gold key dangling from his pocket, and the French Ambassador, M. De
Guignes, renowned for his fine person and for his success in gallantry.
But the great show of the night was the Russian Ambassador, Count
Orloff, whose gigantic figure was all in a blaze with jewels, and in
whose demeanour the untamed ferocity of the Scythian might be discerned
through a thin varnish of French politeness. As he stalked about the
small parlour, brushing the ceiling with his toupee, the girls whispered
to each other, with mingled admiration and horror, that he was the
favoured lover of his august mistress; that he had borne the chief part
in the revolution to which she owed her throne; and that his huge hands,
now glittering with diamond rings, had given the last squeeze to the
windpipe of her unfortunate husband.

With such illustrious guests as these were mingled all the most
remarkable specimens of the race of lions--a kind of game which is
hunted in London every spring with more than Meltonian ardour and
perseverance. Bruce, who had washed down steaks cut from living oxen
with water from the fountains of the Nile, came to swagger and talk
about his travels. Omai lisped broken English, and made all the
assembled musicians hold their ears by howling Otaheitean love-songs,
such as those with which Oberea charmed her Opano.

With the literary and fashionable society which occasionally met under
Dr. Burney's roof, Frances can scarcely be said to have mingled. She was
not a musician, and could therefore bear no part in the concerts. She
was shy almost to awkwardness, and scarcely ever joined in the
conversation. The slightest remark from a stranger disconcerted her; and
even the old friends of her father who tried to draw her out could
seldom extract more than a Yes or a No. Her figure was small, her face
not distinguished by beauty. She was therefore suffered to withdraw
quietly to the background, and, unobserved herself, to observe all that
passed. Her nearest relations were aware that she had good sense, but
seem not to have suspected, that under her demure and bashful deportment
were concealed a fertile invention and a keen sense of the ridiculous.
She had not, it is true, an eye for the fine shades of character. But
every marked peculiarity instantly caught her notice and remained
engraven on her imagination. Thus, while still a girl, she had laid up
such a store of materials for fiction as few of those who mix much in
the world are able to accumulate during a long life. She had watched and
listened to people of every class, from princes and great officers of
state down to artists living in garrets, and poets familiar with
subterranean cook-shops. Hundreds of remarkable persons had passed in
review before her, English, French, German, Italian, lords and fiddlers,
deans of cathedrals and managers of theatres, travellers leading about
newly caught savages, and singing women escorted by deputy-husbands.

So strong was the impression made on the mind of Frances by the society
which she was in the habit of seeing and hearing, that she began to
write little fictitious narratives as soon as she could use her pen with
ease, which, as we have said, was not very early. Her sisters were
amused by her stories. But Dr. Burney knew nothing of their existence;
and in another quarter her literary propensities met with serious
discouragement. When she was fifteen, her father took a second wife. The
new Mrs. Burney soon found out that her daughter-in-law was fond of
scribbling, and delivered several good-natured lectures on the subject.
The advice no doubt was well-meant, and might have been given by the
most judicious friend; for at that time, from causes to which we may
hereafter advert, nothing could be more disadvantageous to a young lady
than to be known as a novel-writer. Frances yielded, relinquished her
favourite pursuit, and made a bonfire of all her manuscripts.[1]

[1] There is some difficulty here as to the chronology. "This
    sacrifice," says the editor of the Diary, "was made in the young
    authoress's fifteenth year." This could not be; for the sacrifice
    was the effect, according to the editor's own showing, of the
    remonstrances of the second Mrs. Burney; and Frances was in her
    sixteenth year when her father's second marriage took place.

She now hemmed and stitched from breakfast to dinner with scrupulous
regularity. But the dinners of that time were early; and the afternoon
was her own. Though she had given up novel-writing, she was still fond
of using her pen. She began to keep a diary, and she corresponded
largely with a person who seems to have had the chief share in the
formation of her mind. This was Samuel Crisp, an old friend of her
father. His name, well known, near a century ago, in the most splendid
circles of London, has long been forgotten.

Crisp was an old and very intimate friend of the Burneys. To them alone
was confided the name of the desolate old hall in which he hid himself
like a wild beast in a den. For them were reserved such remains of his
humanity as had survived the failure of his play. Frances Burney he
regarded as his daughter. He called her his Fannikin, and she in return
called him her dear Daddy. In truth, he seems to have done much more
than her real father for the development of her intellect; for though he
was a bad poet, he was a scholar, a thinker, and an excellent
counsellor. He was particularly fond of Dr. Burney's concerts. They had,
indeed, been commenced at his suggestion, and when he visited London he
constantly attended them. But when he grew old, and when gout, brought
on partly by mental irritation, confined him to his retreat, he was
desirous of having a glimpse of that gay and brilliant world from which
he was exiled, and he pressed Fannikin to send him full accounts of her
father's evening parties. A few of her letters to him have been
published; and it is impossible to read them without discerning in them
all the powers which afterwards produced Evelina and Cecilia, the
quickness in catching every odd peculiarity of character and manner, the
skill in grouping, the humour, often richly comic, sometimes even
farcical.

Fanny's propensity to novel-writing had for a time been kept down. It
now rose up stronger than ever. The heroes and heroines of the tales
which had perished in the flames, were still present to the eye of her
mind. One favourite story, in particular, haunted her imagination. It
was about a certain Caroline Evelyn, a beautiful damsel who made an
unfortunate love match, and died, leaving an infant daughter. Frances
began to imagine to herself the various scenes, tragic and comic,
through which the poor motherless girl, highly connected on one side,
meanly connected on the other, might have to pass. A crowd of unreal
beings, good and bad, grave and ludicrous, surrounded the pretty, timid,
young orphan; a coarse sea-captain; an ugly insolent fop, blazing in a
superb court-dress; another fop, as ugly and as insolent, but lodged on
Snow Hill, and tricked out in second-hand finery for the Hampstead ball;
an old woman, all wrinkles and rouge, flirting her fan with the air of a
Miss of seventeen, and screaming in a dialect made up of vulgar French
and vulgar English; a poet lean and ragged, with a broad Scotch accent.
By degrees these shadows acquired stronger and stronger consistence: the
impulse which urged Frances to write became irresistible; and the result
was the history of Evelina.

Then came, naturally enough, a wish, mingled with many fears, to appear
before the public; for, timid as Frances was, and bashful, and
altogether unaccustomed to hear her own praises, it is clear that she
wanted neither a strong passion for distinction, nor a just confidence
in her own powers. Her scheme was to become, if possible, a candidate
for fame without running any risk of disgrace. She had no money to bear
the expense of printing. It was therefore necessary that some bookseller
should be induced to take the risk; and such a bookseller was not
readily found. Dodsley refused even to look at the manuscript unless he
were trusted with the name of the author. A publisher in Fleet Street,
named Lowndes, was more complaisant. Some correspondence took place
between this person and Miss Burney, who took the name of Grafton, and
desired that the letters addressed to her might be left at the Orange
Coffee-House. But, before the bargain was finally struck, Fanny thought
it her duty to obtain her father's consent. She told him that she had
written a book, that she wished to have his permission to publish
[Transcriber's note: "published" in original] it anonymously, but that
she hoped that he would not insist upon seeing it. What followed may
serve to illustrate what we meant when we said that Dr. Burney was as
bad a father as so good-hearted a man could possibly be. It never seems
to have crossed his mind that Fanny was about to take a step on which
the whole happiness of her life might depend, a step which might raise
her to an honourable eminence, or cover her with ridicule and contempt.
Several people had already been trusted, and strict concealment was
therefore not to be expected. On so grave an occasion, it was surely his
duty to give his best counsel to his daughter, to win her confidence, to
prevent her from exposing herself if her book were a bad one, and, if it
were a good one, to see that the terms which she made with the publisher
were likely to be beneficial to her. Instead of this, he only stared,
burst out a laughing, kissed her, gave her leave to do as she liked, and
never even asked the name of her work. The contract with Lowndes was
speedily concluded. Twenty pounds were given for the copyright, and were
accepted by Fanny with delight. Her father's inexcusable neglect of his
duty, happily caused her no worse evil than the loss of twelve or
fifteen hundred pounds.

After many delays Evelina appeared in January 1778. Poor Fanny was sick
with terror, and durst hardly stir out of doors. Some days passed before
any thing was heard of the book. It had, indeed, nothing but its own
merits to push it into public favour. Its author was unknown. The house
by which it was published, was not, we believe, held in high estimation.
No body of partisans had been engaged to applaud. The better class of
readers expected little from a novel about a young lady's entrance into
the world. There was, indeed, at that time a disposition among the most
respectable people to condemn novels generally; nor was this disposition
by any means without excuse; for works of that sort were then almost
always silly, and very frequently wicked.

Soon, however, the first faint accents of praise began to be heard. The
keepers of the circulating libraries reported that every body was asking
for Evelina, and that some person had guessed Anstey to be the Author.
Then came a favourable notice in the London Review; then another still
more favourable in the Monthly. And now the book found its way to tables
which had seldom been polluted by marble-covered volumes. Scholars and
statesmen who contemptuously abandoned the crowd of romances to Miss
Lydia Languish and Miss Sukey Saunter, were not ashamed to own that they
could not tear themselves away from Evelina. Fine carriages and rich
liveries, not often seen east of Temple Bar, were attracted to the
publisher's shop in Fleet Street. Lowndes was daily questioned about the
author; but was himself as much in the dark as any of the questioners.
The mystery, however, could not remain a mystery long. It was known to
brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins: and they were far too proud and
too happy to be discreet. Dr. Burney wept over the book in rapture.
Daddy Crisp shook his fist at his Fannikin in affectionate anger at not
having been admitted to her confidence. The truth was whispered to Mrs.
Thrale; and then it began to spread fast.

The book had been admired while it was ascribed to men of letters long
conversant with the world, and accustomed to composition. But when it
was known that a reserved, silent young woman had produced the best work
of fiction that had appeared since the death of Smollett, the
acclamations were redoubled. What she had done was, indeed,
extraordinary. But, as usual, various reports improved the story till it
became miraculous. Evelina, it was said, was the work of a girl of
seventeen. Incredible as this tale was, it continued to be repeated down
to our own time. Frances was too honest to confirm it. Probably she was
too much a woman to contradict it; and it was long before any of her
detractors thought of this mode of annoyance. Yet there was no want of
low minds and bad hearts in the generation which witnessed her first
appearance. There was the envious Kenrick and the savage Wolcot, the asp
George Steevens and the polecat John Williams. It did not, however,
occur to them to search the parish-register of Lynn, in order that they
might be able to twit a lady with having concealed her age. That truly
chivalrous exploit was reserved for a bad writer of our own time, whose
spite she had provoked by not furnishing him with materials for a
worthless edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, some sheets of which our
readers have doubtless seen round parcels of better books.

But we must return to our story. The triumph was complete. The timid and
obscure girl found herself on the highest pinnacle of fame. Great men,
on whom she had gazed at a distance with humble reverence, addressed her
with admiration, tempered by the tenderness due to her sex and age.
Burke, Windham, Gibbon, Reynolds, Sheridan, were among her most ardent
eulogists. Cumberland acknowledged her merit, after his fashion, by
biting his lips and wriggling in his chair whenever her name was
mentioned. But it was at Streatham that she tasted, in the highest
perfection, the sweets of flattery, mingled with the sweets of
friendship. Mrs. Thrale, then at the height of prosperity and
popularity--with gay spirits, quick wit, showy though superficial
acquirements, pleasing though not refined manners, a singularly amiable
temper, and a loving heart--felt towards Fanny as towards a younger
sister. With the Thrales Johnson was domesticated. He was an old friend
of Dr. Burney; but he had probably taken little notice of Dr. Burney's
daughters, and Fanny, we imagine, had never in her life dared to speak
to him, unless to ask whether he wanted a nineteenth or a twentieth cup
of tea. He was charmed by her tale, and preferred it to the novels of
Fielding, to whom, indeed, he had always been grossly unjust. He did
not, indeed, carry his partiality so far as to place Evelina by the side
of Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison; yet he said that his favourite
had done enough to have made even Richardson feel uneasy. With Johnson's
cordial approbation of the book was mingled a fondness, half gallant
half paternal, for the writer; and his fondness his age and character
entitled him to show without restraint. He began by putting her hand to
his lips. But soon he clasped her in his huge arms, and implored her to
be a good girl. She was his pet, his dear love, his dear little Burney,
his little character-monger. At one time, he broke forth in praise of
the good taste of her caps. At another time, he insisted on teaching her
Latin. That, with all his coarseness and irritability, he was a man of
sterling benevolence, has long been acknowledged. But how gentle and
endearing his deportment could be, was not known till the Recollections
of Madame D'Arblay were published.

We have mentioned a few of the most eminent of those who paid their
homage to the author of Evelina. The crowd of inferior admirers would
require a catalogue as long as that in the second book of the Iliad. In
that catalogue would be Mrs. Cholmondeley, the sayer of odd things, and
Seward, much given to yawning, and Baretti, who slew the man in the
Haymarket, and Paoli, talking broken English, and Langton, taller by the
head than any other member of the club, and Lady Millar, who kept a vase
wherein fools were wont to put bad verses, and Jerningham, who wrote
verses fit to be put into the vase of Lady Millar, and Dr. Franklin--
not, as some have dreamed, the great Pennsylvanian Dr. Franklin, who
could not then have paid his respects to Miss Burney without much risk
of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, but Dr. Franklin the less--

  [Greek: _Aias
  meion, outi tosos ge osos Telamonios Aias,
  alla polu meion._]

It would not have been surprising if such success had turned even a
strong head, and corrupted even a generous and affectionate nature. But,
in the Diary, we can find no trace of any feeling inconsistent with a
truly modest and amiable disposition. There is, indeed, abundant proof
that Frances enjoyed, with an intense, though a troubled, joy, the
honours which her genius had won; but it is equally clear that her
happiness sprang from the happiness of her father, her sister, and her
dear Daddy Crisp. While flattered by the great, the opulent, and the
learned, while followed along the Steyne at Brighton and the Pantiles at
Tunbridge Wells by the gaze of admiring crowds, her heart seems to have
been still with the little domestic circle in St. Martin's Street. If
she recorded with minute diligence all the compliments, delicate and
coarse, which she heard wherever she turned, she recorded them for the
eyes of two or three persons who had loved her from infancy, who had
loved her in obscurity, and to whom her fame gave the purest and most
exquisite delight. Nothing can be more unjust than to confound these
outpourings of a kind heart, sure of perfect sympathy, with the egotism
of a blue-stocking, who prates to all who come near her about her own
novel or her own volume of sonnets.

It was natural that the triumphant issue of Miss Burney's first venture
should tempt her to try a second. Evelina, though it had raised her
fame, had added nothing to her fortune. Some of her friends urged her to
write for the stage. Johnson promised to give her his advice as to the
composition. Murphy, who was supposed to understand the temper of the
pit as well as any man of his time, undertook to instruct her as to
stage-effect. Sheridan declared that he would accept a play from her
without even reading it. Thus encouraged she wrote a comedy named The
Witlings. Fortunately it was never acted or printed. We can, we think,
easily perceive from the little which is said on the subject in the
Diary, that The Witlings would have been damned, and that Murphy and
Sheridan thought so, though they were too polite to say so. Happily
Frances had a friend who was not afraid to give her pain. Crisp, wiser
for her than he had been for himself, read the manuscript in his lonely
retreat, and manfully told her that she had failed, that to remove
blemishes here and there would be useless, that the piece had abundance
of wit but no interest, that it was bad as a whole, that it would remind
every reader of the _Femmes Savantes_, which, strange to say, she had
never read, and that she could not sustain so close a comparison with
Molière. This opinion, in which Dr. Burney concurred, was sent to
Frances in what she called a "hissing, groaning, cat-calling epistle."
But she had too much sense not to know that it was better to be hissed
and cat-called by her Daddy than by a whole sea of heads in the pit of
Drury-Lane Theatre; and she had too good a heart not to be grateful for
so rare an act of friendship. She returned an answer which shows how
well she deserved to have a judicious, faithful, and affectionate
adviser. "I intend," she wrote, "to console myself for your censure by
this greatest proof I have ever received of the sincerity, candour, and,
let me add, esteem, of my dear daddy. And as I happen to love myself
rather more than my play, this consolation is not a very trifling one.
This, however, seriously I do believe, that when my two daddies put
their heads together to concert that hissing, groaning, cat-calling
epistle they sent me, they felt as sorry for poor little Miss Bayes as
she could possibly do for herself. You see I do not attempt to repay
your frankness with the air of pretended carelessness. But, though
somewhat disconcerted just now, I will promise not to let my vexation
live out another day. Adieu, my dear daddy! I won't be mortified, and I
won't be _downed_; but I will be proud to find I have, out of my own
family, as well as in it, a friend who loves me well enough to speak
plain truth to me."

Frances now turned from her dramatic schemes to an undertaking far
better suited to her talents. She determined to write a new tale, on a
plan excellently contrived for the display of the powers in which her
superiority to other writers lay. It was in truth a grand and various
picture-gallery, which presented to the eye a long series of men and
women, each marked by some strong peculiar feature. There were avarice
and prodigality, the pride of blood and the pride of money, morbid
restlessness and morbid apathy, frivolous garrulity, supercilious
silence, a Democritus to laugh at every thing, and a Heraclitus to
lament over every thing. The work proceeded fast, and in twelve months
was completed. It wanted something of the simplicity which had been
among the most attractive charms of Evelina; but it furnished ample
proof that the four years which had elapsed since Evelina appeared, had
not been unprofitably spent. Those who saw Cecilia in manuscript
pronounced it the best novel of the age. Mrs. Thrale laughed and wept
over it. Crisp was even vehement in applause, and offered to insure the
rapid and complete success of the book for half a crown. What Miss
Burney received for the copyright is not mentioned in the Diary; but we
have observed several expressions from which we infer that the sum was
considerable. That the sale would be great nobody could doubt; and
Frances now had shrewd and experienced advisers, who would not suffer
her to wrong herself. We have been told that the publishers gave her two
thousand pounds, and we have no doubt that they might have given a still
larger sum without being losers.

Cecilia was published in the summer of 1782. The curiosity of the town
was intense. We have been informed by persons who remember those days,
that no romance of Sir Walter Scott was more impatiently awaited, or
more eagerly snatched from the counters of the booksellers. High as
public expectation was, it was amply satisfied; and Cecilia was placed,
by general acclamation, among the classical novels of England.

Miss Burney was now thirty. Her youth had been singularly prosperous;
but clouds soon began to gather over that clear and radiant dawn. Events
deeply painful to a heart so kind as that of Frances, followed each
other in rapid succession. She was first called upon to attend the
death-bed of her best friend, Samuel Crisp. When she returned to St.
Martin's Street, after performing this melancholy duty, she was appalled
by hearing that Johnson had been struck with paralysis; and, not many
months later, she parted from him for the last time with solemn
tenderness. He wished to look on her once more; and on the day before
his death she long remained in tears on the stairs leading to his
bedroom, in the hope that she might be called in to receive his
blessing. But he was then sinking fast, and, though he sent her an
affectionate message, was unable to see her. But this was not the worst.
There are separations far more cruel than those which are made by death.
Frances might weep with proud affection for Crisp and Johnson. She had
to blush as well as to weep for Mrs. Thrale.

Life, however, still smiled upon her. Domestic happiness, friendship,
independence, leisure, letters, all these things were hers; and she
flung them all away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then the prison was opened, and Frances was free once more. Johnson, as
Burke observed, might have added a striking page to his poem on the
Vanity of Human Wishes, if he had lived to see his little Burney as she
went into the palace and as she came out of it.

The pleasures, so long untasted, of liberty, of friendship, of domestic
affection, were almost too acute for her shattered frame. But happy days
and tranquil nights soon restored the health which the Queen's toilette
and Madame Schwellenberg's card-table had impaired. Kind and anxious
faces surrounded the invalid. Conversation the most polished and
brilliant revived her spirits. Travelling was recommended to her; and
she rambled by easy journeys from cathedral to cathedral, and from
watering-place to watering-place. She crossed the New Forest, and
visited Stonehenge and Wilton, the cliffs of Lyme, and the beautiful
valley of Sidmouth. Thence she journeyed by Powderham Castle, and by the
ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, to Bath, and from Bath, when the winter was
approaching, returned well and cheerful to London. There she visited her
old dungeon, and found her successor already far on the way to the
grave, and kept to strict duty, from morning till midnight, with a
sprained ankle and a nervous fever.

At this time England swarmed with French exiles driven from their
country by the Revolution. A colony of these refugees settled at Juniper
Hall in Surrey, not far from Norbury Park, where Mr. Lock, an intimate
friend of the Burney family, resided. Frances visited Norbury, and was
introduced to the strangers. She had strong prejudices against them; for
her Toryism was far beyond, we do not say that of Mr. Pitt, but that of
Mr. Reeves; and the inmates of Juniper Hall were all attached to the
constitution of 1791, and were therefore more detested by the Royalists
of the first emigration than Petion or Marat. But such a woman as Miss
Burney could no longer resist the fascination of that remarkable
society. She had lived with Johnson and Windham, with Mrs. Montague and
Mrs. Thrale. Yet she was forced to own that she had never heard
conversation before. The most animated eloquence, the keenest
observation, the most sparkling wit, the most courtly grace, were united
to charm her. For Madame de Staël was there, and M. de Talleyrand. There
too was M. de Narbonne, a noble representative of French aristocracy;
and with M. de Narbonne was his friend and follower General D'Arblay, an
honourable and amiable man, with a handsome person, frank soldier-like
manners, and some taste for letters.

The prejudices which Frances had conceived against the constitutional
royalists of France rapidly vanished. She listened with rapture to
Talleyrand and Madame de Staël, joining with M. D'Arblay in execrating
the Jacobins, and in weeping for the unhappy Bourbons, took French
lessons from him, fell in love with him, and married him on no better
provision [Transcriber's note: "pro-provision" in original] than a
precarious annuity of one hundred pounds.

       *       *       *       *       *

We now turn from the life of Madame D'Arblay to her writings. There can,
we apprehend, be little difference of opinion as to the nature of her
merit, whatever differences may exist as to its degree. She was
emphatically what Johnson called her, a character-monger. It was in the
exhibition of human passions and whims that her strength lay; and in
this department of art she had, we think, very distinguished skill.

Highest among those who have exhibited human nature by means of
dialogue, stands Shakespeare. His variety is like the variety of nature,
endless diversity, scarcely any monstrosity. The characters of which he
has given us an impression, as vivid as that which we receive from the
characters of our own associates, are to be reckoned by scores. Yet in
all these scores hardly one character is to be found which deviates
widely from the common standard, and which we should call very eccentric
if we met it in real life. The silly notion that every man has one
ruling passion, and that this clue, once known, unravels all the
mysteries of his conduct, finds no countenance in the plays of
Shakespeare. There man appears as he is, made up of a crowd of passions,
which contend for the mastery over him, and govern him in turn. What is
Hamlet's ruling passion? Or Othello's? Or Harry the Fifth's? Or
Wolsey's? Or Lear's? Or Shylock's? Or Benedick's? Or Macbeth's? Or that
of Cassius? Or that of Falconbridge? But we might go on for ever. Take a
single example--Shylock. Is he so eager for money as to be indifferent
to revenge? Or so eager for revenge as to be indifferent to money? Or so
bent on both together as to be indifferent to the honour of his nation
and the law of Moses? All his propensities are mingled with each other;
so that, in trying to apportion to each its proper part, we find the
same difficulty which constantly meets us in real life. A superficial
critic may say, that hatred is Shylock's ruling passion. But how many
passions have amalgamated to form that hatred? It is partly the result
of wounded pride: Antonio has called him dog. It is partly the result of
covetousness: Antonio has hindered him of half a million; and, when
Antonio is gone, there will be no limit to the gains of usury. It is
partly the result of national and religious feeling: Antonio has spit on
the Jewish gaberdine; and the oath of revenge has been sworn by the
Jewish Sabbath. We might go through all the characters which we have
mentioned, and through fifty more in the same way; for it is the
constant manner of Shakespeare to represent the human mind as lying, not
under the absolute dominion of one despotic propensity, but under a
mixed government, in which a hundred powers balance each other.
Admirable as he was in all parts of his art, we most admire him for
this, that, while he has left us a greater number of striking portraits
than all other dramatists put together, he has scarcely left us a single
caricature.

Shakespeare has had neither equal nor second. But among the writers who,
in the point which we have noticed, have approached nearest to the
manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane
Austen, a woman of whom England is justly proud. She has given us a
multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace, all such
as we meet every day. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from
each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings. There
are, for example, four clergymen, none of whom we should be surprised to
find in any parsonage in the kingdom, Mr. Edward Ferrars, Mr. Henry
Tilney, Mr. Edmund Bertram, and Mr. Elton. They are all specimens of the
upper part of the middle class. They have all been liberally educated.
They all lie under the restraints of the same sacred profession. They
are all young. They are all in love. Not one of them has any hobbyhorse,
to use the phrase of Sterne. Not one has a ruling passion, such as we
read of in Pope. Who would not have expected them to be insipid
likenesses of each other? No such thing. Harpagon is not more unlike to
Jourdain, Joseph Surface is not more unlike to Sir Lucius O'Trigger,
than every one of Miss Austen's young divines to all his reverend
brethren. And almost all this is done by touches so delicate, that they
elude analysis, that they defy the powers of description, and that we
know them to exist only by the general effect to which they have
contributed.

A line must be drawn, we conceive, between artists of this class, and
those poets and novelists whose skill lies in the exhibiting of what Ben
Jonson called humours. The words of Ben are so much to the purpose, that
we will quote them--

  When some one peculiar quality
  Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw
  All his affects, his spirits, and his powers,
  In their confluxions all to run one way,
  This may be truly said to be a humour.

There are undoubtedly persons, in whom humours such as Ben describes
have attained a complete ascendency. The avarice of Elwes, the insane
desire of Sir Egerton Brydges for a barony to which he had no more right
than to the crown of Spain, the malevolence which long meditation on
imaginary wrongs generated in the gloomy mind of Bellingham, are
instances. The feeling which animated Clarkson and other virtuous men
against the slave-trade and slavery, is an instance of a more honourable
kind.

Seeing that such humours exist, we cannot deny that they are proper
subjects for the imitations of art. But we conceive that the imitation
of such humours, however skilful and amusing, is not an achievement of
the highest order; and, as such humours are rare in real life, they
ought, we conceive, to be sparingly introduced into works which profess
to be pictures of real life. Nevertheless, a writer may show so much
genius in the exhibition of these humours, as to be fairly entitled to a
distinguished and permanent rank among classics. The chief seats of all,
however, the places on the dais and under the canopy, are reserved for
the few who have excelled in the difficult art of portraying characters
in which no single feature is extravagantly overcharged.

If we have expounded the law soundly, we can have no difficulty in
applying it to the particular case before us. Madame D'Arblay has left
us scarcely any thing but humours. Almost every one of her men and women
has some one propensity developed to a morbid degree. In Cecilia, for
example, Mr. Delvile never opens his lips without some allusion to his
own birth and station; or Mr. Briggs, without some allusion to the
hoarding of money; or Mr. Hobson, without betraying the self-indulgence
and self-importance of a purse-proud upstart; or Mr. Simkins, without
uttering some sneaking remark for the purpose of currying favour with
his customers; or Mr. Meadows, without expressing apathy and weariness
of life; or Mr. Albany, without declaiming about the vices of the rich
and the misery of the poor; or Mrs. Belfield, without some indelicate
eulogy on her son; or Lady Margaret, without indicating jealousy of her
husband. Morrice is all skipping, officious impertinence, Mr. Gosport
all sarcasm, Lady Honoria all lively prattle, Miss Larolles all silly
prattle. If ever Madame D'Arblay aimed at more, as in the character of
Monckton, we do not think that she succeeded well.

We are, therefore, forced to refuse to Madame D'Arblay a place in the
highest rank of art; but we cannot deny that, in the rank to which she
belonged, she had few equals, and scarcely any superior. The variety of
humours which is to be found in her novels is immense; and though the
talk of each person separately is monotonous, the general effect is not
monotony, but a very lively and agreeable diversity. Her plots are
rudely constructed and improbable, if we consider them in themselves.
But they are admirably framed for the purpose of exhibiting striking
groups of eccentric characters, each governed by his own peculiar whim,
each talking his own peculiar jargon, and each bringing out by
opposition the oddities of all the rest. We will give one example out of
many which occur to us. All probability is violated in order to bring
Mr. Delvile, Mr. Briggs, Mr. Hobson, and Mr. Albany into a room
together. But when we have them there, we soon forget probability in the
exquisitely ludicrous effect which is produced by the conflict of four
old fools, each raging with a monomania of his own, each talking a
dialect of his own, and each inflaming all the others anew every time he
opens his mouth.

Yet one word more. It is not only on account of the intrinsic merit of
Madame D'Arblay's early works that she is entitled to honourable
mention. Her appearance is an important epoch in our literary history.
Evelina was the first tale written by a woman, and purporting to be a
picture of life and manners, that lived or deserved to live. The Female
Quixote is no exception. That work has undoubtedly great merit, when
considered as a wild satirical harlequinade; but, if we consider it as a
picture of life and manners, we must pronounce it more absurd than any
of the romances which it was designed to ridicule.

Indeed, most of the popular novels which preceded Evelina, were such as
no lady would have written; and many of them were such as no lady could
without confusion own that she had read. The very name of novel was held
in horror among religious people. In decent families which did not
profess extraordinary sanctity, there was a strong feeling against all
such works. Sir Anthony Absolute, two or three years before Evelina
appeared, spoke the sense of the great body of sober fathers and
husbands, when he pronounced the circulating library an evergreen tree
of diabolical knowledge. This feeling, on the part of the grave and
reflecting, increased the evil from which it had sprung. The novelist,
having little character to lose, and having few readers among serious
people, took without scruple liberties which in our generation seem
almost incredible.

Miss Burney did for the English novel what Jeremy Collier did for the
English drama; and she did it in a better way. She first showed that a
tale might be written in which both the fashionable and the vulgar life
of London might be exhibited with great force, and with broad comic
humour, and which yet should not contain a single line inconsistent with
rigid morality, or even with virgin delicacy. She took away the reproach
which lay on a most useful and delightful species of composition. She
vindicated the right of her sex to an equal share in a fair and noble
province of letters. Several accomplished women have followed in her
track. At present, the novels which we owe to English ladies form no
small part of the literary glory of our country. No class of works is
more honourably distinguished by fine observation, by grace, by delicate
wit, by pure moral feeling. Several among the successors of Madame
D'Arblay have equalled her; two, we think, have surpassed her. But the
fact that she has been surpassed, gives her an additional claim to our
respect and gratitude; for in truth we owe to her, not only Evelina,
Cecilia, and Camilla, but also Mansfield Park and the Absentee.



ANONYMOUS ON WORDSWORTH


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, October, 1807]

_Poems_, in Two Volumes. By W. WORDSWORTH. London, 1807.

This author is known to belong to a certain brotherhood of poets, who
have haunted for some years about the lakes of Cumberland; and is
generally looked upon, we believe, as the purest model of the
excellences and peculiarities of the school which they have been
labouring to establish. Of the general merits of that school, we have
had occasion to express our opinion pretty fully, in more places than
one, and even to make some allusion to the former publications of the
writer now before us. We are glad, however, to have found an opportunity
of attending somewhat more particularly to his pretentions.

The Lyrical Ballads were unquestionably popular; and, we have no
hesitation in saying, deservedly popular: for in spite of their
occasional vulgarity, affectation, and silliness, they were undoubtedly
characterised by a strong spirit of originality, of pathos, and natural
feeling; and recommended to all good minds by the clear impression which
they bore of the amiable disposition and virtuous principles of the
author. By the help of these qualities, they were enabled, not only to
recommend themselves to the indulgence of many judicious readers, but
even to beget among a pretty numerous class of persons, a sort of
admiration of the very defects by which they were attended. It was on
this account chiefly, that we thought it necessary to set ourselves
against the alarming innovation. Childishness, conceit, and affectation,
are not of themselves very popular or attractive; and though mere
novelty has sometimes been found sufficient to give them a temporary
currency, we should have had no fear of their prevailing to any
dangerous extent, if they had been graced with no more seductive
accompaniments. It was precisely because the perverseness and bad taste
of this new school was combined with a great deal of genius and of
laudable feeling, that we were afraid of their spreading and gaining
ground among us, and that we entered into the discussion with a degree
of zeal and animosity which some might think unreasonable towards
authors, to whom so much merit had been conceded. There were times and
moods, indeed, in which we were led to suspect ourselves of
unjustifiable severity, and to doubt, whether a sense of public duty had
not carried us rather too far in reprobation of errors, that seemed to
be atoned for, by excellences of no vulgar description. At other times
the magnitude of these errors--the disgusting absurdities into which
they led their feebler admirers, and the derision and contempt which
they drew from the more fastidious, even upon the merits with which they
were associated, made us wonder more than ever at the perversity by
which they were retained, and regret that we had not declared ourselves
against them with still more formidable and decided hostility.

In this temper of mind, we read the _annonce_ of Mr. Wordsworth's
publication with a good deal of interest and expectation, and opened his
volumes with greater anxiety, than he or his admirers will probably give
us credit for. We have been greatly disappointed certainly as to the
quality of the poetry; but we doubt whether the publication has afforded
so much satisfaction to any other of his readers:--it has freed us from
all doubt or hesitation as to the justice of our former censures, and
has brought the matter to a test, which we cannot help hoping may be
convincing to the author himself.

Mr. Wordsworth, we think, has now brought the question, as to the merit
of his new school of poetry, to a very fair and decisive issue. The
volumes before us are much more strongly marked by its peculiarities
than any former publication of the fraternity. In our apprehension, they
are, on this very account, infinitely less interesting or meritorious;
but it belongs to the public, and not to us, to decide upon their merit,
and we will confess, that so strong is our conviction of their obvious
inferiority, and the grounds of it, that we are willing for once to
waive our right of appealing to posterity, and to take the judgment of
the present generation of readers, and even of Mr. Wordsworth's former
admirers, as conclusive on this occasion. If these volumes, which have
all the benefit of the author's former popularity, turn out to be nearly
as popular as the lyrical ballads--if they sell nearly to the same
extent--or are quoted and imitated among half as many individuals, we
shall admit that Mr. Wordsworth has come much nearer the truth in his
judgment of what constitutes the charm of poetry, than we had previously
imagined--and shall institute a more serious and respectful inquiry into
his principles of composition than we have yet thought necessary. On the
other hand,--if this little work, selected from the compositions of five
maturer years, and written avowedly for the purpose of exalting a
system, which has already excited a good deal of attention, should be
generally rejected by those whose prepossessions were in its favour,
there is room to hope, not only that the system itself will meet with no
more encouragement, but even that the author will be persuaded to
abandon a plan of writing, which defrauds his industry and talents of
their natural reward.

Putting ourselves thus upon our country, we certainly look for a verdict
against this publication; and have little doubt indeed of the result,
upon a fair consideration of the evidence contained in these volumes. To
accelerate that result, and to give a general view of the evidence, to
those into whose hands the record may not have already fallen, we must
now make a few observations and extracts.

We shall not resume any of the particular discussions by which we
formerly attempted to ascertain the value of the improvements which this
new school has effected in poetry: but shall lay the grounds of our
opposition, for this time, a little more broadly. The end of poetry, we
take it, is to please--and the same, we think, is strictly applicable to
every metrical composition from which we receive pleasure, without any
laborious exercise of the understanding. Their pleasure may, in general,
be analysed into three parts--that which we receive from the excitement
of Passion or emotion--that which is derived from the play of
Imagination, or the easy exercise of Reason--and that which depends on
the character and qualities of the Diction. The two first are the vital
and primary springs of poetical delight, and can scarcely require
explanation to anyone. The last has been alternately over-rated and
undervalued by the possessors of the poetical art, and is in such low
estimation with the author now before us and his associates, that it is
necessary to say a few words in explanation of it.

One great beauty of diction exists only for those who have some degree
of scholarship or critical skill. This is what depends on the exquisite
_propriety_ of the words employed, and the delicacy with which they are
adapted to the meaning which is to be expressed. Many of the finest
passages in Virgil and Pope derive their principal charm from the fine
propriety of their diction. Another source of beauty, which extends only
to the more instructed class of readers, is that which consists in the
judicious or happy application of expressions which have been sanctified
by the use of famous writers, or which bear the stamp of a simple or
venerable antiquity. There are other beauties of diction, however, which
are perceptible by all--the beauties of sweet sounds and pleasant
associations. The melody of words and verses is indifferent to no reader
of poetry; but the chief recommendation of poetical language is
certainly derived from those general associations, which give it a
character of dignity or elegance, sublimity or tenderness. Everyone
knows that there are low and mean expressions, as well as lofty and
grave ones; and that some words bear the impression of coarseness and
vulgarity, as clearly as others do of refinement and affection. We do
not mean, of course, to say anything in defiance of the hackneyed
commonplace of ordinary versemen. Whatever might have been the original
character of these unlucky phrases, they are now associated with nothing
but ideas of schoolboy imbecility and vulgar affectation. But what we do
maintain is, that much of the most popular poetry in the world owes its
celebrity chiefly to the beauty of its diction; and that no poetry can
be long or generally acceptable, the language of which is coarse,
inelegant, or infantine.

From this great source of pleasure, we think the readers of Mr.
Wordsworth are in great measure cut off. His diction has nowhere any
pretensions to elegance or dignity; and he has scarcely ever
condescended to give the grace of correctness or melody to his
versification. If it were merely slovenly or neglected, however, all
this might be endured. Strong sense and powerful feeling will ennoble
any expressions; or, at least, no one who is capable of estimating these
higher merits, will be disposed to mark these little defects. But, in
good truth, no man, now-a-days, composes verses for publication, with a
slovenly neglect of their language. It is a fine and laborious
manufacture, which can scarcely ever be made in a hurry; and the faults
which it has, may, for the most part, be set down to bad taste or
incapacity, rather than to carelessness or oversight. With Mr.
Wordsworth and his friends it is plain that their peculiarities of
diction are things of choice, and not of accident. They write as they
do, upon principle and system; and it evidently costs them much pains to
keep _down_ to the standard which they have proffered themselves. They
are to the full as much mannerists, too, as the poetasters who ring
changes on the commonplaces of magazine versification; and all the
difference between them is that they borrow their phrases from a
different and a scantier _gradus ad Parnassum_. If they were, indeed, to
discard all imitation and set phraseology, and bring in no words merely
for show or for metre,--as much, perhaps, might be gained in freedom and
originality, as would infallibly be lost in allusion and authority; but,
in point of fact, the new poets are just as much borrowers as the old;
only that, instead of borrowing from the more popular passages of their
illustrious predecessors, they have preferred furnishing themselves from
vulgar ballads and plebian nurseries.

Their peculiarities of diction alone, are enough, perhaps, to render
them ridiculous; but the author before us really seems anxious to court
this literary martyrdom by a device still more infallible,--we mean that
of connecting his most lofty, tender, or impassioned conceptions, with
objects and incidents which the greater part of his readers will
probably persist in thinking low, silly, or uninteresting. Whether this
is done from affectation and conceit alone, or whether it may not arise,
in some measure, from the self-illusion of a mind of extraordinary
sensibility, habituated to solitary meditation, we cannot undertake to
determine. It is possible enough, we allow, that the sights of a
friend's garden-spade, of a sparrow's-nest, or a man gathering leeches,
might really have suggested to such a mind a train of powerful
impressions and interesting reflections; but it is certain, that, to
most minds, such associations will always appear forced, strained, and
unnatural; and that the composition in which it is attempted to exhibit
them, will always have the air of parody, or ludicrous and affected
singularity. All the world laughs at Eligiac stanzas to a sucking pig--a
Hymn on Washing-day, Sonnets to one's grandmother--or Pindarics on
gooseberry-pie; and yet, we are afraid, it will not be quite easy to
persuade Mr. Wordsworth, that the same ridicule must infallibly attach
to most of the pathetic pieces in these volumes. To satisfy our readers,
however, as to the justice of this and our other anticipations, we shall
proceed without further preface, to lay before them a short view of
their contents.

The first is a kind of ode "to the Daisy,--" very flat, feeble, and
affected; and in diction as artificial, and as much encumbered with
heavy expletives as the theme of an unpractised schoolboy....

The scope of the piece is to say, that the flower is found everywhere;
and that it has suggested many pleasant thoughts to the author--some
chime of fancy, "_wrong or right_"--some feeling of devotion _more or
less_--and other elegancies of the same stamp....

The next is called "Louisa," and begins in this dashing and affected
manner.

  I met Louisa in the shade;
  And, having seen that lovely maid,
  _Why should I fear to say_
  That she is ruddy, fleet and strong;
  _And down the rocks can leap along_,
  Like rivulets in May? I. 7.

Does Mr. Wordsworth really imagine that this is more natural or engaging
than the ditties of our common song-writers?...

By and by, we have a piece of namby-pamby "to the Small Celandine,"
which we should almost have taken for a professed imitation of one of
Mr. Phillips's prettyisms....

Further on, we find an "Ode to Duty," in which the lofty vein is very
unsuccessfully attempted. This is the concluding stanza.

    Stern lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
      The Godhead's most benignant grace;
    Nor know we anything so fair
      As is the smile upon thy face;
    Flowers laugh before thee on their beds;
    And fragrance in thy footing treads;
    Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong;
  And the most ancient heavens through thee are fresh and strong. I. 73.


The two last lines seem to be utterly without meaning; at least we have
no sort of conception in what sense _Duty_ can be said to keep the old
skies _fresh_, and the stars from wrong.

The next piece, entitled "The Beggars," may be taken, in fancy, as a
touchstone of Mr. Wordsworth's merit. There is something about it that
convinces us it is a favourite of the author's; though to us, we will
confess, it appears to be a very paragon of silliness and
affectation.... "Alice Fell" is a performance of the same order.... If
the printing of such trash as this be not felt as an insult on the
public taste, we are afraid it cannot be insulted.

After this follows the longest and most elaborate poem in the volume,
under the title of "Resolution and Independence." The poet roving about
on a common one fine morning, falls into pensive musings on the fate of
the sons of song, which he sums up in this fine distich.

  We poets in our youth begin in gladness;
  But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness. I, p. 92.

In the midst of his meditations--

  I saw a man before me unawares,
  The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs....

The very interesting account, which he is lucky enough at last to
comprehend, fills the poet with comfort and admiration; and, quite glad
to find the old man so cheerful, he resolves to take a lesson of
contentedness from him; and the poem ends with this pious ejaculation--

  "God," said I, "be my help and stay secure;
  I'll think of the leech-gatherer on the lonely moor." I, p. 97.

We defy the bitterest enemy of Mr. Wordsworth to produce anything at all
parallel to this from any collection of English poetry, or even from the
specimens of his friend Mr. Southey....

The first poems in the second volume were written during a tour in
Scotland. The first is a very dull one about Rob Roy, but the title that
attracted us most was "An Address to the Sons of Burns," after visiting
their father's grave. Never was anything, however, more miserable....
The next is a very tedious, affected performance, called "The Yarrow
Unvisited." ... After this we come to some ineffable compositions, which
the poet has entitled, "Moods of my own Mind." ... We have then a
rapturous mystical ode to the Cuckoo; in which the author, striving
after force and originality, produces nothing but absurdity ... after
this there is an address to a butterfly.... We come next to a long story
of a "Blind Highland Boy," who lived near an arm of the sea, and had
taken a most unnatural desire to venture on that perilous element. His
mother did all she could to prevent him; but one morning, when the good
woman was out of the way, he got into a vessel of his own, and pushed
out from the shore.

  In such a vessel ne'er before
  Did human creature leave the shore. II, p. 72.

And then we are told, that if the sea should get rough, "a beehive would
be ship as safe." "But say, what was it?" a poetical interlocutor is
made to exclaim most naturally; and here followeth the answer, upon
which all the pathos and interest of the story depend.

  A HOUSEHOLD TUB, like one of those
  Which women use to wash their clothes!! II, p. 72.

This, it will be admitted, is carrying the matter as far as it will go;
nor is there anything,--down to the wiping of shoes or the evisceration
of chickens, which may not be introduced in poetry, if this is
tolerated....

Afterwards come some stanzas about an echo repeating a cuckoo's
voice.... Then we have Elegiac stanzas "to the spade of a friend,"
beginning--

  Spade! with which Wilkinson hath till'd his lands.

But too dull to be quoted any further.

After this there is a minstrel's song, on the Restoration of Lord
Clifford the Shepherd, which is in a very different strain of poetry;
and then the volume is wound up with an "Ode," with no other title but
the motto _Paulo majora canamus_. This is, beyond all doubt, the most
illegible and unintelligible part of the publication. We can pretend to
no analysis or explanation of it....

We have thus gone through this publication, with a view to enable our
readers to determine, whether the author of these verses which have now
been exhibited, is entitled to claim the honours of an improver or
restorer of our poetry, and to found a new school to supersede or
new-model all our maxims on the subject. If we were to stop here, we do
not think that Mr. Wordsworth, or his admirers, would have any reason to
complain; for what we have now quoted is undeniably the most peculiar
and characteristic part of his publication, and must be defended and
applauded if the merit or originality of his system is to be seriously
maintained. In our opinion, however, the demerit of that system cannot
be fairly appreciated, until it be shown, that the author of the bad
verses which we have already extracted, can write good verses when he
pleases; and that, in point of fact, he does always write good verses,
when, by any account, he is led to abandon his system, and to transgress
the laws of that school which he would fain establish on the ruin of all
existing authority.

The length to which our extracts and observations have already extended,
necessarily restrains us within more narrow limits in this part of our
citations; but it will not require much labour to find a pretty decided
contrast to some of the passages we have already detailed. The song on
the restoration of Lord Clifford is put into the mouth of an ancient
minstrel of the family; and in composing it, the author was led,
therefore, almost irresistibly to adopt the manner and phraseology that
is understood to be connected with that sort of composition, and to
throw aside his own babyish incidents and fantastical sensibilities....

All English writers of sonnets have imitated Milton; and, in this way,
Mr. Wordsworth, when he writes sonnets, escapes again from the trammels
of his own unfortunate system; and the consequence is, that his sonnets
are as much superior to the greater part of his other poems, as Milton's
sonnets are superior to his....

When we look at these, and many still finer passages, in the writings of
this author, it is impossible not to feel a mixture of indignation and
compassion, at that strange infatuation which has bound him up from the
fair exercise of his talents, and withheld from the public the many
excellent productions that would otherwise have taken the place of the
trash now before us. Even in the worst of these productions, there are,
no doubt, occasional little traits of delicate feeling and original
fancy; but these are quite lost and obscured in the mass of childishness
and insipidity with which they are incorporated, nor can anything give
us a more melancholy view of the debasing effects of this miserable
theory, than that it has given ordinary men a right to wonder at the
folly and presumption of a man gifted like Mr. Wordsworth, and made him
appear, in his second avowed publication, like a bad imitator of the
worst of his former productions.

We venture to hope, that there is now an end of this folly; and that,
like other follies, it will be found to have cured itself by the
extravagances resulting from its unbridled indulgence. In this point of
view, the publication of the volumes before us may ultimately be of
service to the good cause of literature. Many a generous rebel, it is
said, has been reclaimed to his allegiance by the spectacle of lawless
outrage and excess presented in the conduct of the insurgents; and we
think there is every reason to hope, that the lamentable consequences
which have resulted from Mr. Wordsworth's open violation of the
established laws of poetry, will operate as a wholesome warning to those
who might otherwise have been seduced by his example, and be the means
of restoring to that antient and venerable code its due honour and
authority.



ON MATURIN'S "MELMOTH"


[From _The Edinburgh Review_, July, 1821]

_Melmoth, the Wanderer_. 4 vols. By the Author of _Bertram_. Constable &
Co. Edinburgh, 1820.

It was said, we remember, of Dr. Darwin's Botanic Garden--that it was
the sacrifice of Genius in the Temple of False Taste; and the remark may
be applied to the work before us, with the qualifying clause, that in
this instance the Genius is less obvious, and the false taste more
glaring. No writer of good judgment would have attempted to revive the
defunct horrors of Mrs. Radcliffe's School of Romance, or the demoniacal
incarnations of Mr. Lewis: But, as if he were determined not to be
arraigned for a single error only, Mr. Maturin has contrived to render
his production almost as objectionable in the manner as it is in the
matter. The construction of his story, which is singularly clumsy and
inartificial, we have no intention to analyze:--many will probably have
perused the work, before our review reaches them; and to those who have
not, it may be sufficient to announce, that the imagination of the
author runs riot, even beyond the usual license of romance;--that his
hero is a modern Faustus, who has bartered his soul with the powers of
darkness for protracted life, and unlimited worldly enjoyment;--his
heroine, a species of insular goddess, a virgin Calypso of the Indian
ocean, who, amid flowers and foliage, lives upon figs and tamarinds;
associates with peacocks, loxias and monkeys; is worshipped by the
occasional visitants of her island; finds her way to Spain, where she is
married to the aforesaid hero by the hand of a dead hermit, the ghost of
a murdered domestic being the witness of their nuptials; and finally
dies in the dungeons of the Inquisition at Madrid!--To complete this
phantasmagoric exhibition, we are presented with sybils and misers;
parricides; maniacs in abundance; monks with scourges pursuing a naked
youth streaming with blood; subterranean Jews surrounded by the
skeletons of their wives and children; lovers blasted by lightning;
Irish hags, Spanish grandees, shipwrecks, caverns, Donna Claras and
Donna Isidoras, all opposed to each other in glaring and violent
contrast, and all their adventures narrated with the same undeviating
display of turgid, vehement, and painfully elaborated language. Such are
the materials, and the style of this expanded nightmare: And as we can
plainly perceive, among a certain class of writers, a disposition to
haunt us with similar apparitions, and to describe them with a
corresponding tumor of words, we conceive it high time to step forward
and abate a nuisance which threatens to become a besetting evil, unless
checked in its outset.

Political changes were not the sole cause of the rapid degeneracy in
letters that followed the Augustan era of Rome. Similar corruptions and
decay have succeeded to the intellectual eminence of other nations; and
we might be almost led to conclude, that mental as well as physical
power, after attaining a certain perfection, became weakened by
expansion, and sunk into a state of comparative imbecility, until time
and circumstance gave it a new progressive impetus. One great cause of
this deterioration is the insatiable thirst for novelty, which, becoming
weary even of excellence, will "sate itself in a celestial bed, and prey
on garbage." In the torpidity produced by an utter exhaustion of sensual
enjoyment, the Arreoi Club of Otaheite is recorded to have found a
miserable excitement, by swallowing the most revolting filth; and the
jaded intellectual appetites of more civilized communities will
sometimes seek a new stimulus in changes almost as startling. Some
adventurous writer, unable to obtain distinction among a host of
competitors, all better qualified than himself to win legitimate
applause, strikes out a fantastic or monstrous innovation; and arrests
the attention of many who would fall asleep over monotonous excellence.
Imitators are soon found;--fashion adopts the new folly;--the old
standard of perfection is deemed stale and obsolete;--and thus, by
degrees, the whole literature of a country becomes changed and
deteriorated. It appears to us, that we are now labouring in a crisis of
this nature. In our last Number, we noticed the revolution in our
poetry; the transition from the lucid terseness and exquisite polish of
Pope and Goldsmith, to the rambling, diffuse, irregular, and imaginative
style of composition by which the present era is characterized; and we
might have added, that a change equally complete, though diametrically
opposite in its tendency, has been silently introduced into our prose.
In this we have oscillated from freedom to restraint;--from the easy,
natural, and colloquial style of Swift, Addison and Steele, to the
perpetually strained, ambitious, and overwrought stiffness, of which the
author we are now considering affords a striking exemplification. "He's
knight o' the shire, and represents them all." There is not the smallest
keeping in his composition:--less solicitous what he shall say, than how
he shall say it, he exhausts himself in a continual struggle to produce
effect by dazzling, terrifying, or surprising. Annibal Caracci was
accused of an affectation of muscularity, and an undue parade of
anatomical knowledge, even upon quiescent figures: But the artist whom
we are now considering has no quiescent figures:--even his repose is a
state of rigid tension, if not extravagant distortion. He is the Fuseli
of novelists. Does he deem it necessary to be energetic, he forthwith
begins foaming at the mouth, and falling into convulsions; and this
orgasm is so often repeated, and upon such inadequate occasions, that we
are perpetually reminded of the tremendous puerilities of the Della
Cruscan versifiers, or the ludicrous grand eloquence of the Spaniard,
who tore a certain portion of his attire, "as if heaven and earth were
coming together." In straining to reach the sublime, he perpetually
takes that single unfortunate step which conducts him to the ridiculous
--a failure which, in a less gifted author, might afford a wicked
amusement to the critic, but which, when united with such undoubted
genius as the present work exhibits, must excite a sincere and painful
regret in every admirer of talent.

Whatever be the cause, the fact, we think, cannot be disputed, that a
peculiar tendency to this gaudy and ornate style, exists among the
writers of Ireland. Their genius runs riot in the wantonness of its own
uncontrolled exuberance;--their imagination, disdaining the restraint of
judgment, imparts to their literature the characteristics of a nation in
one of the earlier stages of civilization and refinement. The florid
imagery, gorgeous diction, and Oriental hyperboles, which possess a sort
of wild propriety in the vehement sallies of Antar the Bedoween
chieftain of the twelfth century, become cold extravagance and
floundering fustian in the mouth of a barrister of the present age; and
we question whether any but a native of the sister island would have
ventured upon the experiment of their adoption. Even in the productions
of Mr. Moore, the sweetest lyric poet of this or perhaps any age, this
national peculiarity is not infrequently perceptible; and we were
compelled, in our review of his Lalla Rookh, a subject which justified
the introduction of much Eastern splendour and elaboration, to point out
the excessive finery, the incessant sparkle and efflorescence by which
the attention of the reader was fatigued, and his senses overcome. He
rouged his roses, and poured perfume upon his jessamines, until we
fainted under the oppression of beauty and odour, and were ready to "die
of a rose in aromatic pain."

Dryden, in alluding to the metaphysical poets, exclaims "rather than all
things wit, let none be there":--though we would not literally adopt
this dictum, we can safely confirm the truth of the succeeding lines--

  Men doubt, because so thick they lie,
  If those be stars that paint the Galaxy:--

And we scruple not to avow, whatever contempt may be expressed for our
taste by the advocates of the toiling and turgid style, both in and out
of Ireland, that the prose works which we have lately perused with the
greatest pleasure, so far as their composition was concerned, have been
Belzoni's Travels, and Salame's Account of the Attack upon Algiers.
Unable, from their insufficient mastery of our tongue, to rival the
native manufacture of stiff and laborious verbosity, these foreigners
have contented themselves with the plainest and most colloquial language
that was consistent with a clear exposition of their meaning;--a
practice to which Swift was indebted for the lucid and perspicuous
character of his writings, and which alone has enabled a great living
purveyor of "twopenny trash" to retain a certain portion of popularity,
in spite of his utter abandonment of all consistency and public
principle. If the writers to whom we are alluding will not condescend to
this unstudied and familiar mode of communing with the public, let them
at least have the art to conceal their art, and not obtrude the
conviction that they are more anxious to display themselves than inform
their readers; and let them, above all things, consent to be
intelligible to the plainest capacity; for though speech, according to
the averment of a wily Frenchman, was given to us to conceal our
thoughts, no one has yet ventured to extend the same mystifying
definition to the art of writing ...

After this, let us no longer smile at the furious hyperboles of Della
Crusca upon Mrs. Robinson's eyes. In the same strain we are told of a
convent whose "walls sweat, and its floors quiver," when a contumacious
brother treads them;--and when the parents of the same personage are
torn from his room by the Director of the convent, we are informed that
"the rushing of their robes as he dragged them out, seemed like the
whirlwind that attends the presence of the destroying angel." In a
similar spirit, of pushing every thing to extremes when he means to be
impressive, the author is sometimes offensively minute; as when he makes
the aforesaid persecuted monk declare, that "the cook had learned the
secret of the convent (that of tormenting those whom they had no longer
hopes of commanding), and mixed the fragments he threw to me with ashes,
hair, and dust;"--and sometimes the extravagance of his phrases becomes
simply ludicrous. Two persons are trying to turn a key--"It grated,
resisted; the lock seemed invincible. Again we tried with cranched
teeth, indrawn breath, and fingers stripped almost to the bone--in
vain." And yet, after they had almost stripped their fingers to the
bone, they succeed in turning that which they could not move when their
hands were entire.

We have said that Mr. Maturin had contrived to render his work as
objectionable in the matter as in the manner; and we proceed to the
confirmation of our assertion. We do not arraign him solely for the
occasional indecorousness of his conceptions, or the more offensive tone
of some of his colloquies, attempted to be palliated by the flimsy plea,
that they are, appropriate in the mouths that utter them. Dr. Johnson,
as a proof of the total suppression of the reasoning faculty in dreams,
used to cite one of his own, wherein he imagined himself to be holding
an argument with an adversary, whose superior powers filled him with a
mortification which a moment's reflection would have dissipated, by
reminding him that he himself supplied the repartees of his opponent as
well as his own. In his waking dreams, Mr. Maturin is equally the parent
of all the parties who figure in his Romance; and, though not personally
responsible for their sentiments, he is amenable to the bar of criticism
for every phrase or thought which transgresses the bounds of decorum, or
violates the laws that regulate the habitual intercourse of polished
society. It is no defence to say, that profane or gross language is
natural to the characters whom he embodies. Why does he select such? It
may be proper in them; but what can make it proper to us? There are
wretches who never open their lips but to blaspheme; but would any
author think himself justified in filling his page with their
abominations? It betrays a lamentable deficiency of tact and judgment,
to imagine, as the author of Melmoth appears to do, that he may seize
upon nature in her most unhallowed or disgusting moods, and dangle her
in the eyes of a decorous and civilized community. We shall not stop to
stigmatize, as it deserves, the wild and flagrant calumnies which he
insinuates against three-fourths of his countrymen, by raking in the
long-forgotten rubbish of Popery for extinct enormities, which he
exaggerates as the inevitable result, rather than the casual abuse of
the system, and brands with an intolerant zeal, quite as uncharitable as
that which he condemns. These faults are either so peculiar to the
individual, or in their nature so obviously indefensible, as to repel
rather than invite imitation. But there is another peculiarity in the
productions of this gentleman which claims a more detailed notice,
because it seems likely to have extensive effects in corrupting others:
--we mean his taste for horrible and revolting subjects. We thought we
had supped full of this commodity; but it seems as if the most ghastly
and disgusting portion of the meal was reserved for the present day, and
its most hideous concoction for the writer before us,--who is never so
much in his favourite element as when he can "on horror's head horrors
accumulate." He assimilates the sluggish sympathies of his readers to
those of sailors and vulgar ballad readers, who cannot be excited to an
interest in the battle of the Arethusa, unless they learn that "her
sails smoaked with brains, and her scuppers ran blood;"--a line which
threatens him with formidable competitors from before the mast. Mere
physical horror, unalleviated by an intense mental interest, or
redeeming charities of the heart, may possess a certain air of
originality, not from the want of ability in former writers to delineate
such scenes, but from then-deference to the "_multaque tolles ex
oculis_" of Horace; from the conviction of their utter unfitness for
public exhibition. There is, however, a numerous class of inferior
caterers to the public, ready to minister to any appetite, however foul
and depraved, if they be once furnished with a precedent; and we foresee
an inundation of blood and abomination if they be not awed or ridiculed
into silence. We have quietly submitted to these inflictions from two or
three distinguished writers, whose talents may extenuate, though they
cannot justify, such outrages upon feeling. When regular artists and
professors conduct us into their dissecting room, the skill with which
they anatomise may reconcile us to the offensiveness of the operation;
but if butchers and resurrection-men are to drag us into their shambles,
while they mangle human carcases with their clumsy and unhallowed hands,
the stoutest spectators must turn from the exhibition with sickness and
disgust.

Were any proof wanting that this Golgotha style of writing is likely to
become contagious, and to be pushed to a more harrowing extravagance at
each successive imitation, Mr. Maturin would himself supply it....

We have omitted this miscreant's flippant allusion to Madame de Sevigné
and his own damnation, uttered in a spirit which (to use the author's
own words upon another occasion), "mingled ridicule with horror, and
seemed like a Harlequin in the infernal regions flirting with the
furies:"--But we must not forget to mention, as little characteristic
touches in this scene of preposterous horrors, that the monster who
describes it was also a parricide, and that the female, on whose dying
agonies he had feasted, was his only sister! After this appalling
extract, we need not pursue our quotations from pages which, as more
than one of the personages say of themselves, seem to swim in blood and
fire; and we shall conclude with the following passage from a dream--

  The next moment I was chained to my chair again,--the fires were lit,
  the bells rang out, the litanies were sung;--my feet were scorched to
  a cinder,--my muscles cracked, my blood and marrow hissed, my flesh
  consumed like shrinking leather,--the bones of my leg hung two black
  withering and moveless sticks in the ascending blaze;--it ascended,
  caught my hair,--I was crowned with fire,--my head was a ball of
  molten metal, my eyes flashed and melted in their sockets:--I opened
  my mouth, it drank fire,--I closed it, the fire was within,--and still
  the bells rang on, and the crowd shouted, and the king and queen, and
  all the nobility and priesthood looked on, and we burned and burned! I
  was a cinder, body and soul, in my dream. II. 301.

These, and other scenes equally wild and abominable, luckily counteract
themselves;--they present such a Fee-fa-fum for grown up people, such a
burlesque upon tragic horrors, that a sense of the ludicrous
irresistibly predominates over the terrific; and, to avoid disgust, our
feelings gladly take refuge in contemptuous laughter. Pathos like this
may affect women, and people of weak nerves, with sickness at the
stomach;--it may move those of stouter fibre to scornful derision; but
we doubt whether, in the whole extensive circle of novel readers, it has
ever drawn a single tear. The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity
has fortunately cleared our streets of the offensive vagrants who used
to thrust their mangled limbs and putrid sores into our faces to extort
from our disgust what they could not wring from our compassion:--Be it
_our_ care to suppress those greater nuisances who, infesting the high
ways of literature, would attempt, by a still more revolting exhibition,
to terrify or nauseate us out of those sympathies which they might not
have the power to awaken by any legitimate appeal.

Let it not be imagined, from any thing we have now said, that we think
meanly of Mr. Maturin's genius and abilities. It is precisely because we
hold both in respect that we are sincerely anxious to point out their
misapplication; and we have extended our observations to a greater
length than we contemplated, partly because we fear that his strong
though unregulated imagination, and unlimited command of glowing
language, may inflict upon us a herd of imitators who, "possessing the
contortions of the Sybil without her inspiration," will deluge us with
dull, turgid, and disgusting enormities;--and partly because we are not
without hopes that our animadversions, offered in a spirit of sincerity,
may induce the Author himself to abandon this new Apotheosis of the old
Raw-head-and-bloody-bones, and assume a station in literature more
consonant to his high endowments, and to that sacred profession to
which, we understand, he does honour by the virtues of his private life.



THE QUARTERLY REVIEW


If Macaulay represents a new _Edinburgh_ from the days of Jeffrey,
Brougham, and Sydney Smith, the variety of criticism embraced by the
_Quarterly_ is even more startling. There was more malice, and far
coarser personalities in the early days, and almost continuously while
Gifford, Croker, and Lockhart held the reins: it is--almost certainly--
among these three that the responsibility for our "anonymous" group of
onslaughts may be distributed. The two earliest appreciations of Jane
Austen (from Scott and Whately) offer an interlude--actually in the same
period--which positively startles us by the honesty of its attempt at
fair criticism and the entire freedom from personality.

Gladstone's interesting recognition of Tennyson, and the "Church in
Arms" against Darwin (so ably pleaded by Wilberforce), belong to yet
another school of criticism which comes much nearer to our day, though
retaining the solemnity, the prolixity, and the _ex cathedra_ assumption
of authority with which all the Reviews began their career; and is
singularly cautious in its independence.


WILLIAM GIFFORD

(1757-1826)

Gifford was the editor of the _Quarterly_ from its foundation in
February, 1809, until September, 1824, and undoubtedly established its
reputation for scurrility. It is probable that more reviews were
written, or directly inspired, by him than have been actually traced to
his pen; and, in any case, as Leigh Hunt puts it, he made it his
business to

                             See that others
  Misdeem and miscontrue, like miscreant brothers;
  Misquote, and misplace, and mislead, and misstate,
  Misapply, misinterpret, misreckon, misdate,
  Missinform, misconjecture, misargue, in short
  Miss all that is good, that ye miss not the court.

Gifford was hated even more than his associates; not only, we fear, for
his venal sycophancy, but because he had been apprenticed to a shoemaker
and never concealed the lowness of his origin. Moreover, "the little
man, dumpled up together and so ill-made as to seem almost deformed,"
received from Fortune--

  One eye not overgood,
  Two sides that to their cost have stood
  A ten years' hectic cough,
  Aches, stitches, all the various ills
  That swell the devilish doctor's bills,
  And sweep poor mortals off.

Scott is almost alone in his generosity towards the learning and
industry of an editor who helped to make infamous the title of critic.
His original poems (_The Baviad_ and _The Moeviad_) have a certain
sledge-hammer merit; and he did yeoman service by suppressing the _Della
Cruscans_.

It was Gifford also "who did the butchering business in the
Anti-Jacobin." He was far heavier, in bludgeoning, than Jeffrey; while
Hazlitt epitomized his principles of criticism with his accustomed
vigour:--"He believes that modern literature should wear the fetters of
classical antiquity; that truth is to be weighed in the scales of
opinion and prejudice; that power is equivalent to right; that genius is
dependent on rules; that taste and refinement of language consist in
_word-catching_."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gifford's review of _Ford's Weber_ is, perhaps, no more than can be
expected of the man who had edited _Massinger_ six years before he wrote
it; and produced a _Ben Jonson_ in 1816 and a _Ford_ in 1827. Of these
works Thomas Moore exclaimed "What a canker'd carle it is! Strange that
a man should be able to lash himself up into such a spiteful fury, not
only against the living but the dead, with whom he engages in a sort of
_sciomachy_ in every page. Poor dull and dead Malone is the shadow at
which he thrusts his 'Jonson,' as he did at poor Monck Mason, still
duller and deader, in his _Massinger_." Mr. A.H. Bullen, again, remarks
of his Ford, "Gifford was so intent on denouncing the inaccuracy of
others that he frequently failed to secure accuracy himself.... In
reading the old dramatists we do not want to be distracted by editorial
invectives and diatribes."

The review of _Endymion_ called forth Byron's famous apostrophe to--

  John Keats, who was killed off by one critique
  Just as he really promised something great,
  If not intelligible, without Greek
    Contrived to talk about the gods of late
  Much as they might have been supposed to speak.
    Poor fellow! his was an untoward fate;
  'Tis strange the mind, that very fiery particle,
    Should let itself be snuff'd out by one article.

It is but just to say, however, that the _Blackwood_ review of the same
poem, printed below, was scarcely less virulent; and later critics have
scouted the notion of the poet not having more strength of mind than he
is credited with by Byron. It is strange to notice that De Quincey found
in _Endymion_ "the very midsummer madness of affectation, of false
vapoury sentiment, and of fantastic effeminacy"; while one is ashamed
for the timidity of the publisher who chose to return all unsold copies
to George Keats because of "the ridicule which has, time after time,
been showered upon it."


JOHN WILSON CROKER

(1780-1857)

Croker was certainly unfortunate in his enemies, though they have given
him immortality. The contemptible Rigby in Disraeli's _Coningsby_
(admittedly drawn from him) is scarcely more damaging to his reputation
than the sound, if prejudiced, onslaught of Macaulay's review, of which
we find echoes, after twelve years, in the same essayist's Madame
D'Arblay. Dr. Hill tells us that he "added considerably to our knowledge
of Johnson," yet he was a thoroughly bad editor and had no real sympathy
with either the subject or the author of that incomparable "Life":
through his essentially low mind. He was not a scholar, and he was
inaccurate.

Croker was intimately associated with the _Quarterly_ from its
foundation until 1857, retaining his bitterness and spite to the year of
his death. But he was a born fighter, and never happier than in the heat
of controversy. That he secured the friendship of Scott, Peel, and
Wellington must go to prove that his political, and literary prejudices,
had not destroyed altogether his private character. He is credited with
being the first writer to use the word "conservatives" in the
_Quarterly_, January, 1830. He was a member of the Irish Bar, M.P. for
Dublin, Acting Chief Secretary for Ireland, Secretary of the Admiralty
(where his best work was accomplished), and a Privy Councillor.

       *       *       *       *       *

The veiled sarcasm of his attack on _Sydney Smith_ was only to be
expected from a Tory reviewer, and was probably inflamed by that heated
loyalty to the Church which characterised his paper.

_Macaulay_ had certainly provoked his retaliation, and we
may notice here the same eager partisanship of Church and
State, pervading even his personal malice.


JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART

(1794-1854)

It is to be regretted that Lockhart, who is so honourably remembered by
his great _Life of Scott_, his "fine and animated translation" of
Spanish Ballads, and his neglected--but powerful--_Adam Blair_, should
be so intimately associated with the black record of the _Quarterly_. He
was also a contributor to _Blackwood_ from October, 1817, succeeding
Gifford in the editorial chair of Mr. Murray's Review in 1825 until
1853.

But Lockhart was "more than a satirist and a snarler." His polished
jibes were more mischievous than brutal. "This reticent, sensitive,
attractive, yet dangerous youth ... slew his victims mostly by the
midnight oil, not by any blaze of gaiety, or in the accumulative fervour
of social sarcasm. From him came most of those sharp things which the
victims could not forget.... Lockhart put in his sting in a moment,
inveterate, instantaneous, with the effect of a barbed dart, yet almost,
as it seemed, with the mere intention of giving point to his sentences,
and no particular feeling at all."

Carlyle describes him as "a precise, brief, active person of
considerable faculty, which however, had shaped itself _gigmanically_
only. Fond of quizzing, yet not _very_ maliciously. Has a broad, black
brow, indicating force and penetration, but the lower half of the face
diminishing into the character at best of distinctness, almost of
triviality."

       *       *       *       *       *

There is certainly a good deal of perversity about the _abuse_ of
Vathek, so startlingly combined with almost immoderate eulogy: to which
the discriminating enthusiasm of his Coleridge affords a pleasing
contrast.

It should be noticed that Lockhart has also been credited with the
bitter critical part of the _Jane Eyre_ review, printed below--of which
any man ought to have been ashamed--as Miss Rigby (afterwards Lady
Eastlake) is believed to have written "the part about the governess." He
probably had a hand in the Blackwood series on "The Cockney School of
Poetry" (see below); and, in some ways, those reviews are more
characteristic.



SIR WALTER SCOTT

(1771-1832)

It would be out of place here to enter upon any biography or criticism
of the author of _Waverley_, or for that matter of Jane Austen. It is
sufficient to notice that Scott has found something generous to say (in
diaries, letters, or formal criticism) on every writer he had occasion
to mention, and that in his somewhat neglected, but frequently quoted,
_Lives of the Novelists_, a striking pre-eminence was given to women;
particularly Mrs. Radcliffe and Clara Reeve. Indeed, the essay on Mrs.
Radcliffe, a "very novel and rather heretical revelation" is "probably
the best in the whole set."

We remember, too, the famous passage in his _General Preface to the
Waverley Novels_:--"without being so presumptuous as to hope to emulate
the rich humour, pathetic tenderness and admirable tact of my
accomplished friend, I felt that something might be attempted for my own
country, of the same kind with that which Miss Edgeworth so fortunately
achieved for Ireland";--an ambition of which the modesty only equals the
success achieved.

In "appreciating" Jane Austen, indeed, Scott is far more cautious, if
not apologetic, than any critic of to-day would dream of being; but,
when we remember the prejudices then existing against women writers
(despite the popularity of Madame D'Arblay) and the well-nigh universal
neglect accorded the author of _Pride and Prejudice_, we should perhaps
rather marvel at the independent sincerity of his pronounced praise. The
article, at any rate, has historic significance, as the first serious
recognition of her immortal work.


RICHARD WHATELY

(1787-1863)

The "dogmatical and crotchety" Archbishop of Dublin was looked at
askance by the extreme Evangelicals of his day (though Thomas Arnold has
eulogised his holiness), and there is no doubt that his theology,
however able and sincere, was mainly inspired by the "daylight of
ordinary reason and of historical fact," opposed to the dogmas of
tradition. He combated sceptical criticism by an ingenious parody
entitled "Historical Doubts relative to Napoleon Buonaparte," and his
epigram on the majority of preachers--that "they aim at nothing and they
hit it," proves his freedom from any touch of sacerdotalism. His
"Rhetoric," his "Logic," and his "Political Economy" were praised by so
eminent a judge as John Stuart Mill, though criticised by Hamilton; and
Lecky remarks on the "admirable lucidity of his style."

His work, however, was as a whole too fragmentary to become standard,
and he regarded it himself as "the mission of his life to make up
cartridges for others to fire."

       *       *       *       *       *

We may notice that in writing of _Jane Austen_, only six years after
Scott, though still measured and judicial, he permits himself a much
more assured attitude of applause; and the article affords most valuable
indication of the steady progress by which her masterpieces achieved the
supremacy now acknowledged by all.


WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE

(1809-1898)

It would be no less impertinent, and unnecessary, to dwell in these
pages upon the political, or literary, work of the greatest of modern
premiers. It is sufficient to recall the certainty which used to follow
a notice by Gladstone of a large and immediate rise in sales. Mr. John
Morley remarking that Gladstone's "place is not in literary or critical
history, but elsewhere," reminds us that his style was sometimes called
Johnsonian, though without good ground.... Some critics charged him in
1840 with "prolix clearness." "The old charge," says Mr. Gladstone upon
this, was obscure compression. I do not doubt that both may be true, and
the former may have been the result of a well-meant effort to escape
from the latter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Morley, again, selects the essay on Tennyson for especial praise.
Though one is apt to forget it, the Laureate did not meet with anything
like immediate recognition; and, though coming twenty-eight years after
the appreciation by J.S. Mill, this article does not assume the
supremacy afterwards accorded the poet by common consent.


SAMUEL WILBERFORCE

(1805-1873)

"One of the most conspicuous and remarkable figures" of his generation
the versatile Bishop of Oxford is said to have come "next to Gladstone
as a man of inexhaustible powers of work." Known from his Oxford days as
Soapy Sam, he was involved through no fault of his own, in some of the
odium attached to the "Essays and Reviews" and "Colenso" cases: his
private life was embittered by the secession to Rome of his two
brothers, his brother-in-law, his only daughter, and his son-in-law. "He
was an unwearied ecclesiastical politician, always involved in
discussions and controversies, sometimes, it was thought, in intrigues;
without whom nothing was done in convocation, nor, where Church
interests were involved, in the House of Lords." The energy with which
he governed his diocese for twenty-four years earned for him the title
of "Romodeller [Transcriber's note: sic] of the Episcopate."

       *       *       *       *       *

The attempt, by a man whose "relaxations" were botany and ornithology,
but who had no claims to be called an expert, to defeat Darwin on his
own ground--and the dignified horror of a Churchman at some deductions
from evolution--is eminently characteristic of the period.

The earnest criticism of Newman's conversion to Rome concerns one of the
most striking events of his generation, and illustrates the "church"
attitude on such questions.


ANONYMOUS

We have hinted already that the responsibility for this group of
ill-mannered recriminations may probably be distributed between Gifford,
Croker, and Lockhart. It is curious to notice that the second attack on
Scott appeared after his admission to the ranks of contributors; and the
author of _Waverley_ is perhaps the one man said to have friends both on
the _Edinburgh_ and the _Quarterly_. That on Leigh Hunt, always the pet
topic of Toryism, from whom he certainly provoked some retaliation, is
only paralleled in _Blackwood_. We have included the _Shakespeare_ and
the _Moxon_ as attractively brief samples on the approved model of
savage banter, and the _Jane Eyre_ as perhaps the most flagrant example
of bad taste to be found in these merciless pages. It was George Henry
Lewis, by the way, who so much offended Charlotte Brontë by the
greeting, "There ought to be a bond between us, for we have both written
naughty books."

It is interesting to find Thackeray among those it was permitted to
praise: though the "moral" objection to his "realism" reveals a strange
attitude.

We may notice, with some surprise, that the attitude towards George
Eliot is nearly as hostile as towards Charlotte Brontë.



GIFFORD ON WEBER'S "FORD"

[From _The Quarterly Review_, December, 1811]


... When it is determined to reprint the writings of an ancient author,
it is usual, we believe, to bestow a little labour in gratifying the
natural desire of the reader to know something of his domestic
circumstances. Ford had declared in the title-pages of his several
plays, that he was of the Inner Temple; and, from his entry there, Mr.
Malone, following up the inquiry, discovered that he was the second son
of Thomas Ford, Esq., and that he was baptized at Ilsington, in
Devonshire, the 17th of April, 1586. To this information Mr. Weber has
added nothing; and he hopes that the meagreness of his biographical
account will be readily excused by the reader who has examined the lives
of his (Ford's) dramatical contemporaries, in which we are continually
"led to lament that our knowledge respecting them amounts to little
better than nothing." It would surely be unjust to appear dissatisfied
at the imperfect account of an ancient author, when all the sources of
information have been industriously explored. But, in the present case,
we doubt whether Mr. Weber can safely "lay this flattering unction to
his soul"; and we shall therefore give such a sketch of the poet's life,
as an attentive examination of his writings has enabled us to
compile....

Reversing the observation of Dryden on Shakespeare, it may be said of
Ford that "he wrote laboriously, not luckily": always elegant, often
elevated, never sublime, he accomplished by patient and careful industry
what Shakespeare and Fletcher produced by the spontaneous exuberance of
native genius. He seems to have acquired early in life, and to have
retained to the last a softness of versification peculiar to himself.
Without the majestic march of verse which distinguishes the poetry of
Massinger, and with none of that playful gaiety which characterises the
dialogue of Fletcher, he is still easy and harmonious. There is,
however, a monotony in his poetry, which those who have perused his
scenes long together must have inevitably perceived. His dialogue is
declamatory and formal, and wants that quick chace of replication and
rejoinder so necessary to effect in representation. If we could put out
of our remembrance the singular merits of "The Lady's Trial," we should
consider the genius of Ford as altogether inclined to tragedy; and even
there so large a proportion of the pathetic pervades the drama, that it
requires the "humours" of Guzman and Fulgoso, in addition to a happy
catastrophe, to warrant the name of comedy. In the plots of his
tragedies Ford is far from judicious; they are for the most part too
full of the horrible, and he seems to have had recourse to an
accumulation of terrific incidents, to obtain that effect which he
despairs of producing by pathos of language. Another defect in Ford's
poetry, proceeding from the same source, is the alloy of pedantry which
pervades his scenes, at one time exhibited in the composition of uncouth
phrases, at another in perplexity of language; and he frequently labours
with a remote idea, which, rather than throw it away, he obtrudes upon
his reader, involved in inextricable obscurity. We cannot agree with the
editor in praising his delineation of the female character: less than
women in their passions, they are more than masculine in their exploits
and sufferings; but, excepting Spinella in "The Lady's Trial," and
perhaps Penthea, we do not remember in Ford's plays, any example of that
meekness and modesty which compose the charm of the female character....

Mr. Weber is known to the admirers of our antient literature by two
publications which, although they may not be deemed of great importance
in themselves, have yet a fair claim to notice. We speak of the battle
of Flodden Field, and the Romances of the fourteenth century: which, as
far as we have looked into them, appear very creditable to his industry
and accuracy: his good genius, we sincerely regret to say, appears in a
great measure to have forsaken him from the moment that he entered upon
the task of editing a dramatic poet.

In the mechanical construction of his work Mr. Weber has followed the
last edition of Massinger, with a servility which appears, in his mind,
to have obviated all necessity of acknowledging the obligation: we will
not stop to enquire whether he might not have found a better model; but
proceed to the body of the work. As we feel a warm interest in
everything which regards our ancient literature, on the sober
cultivation of which the purity, copiousness, and even harmony of the
English language must, in no small degree, depend, we shall notice some
of the peculiarities of the volumes before us, in the earnest hope that
while we relieve Ford from a few of the errors and misrepresentations
with which he is here encumbered, we may convince Mr. Weber that
something more is necessary to a faithful editor than the copying of
printers' blunders, and to a judicious commentator, than a blind
confidence in the notes of every collection of old plays.

Mr. Weber's attempts at explanation (for explanations it seems, there
must be) are sometimes sufficiently humble. "Carriage," he tells us, "is
behaviour." It is so; we remember it in our spelling-book, among the
words of three syllables, we have therefore no doubt of it. But you must
have, rejoins the editor; and accordingly, in every third or fourth
page, he persists in affirming that "carriage is behaviour." In the same
strain of thankless kindness, he assures us that "fond is foolish,"
"but, except," "content, contentment," and _vice versa_, "period
[Transcriber's note: 'peroid' in original], end," "demur, delay," "ever,
always," "sudden, quickly," "quick, suddenly," and so on through a long
vocabulary of words of which a girl of six years old would blush to ask
the meaning....

The confidence which Mr. Weber reposes in Steevens, not only on one but
on every occasion, is quite exemplary: the name alone operates as a
charm, and supersedes all necessity of examining into the truth of his
assertions; and he gently reminds those who occasionally venture to
question it, that "they are ignorant and superficial critics." Vol. ii,
p. 256.--"I have seen Summer go up and down with _hot codlings!_ Mr.
Steevens observes that a codling _antiently_ meant an immature apple,
and the present passage _plainly_ proves it, as none but immature apples
could be had in summer," all this wisdom is thrown away. We can assure
Mr. Weber, on the authority of Ford himself, that "hot codlings" are
_not_ apples, either mature or immature. Steevens is a dangerous guide
for such as do not look well about them. His errors are specious: for he
was a man of ingenuity: but he was often wantonly mischievous, and
delighted to stumble for the mere gratification of dragging unsuspecting
innocents into the mire with him. He was, in short, the very Puck of
commentators....

No writer, in our remembrance, meets with so many "singular words" as
the present editor. He conjectures, however, that _unvamp'd_ means
_disclosed_. It means not stale, not patched up. We should have supposed
it impossible to miss the sense of so trite an expression.... Mr.
Weber's acquaintance with our dramatic writers extends, as the reader
must have observed, very little beyond the indexes of Steevens and Reed.
If he cannot find the word of which he is in quest, in them, he sets it
down as an uncommon expression, or a coinage of his author....

These inadvertences, and many others which might be noticed, being
chiefly confined to the notes, do not, perhaps, detract much from the
value of the text: we now turn to some of a different kind, which bear
hard on the editor, and prove that his want of knowledge is not
compensated by any extraordinary degree of attention. It is not
sufficient for Mr. Weber to say that many of the errors which we shall
point out are found in the old copy. It was his duty to reform them. A
facsimile of blunders no one requires. Modern editions of our old poets
are purchased upon the faith of a corrected text: this is their only
claim to notice; and, if defective here, they become at once little
better than waste-paper....

There is something extremely capricious in Mr. Weber's mode of
proceeding: words are tampered with which are necessary to the right
understanding of the text, while others, which reduce it to absolute
jargon, are left unmolested....

We might carry this part of our examination to an immense extent; but we
forbear. Enough, and more than enough, is done to show that a strict
revision of the text is indispensible; and, if it should fall to the lot
of the present editor to undertake it, we trust that he will evince
somewhat more care than he manifests in the conclusion of the work
before us. It will scarcely be credited that Mr. Weber should travel
through such a volume as we have just passed, in quest of errata, and
find only one. "Vol. ii (he says), p. 321, line 12, for satiromastrix
read satiromastix!"

We could be well content to rest here; but we have a more serious charge
to bring against the editor, than the omission of points, or the
misapprehension of words. He has polluted his pages with the blasphemies
of a poor maniac, who, it seems, once published some detached scenes of
the "Broken Heart." For this unfortunate creature, every feeling mind
will find an apology in his calamitous situation; but--for Mr. Weber, we
know not where the warmest of his friends will seek either palliation or
excuse.



ON KEATS


[From _The Quarterly Review_, April, 1818]

Reviewers have sometimes been accused of not reading the works which
they affected to criticise. On the present occasion we shall anticipate
the author's complaint, and honestly confess that we have not read his
work. Not that we have been wanting in our duty--far from it--indeed, we
have made efforts almost as superhuman as the story itself appears to
be, to get through it; but with the fullest stretch of our perseverence,
we are forced to confess that we have not been able to struggle beyond
the first of the four books[1] of which this Poetic Romance consists. We
should extremely lament this want of energy, or whatever it may be, on
our parts, were it not for one consolation--namely, that we are no
better acquainted with the meaning of that book through which we have so
painfully toiled than we are with that of the three which we have not
looked into.

[1] _Endymion: A Poetic Romance_. By John Keats. London, 1818.

It is not that Mr. Keats (if that be his real name, for we almost doubt
that any man in his senses would put his real name to such a rhapsody)
it is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of
fancy, and gleams of genius--he has all these; but he is unhappily a
disciple of the new school of what has been somewhere called Cockney
poetry; which may be defined to consist of the most incongruous ideas in
the most uncouth language.

Of this school Mr. Leigh Hunt, as we observed in a former number,
aspires to be the hierophant. Our readers will recollect the pleasant
recipes for harmonious and sublime poetry which he gave us in his
preface to _Rimini_, and the still more facetious instances of his
harmony and sublimity in the verses themselves; and they will recollect
above all the contempt of Pope, Johnson, and such like poetasters and
pseudo-critics, which so forcibly contrasted itself with Mr. Leigh
Hunt's approbation of

      --All the things itself had wrote,
  Of special merit though of little note.

The author is a copyist of Mr. Hunt, but he is more unintelligible,
almost as rugged, twice as diffuse, and ten times more tiresome and
absurd than his prototype, who, though he impudently presumed to seat
himself in the chair of criticism, and to measure his own poetry by his
own standard, yet generally had a meaning. But Mr. Keats had advanced no
dogmas which he was bound to support by examples, his nonsense therefore
is quite gratuitous; he writes it for its own sake, and being bitten by
Mr. Leigh Hunt's insane criticism, more than rivals the insanity of his
poetry.

Mr. Keats's preface hints that his poem was produced under peculiar
circumstances....

  The two first books, and indeed the two last, are not of such
  completion as to warrant their passing the press. p. vii.

Thus, "the two first books" are, even in his own judgment, unfit to
appear, and "the two last" are, it seems, in the same condition--and as
two and two make four, and as that is the whole number of books, we have
a clear and, we believe, a very just estimate of the entire work.

Mr. Keats, however, deprecates criticism on this "immature and feverish"
work in terms which are themselves sufficiently feverish; and we confess
that we should have abstained from inflicting upon him any of the
tortures of the "_fierce hell_" of criticism, which terrify his
imagination, if he had not begged to be spared in order that he might
write more; if we had not observed in him a certain degree of talent
which deserves to be put in the right way, or which, at least, ought to
be warned of the wrong; and if, finally, he had not told us that he is
of an age and temper which imperiously require mental discipline.

Of the story we have been able to make out but little; it seems to be
mythological, and probably relates to the loves of Diana and Endymion;
but of this, as the scope of the work has altogether escaped us, we
cannot speak with any degree of certainty: and must therefore content
ourselves with giving some instances of its diction and versification.--
And here again we are perplexed and puzzled.--At first it appeared to
us, that Mr. Keats had been amusing himself and wearying his readers
with an immeasurable game at _bouts rimés_; but, if we recollect
rightly, it is an indispensable condition at this play, that the rhymes
when filled up shall have a meaning; and our author, as we have already
hinted, has no meaning. He seems to us to write a line at random, and
then he follows not the thought excited by this line, but that suggested
by the _rhyme_ with which it concludes. There is hardly a complete
couplet inclosing a complete idea in the whole book. He wanders from one
subject to another, from the association, not of ideas, but of sounds,
and the work is composed of hemistichs which, it is quite evident, have
forced themselves upon the author by the mere force of the catchwords on
which they turn....

  Be still the unimaginable lodge
  For solitary thinkings; such as dodge
  Conception to the very bourne of heaven,
  Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,
  That spreading in this dull and clodded earth
  Gives it a touch ethereal--a new birth. p. 17.

_Lodge, dodge--heaven, leaven--earth, birth_; such, in six words, is the
sum and substance of six lines.

We come now to the author's taste in versification. He cannot indeed
write a sentence, but perhaps he may be able to spin a line. Let us see.
The following are specimens of his prosodial notions of our English
heroic metre.

  Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
  The passion poesy, glories infinite, p. 4.

  So plenteously all weed-hidden roots, p. 6.

... By this time our readers must be pretty well satisfied as to the
meaning of his sentences and the structures of his lines: we now present
them with some of the new words with which, in imitation of Mr. Leigh
Hunt, he adorns our language.

We are told that "turtles _passion_ their voices" (p. 15); that "an
arbour was _nested_" (p. 23); and a lady's locks "_gordian'd_" up (p.
32); and to supply the place of nouns thus verbalised Mr. Keats, with
great fecundity, spawns new ones; such as "men-slugs and human
_serpentry_" (p. 14); "_honey-feel_ of bliss" (p. 45); "wives prepare
_needments_" (p. 13)--and so forth.

Then he has formed new verbs by the process of cutting off their tails,
the adverbs, and affixing them to their foreheads; thus "the wine
out-sparkled" (p. 10); the "multitude up-follow'd" (p. 11); and "night
up-took" (p. 29). "The wind up-blows" (p. 32); and the "hours are
down-sunken" (p. 36).

But if he sinks some adverbs in the verbs he compensates the language
with adverbs and adjectives which he separates from the parent stock.
Thus, a lady "whispers _pantingly_ and close," makes "_hushing_ signs,"
and steers her skiff into a "_ripply_ cove" (p. 23); a shower falls
"_refreshfully_" (p. 45); and a vulture has a "_spreaded_ tail" (p. 44).

But enough of Mr. Leigh Hunt and his simple neophite.--If anyone should
be bold enough to purchase this "Poetic Romance," and so much more
patient than ourselves, as to get beyond the first book, and so much
more fortunate as to find a meaning, we entreat him to make us
acquainted with his success; we shall then return to the task which we
now abandon in despair, and endeavour to make all due amends to Mr.
Keats and to our readers.



CROKER ON SYDNEY SMITH


[From _The Quarterly Review_, February, 1810]

This sermon[1] is written on the characters and duties of the clergy.
Perhaps it would have produced more effect upon the Yorkshire divines
had it come from one who had lived longer among them, and of the
correspondence of whose life with his doctrines, they had better
opportunities of judging; one whom, from long experience, they knew to
be neither sullied by the little "affectations," nor "agitated by the
little vanities of the world," whose strict observance of "those
decencies and proprieties," which persons in their profession "owe to
their situation in society," they had remarked through a long course of
years. Whether the life of Mr. Smith would form an illustration of his
own precepts remains to be proved. But, if we rightly recollect dates,
he is still to his neighbours a sort of unknown person, and hardly yet
tried in his new situation of a parish priest. We therefore think, in
spite of all the apologies with which he has prefaced his advice, that a
more judicious topic might easily have been selected.

[1] A sermon preached before His Grace the Archbishop of York, and the
    clergy, at Malton, at the Visitation, Aug., 1809. By the Rev. Sydney
    Smith, A.M., Rector of Foston, in Yorkshire, and late Fellow of New
    College, Oxford. Carpenter, 1809.

In the execution of this sermon there is little to commend. As a system
of duties for any body of clergy, it is wretchedly deficient:--and
really, when we call to mind the rich, the full, the vigorous, eloquent,
and impassioned manner in which these duties are recommended and
inforced in the writings of our old divines, we are mortified beyond
measure at the absolute poverty, crudeness, and meanness of the present
attempt to mimic them. As a composition, it is very imperfect: it has
nearly the same merits, and rather more than the same defects, which
characterise his former publications. Mr. Smith never writes but in a
loose declamatory way. He is careless of connection, and not very
anxious about argument. His sole object is to produce an effect at the
moment, a strong first impression upon an audience, and if that can be
done he is very indifferent as to what may be the result of examination
and reflection....

If Mr. Smith is not only not a Socinian, but if in his heart he doubts
as to the least important point of the most abstruce and controverted
subject on which our articles have decided, if, in short, he is not one
of the most rigorously orthodox divines that exists, he has been guilty
of the grossest and most disgusting hypocrisy--he has pronounced in the
face of the public to which he appeals, and of the church to which he
belongs, in the most solemn manner, and on the most solemn subject, a
direct, intentional, and scandalous falsehood--he has acted in a way
utterly subversive of all confidence among men; and the greater part of
the wretches who retire from a course of justice degraded for perjury
rank higher in the scale of morality, than an educated man holding a
respectable place in society, who could thus trifle with the most sacred
obligations. He could be induced to this base action only by a base
motive, that of obviating any difficulties which a suspicion of his
holding opinions different from those avowed by the establishment, might
throw in the way of his preferment: and of rendering himself a possible
object of the bounty of "his worthy masters and mistresses," whenever
the golden days arrive, in which they shall again dispense the favours
of the crown. Such must be the case, if Mr. Smith is not sincere. There
is no alternative. Now this is scarcely to be believed of any gentleman
of tolerably fair character, still less of a teacher of morality and
religion, who holds forth in all his writings the most refined
sentiments of honour and disinterestedness.

The style of his profession of faith, however, partakes very much of the
most offensive peculiarities of his manner. It is abrupt and violent to
a degree which not only shocks good taste, but detracts considerably
from the appearance of sincerity. It seems as if he considered his creed
as a sort of nauseous medicine which could only be taken off at a
draught, and he looks round for applause at the heroic effort by which
he has drained the cup to its very dregs.

But the passage about the verse in St. John is yet more extraordinary.
Has Mr. Smith really gone through the controversy upon this subject? And
even if he has, is this the light way in which a man wholly unknown in
the learned world, is entitled to contradict the opinion of some of the
greatest scholars of Europe? We have, however, the mere word of the
facetious rector of Foston, opposite to the authority and the arguments
of a Porson and a Griesbach. It is at his command, unsupported by the
smallest attempt at reasoning, that we are to set aside the opinion of
men whose lives have been spent in the study of the Greek language, and
of biblical criticism, and which has been acquiesced in by many of the
most competent judges both here and abroad. Such audacity (to call it by
no coarser name) is in itself only calculated to excite laughter and
contempt: coupled as it is with a most unprovoked and unwarrantable
mention of the name of the Bishop of Lincoln, it excites indignation. We
feel no morbid sensibility for the character of a mitred divine: but we
cannot see a blow aimed at the head of one of the chiefs of the church,
a pious, learned, and laborious man, by the hand of ignorance and
presumption, without interposing, not to heal the wound, for no wound
has been made, but to chastise the assailant. The Bishop of Lincoln
gives up these verses, not carelessly, and unadvisedly, but doubtless
because he is persuaded that the cause of true Religion can never be so
much injured as by resting its defence upon passages liable to so much
suspicion; and because he knows, that the doctrine of the Trinity by no
means depends upon that particular passage, but may be satisfactorily
deduced from various other expressions, and from the general tenor of
holy writ. Indeed, if we were not prevented from harbouring any such
suspicion by Mr. Smith's flaming profession of the _iotal_ accuracy of
his creed; and if we could doubt the orthodoxy of the divine, without
impugning the honesty of the man, we should be inclined to suspect that
his defence of the verses proceeded from a concealed enemy. We are not
unaware that the question cannot even yet be regarded as finally and
incontrovertibly settled, but we apprehend the truth to be that Mr.
Smith, not having read one syllable upon the subject, but having
accidentally heard that there was a disputed verse in St. John relative
to the doctrine of the Trinity, and that it had been given up by the
Bishop of Lincoln, thought he could not do better than by one dash of
the pen, to show his knowledge of controversy, and the orthodoxy of his
belief, at the expense of that prelate's character for discretion and
zeal....

The next note is mere political, an ebullition of party rage, in which
Mr. Smith abuses the present ministry with great bitterness, talks of
"wickedness," "weakness," "ignorance," "temerity," after the usual
fashion of opposition pamphlets, and clamours loudly against what, with
an obstinacy of misrepresentation hardly to be credited, he persists in
terming the "persecuting laws" against the Roman Catholics.... He is
very anxious that his political friends should not desist from urging
the question--an act of tergiversation and unconsistency which, he
thinks, would ruin them in the estimation of the public. Yet, if we
mistake not, these gentlemen, at least that portion of them with which
Mr. Smith (as we are told) is most closely connected, gave up, without a
blush, India, Reform, and Peace, all of which they taught us to believe
were vital questions in which the honour or the security of the country
was involved. But Catholic emancipation has some peculiar
recommendations. It is odious to the people, and painful to the King,
and therefore it cannot be delayed, without an utter sacrifice of
character....

Now we are by no means so eager on Mr. Smith in what he would term the
cause of _religious freedom_. We belong to that vulgar school of timid
churchmen, to whom the elevation of a vast body of sectaries to a level
with the establishment, is a matter of very grave consideration, if not
of alarm. We think that something is due to the prejudices (supposing
them to be no more than prejudices) of nine-tenths of the people of
England; and we are even so childish (for which we crave Mr. Smith's
pardon) as to pay some regard to the feelings of the King, in whose
personal mortification, we fairly own, we should not take the smallest
pleasure....

We now take leave of the sermon and its notes. But, before we conclude,
we are desirous ... to convey to Mr. Smith a little salutary advice ...
to remind him that unmeasured severity of invective against others, will
naturally produce, at the first favourable opportunity, a retort of
similar harshness upon himself; and that unless he feels himself
completely invulnerable, the conduct which he has hitherto pursued, is
not only uncharitable and violent, but foolish. He should be told that,
although he possesses some talents, they are by no means, as he
supposes, of the first order. He writes in a tone of superiority which
would hardly be justifiable at the close of a long and successful
literary career. His acquirements are very moderate, though he wants
neither boldness nor dexterity in displaying them to the best advantage;
and he is far, very far indeed, from being endowed with that powerful,
disciplined, and comprehensive mind, which should entitle him to decide
authoritatively and at once upon the most difficult parts of subjects so
far removed from one another as biblical criticism and legislation. His
style is rapid and lively, but hasty and inaccurate; and he either
despises or is incapable of regular and finished composition.

Humour, indeed (we speak now generally, of all these performances which
have been ascribed to him by common consent), is his strong point; and
here he is often successful; but even from this praise many deductions
must be made. His jokes are broad and coarse; he is altogether a
mannerist, and never knows where to stop. The [Greek: _Paedenagan_]
seems quite unknown to him. His pleasantry does not proceed from keen
and well-supported irony; just, but unexpected comparisons; but depends,
for effect, chiefly upon strange polysyllabic epithets, and the endless
enumeration of minute circumstances. In this he, no doubt, displays
considerable ingenuity, and a strong sense of what is ludicrous; but his
good things are almost all prepared after one receipt. There is some
talent, but more trick, in their composition. The thing is well done,
but it is of a low order; we meet with nothing graceful, nothing
exquisite, nothing that pleases upon repetition and reflection. In
everything that Mr. Smith attempts, in all his "bravura" passages,
serious or comic, one is always shocked by some affectation or
absurdity; something in direct defiance of all those principles which
have been established by the authority of the best critics, and the
example of the best writers: indeed, bad taste seems to be Mr. Smith's
evil genius, both as to sentiment and expression. It is always hovering
near him, and, like one of the harpies, is sure to pounce down before
the end of the feast, and spoil the banquet, and disgust the guests.

The present publication is by far the worst of all his performances,
avowed or imputed. Literary merit it has none; but in arrogance,
presumption, and absurdity, it far outdoes all his former outdoings.
Indeed, we regard it as one of the most deplorable mistakes that has
ever been committed by a man of supposed talents....



ON MACAULAY


[From _The Quarterly Review_, March, 1849]

_The History of England from the Accession of James II_.
By THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY. 2 vols. 8vo. 1849.

The reading world will not need our testimony, though we willingly give
it, that Mr. Macaulay possesses great talents and extraordinary
acquirements. He unites powers and has achieved successes, not only
various, but different in their character, and seldom indeed conjoined
in one individual. He was while in Parliament, though not quite an
orator, and still less a debater, the most brilliant rhetorician of the
House. His Roman ballads (as we said in an article on their first
appearance) exhibit a novel idea worked out with a rare felicity, so as
to combine the spirit of the ancient minstrels with the regularity of
construction and sweetness of versification which modern taste requires;
and his critical Essays exhibit a wide variety of knowledge with a great
fertility of illustration, and enough of the salt of pleasantry and
sarcasm to flavour and in some degree disguise a somewhat declamatory
and pretentious dogmatism. It may seem too epigrammatic, but it is, in
our serious judgment, strictly true, to say that his History seems to be
a kind of combination and exaggeration of the peculiarities of all his
former efforts. It is as full of political prejudice and partisan
advocacy as any of his parliamentary speeches. It makes the facts of
English History as fabulous as his Lays do those of Roman tradition; and
it is written with as captious, as dogmatical, and as cynical a spirit
as the bitterest of his Reviews. That upon so serious an undertaking he
has lavished uncommon exertion, is not to be doubted; nor can any one
during the first reading escape the _entraînement_ of his picturesque,
vivid, and pregnant execution: but we have fairly stated the impression
left on ourselves by a more calm and leisurely perusal. We have been so
long the opponents of the political party to which Mr. Macaulay belongs
that we welcomed the prospect of again meeting him on the neutral ground
of literature. We are of that class of Tories--Protestant Tories, as
they were called--that have no sympathy with the Jacobites. We are as
strongly convinced as Mr. Macaulay can be of the necessity of the
Revolution of 1688--of the general prudence and expediency of the steps
taken by our Whig and Tory ancestors of the Convention Parliament, and
of the happiness, for a century and a half, of the constitutional
results. We were, therefore, not without hope that at least in these two
volumes, almost entirely occupied with the progress and accomplishment
of that Revolution, we might without any sacrifice of our political
feelings enjoy unalloyed the pleasures reasonably to be expected from
Mr. Macaulay's high powers both of research and illustration. That hope
has been deceived: Mr. Macaulay's historical narrative is poisoned with
a rancour more violent than even the passions of the time; and the
literary qualities of the work, though in some respects very remarkable,
are far from redeeming its substantial defects. There is hardly a page--
we speak literally, hardly a page--that does not contain something
objectionable either in substance or in colour: and the whole of the
brilliant and at first captivating narrative is perceived on examination
to be impregnated to a really marvellous degree with bad taste, bad
feeling, and, we are under the painful necessity of adding--bad faith.

These are grave charges: but we make them in sincerity, and we think
that we shall be able to prove them; and if, here or hereafter, we
should seem to our readers to use harsher terms than good taste might
approve, we beg in excuse to plead that it is impossible to fix one's
attention on, and to transcribe large portions of a work, without being
in some degree infected with its spirit; and Mr. Macaulay's pages,
whatever may be their other characteristics, are as copious a
repertorium of vituperative eloquence as, we believe, our language can
produce, and especially against everything in which he chooses (whether
right or wrong) to recognise the shibboleth of Toryism. We shall
endeavour, however, in the expression of our opinions, to remember the
respect we owe to our readers and to Mr. Macaulay's general character
and standing in the world of letters, rather than the provocations and
examples of the volumes immediately before us.

Mr. Macaulay announces his intention of bringing down the history of
England almost to our own times; but these two volumes are complete in
themselves, and we may fairly consider them as a history of the
Revolution; and in that light the first question that presents itself to
us is why Mr. Macaulay has been induced to re-write what had already
been so often and even so recently written--among others, by Dalrymple,
a strenuous but honest Whig, and by Mr. Macaulay's own oracles, Fox and
Mackintosh? It may be answered that both Fox and Mackintosh left their
works imperfect. Fox got no farther than Monmouth's death; but
Mackintosh came down to the Orange invasion, and covered full nine-tenths
of the period as yet occupied by Mr. Macaulay. Why then did Mr.
Macaulay not content himself with beginning where Mackintosh left off--
that is, with the Revolution? and it would have been the more natural,
because, as our readers know, it is there that Hume's history
terminates.

What reason does he give for this work of supererogation? None. He does
not (as we shall see more fully by and by) take the slightest notice of
Mackintosh's history, no more than if it had never existed. Has he
produced a new fact? Not one. Has he discovered any new materials? None,
as far as we can judge, but the collections of Fox and Mackintosh,
confided to him by their families.[1] It seems to us a novelty in
literary practice that a writer raised far by fame and fortune above the
vulgar temptations of the craft should undertake to tell a story already
frequently and recently told by masters of the highest authority and
most extensive information, without having, or even professing to have,
any additional means or special motive to account for the attempt.

[1] It appears from two notes of acknowledgments to M. Guizot and the
    keepers of the archives at The Hague, that Mr. Macaulay obtained
    some additions to the copies which Mackintosh already had of the
    letters of Ronquillo the Spanish and Citters the Dutch minister at
    the court of James. We may conjecture that these additions were
    insignificant, since Mr. Macaulay has nowhere, that we have
    observed, specially noticed them; but except these, whatever they
    may be, we find no trace of anything that Fox and Mackintosh had not
    already examined and classed.

We suspect, however, that we can trace Mr. Macaulay's design to its true
source--the example and success of the author of Waverley. The
historical novel, if not invented, at least first developed and
illustrated by the happy genius of Scott, took a sudden and extensive
hold of the public taste; he himself, in most of his subsequent novels,
availed himself largely of the historical element which had contributed
so much to the popularity of Waverley. The press has since that time
groaned with his imitators. We have had historical novels of all classes
and grades. We have had served up in this form the Norman Conquest and
the Wars of the Roses, the Gunpowder Plot and the Fire of London,
Darnley and Richelieu--and almost at the same moment with Mr. Macaulay's
appeared a professed romance of Mr. Ainsworth's on the same subject--
James II. Nay, on a novelist of this popular order has been conferred
the office of _Historiographer_ to the Queen.

Mr. Macaulay, too mature not to have well measured his own peculiar
capacities, not rich in invention but ingenious in application, saw the
use that might be made of this principle, and that history itself would
be much more popular with a large embroidery of personal, social, and
even topographical anecdote and illustration, instead of the sober garb
in which we had been in the habit of seeing it. Few histories indeed
ever were or could be written without some admixture of this sort. The
father of the art himself, old Herodotus, vivified his text with a
greater share of what we may call personal anecdote than any of his
classical followers. Modern historians, as they happened to have more or
less of what we may call _artistic_ feeling, admitted more or less of
this decoration into their text, but always with an eye (which Mr.
Macaulay never exercises) to the appropriateness and value of the
illustration. Generally, however, such matters have been thrown into
notes, or, in a few instances--as by Dr. Henry and in Mr. Knight's
interesting and instructive "Pictorial History"--into separate chapters.
The large class of memoir-writers may also be fairly considered as
anecdotical historians--and they are in fact the sources from which the
novelists of the new school extract their principal characters and main
incidents.

Mr. Macaulay deals with history, evidently, as we think, in imitation of
the novelists--his first object being always picturesque effect--his
constant endeavour to give from all the repositories of gossip that have
reached us a kind of circumstantial reality to his incidents, and a sort
of dramatic life to his personages. For this purpose he would not be
very solicitous about contributing any substantial addition to history,
strictly so called; on the contrary, indeed, he seems to have willingly
taken it as he found it, adding to it such lace and trimmings as he
could collect from the Monmouth-street of literature, seldom it may be
safely presumed of very delicate quality. It is, as Johnson drolly said,
"an old coat with a new facing--the old dog in a new doublet." The
conception was bold, and--so far as availing himself, like other
novelists, of the fashion of the day to produce a popular and profitable
effect--the experiment has been eminently successful.

But besides the obvious incentives just noticed, Mr. Macaulay had also
the stimulus of what we may compendiously call a strong party spirit.
One would have thought that the Whigs might have been satisfied with
their share in the historical library of the Revolution:--besides Rapin,
Echard, and Jones, who, though of moderate politics in general, were
stout friends to the Revolution, they have had of professed and zealous
Whigs, Burnet, the foundation of all, Kennett, Oldmixon, Dalrymple,
Laing, Brodie, Fox, and finally Mackintosh and his continuator, besides
innumerable writers of less note, who naturally adopted the successful
side; and we should not have supposed that the reader of any of those
historians, and particularly the later ones, could complain that they
had been too sparing of imputation, or even vituperation, to the
opposite party. But not so Mr. Macaulay. The most distinctive feature on
the face of his pages is personal virulence--if he has at all succeeded
in throwing an air of fresh life into his characters, it is mainly due,
as any impartial and collected reader will soon discover, to the simple
circumstance of his hating the individuals of the opposite party as
bitterly, as passionately, as if they were his own personal enemies--
more so, indeed, we hope than he would a mere political antagonist of
his own day. When some one suggested to the angry O'Neil that one of the
Anglo-Irish families whom he was reviling as strangers had been four
hundred years settled in Ireland, the Milesian replied, "_I hate the
churls as if they had come but yesterday_." Mr. Macaulay seems largely
endowed with this (as with a more enviable) species of memory, and he
hates, for example, King Charles I as if he had been murdered only
yesterday. Let us not be understood as wishing to abridge an historian's
full liberty of censure--but he should not be a satirist, still less a
libeller. We do not say nor think that Mr. Macaulay's censures were
always unmerited--far from it--but they are always, we think without
exception, immoderate. Nay, it would scarcely be too much to say that
this massacre of character is the point on which Mr. Macaulay must
chiefly rest any claims he can advance to the praise of impartiality,
for while he paints everything that looks like a Tory in the blackest
colours, he does not altogether spare any of the Whigs against whom he
takes a spite, though he always visits them with a gentler correction.
In fact, except Oliver Cromwell, King William, a few gentlemen who had
the misfortune to be executed or exiled for high treason, and every
dissenting minister that he has or can find occasion to notice, there
are hardly any persons mentioned who are not stigmatized as knaves or
fools, differing only in degrees of "turpitude" and "imbecility". Mr.
Macaulay has almost realized the work that Alexander Chalmers's playful
imagination had fancied, a _Biographia Flagitiosa_, or _The Lives of
Eminent Scoundrels_. This is also an imitation of the Historical Novel,
though rather in the track of Eugene Aram and Jack Sheppard than of
Waverley or Woodstock; but what would you have? To attain the
picturesque--the chief object of our artist--he adopts the ready process
of dark colours and a rough brush. Nature, even at the worst, is never
gloomy enough for a Spagnoletto, and Judge Jeffries himself, for the
first time, excites a kind of pity when we find him (like one to whom he
was nearly akin) not so black as he is painted.

From this first general view of Mr. Macaulay's Historical Novel, we now
proceed to exhibit in detail some grounds for the opinion which we have
ventured to express.

We premise that we are about to enter into details, because there is in
fact little to question or debate about but details. We have already
hinted that there is absolutely no new fact of any consequence, and, we
think we can safely add, hardly a new view of any historical fact, in
the whole book. Whatever there may remain questionable or debatable in
the history of the period, we should have to argue with Burnet,
Dalrymple, or Mackintosh, and not with Mr. Macaulay. It would, we know,
have a grander air if we were to make his book the occasion of
disquisitions on the rise and progress of the constitution--on the
causes by which the monarchy of the Tudors passed, through the murder of
Charles, to the despotism of Cromwell--how again that produced a
restoration which settled none of the great moral or political questions
which had generated all those agitations, and which, in return, those
agitations had complicated and inflamed--and how, at last, the
undefined, discordant, and antagonistic pretensions of the royal and
democratical elements were reconciled by the Revolution and the Bill of
Rights--and finally, whether with too much or too little violence to the
principles of the ancient constitution--all these topics, we say, would,
if we were so inclined, supply us, as they have supplied Mr. Macaulay,
with abundant opportunities of grave tautology and commonplace; but we
decline to raise sham debates on points where there is no contest. We
can have little historic difference, properly so called, with one who
has no historical difference on the main facts with anybody else:
instead, then, of pretending to treat any great questions, either of
constitutional learning or political philosophy, we shall confine
ourselves to the humbler but more practical and more useful task above
stated.

Our first complaint is of a comparatively small and almost mechanical,
and yet very real, defect--the paucity and irregularity of his dates,
and the mode in which the few that he does give are overlaid, as it
were, by the text. This, though it may be very convenient to the writer,
and quite indifferent to the reader, of an historical romance, is
perplexing to any one who might wish to read and weigh the book as a
serious history, of which dates are the guides and landmarks; and when
they are visibly neglected we cannot but suspect that the historian will
be found not very solicitous about strict accuracy. This negligence is
carried to such an extent that, in what looks like a very copious table
of contents, one of the most important events of the whole history--
that, indeed, on which the Revolution finally turned--the marriage of
Princess Mary to the Prince of Orange, is not noticed; nor is any date
affixed to the very cursory mention of it in the text. It is rather hard
to force the reader who buys this last new model history, in general so
profuse of details, to recur to one of the old-fashioned ones to
discover that this important event happened in the year 1675, and on the
4th of November--a day thrice over remarkable in William's history--for
his birth, his marriage, and his arrival with his invading army on the
coast of Devon.

Our second complaint is of one of the least important, perhaps, but most
prominent defects of Mr. Macaulay's book--his Style--not merely the
choice and order of words, commonly called style, but the turn of mind
which prompts the choice of expressions as well as of topics. We need
not repeat that Mr. Macaulay has a great facility of language, a
prodigal _copia verborum_--that he narrates rapidly and clearly--that he
paints very forcibly,--and that his readers throughout the tale are
carried on, or away, by something of the sorcery which a brilliant
orator exercises over his auditory. But he has also in a great degree
the faults of the oratorical style. He deals much too largely in
epithets--a habit exceedingly dangerous to historical truth. He
habitually constructs a piece of what should be calm, dispassionate
narrative, upon the model of the most passionate peroration--adhering in
numberless instances to precisely the same specific formula of artifice.
His diction is often inflated into fustian, and he indulges in
exaggeration till it sometimes, unconsciously no doubt, amounts to
falsehood. It is a common fault of those who strive at producing
oratorical effects, to oscillate between commonplace and extravagance;
and while studying Mr. Macaulay, one feels as if vibrating between facts
that every one knows and consequences which nobody can believe. We are
satisfied that whoever will take, as we have been obliged to do, the
pains of sifting what Mr. Macaulay has produced from his own mind with
what he has borrowed from others, will be entirely of our opinion. In
truth, when, after reading a page or two of this book, we have occasion
to turn to the same transaction in Burnet, Dalrymple, or Hume, we feel
as if we were exchanging the glittering agility of a rope-dancer for
gentlemen in the attire and attitude of society. And we must say that
there is not one of those writers that does not give a clearer and more
trustworthy account of all that is really historical in the period than
can be collected from Mr. Macaulay's more decorated pages. We invite our
readers to try Mr. Macaulay's merits as an historian by the test of
comparison with his predecessors.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every great painter is supposed to make a larger use of one particular
colour. What a monstrous bladderful of _infamy_ Mr. Macaulay must have
squeezed on his palette when he took to portrait-painting! We have no
concern, except as friends to historical justice, for the characters of
any of the parties thus stigmatized, nor have we room or time to discuss
these, or the hundred other somewhat similar cases which the volumes
present; but we have looked at the authorities cited by Mr. Macaulay,
and we do not hesitate to say that, "as is his wont," he has, with the
exception of Jeffries, outrageously exaggerated them.

We must next notice the way in which Mr. Macaulay refers to and uses his
authorities--no trivial points in the execution of a historical work--
though we shall begin with comparatively small matters. In his chapter
on manners, which we may call the most remarkable in his book, one of
his most frequent references is to "Chamberlayne's State of England,
1684." It is referred to at least a dozen or fourteen times in that
chapter alone; but we really have some doubt whether Mr. Macaulay knew
the nature of the book he so frequently quoted. Chamberlayne's work, of
which the real title is "_Angliae_ [or, after the Scotch Union, _Magnae
Britanniae_] _Notitia, or the Present State of England_" [or _Great
Britain_], was a kind of periodical publication, half history and half
court-calendar. It was first published in 1669, and new editions or
reprints, with new dates, were issued, not annually, we believe, but so
frequently that there are between thirty and forty of them in the
Museum, ending with 1755. From the way and for the purposes for which
Mr. Macaulay quotes Chamberlayne, we should almost suspect that he had
lighted on the volume for 1684, and, knowing of no other, considered it
as a substantive work published in that year. _Once_ indeed he cites the
date of 1686, but there was, it seems, no edition of that year, and this
may be an accidental error; but however that may be, our readers will
smile when they hear that the two first and several following passages
which Mr. Macaulay cites from Chamberlayne (i. 290 and 291), as
_characteristic_ of the _days of Charles II_, distinctively from more
modern times, are to be found _literatim_ in every succeeding
"Chamberlayne" down to 1755--the last we have seen--were thus
continually reproduced because the proprietors and editors of the table
book knew they were _not_ particularly characteristical of one year or
reign more than another--and now, in 1849, might be as well quoted as
characteristics of the reign of George II as of Charles II. We must add
that there are references to Chamberlayne and to several weightier books
(some of which we shall notice more particularly hereafter), as
justifying assertions for which, on examining the said books with our
best diligence, we have not been able to find a shadow of authority.

Our readers know that there was a Dr. John Eachard who wrote a
celebrated work on the "Grounds and Occasions of the Contempt of the
Clergy." They also know that there was a Dr. Lawrence Echard who wrote
both a History of England, and a History of the Revolution. Both of
these were remarkable men; but we almost doubt whether Mr. Macaulay, who
quotes the works of each, does not confound their persons, for he refers
to them both by the common (as it may once have been) name of _Each_ard,
and at least twenty times by the wrong name. This, we admit, is a small
matter; but what will some Edinburgh Reviewer (_temp_. Albert V) say if
he finds a writer confounding _Catherine_ and _Thomas_ Macaulay as "the
celebrated author of the great Whig History of England"--a confusion
hardly worse than that of the two Eachards--for Catherine, though now
forgotten by an ungrateful public, made quite as much noise in her day
as Thomas does in ours.

But we are sorry to say we have a heavier complaint against Mr.
Macaulay. We accuse him of a habitual and really injurious perversion of
his authorities. This unfortunate indulgence, in whatever juvenile
levity it may have originated, and through whatever steps it may have
grown into an unconscious habit, seems to us to pervade the whole work--
from Alpha to Omega--from Procopius to Mackintosh--and it is on that
very account the more difficult to bring to the distinct conception of
our readers. Individual instances can be, and shall be, produced; but
how can we extract and exhibit the minute particles that colour every
thread of the texture?--how extract the impalpable atoms that have
fermented the whole brewing? We must do as Dr. Faraday does at the
Institution when he exhibits in miniature the larger processes of
Nature. We will suppose, then--taking a simple phrase as the fairest for
the experiment--that Mr. Macaulay found Barillon saying in French, "_le
drôle m'a fait peur_," or Burnet saying in English, "_the fellow
frightened me_." We should be pretty sure not to find the same words in
Mr. Macaulay. He would pause--he would first consider whether "the
fellow" spoken of was a _Whig_ or a _Tory_. If a Whig, the thing would
be treated as a joke, and Mr. Macaulay would transmute it playfully into
"_the rogue startled me_"; but if a _Tory_, it would take a deeper dye,
and we should find "_the villain assaulted me_"; and in either case we
should have a grave reference to

           Jan. 31,
"Barillon,-------- 1686"; or, "Burnet, i. 907."
           Feb. 1,

If our reader will keep this formula in his mind, he will find it a fair
exponent of Mr. Macaulay's _modus operandi_....

We shall now proceed to more general topics. We decline, as we set out
by saying, to treat this "New Atalantis" as a serious history, and
therefore we shall not trouble our readers with matters of such remote
interest as the errors and anachronisms with which the chapter that
affects to tell our earlier history abounds. Our readers would take no
great interest in a discussion whether Hengist was as fabulous as
Hercules, Alaric a Christian born, and "the fair chapels of New College
and St. George" at Windsor of the same date. But there is one subject in
that chapter on which we cannot refrain from saying a few words--THE
CHURCH.

We decline to draw any inferences from this work as to Mr. Macaulay's
own religious opinions; but it is our duty to say--and we trust we may
do so without offence--that Mr. Macaulay's mode of dealing with the
general principle of Church government, and the doctrine, discipline,
and influence of the Church of England, cannot fail to give serious
pain, and sometimes to excite a stronger feeling than pain, in the mind
of every friend to that Church, whether in its spiritual or corporate
character.

He starts with a notion that the fittest engine to redeem England from
the mischiefs and mistakes of oligarchical feudalism was to be found in
the imposing machinery and deception of the Roman Church; overlooking
the great truth that it was not the Romish Church, but the genius of
Christianity, working its vast but silent change, which was really
guiding on the chariot of civilization; but in this broad principle
there was not enough of the picturesqueness of detail to captivate his
mind. It would not suit him to distinguish between the Church of Christ
and the web of corruptions that had grown about her, but could not
effectually arrest the benignant influence inherent in her mainspring.
He therefore leads his readers to infer that Christianity came first to
Britain with St. Austin, and for aught that Mr. Macaulay condescends to
inform us, the existence of a prior Anglo-Saxon Church was a monkish
fiction. The many unhappy circumstances of the position taken up by the
Romish Church in its struggles for power--some of them unavoidable, it
may be, if such a battle were to be fought--are actually displayed as so
many blessings, attainable only by a system which the historian himself
condemns elsewhere as baneful and untrue. He maintains these strange
paradoxes and contradictions with a pertinacity quite surprising. He
doubts whether a true form of Christianity would have answered the
purposes of liberty and civilization half so well as the acknowledged
duplicities of the Church of Rome.

  It may perhaps be doubted whether a purer religion might not have been
  found a less efficient agent.--i. 23.

  There is a point in the life both of an individual and a society at
  which submission and faith, such as at a later period would be justly
  called servility and credulity, are useful qualities.--i. 47.

These are specimens of the often exposed fallacies in which he delights
to indulge. Place right and wrong in a state of uncertainty by reflected
lights, and you may fill up your picture as you like. And such for ever
is Mr. Macaulay's principle of art. It is not the elimination of error
that he seeks for, but an artistic balance of conflicting forces. And
this he pursues throughout: deposing the dignity of the historian for
the clever antithesis of the pamphleteer. At last, on this great and
important point of religious history--a point which more than any other
influences every epoch of English progress, he arrives at this pregnant
and illustrative conclusion--

  It is difficult to say whether England owes more to the Roman Catholic
  religion or to the Reformation.--i. 49.

England owes nothing to "the Roman Catholic religion." She owes
everything to CHRISTIANITY, which Romanism injured and hampered but
could not destroy, and which the Reformation freed at least from the
worst of those impure and impeding excrescences.

With regard to his treatment of the Reformation, and especially of the
Church of England, it is very difficult to give our readers an adequate
idea. Throughout a system of depreciation--we had almost said insult--is
carried on: sneers, sarcasms, injurious comparisons, sly
misrepresentations, are all adroitly mingled throughout the narrative,
so as to produce an unfavourable impression, which the author has not
the frankness to attempt directly. Even when obliged to approach the
subject openly, it is curious to observe how, under a slight veil of
impartiality, imputations are raised and calumnies accredited. For
instance, early in the first volume he gives us his view of the English
Reformation, as a kind of middle term, emerging out of the antagonist
struggles of the Catholics and Calvinists: and it is impossible not to
see that, between the three parties, he awards to the Catholics the
merit of unity and consistency; to the Calvinists, of reason and
independence; to the Anglicans, the lowest motives of expediency and
compromise. To enforce this last topic he relies on the inconsistencies,
some real and some imaginary, imputed to Cranmer, whose notions of
worldly expedience he chooses to represent as the source of the Anglican
Church....

Every one of the circumstances on which we may presume that Mr. Macaulay
would rely as justifying these charges has been long since, to more
candid judgments, either disproved, explained, or excused, and in truth
whatever blame can be justly attributed to any of them, belongs mainly,
if not exclusively, to those whose violence and injustice drove a
naturally upright and most conscientious man into the shifts and
stratagems of self-defence. With the greatest fault and the only crime
that Charles in his whole life committed Mr. Macaulay does not reproach
him--the consent to the execution of Lord Strafford--that indeed, as he
himself penitentially confessed, was a deadly weight on his conscience,
and is an indelible stain on his character; but even that guilt and
shame belongs in a still greater degree to Mr. Macaulay's patriot
heroes.

This leads us to the conclusive plea which we enter to Mr. Macaulay's
indictment, namely--that all those acts alleged as the excuses of
rebellion and regicide occurred after the rebellion had broken out, and
were at worst only devices of the unhappy King to escape from the
regicide which he early foresaw. It was really the old story of the wolf
and the lamb. It was far down the stream of rebellion that these acts of
supposed perfidy on the part of Charles could be said to have troubled
it.

But while he thus deals with the lamb, let us see how he treats the
wolf. We have neither space nor taste for groping through the long and
dark labyrinth of Cromwell's proverbial duplicity and audacious
apostacy: we shall content ourselves with two facts, which, though
stated in the gentlest way by Mr. Macaulay, will abundantly justify the
opinion which all mankind, except a few republican zealots, hold of that
man's sincerity, of whose abilities, wonderful as they were, the most
remarkable, and perhaps the most serviceable to his fortunes, was his
hypocrisy; so much so, that South--a most acute observer of mankind, and
who had been educated under the Commonwealth and Protectorate--in his
sermon on "Worldly Wisdom," adduces Cromwell as an instance of "habitual
dissimulation and imposture." Oliver, Mr. Macaulay tells us, modelled
his army on the principle of composing it of men fearing God, and
zealous for _public liberty_, and in the very next page he is forced to
confess that

  thirteen years followed in which for the first and the last time the
  civil power of our country was subjected to military dictation.--i.
  120.

Again,

  Oliver had made his choice. He had kept the hearts of his soldiers,
  but he had _broken_ with every other class of his fellow citizens.--i.
  129.

That is, he had broken through all the promises, pledges, and specious
pretences by which he had deceived and enslaved the nation, which Mr.
Macaulay calls with such opportune _naïveté, his fellow citizens_! Then
follows, not a censure of this faithless usurpation, but many laboured
apologies, and even defences of it, and a long series of laudatory
epithets, some of which are worth collecting as a rare contrast to Mr.
Macaulay's usual style, and particularly to the abuse of Charles, which
we have just exhibited.

  His _genius and resolution_ made him more _absolute master of his
  country_ than any of her legitimate Kings had been.--i. 129.

He having cut off the legitimate King's head on a pretence that Charles
had wished to make himself _absolutely master of the country_.

  Everything yielded to the _vigour and ability_ of Cromwell.--i. 130.

  The Government, though in the form of a Republic, was in truth a
  despotism, moderated only by the _wisdom, the sober-mindedness, and
  the magnanimity_ of the despot.--i. 137.

With a vast deal more of the same tone.

But Mr. Macaulay particularly expatiates on the influence that Cromwell
exercised over foreign states: and there is hardly any topic to which he
recurs with more pleasure, or, as we think, with less sagacity, than the
terror with which Cromwell and the contempt with which the Stuarts
inspired the nations of Europe. He somewhat exaggerates the extent of
this feeling, and greatly misstates or mistakes the cause; and as this
subject is in the present state of the world of more importance than any
others in the work, we hope we may be excused for some observations
tending to a sounder opinion on that subject.

It was not, as Mr. Macaulay everywhere insists, the personal abilities
and genius of Cromwell that exclusively, or even in the first degree,
carried his foreign influence higher than that of the Stuarts. The
internal struggles that distracted and consumed the strength of these
islands throughout their reigns necessarily rendered us little
formidable to our neighbours; and it is with no good grace that a Whig
historian stigmatises that result as shameful; for, without discussing
whether it was justifiable or not, the fact is certain, that it was
opposition of the Whigs--often in rebellion and always in faction
against the Government--which disturbed all progress at home and
paralysed every effort abroad. We are not, we say, now discussing
whether that opposition was not justifiable and may not have been
ultimately advantageous in several constitutional points; we think it
decidedly was: but at present all we mean to do is to show that it had a
great share in producing on our foreign influence the lowering effects
of which Mr. Macaulay complains.

And there is still another consideration which escapes Mr. Macaulay in
his estimate of such usurpers as Cromwell and Buonaparte. A usurper is
always more terrible both at home and abroad than a legitimate
sovereign: first, the usurper is likely to be (and in these two cases
was) a man of superior genius and military glory, wielding the
irresistible power of the sword; but there is still stronger contrast--
legitimate Governments are bound--at home by laws--abroad by treaties,
family ties, and international interests; they acknowledge the law of
nations, and are limited, even in hostilities, by many restraints and
bounds. The despotic usurpers had no fetters of either sort--they had no
opposition at home, and no scruples abroad. Law, treaties, rights, and
the like, had been already broken through like cobwebs, and kings
naturally humbled themselves before a vigour that had dethroned and
murdered kings, and foreign nations trembled at a power that had subdued
in their own fields and cities the pride of England and the gallantry of
France! To contrast Cromwell and Charles II, Napoleon and Louis XVIII,
is sheer nonsense and mere verbiage--it is as if one should compare the
house-dog and the wolf, and argue that the terror inspired by the latter
was very much to his honour. All this is such a mystery to Mr. Macaulay
that he wanders into two theories so whimsical, that we hesitate between
passing them by as absurdities, or producing them for amusement; we
adopt the latter. One is that Cromwell could have no interest and
therefore no personal share in the death of Charles. "Whatever Cromwell
was," says Mr. Macaulay, "he was no fool; and he must have known that
Charles I was obviously a less difficulty in his way than Charles II."
Cromwell, we retain the phrase, "was no fool," and he thought and
_found_ that Charles II, was, as far as he was concerned, no difficulty
at all. The real truth was, that the revolutionary party in England in
1648, like that in France in 1792, was but a rope of sand which nothing
could cement and consolidate but the _blood of the Kings--that_ was a
common crime and a common and indissoluble tie which gave all their
consistency and force to both revolutions--a stroke of original sagacity
in Cromwell and of imitative dexterity in Robespierre. If Mr. Macaulay
admits, as he subsequently does (i. 129), that the regicide was "a
sacrament of blood," by which the party became irrevocably bound to each
other and separated from the rest of the nation, how can he pretend that
Cromwell derived no advantage from it? In fact, his admiration--we had
almost said fanaticism--for Cromwell betrays him throughout into the
blindest inconsistencies.

The second vision of Mr. Macaulay is, if possible, still more absurd. He
imagines a Cromwell dynasty! If it had not been for Monk and his army,
the rest of the nation would have been loyal to the son of the
illustrious Oliver.

  Had the Protector and the Parliament been suffered to proceed
  undisturbed, there can be little doubt that an order of things similar
  to that which was afterwards established under the House of Hanover,
  would have been established under the house of Cromwell.--i. 142.

And yet in a page or two Mr. Macaulay is found making an admission--
made, indeed, with the object of disparaging Monk and the royalists--but
which gives to his theory of a Cromwellian dynasty the most conclusive
refutation.

  It was probably not till Monk had been some days in the capital that
  he made up his mind. The cry of the whole people was for a free
  parliament; and there could _be no doubt that a parliament really free
  would instantly restore the exiled family_.--i. 147.

All this hypothesis of a Cromwellian dynasty _looks_ like sheer
nonsense; but we have no doubt it has a meaning, and we request our
readers not to be diverted by the almost ludicrous partiality and
absurdity of Mr. Macaulay's speculations from an appreciation of the
deep hostility to the monarchy from which they arise. They are like
bubbles on the surface of a dark pool, which indicate there is something
rotten below.

We should if we had time have many other complaints to make of the
details of this chapter, which are deeply coloured with all Mr.
Macaulay's prejudices and passions. He is, we may almost say of course,
violent and unjust against Strafford and Clarendon; and the most
prominent touch of candour that we can find in this period of his
history is, that he slurs over the murder of Laud in an abscure
half-line (i. 119) as if he were--as we hope he really is--ashamed of
it.

We now arrive at what we have heard called the celebrated third chapter
--celebrated it deserves to be, and we hope our humble observations may
add something to its celebrity. There is no feature of Mr. Macaulay's
book on which, we believe, he more prides himself, and which has been in
truth more popular with his readers, than the descriptions which he
introduces of the residences, habits, and manners of our ancestors. They
are, provided you do not look below the surface, as entertaining as
Pepys or Pennant, or any of the many scrap-book histories which have
been recently fabricated from those old materials; but when we come to
examine them, we find that in these cases, as everywhere else, Mr.
Macaulay's propensity to caricature and exaggerate leads him not merely
to disfigure circumstances, but totally to forget the principle on which
such episodes are admissible into regular history--namely, the
illustration of the story. They should be, as it were, woven into the
narrative, and not, as Mr. Macaulay generally treats them, stitched on
like patches. This latter observation does not of course apply to the
collecting a body of miscellaneous facts into a separate chapter, as
Hume and others have done; but Mr. Macaulay's chapter, besides, as we
shall show, the prevailing inaccuracy of its details, has one general
and essential defect specially its own.

The moment Mr. Macaulay has selected for suspending his narrative to
take a view of the surface and society of England is the death of
Charles II. Now we think no worse point of time could have been chosen
for tracing the obscure but very certain connection between political
events and the manners of a people. The restoration, for instance, was
an era in manners as well as in politics--so was in a fainter degree the
Revolution--either, or both, of those periods would have afforded a
natural position for contemplating a going and a coming order of things;
but we believe that there are no two periods in our annals which were so
identical in morals and politics--so undistinguishable, in short, in any
national view--as the latter years of Charles and the earlier years of
James. Here then is an objection _in limine_ to this famous chapter--and
not _in limine_ only, but in substance; for in fact the period he has
chosen would not have furnished out the chapter, four-fifths of which
belong to a date later than that which he professes to treat of. In
short, the chapter is like an old curiosity-shop, into which--no matter
whether it happens to stand in Charles Street, William Street, or George
Street--the knick-knacks of a couple of centuries are promiscuously
jumbled. What does it signify, in a history of the reign of Charles II,
that a writer, "_sixty years after the Revolution_" (i. 347), says that
in the lodging-houses at Bath "the hearth-slabs" were "freestone, not
marble"--that "the best apartments were hung with coarse woollen stuff,
and furnished with rush-bottomed chairs"?--nay, that he should have the
personal good taste to lament that in those Boeotian days "_not a
wainscot was painted_" (348); and yet this twaddle of the reign of
George II, patched into the times of Charles II, is the appropriate
occasion which he takes to panegyrise this new mode of elucidating
history?--...

It is a curious and, to persons of our opinions, not unsatisfactory
circumstance, that, though Mr. Macaulay almost invariably applies the
term _Tory_ in an opprobrious or contemptuous sense, yet so great is the
power of truth in surmounting the fantastical forms and colours laid
over it by this brilliant _badigeonneur_, that on the whole no one, we
believe, can rise from the work without a conviction that the Tories
(whatever may be said of their prejudices) were the honestest and most
conscientious of the whole _dramatis personae_; and it is this fact that
in several instances and circumstances imprints, as it were by force,
upon Mr. Macaulay's pages an air of impartiality and candour very
discordant from their general spirit.

We are now arrived at the fourth chapter--really the first, strictly
speaking, of Mr. Macaulay's history--the accession of James II, where
also Sir James Mackintosh's history commences. And here we have to open
to our readers the most extraordinary instance of _parallelism_ between
two writers, unacknowledged by the later one, which we have ever seen.
Sir James Mackintosh left behind him a history of the Revolution, which
was published in 1834, three years after his death, in quarto: it comes
down to the Orange invasion, and, though it apparently had not received
the author's last corrections, and was clumsily edited, and tagged with
a continuation by a less able hand, the work is altogether (bating not a
little ultra-Whiggery) very creditable to Mackintosh's diligence, taste,
and power of writing; it is indeed, we think, his best and most
important work, and that by which he will be most favourably known to
posterity. From that work Mr. Macaulay has borrowed largely--prodigally--
helped himself with both hands--not merely without acknowledging his
obligation, but without so much as alluding to the existence of any such
work. Nay--though this we are sure was never designed--he inserts a note
full of kindness and respect to Sir James Mackintosh, which would
naturally lead an uninformed reader to conclude that Sir James
Mackintosh, though he had _meditated_ such a work, had never even begun
writing it. On the 391st page of Mr. Macaulay's first volume, at the
mention of the old news-letters which preceded our modern newspapers,
Mr. Macaulay says, that "they form a valuable part of the literary
treasures collected by the late Sir James Mackintosh"; and to this he
adds the following foot-note:

  I take this opportunity of expressing my warm gratitude to the family
  of my dear and honoured friend Sir James Mackintosh, for confiding to
  me the materials collected by him _at a time when he meditated a work
  similar to that which I have undertaken._ I have never seen, and I do
  not believe that there anywhere exists, within the same compass, so
  noble a _collection of extracts_ from public and private archives. The
  judgment with which Sir James, in great masses of the rudest ore of
  history, selected what was valuable and rejected what was worthless,
  can be fully appreciated only by one who has toiled after him in the
  same mine.--i. 391.

Could any one imagine from this that Mackintosh had not only _meditated_
a work, but actually written, and that his friends had published, a
large closely printed quarto volume, on the same subject, from the same
materials, and sometimes in the very same words as Mr. Macaulay's?

The coincidence--the identity, we might almost say--of the two works is
so great, that, while we have been comparing them, we have often been
hardly able to distinguish which was which. We rest little on the
similiarity of facts, for the facts were ready made for both; and Mr.
Macaulay tells us that he worked from Mackintosh's materials; there
would, therefore, even if he had never seen Mackintosh's work, be a
community of topics and authorities; but, seeing as we do in every page
that he was writing with Mackintosh's volume before his eyes, we cannot
account for his utter silence about it....

Having thus shown Mr. Macaulay's mode of dealing with what forms the
chief and most characteristic feature of his book--its anecdotical
gossip--we shall now endeavour to exhibit the deceptive style in which
he treats the larger historical facts: in truth the style is the same--a
general and unhesitating sacrifice of accuracy and reality to
picturesque effect and party prejudices. He treats historical personages
as the painter does his _layman_--a supple figure which he models into
what he thinks the most striking attitude, and dresses up with the
gaudiest colours and most fantastical draperies.

It is very difficult to condense into any manageable space the proofs of
a general system of accumulating and aggravating all that was ever,
whether truly or falsely, reproached to the Tories, and alleviating
towards the Whigs the charges which he cannot venture to deny or even to
question. The mode in which this is managed so as to keep up some show
of impartiality is very dexterous. The reproach, well or ill founded,
which he thinks most likely to damage the character of any one he
dislikes, is repeated over and over again in hope that the iteration
will at last be taken for proof, such as the perfidy of Charles I, the
profligacy and selfishness of Charles II, the cold and cruel stupidity
of James, the baseness of Churchill, the indecent violence of Rochester,
the contemptible subserviency of his brother, Clarendon, and so on
through a whole dictionary of abuse on every one whom he takes or
mistakes for a Tory, and on a few Whigs whom for some special reasons of
his own he treats like Tories. On the other hand, when he finds himself
reluctantly forced to acknowledge even the greatest enormity of the
Whigs--corruption--treason--murder he finds much gentler terms for the
facts; selects a scapegoat, some subaltern villain, or some one whom
history has already gibbeted, "to bear upon him all their iniquities,"
and that painful sacrifice once made, he avoids with tender care a
recurrence to so disagreeable a subject....

After so much political detail it will be some kind of diversion to our
readers to examine Mr. Macaulay's most elaborate strategic and
topographical effort, worked up with all the combined zeal and skill of
an ex-Secretary-at-War and a pictorial historian--a copious description
of the battle of Sedgemoor. Mr. Macaulay seems to have visited
Bridgwater with a zeal worthy of a better result: for it has produced a
description of the surrounding country as pompous and detailed as if it
had been the scene of some grand strategic operations--a parade not
merely unnecessary, but absurd, for the so-called battle was but a
bungling skirmish. Monmouth had intended to surprise the King's troops
in their quarters by a midnight attack, but was stopped by a wide and
deep trench, of which he was not apprised, called Bussex Rhine, behind
which the King's army lay. "The trenches which drain the moor are," Mr.
Macaulay adds, "in that country called _rhines_." On each side of this
ditch the parties stood firing at each other in the dark. Lord Grey and
the cavalry ran away without striking a blow; Monmouth followed them,
too, soon; for some time the foot stood with a degree of courage and
steadiness surprising in such raw and half-armed levies; at last the
King's cavalry got round their flank, and they too ran: the King's foot
then crossed the ditch with little or no resistance, and slaughtered,
with small loss on their own side, a considerable number of the
fugitives, the rest escaping back to Bridgwater. Our readers will judge
whether such a skirmish required a long preliminary description of the
surrounding country. Mr. Macaulay might just as usefully have described
the plain of Troy. Indeed at the close of his long topographical and
etymological narrative Mr. Macaulay has the tardy candour to confess
that--

  little is now to be learned by visiting the field of battle, for the
  face of the country has been greatly changed, and the old _Bussex
  Rhine_, on the banks of which the great struggle took place, has long
  disappeared.

This is droll. After spending a deal of space and fine writing in
describing the present prospect, he concludes by telling us candidly it
is all of no use, for the whole scene has changed. This is like
Walpole's story of the French lady who asked for her lover's picture;
and when he demurred observing that, if her husband were to see it, it
might betray their secret--"O dear, no," she said--just like Mr.
Macaulay--"I _will have the picture_, but it _need not be like_!"

But even as to the change, we again doubt Mr. Macaulay's accuracy. The
word _Rhine_ in Somersetshire, as perhaps--_parva componere magnis_--in
the great German river, means _running_ water, and we therefore think it
very unlikely that a running stream should have disappeared; but we also
find in the Ordnance Survey of Somersetshire, made in our own time, the
course and name of _Bussck's Rhine_ distinctly laid down in front of
Weston, where it probably ran in Monmouth's day; and we are further
informed, in return to some inquiries that we have caused to be made,
that the _Rhine_ is now, in 1849, as visible and well known as ever it
was.

But this grand piece of the military topography of a battlefield where
there was no battle must have its picturesque and pathetic episode, and
Mr. Macaulay finds one well suited to such a novel. When Monmouth had
made up his mind to attempt to _surprise_ the royal army, Mr. Macaulay
is willing (for a purpose which we shall see presently) to persuade
himself that the Duke let the whole town into his secret:--

  That an attack was to be made under cover of the night was no secret
  in Bridgwater. The town was full of women, who had repaired thither by
  hundreds from the surrounding region to see their husbands, sons,
  lovers, and brothers once more. There were many sad partings that day;
  and many parted never to meet again. The report of the intended attack
  came to the ears of a young girl who was zealous for the king. Though
  of modest character, she had the courage to resolve that she would
  herself bear the intelligence to Feversham. She stole out of
  Bridgwater, and made her way to the royal camp. But that camp was not
  a place where female innocence could be safe. Even the officers,
  despising alike the irregular force to which they were opposed, and
  the negligent general who commanded them, had indulged largely in
  wine, and were ready for any excess of licentiousness and cruelty. One
  of them seized the unhappy maiden, refused to listen to her errand,
  and brutally outraged her. She fled in agonies of rage and shame,
  leaving the wicked army to its doom.--i. 606, 7.

--the _doom of the wicked army_, be it noted _en passant_, being a
complete victory. Mr. Macaulay cites Kennett for this story, and adds
that he is "_forced_ to believe the story to be true, because Kennett
declares that it was communicated to him in the year 1718 by a brave
officer who had fought at Sedgemoor, and had himself seen the poor girl
depart in an agony of distress,"--_ib_.

We shall not dwell on the value of an anonymous story told
_three-and-thirty years_ after the Battle of Sedgemoor. The tale is
sufficiently refuted by notorious facts and dates, and indeed by its
internal absurdity. We know from the clear and indisputable evidence of
Wade, who commanded Monmouth's infantry, all the proceedings of that day.
Monmouth no doubt intended to move that night, and made open preparation
for it, and the partings so pathetically described may have, therefore,
taken place, and the rather because the intended movement was to leave
that part of the country altogether--_not_ to meet the King's troops, but
to endeavour to escape them by a forced march across the Avon and into
Gloucestershire. So far might have been known. But about _three_ o'clock
that afternoon Monmouth received intelligence by a spy that the King's
troops had advanced to Sedgemoor, but had taken their positions so
injudiciously, that there seemed a possibility of surprising them in a
night attack. On this Monmouth assembled a council of war, which agreed
that, instead of retreating that night towards the Avon as they had
intended, they should advance and attack, provided the spy, who was to
be sent out to a new reconnoissance, should report that the troops were
not intrenched. We may be sure that--as the news only arrived at three
in the afternoon--the assembling the council of war--the deliberation--
the sending back the spy--his return and another deliberation--must have
protracted the final decision to so late an hour that evening, that it
is utterly impossible that the change of the design of a march northward
to that of an "_attack to be made under cover of the night_," could have
been that _morning_ no secret in Bridgwater. But our readers see it was
necessary for Mr. Macaulay to raise this fable, in order to account for
the poor girl's knowing so important a secret. So far we have argued the
case on Mr. Macaulay's own showing, which, we confess, was very
incautious on our part; but on turning to his authority we find, as
usual, a story essentially different. Kennett says--

  A brave Captain in the Horse Guards, now living (1718), was in the
  action at Sedgemoor, and gave me the account of it:--That on _Sunday
  morning, July 5_, a young woman came from Monmouth's quarters to give
  notice of his design to surprise the King's camp _that night_; but
  this young woman being carried to a chief officer in a neighbouring
  village, she was led upstairs and debauched by him, and, coming down
  in a great fright and disorder (as he himself saw her), she went back,
  and her message was not told.--_Kennett_, in. 432.

This knocks the whole story on the head. Kennett was not aware (Wade's
narrative not being published when he wrote) that the King's troops did
not come in sight of Sedgemoor till about three o'clock P.M. of that
Sunday on the early morning of which he places the girl's visit to the
camp, and it was not till late that same evening that Monmouth changed
his original determination, and formed the sudden resolution with which,
to support Kennett's story, the whole town must have been acquainted at
least twelve hours before. These are considerations which ought not to
have escaped a philosophical historian who had the advantage, which
Kennett had not, of knowing the exact time when these details
occurred....

We must here conclude. We have exhausted our time and our space, but not
our topics. We have selected such of the more prominent defects and
errors of Mr. Macaulay as were manageable within our limits; but
numerous as they are, we beg that they may be considered as specimens
only of the infinitely larger assortment that the volumes would afford,
and be read not merely as individual instances, but as indications of
the general style of the work, and the prevailing _animus_ of the
writer. We have chiefly directed our attention to points of mere
historical inaccuracy and infidelity; but they are combined with a
greater admixture of other--we know not whether to call them literary or
moral--defects, than the insulated passages sufficiently exhibit. These
faults, as we think them, but which may to some readers be the prime
fascinations of the work, abound on its surface. And their very number
and their superficial prominence constitute a main charge against the
author, and prove, we think, his mind to be unfitted for the severity of
historical inquiry. He takes much pains to parade--perhaps he really
believes in--his impartiality, with what justice we appeal to the
foregoing pages; but he is guilty of a prejudice as injurious in its
consequences to truth as any political bias. He abhors whatever is not
in itself picturesque, while he clings with the tenacity of a Novelist
to the _piquant_ and the startling. Whether it be the boudoir of a
strumpet or the death-bed of a monarch--the strong character of a
statesman-warrior abounding in contrasts and rich in mystery, or the
personal history of a judge trained in the Old Bailey to vulgarize and
ensanguine the King's Bench--he luxuriates with a vigour and variety of
language and illustration which renders his "History" an attractive and
absorbing story-book. And so spontaneously redundant are these errors--
so inwoven in the very texture of Mr. Macaulay's mind--that he seems
never able to escape from them. Even after the reader is led to believe
that all that can be said either of praise or vituperation as to
character, of voluptuous description and minute delineation as to fact
and circumstance, has been passed in review before him--when a new
subject, indeed, seems to have been started--all at once the old theme
is renewed, and the old ideas are redressed in all the affluent imagery
and profuse eloquence of which Mr. Macaulay is so eminent a master. Now
of the fancy and fashion of this we should not complain--quite the
contrary--in a professed novel: there is a theatre in which it would be
exquisitely appropriate and attractive; but the Temple of History is not
the floor for a morris-dance--the Muse Clio is not to be worshipped in
the halls of Terpsichore. We protest against this species of _carnival_
history; no more like the reality than the Eglintoun Tournament or the
Costume Quadrilles of Buckingham Palace; and we deplore the squandering
of so much melodramatic talent on a subject which we have hitherto
reverenced as the figure of Truth arrayed in the simple argments
[Transcriber's note: sic] of Philosophy. We are ready to admit an
hundred times over Mr. Macaulay's literary powers--brilliant even under
the affectation with which he too frequently disfigures them. He is a
great painter, but a suspicious narrator; a grand proficient in the
picturesque, but a very poor professor of the historic. These volumes
have been, and his future volumes as they appear will be, devoured with
the same eagerness that _Oliver Twist_ or _Vanity Fair_ excite--with the
same quality of zest, though perhaps with a higher degree of it;--but
his pages will seldom, we think, receive a second perusal--and the work,
we apprehend, will hardly find a permanent place on the historic shelf--
nor ever assuredly, if continued in the spirit of the first two volumes,
be quoted as authority on any question or point of the History of
England.



LOCKHART ON THE AUTHOR OF "VATHEK"[1]


[From _The Quarterly Review_, June, 1834]

[1] "Italy: with sketches of Spain and Portugal. In a series of letters
    written during a residence in these Countries." By William Beckford,
    Esq., author of _Vathek_. London, 1834.

Vathek is, indeed, without reference to the time of life [before he had
closed his twentieth year] when the author penned it, a very remarkable
performance; but, like most of the works of the great poet (Byron) who
has eloquently praised it, it is stained with poison-spots--its
inspiration is too often such as might have been inhaled in the "Hall of
Eblis." We do not allude so much to its audacious licentiousness, as to
the diabolical levity of its contempt for mankind. The boy-author
appears to have already rubbed all the bloom off his heart; and, in the
midst of his dazzling genius, one trembles to think that a stripling of
years so tender should have attained the cool cynicism of a _Candide_.
How different is the effect of that Eastern tale of our own days, which
Lord Byron ought not to have forgotten when he was criticising his
favourite romance. How perfectly does _Thalaba_ realize the ideal
demanded in the Welsh Triad, of "fulness of erudition, simplicity of
language, and purity of manners." But the critic was repelled by the
purity of that delicious creation, more than attracted by the erudition
which he must have respected, and the diction which he could not but
admire--

  The low sweet voice so musical,
  That with such deep and undefined delight
  Fills the surrender'd soul.

It has long been known that Mr. Beckford prepared, shortly after the
publication of his _Vathek_, some other tales in the same vein--the
histories, it is supposed, of the princes in his "Hall of Eblis." A
rumour had also prevailed, that the author drew up, early in life, some
account of his travels in various parts of the world; nay, that he had
printed a few copies of this account, and that its private perusal had
been eminently serviceable to more than one of the most popular poets of
the present age. But these were only vague reports; and Mr. Beckford,
after achieving, on the verge of manhood, a literary reputation, which,
however brilliant, could not satisfy the natural ambition of such an
intellect--seemed, for more than fifty years, to have wholly withdrawn
himself from the only field of his permanent distinction. The world
heard enough of his gorgeous palace at Cintra (described in _Childe
Harold_), afterwards of the unsubstantial pageant of his splendour at
Fonthill, and latterly of his architectural caprices at Bath. But his
literary name seemed to have belonged to another age; and, perhaps, in
this point of view, it may not have been unnatural for Lord Byron, when
comparing _Vathek_ with other Eastern tales, to think rather of _Zadig_
and _Rasselas_, than

  Of Thalaba--the wild and wondrous song.

The preface to the present volumes informs us that they include a
reprint of the book of travels, of which a small private edition passed
through the press forty years ago, and of the existence of which--though
many of our readers must have heard some hints--few could have had any
_knowledge_. Mr. Beckford has at length been induced to publish his
letters, in order to vindicate his own original claim to certain
thoughts, images, and expressions, which had been adopted by other
authors whom he had from time to time received beneath his roof, and
indulged with a perusal of his secret lucubrations. The mere fact that
such a work has lain for near half-a-century, printed but unpublished,
would be enough to stamp the author's personal character as not less
extraordinary than his genius. It is, indeed, sufficiently obvious that
Mr. Rogers had read it before he wrote his "Italy "--a poem, however,
which possesses so many exquisite beauties entirely its own, that it may
easily afford to drop the honour of some, perhaps unconsciously,
appropriated ones; and we are also satisfied that this book had passed
through Mr. Moore's hands before he gave us his light and graceful
"Rhymes on the Road," though the traces of his imitation are rarer than
those which must strike everyone who is familiar with the "Italy." We
are not so sure as to Lord Byron; but, although we have not been able to
lay our finger on any one passage in which he has evidently followed Mr.
Beckford's vein, it will certainly rather surprise us should it
hereafter be made manifest that he had not seen, or at least heard an
account of, this performance, before he conceived the general plan of
his "Childe Harold." Mr. Beckford's book is entirely unlike any book of
travel _in prose_ that exists in any European language; and if we could
fancy Lord Byron to have written the "Harold" in the measure of "Don
Juan," and to have availed himself of the facilities which the _ottima
rima_ affords for intermingling high poetry with merriment of all sorts,
and especially with sarcastic sketches of living manners, we believe the
result would have been a work more nearly akin to that now before us
than any other in the library.

Mr. Beckford, like "Harold," passes through various regions of the
world, and, disdaining to follow the guide-book, presents his reader
with a series of detached, or very slenderly connected sketches of _the
scenes that had made the deepest impression upon himself_. He, when it
suits him, puts the passage of the Alps into a parenthesis. On one
occasion, he really treats Rome as if it had been nothing more than a
post station on the road from Florence to Naples; but, again, if the
scenery and people take his fancy, "he has a royal reluctance to move
on, as his own hero showed when his eye glanced on the grands caractères
rouges, tracés par la main de Carathis?... _Qui me donnera des loix_?--
s'écria le Caliphe."

"England's wealthiest son" performs his travels, of course, in a style
of great external splendour.

  Conspictuus longé cunctisque notabilis intrat--

Courts and palaces, as well as convents and churches, and galleries of
all sorts, fly open at his approach: he is caressed in every capital--he
is _fêté_ in every château. But though he appears amidst such
accompaniments with all the airiness of a Juan, he has a thread of the
blackest of Harold in his texture; and every now and then seems willing
to draw a veil between him and the world of vanities. He is a poet, and
a great one too, though we know not that he ever wrote a line of verse.
His rapture amidst the sublime scenery of mountains and forests--in the
Tyrol especially, and in Spain--is that of a spirit cast originally in
one of nature's finest moulds; and he fixes it in language which can
scarcely be praised beyond its deserts--simple, massive, nervous,
apparently little laboured, yet revealing, in its effect, the perfection
of art. Some immortal passages in Gray's letters and Byron's diaries,
are the only things, in our tongue, that seem to us to come near the
profound melancholy, blended with a picturesqueness of description at
once true and startling, of many of these extraordinary pages. Nor is
his sense for the _highest_ beauty of art less exquisite. He seems to
describe classical architecture, and the pictures of the great Italian
schools, with a most passionate feeling of the grand, and with an
inimitable grace of expression. On the other hand, he betrays, in a
thousand places, a settled voluptuousness of temperament, and a
capricious recklessness of self-indulgence, which will lead the world to
identify him henceforth with his _Vathek_, as inextricably as it has
long since connected Harold with the poet that drew him; and then, that
there may be no limit to the inconsistencies of such a strange genius,
this spirit, at once so capable of the noblest enthusiasm, and so dashed
with the gloom of over-pampered luxury, can stoop to chairs and china,
ever and anon, with the zeal of an auctioneer--revel in the design of a
clock or a candlestick, and be as ecstatic about a fiddler or a soprano
as the fools in Hogarth's _concert_. On such occasions he reminds us,
and will, we think, remind everyone, of the Lord of Strawberry Hill. But
even here all we have is on a grander scale. The oriental prodigality of
his magnificence shines out even in trifles. He buys a library where the
other would have cheapened a missal. He is at least a male Horace
Walpole; as superior to the "silken Baron," as Fonthill, with its
York-like tower embosomed among hoary forests, was to that silly band-box
which may still be admired on the road to Twickenham ...

We have no discussions of any consequence in these volumes: even the
ultra-aristocratical opinions and feelings of the author--who is, we
presume, a Whig--are rather hinted than avowed. From a thousand passing
sneers, we may doubt whether he has any religion at all; but still he
_may_ be only thinking of the outward and visible absurdities of
popery--therefore we have hardly a pretext for treating these matters
seriously. In short, this is meant to be, as he says in his preface,
nothing but a "book of light reading"; and though no one can read it
without having many grave enough feelings roused and agitated within
him, there are really no passages to provoke or justify any detailed
criticism either as to morals or politics ...

We risk nothing in predicting that Mr. Beckford's _Travels_ will
henceforth be classed among the most elegant productions of modern
literature: they will be forthwith translated into every language of the
Continent--and will keep his name alive, centuries after all the brass
and marble he ever piled together have ceased to vibrate with the echoes
of _Modenhas_.



ON COLERIDGE

[From _The Quarterly Review_, August, 1834]

_The Poetical Works of S.T. Coleridge_. 3 vols. 12mo. London, 1834.


Let us be indulged, in the mean time, in this opportunity of making a
few remarks on the genius of the extraordinary man whose poems, now for
the first time completely collected, are named at the head of this
article. The larger part of this publication is, of course, of old date,
and the author still lives; yet, besides the considerable amount of new
matter in this edition, which might of itself, in the present dearth of
anything eminently original in verse, justify our notice, we think the
great, and yet somewhat hazy, celebrity of Coleridge, and the
ill-understood character of his poetry, will be, in the opinion of a
majority of our readers, more than an excuse for a few elucidatory
remarks upon the subject. Idolized by many, and used without scruple by
more, the poet of "Christabel" and the "Ancient Mariner" is but little
truly known in that common literary world, which, without the
prerogative of conferring fame hereafter, can most surely give or
prevent popularity for the present. In that circle he commonly passes
for a man of genius, who has written some very beautiful verses, but
whose original powers, whatever they were, have been long since lost or
confounded in the pursuit of metaphysic dreams. We ourselves venture to
think very differently of Mr. Coleridge, both as a poet and a
philosopher, although we are well enough aware that nothing which we can
say will, as matters now stand, much advance his chance of becoming a
fashionable author. Indeed, as we rather believe, we should earn small
thanks from him for our happiest exertions in such a cause; for
certainly, of all the men of letters whom it has been our fortune to
know, we never met any one who was so utterly regardless of the
reputation of the mere author as Mr. Coleridge--one so lavish and
indiscriminate in the exhibition of his own intellectual wealth before
any and every person, no matter who--one so reckless who might reap
where he had most prodigally sown and watered. "God knows,"--as we once
heard him exclaim upon the subject of his unpublished system of
philosophy,--"God knows, I have no author's vanity about it. I should be
absolutely glad if I could hear that the _thing_ had been done before
me." It is somewhere told of Virgil, that he took more pleasure in the
good verses of Varius and Horace than in his own. We would not answer
for that; but the story has always occurred to us, when we have seen Mr.
Coleridge criticising and amending the work of a contemporary author
with much more zeal and hilarity than we ever perceived him to display
about anything of his own.

Perhaps our readers may have heard repeated a saying of Mr. Wordsworth,
that many men of this age had done wonderful _things_, as Davy, Scott,
Cuvier, &c.; but that Coleridge was the only wonderful _man_ he ever
knew. Something, of course, must be allowed in this as in all other such
cases for the antithesis; but we believe the fact really to be, that the
greater part of those who have occasionally visited Mr. Coleridge have
left him with a feeling akin to the judgment indicated in the above
remark. They admire the man more than his works, or they forget the
works in the absorbing impression made by the living author. And no
wonder. Those who remember him in his more vigorous days can bear
witness to the peculiarity and transcendant power of his conversational
eloquence. It was unlike anything that could be heard elsewhere; the
kind was different, the degree was different, the manner was different.
The boundless range of scientific knowledge, the brilliancy and
exquisite nicety of illustration, the deep and ready reasoning, the
strangeness and immensity of bookish lore--were not all; the dramatic
story, the joke, the pun, the festivity, must be added--and with these
the clerical-looking dress, the thick waving silver hair, the
youthful-coloured cheek, the indefinable mouth and lips, the quick yet
steady and penetrating greenish grey eye, the slow and continuous
enunciation, and the everlasting music of his tones,--all went to make
up
the image and constitute the living presence of the man. He is now no
longer young, and bodily infirmities, we regret to know, have pressed
heavily upon him. His natural force is indeed abated; but his eye is not
dim, neither is his mind yet enfeebled. "O youth!" he says in one of the
most exquisitely finished of his later poems--

  O youth! for years so many and sweet,
  'Tis known that thou and I were one,
  I'll think it but a fond conceit--
  It cannot be that thou art gone!
  Thy vesper bell hath not yet tolled:--
  And thou wert aye a masker bold!
  What strange disguise hast now put on,
  To make believe that thou art gone?
  I see these locks in silvery slips,
  This drooping gait, this altered size;--
  But springtide blossoms on thy lips,
  And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
  Life is but thought: so think I will
  That Youth and I are house-mates still.

Mr. Coleridge's conversation, it is true, has not now all the brilliant
versatility of his former years; yet we know not whether the contrast
between his bodily weakness and his mental power does not leave a deeper
and more solemnly affecting impression, than his most triumphant
displays in youth could ever have done. To see the pain-stricken
countenance relax, and the contracted frame dilate under the kindling of
intellectual fire alone--to watch the infirmities of the flesh shrinking
out of sight, or glorified and transfigured in the brightness of the
awakening spirit--is an awful object of contemplation; and in no other
person did we ever witness such a distinction,--nay, alienation of mind
from body,--such a mastery of the purely intellectual over the purely
corporeal, as in the instance of this remarkable man. Even now his
conversation is characterized by all the essentials of its former
excellence; there is the same individuality, the same _unexpectedness_,
the same universal grasp; nothing is too high, nothing too low for it:
it glances from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth, with a speed and
a splendour, an ease and a power, which almost seem inspired: yet its
universality is not of the same kind with the superficial ranging of the
clever talkers whose criticism and whose information are called forth
by, and spent upon, the particular topics in hand. No; in this more,
perhaps, than in anything else is Mr. Coleridge's discourse
distinguished: that it springs from an inner centre, and illustrates by
light from the soul. His thoughts are, if we may so say, as the radii of
a circle, the centre of which may be in the petals of a rose, and the
circumference as wide as the boundary of things visible and invisible.
In this it was that we always thought another eminent light of our time,
recently lost to us, an exact contrast to Mr. Coleridge as to quality
and style of conversation. You could not in all London or England hear a
more fluent, a more brilliant, a more exquisitely elegant converser than
Sir James Mackintosh; nor could you ever find him unprovided. But,
somehow or other, it always seemed as if all the sharp and brilliant
things he said were poured out of so many vials filled and labelled for
the particular occasion; it struck us, to use a figure, as if his mind
were an ample and well-arranged _hortus siccus_, from which you might
have specimens of every kind of plant, but all of them cut and dried for
store. You rarely saw nature working at the very moment in him. With
Coleridge it was and still is otherwise. He may be slower, more
rambling, less pertinent; he may not strike at the instant as so
eloquent; but then, what he brings forth is fresh coined; his flowers
are newly gathered, they are wet with dew, and, if you please, you may
almost see them growing in the rich garden of his mind. The projection
is visible; the enchantment is done before your eyes. To listen to
Mackintosh was to inhale perfume; it pleased, but did not satisfy. The
effect of an hour with Coleridge is to set you thinking; his words haunt
you for a week afterwards; they are spells, brightenings, revelations.
In short, it is, if we may venture to draw so bold a line, the whole
difference between talent and genius.

A very experienced short-hand writer was employed to take down Mr.
Coleridge's lectures on Shakespeare, but the manuscript was almost
entirely unintelligible. Yet the lecturer was, as he always is, slow and
measured. The writer--we have some notion it was no worse an artist than
Mr. Gurney himself--gave this account of the difficulty: that with
regard to every other speaker whom he had ever heard, however rapid or
involved, he could almost always, by long experience in his art, guess
the form of the latter part, or apodosis, of the sentence by the form of
the beginning; but that the conclusion of every one of Coleridge's
sentences was a _surprise_ upon him. He was obliged to listen to the
last word. Yet this unexpectedness, as we termed it before, is not the
effect of quaintness or confusion of construction; so far from it, that
we believe foreigners of different nations, especially Germans and
Italians, have often borne very remarkable testimony to the grammatical
purity and simplicity of his language, and have declared that they
generally understood what he said much better than the sustained
conversation of any other Englishman whom they had met. It is the
uncommonness of the thoughts or the image which prevents your
anticipating the end.

We owe, perhaps, an apology to our readers for the length of the
preceding remarks; but the fact is, so very much of the intellectual
life and influence of Mr. Coleridge has consisted in the oral
communication of his opinions, that no sketch could be reasonably
complete without a distinct notice of the peculiar character of his
powers in this particular. We believe it has not been the lot of any
other literary man in England, since Dr. Johnson, to command the devoted
admiration and steady zeal of so many and such widely differing
disciples--some of them having become, and others being likely to
become, fresh and independent sources of light and moral action in
themselves upon the principles of their common master. One half of these
affectionate disciples have learned their lessons of philosophy from the
teacher's mouth. He has been to them as an old oracle of the Academy or
Lyceum. The fulness, the inwardness, the ultimate scope of his doctrines
has never yet been published in print, and if disclosed, it has been
from time to time in the higher moments of conversation, when occasion,
and mood, and person begot an exalted crisis. More than once has Mr.
Coleridge said, that with pen in hand, he felt a thousand checks and
difficulties in the expression of his meaning; but that--authorship
aside--he never found the smallest hitch or impediment in the fullest
utterance of his most subtle fancies by word of mouth. His abstrusest
thoughts became rhythmical and clear when chaunted to their own music.
But let us proceed now to the publication before us.

This is the first complete collection of the poems of Samuel Taylor
Coleridge. The addition to the last edition is not less than a fourth of
the whole, and the greatest part of this matter has never been printed
before. It consists of many juvenile pieces, a few of the productions of
the poet's middle life, and more of his later years. With regard to the
additions of the first class, we should not be surprised to hear
friendly doubts expressed as to the judgment shown in their publication.
We ourselves think otherwise; and we are very glad to have had an
opportunity of perusing them. There may be nothing in these earlier
pieces upon which a poet's reputation could be built; yet they are
interesting now as measuring the boyish powers of a great author. We
never read any juvenile poems that so distinctly foretokened the
character of all that the poet has since done; in particular, the very
earliest and loosest of these little pieces indicate that unintermitting
thoughtfulness, and that fine ear for verbal harmony in which we must
venture to think that not one of our modern poets approaches to
Coleridge.

       *       *       *       *       *

We, of course, cite these lines for little besides their luxurious
smoothness; and it is very observable, that although the indications of
the more strictly intellectual qualities of a great poet are very often
extremely faint, as in Byron's case, in early youth,--it is universally
otherwise with regard to high excellence in _versification_ considered
apart and by itself. Like the ear for music, the sense of metrical
melody is always a natural gift; both indeed are evidently connected
with the physical arrangement of the organs, and never to be acquired by
any effort of art. When possessed, they by no means necessarily lead on
to the achievement of consummate harmony in music or in verse; and yet
consummate harmony in either has never been found where the natural gift
has not made itself conspicuous long before. Spenser's Hymns, and
Shakespeare's "Venus and Adonis," and "Rape of Lucrece," are striking
instances of the overbalance of mere sweetness of sound. Even "Comus" is
what we should, in this sense, call luxurious; and all four gratify the
outward ear much more than that inner and severer sense which is
associated with the reason, and requires a meaning even in the very
music for its full satisfaction. Compare the versification of the
youthful pieces mentioned above with that of the maturer works of those
great poets, and you will recognize how possible it is for verses to be
exquisitely melodious, and yet to fall far short of that exalted
excellence of numbers of which language is in itself capable. You will
feel the simple truth, that melody is a part only of harmony. Those
early flashes were indeed auspicious tokens of the coming glory, and
involved some of the conditions and elements of its existence; but the
rhythm of the "Faerie Queene" and of "Paradise Lost" was also the fruit
of a distinct effort of uncommon care and skill. The endless variety of
the pauses in the versification of these poems could not have been the
work of chance, and the adaptation of words with reference to their
asperity, or smoothness, or strength, is equally refined and scientific.
Unless we make a partial exception of the "Castle of Indolence," we do
not remember a single instance of the reproduction of the exact rhythm
of the Spenserian stanza, especially of the concluding line. The precise
Miltonic movement in blank verse has never, to our knowledge, been
caught by any later poet. It is Mr. Coleridge's own strong remark, that
you might as well think of pushing a brick out of a wall with your
forefinger, as attempt to remove a word out of the finished passages in
Shakespeare or Milton. The motion or transposition will alter the
thought, or the feeling, or at least the tone. They are as pieces of
Mosaic work, from which you cannot strike the smallest block without
making a hole in the picture.

And so it is--in due proportion--with Coleridge's best poems. They are
distinguished in a remarkable degree by the perfection of their rhythm
and metrical arrangement. The labour bestowed upon this point must have
been very great; the tone and quantity of words seem weighed in scales
of gold. It will, no doubt, be considered ridiculous by the Fannii and
Fanniae of our day to talk of varying the trochee with the iambus, or of
resolving either into the tribrach. Yet it is evident to us that these,
and even minuter points of accentual scansion, have been regarded by Mr.
Coleridge as worthy of study and observation. We do not, of course, mean
that rules of this kind were always in his mind while composing, any
more than that an expert disputant is always thinking of the
distinctions of mood and figure, whilst arguing; but we certainly
believe that Mr. Coleridge has almost from the commencement of his
poetic life looked upon versification as constituting in and by itself a
much more important branch of the art poetic than most of his eminent
contemporaries appear to have done. And this more careful study shows
itself in him in no technical peculiarities or fantastic whims, against
which the genius of our language revolts; but in a more exact adaptation
of the movement to the feeling, and in a finer selection of particular
words with reference to their local fitness for sense and sound. Some of
his poems are complete models of versification, exquisitely easy to all
appearance, and subservient to the meaning, and yet so subtle in the
links and transitions of the parts as to make it impossible to produce
the same effect merely by imitating the syllabic metre as it stands on
the surface. The secret of the sweetness lies within, and is involved in
the feeling. It is this remarkable power of making his verse musical
that gives a peculiar character to Mr. Coleridge's lyric poems. In some
of the smaller pieces, as the conclusion of the "Kubla Khan," for
example, not only the lines by themselves are musical, but the whole
passage sounds all at once as an outburst or crash of harps in the still
air of autumn. The verses seem as if _played_ to the ear upon some
unseen instrument. And the poet's manner of reciting verse is similar.
It is not rhetorical, but musical: so very near recitative, that for any
one else to attempt it would be ridiculous; and yet it is perfectly
miraculous with what exquisite searching he elicits and makes sensible
every particle of the meaning, not leaving a shadow of a shade of the
feeling, the mood, the degree, untouched. We doubt if a finer rhapsode
ever recited at the Panathenaic festival; and the yet unforgotten Doric
of his native Devon is not altogether without a mellowing effect in his
utterance of Greek. He would repeat the

  [Greek: autar Achilleus dakrusas, etaron aphar ezeto. k. t. l.]

with such an interpreting accompaniment of look, and tone and gesture,
that we believe any commonly-educated person might understand the import
of the passage without knowing alpha from omega. A chapter of Isaiah
from his mouth involves the listener in an act of exalted devotion. We
have mentioned this, to show how the whole man is made up of music; and
yet Mr. Coleridge has no _ear_ for music, as it is technically called.
Master as he is of the intellectual recitative, he could not _sing_ an
air to save his life. But his delight in music is intense and
unweariable, and he can detect good from bad with unerring
discrimination. Poor Naldi, whom most of us remember, and all who
remember must respect, said to our poet once at a concert--"That he did
not seem much interested with a piece of Rossini's which had just been
performed." Coleridge answered, "It sounded to me exactly like _nonsense
verses_. But this thing of Beethoven's that they have begun--stop, let
us listen to this, I beg!" ...

The minute study of the laws and properties of metre is observable in
almost every piece in these volumes. Every kind of lyric measure, rhymed
and unrhymed, is attempted with success; and we doubt whether, upon the
whole, there are many specimens of the heroic couplet or blank verse
superior in construction to what Mr. Coleridge has given us. We mention
this the rather, because it was at one time, although that time is past,
the fashion to say that the Lake school--as two or three poets,
essentially unlike to each other, were foolishly called--had abandoned
the old and established measures of the English poetry for new conceits
of their own. There was no truth in that charge; but we will say this,
that, notwithstanding the prevalent opinion to the contrary, we are not
sure, after perusing _some passages_ in Mr. Southey's "Vision of
Judgment," and the entire "Hymn to the Earth," in hexameters, in the
second of the volumes now before us, that the question of the total
inadmissibility of that measure in English verse can be considered as
finally settled; the true point not being whether such lines are as good
as, or even like, the Homeric or Virgilian models, but whether they are
not in themselves a pleasing variety, and on that account alone, if for
nothing else, not to be rejected as wholly barbarous ...

We should not have dwelt so long upon this point of versification,
unless we had conceived it to be one distinguishing excellence of Mr.
Coleridge's poetry, and very closely connected with another, namely,
fulness and individuality of thought. It seems to be a fact, although we
do not pretend to explain it, that condensation of meaning is generally
found in poetry of a high import in proportion to perfection in metrical
harmony. Petrarch, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton are obvious
instances. Goethe and Coleridge are almost equally so. Indeed, whether
in verse, or prose, or conversation, Mr. Coleridge's mind may be fitly
characterized as an energetic mind--a mind always at work, always in a
course of reasoning. He cares little for anything, merely because it was
or is; it must be referred, or be capable of being referred, to some law
or principle, in order to attract his attention. This is not from
ignorance of the facts of natural history or science. His written and
published works alone sufficiently show how constantly and accurately he
has been in the habit of noting all the phenomena of the material world
around us; and the great philosophical system now at length in
preparation for the press demonstrates, we are told, his masterly
acquaintance with almost all the sciences, and with not a few of the
higher and more genial of the arts. Yet his vast acquirements of this
sort are never put forward by or for themselves; it is in his apt and
novel illustrations, his indications of analogies, his explanation of
anomalies, that he enables the hearer or reader to get a glimpse of the
extent of his practical knowledge. He is always reasoning out from an
inner point, and it is the inner point, the principle, the law which he
labours to bring forward into light. If he can convince you or himself
of the principle _à priori_, he generally leaves the facts to take care
of themselves. He leads us into the laboratories of art or nature as a
showman guides you through a caravan crusted with spar and stalactites,
all cold, and dim, and motionless, till he lifts his torch aloft, and on
a sudden you gaze in admiration on walls and roof of flaming crystals
and stars of eternal diamond.

All this, whether for praise or for blame, is perceptible enough in Mr.
Coleridge's verse, but perceptible, of course, in such degree and mode
as the law of poetry in general, and the nature of the specific poem in
particular, may require. But the main result from this frame and habit
of his mind is very distinctly traceable in the uniform subjectivity of
almost all his works. He does not belong to that grand division of
poetry and poets which corresponds with painting and painters; or which
Pindar and Dante are the chief;--those masters of the picturesque, who,
by a felicity inborn, view and present everything in the completeness of
actual objectivity--and who have a class derived from and congenial
with them, presenting few pictures indeed, but always full of
picturesque matter; of which secondary class Spenser and Southey may be
mentioned as eminent instances. To neither of these does Mr. Coleridge
belong; in his "Christabel," there certainly are several _distinct
pictures_ of great beauty; but he, as a poet, clearly comes within the
other division which answers to music and the musician, in which you
have a magnificent mirage of words with the subjective associations of
the poet curling, and twisting, and creeping round, and through, and
above every part of it. This is the class to which Milton belongs, in
whose poems we have heard Mr. Coleridge say that he remembered but two
proper pictures--Adam bending over the sleeping Eve at the beginning of
the fifth book of the "Paradise Lost," and Delilah approaching Samson
towards the end of the "Agonistes." But when we point out the intense
personal feeling, the self-projection, as it were, which characterizes
Mr. Coleridge's poems, we mean that such feeling is the soul and spirit,
not the whole body and form, of his poetry. For surely no one has ever
more earnestly and constantly borne in mind the maxim of Milton, that
poetry ought to be _simple, sensuous, and impassioned_. The poems in
these volumes are no authority for that dreamy, half-swooning style of
verse which was criticized by Lord Byron (in language too strong for
print) as the fatal sin of Mr. John Keats, and which, unless abjured
betimes, must prove fatal to several younger aspirants--male and female--
who for the moment enjoy some popularity. The poetry before us is
distinct and clear, and accurate in its imagery; but the imagery is
rarely or never exhibited for description's sake alone; it is rarely or
never exclusively objective; that is to say, put forward as a spectacle,
a picture on which the mind's eye is to rest and terminate. You may if
your sight is short, or your imagination cold, regard the imagery in
itself and go no farther; but the poet's intention is that you should
feel and imagine a great deal more than you see. His aim is to awaken in
the reader the same mood of mind, the same cast of imagination and fancy
whence issued the associations which animate and enlighten his pictures.
You must think with him, must sympathize with him, must suffer yourself
to be lifted out of your own school of opinion or faith, and fall back
upon your own consciousness, an unsophisticated man. If you decline
this, _non tibi spirat_. From his earliest youth to this day, Mr.
Coleridge's poetry has been a faithful mirror reflecting the images of
his mind. Hence he is so original, so individual. With a little trouble,
the zealous reader of the "Biographia Literaria" may trace in these
volumes the whole course of mental struggle and self-evolvement narrated
in that odd but interesting work; but he will see the track marked in
light; the notions become images, the images glorified, and not
unfrequently the abstruse position stamped clearer by the poet than by
the psychologist. No student of Coleridge's philosophy can fully
understand it without a perusal of the illumining, and if we may so say,
_popularizing_ commentary of his poetry. It is the Greek put into the
vulgar tongue. And we must say, it is somewhat strange to hear any one
condemn those philosophical principles as altogether unintelligible,
which are inextricably interwoven in every page of a volume of poetry
which he professes to admire....

To this habit of intellectual introversion we are very much inclined to
attribute Mr. Coleridge's never having seriously undertaken a great
heroic poem. The "Paradise Lost" may be thought to stand in the way of
our laying down any general rule on the subject; yet that poem is as
peculiar as Milton himself, and does not materially affect our opinion,
that the pure epic can hardly be achieved by the poet in whose mind the
reflecting turn _greatly_ predominates. The extent of the action in such
a poem requires a free and fluent stream of narrative verse;
description, purely objective, must fill a large space in it, and its
permanent success depends on a rapidity, or at least a liveliness, of
movement which is scarcely compatible with much of what Bacon calls
_inwardness_ of meaning. The reader's attention could not be preserved;
his journey being long, he expects his road to be smooth and
unembarrassed. The condensed passion of the ode is out of place in
heroic song. Few persons will dispute that the two great Homeric poems
are the most delightful of epics; they may not have the sublimity of the
"Paradise Lost," nor the picturesqueness of the "Divine Comedy," nor the
etherial brilliancy of the "Orlando"; but, dead as they are in language,
metre, accent,--obsolete in religion, manners, costume, and country,--
they nevertheless even now _please_ all those who can read them beyond
all other narrative poems. There is a salt in them which keeps them
sweet and incorruptible throughout every change. They are the most
popular of all the remains of ancient genius, and translations of them
for the twentieth time are amongst the very latest productions of our
contemporary literature. From beginning to end, these marvellous poems
are exclusively objective; everything is in them, except the poet
himself. It is not to Vico or Wolfe that we refer, when we say that
_Homer_ is _vox et praeterea nihil_; as musical as the nightingale, and
as invisible....

The "Remorse" and "Zapolya" strikingly illustrate the predominance of
the meditative, pausing habit of Mr. Coleridge's mind. The first of
these beautiful dramas was acted with success, although worse acting was
never seen. Indeed, Kelly's sweet music was the only part of the
theatrical apparatus in any respect worthy of the play. The late Mr.
Kean made some progress in the study of Ordonio, with a view of
reproducing the piece; and we think that Mr. Macready, either as Ordonio
or Alvar, might, with some attention to music, costume, and scenery,
make the representation attractive even in the present day. But in
truth, taken absolutely and in itself, the "Remorse" is more fitted for
the study than the stage; its character is romantic and pastoral in a
high degree, and there is a profusion of poetry in the minor parts, the
effect of which could never be preserved in the common routine of
representation. What this play wants is dramatic movement; there is
energetic dialogue and a crisis of great interest, but the action does
not sufficiently grow on the stage itself. Perhaps, also, the purpose of
Alvar to waken remorse in Ordonio's mind is put forward too prominently,
and has too much the look of a mere moral experiment to be probable
under the circumstances in which the brothers stand to each other.
Nevertheless, there is a calmness as well as superiority of intellect in
Alvar which seem to justify, in some measure, the sort of attempt on his
part, which, in fact, constitutes the theme of the play; and it must be
admitted that the whole underplot of Isidore and Alhadra is lively and
affecting in the highest degree. We particularly refer to the last scene
between Ordonio and Isidore in the cavern, which we think genuine
Shakespeare; and Alhadra's narrative of her discovery of her husband's
murder is not surpassed in truth and force by anything of the kind that
we know....

We have not yet referred to the "Ancient Mariner," "Christabel," the
"Odes on France," and the "Departing Year," or the "Love Poems." All
these are well known by those who know no other parts of Coleridge's
poetry, and the length of our preceding remarks compels us to be brief
in our notice. Mrs. Barbauld, meaning to be complimentary, told our
poet, that she thought the "Ancient Mariner" very beautiful, but that it
had the fault of containing no moral. "Nay, madam," replied the poet,
"if I may be permitted to say so, the only fault in the poem is that
there is _too much_ In a work of such pure imagination I ought not to
have stopped to give reasons for things, or inculcate humanity to
beasts. 'The Arabian Nights' might have taught me better." They might--
the tale of the merchant's son who puts out the eyes of a genii by
flinging his date-shells down a well, and is therefore ordered to
prepare for death--might have taught this law of imagination; but the
fault is small indeed; and the "Ancient Mariner" is, and will ever be,
one of the most perfect pieces of imaginative poetry, not only in our
language, but in the literature of all Europe. We have, certainly,
sometimes doubted whether the miraculous destruction of the vessel in
the presence of the pilot and hermit, was not an error, in respect of
its bringing the purely preternatural into too close contact with the
actual frame-work of the poem. The only link between those scenes of
out-of-the-world wonders, and the wedding guest, should, we rather
suspect, have been the blasted, unknown being himself who described
them. There should have been no other witnesses of the truth of any part
of the tale, but the "Ancient Mariner" himself. This is by the way: but
take the work altogether, there is nothing else like it; it is a poem by
itself; between it and other compositions, in _pari materia_, there is a
chasm which you cannot overpass; the sensitive reader feels himself
insulated, and a sea of wonder and mystery flows round him as round the
spell-stricken ship itself. It was a sad mistake in the ablest artist--
Mr. Scott, we believe--who in his engravings has made the ancient
mariner an old decrepit man. That is not the true image; no! he should
have been a growthless, decayless being, impassive to time or season, a
silent cloud--the wandering Jew. The curse of the dead men's eyes should
not have passed away. But this was, perhaps, too much for any pencil,
even if the artist had fully entered into the poet's idea. Indeed, it is
no subject for painting. The "Ancient Mariner" displays Mr. Coleridge's
peculiar mastery over the wild and preternatural in a brilliant manner;
but in his next poem, "Christabel," the exercise of his power in this
line is still more skilful and singular. The thing attempted in
"Christabel" is the most difficult of execution in the whole field of
romance--witchery by daylight; and the success is complete. Geraldine,
so far as she goes, is perfect. She is _sui generis_. The reader feels
the same terror and perplexity that Christabel in vain struggles to
express, and the same spell that fascinates her eyes. Who and what is
Geraldine--whence come, whither going, and what designing? What did the
poet mean to make of her? What could he have made of her? Could he have
gone on much farther without having had recourse to some of the ordinary
shifts of witch tales? Was she really the daughter of Roland de Vaux,
and would the friends have met again and embraced?...

We are not amongst those who wish to have "Christabel" finished. It
cannot be finished. The poet has spun all he could without snapping. The
theme is too fine and subtle to bear much extension. It is better as it
is, imperfect as a story, but complete as an exquisite production of the
imagination, differing in form and colour from the "Ancient Mariner,"
yet differing in effect from it only so as the same powerful faculty is
directed to the feudal or the mundane phases of the preternatural....

It has been impossible to express, in the few pages to which we are
necessarily limited, even a brief opinion upon all those pieces which
might seem to call for notice in an estimate of this author's poetical
genius. We know no writer of modern times whom it would not be easier to
characterize in one page than Coleridge in two. The volumes before us
contain so many integral efforts of imagination, that a distinct notice
of each is indispensable, if we would form a just conclusion upon the
total powers of the man. Wordsworth, Scott, Moore, Byron, Southey, are
incomparably more uniform in the direction of their poetic mind. But if
you look over these volumes for indications of their author's poetic
powers, you find him appearing in at least half a dozen shapes, so
different from each other, that it is in vain to attempt to mass them
together. It cannot indeed be said, that he has ever composed what is
popularly termed a _great_ poem; but he is great in several lines, and
the union of such powers is an essential term in a fair estimate of his
genius. The romantic witchery of the "Christabel," and "Ancient
Mariner," the subtle passion of the love-strains, the lyrical splendour
of the three great odes, the affectionate dignity, thoughtfulness, and
delicacy of the blank verse poems--especially the "Lover's Resolution,"
"Frost at Midnight," and that most noble and interesting "Address to Mr.
Wordsworth"--the dramas, the satires, the epigrams--these are so
distinct and so whole in themselves, that they might seem to proceed
from different authors, were it not for that same individualizing power,
that "shaping spirit of imagination" which more or less sensibly runs
through them all. It is the _predominance_ of this power, which, in our
judgment, constitutes the essential difference between Coleridge and any
other of his great contemporaries. He is the most imaginative of the
English poets since Milton. Whatever he writes, be it on the most
trivial subject, be it in the most simple strain, his imagination, _in
spite of himself_, affects it. There never was a better illustrator of
the dogma of the Schoolmen--_in omnem actum intellectualem imaginatio
influit_. We believe we might affirm, that throughout all the mature
original poems in these volumes, there is not one image, the
_expression_ of which does not, in a greater or less degree,
individualize it and appropriate it to the poet's feelings. Tear the
passage out of its place, and nail it down at the head of a chapter of a
modern novel, and it will be like hanging up in a London exhibition-room
a picture painted for the dim light of a cathedral. Sometimes a single
word--an epithet--has the effect to the reader of a Claude Lorraine
glass; it tints without obscuring or disguising the object. The poet has
the same power in conversation. We remember him once settling an
elaborate discussion carried on in his presence, upon the respective
sublimity of Shakespeare and Schiller in Othello and the Robbers, by
saying, "Both are sublime; only Schiller's is the _material_ sublime--
that's all!" _All_ to be sure; but more than enough to show the whole
difference. And upon another occasion, where the doctrine of the
Sacramentaries and the Roman Catholics on the subject of the Eucharist
was in question, the poet said, "They are both equally wrong; the first
have volatilized the Eucharist into a metaphor--the last have condensed
it into an idol." Such utterance as this flashes light; it supersedes
all argument--it abolishes proof by proving itself.

We speak of Coleridge, then, as the poet of imagination; and we add,
that he is likewise the poet of thought and verbal harmony. That his
thoughts are sometimes hard and sometimes even obscure, we think must be
admitted; it is an obscurity of which all very subtle thinkers are
occasionally guilty, either by attempting to express evanescent feelings
for which human language is an inadequate vehicle, or by expressing,
however adequately, thoughts and distinctions to which the common reader
is unused. As to the first kind of obscurity, the words serving only as
hieroglyphics to denote a once existing state of mind in the poet, but
not logically inferring what that state was, the reader can only guess
for himself by the context, whether he ever has or not experienced in
himself a corresponding feeling; and, therefore, undoubtedly this is an
obscurity which strict criticism cannot but condemn. But, if an author
be obscure, merely because this or that reader is unaccustomed to the
mode or direction of thinking in which such author's genius makes him
take delight--such a writer must indeed bear the consequence as to
immediate popularity; but he cannot help the consequence, and if he be
worth anything for posterity, he will disregard it. In this sense almost
every great writer, whose natural bent has been to turn the mind upon
itself, is--must be--obscure; for no writer, with such a direction of
intellect, will be great, unless he is individual and original; and if
he is individual and original, then he must, in most cases, himself make
the readers who shall be competent to sympathize with him.

The English flatter themselves by a pretence that Shakespeare and Milton
are popular in England. It is good taste, indeed, to wish to have it
believed that those poets are popular. Their names are so; but if it be
said that the works of Shakespeare and Milton are popular--that is,
liked and studied--amongst the wide circle whom it is now the fashion to
talk of as enlightened, we are obliged to express our doubts whether a
grosser delusion was ever promulgated. Not a play of Shakespeare's can
be ventured on the London stage without mutilation--and without the most
revolting balderdash foisted into the rents made by managers in his
divine dramas; nay, it is only some three or four of his pieces that can
be borne at all by our all-intelligent public, unless the burthen be
lightened by dancing, singing, or processioning. This for the stage. But
is it otherwise with "the _reading_ public"? We believe it is worse; we
think, verily, that the apprentice or his master who sits out Othello or
Richard at the theatres, does get a sort of glimpse, a touch, an
atmosphere of intellectual grandeur; but he could not keep himself awake
during the perusal of that which he admires--or fancies he admires--in
scenic representation. As to understanding Shakespeare--as to entering
into all Shakespeare's thoughts and feelings--as to seeing the idea of
Hamlet, or Lear, or Othello, as Shakespeare saw it--this we believe
falls, and can only fall, to the lot of the really cultivated few, and
of those who may have so much of the temperament of genius in
themselves, as to comprehend and sympathize with the criticism of men of
genius. Shakespeare is now popular by name, because, in the first place,
great men, more on a level with the rest of mankind, have said that he
is admirable, and also because, in the absolute universality of his
genius, he has presented points to all. Every man, woman, and child, may
pick at least one flower from his garden, the name and scent of which
are familiar. To all which must of course be added, the effect of
theatrical representation, be that representation what it may. There are
tens of thousands of persons in this country whose only acquaintance
with Shakespeare, such as it is, is through the stage.

We have been talking of the contemporary mass; but this is not all; a
great original writer _of a philosophic turn_--especially a poet--will
almost always have the fashionable world also against him at first,
because he does not give the sort of pleasure expected of him at the
time, and because, not contented with that, he is sure, by precept or
example, to show a contempt for the taste and judgment of the
expectants. He is always, and by the law of his being, an idoloclast. By
and by, after years of abuse or neglect, the aggregate of the single
minds who think for themselves, and have seen the truth and force of his
genius, becomes important; the merits of the poet by degrees constitute
a question for discussion; his works are one by one read; men recognize
a superiority in the abstract, and learn to be modest where before they
had been scornful; the coterie becomes a sect; the sect dilates into a
party; and lo! after a season, no one knows how, the poet's fame is
universal. All this, to the very life, has taken place in this country
within the last twenty years. The noblest philosophical poem since the
time of Lucretius was, within time of short memory, declared to be
intolerable, by one of the most brilliant writers in one of the most
brilliant publications of the day. It always puts us in mind of Waller--
no mean parallel--who, upon the coming out of the "Paradise Lost," wrote
to the duke of Buckingham, amongst other pretty things, as follows:--
"Milton, the old blind schoolmaster, has lately written a poem on the
Fall of Man--_remarkable for nothing but its extreme length!_" Our
divine poet asked a fit audience, although it should be but few. His
prayer was heard; a fit audience for the "Paradise Lost" has ever been,
and at this moment must be, a small one, and we cannot affect to believe
that it is destined to be much increased by what is called the march of
intellect.

Can we lay down the pen without remembering that Coleridge the poet is
but half the name of Coleridge? This, however, is not the place, nor the
time, to discuss in detail his qualities or his exertions as a
psychologist, moralist, and general philosopher. That time may come,
when his system, as a whole, shall be fairly placed before the world, as
we have reason to hope it will soon be; and when the preliminary works--
the "Friend," the "Lay Sermons," the "Aids to Reflection," and the
"Church and State,"--especially the last two--shall be seen in their
proper relations as preparatory exercises for the reader. His "Church
and State, according to the Idea of Each"--a little book--we cannot help
recommending as a storehouse of grand and immovable principles, bearing
upon some of the most vehemently disputed topics of constitutional
interest in these momentous times. Assuredly this period has not
produced a profounder and more luminous essay. We have heard it asked,
what was the proposed object of Mr. Coleridge's labours as a
metaphysical philosopher? He once answered that question himself, in
language never to be forgotten by those who heard it, and which,
whatever may be conjectured of the probability or even possibility of
its being fully realized, must be allowed to express the completest idea
of a system of philosophy ever yet made public.

"My system," said he, "if I may venture to give it so fine a name, is
the only attempt that I know, ever made, to reduce all knowledge into
harmony. It opposes no other system, but shows what was true in each;
and how that which was true in the particular in each of them, became
error, _because_ it was only half the truth. I have endeavoured to unite
the insulated fragments of truth, and therewith to frame a perfect
mirror. I show to each system that I fully understand and rightfully
appreciate what that system means; but then I lift up that system to a
higher point of view, from which I enable it to see its former position,
where it was indeed, but under another light and with different
relations,--so that the fragment of truth is not only acknowledged, but
explained. So the old astronomers discovered and maintained much that
was true; but because they were placed on a false ground, and looked
from a wrong point of view, they never did--they never could--discover
the truth--that is, the whole truth. As soon as they left the earth,
their false centre, and took their stand in the sun, immediately they
saw the whole system in its true light, and the former station
remaining--but remaining _as a part_ of the prospect. I wish, in short,
to connect a moral copula, natural history with political history; or,
in other words, to make history scientific, and science historical:--to
take from history its accidentality, and from science its fatalism."

Whether we shall ever, hereafter, have occasion to advert to any new
poetical efforts of Mr. Coleridge, or not, we cannot say. We wish we had
a reasonable cause to expect it. If not, then this hail and farewell
will have been well made. We conclude with, we believe, the last verses
he has written--

  _My Baptismal Birth-Day._

  God's child in Christ adopted,--Christ my all,--
  What that earth boasts were not lost cheaply, rather
  Than forfeit the blest name, by which I call
  The Holy One, the Almighty God, my Father?
  Father! in Christ we live, and Christ in Thee;
  Eternal Thou, and everlasting we.
  The heir of heaven, henceforth I fear not death:
  In Christ I live: in Christ I draw the breath
  Of the true life:--Let then earth, sea, and sky
  Make war against me! On my heart I show
  Their mighty Master's seal. In vain they try
  To end my life, that can but end its woe.
  Is that a death-bed where a Christian lies?
  Yes! but not his--'tis Death itself there dies.--Vol. ii, p. 151.



SIR WALTER SCOTT ON JANE AUSTEN


[From. _The Quarterly Review_, October, 1815]

_Emma; a Novel_. By the Author of _Sense and Sensibility, Pride and
Prejudice_, etc. 3 vols. 12mo. London. 1815.

There are some vices in civilized society so common that they are hardly
acknowledged as stains upon the moral character, the propensity to which
is nevertheless carefully concealed, even by those who most frequently
give way to them; since no man of pleasure would willingly assume the
gross epithet of a debauchee or a drunkard. One would almost think that
novel-reading fell under this class of frailties, since among the crowds
who read little else, it is not common to find an individual of
hardihood sufficient to avow his taste for these frivolous studies. A
novel, therefore, is frequently "bread eaten in secret"; and it is not
upon Lydia Languish's toilet alone that Tom Jones and Peregrine Pickle
are to be found ambushed behind works of a more grave and instructive
character. And hence it has happened, that in no branch of composition,
not even in poetry itself, have so many writers, and of such varied
talents, exerted their powers. It may perhaps be added, that although
the composition of these works admits of being exalted and decorated by
the higher exertions of genius; yet such is the universal charm of
narrative, that the worst novel ever written will find some gentle
reader content to yawn over it, rather than to open the page of the
historian, moralist, or poet. We have heard, indeed, of one work of
fiction so unutterably stupid, that the proprietor, diverted by the
rarity of the incident, offered the book, which consisted of two volumes
in duodecimo, handsomely bound, to any person who would declare, upon
his honour, that he had read the whole from beginning to end. But
although this offer was made to the passengers on board an Indiaman,
during a tedious outward-bound voyage, the _Memoirs of Clegg the
Clergyman_ (such was the title of this unhappy composition) completely
baffled the most dull and determined student on board, and bid fair for
an exception to the general rule above-mentioned,--when the love of
glory prevailed with the boatswain, a man of strong and solid parts, to
hazard the attempt, and he actually conquered and carried off the prize!

The judicious reader will see at once that we have been pleading our own
cause while stating the universal practice, and preparing him for a
display of more general acquaintance with this fascinating department of
literature, than at first sight may seem consistent with the graver
studies to which we are compelled by duty: but in truth, when we
consider how many hours of languor and anxiety, of deserted age and
solitary celibacy, of pain even and poverty, are beguiled by the perusal
of these light volumes, we cannot austerely condemn the source from
which is drawn the alleviation of such a portion of human misery, or
consider the regulation of this department as beneath the sober
consideration of the critic.

If such apologies may be admitted in judging the labours of ordinary
novelists, it becomes doubly the duty of the critic to treat with
kindness as well as candour works which, like this before us, proclaim a
knowledge of the human heart, with the power and resolution to bring
that knowledge to the service of honour and virtue. The author is
already known to the public by the two novels announced in her title-page,
and both, the last especially, attracted, with justice, an
attention from the public far superior to what is granted to the
ephemeral productions which supply the regular demand of watering-places
and circulating libraries. They belong to a class of fictions which has
arisen almost in our own times, and which draws the characters and
incidents introduced more immediately from the current of ordinary life
than was permitted by the former rules of the novel. In its first
appearance, the novel was the legitimate child of the romance; and
though the manners and general turn of the composition were altered so
as to suit modern times, the author remained fettered by many
peculiarities derived from the original style of romantic fiction. These
may be chiefly traced in the conduct of the narrative, and the tone of
sentiment attributed to the fictitious personages. On the first point,
although

      The talisman and magic wand were broke,
  Knights, dwarfs, and genii vanish'd into smoke,

still the reader expected to peruse a course of adventures of a nature
more interesting and extraordinary than those which occur in his own
life, or that of his next-door neighbours.

The hero no longer defeated armies by his single sword, clove giants to
the chine, or gained kingdoms. But he was expected to go through perils
by sea and land, to be steeped in poverty, to be tried by temptation, to
be exposed to the alternate vicissitudes of adversity and prosperity,
and his life was a troubled scene of suffering and achievement. Few
novelists, indeed, adventured to deny to the hero his final hour of
tranquillity and happiness, though it was the prevailing fashion never
to relieve him out of his last and most dreadful distress until the
finishing chapters of his history; so that although his prosperity in
the record of his life was short, we were bound to believe it was long
and uninterrupted when the author had done with him. The heroine was
usually condemned to equal hardships and hazards. She was regularly
exposed to being forcibly carried off like a Sabine virgin by some
frantic admirer. And even if she escaped the terrors of masked ruffians,
an insidious ravisher, a cloak wrapped forcibly around her head, and a
coach with the blinds up driving she could not conjecture whither, she
had still her share of wandering, of poverty, of obloquy, of seclusion,
and of imprisonment, and was frequently extended upon a bed of sickness,
and reduced to her last shilling before the author condescended to
shield her from persecution. In all these dread contingencies the mind
of the reader was expected to sympathize, since by incidents so much
beyond the bounds of his ordinary experience, his wonder and interest
ought at once to be excited. But gradually he became familiar with the
land of fiction, the adventures of which he assimilated not with those
of real life, but with each other. Let the distress of the hero or
heroine be ever so great, the reader reposed an imperturbable confidence
in the talents of the author, who, as he had plunged them into distress,
would in his own good time, and when things, as Tony Lumkin says, were
in a concatenation accordingly, bring his favourites out of all their
troubles. Mr. Crabbe has expressed his own and our feelings excellently
on this subject.

  For should we grant these beauties all endure
  Severest pangs, they've still the speediest cure;
  Before one charm be withered from the face,
  Except the bloom which shall again have place,
  In wedlock ends each wish, in triumph all disgrace.
  And life to come, we fairly may suppose,
  One light bright contrast to these wild dark woes.

In short, the author of novels was, in former times, expected to tread
pretty much in the limits between the concentric circles of probability
and possibility; and as he was not permitted to transgress the latter,
his narrative, to make amends, almost always went beyond the bounds of
the former. Now, although it may be urged that the vicissitudes of human
life have occasionally led an individual through as many scenes of
singular fortune as are represented in the most extravagant of these
fictions, still the causes and personages acting on these changes have
varied with the progress of the adventurer's fortune, and do not present
that combined plot, (the object of every skilful novelist), in which all
the more interesting individuals of the dramatis personae have their
appropriate share in the action and in bringing about the catastrophe.
Here, even more than in its various and violent changes of fortune,
rests the improbability of the novel. The life of man rolls forth like a
stream from the fountain, or it spreads out into tranquillity like a
placid or stagnant lake. In the latter case, the individual grows old
among the characters with whom he was born, and is contemporary,--shares
precisely the sort of weal and woe to which his birth destined him,--
moves in the same circle,--and, allowing for the change of seasons, is
influenced by, and influences the same class of persons by which he was
originally surrounded. The man of mark and of adventure, on the
contrary, resembles, in the course of his life, the river whose
mid-current and discharge into the ocean are widely removed from each
other, as well as from the rocks and wild flowers which its fountains
first reflected; violent changes of time, of place, and of circumstances,
hurry him forward from one scene to another, and his adventures will
usually be found only connected with each other because they have
happened to the same individual. Such a history resembles an ingenious,
fictitious narrative, exactly in the degree in which an old dramatic
chronicle of the life and death of some distinguished character, where
all the various agents appear and disappear as in the page of history,
approaches a regular drama, in which every person introduced plays an
appropriate part, and every point of the action tends to one common
catastrophe.

We return to the second broad line of distinction between the novel, as
formerly composed, and real life,--the difference, namely, of the
sentiments. The novelist professed to give an imitation of nature, but
it was, as the French say, _la belle nature_. Human beings, indeed, were
presented, but in the most sentimental mood, and with minds purified by
a sensibility which often verged on extravagance. In the serious class
of novels, the hero was usually

  A knight of love, who never broke a vow.

And although, in those of a more humorous cast, he was permitted a
licence, borrowed either from real life or from the libertinism of the
drama, still a distinction was demanded even from Peregrine Pickle, or
Tom Jones; and the hero, in every folly of which he might be guilty, was
studiously vindicated from the charge of infidelity of the heart. The
heroine was, of course, still more immaculate; and to have conferred her
affections upon any other than the lover to whom the reader had destined
her from their first meeting, would have been a crime against sentiment
which no author, of moderate prudence, would have hazarded, under the
old _régime_.

Here, therefore, we have two essentials and important circumstances, in
which the earlier novels differed from those now in fashion, and were
more nearly assimilated to the old romances. And there can be no doubt
that, by the studied involution and extrication of the story, by the
combination of incidents new, striking and wonderful beyond the course
of ordinary life, the former authors opened that obvious and strong
sense of interest which arises from curiosity; as by the pure, elevated,
and romantic cast of the sentiment, they conciliated those better
propensities of our nature which loves to contemplate the picture of
virtue, even when confessedly unable to imitate its excellences.

But strong and powerful as these sources of emotion and interest may be,
they are, like all others, capable of being exhausted by habit. The
imitators who rushed in crowds upon each path in which the great masters
of the art had successively led the way, produced upon the public mind
the usual effect of satiety. The first writer of a new class is, as it
were, placed on a pinnacle of excellence, to which, at the earliest
glance of a surprised admirer, his ascent seems little less than
miraculous. Time and imitation speedily diminish the wonder, and each
successive attempt establishes a kind of progressive scale of ascent
between the lately deified author, and the reader, who had deemed his
excellence inaccessible. The stupidity, the mediocrity, the merit of his
imitators, are alike fatal to the first inventor, by showing how
possible it is to exaggerate his faults and to come within a certain
point of his beauties.

Materials also (and the man of genius as well as his wretched imitator
must work with the same) become stale and familiar. Social life, in our
civilized days, affords few instances capable of being painted in the
strong dark colours which excite surprise and horror; and robbers,
smugglers, bailiffs, caverns, dungeons, and mad-houses, have been all
introduced until they ceased to interest. And thus in the novel, as in
every style of composition which appeals to the public taste, the more
rich and easily worked mines being exhausted, the adventurous author
must, if he is desirous of success, have recourse to those which were
disdained by his predecessors as unproductive, or avoided as only
capable of being turned to profit by great skill and labour.

Accordingly a style of novel has arisen, within the last fifteen or
twenty years, differing from the former in the points upon which the
interest hinges; neither alarming our credulity nor amusing our
imagination by wild variety of incident, or by those pictures of
romantic affection and sensibility, which were formerly as certain
attributes of fictitious characters as they are of rare occurrence among
those who actually live and die. The substitute for these excitements,
which had lost much of their poignancy by the repeated and injudicious
use of them, was the art of copying from nature as she really exists in
the common walks of life, and presenting to the reader, instead of the
splendid scenes of an imaginary world, a correct and striking
representation of that which is daily taking place around him.

In adventuring upon this task, the author makes obvious sacrifices, and
encounters peculiar difficulty. He who paints from _le beau idéal_, if
his scenes and sentiments are striking and interesting, is in a great
measure exempted from the difficult task of reconciling them with the
ordinary probabilities of life: but he who paints a scene of common
occurrence, places his composition within that extensive range of
criticism which general experience offers to every reader. The
resemblance of a statue of Hercules we must take on the artist's
judgment; but every one can criticize that which is presented as the
portrait of a friend, or neighbour. Something more than a mere sign-post
likeness is also demanded. The portrait must have spirit and character,
as well as resemblance; and being deprived of all that, according to
Bayes, goes "to elevate and surprize," it must make amends by displaying
depth of knowledge and dexterity of execution. We, therefore, bestow no
mean compliment upon the author of _Emma_, when we say that, keeping
close to common incidents, and to such characters as occupy the ordinary
walks of life, she has produced sketches of such spirit and originality,
that we never miss the excitation which depends upon a narrative of
uncommon events, arising from the consideration of minds, manners and
sentiments, greatly above our own. In this class she stands almost
alone; for the scenes of Miss Edgeworth are laid in higher life, varied
by more romantic incident, and by her remarkable power of embodying and
illustrating national character. But the author of _Emma_ confines
herself chiefly to the middling classes of society; her most
distinguished characters do not rise greatly above well-bred country
gentlemen and ladies; and those which are sketched with most originality
and precision, belong to a class rather below that standard. The
narrative of all her novels is composed of such common occurrences as
may have fallen under the observation of most folks; and her dramatis
personae conduct themselves upon the motives and principles which the
readers may recognize as ruling their own and that of most of their
acquaintances. The kind of moral, also, which these novels inculcate,
applies equally to the paths of common life, as will best appear from a
short notice of the author's former works, with a more full abstract of
that which we at present have under consideration.

_Sense and Sensibility_, the first of these compositions, contains the
history of two sisters. The elder, a young lady of prudence and
regulated feelings, becomes gradually attached to a man of an excellent
heart and limited talents, who happens unfortunately to be fettered by a
rash and ill-assorted engagement. In the younger sister, the influence
of sensibility and imagination predominates; and she, as was to be
expected, also falls in love, but with more unbridled and wilful
passion. Her lover, gifted with all the qualities of exterior polish and
vivacity, proves faithless, and marries a woman of large fortune. The
interest and merit of the piece depend altogether upon the behaviour of
the elder sister, while obliged at once to sustain her own
disappointment with fortitude, and to support her sister, who abandons
herself, with unsuppressed feelings, to the indulgence of grief. The
marriage of the unworthy rival at length relieves her own lover from his
imprudent engagement, while her sister, turned wise by precept, example,
and experience, transfers her affection to a very respectable and
somewhat too serious admirer, who had nourished an unsuccessful passion
through the three volumes.

In _Pride and Prejudice_ the author presents us with a family of young
women, bred up under a foolish and vulgar mother, and a father whose
good abilities lay hid under such a load of indolence and insensibility,
that he had become contented to make the foibles and follies of his wife
and daughters the subject of dry and humorous sarcasm, rather than of
admonition, or restraint. This is one of the portraits from ordinary
life which shews our author's talents in a very strong point of view. A
friend of ours, whom the author never saw or heard of, was at once
recognized by his own family as the original of Mr. Bennet, and we do
not know if he has yet got rid of the nickname. A Mr. Collins, too, a
formal, conceited, yet servile young sprig of divinity, is drawn with
the same force and precision. The story of the piece consists chiefly in
the fates of the second sister, to whom a man of high birth, large
fortune, but haughty and reserved manners, becomes attached, in spite of
the discredit thrown upon the object of his affection by the vulgarity
and ill-conduct of her relations. The lady, on the contrary, hurt at the
contempt of her connections, which the lover does not even attempt to
suppress, and prejudiced against him on other accounts, refuses the hand
which he ungraciously offers, and does not perceive that she has done a
foolish thing until she accidentally visits a very handsome seat and
grounds belonging to her admirer. They chance to meet exactly as her
prudence had begun to subdue her prejudice; and after some essential
services rendered to her family, the lover becomes encouraged to renew
his addresses, and the novel ends happily.

_Emma_ has even less story than either of the preceding novels. Miss
Emma Woodhouse, from whom the book takes its name, is the daughter of a
gentleman of wealth and consequence residing at his seat in the
immediate vicinage of a country village called Highbury. The father, a
good-natured, silly valetudinary, abandons the management of his
household to Emma, he himself being only occupied by his summer and
winter walk, his apothecary, his gruel, and his whist table. The latter
is supplied from the neighbouring village of Highbury with precisely the
sort of persons who occupy the vacant corners of a regular whist table,
when a village is in the neighbourhood, and better cannot be found
within the family. We have the smiling and courteous vicar, who
nourishes the ambitious hope of obtaining Miss Woodhouse's hand. We have
Mrs. Bates, the wife of a former rector, past everything but tea and
whist; her daughter, Miss Bates, a good-natured, vulgar, and foolish old
maid; Mr. Weston, a gentleman of a frank disposition and moderate
fortune, in the vicinity, and his wife an amiable and accomplished
person, who had been Emma's governess, and is devotedly attached to her.
Amongst all these personages, Miss Woodhouse walks forth, the princess
paramount, superior to all her companions in wit, beauty, fortune, and
accomplishments, doated upon by her father and the Westons, admired, and
almost worshipped by the more humble companions of the whist table. The
object of most young ladies is, or at least is usually supposed to be, a
desirable connection in marriage. But Emma Woodhouse, either
anticipating the taste of a later period of life, or, like a good
sovereign, preferring the weal of her subjects of Highbury to her own
private interest, sets generously about making matches for her friends
without thinking of matrimony on her own account. We are informed that
she had been eminently successful in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Weston;
and when the novel commences she is exerting her influence in favour of
Miss Harriet Smith, a boarding-school girl without family or fortune,
very good humoured, very pretty, very silly, and, what suited Miss
Woodhouse's purpose best of all, very much disposed to be married.

In these conjugal machinations Emma is frequently interrupted, not only
by the cautions of her father, who had a particular objection to any
body committing the rash act of matrimony, but also by the sturdy
reproof and remonstrances of Mr. Knightley, the elder brother of her
sister's husband, a sensible country gentleman of thirty-five, who had
known Emma from her cradle, and was the only person who ventured to find
fault with her. In spite, however, of his censure and warning, Emma lays
a plan of marrying Harriet Smith to the vicar; and though she succeeds
perfectly in diverting her simple friend's thoughts from an honest
farmer who had made her a very suitable offer, and in flattering her
into a passion for Mr. Elton, yet, on the other hand, that conceited
divine totally mistakes the nature of the encouragement held out to him,
and attributes the favour which he found in Miss Woodhouse's eyes to a
lurking affection on her own part. This at length encourages him to a
presumptuous declaration of his sentiments; upon receiving a repulse, he
looks abroad elsewhere, and enriches the Highbury society by uniting
himself to a dashing young woman with as many thousands as are usually
called ten, and a corresponding quantity of presumption and ill
breeding.

While Emma is thus vainly engaged in forging wedlock-fetters for others,
her friends have views of the same kind upon her, in favour of a son of
Mr. Weston by a former marriage, who bears the name, lives under the
patronage, and is to inherit the fortune of a rich uncle. Unfortunately
Mr. Frank Churchill had already settled his affections on Miss Jane
Fairfax, a young lady of reduced fortune; but as this was a concealed
affair, Emma, when Mr. Churchill first appears on the stage, has some
thoughts of being in love with him herself; speedily, however,
recovering from that dangerous propensity, she is disposed to confer him
upon her deserted friend Harriet Smith. Harriet has in the interim,
fallen desperately in love with Mr. Knightley, the sturdy, advice-giving
bachelor; and, as all the village supposes Frank Churchill and Emma to
be attached to each other, there are cross purposes enough (were the
novel of a more romantic cast) for cutting half the men's throats and
breaking all the women's hearts. But at Highbury Cupid walks decorously,
and with good discretion, bearing his torch under a lanthorn, instead of
flourishing it around to set the house on fire. All these entanglements
bring on only a train of mistakes and embarrassing situations, and
dialogues at balls and parties of pleasure, in which the author displays
her peculiar powers of humour and knowledge of human life. The plot is
extricated with great simplicity. The aunt of Frank Churchill dies; his
uncle, no longer under her baneful influence, consents to his marriage
with Jane Fairfax. Mr. Knightley and Emma are led, by this unexpected
incident, to discover that they had been in love with each other all
along. Mr. Woodhouse's objections to the marriage of his daughter are
overpowered by the fears of house-breakers, and the comfort which he
hopes to derive from having a stout son-in-law resident in the family;
and the facile affections of Harriet Smith are transferred, like a bank
bill by indorsation, to her former suitor, the honest farmer, who had
obtained a favourable opportunity of renewing his addresses. Such is the
simple plan of a story which we peruse with pleasure, if not with deep
interest, and which perhaps we might more willingly resume than one of
those narratives where the attention is strongly riveted, during the
first perusal, by the powerful excitement of curiosity.

The author's knowledge of the world, and the peculiar tact with which
she presents characters that the reader cannot fail to recognize,
reminds us something of the merits of the Flemish school of painting.
The subjects are not often elegant, and certainly never grand; but they
are finished up to nature, and with a precision which delights the
reader. This is a merit which it is very difficult to illustrate by
extracts, because it pervades the whole work, and is not to be
comprehended from a single passage. The following is a dialogue between
Mr. Woodhouse, and his elder daughter Isabella, who shares his anxiety
about health, and has, like her father, a favourite apothecary. The
reader must be informed that this lady, with her husband, a sensible,
peremptory sort of person, had come to spend a week with her father.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps the reader may collect from the preceding specimen both the
merits and faults of the author. The former consists much in the force
of a narrative conducted with much neatness and point, and a quiet yet
comic dialogue, in which the characters of the speakers evolve
themselves with dramatic effect. The faults, on the contrary, arise from
the minute detail which the author's plan comprehends. Characters of
folly or simplicity, such as those of old Woodhouse and Miss Bates, are
ridiculous when first presented, but if too often brought forward or too
long dwelt upon, their prosing is apt to become as tiresome in fiction
as in real society. Upon the whole, the turn of this author's novels
bears the same relation to that of the sentimental and romantic cast,
that cornfields and cottages and meadows bear to the highly adorned
grounds of a show mansion, or the rugged sublimities of a mountain
landscape. It is neither so captivating as the one, nor so grand as the
other, but it affords to those who frequent it a pleasure nearly allied
with the experience of their own social habits; and what is of some
importance, the youthful wanderer may return from his promenade to the
ordinary business of life, without any chance of having his head turned
by the recollection of the scene through which he has been wandering.

One word, however, we must say in behalf of that once powerful divinity,
Cupid, king of gods and men, who in these times of revolution, has been
assailed, even in his own kingdom of romance, by the authors who were
formerly his devoted priests. We are quite aware that there are few
instances of first attachment being brought to a happy conclusion, and
that it seldom can be so in a state of society so highly advanced as to
render early marriages among the better class, acts, generally speaking,
of imprudence. But the youth of this realm need not at present be taught
the doctrine of selfishness. It is by no means their error to give the
world or the good things of the world all for love; and before the
authors of moral fiction couple Cupid indivisibly with calculating
prudence, we would have them reflect, that they may sometimes lend their
aid to substitute more mean, more sordid, and more selfish motives of
conduct, for the romantic feelings which their predecessors perhaps
fanned into too powerful a flame. Who is it, that in his youth has felt
a virtuous attachment, however romantic or however unfortunate, but can
trace back to its influence much that his character may possess of what
is honourable, dignified, and disinterested? If he recollects hours
wasted in unavailing hope, or saddened by doubt and disappointment; he
may also dwell on many which have been snatched from folly or
libertinism, and dedicated to studies which might render him worthy of
the object of his affection, or pave the way perhaps to that distinction
necessary to raise him to an equality with her. Even the habitual
indulgence of feelings totally unconnected with ourself and our own
immediate interest, softens, graces, and amends the human mind; and
after the pain of disappointment is past, those who survive (and by good
fortune those are the greater number) are neither less wise nor less
worthy members of society for having felt, for a time, the influence of
a passion which has been well qualified as the "tenderest, noblest and
best."



ARCHBISHOP WHATELY ON
JANE AUSTEN


[From _The Quarterly Review_, January, 1821]

_Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion_. By the Author of _Sense and
Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park_, and _Emma_. 4 vols.
New Edition.

The times seem to be past when an apology was requisite from reviewers
for condescending to notice a novel; when they felt themselves bound in
dignity to deprecate the suspicion of paying much regard to such
trifles, and pleaded the necessity of occasionally stooping to humour
the taste of their fair readers. The delights of fiction, if not more
keenly or more generally relished, are at least more readily
acknowledged by men of sense and taste; and we have lived to hear the
merits of the best of this class of writings earnestly discussed by some
of the ablest scholars and soundest reasoners of the present day.

We are inclined to attribute this change, not so much to an alteration
in the public taste, as in the character of the productions in question.
Novels may not, perhaps, display more genius now than formerly, but they
contain more solid sense; they may not afford higher gratification, but
it is of a nature which men are less disposed to be ashamed of avowing.
We remarked, in a former Number, in reviewing a work of the author now
before us, that "a new style of novel has arisen, within the last
fifteen or twenty years, differing from the former in the points upon
which the interest hinges; neither alarming our credulity nor amusing
our imagination by wild variety of incident, or by those pictures of
romantic affection and sensibility, which were formerly as certain
attributes of fictitious characters as they are of rare occurrence among
those who actually live and die. The substitute for these excitements,
which had lost much of their poignancy by the repeated and injudicious
use of them, was the art of copying from nature as she really exists in
the common walks of life, and presenting to the reader, instead of the
splendid scenes of an imaginary world, a correct and striking
representation of that which is daily taking place around him."

Now, though the origin of this new school of fiction may probably be
traced, as we there suggested, to the exhaustion of the mines from which
materials for entertainment had been hitherto extracted, and the
necessity of gratifying the natural craving of the reader for variety,
by striking into an untrodden path; the consequences resulting from this
change have been far greater than the mere supply of this demand. When
this Flemish painting, as it were, is introduced--this accurate and
unexaggerated delineation of events and characters--it necessarily
follows, that a novel, which makes good its pretensions of giving a
perfectly correct picture of common life, becomes a far more
_instructive_ work than one of equal or superior merit of the other
class; it guides the judgment, and supplies a kind of artificial
experience. It is a remark of the great father of criticism, that poetry
(_i.e._, narrative, and dramatic poetry) is of a more philosophical
character than history; inasmuch as the latter details what has actually
happened, of which many parts may chance to be exceptions to the general
rules of probability, and consequently illustrate no general principles;
whereas the former shews us what must naturally, or would probably,
happen under given circumstances; and thus displays to us a
comprehensive view of human nature, and furnishes general rules of
practical wisdom. It is evident, that this will apply only to such
fictions as are quite _perfect_ in respect of the probability of their
story; and that he, therefore, who resorts to the fabulist rather than
the historian, for instruction in human character and conduct, must
throw himself entirely on the judgment and skill of his teacher, and
give him credit for talents much more rare than the accuracy and
veracity which are the chief requisites in history. We fear, therefore,
that the exultation which we can conceive some of our gentle readers to
feel, at having Aristotle's warrant for (what probably they had never
dreamed of) the _philosophical character_ of their studies, must, in
practice, be somewhat qualified, by those sundry little violations of
probability which are to be met with in most novels; and which so far
lower their value, as models of real life, that a person who had no
other preparation for the world than is afforded by them, would form,
probably, a less accurate idea of things as they are, than he would of a
lion from studying merely the representations on China tea-pots.

Accordingly, a heavy complaint has long lain against works of fiction,
as giving a false picture of what they profess to imitate, and
disqualifying their readers for the ordinary scenes and everyday duties
of life. And this charge applies, we apprehend, to the generality of
what are strictly called novels, with even more justice than to
romances. When all the characters and events are very far removed from
what we see around us,--when, perhaps, even supernatural agents are
introduced, the reader may indulge, indeed, in occasional day-dreams,
but will be so little reminded by what he has been reading, of anything
that occurs in actual life, that though he may perhaps feel some
disrelish for the tameness of the scene before him, compared with the
fairy-land he has been visiting, yet at least his judgment will not be
depraved, nor his expectations misled; he will not apprehend a meeting
with Algerine banditti on English shores, nor regard the old woman who
shews him about an antique country seat, as either an enchantress or the
keeper of an imprisoned damsel. But it is otherwise with those fictions
which differ from common life in little or nothing but the improbability
of the occurrences: the reader is insensibly led to calculate upon some
of those lucky incidents and opportune coincidences of which he has been
so much accustomed to read, and which, it is undeniable, _may_ take
place in real life; and to feel a sort of confidence, that however
romantic his conduct may be, and in whatever difficulties it may involve
him, all will be sure to come right at last, as is invariably the case
with the hero of a novel.

On the other hand, so far as these pernicious effects fail to be
produced, so far does the example lose its influence, and the exercise
of poetical justice is rendered vain. The reward of virtuous conduct
being brought about by fortunate accidents, he who abstains (taught,
perhaps, by bitter disappointments) from reckoning on such accidents,
wants that encouragement to virtue, which alone has been held out to
him. "If I were _a man in a novel_," we remember to have heard an
ingenious friend observe, "I should certainly act so and so, because I
should be sure of being no loser by the most heroic self-devotion and of
ultimately succeeding in the most daring enterprises."

It may be said, in answer, that these objections apply only to the
_unskilful_ novelist, who, from ignorance of the world, gives an
unnatural representation of what he professes to delineate. This is
partly true, and partly not; for there is a distinction to be made
between the _unnatural_ and the merely _improbable_: a fiction is
unnatural when there is some assignable reason against the events taking
place as described,--when men are represented as acting contrary to the
character assigned them, or to human nature in general; as when a young
lady of seventeen, brought up in ease, luxury and retirement, with no
companions but the narrow-minded and illiterate, displays (as a heroine
usually does) under the most trying circumstances, such wisdom,
fortitude, and knowledge of the world, as the best instructors and the
best examples can rarely produce without the aid of more mature age and
longer experience.--On the other hand, a fiction is still _improbable_,
though _not unnatural_, when there is no reason to be assigned why
things should not take place as represented, except that the
_overbalance of chances is_ against it; the hero meets, in his utmost
distress, most opportunely, with the very person to whom he had formerly
done a signal service, and who happens to communicate to him a piece of
intelligence which sets all to rights. Why should he not meet him as
well as any one else? all that can be said is, that there is no reason
why he should. The infant who is saved from a wreck, and who afterwards
becomes such a constellation of virtues and accomplishments, turns out
to be no other than the nephew of the very gentleman, on whose estate
the waves had cast him, and whose lovely daughter he had so long sighed
for in vain: there is no reason to be given, except from the calculation
of chances, why he should not have been thrown on one part of the coast
as well as another. Nay, it would be nothing unnatural, though the most
determined novel-reader would be shocked at its improbability, if all
the hero's enemies, while they were conspiring his ruin were to be
struck dead together by a lucky flash of lightning: yet many denouements
which _are_ decidedly unnatural, are better tolerated than this would
be. We shall, perhaps, best explain our meaning by examples, taken from
a novel of great merit in many respects. When Lord Glenthorn, in whom a
most unfavourable education has acted on a most unfavourable
disposition, after a life of torpor, broken only by short sallies of
forced exertion, on a sudden reverse of fortune, displays at once the
most persevering diligence in the most repulsive studies, and in middle
life, without any previous habits of exertion, any hope of early
business, or the example of friends, or the stimulus of actual want, to
urge him, outstrips every competitor, though every competitor has every
advantage against him; this is unnatural.--When Lord Glenthorn, the
instant he is stripped of his estates, meets, falls in love with, and is
conditionally accepted by the very lady who is remotely intitled to
those estates; when, the instant he has fulfilled the conditions of
their marriage, the family of the person possessed of the estates
becomes extinct, and by the concurrence of circumstances, against every
one of which the chances were enormous, the hero is re-instated in all
his old domains; this is merely improbable. The distinction which we
have been pointing out may be plainly perceived in the events of real
life; when any thing takes place of such a nature as we should call, in
a fiction, merely improbable, because there are many chances against it,
we call it a lucky or unlucky accident, a singular coincidence,
something very extraordinary, odd, curious, etc.; whereas any thing
which, in a fiction, would be called unnatural, when it actually occurs
(and such things do occur), is still called unnatural, inexplicable,
unaccountable, inconceivable, etc., epithets which are not applied to
events that have merely the balance of chances against them.

Now, though an author who understands human nature is not likely to
introduce into his fictions any thing that is unnatural, he will often
have much that is improbable: he may place his personages, by the
intervention of accident, in striking situations, and lead them through
a course of extraordinary adventures; and yet, in the midst of all this,
he will keep up the most perfect consistency of character, and make them
act as it would be natural for men to act in such situations and
circumstances. Fielding's novels are a good illustration of this: they
display great knowledge of mankind; the characters are well preserved;
the persons introduced all act as one would naturally expect they
should, in the circumstances in which they are placed; but these
circumstances are such as it is incalculably improbable should ever
exist: several of the events, taken singly, are much against the chances
of probability; but the combination of the whole in a connected series,
is next to impossible. Even the romances which admit a mixture of
supernatural agency, are not more unfit to prepare men for real life,
than such novels as these; since one might just as reasonably calculate
on the intervention of a fairy, as on the train of lucky chances which
combine first to involve Tom Jones in his difficulties, and afterwards
to extricate him. Perhaps, indeed, the supernatural fable is of the two
not only (as we before remarked) the less mischievous in its moral
effects, but also the more correct kind of composition in point of
taste: the author lays down a kind of hypothesis of the existence of
ghosts, witches, or fairies, and professes to describe what would take
place under that hypothesis; the novelist, on the contrary, makes no
demand of extraordinary machinery, but professes to describe what may
actually take place, according to the existing laws of human affairs: if
he therefore present us with a series of events quite unlike any which
ever do take place, we have reason to complain that he has not made good
his professions.

When, therefore, the generality, even of the most approved novels, were
of this character (to say nothing of the heavier charges brought, of
inflaming the passions of young persons by warm descriptions, weakening
their abhorrence of profligacy by exhibiting it in combination with the
most engaging qualities, and presenting vice in all its allurements,
while setting forth the triumphs of "virtue rewarded") it is not to be
wondered that the grave guardians of youth should have generally
stigmatized the whole class, as "serving only to fill young people's
heads with romantic love-stories, and rendering them unfit to mind
anything else." That this censure and caution should in many instances
be indiscriminate, can surprize no one, who recollects how rare a
quality discrimination is; and how much better it suits indolence, as
well as ignorance, to lay down a rule, than to ascertain the exceptions
to it: we are acquainted with a careful mother whose daughters while
they never in their lives read a _novel_ of any kind, are permitted to
peruse, without reserve, any _plays_ that happen to fall in their way;
and with another, from whom no lessons, however excellent, of wisdom and
piety, contained in a _prose-fiction,_ can obtain quarter; but who, on
the other hand, is no less indiscriminately indulgent to her children in
the article of tales in _verse_, of whatever character.

The change, however, which we have already noticed, as having taken
place in the character of several modern novels, has operated in a
considerable degree to do away this prejudice; and has elevated this
species of composition, in some respects at least, into a much higher
class. For most of that instruction which used to be presented to the
world in the shape of formal dissertations, or shorter and more
desultory moral essays, such as those of the _Spectator_ and _Rambler_,
we may now resort to the pages of the acute and judicious, but not less
amusing, novelists who have lately appeared. If their views of men and
manners are no less just than those of the essayists who preceded them,
are they to be rated lower because they present to us these views, not
in the language of general description, but in the form of
well-constructed fictitious narrative? If the practical lessons they
inculcate are no less sound and useful, it is surely no diminution of
their merit that they are conveyed by example instead of precept: nor,
if their remarks are neither less wise nor less important, are they the
less valuable for being represented as thrown out in the course of
conversations suggested by the circumstances of the speakers, and
perfectly in character. The praise and blame of the moralist are surely
not the less effectual for being bestowed, not in general declamation,
on classes of men, but on individuals representing those classes, who
are so clearly delineated and brought into action before us, that we
seem to be acquainted with them, and feel an interest in their fate.

Biography is allowed, on all hands, to be one of the most attractive and
profitable kinds of reading: now such novels as we have been speaking
of, being a kind of fictitious biography, bear the same relation to the
real, that epic and tragic poetry, according to Aristotle, bear to
history: they present us (supposing, of course, each perfect in its
kind) with the general, instead of the particular,--the probable,
instead of the true; and, by leaving out those accidental
irregularities, and exceptions to general rules, which constitute the
many improbabilities of real narrative, present us with a clear and
_abstracted_ view of the general rules themselves; and thus concentrate,
as it were, into a small compass, the net result of wide experience.

Among the authors of this school there is no one superior, if equal, to
the lady whose last production is now before us, and whom we have much
regret in finally taking leave of: her death (in the prime of life,
considered as a writer) being announced in this the first publication to
which her name is prefixed. We regret the failure not only of a source
of innocent amusement, but also of that supply of practical good sense
and instructive example, which she would probably have continued to
furnish better than any of her contemporaries:--Miss Edgeworth, indeed,
draws characters and details conversations, such as they occur in real
life, with a spirit and fidelity not to be surpassed; but her stories
are most romantically improbable (in the sense above explained), almost
all the important events of them being brought about by most
_providential_ coincidences; and this, as we have already remarked, is
not merely faulty, inasmuch as it evinces a want of skill in the writer,
and gives an air of clumsiness to the fiction, but is a very
considerable drawback on its practical utility: the personages either of
fiction or history being then only profitable examples, when their good
or ill conduct meets its appropriate reward, not from a sort of
independent machinery of accidents, but as a necessary or probable
result, according to the ordinary course of affairs. Miss Edgeworth also
is somewhat too avowedly didactic: that seems to be true of her, which
the French critics, in the extravagance of their conceits, attributed to
Homer and Virgil; viz., that they first thought of a moral, and then
framed a fable to illustrate it; she would, we think, instruct more
successfully, and she would, we are sure, please more frequently, if she
kept the design of teaching more out of sight, and did not so glaringly
press every circumstance of her story, principal or subordinate, into
the service of a principle to be inculcated, or information to be given.
A certain portion of moral instruction must accompany every
well-invented narrative. Virtue must be represented as producing, at the
long run, happiness; and vice, misery; and the accidental events, that
in
real life interrupt this tendency, are anomalies which, though true
individually, are as false generally as the accidental deformities which
vary the average outline of the human figure. They would be as much out
of place in a fictitious narrative, as a wen in an academic model. But
any _direct_ attempt at moral teaching, and any attempt whatever to give
scientific information will, we fear, unless managed with the utmost
discretion, interfere with what, after all, is the immediate and
peculiar object of the novelist, as of the poet, _to please_. If
instruction do not join as a volunteer, she will do no good service.
Miss Edgeworth's novels put us in mind of those clocks and watches which
are condemned "a double or a treble debt to pay": which, besides their
legitimate object, to show the hour, tell you the day of the month or
the week, give you a landscape for a dial-plate, with the second hand
forming the sails of a windmill, or have a barrel to play a tune, or an
alarum to remind you of an engagement: all very good things in their
way; but so it is that these watches never tell the time so well as
those in which that is the exclusive object of the maker. Every
additional movement is an obstacle to the original design. We do not
deny that we have learned much physic, and much law, from _Patronage_,
particularly the latter, for Miss Edgeworth's law is of a very original
kind; but it was not to learn law and physic that we took up the book,
and we suspect we should have been more pleased if we had been less
taught. With regard to the influence of religion, which is scarcely, if
at all, alluded to in Miss Edgeworth's novels, we would abstain from
pronouncing any decision which should apply to her personally. She may,
for aught we know, entertain opinions which would not permit her, with
consistency, to attribute more to it than she has done; in that case she
stands acquitted, in _foro conscientiae_, of wilfully suppressing any
thing which she acknowledges to be true and important; but, as a writer,
it must still be considered as a blemish, in the eyes at least of those
who think differently, that virtue should be studiously inculcated with
scarcely any reference to what they regard as the main spring of it;
that vice should be traced to every other source except the want of
religious principle; that the most radical change from worthlessness to
excellence should be represented as wholly independent of that agent
which they consider as the only one that can accomplish it; and that
consolation under affliction should be represented as derived from every
source except the one which they look to as the only true and sure one:
"is it not because there is no God in Israel that ye have sent to
inquire of Baalzebub the God of Ekron?"

Miss Austin has the merit (in our judgment most essential) of being
evidently a Christian writer: a merit which is much enhanced, both on
the score of good taste, and of practical utility, by her religion being
not at all obtrusive. She might defy the most fastidious critic to call
any of her novels (as _Caelebs_ was designated, we will not say
altogether without reason), a "dramatic sermon." The subject is rather
alluded to, and that incidentally, than studiously brought forward and
dwelt upon. In fact she is more sparing of it than would be thought
desirable by some persons; perhaps even by herself, had she consulted
merely her own sentiments; but she probably introduced it as far as she
thought would be generally acceptable and profitable: for when the
purpose of inculcating a religious principle is made too palpably
prominent, many readers, if they do not throw aside the book with
disgust, are apt to fortify themselves with that respectful kind of
apathy with which they undergo a regular sermon, and prepare themselves
as they do to swallow a dose of medicine, endeavouring to _get it down_
in large gulps, without tasting it more than is necessary.

The moral lessons also of this lady's novels, though clearly and
impressively conveyed, are not offensively put forward, but spring
incidentally from the circumstances of the story; they are not forced
upon the reader, but he is left to collect them (though without any
difficulty) for himself: hers is that unpretending kind of instruction
which is furnished by real life; and certainly no author has ever
conformed more closely to real life, as well in the incidents, as in the
characters and descriptions. Her fables appear to us to be, in their own
way, nearly faultless; they do not consist (like those of some of the
writers who have attempted this kind of common-life novel writing) of a
string of unconnected events which have little or no bearing on one main
plot, and are introduced evidently for the sole purpose of bringing in
characters and conversations; but have all that compactness of plan and
unity of action which is generally produced by a sacrifice of
probability: yet they have little or nothing that is not probable; the
story proceeds without the aid of extraordinary accidents; the events
which take place are the necessary or natural consequences of what has
preceded; and yet (which is a very rare merit indeed) the final
catastrophe is scarcely ever clearly foreseen from the beginning, and
very often comes, upon the generality of readers at least, quite
unexpected. We know not whether Miss Austin ever had access to the
precepts of Aristotle; but there are few, if any, writers of fiction who
have illustrated them more successfully.

The vivid distinctness of description, the minute fidelity of detail,
and air of unstudied ease in the scenes represented, which are no less
necessary than probability of incident, to carry the reader's
imagination along with the story, and give fiction the perfect
appearance of reality, she possesses in a high degree; and the object is
accomplished without resorting to those deviations from the ordinary
plan of narrative in the third person, which have been patronized by
some eminent masters. We allude to the two other methods of conducting a
fictitious story, viz., either by narrative in the first person, when
the hero is made to tell his own tale, or by a series of letters; both
of which we conceive have been adopted with a view of heightening the
resemblance of the fiction to reality. At first sight, indeed, there
might appear no reason why a story told in the first person should have
more the air of a real history than in the third; especially as the
majority of real histories actually are in the third person;
nevertheless, experience seems to show that such is the case: provided
there be no want of skill in the writer, the resemblance to real life,
of a fiction thus conducted, will approach much the nearest (other
points being equal) to a deception, and the interest felt in it, to that
which we feel in real transactions. We need only instance Defoe's
Novels, which, in spite of much improbability, we believe have been
oftener mistaken for true narratives, than any fictions that ever were
composed. Colonel Newport is well known to have been cited as an
historical authority; and we have ourselves found great difficulty in
convincing many of our friends that Defoe was not himself the citizen,
who relates the plague of London. The reason probably is, that in the
ordinary form of narrative, the writer is not content to exhibit, like a
real historian, a bare detail of such circumstances as might actually
have come under his knowledge; but presents us with a description of
what is passing in the minds of the parties, and gives an account of
their feelings and motives, as well as their most private conversations
in various places at once. All this is very amusing, but perfectly
unnatural: the merest simpleton could hardly mistake a fiction of _this_
kind for a true history, unless he believed the writer to be endued with
omniscience and omnipresence, or to be aided by familiar spirits, doing
the office of Homer's Muses, whom he invokes to tell him all that could
not otherwise be known;

  [Greek: _Umeis gar theoi eote pareote te, iote te panta._]

Let the events, therefore, which are detailed, and the characters
described, be ever so natural, the way in which they are presented to us
is of a kind of supernatural cast, perfectly unlike any real history
that ever was or can be written, and thus requiring a greater stretch of
imagination in the reader. On the other hand, the supposed narrator of
his own history never pretends to dive into the thoughts and feelings of
the other parties; he merely describes his own, and gives his
conjectures as to those of the rest, just as a real autobiographer might
do; and thus an author is enabled to assimilate his fiction to reality,
without withholding that delineation of the inward workings of the human
heart, which is so much coveted. Nevertheless novels in the first person
have not succeeded so well as to make that mode of writing become very
general. It is objected to them, not without reason, that they want a
_hero_: the person intended to occupy that post being the narrator
himself, who of course cannot so describe his own conduct and character
as to make the reader thoroughly acquainted with him; though the attempt
frequently produces an offensive appearance of egotism.

The plan of a fictitious correspondence seems calculated in some measure
to combine the advantages of the other two; since, by allowing each
personage to be the speaker in turn, the feelings of each may be
described by himself, and his character and conduct by another. But
these novels are apt to become excessively tedious; since, to give the
letters the appearance of reality (without which the main object
proposed would be defeated), they must contain a very large proportion
of matter which has no bearing at all upon the story. There is also
generally a sort of awkward disjointed appearance in a novel which
proceeds entirely in letters, and holds together, as it were, by
continual splicing.

Miss Austin, though she has in a few places introduced letters with
great effect, has on the whole conducted her novels on the ordinary
plan, describing, without scruple, private conversations and
uncommunicated feelings: but she has not been forgetful of the important
maxim, so long ago illustrated by Homer, and afterwards enforced by
Aristotle,[1] of saying as little as possible in her own person, and
giving a dramatic air to the narrative, by introducing frequent
conversations; which she conducts with a regard to character hardly
exceeded even by Shakespeare himself. Like him, she shows as admirable a
discrimination in the characters of fools as of people of sense; a merit
which is far from common. To invent, indeed, a conversation full of
wisdom or of wit, requires that the writer should himself possess
ability; but the converse does not hold good: it is no fool that can
describe fools well; and many who have succeeded pretty well in painting
superior characters, have failed in giving individuality to those weaker
ones, which it is necessary to introduce in order to give a faithful
representation of real life: they exhibit to us mere folly in the
abstract, forgetting that to the eye of a skilful naturalist the insects
on a leaf present as wide differences as exist between the elephant and
the lion. Slender, and Shallow, and Aguecheek, as Shakespeare has
painted them, though equally fools, resemble one another no more than
"Richard," and "Macbeth," and "Julius Caesar"; and Miss Austin's "Mrs.
Bennet," "Mr. Rushworth," and "Miss Bates," are no more alike than her
"Darcy," "Knightley," and "Edmund Bertram." Some have complained,
indeed, of finding her fools too much like nature, and consequently
tiresome; there is no disputing about tastes; all we can say is, that
such critics must (whatever deference they may outwardly pay to received
opinions) find the "Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Twelfth Night" very
tiresome; and that those who look with pleasure at Wilkie's pictures, or
those of the Dutch school, must admit that excellence of imitation may
confer attraction on that which would be insipid or disagreeable in the
reality.

[1] [Greek: _ouden anthes_] Arist. Poet.

Her minuteness of detail has also been found fault with; but even where
it produces, at the time, a degree of tediousness, we know not whether
that can justly be reckoned a blemish, which is absolutely essential to
a very high excellence. Now, it is absolutely impossible, without this,
to produce that thorough acquaintance with the characters, which is
necessary to make the reader heartily interested in them. Let any one
cut out from the _Iliad_ or from Shakespeare's plays every thing (we are
far from saying that either might not lose some parts with advantage,
but let him reject every thing) which is absolutely devoid of importance
and of interest _in itself_; and he will find that what is left will
have lost more than half its charms. We are convinced that some writers
have diminished the effect of their works by being scrupulous to admit
nothing into them which had not some absolute, intrinsic, and
independent merit. They have acted like those who strip off the leaves
of a fruit tree, as being of themselves good for nothing, with the view
of securing more nourishment to the fruit, which in fact cannot attain
its full maturity and flavour without them.

       *       *       *       *       *

To say the truth, we suspect one of Miss Austin's great merits in our
eyes to be, the insight she gives us into the peculiarities of female
character. Authoresses can scarcely ever forget the _esprit de corps_--
can scarcely ever forget that they _are authoresses_. They seem to feel
a sympathetic shudder at exposing naked a female mind. _Elles se
peignent en buste_, and leave the mysteries of womanhood to be described
by some interloping male, like Richardson or Marivaux, who is turned out
before he has seen half the rites, and is forced to spin from his own
conjectures the rest. Now from this fault Miss Austin is free. Her
heroines are what one knows women must be, though one never can get them
to acknowledge it. As liable to "fall in love first," as anxious to
attract the attention of agreeable men, as much taken with a striking
manner, or a handsome face, as unequally gifted with constancy and
firmness, as liable to have their affections biassed by convenience or
fashion, as we, on our part, will admit men to be. As some illustration
of what we mean, we refer our readers to the conversation between Miss
Crawford and Fanny, vol. iii, p. 102. Fanny's meeting with her father,
p. 199; her reflections after reading Edmund's letter, 246; her
happiness (good, and heroine though she be) in the midst of the misery
of all her friends, when she finds that Edmund has decidedly broken with
her rival; feelings, all of them, which, under the influence of strong
passion, must alloy the purest mind, but with which scarcely any
_authoress_ but Miss Austin would have ventured to temper the aetherial
materials of a heroine.

But we must proceed to the publication of which the title is prefixed to
this article. It contains, it seems, the earliest and the latest
productions of the author; the first of them having been purchased, we
are told, many years back by a bookseller, who, for some reason
unexplained, thought proper to alter his mind and withhold it. We do not
much applaud his taste; for though it is decidedly inferior to her other
works, having less plot, and what there is, less artificially wrought
up, and also less exquisite nicety of moral painting; yet the same kind
of excellences which characterise the other novels may be perceived in
this, in a degree which would have been highly creditable to most other
writers of the same school, and which would have entitled the author to
considerable praise, had she written nothing better.

We already begin to fear, that we have indulged too much in extracts,
and we must save some room for _Persuasion_, or we could not resist
giving a specimen of John Thorpe, with his horse that _cannot_ go less
than 10 miles an hour, his refusal to drive his sister "because she has
such thick ankles," and his sober consumption of five pints of port a
day; altogether the best portrait of a species, which, though almost
extinct, cannot yet be quite classed among the Palaeotheria, the Bang-up
Oxonian. Miss Thorpe, the jilt of middling life, is, in her way, quite
as good, though she has not the advantage of being the representative of
a rare or a diminishing species. We fear few of our readers, however
they may admire the naïveté, will admit the truth of poor John Morland's
postscript, "I can never expect to know such another woman."

The latter of these novels, however, _Persuasion_, which is more
strictly to be considered as a posthumous work, possesses that
superiority which might be expected from the more mature age at which it
was written, and is second, we think, to none of the former ones, if not
superior to all. In the humorous delineation of character it does not
abound quite so much as some of the others, though it has great merit
even on that score; but it has more of that tender and yet elevated kind
of interest which is aimed at by the generality of novels, and in
pursuit of which they seldom fail of running into romantic extravagance:
on the whole, it is one of the most elegant fictions of common life we
ever remember to have met with.

Sir Walter Elliot, a silly and conceited baronet, has three daughters,
the eldest two, unmarried, and the third, Mary, the wife of a
neighbouring gentleman, Mr. Charles Musgrove, heir to a considerable
fortune, and living in a genteel cottage in the neighbourhood of the
Great house which he is hereafter to inherit. The second daughter, Anne,
who is the heroine, and the only one of the family possessed of good
sense (a quality which Miss Austin is as sparing of in her novels, as we
fear her great mistress, Nature, has been in real life), when on a visit
to her sister, is, by that sort of instinct which generally points out
to all parties the person on whose judgment and temper they may rely,
appealed to in all the little family differences which arise, and which
are described with infinite spirit and detail.

       *       *       *       *       *

We ventured, in a former article, to remonstrate against the
dethronement of the once powerful God of Love, in his own most especial
domain, the novel; and to suggest that, in shunning the ordinary fault
of recommending by examples a romantic and uncalculating extravagance of
passion, Miss Austin had rather fallen into the opposite extreme of
exclusively patronizing what are called prudent matches, and too much
disparaging sentimental enthusiasm. We urged, that, mischievous as is
the extreme on this side, it is not the one into which the young folks
of the present day are the most likely to run: the prevailing fault is
not now, whatever it may have been, to sacrifice all for love:

  Venit enim magnum donandi parca juventus,
  Nec tantum Veneris quantum studiosa culinae.

We may now, without retracting our opinion, bestow unqualified
approbation; for the distresses of the present heroine all arise from
her prudent refusal to listen to the suggestions of her heart. The
catastrophe, however, is happy, and we are left in doubt whether it
would have been better for her or not, to accept the first proposal; and
this we conceive is precisely the proper medium; for, though we would
not have prudential calculations the sole principle to be regarded in
marriage, we are far from advocating their exclusion. To disregard the
advice of sober-minded friends on an important point of conduct, is an
imprudence we would by no means recommend; indeed, it is a species of
selfishness, if, in listening only to the dictates of passion, a man
sacrifices to its gratification the happiness of those most dear to him
as well as his own; though it is not now-a-days the most prevalent form
of selfishness. But it is no condemnation of a sentiment to say, that it
becomes blameable when it interferes with duty, and is uncontrolled by
conscience: the desire of riches, power, or distinction--the taste for
ease and comfort--are to be condemned when they transgress these bounds;
and love, if it keep within them, even though it be somewhat tinged with
enthusiasm, and a little at variance with what the worldly call
prudence, _i.e._, regard for pecuniary advantage, may afford a better
moral discipline to the mind than most other passions. It will not at
least be denied, that it has often proved a powerful stimulus to
exertion where others have failed, and has called forth talents unknown
before even to the possessor. What, though the pursuit may be fruitless,
and the hopes visionary? The result may be a real and substantial
benefit, though of another kind; the vineyard may have been cultivated
by digging in it for the treasure which is never to be found. What
though the perfections with which imagination has decorated the beloved
object, may, in fact, exist but in a slender degree? still they are
believed in and admired as real; if not, the love is such as does not
merit the name; and it is proverbially true that men become assimilated
to the character (_i.e._, what they _think_ the character) of the being
they fervently adore: thus, as in the noblest exhibitions of the stage,
though that which is contemplated be but a fiction, it may be realized
in the mind of the beholder; and, though grasping at a cloud, he may
become worthy of possessing a real goddess. Many a generous sentiment,
and many a virtuous resolution, have been called forth and matured by
admiration of one, who may herself perhaps have been incapable of
either. It matters not what the object is that a man aspires to be
worthy of, and proposes as a model for imitation, if he does but
_believe_ it to be excellent. Moreover, all doubts of success (and they
are seldom, if ever, entirely wanting) must either produce or exercise
humility; and the endeavour to study another's interests and
inclinations, and prefer them to one's own, may promote a habit of
general benevolence which may outlast the present occasion. Every thing,
in short, which tends to abstract a man in any degree, or in any way,
from self,--from self-admiration and self-interest, has, so far at
least, a beneficial influence in forming the character.

On the whole, Miss Austin's works may safely be recommended, not only as
among the most unexceptionable of their class, but as combining, in an
eminent degree, instruction with amusement, though without the direct
effort at the former, of which we have complained, as sometimes
defeating its object. For those who cannot, or will not, _learn_
anything from productions of this kind, she has provided entertainment
which entitles her to thanks; for mere innocent amusement is in itself a
good, when it interferes with no greater: especially as it may occupy
the place of some other that may _not_ be innocent. The Eastern monarch
who proclaimed a reward to him who should discover a new pleasure, would
have deserved well of mankind had he stipulated that it should be
blameless. Those, again, who delight in the study of human nature, may
improve in the knowledge of it, and in the profitable application of
that knowledge, by the perusal of such fictions as those before us.



W. E. GLADSTONE ON TENNYSON

[From _The Quarterly Review_, October, 1859]

1.  _Tennyson's Poems_. In Two Volumes. London, 1842.
2.  _The Princess: a Medley_. London, 1847.
3.  _In Memoriam_. London, 1850.
4.  _Maud, and other Poems_. London, 1855.
5.  _Idylls of the King_. London, 1859.

Mr. Tennyson published his first volume, under the title of "Poems
Chiefly Lyrical," in 1830, and his second, with the name simply of
"Poems," in 1833. In 1842 he reappeared before the world in two volumes,
partly made up from the _débris_ of his earlier pieces; and from this
time forward he came into the enjoyment of a popularity at once great,
growing, and select. With a manly resolution, which gave promise of the
rare excellence he was progressively to attain, he had at this time
amputated altogether from the collection about one-half of the contents
of his earliest work, with some considerable portion of the second; he
had almost rewritten or carefully corrected other important pieces, and
had added a volume of new compositions.

The latter handiwork showed a great advance upon the earlier; as,
indeed, 1833 had shown upon 1830. From the very first, however, he had
been noteworthy in performance as well as in promise, and it was plain
that, whatever else might happen, at least neglect was not to be his
lot. But, in the natural heat of youth he had at the outset certainly
mixed up some trivial with a greater number of worthy productions, and
had shown an impatience of criticism by which, however excusable, he was
sure to be himself the chief sufferer. His higher gifts, too, were of
the quality which, by the changeless law of nature, cannot ripen fast;
and there was, accordingly, some portion both of obscurity and of
crudity in the results of his youthful labours. Men of slighter
materials would have come more quickly to their maturity, and might have
given less occasion not only for cavil but for animadversion. It was yet
more creditable to him, than it could be even to the just among his
critics, that he should, and while yet young, have applied himself with
so resolute a hand to the work of castigation. He thus gave a remarkable
proof alike of his reverence for his art, of his insight into its
powers, of the superiority he had acquired to all the more commonplace
illusions of self-love, and perhaps of his presaging consciousness that
the great, if they mean to fulfil the measure of their greatness, should
always be fastidious against themselves.

It would be superfluous to enter upon any general criticism of this
collection, which was examined when still recent in this Review, and a
large portion of which is established in the familiar recollection and
favour of the public. We may, however, say that what may be termed at
large the classical idea (though it is not that of Troas nor of the
Homeric period) has, perhaps, never been grasped with greater force and
justice than in "Oenone," nor exhibited in a form of more consummate
polish. "Ulysses" is likewise a highly finished poem; but it is open to
the remark that it exhibits (so to speak) a corner-view of a character
which was in itself a _cosmos_. Never has political philosophy been
wedded to the poetic form more happily than in the three short pieces on
England and her institutions, unhappily without title, and only to be
cited, like writs of law and papal bulls, by their first words. Even
among the rejected pieces there are specimens of a deep metaphysical
insight; and this power reappears with an increasing growth of ethical
and social wisdom in "Locksley Hall" and elsewhere. The Wordsworthian
poem of "Dora" is admirable in its kind. From the firmness of its
drawing, and the depth and singular purity of its colour, "Godiva"
stood, if we judge aright, as at once a great performance and a great
pledge. But, above all, the fragmentary piece on the Death of Arthur was
a fit prelude to that lordly music which is now sounding in our ears. If
we pass onward from these volumes, it is only because space forbids a
further enumeration.

The "Princess" was published in 1847. The author has termed it "a
medley": why, we know not. It approaches more nearly to the character of
a regular drama, with the stage directions written into verse, than any
other of his works, and it is composed consecutively throughout on the
basis of one idea. It exhibits an effort to amalgamate the place and
function of woman with that of man, and the failure of that effort,
which duly winds up with the surrender and marriage of the fairest and
chief enthusiast. It may be doubted whether the idea is one well suited
to exhibition in a quasi-dramatic form. Certainly the mode of embodying
it, so far as it is dramatic, is not successful; for here again the
persons are little better than mere _personae_. They are _media_, and
weak _media_, for the conveyance of the ideas. The poem is,
nevertheless, one of high interest, on account of the force, purity and
nobleness of the main streams of thought, which are clothed in language
full of all Mr. Tennyson's excellences; and also because it marks the
earliest effort of his mind in the direction of his latest and greatest
achievements.

       *       *       *       *       *

With passages like these still upon the mind and ear, and likewise
having in view many others in the "Princess" and elsewhere, we may
confidently assert it as one of Mr. Tennyson's brightest distinctions
that he is now what from the very first he strove to be, and what when
he wrote "Godiva" he gave ample promise of becoming--the poet of woman.
We do not mean, nor do we know, that his hold over women as his readers
is greater than his command or influence over men; but that he has
studied, sounded, painted woman in form, in motion, in character, in
office, in capability, with rare devotion, power, and skill; and the
poet who best achieves this end does also most and best for man.

In 1850 Mr. Tennyson gave to the world, under the title of "In
Memoriam," perhaps the richest oblation ever offered by the affection of
friendship at the tomb of the departed. The memory of Arthur Henry
Hallam, who died suddenly in 1833, at the age of twenty-two, will
doubtless live chiefly in connection with this volume; but he is well
known to have been one who, if the term of his days had been prolonged,
would have needed no aid from a friendly hand, would have built for
himself an enduring monument, and would have bequeathed to his country a
name in all likelihood greater than that of his very distinguished
father. There was no one among those who were blessed with his
friendship, nay, as we see, not even Mr. Tennyson,[1] who did not feel
at once bound closely to him by commanding affection, and left far
behind by the rapid, full, and rich development of his ever-searching
mind; by his

  All comprehensive tenderness,
    All subtilising intellect.

[1] See "In Memoriam," pp. 64, 84.

It would be easy to show what, in the varied forms of human excellence,
he might, had life been granted him, have accomplished; much more
difficult to point the finger and to say, "This he never could have
done." Enough remains from among his early efforts to accredit whatever
mournful witness may now be borne of him. But what can be a nobler
tribute than this, that for seventeen years after his death a poet, fast
rising towards the lofty summits of his art, found that young fading
image the richest source of his inspiration, and of thoughts that gave
him buoyancy for a flight such as he had not hitherto attained?

It would be very difficult to convey a just idea of this volume either
by narrative or by quotation. In the series of monodies or meditations
which compose it, and which follow in long series without weariness or
sameness, the poet never moves away a step from the grave of his friend,
but, while circling round it, has always a new point of view. Strength
of love, depth of grief, aching sense of loss, have driven him forth as
it were on a quest of consolation, and he asks it of nature, thought,
religion, in a hundred forms which a rich and varied imagination
continually suggests, but all of them connected by one central point,
the recollection of the dead. This work he prosecutes, not in vain
effeminate complaint, but in a manly recognition of the fruit and profit
even of baffled love, in noble suggestions of the future, in
heart-soothing and heart-chastening thoughts of what the dead was and of
what he is, and of what one who has been, and therefore still is, in
near contact with him is bound to be. The whole movement of the poem is
between the mourner and the mourned: it may be called one long
soliloquy; but it has this mark of greatness, that, though the singer is
himself a large part of the subject, it never degenerates into egotism--
for he speaks typically on behalf of humanity at large, and in his own
name, like Dante on his mystic journey, teaches deep lessons of life and
conscience to us all.

       *       *       *       *       *

By the time "In Memoriam" had sunk into the public mind, Mr. Tennyson
had taken his rank as our first then living poet. Over the fresh hearts
and understandings of the young, notwithstanding his obscurities, his
metaphysics, his contempt of gewgaws, he had established an
extraordinary sway. We ourselves, with some thousands of other
spectators, saw him receive in that noble structure of Wren, the theatre
of Oxford, the decoration of D.C.L., which we perceive he always wears
on his title-page. Among his colleagues in the honour were Sir De Lacy
Evans and Sir John Burgoyne, fresh from the stirring exploits of the
Crimea; but even patriotism, at the fever heat of war, could not command
a more fervent enthusiasm for the old and gallant warriors than was
evoked by the presence of Mr. Tennyson.

In the year 1855 Mr. Tennyson proceeded to publish his "Maud," the least
popular, and probably the least worthy of popularity, among his more
considerable works. A somewhat heavy dreaminess, and a great deal of
obscurity, hang about this poem; and the effort required to dispel the
darkness of the general scheme is not repaid when we discover what it
hides. The main thread of "Maud" seems to be this:--A love once
accepted, then disappointed, leads to blood-shedding, and onward to
madness with lucid alternations. The insanity expresses itself in the
ravings of the homicide lover, who even imagines himself among the dead,
in a clamour and confusion closely resembling an ill-regulated Bedlam,
but which, if the description be a faithful one, would for ever deprive
the grave of its title to the epithet of silent. It may be good frenzy,
but we doubt its being as good poetry. Of all this there may, we admit,
be an esoteric view: but we speak of the work as it offers itself to the
common eye. Both Maud and the lover are too nebulous by far; and they
remind us of the boneless and pulpy personages by whom, as Dr. Whewell
assures us, the planet Jupiter is inhabited, if inhabited at all. But
the most doubtful part of the poem is its climax. A vision of the
beloved image (p. 97) "spoke of a hope for the world in the coming
wars," righteous wars, of course, and the madman begins to receive light
and comfort; but, strangely enough, it seems to be the wars, and not the
image, in which the source of consolation lies (p. 98).

  No more shall Commerce be all in all, and Peace
  Pipe on her pastoral hillock a languid note,
  And watch her harvest ripen, her herd increase.
  ... a peace that was full of wrongs and shames,
  Horrible, hateful, monstrous, not to be told ...
  For the long long canker of peace is over and done:
  And now by the side of the Black and the Baltic deep,
  And deathful grinning mouths of the fortress, names
  The blood-red blossom of war with a heart of fire!

What interpretation are we meant to give to all this sound and fury? We
would fain have put it down as intended to be the finishing-stroke in
the picture of a mania which has reached its zenith. We might call in
aid of this construction more happy and refreshing passages from other
poems, as when Mr. Tennyson is

  Certain, if knowledge brings the sword,
  That knowledge takes the sword away.[1]

[1] "Poems," p. 182, ed. 1853. See also "Locksley Hall," p. 278.

And again in "The Golden Dream,"--

              When shall all men's good
  Be each man's rule, and universal peace
  Lie like a shaft of light across the land?

And yet once more in a noble piece of "In Memoriam,"--

  Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
  Ring in the thousand years of peace.

But on the other hand we must recollect that very long ago, when the
apparition of invasion from across the Channel had as yet spoiled no
man's slumbers, Mr. Tennyson's blood was already up:[2]--

  For the French, the Pope may shrive them ...
  And the merry devil drive them
  Through the water and the fire.

[2] "Poems chiefly Lyrical," 1830, p. 142.

And unhappily in the beginning of "Maud," when still in the best use of
such wits as he possesses, its hero deals largely in kindred
extravagances (p. 7):--

  When a Mammonite mother kills her babe for a burial fee,
    And Timour-Mammon grins on a pile of children's bones,
  Is it peace or war? better war! loud war by land and by sea,
    War with a thousand battles, and shaking a hundred thrones.

He then anticipates that, upon an enemy's attacking this country, "the
smooth-faced, snub-nosed rogue," who typifies the bulk of the British
people, "the nation of shopkeepers," as it has been emasculated and
corrupted by excess of peace, will leap from his counter and till to
charge the enemy; and thus it is to be reasonably hoped that we shall
attain to the effectual renovation of society.

We frankly own that our divining rod does not enable us to say whether
the poet intends to be in any and what degree sponsor to these
sentiments, or whether he has put them forth in the exercise of his
undoubted right to make vivid and suggestive representations of even the
partial and narrow aspects of some endangered truth. This is at best,
indeed, a perilous business, for out of such fervid partial
representations nearly all grave human error springs; and it should only
be pursued with caution and in season. But we do not recollect that 1855
was a season of serious danger from a mania for peace and its pursuits;
and even if it had been so, we fear that the passages we have quoted far
overpass all the bounds of moderation and good sense. It is, indeed,
true that peace has its moral perils and temptations for degenerate man,
as has every other blessing, without exception, that he can receive from
the hand of God. It is moreover not less true that, amidst the clash of
arms, the noblest forms of character may be reared, and the highest acts
of duty done; that these great and precious results may be due to war as
their cause; and that one high form of sentiment in particular, the love
of country, receives a powerful and general stimulus from the bloody
strife. But this is as the furious cruelty of Pharaoh made place for the
benign virtue of his daughter; as the butchering sentence of Herod
raised without doubt many a mother's love into heroic sublimity; as
plague, as famine, as fire, as flood, as every curse and every scourge
that is wielded by an angry Providence for the chastisement of man, is
an appointed instrument for tempering human souls in the seven-times
heated furnace of affliction, up to the standard of angelic and
archangelic virtue. War, indeed, has the property of exciting much
generous and noble feeling on a large scale; but with this special
recommendation it has, in its modern forms especially, peculiar and
unequalled evils. As it has a wider sweep of desolating power than the
rest, so it has the peculiar quality that it is more susceptible of
being decked in gaudy trappings, and of fascinating the imagination of
those whose passions it inflames. But it is on this very account a
perilous delusion to teach that war is a cure for moral evil in any
other sense than as the sister tribulations are. The eulogies of the
frantic hero in "Maud," however, deviate into grosser folly. It is
natural that such vagaries should overlook the fixed laws of Providence;
and under these laws the mass of mankind is composed of men, women, and
children who can but just ward off hunger, cold, and nakedness; whose
whole ideas of Mammon-worship are comprised in the search for their
daily food, clothing, shelter, fuel; whom any casualty reduces to
positive want; and whose already low estimate is yet further lowered and
ground down when "the blood-red blossom of war flames with its heart of
fire." But what is a little strange is, that war should be recommended
as a specific for the particular evil of Mammon-worship. Such it never
was, even in the days when the Greek heroes longed for the booty of
Troy, and anticipated lying by the wives of its princes and its
citizens. Still it had, in times now gone by, ennobling elements and
tendencies of the less sordid kind. But one inevitable characteristic of
modern war is, that it is associated throughout, in all its particulars,
with a vast and most irregular formation of commercial enterprise. There
is no incentive to Mammon-worship so remarkable as that which it
affords. The political economy of war is now one of its most commanding
aspects. Every farthing, with the smallest exceptions conceivable, of
the scores or hundreds of millions which a war may cost, goes directly
to stimulate production, though it is intended ultimately for waste or
for destruction. Apart from the fact that war destroys every rule of
public thrift, and saps honesty itself in the use of the public treasure
for which it makes such unbounded calls, it therefore is the greatest
feeder of that lust of gold which we are told is the essence of
commerce, though we had hoped it was only its occasional besetting sin.
It is, however, more than this; for the regular commerce of peace is
tameness itself compared with the gambling spirit which war, through the
rapid shiftings and high prices which it brings, always introduces into
trade. In its moral operation it more resembles, perhaps, the finding of
a new gold-field, than anything else. Meantime, as the most wicked
mothers do not kill their offspring from a taste for the practice in the
abstract, but under the pressure of want, and as war always brings home
want to a larger circle of the people than feel it in peace, we ask the
hero of "Maud" to let us know whether war is more likely to reduce or to
multiply the horrors which he denounces? Will more babies be poisoned
amidst comparative ease and plenty, or when, as before the fall of
Napoleon, provisions were twice as dear as they now are, and wages not
much more than half as high? Romans and Carthaginians were pretty much
given to war: but no nations were more sedulous in the cult of Mammon.
Again, the Scriptures are pretty strong against Mammon-worship, but they
do not recommend this original and peculiar cure. Nay, once more: what
sad errors must have crept into the text of the prophet Isaiah when he
is made to desire that our swords shall be converted into ploughshares,
and our spears into pruning-hooks! But we have this solid consolation
after all, that Mr. Tennyson's war poetry is not comparable to his
poetry of peace. Indeed he is not here successful at all: the work, of a
lower order than his, demands the abrupt force and the lyric fire which
do not seem to be among his varied and brilliant gifts. We say more. Mr.
Tennyson is too intimately and essentially the poet of the nineteenth
century to separate himself from its leading characteristics, the
progress of physical science and a vast commercial, mechanical, and
industrial development. Whatever he may say or do in an occasional fit,
he cannot long either cross or lose its sympathies; for while he
elevates as well as adorns it, he is flesh of its flesh and bone of its
bone. We fondly believe it is his business to do much towards the
solution of that problem, so fearful from its magnitude, how to
harmonise this new draught of external power and activity with the old
and more mellow wine of faith, self devotion, loyalty, reverence, and
discipline. And all that we have said is aimed, not at Mr. Tennyson, but
at a lay-figure which he has set up, and into the mouth of which he has
put words that cannot be his words.

We return to our proper task, "Maud," if an unintelligible or even, for
Mr. Tennyson, an inferior work, is still a work which no inferior man
could have produced; nor would it be difficult to extract abundance of
lines, and even passages, obviously worthy of their author. And if this
poem would have made while alone a volume too light for his fame, the
defect is supplied by the minor pieces, some of which are admirable.
"The Brook," with its charming interstitial soliloquy, and the "Letters"
will, we are persuaded, always rank among Mr. Tennyson's happy efforts;
while the "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington," written from the
heart and sealed by the conscience of the poet, is worthy of that great
and genuine piece of manhood, its immortal subject.

We must touch for a moment upon what has already been mentioned as a
separate subject of interest in the "Princess." We venture to describe
it as in substance a drama, with a plot imperfectly worked and with
characters insufficiently chiselled and relieved. Its author began by
presenting, and for many years continued to present, personal as well as
natural pictures of individual attitude or movement; and, as in "Oenone"
and "Godiva," he carried them to a very high pitch of perfection. But he
scarcely attempted, unless in his more homely narrations, anything like
grouping or combination. It now appears that for the higher effort he
has been gradually accumulating and preparing his resources. In the
sections of the prolonged soliloquy of "Maud" we see a crude attempt at
representing combined interests and characters with heroic elevation,
under the special difficulty of appearing, like Mathews, in one person
only; in the "Princess" we had a happier effort, though one that still
left more to be desired. Each, however, in its own stage was a
preparation for an enterprise at once bolder and more mature.

We now come to the recent work of the poet--the "Idylls of the King."
The field, which Mr. Tennyson has chosen for this his recent and far
greatest exploit, is one of so deep and wide-reaching an interest as to
demand some previous notice of a special kind.

Lofty example in comprehensive forms is, without doubt, one of the great
standing needs of our race. To this want it has been from the first one
main purpose of the highest poetry to answer. The quest of Beauty leads
all those who engage in it to the ideal or normal man as the summit of
attainable excellence. By no arbitrary choice, but in obedience to
unchanging laws, the painter and the sculptor must found their art upon
the study of the human form, and must reckon its successful reproduction
as their noblest and most consummate exploit. The concern of Poetry with
corporal beauty is, though important, yet secondary: this art uses form
as an auxiliary, as a subordinate though proper part in the delineation
of mind and character, of which it is appointed to be a visible organ.
But with mind and character themselves lies the highest occupation of
the Muse. Homer, the patriarch of poets, has founded his two immortal
works upon two of these ideal developments in Achilles and Ulysses; and
has adorned them with others, such as Penelope and Helen, Hector and
Diomed, every one an immortal product, though as compared with the
others either less consummate or less conspicuous. Though deformed by
the mire of after-tradition, all the great characters of Homer have
become models and standards, each in its own kind, for what was, or was
supposed to be, its distinguishing gift.

At length, after many generations and great revolutions of mind and of
events, another age arrived, like, if not equal, in creative power to
that of Homer. The Gospel had given to the whole life of man a real
resurrection, and its second birth was followed by its second youth.
This rejuvenescence was allotted to those wonderful centuries which
popular ignorance confounds with the dark ages properly so called--an
identification about as rational as if we were to compare the life
within the womb to the life of intelligent though early childhood.
Awakened to aspirations at once fresh and ancient, the mind of man took
hold of the venerable ideals bequeathed to us by the Greeks as a
precious part of its inheritance, and gave them again to the light,
appropriated but also renewed. The old materials came forth, but not
alone; for the types which human genius had formerly conceived were now
submitted to the transfiguring action of a law from on high. Nature
herself prompted the effort to bring the old patterns of worldly
excellence and greatness--or rather the copies of those patterns still
legible, though depraved, and still rich with living suggestion--into
harmony with that higher Pattern, once seen by the eyes and handled by
the hands of men, and faithfully delineated in the Gospels for the
profit of all generations. The life of our Saviour, in its external
aspect, was that of a teacher. It was in principle a model for all, but
it left space and scope for adaptations to the lay life of Christians in
general, such as those by whom the every-day business of the world is to
be carried on. It remained for man to make his best endeavour to exhibit
the great model on its terrestrial side, in its contact with the world.
Here is the true source of that new and noble cycle which the middle
ages have handed down to us in duality of form, but with a nearly
identical substance, under the royal sceptres of Arthur in England and
of Charlemagne in France.

Of the two great systems of Romance, one has Lancelot, the other has
Orlando for its culminating point; these heroes being exhibited as the
respective specimens in whose characters the fullest development of man,
such as he was then conceived, was to be recognised. The one put forward
Arthur for the visible head of Christendom, signifying and asserting its
social unity; the other had Charlemagne. Each arrays about the Sovereign
a fellowship of knights. In them Valour is the servant of Honour; in an
age of which violence is the besetting danger, the protection of the
weak is elevated into a first principle of action; and they betoken an
order of things in which Force should be only known as allied with
Virtue, while they historically foreshadow the magnificent aristocracy
of mediaeval Europe. The one had Guinevere for the rarest gem of beauty,
the other had Angelica. Each of them contained figures of approximation
to the knightly model, and in each these figures, though on the whole
secondary, yet in certain aspects surpassed it: such were Sir Tristram,
Sir Galahad, Sir Lamoracke, Sir Gawain, Sir Geraint, in the Arthurian
cycle; Rinaldo and Ruggiero, with others, in the Carlovingian. They were
not twin systems, but they were rather twin investitures of the same
scheme of ideals and feelings. Their consanguinity to the primitive
Homeric types is proved by a multitude of analogies of character and by
the commanding place which they assign to Hector as the flower of human
excellence. Without doubt, this preference was founded on his supposed
moral superiority to all his fellows in Homer; and the secondary prizes
of strength, valour, and the like, were naturally allowed to group
themselves around what, under the Christian scheme, had become the
primary ornament of man. The near relation of the two cycles to one
another may be sufficiently seen in the leading references we have made,
and it runs into a multitude of details both great and small, of which
we can only note a few. In both the chief hero passes through a
prolonged term of madness. Judas, in the College of Apostles, is
represented under Charlemagne in Gano di Maganza and his house, who
appear, without any development in action, in the Arthurian romance as
"the traitours of Magouns," and who are likewise reflected in Sir
Modred, Sir Agravain, and others; while the Mahometan element, which has
a natural place ready made in a history that acknowledges Charlemagne
and France, for its centres, finds its way sympathetically into one
which is bound for the most part by the shores of Albion. Both schemes
cling to the tradition of the unity of the Empire as well as of
Christendom; and accordingly, what was historical in Charlemagne is
represented in the case of Arthur by an imaginary conquest reaching as
far as Rome, the capital of the West: even the sword _Durindana_ has its
counterpart in the sword _Excalibur_.

The moral systems of the two cycles are essentially allied: and perhaps
the differences between them may be due in greater or in less part to
the fact that they come to us through different _media_. We of the
nineteenth century read the Carlovingian romance in the pages of Ariosto
and Bojardo, who gave to their materials the colour of their times, and
of a civilization rank in some respects, while still unripe in some
others. The genius of poetry was not at the same period applying its
transmuting force to the Romance of the Round Table. The date of Sir
Thomas Mallory, who lived under Edward IV, is something earlier than
that of the great Italian romances; he appears, too, to have been on the
whole content with the humble offices of a compiler and a chronicler,
and we may conceive that his spirit and diction are still older than his
date. The consequence is, that we are brought into more immediate and
fresher contact with the original forms of this romance. So that, as
they present themselves to us, the Carlovingian cycle is the child of
the latest middle age, while the Arthurian represents the earlier. Much
might be said on the differences which have thus arisen, and on those
which may be due to a more northern and more southern extraction
respectively. Suffice it to say that the Romance of the Round Table, far
less vivid and brilliant, far ruder as a work of skill and art, has more
of the innocence, the emotion, the transparency, the inconsistency of
childhood. Its political action is less specifically Christian than that
of the rival scheme, its individual more so. It is more directly and
seriously aimed at the perfection of man. It is more free from gloss and
varnish; it tells its own tale with more entire simplicity. The ascetic
element is more strongly, and at the same time more quaintly, developed.
It has a higher conception of the nature of woman; and like the Homeric
poems, appears to eschew exhibiting her perfections in alliance with
warlike force and exploits. So also love, while largely infused into the
story, is more subordinate to the exhibition of other qualities. Again,
the Romance of the Round Table bears witness to a more distinct and
keener sense of sin: and on the whole, a deeper, broader, and more manly
view of human character, life, and duty. It is in effect more like what
the Carlovingian cycle might have been had Dante moulded it. It hardly
needs to be added that it is more mythical, inasmuch as Arthur of the
Round Table is a personage, we fear, wholly doubtful, though not
impossible; while the broad back of the historic Charlemagne, like
another Atlas, may well sustain a world of mythical accretions. This
slight comparison, be it remarked, refers exclusively to what may be
termed the latest "redactions" of the two cycles of romance. Their early
forms, in the lays of troubadours, and in the pages of the oldest
chroniclers, offer a subject of profound interest, and one still
unexhausted, although it has been examined by Mr. Panizzi and M.
Fauriel,[1] but one which is quite beyond the scope of our present
subject.

[1] Essay on the Romantic Narrative Poetry of the Italians: London,
    1830. Histoire de la Poésie Provençale: Paris, 1846.

It is to this rich repository that Mr. Tennyson has resorted for his
material. He has shown, as we think, rare judgment in the choice. The
Arthurian Romance has every recommendation that should win its way to
the homage of a great poet. It is national: it is Christian. It is also
human in the largest and deepest sense; and, therefore, though highly
national, it is universal; for it rests upon those depths and breadths
of our nature to which all its truly great developments in all nations
are alike essentially and closely related. The distance is enough for
atmosphere, not too much for detail; enough for romance, not too much
for sympathy. A poet of the nineteenth century, the Laureate has adopted
characters, incidents, and even language in the main, instead of
attempting to project them on a basis of his own in the region of
illimitable fancy. But he has done much more than this. Evidently by
reading and by deep meditation, as well as by sheer force of genius, he
has penetrated himself down to the very core of his being, with all that
is deepest and best in the spirit of the time, or the representation,
with which he deals; and as others, using old materials, have been free
to alter them in the sense of vulgarity or licence, so he has claimed
and used the right to sever and recombine, to enlarge, retrench, and
modify, for the purposes at once of a more powerful and elaborate art
than his original presents, and of a yet more elevated, or at least of a
far more sustained, ethical and Christian strain.

We are rather disposed to quarrel with the title of Idylls: for no
diminutive ([Greek: _eidullion_]) can be adequate to the breadth,
vigour, and majesty which belong to the subjects, as well as to the
execution, of the volume. The poet used the name once before; but he
then applied it to pieces generally small in the scale of their
delineations, whereas these, even if broken away one from the other, are
yet like the disjoined figures from the pediment of the Parthenon in
their dignity and force. One indeed among Mr. Tennyson's merits is, that
he does not think it necessary to keep himself aloft by artificial
effort, but undulates with his matter, and flies high or low as it
requires. But even in the humblest parts of these poems--as where the
little Novice describes the miniature sorrows and discipline of
childhood--the whole receives its tone from an atmosphere which is
heroic, and which, even in its extremest simplicity, by no means parts
company with grandeur, or ceases to shine in the reflected light of the
surrounding objects. Following the example which the poet has set us in
a former volume, we would fain have been permitted, at least
provisionally, to call these Idylls by the name of Books. Term them what
we may, there are four of them--arranged, as we think, in an ascending
scale.

The simplicity and grace of the principal character in Enid, with which
the volume opens, touches, but does not too strongly agitate, the deeper
springs of feeling. She is the beautiful daughter of Earl Yniol, who, by
his refusal of a turbulent neighbour as a suitor, has drawn upon himself
the ruin of his fortunes, and is visited in his depressed condition by
(p. 1)--

  The brave Geraint, a knight of Arthur's court,
  A tributary prince of Devon, one
  Of that great order of the Table Round....

Geraint wins her against the detested cousin. They wed, and she becomes
the purest gem of the court of Guinevere, her place in which is
described in the beautiful exordium of the poem. An accident, slight
perhaps for the weight it is made to carry, arouses his jealousy, and he
tries her severely by isolation and rude offices on one of his tours;
but her gentleness, purity, and patience are proof against all, and we
part from the pair in a full and happy reconciliation, which is
described in lines of a beauty that leaves nothing to be desired.

The treatment of Enid by her husband has appeared to some of Mr.
Tennyson's readers to be unnatural. It is no doubt both in itself
repulsive, and foreign to our age and country. But the brutal element in
man, which now only invades the conjugal relation in cases where it is
highly concentrated, was then far more widely diffused, and not yet
dissociated from alternations and even habits of attachment. Something
of what we now call Eastern manners at one time marked the treatment
even of the women of the West. Unnatural means contrary to nature,
irrespectively of time or place; but time and place explain and warrant
the treatment of Enid by Geraint.

Vivien, which follows Enid, is perhaps the least popular of the four
Books. No pleasure, we grant, can be felt from the character either of
the wily woman, between elf and fiend, or of the aged magician, whose
love is allowed to travel whither none of his esteem or regard can
follow it: and in reading this poem we miss the pleasure of those
profound moral harmonies, with which the rest are charged. But we must
not on these grounds proceed to the conclusion that the poet has in this
case been untrue to his aims. For he has neither failed in power, nor
has he led our sympathies astray; and if we ask why he should introduce
us to those we cannot love, there is something in the reply that Poetry,
the mirror of the world, cannot deal with its attractions only, but must
present some of its repulsions also, and avail herself of the powerful
assistance of its contrasts. The example of Homer, who allows Thersites
to thrust himself upon the scene in the debates of heroes, gives a
sanction to what reason and all experience teach, namely, the actual
force of negatives in heightening effect; and the gentle and noble
characters and beautiful combinations, which largely predominate in the
other poems, stand in far clearer and bolder relief when we perceive the
dark and baleful shadow of Vivien lowering from between them.

Vivien exhibits a well-sustained conflict between the wizard and, in
another sense, the witch; on one side is the wit of woman, on the other
are the endowments of the prophet and magician, at once more and less
than those of nature. She has heard from him of a charm, a charm of
"woven paces, and of waving hands," which paralyses its victim for ever
and without deliverance, and her object is to extract from him the
knowledge of it as a proof of some return for the fervid and boundless
love that she pretends. We cannot but estimate very highly the skill
with which Mr. Tennyson has secured to what seemed the weaker vessel the
ultimate mastery in the fight. Out of the eater comes forth meat. When
she seems to lose ground with him by her slander against the Round Table
which he loved, she recovers it by making him believe that she saw all
other men, "the knights, the Court, the King, dark in his light": and
when in answer to her imprecation on herself a fearful thunderbolt
descends and storm rages, then, nestling in his bosom, part in fear but
more in craft, she overcomes the last remnant of his resolution, wins
the secret she has so indefatigably wooed, and that instant uses it to
close in gloom the famous career of the over-mastered sage.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nowhere could we more opportunely than at this point call attention to
Mr. Tennyson's extraordinary felicity and force in the use of metaphor
and simile. This gift appears to have grown with his years, alike in
abundance, truth, and grace. As the showers descend from heaven to
return to it in vapour, so Mr. Tennyson's loving observation of Nature,
and his Muse, seem to have had a compact of reciprocity well kept on
both sides. When he was young, and when "Oenone" was first published, he
almost boasted of putting a particular kind of grasshopper into Troas,
which, as he told us in a note, was probably not to be found there. It
is a small but yet an interesting and significant indication that, when
some years after he retouched the poem, he omitted the note, and
generalised the grasshopper. Whether we are right or not in taking this
for a sign of the movement of his mind, there can be no doubt that his
present use of figures is both the sign and the result of a reverence
for Nature alike active, intelligent, and refined. Sometimes applying
the metaphors of Art to Nature, he more frequently draws the materials
of his analogies from her unexhausted book, and, however often he may
call for some new and beautiful vehicle of illustration, she seems never
to withhold an answer. With regard to this particular and very critical
gift, it seems to us that he may challenge comparison with almost any
poet either of ancient or modern times. We have always been accustomed
to look upon Ariosto as one of the greatest among the masters of the art
of metaphor and simile; and it would be easy to quote from him instances
which in tenderness, grace, force, or all combined, can never be
surpassed. But we have rarely seen the power subjected to a greater
trial than in the passages just quoted from Mr. Tennyson, where metaphor
lies by metaphor as thick as shells upon their bed; yet each
individually with its outline as well drawn, its separateness as clear,
its form as true to nature, and with the most full and harmonious
contribution to the general effect.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Tennyson practises largely, and with an extraordinary skill and
power, the art of designed and limited repetitions. They bear a
considerable resemblance to those Homeric _formulae_ which have been so
usefully remarked by Colonel Mure--not the formulae of constant
recurrence, which tells us who spoke and who answered, but those which
are connected with pointing moral effects, and with ulterior purpose.
These repetitions tend at once to give more definite impressions of
character, and to make firmer and closer the whole tissue of the poem.
Thus, in the last speech of Guinevere, she echoes back, with other ideas
and expressions, the sentiment of Arthur's affection, which becomes in
her mouth sublime:--

  I must not scorn myself: he loves me still:
  Let no one dream but that he loves me still.

She prays admission among the nuns, that she may follow the pious and
peaceful tenor of their life (p. 260):--

  And so wear out in almsdeed and in prayer
  The sombre close of that voluptuous day
  Which wrought the ruin of my lord the King.

And it is but a debt of justice to the Guinevere of the romancers to
observe, that she loses considerably by the marked transposition which
Mr. Tennyson has effected in the order of greatness between Lancelot and
Arthur. With him there is an original error in her estimate,
independently of the breach of a positive and sacred obligation. She
prefers the inferior man; and this preference implies a rooted ethical
defect in her nature. In the romance of Sir T. Mallory the preference
she gives to Lancelot would have been signally just, had she been free
to choose. For Lancelot is of an indescribable grandeur; but the limit
of Arthur's character is thus shown in certain words that he uses, and
that Lancelot never could have spoken. "Much more I am sorrier for my
good knight's loss than for the loss of my queen; for queens might I
have enough, but, such a fellowship of good knights shall never be
together in company."

We began with the exordium of this great work: we must not withhold the
conclusion. We left her praying admission to the convent--

  She said. They took her to themselves; and she,
  Still hoping, fearing, "is it yet too late?"
  Dwelt with them, till in time their Abbess died.
  Then she, for her good deeds and her pure life,
  And for the power of ministration in her,
  And likewise for the high rank she had borne,
  Was chosen Abbess: there, an Abbess, lived
  For three brief years; and there, an Abbess, pass'd
  To where beyond these voices there is peace.

No one, we are persuaded, can read this poem without feeling, when it
ends, what may be termed the pangs of vacancy--of that void in heart and
mind for want of its continuance of which we are conscious when some
noble strain of music ceases, when some great work of Raphael passes
from the view, when we lose sight of some spot connected with high
associations, or when some transcendent character upon the page of
history disappears, and the withdrawal of it is like the withdrawal of
the vital air. We have followed the Guinevere of Mr. Tennyson through
its detail, and have extracted largely from its pages, and yet have not
a hope of having conveyed an idea of what it really is; still we have
thought that in this way we should do it the least injustice, and we are
also convinced that even what we have shown will tend to rouse an
appetite, and that any of our readers, who may not yet have been also
Mr. Tennyson's, will become more eager to learn and admire it at first
hand.

We have no doubt that Mr. Tennyson has carefully considered how far his
subject is capable of fulfilling the conditions of an epic structure.
The history of Arthur is not an epic as it stands, but neither was the
Cyclic song, of which the greatest of all epics, the "Iliad," handles a
part. The poem of Ariosto is scarcely an epic, nor is that of Bojardo;
but it is not this because each is too promiscuous and crowded in its
brilliant phantasmagoria to conform to the severe laws of that lofty and
inexorable class of poem? Though the Arthurian romance be no epic, it
does not follow that no epic can be made from out of it. It is grounded
in certain leading characters, men and women, conceived upon models of
extraordinary grandeur; and as the Laureate has evidently grasped the
genuine law which makes man and not the acts of man the base of epic
song, we should not be surprised were he hereafter to realize the great
achievement towards which he seems to be feeling his way. There is a
moral unity and a living relationship between the four poems before us,
and the first effort of 1842 as a fifth, which, though some considerable
part of their contents would necessarily rank as episode, establishes
the first and most essential condition of their cohesion. The
achievement of Vivien bears directly on the state of Arthur by
withdrawing his chief councillor--the brain, as Lancelot was the right
arm, of his court; the love of Elaine is directly associated with the
final catastrophe of the passion of Lancelot for Guinevere. Enid lies
somewhat further off the path, nor is it for profane feet to intrude
into the sanctuary, for reviewers to advise poets in these high matters;
but while we presume nothing, we do not despair of seeing Mr. Tennyson
achieve on the basis he has chosen the structure of a full-formed epic.

In any case we have a cheerful hope that, if he continues to advance
upon himself as he has advanced heretofore, nay, if he can keep the
level he has gained, such a work will be the greatest, and by far the
greatest poetical creation, that, whether in our own or in foreign
poetry, the nineteenth century has produced. In the face of all critics,
the Laureate of England has now reached a position which at once imposes
and instils respect. They are self-constituted; but he has won his way
through the long dedication of his manful energies, accepted and crowned
by deliberate, and, we rejoice to think, by continually growing, public
favour. He has after all, and it is not the least nor lowest item in his
praise, been the severest of his own critics, and has not been too proud
either to learn or to unlearn in the work of maturing his genius and
building up his fame.

From his very first appearance he has had the form and fashion of a true
poet: the insight into beauty, the perception of harmony, the faculty of
suggestion, the eye both in the physical and moral world for motion,
light, and colour, the sympathetic and close observation of nature, the
dominance of the constructive faculty, and that rare gift the thorough
mastery and loving use of his native tongue. Many of us, the common
crowd, made of the common clay, may be lovers of Nature, some as sincere
or even as ardent as Mr. Tennyson; but it does not follow that even
these favoured few possess the privilege that he enjoys. To them she
speaks through vague and indeterminate impressions: for him she has a
voice of the most delicate articulation; all her images to him are clear
and definite, and he translates them for us into that language of
suggestion, emphasis, and refined analogy which links the manifold to
the simple and the infinite to the finite. He accomplishes for us what
we should in vain attempt for ourselves, enables the puny hand to lay
hold on what is vast, and brings even coarseness of grasp into a real
contact with what is subtle and ethereal. His turn for metaphysical
analysis is closely associated with a deep ethical insight: and many of
his verses form sayings of so high a class that we trust they are
destined to form a permanent part of the household-words of England.

Considering the quantity of power that Mr. Tennyson can make available,
it is a great proof of self-discipline that he is not given to a wanton
or tyrannous use of it. An extraordinary master of diction, he has
confined himself to its severe and simple forms. In establishing this
rule of practice his natural gift has evidently been aided by the fine
English of the old romances, and we might count upon the fingers the
cases in which he has lately deviated into the employment of any stilted
phrase, or given sanction to a word not of the best fabric. Profuse in
the power of graphic[1] representation, he has chastened some of his
earlier groups of imagery, which were occasionally overloaded with
particulars; and in his later works, as has been well remarked, he has
shown himself thoroughly aware that in poetry half is greater than the
whole. That the chastity of style he has attained is not from exhaustion
of power may easily be shown. No poet has evinced a more despotic
mastery over intractable materials, or has been more successful in
clothing what is common with the dignity of his art. The Downs are not
the best subjects in the world for verse; but they will be remembered
with and by his descriptive line in the "Idylls"--

  Far o'er the long backs of the bushless downs.

[1] We use the word in what we conceive to be its only legitimate
    meaning; namely, after the manner and with the effect of painting.
    It signifies the _quid_, not the _quale_.

How becoming is the appearance of what we familiarly term the "clod" in
the "Princess"! (p. 37)--

  Nor those horn-handled breakers of the glebe.

Of all imaginable subjects, mathematics might seem the most hopeless to
make mention of in verse; but they are with him

  The hard-grained Muses of the cube and square.

Thus at a single stroke he gives an image alike simple, true, and
poetical to boot, because suited to its place and object in his verse,
like the heavy Caryatides well placed in architecture. After this, we
may less esteem the feat by which in "Godiva" he describes the clock
striking mid-day:--

                                 All at once,
  With twelve great shocks of sound, the shameless noon
  Was clashed and hammered from a hundred towers.


But even the contents of a pigeon-pie are not beneath his notice, nor
yet beyond his powers of embellishment, in "Audley Court":--

                        A pasty, costly made,
  Where quail and pigeon, lark and leveret lay
  Like fossils of the rock, with golden yolks
  Imbedded and injellied.

What excites more surprise is that he can, without any offence against
good taste, venture to deal with these contents even after they have
entered the mouth of the eater ("Enid," p. 79):--

                  The brawny spearman let his cheek
  Bulge with the unswallowed piece, and turning, stared.

The delicate insight of fine taste appears to show him with wonderful
precision up to what point his art can control and compel his materials,
and from what point the materials are in hopeless rebellion and must be
let alone. So in the "Princess" (p. 89) we are introduced to--

  Eight daughters of the plough, stronger than men,
  Huge women _blowzed_ with health, and wind, and rain,
  And labour.

It was absolutely necessary for him to heighten, nay, to coarsen, the
description of these masses of animated beef, who formed the standing
army of the woman-commonwealth. Few would have obeyed this law without
violating another; but Mr. Tennyson saw that the verb was admissible,
while the adjective would have been intolerable.

In 1842 his purging process made it evident that he did not mean to
allow his faults or weaknesses to stint the growth and mar the
exhibition of his genius. When he published "In Memoriam" in 1850, all
readers were conscious of the progressive widening and strengthening,
but, above all, deepening of his mind. We cannot hesitate to mark the
present volume as exhibiting another forward and upward stride, and that
by perhaps the greatest of all, in his career. If we are required to
show cause for this opinion under any special head, we would at once
point to that which is, after all, the first among the poet's gifts--the
gift of conceiving and representing human character.

Mr. Tennyson's Arthurian essays continually suggest to us comparisons
not so much with any one poet as a whole, but rather with many or most
of the highest poets. The music and the just and pure modulation of his
verse carry us back not only to the fine ear of Shelley, but to Milton
and to Shakespeare: and his powers of fancy and of expression have
produced passages which, if they are excelled by that one transcendent
and ethereal poet of our nation whom we have last named, yet could have
been produced by no other English minstrel. Our author has a right to
regard his own blank verse as highly characteristic and original: but
yet Milton has contributed to its formation, and occasionally there is a
striking resemblance in turn and diction, while Mr. Tennyson is the more
idiomatic of the two. The chastity and moral elevation of this volume,
its essential and profound though not didactic Christianity, are such as
perhaps cannot be matched throughout the circle of English literature in
conjunction with an equal power: and such as to recall a pattern which
we know not whether Mr. Tennyson has studied, the celestial strain of
Dante.[1] This is the more remarkable, because he has had to tread upon
the ground which must have been slippery for any foot but his. We are
far from knowing that either Lancelot or Guinevere would have been safe
even for mature readers, were it not for the instinctive purity of his
mind and the high skill of his management. We do not know that in other
times they have had their noble victims, whose names have become
immortal as their own.

  Noi leggevamo un giorno per diletto
  Di Lancilotto, e come amor lo strinse.
       *       *       *       *       *
  Galeotto fu il libro, e chi lo scrisse.[2]

[1] It is no reproach to say that neither Dante nor Homer could have
    been studied by Mr. Tennyson at the time--a very early period of his
    life--when he wrote the lines which are allotted to them
    respectively in "The Palace of Art."
[2] "Inferno," c. V, v. 127.

How difficult it is to sustain the elevation of such a subject, may be
seen in the well-meant and long popular "Jane Shore" of Rowe. How easily
this very theme may be vulgarised, is shown in the _"Chevaliers de la
Table Ronde"_ of M. Creuzé de Lesser, who nevertheless has aimed at a
peculiar delicacy of treatment.

But the grand poetical quality in which this volume gives to its author
a new rank and standing is the dramatic power: the power of drawing
character and of representing action. These faculties have not been
precocious in Mr. Tennyson: but what is more material, they have come
out in great force. He has always been fond of personal delineations,
from Claribel and Lilian down to his Ida, his Psyche, and his Maud; but
they have been of shadowy quality, doubtful as to flesh and blood, and
with eyes having little or no speculation in them. But he is far greater
and far better when he has, as he now has, a good raw material ready to
his hand, than when he draws only on the airy or chaotic regions of what
Carlyle calls unconditioned possibility. He is made not so much to
convert the moor into the field, as the field into the rich and gorgeous
garden. The imperfect _nisus_ which might be remarked in some former
works has at length reached the fulness of dramatic energy: in the
Idylls we have nothing vague or dreamy to complain of: everything lives
and moves, in the royal strength of nature: the fire of Prometheus has
fairly caught the clay: every figure stands clear, broad, and sharp
before us, as if it had sky for its background: and this of small as
well as great, for even the "little novice" is projected on the canvas
with the utmost truth and vigour, and with that admirable effect in
heightening the great figure of Guinevere, which Patroclus produces for
the character of Achilles, and (as some will have it) the modest
structure of Saint Margaret's for the giant proportions of Westminster
Abbey. And this, we repeat, is the crowning gift of the poet: the power
of conceiving and representing man.

We do not believe that a Milton--or, in other words, the writer of a
"Paradise Lost"--could ever be so great as a Shakespeare or a Homer,
because (setting aside all other questions) his chief characters are
neither human, nor can they be legitimately founded upon humanity; and,
moreover, what he has to represent of man is, by the very law of its
being, limited in scale and development. Here at least the saying is a
true one: _Antiquitas saeculi, juventus mundi;_ rendered by our poet in
"The Day-dream,"

  For we are ancients of the earth,
  And in the morning of the times.

The Adam and Eve of Paradise exhibit to us the first inception of our
race; and neither then, nor after their first sad lesson, could they
furnish those materials for representation, which their descendants have
accumulated in the school of their incessant and many-coloured, but on
the whole too gloomy, experience. To the long chapters of that
experience every generation of man makes its own addition. Again we ask
the aid of Mr. Tennyson in "Locksley Hall":--

  Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
  And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.

The substitution of law for force has indeed altered the relations of
the strong and the weak; the hardening or cooling down of political
institutions and social traditions, the fixed and legal track instead of
the open pathless field, have removed or neutralised many of those
occasions and passages of life, which were formerly the schools of
individual character. The genius of mechanism has vied, in the arts of
both peace and war, with the strong hand, and has well-nigh robbed it of
its place. But let us not be deceived by that smoothness of superficies,
which the social prospect offers to the distant eye. Nearness dispels
the illusion; life is still as full of deep, of ecstatic, of harrowing
interests as it ever was. The heart of man still beats and bounds,
exults and suffers, from causes which are only less salient and
conspicuous because they are more mixed and diversified. It still
undergoes every phase of emotion, and even, as seems probable, with a
susceptibility which has increased and is increasing, and which has its
index and outer form in the growing delicacy and complexities of the
nervous system. Does any one believe that ever at any time there was a
greater number of deaths referable to that comprehensive cause a broken
heart? Let none fear that this age, or any coming one, will extinguish
the material of poetry. The more reasonable apprehension might be lest
it should sap the vital force necessary to handle that material, and
mould it into appropriate forms. To those especially, who cherish any
such apprehension, we recommend the perusal of this volume. Of it we
will say without fear, what we would not dare to say of any other recent
work; that of itself it raises the character and the hopes of the age
and the country which have produced it, and that its author, by his own
single strength, has made a sensible addition to the permanent wealth of
mankind.



CANON WILBERFORCE ON DARWIN

[From _The Quarterly Review_, July, 1860]

_On the Origin of Species, by means of Natural Selection; or the
Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life._ By CHARLES
DARWIN, M.A., F.R.S. London, 1860.

Any contribution to our Natural History literature from the pen of Mr.
C. Darwin is certain to command attention. His scientific attainments,
his insight and carefulness as an observer, blended with no scanty
measure of imaginative sagacity, and his clear and lively style, make
all his writings unusually attractive. His present volume on the _Origin
of Species_ is the result of many years of observation, thought, and
speculation; and is manifestly regarded by him as the "opus" upon which
his future fame is to rest. It is true that he announces it modestly
enough as the mere precursor of a mightier volume. But that volume is
only intended to supply the facts which are to support the completed
argument of the present essay. In this we have a specimen-collection of
the vast accumulation; and, working from these as the high analytical
mathematician may work from the admitted results of his conic sections,
he proceeds to deduce all the conclusions to which he wishes to conduct
his readers.

The essay is full of Mr. Darwin's characteristic excellences. It is a
most readable book; full of facts in natural history, old and new, of
his collecting and of his observing; and all of these are told in his
own perspicuous language, and all thrown into picturesque combinations,
and all sparkle with the colours of fancy and the lights of imagination.
It assumes, too, the grave proportions of a sustained argument upon a
matter of the deepest interest, not to naturalists only, or even to men
of science exclusively, but to every one who is interested in the
history of man and of the relations of nature around him to the history
and plan of creation.

With Mr. Darwin's "argument" we may say in the outset that we shall have
much and grave fault to find. But this does not make us the less
disposed to admire the singular excellences of his work; and we will
seek _in limine_ to give our readers a few examples of these. Here, for
instance, is a beautiful illustration of the wonderful interdependence
of nature--of the golden chain of unsuspected relations which bind
together all the mighty web which stretches from end to end of this full
and most diversified earth. Who, as he listened to the musical hum of
the great humble-bees, or marked their ponderous flight from flower to
flower, and watched the unpacking of their trunks for their work of
suction, would have supposed that the multiplication or diminution of
their race, or the fruitfulness and sterility of the red clover, depend
as directly on the vigilance of our cats as do those of our well-guarded
game-preserves on the watching of our keepers? Yet this Mr. Darwin has
discovered to be literally the case:--

  From experiments which I have lately tried, I have found that the
  visits of bees are necessary for the fertilisation of some kinds of
  clover; but humble-bees alone visit the red clover (Trifolium
  pratense), as other bees cannot reach the nectar. Hence I have very
  little doubt, that if the whole genus of humble-bees became extinct or
  very rare in England, the heartsease and red clover would become very
  rare or wholly disappear. The number of humble-bees in any district
  depends in a great degree on the number of field-mice, which destroy
  their combs and nests; and Mr. H. Newman, who has long attended to the
  habits of humble-bees, believes that "more than two-thirds of them are
  thus destroyed all over England." Now the number of mice is largely
  dependent, as every one knows, on the number of cats; and Mr. Newman
  says, "near villages and small towns I have found the nests of
  humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the
  number of cats that destroy the mice." Hence, it is quite credible
  that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district
  might determine, through the intervention, first of mice, and then of
  bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district.--p. 74.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, all this is, we think, really charming writing. We feel as we walk
abroad with Mr. Darwin very much as the favoured object of the attention
of the dervise must have felt when he had rubbed the ointment around his
eye, and had it opened to see all the jewels, and diamonds, and
emeralds, and topazes, and rubies, which were sparkling unregarded
beneath the earth, hidden as yet from all eyes save those which the
dervise had enlightened. But here we are bound to say our pleasure
terminates; for, when we turn with Mr. Darwin to his "argument," we are
almost immediately at variance with him. It is as an "argument" that the
essay is put forward; as an argument we will test it.

We can perhaps best convey to our readers a clear view of Mr. Darwin's
chain of reasoning, and of our objections to it, if we set before them,
first, the conclusion to which he seeks to bring them; next, the leading
propositions which he must establish in order to make good his final
inference; and then the mode by which he endeavours to support his
propositions.

The conclusion, then, to which Mr. Darwin would bring us is, that all
the various forms of vegetable and animal life with which the globe is
now peopled, or of which we find the remains preserved in a fossil state
in the great Earth-Museum around us, which the science of geology
unlocks for our instruction, have come down by natural succession of
descent from father to son,--"animals from at most four or five
progenitors, and plants from an equal or less number" (p. 484), as Mr.
Darwin at first somewhat diffidently suggests; or rather, as, growing
bolder when he has once pronounced his theory, he goes on to suggest to
us, from one single head:--

  Analogy would lead me one step further, namely, to the belief that ALL
  ANIMALS and PLANTS have descended from some one prototype. But analogy
  may be a deceitful guide. Nevertheless, all living things have much in
  common in their chemical composition, their germinal vesicles, their
  cellular structure, and their laws of growth and reproduction....

  Therefore I shall infer from analogy that probably all the organic
  beings which have ever lived on this earth (man therefore of course
  included) have descended from some one primordial form into which life
  was first breathed by the Creator.--p. 484.

This is the theory which really pervades the whole volume. Man, beast,
creeping thing, and plant of the earth, are all the lineal and direct
descendants of some one individual _ens_, whose various progeny have
been simply modified by the action of natural and ascertainable
conditions into the multiform aspect of life which we see around us.
This is undoubtedly at first sight a somewhat startling conclusion to
arrive at. To find that mosses, grasses, turnips, oaks, worms, and
flies, mites and elephants, infusoria and whales, tadpoles of to-day and
venerable saurians, truffles and men, are all equally the lineal
descendants of the same aboriginal common ancestor, perhaps of the
nucleated cell of some primaeval fungus, which alone possessed the
distinguishing honour of being the "one primordial form into which life
was first breathed by the Creator "--this, to say the least of it, is no
common discovery--no very expected conclusion. But we are too loyal
pupils of inductive philosophy to start back from any conclusion by
reason of its strangeness. Newton's patient philosophy taught him to
find in the falling apple the law which governs the silent movements of
the stars in their courses; and if Mr. Darwin can with the same
correctness of reasoning demonstrate to us our fungular descent, we
shall dismiss our pride, and avow, with the characteristic humility of
philosophy, our unsuspected cousinship with the mushrooms,--

  Claim kindred there, and have our claim allowed,

--only we shall ask leave to scrutinise carefully every step of the
argument which has such an ending, and demur if at any point of it we
are invited to substitute unlimited hypothesis for patient observation,
or the spasmodic fluttering flight of fancy for the severe conclusions
to which logical accuracy of reasoning has led the way.

Now, the main propositions by which Mr. Darwin's conclusion is attained
are these:--

1. That observed and admitted variations spring up in the course of
descents from a common progenitor.

2. That many of these variations tend to an improvement upon the parent
stock.

3. That, by a continued selection of these improved specimens as the
progenitors of future stock, its powers may be unlimitedly increased.

4. And, lastly, that there is in nature a power continually and
universally working out this selection, and so fixing and augmenting
these improvements.

Mr. Darwin's whole theory rests upon the truth of these propositions and
crumbles utterly away if only one of them fail him. These, therefore, we
must closely scrutinise. We will begin with the last in our series, both
because we think it the newest and the most ingenious part of Mr.
Darwin's whole argument, and also because, whilst we absolutely deny the
mode in which he seeks to apply the existence of the power to help him
in his argument, yet we think that he throws great and very interesting
light upon the fact that such self-acting power does actively and
continuously work in all creation around us.

Mr. Darwin finds then the disseminating and improving power, which he
needs to account for the development of new forms in nature, in the
principle of "Natural Selection," which is evolved in the strife for
room to live and flourish which is evermore maintained between
themselves by all living things. One of the most interesting parts of
Mr. Darwin's volume is that in which he establishes this law of natural
selection; we say establishes, because--repeating that we differ from
him totally in the limits which he would assign to its action--we have
no doubt of the existence or of the importance of the law itself.

       *       *       *       *       *

We come then to these conclusions. All the facts presented to us in the
natural world tend to show that none of the variations produced in the
fixed forms of animal life, when seen in its most plastic condition
under domestication, give any promise of a true transmutation of
species; first, from the difficulty of accumulating and fixing
variations within the same species; secondly, from the fact that these
variations, though most serviceable for man, have no tendency to improve
the individual beyond the standard of his own specific type, and so to
afford matter, even if they were infinitely produced, for the supposed
power of natural selection on which to work; whilst all variations from
the mixture of species are barred by the inexorable law of hybrid
sterility. Further, the embalmed records of 3,000 years show that there
has been no beginning of transmutation in the species of our most
familiar domesticated animals; and beyond this, that in the countless
tribes of animal life around us, down to its lowest and most variable
species, no one has ever discovered a single instance of such
transmutation being now in prospect; no new organ has ever been known to
be developed--no new natural instinct to be formed--whilst, finally, in
the vast museum of departed animal life which the strata of the earth
imbed for our examination, whilst they contain far too complete a
representation of the past to be set aside as a mere imperfect record,
yet afford no one instance of any such change as having ever been in
progress, or give us anywhere the missing links of the assumed chain, or
the remains which would enable now existing variations, by gradual
approximations, to shade off into unity. On what then is the new theory
based? We say it with unfeigned regret, in dealing with such a man as
Mr. Darwin, on the merest hypothesis, supported by the most unbounded
assumptions. These are strong words, but we will give a few instances to
prove their truth:--

  All physiologists admit that the swim-bladder is homologous or
  "ideally similar" in position and structure with the lungs of the
  higher vertebrate animals; hence there _seems to me to be no great
  difficulty in believing_ that natural selection has actually converted
  a swim-bladder into a lung, or organ used exclusively for
  respiration.--p. 191.

  _I can indeed hardly doubt_ that all vertebrate animals having true
  lungs have descended by ordinary generation from the ancient
  prototype, of which we know nothing, furnished with a floating
  apparatus or swim-bladder--p. 191.

We must be cautious

  In concluding that the most different habits of all _could not_
  graduate into each other; that a bat, for instance, _could not_ have
  been formed by natural selection from an animal which at first could
  only glide through the air.--p. 204.

Again:--

  _I see no difficulty in supposing_ that such links formerly existed,
  and that each had been formed by the same steps as in the case of the
  less perfectly gliding squirrels, and that each grade of structure was
  useful to its possessor. Nor _can I see any insuperable difficulty in
  further believing_ it possible that the membrane-connected fingers and
  forearm of the galeopithecus might be greatly lengthened by natural
  selection, and this, as far as the organs of flight are concerned,
  would convert it into a bat.--p. 181.

  For instance, a swim-bladder has _apparently_ been converted into an
  air-breathing lung.--p. 181.

And again:--

  The electric organs of fishes offer another case of special
  difficulty: It is impossible to conceive by what steps these wondrous
  organs have been produced; but, as Owen and others have remarked,
  their intimate structure closely resembles that of common muscle; and
  as it has lately been shown that rays have an organ closely analogous
  to the electric apparatus, and yet do not, as Matteucci asserts,
  discharge any electricity, we must own that we are far too ignorant to
  argue that _no transition of any kind is possible._--pp. 192-3.

Sometimes Mr. Darwin seems for a moment to recoil himself from this
extravagant liberty of speculation, as when he says, concerning the
eye,--

  To suppose that the eye, with its inimitable contrivances for
  adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different
  amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic
  aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I
  freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.--p. 186.

But he soon returns to his new wantonness of conjecture, and, without
the shadow of a fact, contents himself with saying that--

  he _suspects_ that any sensitive nerve may be rendered sensitive to
  light, and likewise to those coarser vibrations of the air which
  produce sound.--p-187.

And in the following passage he carries this extravagance to the highest
pitch, requiring a licence for advancing as true any theory which cannot
be demonstrated to be actually impossible:--

  If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, _which
  could not possibly_ have been formed by numerous, successive, slight
  modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find
  no such case.--p. 189.

Another of these assumptions is not a little remarkable. It suits his
argument to deduce all our known varieties of pigeons from the
rock-pigeon (the Columba livia), and this parentage is traced out,
though not, we think, to demonstration, yet with great ingenuity and
patience. But another branch of the argument would be greatly
strengthened by establishing the descent of our various breeds of dogs
with their perfect power of fertile inter-breeding from different
natural species. And accordingly, though every fact as to the canine
race is parallel to the facts which have been used before to establish
the common parentage of the pigeons in Columba livia, all these are
thrown over in a moment, and Mr. Darwin, first assuming, without the
shadow of proof, that our domestic breeds are descended from different
species, proceeds calmly to argue from this, as though it were a
demonstrated certainty.

  It _seems to me unlikely_ in the case of the dog-genus, which is
  distributed in a wild state throughout the world, that since man first
  appeared one species alone should have been domesticated.--p. 18.

  In some cases _I do not doubt_ that the intercrossing of species
  aboriginally distinct has played an important part in the origin of
  our domestic productions.--p. 43.

What new words are these for a loyal disciple of the true Baconian
philosophy?--"I can conceive"--"It is not incredible"--"I do not doubt"
--"It is conceivable."

  For myself, _I venture confidently_ to look back thousands on
  thousands of generations, and I see an animal striped like a zebra,
  but perhaps otherwise very differently constructed, the common parent
  of our domestic horse, whether or not it be descended from one or more
  wild stocks of the ass, hemionous, quagga, or zebra.--p. 167.

In the name of all true philosophy we protest against such a mode of
dealing with nature, as utterly dishonourable to all natural science, as
reducing it from its present lofty level of being one of the noblest
trainers of man's intellect and instructors of his mind, to being a mere
idle play of the fancy, without the basis of fact or the discipline of
observation. In the "Arabian Nights" we are not offended as at an
impossibility when Amina sprinkles her husband with water and transforms
him into a dog, but we cannot open the august doors of the venerable
temple of scientific truth to the genii and magicians of romance. We
plead guilty to Mr. Darwin's imputation that

  the chief cause of our natural unwillingness to admit that one species
  has given birth to other and distinct species is that we are always
  slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the
  intermediate steps.--p. 481.

In this tardiness to admit great changes suggested by the imagination,
but the steps of which we cannot see, is the true spirit of philosophy.

  Analysis, says Professor Sedgwick, consists in making experiments and
  observations, and in drawing general conclusions from them by
  induction, and admitting of no objections against the conclusions but
  such as are taken from experiments or other certain truths; for
  _hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental philosophy._[1]

[1] "A Discourse on the Studies of the University," by A. Sedgwick, p.
    102.

The other solvent which Mr. Darwin most freely and, we think,
unphilosophically employs to get rid of difficulties, is his use of
time. This he shortens or prolongs at will by the mere wave of his
magician's rod. Thus the duration of whole epochs, during which certain
forms of animal life prevailed, is gathered up into a point, whilst an
unlimited expanse of years, "impressing his mind with a sense of
eternity," is suddenly interposed between that and the next series,
though geology proclaims the transition to have been one of gentle and,
it may be, swift accomplishment. All this too is made the more startling
because it is used to meet the objections drawn from facts. "We see none
of your works," says the observer of nature; "we see no beginnings of
the portentous change; we see plainly beings of another order in
creation, but we find amongst them no tendencies to these altered
organisms." "True," says the great magician, with a calmness no
difficulty derived from the obstinacy of facts can disturb; "true, but
remember the effect of time. Throw in a few hundreds of millions of
years more or less, and why should not all these changes be possible,
and, if possible, why may I not assume them to be real?"

Together with this large licence of assumption we notice in this book
several instances of receiving as facts whatever seems to bear out the
theory upon the slightest evidence, and rejecting summarily others,
merely because they are fatal to it. We grieve to charge upon Mr. Darwin
this freedom in handling facts, but truth extorts it from us. That the
loose statements and unfounded speculations of this book should come
from the author of the monograms on Cirripedes, and the writer, in the
natural history of the Voyage of the "Beagle," of the paper on the Coral
Reefs, is indeed a sad warning how far the love of a theory may seduce
even a first-rate naturalist from the very articles of his creed.

This treatment of facts is followed up by another favourite line of
argument, namely, that by this hypothesis difficulties otherwise
inextricable are solved. Such passages abound. Take a few, selected
almost at random, to illustrate what we mean:--

  How inexplicable are these facts on the ordinary view of creation!--p.
  436.

  Such facts as the presence of peculiar species of bats and the absence
  of other mammals on oceanic islands are utterly inexplicable on the
  theory of independent acts of creation.--pp. 477-8.

  It must be admitted that these facts receive no explanation on the
  theory of creation.--p. 478.

  The inhabitants of the Cape de Verde Islands are related to those of
  Africa, like those of the Galapagos to America. I believe this grand
  fact can receive no sort of explanation on the ordinary view of
  independent creation.--pp. 398-9.

Now what can be more simply reconcilable with that theory than Mr.
Darwin's own account of the mode in which the migration of animal life
from one distant region to another is continually accomplished?

Take another of these suggestions:--

  It is inexplicable, on the theory of creation, why a part developed in
  a very unusual manner in any one species of a genus, and therefore, as
  we may naturally infer, of great importance to the species, should be
  eminently liable to variation.--p. 474.

Why "inexplicable"? Such a liability to variation might most naturally
be expected in the part "unusually developed," because such unusual
development is of the nature of a monstrosity, and monsters are always
tending to relapse into likeness to the normal type. Yet this argument
is one on which he mainly relies to establish his theory, for he sums
all up in this triumphant inference:--

  I cannot believe that a false theory would explain, as it seems to me
  that the theory of natural selection does explain, the several large
  classes of facts above specified.--p. 480.

Now, as to all this, we deny, first, that many of these difficulties are
"inexplicable on any other supposition." Of the greatest of them (128,
194) we shall have to speak before we conclude. We will here touch only
on one of those which are continually reappearing in Mr. Darwin's pages,
in order to illustrate his mode of dealing with them. He finds, then,
one of these "inexplicable difficulties" in the fact, that the young of
the blackbird, instead of resembling the adult in the colour of its
plumage, is like the young of many other birds spotted, and triumphantly
declaring that--

  No one will suppose that the stripes on the whelp of a lion, or the
  spots on the young blackbird, are of any use to these animals, or are
  related to the conditions to which they are exposed.--pp. 439-40--

he draws from them one of his strongest arguments for this alleged
community of descent. Yet what is more certain to every observant
field-naturalist than that this alleged uselessness of colouring is one
of the greatest protections to the young bird, imperfect in its flight,
perching on every spray, sitting unwarily on every bush through which
the rays of sunshine dapple every bough to the colour of its own
plumage, and so give it a facility of escape which it would utterly want
if it bore the marked and prominent colours, the beauty of which the
adult bird needs to recommend him to his mate, and can safely bear with
his increased habits of vigilance and power of wing?

But, secondly, as to many of these difficulties, the alleged solving of
which is one great proof of the truth of Mr. Darwin's theory, we are
compelled to join issue with him on another ground, and deny that he
gives us any solution at all. Thus, for instance, Mr. Darwin builds a
most ingenious argument on the tendency of the young of the horse, ass,
zebra, and quagga, to bear on their shoulders and on their legs certain
barred stripes. Up these bars (bars sinister, as we think, as to any
true descent of existing animals from their fancied prototype) he mounts
through his "thousands and thousands of generations," to the existence
of his "common parent, otherwise perhaps very differently constructed,
but striped like a zebra."--(p. 67.) "How inexplicable," he exclaims,
"on the theory of creation, is the occasional appearance of stripes on
the shoulder and legs of several species of the horse genus and in their
hybrids!"--(p. 473.) He tells us that to suppose that each species was
created with a tendency "like this, is to make the works of God a mere
mockery and deception"; and he satisfies himself that all difficulty is
gone when he refers the stripes to his hypothetical thousands on
thousands of years removed progenitor. But how is his difficulty really
affected? for why is the striping of one species a less real difficulty
than the striping of many?

Another instance of this mode of dealing with his subject, to which we
must call the attention of our readers, because it too often recurs, is
contained in the following question:--

  Were all the infinitely numerous kinds of animals and plants created
  as eggs, or seed, or as full grown? and, in the case of mammals, were
  they created bearing the false marks of nourishment from the mother's
  womb?--p. 483.

The difficulty here glanced at is extreme, but it is one for the
solution of which the transmutation-theory gives no clue. It is inherent
in the idea of the creation of beings, which are to reproduce their like
by natural succession; for, in such a world, place the first beginning
where you will, that beginning _must_ contain the apparent history of a
_past_, which existed only in the mind of the Creator. If, with Mr.
Darwin, to escape the difficulty of supposing the first man at his
creation to possess in that framework of his body "false marks of
nourishment from his mother's womb," with Mr. Darwin you consider him to
have been an improved ape, you only carry the difficulty up from the
first man to the first ape; if, with Mr. Darwin, in violation of all
observation, you break the barrier between the classes of vegetable and
animal life, and suppose every animal to be an "improved" vegetable, you
do but carry your difficulty with you into the vegetable world; for, how
could there be seeds if there had been no plants to seed them? and if
you carry up your thoughts through the vista of the Darwinian eternity
up to the primaeval fungus, still the primaeval fungus must have had a
humus, from which to draw into its venerable vessels the nourishment of
its archetypal existence, and that humus must itself be a "false mark"
of a pre-existing vegetation.

We have dwelt a little upon this, because it is by such seeming
solutions of difficulties as that which this passage supplies that the
transmutationist endeavours to prop up his utterly rotten fabric of
guess and speculation.

There are no parts of Mr. Darwin's ingenious book in which he gives the
reins more completely to his fancy than where he deals with the
improvement of instinct by his principle of natural selection. We need
but instance his assumption, without a fact on which to build it, that
the marvellous skill of the honey-bee in constructing its cells is thus
obtained, and the slave-making habits of the Formica Polyerges thus
formed. There seems to be no limit here to the exuberance of his fancy,
and we cannot but think that we detect one of those hints by which Mr.
Darwin indicates the application of his system from the lower animals to
man himself, when he dwells so pointedly upon the fact that it is always
the _black_ ant which is enslaved by his other coloured and more
fortunate brethren. "The slaves are black!" We believe that, if we had
Mr. Darwin in the witness-box, and could subject him to a moderate
cross-examination, we should find that he believed that the tendency of
the lighter-coloured races of mankind to prosecute the negro slave-trade
was really a remains, in their more favoured condition, of the
"extraordinary and odious instinct" which had possessed them before they
had been "improved by natural selection" from Formica Polyerges into
Homo. This at least is very much the way in which (p. 479) he slips in
quite incidentally the true identity of man with the horse, the bat, and
the porpoise:--

  The framework of bones being the same in the hand of a man, wing of a
  bat, fin of a porpoise, and leg of the horse, the same number of
  vertebrae forming the neck of the giraffe and of the elephant, and
  innumerable other such facts, at once explain themselves on the theory
  of descent with slow and slight successive modifications.--p. 479.

Such assumptions as these, we once more repeat, are most dishonourable
and injurious to science; and though, out of respect to Mr. Darwin's
high character and to the tone of his work, we have felt it right to
weigh the "argument" again set by him before us in the simple scales of
logical examination, yet we must remind him that the view is not a new
one, and that it has already been treated with admirable humour when
propounded by another of his name and of his lineage. We do not think
that, with all his matchless ingenuity, Mr. Darwin has found any
instance which so well illustrates his own theory of the improved
descendant under the elevating influences of natural selection
exterminating the progenitor whose specialities he has exaggerated as he
himself affords us in this work. For if we go back two generations we
find the ingenious grandsire of the author of the _Origin of Species_
speculating on the same subject, and almost in the same manner with his
more daring descendant.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our readers will not have failed to notice that we have objected to the
views with which we have been dealing solely on scientific grounds. We
have done so from our fixed conviction that it is thus that the truth or
falsehood of such arguments should be tried. We have no sympathy with
those who object to any facts or alleged facts in nature, or to any
inference logically deduced from them, because they believe them to
contradict what it appears to them is taught by Revelation. We think
that all such objections savour of a timidity which is really
inconsistent with a firm and well-instructed faith:--

  "Let us for a moment," profoundly remarks Professor Sedgwick, "suppose
  that there are some religious difficulties in the conclusions of
  geology. How, then, are we to solve them? Not by making a world after
  a pattern of our own--not by shifting and shuffling the solid strata
  of the earth, and then dealing them out in such a way as to play the
  game of an ignorant or dishonest hypothesis--not by shutting our eyes
  to facts, or denying the evidence of our senses--but by patient
  investigation, carried on in the sincere love of truth, and by
  learning to reject every consequence not warranted by physical
  evidence."[1]

He who is as sure as he is of his own existence that the God of Truth is
at once the God of Nature and the God of Revelation, cannot believe it
to be possible that His voice in either, rightly understood, can differ,
or deceive His creatures. To oppose facts in the natural world because
they seem to oppose Revelation, or to humour them so as to compel them
to speak its voice, is, he knows, but another form of the ever-ready
feebleminded dishonesty of lying for God, and trying by fraud or
falsehood to do the work of the God of truth. It is with another and a
nobler spirit that the true believer walks amongst the works of nature.
The words graven on the everlasting rocks are the words of God, and they
are graven by His hand. No more can they contradict His Word written in
His book, than could the words of the old covenant graven by His hand on
the stony tables contradict the writings of His hand in the volume of
the new dispensation. There may be to man difficulty in reconciling all
the utterances of the two voices. But what of that? He has learned
already that here he knows only in part, and that the day of reconciling
all apparent contradictions between what must agree is nigh at hand. He
rests his mind in perfect quietness on this assurance, and rejoices in
the gift of light without a misgiving as to what it may discover:--

  "A man of deep thought and great practical wisdom," says Sedgwick,[2]
  "one whose piety and benevolence have for many years been shining
  before the world, and of whose sincerity no scoffer (of whatever
  school) will dare to start a doubt, recorded his opinion in the great
  assembly of the men of science who during the past year were gathered
  from every corner of the Empire within the walls of this University,
  'that Christianity had everything to hope and nothing to fear from the
  advancement of philosophy.'"[3]

[1] "A Discourse on the Studies of the University," p. 149.
[2] Ibid., p. 153.
[3] Speech of Dr. Chalmers at the Meeting of the British Association
    for the Advancement of Science, June, 1833.

This is as truly the spirit of Christianity as it is that of philosophy.
Few things have more deeply injured the cause of religion than the busy
fussy energy with which men, narrow and feeble alike in faith and in
science, have bustled forth to reconcile all new discoveries in physics
with the word of inspiration. For it continually happens that some
larger collection of facts, or some wider view of the phenomena of
nature, alter the whole philosophic scheme; whilst Revelation has been
committed to declare an absolute agreement with what turns out after all
to have been a misconception or an error. We cannot, therefore, consent
to test the truth of natural science by the Word of Revelation. But this
does not make it the less important to point out on scientific grounds
scientific errors, when those errors tend to limit God's glory in
creation, or to gainsay the revealed relations of that creation to
Himself. To both these classes of error, though, we doubt not, quite
unintentionally on his part, we think that Mr. Darwin's speculations
directly tend.

Mr. Darwin writes as a Christian, and we doubt not that he is one. We do
not for a moment believe him to be one of those who retain in some
corner of their hearts a secret unbelief which they dare not vent; and
we therefore pray him to consider well the grounds on which we brand his
speculations with the charge of such a tendency. First, then, he not
obscurely declares that he applies his scheme of the action of the
principle of natural selection to MAN himself, as well as to the animals
around him. Now, we must say at once, and openly, that such a notion is
absolutely incompatible not only with single expressions in the word of
God on that subject of natural science with which it is not immediately
concerned, but, which in our judgment is of far more importance, with
the whole representation of that moral and spiritual condition of man
which is its proper subject-matter. Man's derived supremacy over the
earth; man's power of articulate speech; man's gift of reason; man's
free-will and responsibility; man's fall and man's redemption; the
incarnation of the Eternal Son; the indwelling of the Eternal Spirit,--
all are equally and utterly irreconcilable with the degrading notion of
the brute origin of him who was created in the image of God, and
redeemed by the Eternal Son assuming to himself his nature. Equally
inconsistent, too, not with any passing expressions, but with the whole
scheme of God's dealings with man as recorded in His word, is Mr.
Darwin's daring notion of man's further development into some unknown
extent of powers, and shape, and size, through natural selection acting
through that long vista of ages which he casts mistily over the earth
upon the most favoured individuals of his species. We care not in these
pages to push the argument further. We have done enough for our purpose
in thus succinctly intimating its course. If any of our readers doubt
what must be the result of such speculations carried to their logical
and legitimate conclusion, let them turn to the pages of _Oken_, and see
for themselves the end of that path the opening of which is decked out
in these pages with the bright hues and seemingly innocent deductions of
the transmutation-theory.

Nor can we doubt, secondly, that this view, which thus contradicts the
revealed relation of creation to its Creator, is equally inconsistent
with the fullness of His glory. It is, in truth, an ingenious theory for
diffusing throughout creation the working and so the personality of the
Creator. And thus, however unconsciously to him who holds them, such
views really tend inevitably to banish from the mind most of the
peculiar attributes of the Almighty.

How, asks Mr. Darwin, can we possibly account for the manifest plan,
order, and arrangement which pervade creation, except we allow to it
this self-developing power through modified descent?

  As Milne-Edwards has well expressed it, Nature is prodigal in variety,
  but niggard in innovation. Why, on the theory of creation, should this
  be so? Why should all the parts and organs of many independent beings,
  each supposed to have been separately created for its proper place in
  nature, be so commonly linked together by graduated steps? Why should
  not Nature have taken a leap from structure to structure?--p. 194.

And again:--

  It is a truly wonderful fact--the wonder of which we are apt to
  overlook from familiarity--that all animals and plants throughout all
  time and space should be related to each other in group subordinate to
  group, in the manner which we everywhere behold, namely, varieties of
  the same species most closely related together, species of the same
  genus less closely and unequally related together, forming sections
  and sub-genera, species of distinct genera much less closely related,
  and genera related in different degrees, forming sub-families,
  families, orders, sub-classes, and classes.--pp. 128-9.

How can we account for all this? By the simplest and yet the most
comprehensive answer. By declaring the stupendous fact that all creation
is the transcript in matter of ideas eternally existing in the mind of
the Most High--that order in the utmost perfectness of its relation
pervades His works, because it exists as in its centre and highest
fountain-head in Him the Lord of all. Here is the true account of the
fact which has so utterly misled shallow observers, that Man himself,
the Prince and Head of this creation, passes in the earlier stages of
his being through phases of existence closely analogous, so far as his
earthly tabernacle is concerned, to those in which the lower animals
ever remain. At that point of being the development of the protozoa is
arrested. Through it the embryo of their chief passes to the perfection
of his earthly frame. But the types of those lower forms of being must
be found in the animals which never advance beyond them--not in man for
whom they are but the foundation for an after-development; whilst he
too, Creation's crown and perfection, thus bears witness in his own
frame to the law of order which pervades the universe.

In like manner could we answer every other question as to which Mr.
Darwin thinks all oracles are dumb unless they speak his speculation. He
is, for instance, more than once troubled by what he considers
imperfections in Nature's work. "If," he says, "our reason leads us to
admire with enthusiasm a multitude of inimitable contrivances in Nature,
this same reason tells us that some other contrivances are less
perfect."

  Nor ought we to marvel if all the contrivances in nature be not, as
  far as we can judge, absolutely perfect; and if some of them be
  abhorrent to our idea of fitness. We need not marvel at the sting of
  the bee causing the bee's own death; at drones being produced in such
  vast numbers for one single act, and with the great majority
  slaughtered by their sterile sisters; at the astonishing waste of
  pollen by our fir-trees; at the instinctive hatred of the queen-bee
  for her own fertile daughters; at ichneumonidae feeding within the
  live bodies of caterpillars; and at other such cases. The wonder
  indeed is, on the theory of natural selection, that more cases of the
  want of absolute perfection have not been observed.--p. 472.

We think that the real temper of this whole speculation as to nature
itself may be read in these few lines. It is a dishonouring view of
nature.

That reverence for the work of God's hands with which a true belief in
the All-wise Worker fills the believer's heart is at the root of all
great physical discovery; it is the basis of philosophy. He who would
see the venerable features of Nature must not seek with the rudeness of
a licensed roysterer violently to unmask her countenance; but must wait
as a learner for her willing unveiling. There was more of the true
temper of philosophy in the poetic fiction of the Pan-ic shriek, than in
the atheistic speculations of Lucretius. But this temper must beset
those who do in effect banish God from nature. And so Mr. Darwin not
only finds in it these bungling contrivances which his own greater skill
could amend, but he stands aghast before its mightier phenomena. The
presence of death and famine seems to him inconceivable on the ordinary
idea of creation; and he looks almost aghast at them until reconciled to
their presence by his own theory that "a ratio of increase so high as to
lead to a struggle for life, and as a consequence to natural selection
entailing divergence of character and the extinction of less improved
forms, is decidedly followed by the most exalted object which we are
capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals" (p.
490). But we can give him a simpler solution still for the presence of
these strange forms of imperfection and suffering amongst the works of
God.

We can tell him of the strong shudder which ran through all this world
when its head and ruler fell. When he asks concerning the infinite
variety of these multiplied works which are set in such an orderly
unity, and run up into man as their reasonable head, we can tell him of
the exuberance of God's goodness and remind him of the deep philosophy
which lies in those simple words--"All thy works praise Thee, O God, and
thy saints give thanks unto Thee." For it is one office of redeemed man
to collect the inarticulate praises of the material creation, and pay
them with conscious homage into the treasury of the supreme Lord.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is by putting restraint upon fancy that science is made the true
trainer of our intellect:--

  "A study of the Newtonian philosophy," says Sedgwick, "as affecting
  our moral powers and capacities, does not terminate in mere negations.
  It teaches us to see the finger of God in all things animate and
  inaminate [Transcriber's note: sic], and gives us an exalted
  conception of His attributes, placing before us the clearest proof of
  their reality; and so prepares, or ought to prepare, the mind for the
  reception of that higher illumination which brings the rebellious
  faculties into obedience to the Divine will."--_Studies of the
  University_, p. 14.

It is by our deep conviction of the truth and importance of this view
for the scientific mind of England that we have been led to treat at so
much length Mr. Darwin's speculation. The contrast between the sober,
patient, philosophical courage of our home philosophy, and the writings
of Lamarck and his followers and predecessors, of MM. Demaillet, Bory de
Saint Vincent, Virey, and Oken,[1] is indeed most wonderful; and it is
greatly owing to the noble tone which has been given by those great men
whose words we have quoted to the school of British science. That Mr.
Darwin should have wandered from this broad highway of nature's works
into the jungle of fanciful assumption is no small evil. We trust that
he is mistaken in believing that he may count Sir C. Lyell as one of his
converts. We know indeed the strength of the temptations which he can
bring to bear upon his geological brother. The Lyellian hypothesis,
itself not free from some of Mr. Darwin's faults, stands eminently in
need for its own support of some such new scheme of physical life as
that propounded here. Yet no man has been more distinct and more logical
in the denial of the transmutation of species than Sir C. Lyell, and
that not in the infancy of his scientific life, but in its full vigour
and maturity.

[1] It may be worth while to exhibit to our readers a few of Dr. Oken's
    postulates or arguments as specimens of his views:--
      I wrote the first edition of 1810 in a kind of inspiration.
      4. Spirit is the motion of mathematical ideas.
      10. Physio-philosphy [Transcriber's note: sic] has to ... pourtray
      the first period of the world's development from nothing; how the
      elements and heavenly bodies originated; in what method by
      self-evolution into higher and manifold forms they separated into
      minerals, became finally organic, and in man attained
      self-consciousness.
      42. The mathematical monad is eternal.
      43. The eternal is one and the same with the zero of mathematics.


Sir C. Lyell devotes the 33rd to the 36th chapter of his "Principles of
Geology" to an examination of this question. He gives a clear account of
the mode in which Lamarck supported his belief of the transmutation of
species; he interrupts the author's argument to observe that "no
positive fact is cited to exemplify the substitution of some _entirely
new_ sense, faculty, or organ--because no examples were to be found";
and remarks that when Lamarck talks of "the effects of internal
sentiment," etc., as causes whereby animals and plants may acquire _new
organs_, he substitutes names for things, and with a disregard to the
strict rules of induction, resorts to fictions.

He shows the fallacy of Lamarck's reasoning, and by anticipation
confutes the whole theory of Mr. Darwin, when gathering clearly up into
a few heads the recapitulation of the whole argument in favour of the
reality of species in nature. He urges:--[Transcriber's note: numbering
in original]

1. That there is a capacity in all species to accommodate themselves to
a certain extent to a change of external circumstances.

4. The entire variation from the original type ... may usually be
effected in a brief period of time, after which no further deviation can
be obtained.

5. The intermixing distinct species is guarded against by the sterility
of the mule offspring.

6. It appears that species have a real existence in nature, and that
each was endowed at the time of its creation with the attributes and
organization by which it is now distinguished.[1]

[1] "Principles of Geology," edit. 1853.

We trust that Sir C. Lyell abides still by these truly philosophical
principles; and that with his help and with that of his brethren this
flimsy speculation may be as completely put down as was what in spite of
all denials we must venture to call its twin though less-instructed
brother, the "Vestiges of Creation." In so doing they will assuredly
provide for the strength and continually growing progress of British
science.

Indeed, not only do all laws for the study of nature vanish when the
great principle of order pervading and regulating all her processes is
given up, but all that imparts the deepest interest in the investigation
of her wonders will have departed too. Under such influences a man soon
goes back to the marvelling stare of childhood at the centaurs and
hippogriffs of fancy, or if he is of a philosophic turn, he comes like
Oken to write a scheme of creation under "a sort of inspiration"; but it
is the frenzied inspiration of the inhaler of mephitic gas. The whole
world of nature is laid for such a man under a fantastic law of glamour,
and he becomes capable of believing anything: to him it is just as
probable that Dr. Livingstone will find the next tribe of negroes with
their heads growing under their arms as fixed on the summit of the
cervical vertebrae; and he is able, with a continually growing neglect
of all the facts around him, with equal confidence and equal delusion,
to look back to any past and to look on to any future.



ON CARDINAL NEWMAN

[From _The Quarterly Review_, October, 1864]

_Apologia pro Vita suâ_. By JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, D.D.

Few books have been published of late years which combine more distinct
elements of interest than the "Apologia" of Dr. Newman. As an
autobiography, in the highest sense of that word, as the portraiture,
that is, and record of what the man was, irrespective of those common
accidents of humanity which too often load the biographer's pages, it is
eminently dramatic. To produce such a portrait was the end which the
writer proposed to himself, and which he has achieved with a rare
fidelity and completeness. Hardly do the "Confessions of St. Augustine"
more vividly reproduce the old African Bishop before successive
generations in all the greatness and struggles of his life than do these
pages the very inner being of this remarkable man--"the living
intelligence," as he describes it, "by which I write, and argue, and
act" (p. 47). No wonder that when he first fully recognised what he had
to do, he

  shrank from both the task and the exposure which it would entail. I
  must, I said, give the true key to my whole life; I must show what I
  am, that it may be seen what I am not, and that the phantom may be
  extinguished which gibbers instead of me. I wish to be known as a
  living man, and not as a scarecrow which is dressed up in my
  clothes.... I will draw out, as far as may be, the history of my mind;
  I will state the point at which I began, in what external suggestion
  or accident each opinion had its rise, how far and how they were
  developed from within, how they grew, were modified, were combined,
  were in collision with each other, and were changed. Again, how I
  conducted myself towards them; and how, and how far, and for how long
  a time, I thought I could hold them consistently with the
  ecclesiastical engagements which I had made, and with the position
  which I filled.... It is not at all pleasant for me to be egotistical
  nor to be criticised for being so. It is not pleasant to reveal to
  high and low, young and old, what has gone on within me from my early
  years. It is not pleasant to be giving to every shallow or flippant
  disputant the advantage over me of knowing my most private thoughts, I
  might even say the intercourse between myself and my Maker.
 --pp. 47-51.

Here is the task he set himself, and the task which he has performed.
There is in these pages an absolute revealing of the hidden life in its
acting, and its processes, which at times is almost startling, which is
everywhere of the deepest interest. For the life thus revealed is well
worthy of the pen by which it is portrayed. Of all those who, in these
later years, have quitted the Church of England for the Roman communion
--esteemed, honoured, and beloved, as were many of them--no one, save
Dr. Newman, appears to us to possess the rare gift of undoubted genius.

That life, moreover, which anywhere and at any time must have marked its
own character on his fellows, was cast precisely at the time and place
most favourable for stamping upon others the impress of itself. The
plate was ready to receive and to retain every line of the image which
was thrown so vividly upon it. The history, therefore, of this life in
its shifting scenes of thought, feeling, and purpose, becomes in fact
the history of a school, a party, and a sect. From its effect on us,
who, from without, judge of it with critical calmness, we can form some
idea of what must be its power on those who were within the charmed
ring; who were actually under the wand of the enchanter, for whom there
was music in that voice, fascination in that eye, and habitual command
in that spare but lustrous countenance; and who can trace again in this
retrospect the colours and shadows which in those years which fixed
their destiny, passed, though in less distinct hues, into their own
lives, and made them what they are.

Again, in another aspect, the "Apologia" will have a special interest
for most of our readers. Almost every page of it will throw some light
upon the great controversy which has been maintained for these three
hundred years, and which now spreads itself throughout the world,
between the Anglican Church and her oldest and greatest antagonist, the
Papal See....

The first names to which it introduces us indicate the widely-differing
influences under which was formed that party within our Church which has
acted so powerfully and in such various directions upon its life and
teaching. They are those of Mr.--afterwards Archbishop--Whately and Dr.
Hawkins, afterwards and still the Provost of Oriel College. To
intercourse with both of whom Dr. Newman attributes great results in the
formation of his own character: the first emphatically opening his mind
and teaching him to use his reason, whilst in religious opinion he
taught him the existence of a church, and fixed in him Anti-Erastian
views of Church polity; the second being a man of most exact mind, who
through a course of severe snubbing taught him to weigh his words and be
cautious in his statements.

To an almost unknown degree, Oriel had at that time monopolised the
active speculative intellect of Oxford. Her fellowships being open,
whilst those of other Colleges were closed, drew to her the ablest men
of the University: whilst the nature of the examination for her
fellowships, which took no note of ordinary University honours, and
stretched boldly out beyond inquiries as to classical and mathematical
attainments in everything which could test the dormant powers of the
candidates, had already impressed upon the Society a distinctive
character of intellectual excellence. The late Lord Grenville used at
this time to term an Oriel Fellowship the Blue Ribbon of the University;
and, undoubtedly, the results of those examinations have been
marvellously confirmed by the event, if we think to what an extent the
mind, and opinions, and thoughts of England have been moulded by them
who form the list of those "Orielenses," of whom it was said in an
academic squib of the time, with some truth, flavoured perhaps with a
spice of envy, that they were wont to enter the academic circle "under a
flourish of trumpets." Such a "flourish" certainly has often preceded
the entry of far lesser men than E. Coplestone, E. Hawkins, J. Davison,
J. Keble, R. Whately, T. Arnold, E.B. Pusey, J. H. Newman, H. Froude, R.
J. Wilberforce, S. Wilberforce, G. A. Denison, &c., &c.

Into a Society leavened with such intellectual influences as these, Dr.
Newman, soon after taking his degree, was ushered. It could at this time
have borne no distinctively devout character in its religious aspect.
Rather must it have been marked by the opposite of this. Whately, whose
powerful and somewhat rude intellect must almost have overawed the
common room when the might of Davison had been taken from it, was, with
all his varied excellences, never by any means an eminently devout,
scarcely perhaps an orthodox man. All his earlier writings bristle with
paradoxes, which affronted the instincts of simpler and more believing
minds. Whately, accordingly, appears in these pages as "generous and
warmhearted--particularly loyal to his friends" (p. 68); as teaching
his pupil "to see with my own eyes and to walk with my own feet"; yet as
exercising an influence over him (p. 69) which, "in a higher respect
than intellectual advance, had not been satisfactory," under which he
"was beginning to prefer intellectual excellence to moral, was drifting
in the direction of liberalism"; a "dream" out of which he was "rudely
awakened at the end of 1827, by two great blows--illness and
bereavement" (p. 72).

Though this change in his views is traced by Dr. Newman to the action of
these strictly personal causes of illness and bereavement, yet other
influences, we suspect, were working strongly in the same direction. It
is plain that, so far as regards early permanent impression on the
character of his religious opinions, the influence of Whately was
calculated rather to stir up reaction than to win a convert. "Whately's
mind," he says himself (p. 68), "was too different from mine for us to
remain long on one line." The course of events round him impelled him in
the same direction, and furnished him with new comrades, on whom
henceforth he was to act, and who were to react most powerfully on him.
The torrent of reform was beginning its full rush through the land; and
its turbulent waters threatened not only to drown the old political
landmarks of the Constitution, but also to sweep away the Church of the
nation. Abhorrence of these so-called liberal opinions was the electric
current which bound together the several minds which speedily appeared
as instituting and directing the great Oxford Church movement. Not that
it was in any sense the offspring of the old cry of "the Church in
danger." The meaning of that alarm was the apprehension of danger to the
emoluments or position of the Church as the established religion in the
land. From the very first the Oxford movement pointed more to the
maintenance of the Church as a spiritual society, divinely incorporated
to teach certain doctrines, and do certain acts which none other could
do, than to the preservation of those temporal advantages which had been
conferred by the State. From the first there was a tendency to
undervalue these external aids, which made the movement an object of
suspicion to thorough Church-and-State men. This suspicion was repaid by
the members of the new school with a return of contempt. They believed
that in struggling for the temporal advantages of the Establishment, men
had forgotten the essential characteristics of the Church, and had been
led to barter their divine birthright for the mess of pottage which Acts
of Parliament secured them. Thus we find Dr. Newman remembering his
early Oxford dislike of "the bigoted two-bottle orthodox." He records
(p. 73) the characteristic mode in which on the appearance of the first
symptoms of his "leaving the clientela" of Dr. Whately he was punished
by that rough humorist. "Whately was considerably annoyed at me; and he
took a humorous revenge, of which he had given me due notice
beforehand.... He asked a set of the least intellectual men in Oxford to
dinner, and men most fond of port; he made me one of the party; placed
me between Provost this and Principal that, and then asked me if I was
proud of my friends" (p. 73). It is easy to conceive how he liked them.
He had, indeed, though formerly a supporter of Catholic Emancipation,
"acted with them in opposing Mr. Peel's re-election in 1829, on 'simple
academical grounds,' because he thought that a great University ought
not to be bullied even by a great Duke of Wellington" (p. 172); but he
soon parted with his friends of "two-bottle orthodoxy," and joined the
gathering knot of men of an utterly different temper, who "disliked the
Duke's change of policy as dictated by liberalism" (p. 72).

This whole company shared the feelings which even yet, after so many
years and in such altered circumstances, break forth from Dr. Newman
like the rumblings and smoke of a long extinct volcano, in such
utterances as this: "The new Bill for the suppression of the Irish Sees
was in prospect, and had filled my mind. I had fierce thoughts against
the Liberals. It was the success of the Liberal cause which fretted me
inwardly. I became fierce against its instruments and its
manifestations. A French vessel was at Algiers; I would not even look at
the tricolor" (97). This was the temper of the whole band. Most of these
men appear in Dr. Newman's pages; and from their common earnestness and
various endowments a mighty band they were.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here then was the band which have accomplished so much; which have
failed in so much; which have added a new party-name to our vocabulary;
which have furnished materials for every scribbling or declaiming
political Protestant, from the writer of the Durham Letter down to Mr.
Whalley and Mr. Harper; which aided so greatly in reawakening the
dormant energies of the English Church; which carried over to the ranks
of her most deadly opponent some of the ablest and most devoted of her
sons. The language of these pages has never varied concerning this
movement. We have always admitted its many excellences--we have always
lamented its evils. As long ago as in 1839, whilst we protested openly
and fully against what we termed at the time the "strange and
lamentable" publication of Mr. Froude's "Remains,"[1] we declared our
hope that "the publication of the Oxford Tracts was a very seasonable
and valuable contribution to the cause both of the Church and the
State." And in 1846, even after so many of our hopes had faded away, we
yet spoke in the same tone of "this religious movement in our Church,"
as one "from which, however clouded be the present aspect, we doubt not
that great blessings have resulted and will result, unless we forfeit
them by neglect or wilful abuse."[2]

[1] "Quarterly Review," vol. lxiii, p. 551.
[2] Ibid., vol. lxxviii, p. 24.

The history of the progress of the movement lies scattered through these
pages. All that we can collect concerning its first intention confirms
absolutely Mr. Perceval's Statements, 1843, that it was begun for two
leading objects: "first, the firm and practical maintenance of the
doctrine of the apostolical succession.... secondly, the preservation in
its integrity of the Christian doctrine in our Prayerbooks."[1] Its
unity of action was shaken by the first entrance of doubts into its
leader's mind. His retirement from it tended directly to break it up as
an actual party. But it would be a monstrous error to suppose that the
influence of this movement was extinguished when its conductors were
dispersed as a party. So far from it, the system of the Church of
England took in all the more freely the elements of truth which it had
all along been diffusing, because they were no longer scattered abroad
by the direct action of an organised party under ostensible chiefs.
Where, we may ask, is not at this moment the effect of that movement
perfectly appreciable within our body? Look at the new-built and
restored churches of the land; look at the multiplication of schools;
the greater exactness of ritual observance; the higher standard of
clerical life, service, and devotion; the more frequent celebrations;
the cathedrals open; the loving sisterhoods labouring, under episcopal
sanction, with the meek, active saintliness of the Church's purest time;
look--above all, perhaps--at the raised tone of devotion and doctrine
amongst us, and see in all these that the movement did not die, but
rather flourished with a new vigour when the party of the movement was
so greatly broken up. It is surely one of the strangest objections which
can be urged against a living spiritual body, that the loss of many of
its foremost sons still left its vital strength unimpaired. Yet this was
Dr. Newman's objection, and his witness, fourteen years ago, when he
complained of the Church of England, that though it had given "a hundred
educated men to the Catholic Church, yet the huge creature from which
they went forth showed no consciousness of its loss, but shook itself,
and went about its work as of old time."[2]

[1] "Collection of Papers connected with the Theological Movement of
    1833." By the Hon. and Rev. A.P. Perceval. 1843. Second Edition.
[2] "Lectures on Anglican Difficulties," p. 9.

As the unity of the party was broken up, the fire which had burned
hitherto in but a single beacon was scattered upon a thousand hills.
Nevertheless, the first breaking up of the party was eminently
disheartening to its living members. But it was not by external violence
that it was broken, but by the development within itself of a
distinctive Romeward bias. Dr. Newman lays his hand upon a particular
epoch in its progress, at which, he says, it was crossed by a new set of
men, who imparted to it that leaning to Romanism which ever after
perceptibly beset it. "A new school of thought was rising, as is usual
in such movements, and was sweeping the original party of the movement
aside, and was taking its place" (p. 277). This is a curious instance of
self-delusion. He was, as we maintain, throughout, the Romanising
element in the whole movement. But for him it might have continued, as
its other great chiefs still continue, the ornament and strength of the
English Church. These younger men, to whom he attributes the change,
were, in fact, the minds whom he had consciously or unconsciously
fashioned and biassed. Some of them, as is ever the case, had outrun
their leader. Some of them were now, in their sensitive spiritual
organism, catching the varying outline of the great leader whom they
almost worshipped, and beginning at once to give back his own altering
image. Instead of seeing in their changing minds this reflection of
himself, he dwelt upon it as an original element, and read in its
presence an indication of its being the will of God that the stream
should turn its flow towards the gulf to which he himself had unawares,
it may be, directed its waters. Those who remember how at this time he
was followed will know how easily such a result might follow his own
incipient change. Those who can still remember how many often
involuntarily caught his peculiar intonation--so distinctively singular,
and therefore so attractive in himself and so repulsive in his copyists
--will understand how the altering fashion of the leader's thoughts was
appropriated with the same unconscious fidelity.

One other cause acted powerfully on him and on them to give this bias to
the movement, and that was the bitterness and invectives of the Liberal
party. Dr. Newman repeatedly reminds us that it was the Liberals who
drove him from Oxford. The four tutors--the after course of one of whom,
at least, was destined to display so remarkable a Nemesis--and the pack
who followed them turned by their ceaseless baying the noble hart who
led the rest towards this evil covert. He and they heard incessantly
that they were Papists in disguise: men dishonoured by professing one
thing and holding another; until they began to doubt their own fidelity,
and in that doubt was death. Nor was this all. The Liberals ever (as is
their wont), most illiberal to those who differ from them, began to use
direct academic persecution; until, in self-distrust and very weariness,
the great soul began to abandon the warfare it had waged inwardly
against its own inclinations and the fascinations of its enemy, and to
yield the first defences to the foe. It will remain written, as Dr.
Newman's deliberate judgment, that it was the Liberals who forced him
from Oxford. How far, if he had not taken that step, he might have again
shaken off the errors which were growing on him--how far therefore in
driving him from Oxford they drove him finally to Rome--man can never
know.

In the new light thrown upon it from the pages of the "Apologia," we see
with more distinctness than was ever shown before, how greatly this
tendency to Rome, which at last led astray so many of the masters of the
party, was infused into it by the single influence of Dr. Newman
himself. We do not believe that, in spite of his startling speeches, the
bias towards Rome was at all as strong even in H. Froude himself. Let
his last letter witness for him:--"If," he says, "I was to assign my
reasons for belonging to the Church of England in preference to any
other religious community, it would be simply this, that she has
retained an apostolical clergy, and enacts no sinful terms of communion;
whereas, on the other hand, the Romanists, though retaining an
apostolical clergy, do exact sinful terms of communion."[1] This was the
tone of the movement until it was changed in Dr. Newman. We believe that
in tracing this out we shall be using these pages entirely as their
author intended them to be used. They were meant to exhibit to his
countrymen the whole secret of his moral and spiritual anatomy; they
were intended to prove that he was altogether free from that foul and
disgraceful taint of innate dishonesty, the unspoken suspicion of which
in so many quarters had so long troubled him; the open utterance of
which, from the lips of a popular and respectable writer, was so
absolutely intolerable to him. From that imputation it is but bare
justice to say he does thoroughly clear himself. The post-mortem
examination of his life is complete; the hand which guided the
dissecting-knife has trembled nowhere, nor shrunk from any incision. All
lies perfectly open, and the foul taint is nowhere. And yet, looking
back with the writer on the changes which this strange narrative
records, from his subscribing, in 1828, towards the first start of the
"Record" newspaper to his receiving on the 9th of October, 1845, at
Littlemore, the "remarkable-looking man, evidently a foreigner, shabbily
dressed in black,"[2] who received him into the Papal Communion, we see
abundant reason, even without the action of that prevalent suspicion of
secret dishonesty somewhere, which in English minds inevitably connects
itself with the spread of Popery, for the widely-diffused impression of
that being true which it is so pleasant to find unfounded.

[1] "Collection of Papers, &c." p. 16.
[2] "Historical Notes of the Tractarian Movement," by Canon Oakley.
    Dublin Review, No. v, p. 190.

From first to last these pages exhibit the habit of Dr. Newman's mind as
eminently subjective. It might almost be described as the exact opposite
of that of S. Athanasius: with a like all-engrossing love for truth;
with ecclesiastical habits often strangely similar; with cognate gifts
of the imperishable inheritance of genius, the contradiction here is
almost absolute. The abstract proposition, the rightly-balanced
proposition, is everything to the Eastern, it is well-nigh nothing to
the English Divine. When led by circumstances to embark in the close
examination of Dogma, as in his "History of the Arians," his Nazarite
locks of strength appear to have been shorn, and the giant, at whose
might we have been marvelling, becomes as any other man. The dogmatic
portion of this work is poor and tame; it is only when the writer
escapes from dogma into the dramatic representation of the actors in the
strife that his powers reappear. For abstract truth it is true to us
that he has no engrossing affection: his strength lay in his own
apprehension of it, in his power of defending it when once it had been
so apprehended and had become engrafted into him; and it is to this as
made one with himself, and to his own inward life as fed and nourished
by it, that he perpetually reverts.

All this is the more remarkable because he conceives himself to have
been, even from early youth, peculiarly devoted to dogma in the
abstract; he returns continually to this idea, confounding, as we
venture to conceive, his estimate of the effect of truth when he
received it, on himself, with truth as it exists in the abstract. And as
this affected him in regard to dogma, so it reached to his relations to
every part of the Church around him. It led him to gather up in a
dangerous degree, into the person of his "own Bishop," the deference due
to the whole order. "I did not care much for the Bench of Bishops, nor
should I have cared much for a Provincial Council.... All these matters
seemed to me to be jure ecclesiastico; but what to me was jure divino
was the voice of my Bishop in his own person. My own Bishop was my
Pope."--(p. 123.) His intense individuality had substituted the personal
bond to the individual for the general bond to the collective holders of
the office: and so when the strain became violent it snapped at once.
This doubtless natural disposition seems to have been developed, and
perhaps permanently fixed, as the law of his intellectual and spiritual
being, by the peculiarities of his early religious training. Educated in
what is called the "Evangelical" school, early and consciously
converted, and deriving his first religious tone, in great measure, from
the vehement but misled Calvinism, of which Thomas Scott, of Aston
Sandford, was one of the ablest and most robust specimens, he was early
taught to appreciate, and even to judge of, all external truth mainly in
its ascertainable bearings on his own religious experience. In many a
man the effect of this teaching is to fix him for life in a hard,
narrow, and exclusive school of religious thought and feeling, in which
he lives and dies profoundly satisfied with himself and his
co-religionists, and quite hopeless of salvation for any beyond the
immediate pale in which his own Shibboleth is pronounced with the
exactest nicety of articulation. But Dr. Newman's mind was framed upon a
wholly different idea, and the results were proportionally dissimilar.
With the introvertive tendency which we have ascribed to him, was joined
a most subtle and speculative intellect, and an ambitious temper. The
"Apologia" is the history of the practical working out of those various
conditions. His hold upon any truth external to and separate from
himself, was so feeble when placed in comparison with his perception of
what was passing within himself, that the external truth was always
liable to corrections which would make its essential elements harmonize
with what was occurring within his own intellectual or spiritual being.
We think that we can distinctly trace in these pages a twofold
consequence from all this: first, an inexhaustible mutability in his
views on all subjects; and secondly, a continually recurring temptation
to entire scepticism as to everything external to himself. Every page
gives illustrations of the first of these. He votes for what was called
Catholic Emancipation, and is drifting into the ranks of liberalism. But
the external idea of liberty is very soon metamorphosed, in his view,
from the figure of an angel of light into that of a spirit of darkness;
first, by his academical feeling that a great University ought not to be
bullied even by a great Duke, and then by the altered temper of his own
feelings, as they are played upon by the alternate vibrations of the
gibes of "Hurrell Froude," and the deep tones of Mr. Keble's
ministrelsy.

The history of his religious alternations is in exact keeping with all
this. At every separate stage of his course, he constructs for himself a
tabernacle in which for a while he rests. This process he repeats with
an incessant simplicity of renewed commencements, which is almost like
the blind acting of instinct leading the insect, which is conscious of
its coming change, to spin afresh and afresh its ever-broken cocoon. He
is at one time an Anglo-Catholic, and sees Antichrist in Rome; he falls
back upon the Via Media--that breaks down, and left him, he says (p.
211), "very nearly a pure Protestant"; and again he has a "new theory
made expressly for the occasion, and is pleased with his new view" (p.
269); he then rests in "Samaria" before he finds his way over to Rome.
For the time every one of these transient tabernacles seems to
accomplish its purpose. He finds certain repose for his spirit. Whilst
sheltered by it, all the great unutterable phenomena of the external
world are viewed by him in relation to himself and to his home of
present rest. The gourd has grown up in a night, and shelters him by its
short-lived shadow from the tyrannous rays of the sunshine. But some
sudden irresistible change in his own inward preceptions alters
everything. The idea shoots across his mind that the English Church is
in the position of the Monophysite heretics of the fifth century (p.
209). At once all his views of truth are changed. He moves on to a new
position; pitches anew his tent; builds himself up a new theory; and
finds the altitudes of the stars above him, and the very forms of the
heavenly constellations, change with the change of his earthly
habitation.

       *       *       *       *       *

In October the final step is taken, and in the succeeding January the
mournful history is closed in the following most touching words:--

  Jan. 20, 1846.--You may think how lonely I am. _Obliviscere populum
  tuum et domum patris tui_, has been in my ears for the last twelve
  hours. I realize more that we are leaving Littlemore, and it is like
  going on the open sea.

  I left Oxford for good on Monday, February 23, 1846. On the Saturday
  and Sunday before, I was in my house at Littlemore simply by myself,
  as I had been for the first day or two when I had originally taken
  possession of it. I slept on Sunday night at my dear friend's, Mr.
  Johnson's, at the Observatory. Various friends came to see the last of
  me--Mr. Copeland, Mr. Church, Mr. Buckle, Mr. Pattison, and Mr. Lewis.
  Dr. Pusey, too, came up to take leave of me; and I called on Dr. Ogle,
  one of my very oldest friends, for he was my private tutor when I was
  an undergraduate. In him I took leave of my first College, Trinity,
  which was so dear to me, and which held on its foundation so many who
  have been kind to me, both when I was a boy and all through my Oxford
  life. Trinity had never been unkind to me. There used to be much
  snapdragon growing on the walls opposite my freshman's rooms there,
  and I had for years taken it as the emblem of my own perpetual
  residence, even unto death, in my University.

  On the morning of the 23rd I left the Observatory. I have never seen
  Oxford since, excepting its spires, as they are seen from the railway.

What an exceeding sadness is gathered up in these words! And yet the
impress of this time left upon some of Dr. Newman's writings seems, like
the ruin which records what was the violence of the throes of the
long-passed earthquake, even still more indicative of the terrible
character of the struggle through which at this time he passed. We have
seen how keenly he felt the suspicious intrusions upon his privacy which
haunted his last years in the Church of England. But in "Loss and Gain"
there is a yet more expressive exhibition of the extremity of that
suffering. He denies as "utterly untrue" the common belief that he
"introduced friends or partisans into the tale"; and of course he is to
be implicitly believed. And yet ONE there is whom no one who reads the
pages can for a moment doubt is there, and that is Dr. Newman himself.
The weary, unresting, hunted condition of the leading figure in the
tale, with all its accompaniment of keen, flashing wit, always seemed to
us the history of those days when a well-meant but impertinent series of
religious intrusions was well-nigh driving the wise man mad.

We have followed out these steps thus in detail, not only because of
their intense interest as an autobiography, but also because the
narrative itself seems to throw the strongest possible light on the
mainly-important question how far this defection of one of her greatest
sons does really tend to weaken the argumentative position of the
English Church in her strife with Rome. What has been said already will
suffice to prove that in our opinion no such consequence can justly
follow from it. We acknowledge freely the greatness of the individual
loss. But the causes of that defection are, we think, clearly shown to
have been the peculiarities of the individual, not the weakness of the
side which he abandoned. His steps mark no path to any other. He sprang
clear over the guarding walls of the sheepfold, and opened no way
through them for other wanderers. Men may have left the Church of
England because their leader left it; but they could not leave it as he
left it, or because of his reasons for leaving it. In truth, he appears
never to have occupied a thoroughly real Church-of-England position. He
was at first, by education and private judgment, a Calvinistic Puritan;
he became dissatisfied with the coldness and barrenness of this theory,
and set about finding a new position for himself, and in so doing he
skipped over true, sound English Churchmanship into a course of feeling
and thought allied with and leading on to Rome. Even the hindrances
which so long held him back can scarcely be said to have been indeed the
logical force of the unanswerable credentials of the English Church. On
the contrary they were rather personal impressions, feelings, and
difficulties. His faithful, loving nature made him cling desperately to
early hopes, friendships, and affections. Even to the end Thomas Scott
never loses his hold upon him. His narrative is not the history of the
normal progress of a mind from England to Rome; it is so thoroughly
exceptional that it does not seem calculated to seduce to Rome men
governed in such high matters by argument and reason rather than by
impulse and feeling. We do not therefore think that the mere fact of
this secession tells with any force against that communion whose claims
satisfied to their dying day such men as Hooker and Andrewes, and Ussher
and Hammond, and Bramhall and Butler.

But, beyond this, his present view of the English Church appears to be
incompatible with that fierce and internecine hostility to the claim
upon the loyalty of her children which is really essential to clear the
act of perverting others from her ranks from the plainest guilt of
schism. It is not merely that the nobleness and tenderness of his nature
make his tone so unlike that of many of those who have taken the same
step with himself. It is not that every provocation--and how many they
have been!--every misunderstanding--and they have been all but
universal; every unworthy charge or insinuation--down to those of
Professor Kingsley, failed to embitter his feelings against the
communion he has deserted and the friends whom he has left. It is not
this to which we refer, for this is personal to himself, and the fruit
of his own generosity and true greatness of soul. But we refer to his
calm, deliberate estimate of the forsaken Church. He says, indeed, that
since his change he has "had no changes to record, no anxiety of heart
whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment. I never had one
doubt" (p. 373). But, as we have seen already, this was always the
temporary condition in which every new phase of opinion landed him. He
was always able to build up these tabernacles of rest. The difference
between this and those former resting-places is clear. In those he was
still a searcher after truth: he needed and required conviction, and a
new conviction might shake the old comfort. But his present
resting-place is built upon the denial of all further enquiry. "I have,"
he says (p. 374), "no further history of religious opinions to narrate":
and some following words show how entirely it is this abandonment of the
idea of the actual conviction of truth for the blind admission of the
dictates of a despotic external authority on which he rests.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is another deeply interesting question raised by Dr. Newman's
work, on which, if our limits did not absolutely prevent, we should be
glad to enter. We mean the present position of the Church of Rome with
that great rationalistic movement with which we, too, are called to
contend. Everywhere in Europe this contest is proceeding, and the
relations of the Church of Rome towards it are becoming daily more and
more embarrassed. Mr. Ffoulkes tells us that "the 'Home and Foreign
Review' is the _only_ publication professing to emanate from Roman
Catholics in this country that can be named in the same breath with the
leading Protestant Reviews."[1] Since he wrote these words its course
has been closed by Pontifical authority. M. Montalembert has barely
escaped censure with the payment of the penalty--so heavy to his
co-religionists--of an enforced silence; and Dr. Newman "interprets recent
acts of authority as tying the hands of a controversialist such as I
should be,"[2] and so is prevented completing the great work which has
occupied so much of his thoughts, and which promised, more than any
other work this country is likely to see, to set some limiting boundary
line between the provinces of a humble faith in Revelation and an ardent
love of advancing science. This is an evil inflicted by Rome on this
whole generation. But in truth, whenever the mind of Christendom is
active, the attitude of the Papal communion before this new enemy is
that of a startled, trembling minaciousness, which invites the deadly
combat it can so ill maintain.

[1] "Union Review," ix, 294.
[2] "Apol." 405.

These facts are patent to every one who knows anything whatever of the
present state of religious thought throughout Roman Catholic Europe.
Almost every one knows further that the struggle between those who would
subject all science and all the actings of the human mind to the
authority of the Church, and those who would limit the exercise of that
authority more or less to the proper subject-matter of theology, is rife
and increasing. The words of, perhaps, the ablest living member of the
Roman Catholic communion have rung through Europe, and many a heart in
all religious communions has been saddened by the thought of Dr.
Döllinger's virtual censure. And yet it is at such a time as this that
Dr. Manning ventures to put forth his "Letters to a Friend," painting
all as peace, unanimity, and obedient faith within the Roman Church; all
dissension, unbelief, and letting slip of the ancient faith within our
own communion. Surely such are not the weapons by which the cause of
God's truth can be advanced!

But we must bring our remarks on the "Apologia" to a close.

Some lessons there are, and those great ones, which this book is
calculated to instil into members of our own communion. Pre-eminently it
shows the rottenness of that mere Act-of-Parliament foundation on which
some, now-a-days, would rest our Church. Dr. Newman suggests, more than
once, that such a course must rob us of all our present strength. Dr.
Manning sings his paean with wild and premature delight, as if the evil
was already accomplished. In his first letter he triumphed in the
silence of Convocation, but that silence has since been broken. A solemn
synodical judgment, couched in the most explicit language, has condemned
the false teaching which had been our Church's scandal. But because a
"very exalted person in the House of Lords"[1] (p. 4), with an ignorance
or an ignoring of law, as was shown in the debate, which was simply
astonishing, chose, in a manner which even Dr. Manning condemns, to
assert, without a particle of real evidence, that the Convocation had
exceeded its legitimate powers, Dr. Manning is in ecstasies. The "very
exalted person" becomes "a righteous judge, a learned judge, a Daniel
come to judgment--yea, a Daniel." These shouts of joy ought to be enough
to show men where the real danger lies. Our present position is
impregnable. But if we abandon it for the new one proposed to us by the
Rationalist party, how shall we be able to stand? How could a national
religious Establishment which should seek to rest its foundations--not
on God's Word; on the ancient Creeds; on a true Apostolic ministry; on
valid Sacraments; on a living, even though it be an obscured, unity with
the Universal Church, and so on the presence with her of her Lord, and
on the gifts of His Spirit--but upon the critical reason of individuals,
and the support of Acts of Parliament--ever stand in the coming
struggle? How could it meet Rationalism on the one hand? How could it
withstand Popery on the other? After such a fatal change its career
might be easily foreshadowed. Under the assaults of Rationalism, it
would year by year lose some parts of the great deposit of the Catholic
faith. Under the attacks of Rome, it would lose many of those whom it
can ill spare, because they believe most firmly in the verities for
which she is ready to witness. Thus it might continue until our ministry
were filled with the time-serving, the ignorant, and the unbelieving;
and, when this has come to pass, the day of final doom cannot be far
distant. How such evils are to be averted is the anxious question of the
present day. The great practical question seems to us to be that to
which we have before this alluded,[2]--How the Supreme Court of Appeal
can be made fitter for the due discharge of its momentous functions? We
cannot enter here upon that great question. But solved it must be, and
solved upon the principles of the great Reformation statutes of our
land, which maintain, in the supremacy of the Crown, our undoubted
nationality; which, besides maintaining this great principle of national
life, save us from all the terrible practical evils of appeals to Rome,
and yet which maintain the spirituality of the land, as the guardians
under God of the great deposit of the Faith, in the very terms in which
the Catholic Church of Christ has from the beginning received, and to
this day handed down in its completeness, the inestimable gift.

[1] Hansard's "House of Lord's Debates," July 15, 1864
[2] "Quarterly Review," vol. cxv. p. 560



ANONYMOUS ON "WAVERLEY"

[From _The Quarterly Review_, July, 1814]

_Waverley; or, 'tis Sixty Years since_. 3 vols. 12mo. Edinburgh, 1814.

We have had so many occasions to invite our readers' attention to that
species of composition called Novels, and have so often stated our
general views of the principles of this very agreeable branch of
literature, that we shall venture on the consideration of our present
subject with but a few observations, and those applicable to a class of
novels, of which it is a favourable specimen.

The earlier novelists wrote at periods when society was not perfectly
formed, and we find that their picture of life was an embodying of their
own conceptions of the "_beau idéal_."--Heroes all generosity and ladies
all chastity, exalted above the vulgarities of society and nature,
maintain, through eternal folios, their visionary virtues, without the
stain of any moral frailty, or the degradation of any human necessities.
But this high-flown style went out of fashion as the great mass of
mankind became more informed of each other's feelings and concerns, and
as a nearer intercourse taught them that the real course of human life
is a conflict of duty and desire, of virtue and passion, of right and
wrong; in the description of which it is difficult to say whether
uniform virtue or unredeemed vice would be in the greater degree tedious
and absurd.

The novelists next endeavoured to exhibit a general view of society. The
characters in Gil Blas and Tom Jones are not individuals so much as
specimens of the human race; and these delightful works have been, are,
and ever will be popular, because they present lively and accurate
delineations of the workings of the human soul, and that every man who
reads them is obliged to confess to himself, that in similar
circumstances with the personages of Le Sage and Fielding, he would
probably have acted in the way in which they are described to have done.

From this species the transition to a third was natural. The first class
was theory--it was improved into a _generic_ description, and that again
led the way to a more particular classification--a copying not of man in
general, but of men of a peculiar nation, profession, or temper, or, to
go a step further--of _individuals_.

Thus Alcander and Cyrus could never have existed in human society--they
are neither French, nor English, nor Italian, because it is only
allegorically that they are _men_. Tom Jones might have been a
Frenchman, and Gil Blas an Englishman, because the essence of their
characters is human nature, and the personal situation of the individual
is almost indifferent to the success of the object which the author
proposed to himself: while, on the other hand, the characters of the
most popular novels of later times are Irish, or Scotch, or French, and
not in the abstract, _men_.--The general operations of nature are
circumscribed to her effects on an individual character, and the modern
novels of this class, compared with the broad and noble style of the
earlier writers, may be considered as Dutch pictures, delightful in
their vivid and minute details of common life, wonderfully entertaining
to the close observer of peculiarities, and highly creditable to the
accuracy, observation and humour of the painter, but exciting none of
those more exalted feelings, giving none of those higher views of the
human soul which delight and exalt the mind of the spectator of Raphael,
Correggio, or Murillo.

But as in a gallery we are glad to see every style of excellence, and
are ready to amuse ourselves with Teniers and Gerard Dow, so we derive
great pleasure from the congenial delineations of Castle Rack-rent and
Waverley; and we are well assured that any reader who is qualified to
judge of the illustration we have borrowed from a sister art, will not
accuse us of undervaluing, by this comparison, either Miss Edgeworth or
the ingenious author of the work now under consideration. We mean only
to say, that the line of writing which they have adopted is less
comprehensive and less sublime, but not that it is less entertaining or
less useful than that of their predecessors. On the contrary, so far as
utility constitutes merit in a novel, we have no hesitation in
preferring the moderns to their predecessors. We do not believe that any
man or woman was ever improved in morals or manners by the reading of
Tom Jones or Peregrine Pickle, though we are confident that many have
profited by the Tales of Fashionable Life, and the Cottagers of
Glenburnie.

We have heard Waverley called a Scotch Castle Rack-rent; and we have
ourselves alluded to a certain resemblance between these works; but we
must beg leave to explain that the resemblance consists only in this,
that the one is a description of the peculiarities of Scottish manners
as the other is of those of Ireland; and that we are far from placing on
the same level the merits and qualities of the works. Waverley is of a
much higher strain, and may be safely placed far above the amusing
vulgarity of Castle Rack-rent, and by the side of Ennui or the Absentee,
the best undoubtedly of Miss Edgeworth's compositions.

       *       *       *       *       *

We shall conclude this article, which has grown to an immoderate length,
by observing what, indeed, our readers must have already discovered,
that Waverley, who gives his name to the story, is far from being its
hero, and that in truth the interest and merit of the work is derived,
not from any of the ordinary qualities of a novel, but from the truth of
its facts, and the accuracy of its delineations.

We confess that we have, speaking generally, a great objection to what
may be called historical romance, in which real and fictitious
personages, and actual and fabulous events are mixed together to the
utter confusion of the reader, and the unsettling of all accurate
recollections of past transactions; and we cannot but wish that the
ingenious and intelligent author of Waverley had rather employed himself
in recording _historically_ the character and transactions of his
countrymen _Sixty Years since_, than in writing a work, which, though it
may be, in its facts, almost true, and in its delineations perfectly
accurate, will yet, in sixty years _hence_, be regarded, or rather,
probably, _disregarded_, as a _mere_ romance, and the gratuitous
invention of a facetious fancy.



ON SCOTT'S "TALES OF MY LANDLORD"

[From _The Quarterly Review_, January, 1817]

_Tales of My Landlord_. 4 vols. 12mo. Third Edition. Blackwood,
Edinburgh. John Murray, London. 1817.

These Tales belong obviously to a class of novels which we have already
had occasion repeatedly to notice, and which have attracted the
attention of the public in no common degree,--we mean Waverley, Guy
Mannering, and the Antiquary, and we have little hesitation to pronounce
them either entirely, or in a great measure, the work of the same
author. Why he should industriously endeavour to elude observation by
taking leave of us in one character, and then suddenly popping out upon
us in another, we cannot pretend to guess without knowing more of his
personal reasons for preserving so strict an incognito that has hitherto
reached us. We can, however, conceive many reasons for a writer
observing this sort of mystery; not to mention that it has certainly had
its effect in keeping up the interest which his works have excited.

We do not know if the imagination of our author will sink in the opinion
of the public when deprived of that degree of invention which we have
been hitherto disposed to ascribe to him; but we are certain that it
ought to increase the value of his portraits, that human beings have
actually sate for them. These coincidences between fiction and reality
are perhaps the very circumstances to which the success of these novels
is in a great measure to be attributed: for, without depreciating the
merit of the artist, every spectator at once recognizes in those scenes
and faces which are copied from nature an air of distinct reality, which
is not attached to fancy-pieces however happily conceived and
elaborately executed. By what sort of freemasonry, if we may use the
term, the mind arrives at this conviction, we do not pretend to guess,
but every one must have felt that he instinctively and almost insensibly
recognizes in painting, poetry, or other works of imagination, that
which is copied from existing nature, and that he forthwith clings to it
with that kindred interest which thinks nothing which is human
indifferent to humanity. Before therefore we proceed to analyse the work
immediately before us, we beg leave briefly to notice a few
circumstances connected with its predecessors.

Our author has told us it was his object to present a succession of
scenes and characters connected with Scotland in its past and present
state, and we must own that his stories are so slightly constructed as
to remind us of the showman's thread with which he draws up his pictures
and presents them successively to the eye of the spectator. He seems
seriously to have proceeded on Mr. Bays's maxim--"What the deuce is a
plot good for, but to bring in fine things?"--Probability and
perspicuity of narrative are sacrificed with the utmost indifference to
the desire of producing effect; and provided the author can but contrive
to "surprize and elevate," he appears to think that he has done his duty
to the public. Against this slovenly indifference we have already
remonstrated, and we again enter our protest. It is in justice to the
author himself that we do so, because, whatever merit individual scenes
and passages may possess, (and none have been more ready than ourselves
to offer our applause), it is clear that their effect would be greatly
enhanced by being disposed in a clear and continued narrative. We are
the more earnest in this matter, because it seems that the author errs
chiefly from carelessness. There may be something of system in it,
however: for we have remarked, that with an attention which amounts even
to affectation, he has avoided the common language of narrative, and
thrown his story, as much as possible, into a dramatic shape. In many
cases this has added greatly to the effect, by keeping both the actors
and action continually before the reader, and placing him, in some
measure, in the situation of the audience at a theatre, who are
compelled to gather the meaning of the scene from what the _dramatis
personae_ say to each other, and not from any explanation addressed
immediately to themselves. But though the author gain this advantage,
and thereby compel the reader to think of the personages of the novel
and not of the writer, yet the practice, especially pushed to the extent
we have noticed, is a principal cause of the flimsiness and incoherent
texture of which his greatest admirers are compelled to complain. Few
can wish his success more sincerely than we do, and yet without more
attention on his own part, we have great doubts of its continuance.

In addition to the loose and incoherent style of the narration, another
leading fault in these novels is the total want of interest which the
reader attaches to the character of the hero. Waverley, Brown, or
Bertram in Guy Mannering, and Lovel in the Antiquary, are all brethren
of a family; very amiable and very insipid sort of young men. We think
we can perceive that this error is also in some degree occasioned by the
dramatic principle upon which the author frames his plots. His chief
characters are never actors, but always acted upon by the spur of
circumstances, and have their fates uniformly determined by the agency
of the subordinate persons. This arises from the author having usually
represented them as foreigners to whom every thing in Scotland is
strange,--a circumstance which serves as his apology for entering into
many minute details which are reflectively, as it were, addressed to the
reader through the medium of the hero. While he is going into
explanations and details which, addressed directly to the reader, might
appear tiresome and unnecessary, he gives interest to them by exhibiting
the effect which they produce upon the principal person of his drama,
and at the same time obtains a patient hearing for what might otherwise
be passed over without attention. But if he gains this advantage, it is
by sacrificing the character of the hero. No one can be interesting to
the reader who is not himself a prime agent in the scene. This is
understood even by the worthy citizen and his wife, who are introduced
as prolocutors in Fletcher's Knight of the Burning Pestle. When they are
asked what the principal person of the drama shall do?--the answer is
prompt and ready--"Marry, let him come forth and kill a giant." There is
a good deal of tact in the request. Every hero in poetry, in fictitious
narrative, ought to come forth and do or say something or other which no
other person could have done or said; make some sacrifice, surmount some
difficulty, and become interesting to us otherwise than by his mere
appearance on the scene, the passive tool of the other characters.

The insipidity of this author's heroes may be also in part referred to
the readiness with which the twists and turns his story to produce some
immediate and perhaps temporary effect. This could hardly be done
without representing the principal character either as inconsistent or
flexible in his principles. The ease with which Waverley adopts and
after forsakes the Jacobite party in 1745 is a good example of what we
mean. Had he been painted as a steady character, his conduct would have
been improbable. The author was aware of this; and yet, unwilling to
relinquish an opportunity of introducing the interior of the Chevalier's
military court, the circumstances of the battle of Preston-pans, and so
forth, he hesitates not to sacrifice poor Waverley, and to represent him
as a reed blown about at the pleasure of every breeze: a less careless
writer would probably have taken some pains to gain the end proposed in
a more artful and ingenious manner. But our author was hasty, and has
paid the penalty of his haste.

We have hinted that we are disposed to question the originality of these
novels in point of invention, and that in doing so, we do not consider
ourselves as derogating from the merit of the author, to whom, on the
contrary, we give the praise due to one who has collected and brought
out with accuracy and effect, incidents and manners which might
otherwise have slept in oblivion. We proceed to our proofs.[1]

[1] It will be readily conceived that the curious MSS. and other
    information of which we have availed ourselves were not accessible
    to us in this country; but we have been assiduous in our inquiries;
    and are happy enough to possess a correspondent whose researches on
    the spot have been indefatigable, and whose kind, and ready
    communications have anticipated all our wishes.

       *       *       *       *       *

The traditions and manners of the Scotch were so blended with
superstitious practices and fears, that the author of these novels seems
to have deemed it incumbent on him, to transfer many more such incidents
to his novels, than seem either probable or natural to an English
reader. It may be some apology that his story would have lost the
national cast, which it was chiefly his object to preserve, had this
been otherwise. There are few families of antiquity in Scotland, which
do not possess some strange legends, told only under promise of secrecy,
and with an air of mystery; in developing which, the influence of the
powers of darkness is referred to. The truth probably is, that the
agency of witches and demons was often made to account for the sudden
disappearance of individuals and similar incidents, too apt to arise out
of the evil dispositions of humanity, in a land where revenge was long
held honourable--where private feuds and civil broils disturbed the
inhabitants for ages--and where justice was but weakly and irregularly
executed. Mr. Law, a conscientious but credulous clergyman of the Kirk
of Scotland, who lived in the seventeenth century, has left behind him a
very curious manuscript, in which, with the political events of that
distracted period, he has intermingled the various portents and
marvellous occurrences which, in common with his age, he ascribed to
supernatural agency. The following extract will serve to illustrate the
taste of this period for the supernatural. When we read such things
recorded by men of sense and education, (and Mr. Law was deficient in
neither), we cannot help remembering the times of paganism, when every
scene, incident, and action, had its appropriate and presiding deity. It
is indeed curious to consider what must have been the sensations of a
person, who lived under this peculiar species of hallucination,
believing himself beset on all hands by invisible agents; one who was
unable to account for the restiveness of a nobleman's carriage horses
otherwise than by the immediate effect of witchcraft: and supposed that
the _sage femme_ of the highest reputation was most likely to devote the
infants to the infernal spirits, upon their very entrance into life.

       *       *       *       *       *

To the superstitions of the North Britons must be added their peculiar
and characteristic amusements; and here we have some atonement to make
to the memory of the learned Paulus Pleydell, whose compotatory
relaxations, better information now inclines us to think, we mentioned
with somewhat too little reverence. Before the new town of Edinburgh (as
it is called) was built, its inhabitants lodged, as is the practice of
Paris at this day, in large buildings called _lands_, each family
occupying a story, and having access to it by a stair common to all the
inhabitants. These buildings, when they did not front the high street of
the city, composed the sides of little, narrow, unwholesome _closes_ or
lanes. The miserable and confined accommodation which such habitations
afforded, drove _men of business_, as they were called, that is, people
belonging to the law, to hold their professional rendezvouses in
taverns, and many lawyers of eminence spent the principal part of their
time in some tavern of note, transacted their business there, received
the visits of clients with their writers or attornies, and suffered no
imputation from so doing. This practice naturally led to habits of
conviviality, to which the Scottish lawyers, till of very late years,
were rather too much addicted. Few men drank so hard as the counsellors
of the old school, and there survived till of late some veterans who
supported in that respect the character of their predecessors. To vary
the humour of a joyous evening many frolics were resorted to, and the
game of _high jinks_ was one of the most common.[1] In fact, high jinks
was one of the _petits jeux_ with which certain circles were wont to
while away the time; and though it claims no alliance with modern
associations, yet, as it required some shrewdness and dexterity to
support the characters assumed for the occasion, it is not difficult to
conceive that it might have been as interesting and amusing to the
parties engaged in it, as counting the spots of a pack of cards, or
treasuring in memory the rotation in which they are thrown on the table.
The worst of the game was what that age considered as its principal
excellence, namely, that the forfeitures being all commuted for wine, it
proved an encouragement to hard drinking, the prevailing vice of the
age.

[1] We have learned, with some dismay, that one of the ablest lawyers
    Scotland ever produced, and who lives to witness (although in
    retirement) the various changes which have taken place in her courts
    of judicature, a man who has filled with marked distinction the
    highest offices of his profession, _tush'd_ (pshaw'd) extremely at
    the delicacy of our former criticism. And certainly he claims some
    title to do so, having been in his youth not only a witness of such
    orgies as are described as proceeding under the auspices of Mr.
    Pleydell, but himself a distinguished performer.

On the subject of Davie Gellatley, the fool of the Baron of
Bradwardine's family, we are assured there is ample testimony that a
custom, referred to Shakespeare's time in England, had, and in remote
provinces of Scotland, has still its counterpart, to this day. We do not
mean to say that the professed jester with his bauble and his
party-coloured vestment can be found in any family north of the Tweed. Yet
such a personage held this respectable office in the family of the Earls
of Strathemore within the last century, and his costly holiday dress,
garnished with bells of silver, is still preserved in the Castle of
Glamis. But we are assured, that to a much later period, and even to
this moment, the habits and manners of Scotland have had some tendency
to preserve the existence of this singular order of domestics. There are
(comparatively speaking) no poor's rates in the country parishes of
Scotland, and of course no work-houses to immure either their worn out
poor or the "moping idiot and the madman gay," whom Crabbe characterizes
as the happiest inhabitants of these mansions, because insensible of
their misfortunes. It therefore happens almost necessarily in Scotland,
that the house of the nearest proprietor of wealth and consequence
proves a place of refuge for these outcasts of society; and until the
pressure of the times, and the calculating habits which they have
necessarily generated had rendered the maintenance of a human being
about such a family an object of some consideration, they usually found
an asylum there, and enjoyed the degree of comfort of which their
limited intellect rendered them susceptible. Such idiots were usually
employed in some simple sort of occasional labour; and if we are not
misinformed, the situation of turn-spit was often assigned them, before
the modern improvement of the smoke-jack. But, however employed, they
usually displayed towards their benefactors a sort of instinctive
attachment which was very affecting. We knew one instance in which such
a being refused food for many days, pined away, literally broke his
heart, and died within the space of a very few weeks after his
benefactor's decease. We cannot now pause to deduce the moral inference
which might be derived from such instances. It is however evident, that
if there was a coarseness of mind in deriving amusement from the follies
of these unfortunate beings, a circumstance to the disgrace of which
they were totally insensible, their mode of life was, in other respects,
calculated to promote such a degree of happiness as their faculties
permitted them to enjoy. But besides the amusement which our forefathers
received from witnessing their imperfections and extravagancies, there
was a more legitimate source of pleasure in the wild wit which they
often flung around them with the freedom of Shakespeare's licensed
clowns. There are few houses in Scotland of any note or antiquity where
the witty sayings of some such character are not occasionally quoted at
this very day. The pleasure afforded to our forefathers by such
repartees was no doubt heightened by their wanting the habits of more
elegant amusement. But in Scotland the practice long continued, and in
the house of one of the very first noblemen of that country (a man whose
name is never mentioned without reverence) and that within the last
twenty years, a jester such as we have mentioned stood at the side-table
during dinner, and occasionally amused the guests by his extemporaneous
sallies. Imbecility of this kind was even considered as an apology for
intrusion upon the most solemn occasions. All know the peculiar
reverence with which the Scottish of every rank attend on funeral
ceremonies. Yet within the memory of most of the present generation, an
idiot of an appearance equally hideous and absurd, dressed, as if in
mockery, in a rusty and ragged black coat, decorated with a cravat and
weepers made of white paper in the form of those worn by the deepest
mourners, preceded almost every funeral procession in Edinburgh, as if
to turn into ridicule the last rites paid to mortality.

It has been generally supposed that in the case of these as of other
successful novels, the most prominent and peculiar characters were
sketched from real life. It was only after the death of Smollet, that
two barbers and a shoemaker contended about the character of Strap,
which each asserted was modelled from his own: but even in the lifetime
of the present author, there is scarcely a dale in the pastoral
districts of the southern counties but arrogates to itself the
possession of the original Dandie Dinmont. As for Baillie Mac Wheeble, a
person of the highest eminence in the law perfectly well remembers
having received fees from him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although these strong resemblances occur so frequently, and with such
peculiar force, as almost to impress us with the conviction that the
author sketched from nature, and not from fancy alone; yet we hesitate
to draw any positive conclusion, sensible that a character dashed off as
the representative of a certain class of men will bear, if executed with
fidelity to the general outlines, not only that resemblance which he
ought to possess as "knight of the shire," but also a special affinity
to some particular individual. It is scarcely possible it should be
otherwise. When Emery appears on the stage as a Yorkshire peasant, with
the habit, manner, and dialect peculiar to the character, and which he
assumes with so much truth and fidelity, those unacquainted with the
province or its inhabitants see merely the abstract idea, the beau ideal
of a Yorkshireman. But to those who are intimate with both, the action
and manner of the comedian almost necessarily recall the idea of some
individual native (altogether unknown probably to the performer) to whom
his exterior and manners bear a casual resemblance. We are therefore on
the whole inclined to believe, that the incidents are frequently copied
from _actual_ occurrences, but that the characters are either entirely
fictitious, or if any traits have been borrowed from real life, as in
the anecdote which we have quoted respecting Invernahyle, they have been
carefully disguised and blended with such as are purely imaginary. We
now proceed to a more particular examination of the volumes before us.

They are entitled "Tales of my Landlord": why so entitled, excepting to
introduce a quotation from Don Quixote, it is difficult to conceive: for
Tales of my Landlord they are _not_, nor is it indeed easy to say whose
tales they ought to be called. There is a proem, as it is termed,
supposed to be written by Jedediah Cleishbotham, the schoolmaster and
parish clerk of the village of Gandercleugh, in which we are given to
understand that these Tales were compiled by his deceased usher, Mr.
Peter Pattieson, from the narratives or conversations of such travellers
as frequented the Wallace Inn, in that village. Of this proem we shall
only say that it is written in the quaint style of that prefixed by Gay
to his Pastorals, being, as Johnson terms it, "such imitation as he
could obtain of obsolete language, and by consequence in a style that
was never written nor spoken in any age or place."

       *       *       *       *       *

We have given these details partly in compliance with the established
rules which our office prescribes, and partly in the hope that the
authorities we have been enabled to bring together might give additional
light and interest to the story. From the unprecedented popularity of
the work, we cannot flatter ourselves that our summary has made any one
of our readers acquainted with events with which he was not previously
familiar. The causes of that popularity we may be permitted shortly to
allude to; we cannot even hope to exhaust them, and it is the less
necessary that we should attempt it, since we cannot suggest a
consideration which a perusal of the work has not anticipated in the
minds of all our readers.

One great source of the universal admiration which this family of Novels
has attracted, is their peculiar plan, and the distinguished excellence
with which it has been executed. The objections that have frequently
been stated against what are called Historical Romances, have been
suggested, we think, rather from observing the universal failure of that
species of composition, than from any inherent and constitutional defect
in the species of composition itself. If the manners of different ages
are injudiciously blended together,--if unpowdered crops and slim and
fairy shapes are commingled in the dance with volumed wigs and
far-extending hoops,--if in the portraiture of real character the truth
of
history be violated, the eyes of the spectator are necessarily averted
from a picture which excites in every well regulated and intelligent
mind the hatred of incredulity. We have neither time nor inclination to
enforce our remark by giving illustrations of it. But if those
unpardonable sins against good taste can be avoided, and the features of
an age gone by can be recalled in a spirit of delineation at once
faithful and striking, the very opposite is the legitimate conclusion:
the composition itself is in every point of view dignified and improved;
and the author, leaving the light and frivolous associates with whom a
careless observer would be disposed to ally him, takes his seat on the
bench of the historians of his time and country. In this proud assembly,
and in no mean place of it, we are disposed to rank the author of these
works; for we again express our conviction--and we desire to be
understood to use the term as distinguished from _knowledge_--that they
are all the offspring of the same parent. At once a master of the great
events and minuter incidents of history, and of the manners of the times
he celebrates, as distinguished from those which now prevail,--the
intimate thus of the living and of the dead, his judgment enables him to
separate those traits which are characteristic from those that are
generic; and his imagination, not less accurate and discriminating than
vigorous and vivid, presents to the mind of the reader the manners of
the times, and introduces to his familiar acquaintance the individuals
of his drama as they thought and spoke and acted. We are not quite sure
that any thing is to be found in the manner and character of the Black
Dwarf which would enable us, without the aid of the author's
information, and the facts he relates, to give it to the beginning of
the last century; and, as we have already remarked, his free-booting
robber lives, perhaps, too late in time. But his delineation is perfect.
With palpable and inexcusable defects in the _dénouement_, there are
scenes of deep and overwhelming interest; and every one, we think, must
be delighted with the portrait of the Grandmother of Hobbie Elliott, a
representation soothing and consoling in itself, and heightened in its
effect by the contrast produced from the lighter manners of the younger
members of the family, and the honest but somewhat blunt and boisterous
bearing of the shepherd himself.

The second tale, however, as we have remarked, is more adapted to the
talents of the author, and his success has been proportionably
triumphant. We have trespassed too unmercifully on the time of our
gentle readers to indulge our inclination in endeavouring to form an
estimate of that melancholy but, nevertheless, most attractive period in
our history, when by the united efforts of a corrupt and unprincipled
government, of extravagant fanaticism, want of education, perversion of
religion, and the influence of ill-instructed teachers, whose hearts and
understandings were estranged and debased by the illapses of the wildest
enthusiasm, the liberty of the people was all but extinguished, and the
bonds of society nearly dissolved. Revolting as all this is to the
Patriot, it affords fertile materials to the Poet. As to the _beauty_ of
the delineation presented to the reader in this tale, there is, we
believe, but one opinion: and we are persuaded that the more carefully
and dispassionately it is contemplated, the more perfect will it appear
in the still more valuable qualities of fidelity and truth. We have
given part of the evidence on which we say this, and we will again recur
to the subject. The opinions and language of the _honest party_ are
detailed with the accuracy of a witness; and he who could open to our
view the state of the Scottish peasantry, perishing in the field or on
the scaffold, and driven to utter and just desperation, in attempting to
defend their first and most sacred rights; who could place before our
eyes the leaders of these enormities, from the notorious Duke of
Lauderdale downwards to the fellow mind that executed his behest,
precisely as they lived and looked,--such a chronicler cannot justly be
charged with attempting to extenuate or throw into the shade the
corruptions of a government that soon afterwards fell a victim to its
own follies and crimes.

Independently of the delineation of the manners and characters of the
times to which the story refers, it is impossible to avoid noticing, as
a separate excellence, the faithful representation of general nature.
Looking not merely to the litter of novels that peep out for a single
day from the mud where they were spawned, but to many of more ambitious
pretensions--it is quite evident that in framing them, the authors have
first addressed themselves to the involutions and developement of the
story, as the principal object of their attention; and that in
entangling and unravelling the plot, in combining the incidents which
compose it, and even in depicting the characters, they sought for
assistance chiefly in the writings of their predecessors. Baldness, and
uniformity, and inanity are the inevitable results of this slovenly and
unintellectual proceeding. The volume which this author has studied is
the great book of Nature. He has gone abroad into the world in quest of
what the world will certainly and abundantly supply, but what a man of
great discrimination alone will find, and a man of the very highest
genius will alone depict after he has discovered it. The characters of
Shakespeare are not more exclusively human, not more perfectly men and
women as they live and move, than those of this mysterious author. It is
from this circumstance that, as we have already observed, many of his
personages are supposed to be sketched from real life. He must have
mixed much and variously in the society of his native country; his
studies must have familiarized him to systems of manners now forgotten;
and thus the persons of his drama, though in truth the creatures of his
own imagination, convey the impression of individuals who we are
persuaded must exist, or are evoked from their graves in all their
original freshness, entire in their lineaments, and perfect in all the
minute peculiarities of dress and demeanour.

       *       *       *       *       *

Admitting, however, that these portraits are sketched with spirit and
effect, two questions arise of much more importance than any thing
affecting the merits of the novels--namely, whether it is safe or
prudent to imitate, in a fictitious narrative, and often with a view to
a ludicrous effect, the scriptural style of the zealots of the
seventeenth century; and secondly, whether the recusant presbyterians,
collectively considered, do not carry too reverential and sacred a
character to be treated by an unknown author with such insolent
familiarity.

On the first subject, we frankly own we have great hesitation. It is
scarcely possible to ascribe scriptural expressions to hypocritical or
extravagant characters without some risk of mischief, because it will be
apt to create an habitual association between the expression and the
ludicrous manner in which it is used, unfavourable to the reverence due
to the sacred text. And it is no defence to state that this is an error
inherent in the plan of the novel. Bourdaloue, a great authority,
extends this restriction still farther, and denounces all attempts to
unmask hypocrisy by raillery, because in doing so the satirist is
necessarily compelled to expose to ridicule the religious vizard of
which he has divested him. Yet even against such authority it may be
stated, that ridicule is the friend both of religion and virtue, when
directed against those who assume their garb, whether from hypocrisy or
fanaticism. The satire of Butler, not always decorous in these
particulars, was yet eminently useful in stripping off their borrowed
gravity and exposing to public ridicule the affected fanaticism of the
times in which he lived. It may also be remembered, that in the days of
Queen Anne a number of the Camisars or Huguenots of Dauphiné arrived as
refugees in England, and became distinguished by the name of the French
prophets. The fate of these enthusiasts in their own country had been
somewhat similar to that of the Covenanters. Like them, they used to
assemble in the mountains and desolate places, to the amount of many
hundreds, in arms, and like them they were hunted and persecuted by the
military. Like them, they were enthusiasts, though their enthusiasm
assumed a character more decidedly absurd. The fugitive Camisars who
came to London had convulsion-fits, prophesied, made converts, and
attracted the public attention by an offer to raise the dead. The
English minister, instead of fine and imprisonment and other inflictions
which might have placed them in the rank and estimation of martyrs, and
confirmed in their faith their numerous disciples, encouraged a dramatic
author to bring out a farce on the subject which, though neither very
witty nor very delicate, had the good effect of laughing the French
prophets out of their audience and putting a stop to an inundation of
nonsense which could not have failed to disgrace the age in which it
appeared. The Camisars subsided into their ordinary vocation of
psalmodic whiners, and no more was heard of their sect or their
miracles. It would be well if all folly of the kind could be so easily
quelled: for enthusiastic nonsense, whether of this day or of those
which have passed away, has no more title to shelter itself under the
veil of religion than a common pirate to be protected by the reverence
due to an honoured and friendly flag.

Still, however, we must allow that there is great delicacy and
hesitation to be used in employing the weapon of ridicule on any point
connected with religion. Some passages occur in the work before us for
which the writer's sole apology must be the uncontroulable disposition
to indulge the peculiarity of his vein of humour--a temptation which
even the saturnine John Knox was unable to resist either in narrating
the martyrdom of his friend Wisheart or the assassination of his enemy
Beatson, and in the impossibility of resisting which his learned and
accurate biographer has rested his apology for this mixture of jest and
earnest.

  "There are writers," he says (rebutting the charge of Hume against
  Knox), "who can treat the most sacred subjects with a levity bordering
  on profanity. Must we at once pronounce them profane, and is nothing
  to be set down to the score of natural temper inclining them to wit
  and humour? The pleasantry which Knox has mingled with his narrative
  of his (Cardinal Beatson's) death and burial is unseasonable and
  unbecoming. But it is to be imputed not to any pleasure which he took
  in describing a bloody scene, but to the strong propensity which he
  had to indulge his vein of humour. Those who have read his history
  with attention must have perceived that he is not able to check this
  even on the very serious occasions."--_Macrie's Life of Knox_, p. 147.

Indeed Dr. Macrie himself has given us a striking instance of the
indulgence which the Presbyterian clergy, even of the strictest
persuasion, permit to the _vis comica_. After describing a polemical
work as "ingeniously constructed and occasionally enlivened with strokes
of humour," he transfers, to embellish his own pages, (for we can
discover no purpose of edification which the tale serves), a ludicrous
parody made by an ignorant parish-priest on certain words of a Psalm,
too sacred to be here quoted. Our own innocent pleasantry cannot, in
this instance, be quite reconciled with that of the learned biographer
of John Knox, but we can easily conceive that his authority may be
regarded in Scotland as decisive of the extent to which a humourist may
venture in exercising his wit upon scriptural expressions without
incurring censure even from her most rigid divines.

It may however be a very different point how far the author is entitled
to be acquitted upon the second point of indictment. To use too much
freedom with things sacred is a course much more easily glossed over
than that of exposing to ridicule the persons of any particular sect.
Every one knows the reply of the great Prince of Condé to Louis XIV when
this monarch expressed his surprize at the clamour excited by Molière's
Tartuffe, while a blasphemous farce called _Scaramouche Hermite_ was
performed without giving any scandal: "C'est parceque Scaramouche ne
jouoit que le ciel et la religion, dont les dévots se soucioient
beaucoup moins que d'eux-mêmes." We believe, therefore, the best service
we can do our author in the present case is to shew that the odious part
of his satire applies only to that fierce and unreasonable set of
extra-presbyterians, whose zeal, equally absurd and cruel, afforded
pretexts for the severities inflicted on non-conformists without
exception, and gave the greatest scandal and offence to the wise, sober,
enlightened, and truly pious among the Presbyterians.

The principal difference betwixt the Cameronians and the rational
presbyterians has been already touched upon. It may be summed in a very
few words.

After the restoration of Charles II episcopacy was restored in Scotland,
upon the unanimous petition of the Scottish parliament. Had this been
accompanied with a free toleration of the presbyterians, whose
consciences preferred a different mode of church-government, we do not
conceive there would have been any wrong done to that ancient kingdom.
But instead of this, the most violent means of enforcing conformity were
resorted to without scruple, and the ejected presbyterian clergy were
persecuted by penal statutes and prohibited from the exercise of their
ministry. These rigours only made the people more anxiously seek out and
adhere to the silenced preachers. Driven from the churches, they held
conventicles in houses. Expelled from cities and the mansions of men,
they met on the hills and deserts like the French Huguenots. Assailed
with arms, they repelled force by force. The severity of the rulers,
instigated by the episcopal clergy, increased with the obstinacy of the
recusants, until the latter, in 1666, assumed arms for the purpose of
asserting their right to worship God in their own way. They were
defeated at Pentland; and in 1669 a gleam of common sense and justice
seems to have beamed upon the Scottish councils of Charles. They granted
what was called an _indulgence_ (afterwards repeatedly renewed) to the
presbyterian clergy, assigned them small stipends, and permitted them to
preach in such deserted churches as should be assigned to them by the
Scottish Privy Council. This "indulgence," though clogged with harsh
conditions and frequently renewed or capriciously recalled, was still an
acceptable boon to the wiser and better part of the presbyterian clergy,
who considered it as an opening to the exercise of their ministry under
the lawful authority, which they continued to acknowledge. But fiercer
and more intractable principles were evinced by the younger ministers of
that persuasion. They considered the submitting to exercise their
ministry under the controul of any visible authority as absolute
erastianism, a desertion of the great invisible and divine Head of the
church, and a line of conduct which could only be defended, says one of
their tracts, by nullifidians, time-servers, infidels, or the Archbishop
of Canterbury. They held up to ridicule and abhorrence such of their
brethren as considered mere toleration as a boon worth accepting. Every
thing, according to these fervent divines, which fell short of
re-establishing presbytery as the sole and predominating religion, all
that did not imply a full restoration of the Solemn League and Covenant,
was an imperfect and unsound composition between God and mammon,
episcopacy and prelacy. The following extracts from a printed sermon by
one of them, on the subject of "soul-confirmation," will at once exemplify
the contempt and scorn with which these high-flyers regarded their more
sober-minded brethren, and serve as a specimen of the homely eloquence
with which they excited their followers. The reader will probably be of
opinion that it is worthy of Kettledrummle himself, and will serve to
clear Mr. Jedediah Cleishbotham of the charge of exaggeration.

  There is many folk that has a face to the religion that is in fashion,
  and there is many folk, they have ay a face to the old company, they
  have a face for godly folk, and they have a face for persecutors of
  godly folk, and they will be daddies bairns and minnies bairns both;
  they will be _prelates_ bairns and they will be _malignants_ bairns
  and they will be the people of God's bairns. And what think ye of that
  bastard temper? Poor Peter had a trial of this soupleness, but God
  made Paul an instrument to take him by the neck and shake it from him:
  And O that God would take us by the neck and shake our soupleness from
  us.

  Therefore you that keeps only your old job-trot, and does not mend
  your pace, you will not wone at _soul-confirmation,_ there is a whine
  (i.e., _a few_) old job-trot, and does not mend your pace, you will
  not wone at _soul-confirmation,_ there is a whine old job-trot
  ministers among us, a whine old job-trot professors, they have their
  own pace, and faster they will not go; O therefore they could never
  wine to _soul-confirmation_ in the mettere of God. And our old
  job-trot ministers is turned _curates_, and our old job-trot
  professors is joined with them, and now this way God has turned them
  inside out, and has made it manifest and when their heart is hanging
  upon this braw, I will not give a gray groat for them and their
  profession both.

  The devil has the ministers and professors of Scotland, now in a sive,
  and O as he sifts, and O as he riddles, and O as he rattles, and O the
  chaff he gets; And I fear there be more chaff nor there be good corn,
  and that will be found among us or all be done: but the
  _soul-confirmed_ man leaves ever the devil at two more, and he has ay
  the matter gadged, and leaves ay the devil in the lee side,--Sirs O
  work in the day of the cross.

The more moderate presbyterian ministers saw with pain and resentment
the lower part of their congregation, who had least to lose by taking
desperate courses, withdrawn from their flocks, by their more zealous
pretenders to purity of doctrine, while they themselves were held up to
ridicule, old jog trot professors and chaff-winnowed out and flung away
by Satan. They charged the Cameronian preachers with leading the deluded
multitude to slaughter at Bothwell, by prophesying a certainty of
victory, and dissuading them from accepting the amnesty offered by
Monmouth. "All could not avail," says Mr. Law, himself a presbyterian
minister, "with McCargill, Kidd, Douglas, and other witless men amongst
them, to hearken to any proposals of peace. Among others that Douglas,
sitting on his horse, and preaching to the confused multitude, told them
that they would come to terms with them, and like a drone was always
droning on these terms with them: 'they would give us a half Christ, but
we will have a whole Christ,' and such like impertinent speeches as
these, good enough to feed those that are served with wind and not with
the sincere milk of the word of God." Law also censures these irritated
and extravagant enthusiasts, not only for intending to overthrow the
government, but as binding themselves to kill all that would not accede
to their opinion, and he gives several instances of such cruelty being
exercised by them, not only upon straggling soldiers whom they shot by
the way or surprized in their quarters, but upon those who, having once
joined them, had fallen away from their principles. Being asked why they
committed these cruelties in cold blood, they answered, 'they were
obliged to do it by their sacred bond.' Upon these occasions they
practised great cruelties, mangling the bodies of their victims that
each man might have his share of the guilt. In these cases the
Cameronians imagined themselves the direct and inspired executioners of
the vengeance of heaven. Nor did they lack the usual incentives of
enthusiasm. Peden and others among them set up a claim to the gift of
prophecy, though they seldom foretold any thing to the purpose. They
detected witches, had bodily encounters with the enemy of mankind in his
own shape, or could discover him as, lurking in the disguise of a raven,
he inspired the rhetoric of a Quaker's meeting. In some cases, celestial
guardians kept guard over their field-meetings. At a conventicle held on
the Lomond-hills, the Rev. Mr. Blacader was credibly assured, under the
hands of four honest men, that at the time the meeting was disturbed by
the soldiers, some women who had remained at home, "clearly perceived as
the form of a tall man, majestic-like, stand in the air in stately
posture with the one leg, as it were, advanced before the other,
standing above the people all the time of the soldiers shooting."
Unluckily this great vision of the Guarded Mount did not conclude as
might have been expected. The divine sentinel left his post too soon,
and the troopers fell upon the rear of the audience, plundered and
stripped many, and made eighteen prisoners.

But we have no delight to dwell either upon the atrocities or
absurdities of a people whose ignorance and fanaticism were rendered
frantic by persecution. It is enough for our present purpose to observe
that the present Church of Scotland, which comprizes so much sound
doctrine and learning, and has produced so many distinguished
characters, is the legitimate representative of the indulged clergy of
the days of Charles II, settled however upon a comprehensive basis. That
after the revolution, it should have succeeded episcopacy as the
national religion, was natural and regular, because it possessed all the
sense, learning, and moderation fit for such a change, and because among
its followers were to be found the only men of property and influence
who acknowledged presbytery. But the Cameronians continued long as a
separate sect, though their preachers were bigoted and ignorant, and
their hearers were gleaned out of the lower ranks of the peasantry.
Their principle, so far as it was intelligible, asserted that paramount
species of presbyterian church-government which was established in the
year 1648, and they continued to regard the established church as
erastian and time-serving, because they prudently remained silent upon
certain abstract and delicate topics, where there might be some
collision between the absolute liberty asserted by the church and the
civil government of the state. The Cameronians, on the contrary,
disowned all kings and government whatsoever, which should not take the
Solemn League and Covenant; and long retained hopes of re-establishing
that great national engagement, a bait which was held out to them by all
those who wished to disturb the government during the reign of William
and Anne, as is evident from the Memoirs of Ker of Kersland, and the
Negotiations of Colonel Hooke with the Jacobites and disaffected of the
year.

A party so wild in their principles, so vague and inconsistent in their
views, could not subsist long under a free and unlimited toleration.
They continued to hold their preachings on the hills, but they lost much
of their zeal when they were no longer liable to be disturbed by
dragoons, sheriffs, and lieutenants of Militia.--The old fable of the
Traveller's Cloak was in time verified, and the fierce sanguinary
zealots of the days of Claverhouse sunk into such quiet and peaceable
enthusiasts as Howie of Lochgoin, or Old Mortality himself. It is,
therefore, upon a race of sectaries who have long ceased to exist, that
Mr. Jedediah Cleishbotham has charged all that is odious, and almost all
that is ridiculous, in his fictitious narrative; and we can no more
suppose any moderate presbyterian involved in the satire, than we should
imagine that the character of Hampden stood committed by a little
raillery on the person of Ludovic Claxton, the Muggletonian. If,
however, there remain any of those sectaries who, confining the beams of
the Gospel to the Goshen of their own obscure synagogue, and with James
Mitchell, the intended assassin, giving their sweeping testimony against
prelacy and popery, The Whole Duty of Man and bordles, promiscuous
dancing and the Common Prayer-book, and all the other enormities and
backslidings of the time, may perhaps be offended at this idle tale, we
are afraid they will receive their answer in the tone of the revellers
to Malvolio, who, it will be remembered, was something a kind of
Puritan: "Doest thou think because thou art virtuous, there shall be no
more cakes and ale?--Aye, by Saint Anne, and ginger will be hot in the
mouth too."



ON LEIGH HUNT

[From _The Quarterly Review_, January, 1816]

_The Story of Rimini, a Poem_. By LEIGH HUNT. fc. 8vo. pp. 111. London,
1816.

A considerable part of this poem was written in Newgate, where the
author was some time confined, we believe for a libel which appeared in
a newspaper, of which he is said to be the conductor. Such an
introduction is not calculated to make a very favourable impression.
Fortunately, however, we are as little prejudiced as possible on this
subject: we have never seen Mr. Hunt's newspaper; we have never heard
any particulars of his offence; nor should we have known that he had
been imprisoned but for his own confession. We have not, indeed, ever
read one line that he has written, and are alike remote from the
knowledge of his errors or the influence of his private character. We
are to judge him solely from the work now before us; and our criticism
would be worse than uncandid if it were swayed by any other
consideration.

The poem is not destitute of merit; but--and this, we confess, was our
main inducement to notice it--it is written on certain pretended
_principles_, and put forth as a pattern for imitation, with a degree of
arrogance which imposes on us the duty of making some observations on
this new theory, which Mr. Leigh Hunt, with the weight and authority of
his venerable name, has issued, ex cathedra, as the canons of poetry and
criticism.

These canons Mr. Hunt endeavours to explain and establish in a long
preface, written in a style which, though Mr. Hunt implies that it is
meant to be perfectly natural and unaffected, appears to us the most
strange, laboured, uncouth, and unintelligible species of prose that we
ever read, only indeed to be exceeded in these qualities by some of the
subsequent verses; and both the prose and the verse are the first
eruptions of this disease with which Mr. Leigh Hunt insists upon
inoculating mankind.

Mr. Hunt's _first_ canon is that there should be a _great freedom_ _of
versification_--this is a proposition to which we should have readily
assented; but when Mr. Hunt goes on to say that by _freedom of
versification_ he means something which neither Pope nor Johnson
possessed, and of which even "they knew less than any poets perhaps who
ever wrote," we check our confidence; and, after a little consideration,
find that by freedom Mr. Hunt means only an inaccurate, negligent, and
harsh style of versification, which our early poets fell into from want
of polish, and such poets as Mr. Hunt still practise from want of ease,
of expression, and of taste.

  "_License_ he means, when he cries _liberty_."

Mr. Hunt tells us that Dryden, Spenser and Ariosto, Shakespeare and
Chaucer (so he arranges them), are the greatest masters of _modern_
versification; but he, in the next few sentences, leads us to suspect
that he really does not think much more reverently of these great names
than of Pope and of Johnson; and that, if the whole truth were told, he
is decidedly of opinion that the only good master of versification, in
modern times, is--Mr. Leigh Hunt.

Dryden, Mr. Hunt thinks, is apt to be _artificial_ in his style; or, in
other words, he has improved the harmony of our language from the
rudeness of Chaucer, whom Mr. Hunt (in a sentence which is not grammar,
p. xv) says that Dryden (though he spoke of and borrowed from him)
neither relished nor understood. Spenser, he admits, was musical from
pure taste, but Milton was only, as he elegantly expresses it,
"_learnedly_ so." Being _learned in music_, is intelligible, and, of
Milton, true; but what can Mr. Hunt mean by saying that Milton had
"_learnedly_ a _musical ear_"? "Ariosto's fine ear and _animal spirits_
gave a _frank_ and exquisite tone to all he said"--what does this mean?--
a fine ear may, perhaps, be said to _give_, as it contributes to, an
exquisite tone; but what have _animal spirits_ to do here? and what, in
the matter of _tones_ and _sounds_, is the effect of _frankness_? We
shrewdly suspect that Mr. Hunt, with all his affectation of Italian
literature, knows very little of Ariosto; it is clear that he knows
nothing of Tasso. Of Shakespeare he tells us, "that his versification
escapes us because he _over-informed_ it with knowledge and sentiment,"
by which it appears (as well, indeed, as by his own verses), that this
new Stagyrite thinks that good versification runs a risk of being
spoiled by having _too much meaning_ included in its lines.

To wind up the whole of this admirable, precise, and useful criticism by
a recapitulation as useful and precise, he says, "all these are about as
different from Pope as the church organ is from the bell in the steeple,
or, to give him a more decorous comparison, the song of the nightingale
from that of the cuckoo."--p. xv.

Now we own that what there is so _indecorous_ in the first comparison,
or so especially _decorous_ in the second, we cannot discover; neither
can we make out whether Pope is the organ or the bell--the nightingale
or the cuckoo; we suppose that Mr. Hunt knows that Pope was called by
his contemporaries the _nightingale_, but we never heard Milton and
Dryden called _cuckoos_; or, if the comparison is to be taken the other
way, we apprehend that, though Chaucer may be to Mr. Hunt's ears a
_church organ_, Pope cannot, to any ear, sound like the _church bell_.

But all this theory, absurd and ignorant as it is, is really nothing to
the practice of which it effects to be the defence.

Hear the warblings of Mr. Hunt's nightingales.

A horseman is described--

  The patting hand, that best persuades the check,
  _And makes the quarrel up with a proud neck_,
  The thigh broad pressed, the spanning palm _upon it_,
  And the jerked feather _swaling_ in the _bonnet_.--p. 15.

Knights wear ladies' favours--

  Some tied about their arm, some at the breast,
  _Some, with a drag, dangling from the cap's crest_.--p. 14.

Paulo pays his compliments to the destined bride of his brother--

  And paid them with an air so frank and bright,
  As to a friend _appreciated at sight_;
  That air, in short, which sets you at your ease,
  Without _implying_ your perplexities,
  That _what with the surprize in every way_,
  The hurry of the time, the appointed day,--
  She knew _not how to object_ in her confusion.--p. 29.

The meeting of the brothers, on which the catastrophe turns, is
excellent: the politeness with which the challenge is given would have
delighted the heart of old Caranza.

  May I request, Sir, said the prince, and frowned,
  Your ear a moment in the tilting ground?
  _There_, brother? answered Paulo with an _air_
  Surprized and _shocked_. Yes, _brother_, cried he, _there_.
  The word smote _crushingly_.--p. 92.

Before the duel, the following spirited explanation takes place:

  The prince spoke low,
  And said: Before _you answer what you can_,
  I wish to tell you, _as a gentleman_,
  That what you may confess--
  Will implicate no person known to you,
  More than disquiet in _its_ sleep may do.--p. 93.

Paulo falls--and the event is announced in these exquisite lines:

  Her _aged_ nurse--
  Who, shaking her _old_ head, and pressing close
  Her withered _lips_ to _keep the tears_ that rose--p. 101.

"By the way," does Mr. Leigh Hunt suppose that the aged nurses of Rimini
weep with their mouths? or does he mistake crying for drivelling?--In
fact, the young lady herself seems to have adopted the same mode of
weeping:

  With that, a _keen_ and _quivering glance of_ tears
  Scarce moves her _patient mouth_, and disappears.

But to the nurse.--She introduces the messenger of death to the
princess, who communicates his story, in pursuance of her command--

  Something, I'm sure, has happened--tell me what--
  I can bear all, though _you may fancy not_.
  Madam, replied the squire, you are, I know,
  All sweetness--_pardon me for saying so_.
  My Master bade _me_ say then, resumed _he_,
  That _he_ spoke firmly, when he told it _me_,--
  That I was also, madam, to your ear
  Firmly to speak, and you firmly to hear,--
  That he was forced this day, _whether or no_,
  To combat with the prince;--'--p. 103.

The _second_ of Mr. Hunt's new principles he thus announces:

  With the endeavour to recur to a freer spirit of versification, I have
  joined one of still greater importance--that of having a _free and
  idiomatic_ cast of language. There is a cant of art as well as of
  nature, though the former is not so unpleasant as the latter, which
  affects non-affectation.--(What does all this mean?)--But the proper
  _language of poetry_ is in fact nothing different from that of real
  life, and depends for its dignity upon the strength and sentiment of
  what it speaks. It is only adding _musical modulation_ to what a _fine
  understanding_ might actually utter in the midst of its griefs or
  enjoyments. The poet therefore should do as Chaucer or Shakespeare
  did,--not copy what is obsolete or peculiar in either, any more than
  they copied from their predecessors,--but use as much as possible an
  _actual, existing language,_--omitting of course _mere vulgarisms_ and
  _fugitive phrases_, which are the cant of ordinary discourse, just as
  tragedy phrases, _dead idioms,_ and exaggerations of dignity, are of
  the artificial style, and yeas, verilys, and exaggerations of
  simplicity, are of the natural.--p. xvi.

This passage, compared with the verses to which it preludes, affords a
more extraordinary instance of self-delusion than even Mr. Hunt's notion
of the merit of his versification; for if there be one fault more
eminently conspicuous and ridiculous in Mr. Hunt's work than another, it
is,--that it is full of _mere vulgarisms_ and _fugitive phrases_, and
that in every page the language is--not only not _the actual, existing
language_, but an ungrammatical, unauthorised, chaotic jargon, such as
we believe was never before spoken, much less written.

In what vernacular tongue, for instance, does Mr. Hunt find a lady's
waist called _clipsome_ (p. 10)--or the shout of a mob "enormous" (p.
9)--or a fit, _lightsome_;--or that a hero's nose is "_lightsomely_
brought down from a forehead of clear-spirited thought" (p. 46)--or that
his back "drops" _lightsomely in_ (p. 20). Where has he heard of a
_quoit-like drop_--of _swaling_ a jerked feather--of _unbedinned_ music
(p. 11)--of the death of _leaping_ accents (p. 32)--of the _thick
reckoning_ of a hoof (p. 33)--of a _pin-drop_ silence (p. 17)--a
_readable_ look (p. 20)--a _half indifferent wonderment_ (p. 37)--or of

  _Boy-storied_ trees and _passion-plighted_ spots,--p. 38.

of

  Ships coming up with _scattery_ light,--p. 4.

or of self-knowledge being

  _Cored_, after all, in our complacencies?--p. 38.

We shall now produce a few instances of what "_a fine understanding
might utter_," with "the addition of _musical modulation_," and of the
_dignity_ and _strength_ of Mr. Hunt's sentiments and expressions.

A crowd, which divided itself into groups, is--

 --the multitude,
  Who _got_ in clumps----p. 26.

The impression made on these "clumps" by the sight of the Princess, is
thus "musically" described:

  There's not in all that croud one _gallant_ being,
  Whom, if his heart were whole, and _rank agreeing_,
  It would not _fire to twice of what he is_,--p. 10.

"Dignity and strength"--

  First came the trumpeters--
  And as they _sit along_ their easy way,
  Stately and _heaving_ to the croud below.--p. 12.

This word is deservedly a great favourite with the poet; he _heaves_ it
in upon all occasions.

  The deep talk _heaves_.--p. 5.
  With _heav'd_ out tapestry the windows glow.--p. 6.
  Then _heave_ the croud.--_id_.
  And after a rude _heave_ from side to side.--p. 7.
  The marble bridge comes _heaving_ forth below.--p. 28.

"Fine understanding"--

  The youth smiles _up_, and with a _lowly_ grace,
  _Bending_ his _lifted_ eyes--p. 22.

This is very neat:

  No peevishness there was--
  But a _mute_ gush of _hiding_ tears from one,
  Clasped to the _core_ of him who yet shed none.--p. 83.

The heroine is suspected of wishing to have some share in the choice of
her own husband, which is thus elegantly expressed:

  She had stout notions on the marrying _score_.--p. 27.

This noble use of the word _score_ is afterwards carefully repeated in
speaking of the Prince, her husband--

 --no suspicion could have touched him more,
  Than that of _wanting_ on the generous _score_.--p. 48.

But though thus punctilious on the _generous score_, his Highness had
but a bad temper,

  And kept no reckoning with his _sweets and sours_.--p. 47.

This, indeed, is somewhat qualified by a previous observation, that--

  _The worst of Prince Giovanni_, as his bride
  Too quickly found, was an ill-tempered pride.

How nobly does Mr. Hunt celebrate the combined charms of the fair sex,
and the country!

  _The two divinest things this world_ HAS GOT,
  A lovely woman in a rural spot!--p. 58.

A rural spot, indeed, seems to inspire Mr. Hunt with peculiar elegance
and sweetness: for he says, soon after, of Prince Paulo--

  For welcome grace, there rode not such another,
  Nor yet for strength, except his lordly brother.
  Was there a court day, or a sparkling feast,
  Or better still--_to my ideas, at least!_--
  A summer party in the green wood shade.--p. 50.

So much for this new invented _strength_ and _dignity_: we shall add a
specimen of his syntax:

  But fears like these he never entertain'd,
  And had they crossed him, would have been disdain'd.--p. 50.

       *       *       *       *       *

After these extracts, we have but one word more to say of Mr. Hunt's
poetry; which is, that amidst all his vanity, vulgarity, ignorance, and
coarseness, there are here and there some well-executed descriptions,
and occasionally a line of which the sense and the expression are good--
The interest of the story itself is so great that we do not think it
wholly lost even in Mr. Hunt's hands. He has, at least, the merit of
telling it with decency; and, bating the qualities of versification,
expression, and dignity, on which he peculiarly piques himself, and in
which he has utterly failed, the poem is one which, in our opinion at
least, may be read with satisfaction after GALT'S Tragedies.

Mr. Hunt prefixes to his work a dedication to Lord Byron, in which he
assumes a high tone, and talks big of his "_fellow-dignity_" and
independence: what fellow-dignity may mean, we know not; perhaps the
_dignity_ of a _fellow_; but this we will say, that Mr. Hunt is not more
unlucky in his pompous pretension to versification and good language,
than he is in that which he makes, in this dedication, to _proper
spirit_, as he calls it, and _fellow-dignity_; for we never, in so few
lines, saw so many clear marks of the vulgar impatience of a low man,
conscious and ashamed of his wretched vanity, and labouring, with coarse
flippancy, to scramble over the bounds of birth and education, and
fidget himself into the _stout-heartedness_ of being familiar with a
LORD.



OF SHAKESPEARE


[From _The Quarterly Review_, October, 1816]

_Shakespeare's Himself Again! or the Language of the Poet asserted;
being a full and dispassionate Examen of the Readings and
Interpretations of the several Editors. Comprised in a Series of Notes,
Sixteen Hundred in Number, illustrative of the most difficult Passages
in his Plays_--_to the various editions of which the present Volumes
form a complete and necessary Supplement_. By ANDREW BECKET. 2 vols.
8vo. pp. 730. 1816.

If the dead could be supposed to take any interest in the integrity of
their literary reputation, with what complacency might we not imagine
our great poet to contemplate the labours of the present writer! Two
centuries have passed away since his death--the mind almost sinks under
the reflection that he has been all that while exhibited to us so
"transmographied" by the joint ignorance and malice of printers,
critics, etc., as to be wholly unlike himself. But--_post nubila,
Phoebus!_ Mr. Andrew Becket has at length risen upon the world, and
Shakespeare is about to shine forth in genuine and unclouded glory!

What we have at present is a mere scantling of the great work _in
procinctu_--[Greek: _pidakos ex ieraes oligaelizas_]--sixteen hundred
"restorations," and no more! But if these shall be favourably received,
a complete edition of the poet will speedily follow. Mr. Becket has
taken him to develop; and it is truly surprizing to behold how beautiful
he comes forth as the editor proceeds in unrolling those unseemly and
unnatural rags in which he has hitherto been so disgracefully wrapped:

  Tandem aperit vultum, et tectoria prima reponit,--
  Incipit agnosci!--

Mr. Becket has favoured us, in the Preface, with a comparative estimate
of the merits of his predecessors. He does not, as may easily be
conjectured, rate any of them very highly; but he places Warburton at
the top of the scale, and Steevens at the bottom: this, indeed, was to
be expected. "Warburton," he says, "is the _best_, and Steevens the
_worst_ of Shakespeare's commentators"; (p. xvii) and he ascribes it
solely to his forbearance that the latter is not absolutely crushed: it
not being in his nature, as he magnanimously insinuates, "to break a
butterfly upon a wheel!" Dr. Johnson is shoved aside with very little
ceremony; Mr. Malone fares somewhat better; and the rest are dismissed
with the gentle valediction of Pandarus to the Trojans--"asses, fools,
dolts! chaff and bran! porridge after meat!" With respect to our author
himself, it is but simple justice to declare, that he comes to the great
work of "restoring Shakespeare"--not only with more negative advantages
than the unfortunate tribe of critics so cavalierly dismissed, but than
all who have aspired to illumine the page of a defunct writer since the
days of Aristarchus. As far as we are enabled to judge, Mr. Becket never
examined an old play in his life:--he does not seem to have the
slightest knowledge of any writer, or any subject, or any language that
ever occupied the attention of his contemporaries; and he possesses a
mind as innocent of all requisite information as if he had dropped, with
the last thunderstone, from the moon.

"Addison has well observed, that 'in works of criticism it is absolutely
necessary to have a _clear and logical head_.'" (p.v.) In this position,
Mr. Becket cheerfully agrees with him; and, indeed, it is sufficiently
manifest, that without the internal conviction of enjoying that
indispensable advantage, he would not have favoured the public with
those matchless "restorations"; a few specimens of which we now proceed
to lay before them. Where all are alike admirable, there is no call for
selection; we shall therefore open the volumes at random, and trust to
fortune.

  "_Hamlet_. For who would bear the whips and scorns of time?"

This reading, Mr. Becket says, he cannot admit; and he says well: since
it appears that Shakespeare wrote--

  "For who would bear the _scores_ of _weapon'd_ time?"

using _scores_ in the sense of stripes. Formerly, _i.e.,_ when Becket
was _in his sallad days_, he augured, he says, that the true reading
was--

 --"the scores of _whip-hand_ time."

Time having always the _whip-hand,_ the advantage; but he now reverts to
the other emendation; though, as he modestly hints, the epithet
_whip-hand_ (which he still regards with parental fondness) will perhaps
be thought to have much of the manner of Shakespeare.--Vol. i, p. 43.

  "_Horatio_.--While they, distill'd
  Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
  Stand dumb, and speak not to him!"

We had been accustomed to find no great difficulty here: the words
seemed, to us, at least, to express the usual effect of inordinate
terror--but we gladly acknowledge our mistake. "The passage is not to be
understood." How should it, when both the pointing and the language are
corrupt? Read, as Shakespeare gave it--

 --"While they _bestill'd_
  Almost to _gelèe_ with the act. Of fear
  Stand dumb," &c.--that is, petrified (or rather icefied) p. 13.


  "_Lear_. And my poor fool is hang'd!"

With these homely words, which burst from the poor old king on reverting
to the fate of his loved Cordelia, whom he then holds in his arms, we
have been always deeply affected, and therefore set them down as one of
the thousand proofs of the poet's intimate knowledge of the human heart.
But Mr. Becket has made us ashamed of our simplicity and our tears.
Shakespeare had no such "lenten" language in his thoughts; he wrote, as
Mr. Becket tells us,

  "And my _pure soot_ is hang'd!"

Poor, he adds, might be easily mistaken for _pure_; while the _s_ in
_soot_ (sweet) was scarcely discernible from the _f_, or the _t_ from
the _l_.--p. 176.

We are happy to find that so much can be offered in favour of the old
printers. And yet--were it not that the genuine text is always to be
preferred--we could almost wish that the critic had left their blunder
as it stood.

  "_Wolsey_.--that his bones
  May have a tomb of orphans' tears wept on them."

  A tomb of tears is ridiculous. I read--a _coomb_ of tears--a _coomb_
  is a liquid measure containing forty gallons. Thus the expression,
  which was before absurd, becomes forcible and just.--vol. ii, p. 134.

It does indeed!

  "_Sir Andrew_. I sent thee six-pence for thy leman (mistress): had'st
  it?" Read as Shakespeare wrote: "I sent thee sixpence for thy
  _lemma_"--_lemma_ is properly an _argument_, or _proposition assumed_,
  and is used by Sir Andrew Aguecheek for a story.--p. 335.


  "_Viola_. She pined in thought,
  And with a green and yellow melancholy."--Correct it thus:

  "She pined in thought
  And with _agrein_ and _hollow_ melancholy."--p. 339.

  "_Iago_. I have rubb'd this young quat almost to the sense,
  And he grows angry"--

that is, or rather _was_, according to our homely apprehension, I have
rubb'd this pimple (Roderigo) almost to bleeding:--but, no; Mr. Becket
has furnished us not only with the genuine words, but the meaning of
Shakespeare--

  I have _fubb'd_ this young _quat_--_Quat_, or cat, appears to be a
  contraction of cater-cousin--and this reading will be greatly
  strengthened when it is remembered that Roderigo was really the
  intimate of Iago.--p. 204.

In a subsequent passage, "I am as melancholy as a gibb'd cat"--we are
told that _cat_ is not the domestic animal of that name, but a
contraction of _catin_, a woman of the town. But, indeed, Mr. Becket
possesses a most wonderful faculty for detecting these latent
contractions and filling them up. Thus,

  "_Parolles_. Sir, he will steal an egg out of a cloister." Read (as
  Shakespeare wrote), "Sir, he will steal an _Ag_ (i.e., an _Agnes_) out
  of a cloister." _Agnes_ is the name of a woman, and may easily stand
  for chastity.--p. 325.

No doubt.

  "_Carter_. Prithee, Tom, put a few flocks in Cut's saddle; the poor
  beast is wrung in the withers out of all cess."

Out of all cess, we used to think meant, in vulgar phraseology, out of
all measure, very much, &c.--but see how foolishly!

  _Cess_ is a mere contraction of _cessibility_, which signifies the
  _quality of receding_, and may very well stand for _yielding_, as
  spoken of a tumour.--p. 5.


  "_Hamlet_. A cry of players."


This we once thought merely a sportive expression for a _company of_
players, but Mr. Becket has undeceived us--"_Cry_ (he tells us) is
contracted from _cryptic_, and cryptic is precisely of the same import
as mystery."--p. 53. How delightful it is when learning and judgment
walk thus hand in hand! But enough--

          --"the sweetest honey
  Is loathsome in its own deliciousness"--

and we would not willingly cloy our readers. Sufficient has been
produced to encourage them--not perhaps to contend for the possession of
the present volumes, though Mr. Becket conscientiously affirms, in his
title-page, that "they form a complete and _necessary_ supplement to
every former edition"--but, with us, to look anxiously forward to the
great work in preparation.

Meanwhile we have gathered some little consolation from what is already
in our hands. Very often, on comparing the dramas of the present day
(not even excepting Mr. Tobin's) with those of Elizabeth's age, we have
been tempted to think that we were born too late, and to exclaim with
the poet--

  "Infelix ego, non illo qui tempore natus,
  Quo facilis natura fuit; sors O mea laeva
  Nascendi, miserumque genus!" &c.

but we now see that unless Mr. Andrew Becket had also been produced at
that early period, we should have derived no extraordinary degree of
satisfaction from witnessing the first appearance of Shakespeare's
plays, since it is quite clear that we could not have understood them.

One difficulty yet remains. We scarcely think that the managers will
have the confidence, in future, to play Shakespeare as they have been
accustomed to do; and yet, to present him, as now so happily "restored,"
would, for some time at least, render him _caviare to the general_. We
know that Livius Andronicus, when grown hoarse with repeated
declamation, was allowed a second rate actor, who stood at his back and
spoke while he gesticulated, or gesticulated while he spoke. A hint may
be borrowed from this fact. We therefore propose that Mr. Andrew Becket
be forthwith taken into the pay of the two theatres, and divided between
them. He may then be instructed to follow the _dramatis personae_ of our
great poet's plays on the stage, and after each of them has made his
speech in the present corrupt reading, to pronounce aloud the words as
"restored" by himself. This may have an awkward effect at first; but a
season or two will reconcile the town to it; Shakespeare may then be
presented in his genuine language, or, as our author better expresses
it, be HIMSELF AGAIN.



ON MOXON'S SONNETS


[From _The Quarterly Review_, July, 1837]

_Sonnets by_ EDWARD MOXON. Second Edition. London, 1837.

This is quite a _dandy_ of a book. Some seventy pages of drawing-paper--
fifty-five of which are impressed each with a single sonnet in all the
luxury of type, while the rest are decked out with vignettes of nymphs
in clouds and bowers, and Cupids in rose-bushes and cockle-shells. And
all these coxcombries are the appendages of, as it seems to us, as
little intellect as the rings and brooches of the Exquisite in a modern
novel. We shall see presently, by what good fortune so moderate a poet
has found so liberal a publisher.

We are no great admirers of the sonnet at its best--concurring in Dr.
Johnson's opinion that it does not suit the genius of our language, and
that the great examples of Shakespeare and Milton have failed to
domesticate it with us. It seems to be, even in master hands, that
species of composition which is at once the most artificial and the
least effective, which bears the appearance of the greatest labour and
produces the least pleasure. Its peculiar and unvaried construction must
inevitably inflict upon it something of pedantry and monotony, and
although some powerful minds have used it as a form for condensing and
elaborating a particular train of thought--_an Iliad in a nutshell_--yet
the vast majority of sonneteers employ it as an economical expedient, by
which one idea can be expanded into fourteen lines--fourteen lines into
one page--and, as we see, fifty-four pages into a costly volume.

The complex construction, which at first sight seems a difficulty, is,
in fact, like all mechanism, a great saving of labour to the operator. A
sonnet almost makes itself, as a musical snuff-box plays a tune, or
rather as a cotton _Jenny_ spins twist. When a would-be poet has
collected in his memory a few of what may have struck him as poetical
ideas, he puts them into his machine, and after fourteen turns, out
comes a sonnet, or--if it be his pleasure to spin out his reminiscences
very fine--a dozen sonnets.

Mr. Moxon inscribes as a motto on his title-page four lines of Mr.
Wordsworth's vindication of his own use of the sonnet-form--

  In truth, the prison, into which we doom
  Ourselves, no prison is: and hence to _me_,
  In sundry moods 'twas pastime to be bound
  Within the _sonnet's_ scanty plot of ground.

Yes, Mr. Moxon, to _him_ perhaps, but not to every one--the "plot of
ground" which is "_scanty_" to an elephant is a wilderness to a mouse;
and the garment in which Wordsworth might feel straitened hangs flabby
about a puny imitator. There seems no great modesty in the estimate
which Mr. Moxon thus exhibits of his own superior powers, but we fear
there is, at least, as much modesty as truth--for really, so far from
being "_bound_" within the narrow limit of the sonnet, it seems to us to
be

    --a world too wide
  For his shrunk shank.

Ordinary sonneteers, as we have said, will spin a single thought through
the fourteen lines. Mr., Moxon will draw you out a single thought into
fourteen sonnets:--and these are his best--for most of the others appear
to us mere soap bubbles, very gay and gaudy, but which burst at the
fourteenth line and leave not the trace of an idea behind. Of two or
three Mr. Moxon has kindly told us the meaning, which, without that
notice, we confess we should never have guessed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another of the same genus--though, he had just told us

    My love I can _compare_ with _nought_ on earth--

is like _nought on earth_ we ever read but Dean Swift's song of similes.
I _will prove_, he says, that

    A swan--
    A fawn--
    An artless lamb--
    A hawthorn tree--
    A willow--
    A laburnum--
    A dream--
    A rainbow--
    Diana--
    Aurora--
    A dove that _singeth_--
    A lily,--and finally,
    Venus herself!
   --I in truth will prove
    These are not _half_ so _fair_ as she I love.

_Sonnet_ iii, p. 43.


Such heterogeneous compliments remind us of Shacabac's gallantry to
_Beda_ in _Blue Beard:_ "Ah, you little rogue, you have a prettier mouth
_than an elephant_, and you know it!"--A _fawn-coloured_ countenance
rivalling in _fairness a laburnum_ blossom, seems to us a more dubious
type of female beauty than even an elephant's mouth.

_Love_, it may be said, has carried away better poets and graver men
than Mr. Moxon seems to be, into such namby-pamby nonsense; but Mr.
Moxon is just as absurd in his _grief_ or his _musings_, as in his
_love_.

When he hears a nightingale--"sad Philomel!"--he concludes that the bird
was originally created for no other purpose than to prophesy in Paradise
_the fall of man_, or, as he chooses to collocate the words,

    _Prophetic_ to have mourned of _man_ the _fall_,--p. 9.

but he does not tell us what she has been doing ever since.

When he sees two Cumberland streams--the Brathay and Rothay--flowing
down, first to a confluence, and afterwards to the sea, he fancies "a
_soul-knit_ pair," man and wife, mingling their waters and gliding to
their final haven--

        in kindred love,
    The haven Contemplation sees _above_!

_Below_, he would--following his allegory--have said; but rhyme forbade--
and _allegories_ are not _so headstrong_ on the banks of the Brathay as
on those of the _Nile_.

A sonnet on Thomson's grave is a fine specimen of empty sounds and solid
nonsense:--

    Whene'er I linger, Thomson, near thy tomb,
    Where _Thamis_--

"_Classic Cam_" will be somewhat amazed to hear his learned brother
called _Thamis_--

      Where Thamis urges his majestic way,
    And the Muse loves at twilight hour to stray,
  I think how in thy theme ALL _seasons_ BLOOM;--

What, all four?--_autumn_, nay, _winter_--blooming?

  What _heart_ so cold that of thy fame has _heard_,
  And _pauses_ not to _gaze_ upon each scene.

We are inclined to be very indulgent to what is called a confusion of
metaphors, when it arises from a rush of ideas--but when it is produced
by an author's having no idea at all, we can hardly forgive him for
equipping the _Heart_ with eyes, ears, and legs:--he might just as well
have said that on entering Twickenham church to visit the tomb, every
_Heart_ would take off _its hat_, and on going out again would put _its
hand_ in _its pockets_ to fee the sexton.

  And pauses not to gaze upon each scene
    That was familiar to thy raptured view,
    Those walks beloved by thee while I pursue,
  Musing upon the years that intervene--

Why this line _intervenes_ or what it means we do not see--it seems
inserted just to make up the number--

  Methinks, as eve descends, a hymn of praise
  To thee, their bard, the _sister Seasons_ raise!

That is, as we understand it, ALL the _Seasons meet together_ on one or
more evenings of the year, to sing a hymn to the memory of Thompson.
This _simultaneous entree_ of the Four Seasons would be a much more
appropriate fancy for the opera stage than for Twickenham meadows.

Such are the tame extravagances--the vapid affectations--the unmeaning
mosaic which Mr. Moxon has laboriously tesselated into fifty and four
sonnets. If he had been--as all this childishness at first led us to
believe--a very young man--we should have discussed the matter with him
in a more conciliatory and persuasive tone; but we find that he is, what
we must call, an old offender. We have before us two little volumes of
what he entitles poetry--one dated 1826, and the other 1829--which,
though more laughable, are not in substance more absurd than his new
production. From the first of these we shall extract two or three
stanzas of the introductory poem, not only on account of their intrinsic
merit, but because they state, pretty roundly, Mr. Moxon's principles of
poetry. He modestly disclaims all rivalry with Pope, Byron, Moore,
Campbell, Scott, Rogers, Goldsmith, Dryden, Gray, Spenser, Milton, and
Shakespeare; but he, at the same time, intimates that he follows, what
he thinks, a truer line of poetry than the before-named illustrious,
but, in this point, _mistaken_ individuals.

  'Tis not a poem with learning fraught,
    To that I ne'er pretended;
  Nor yet with Pope's fine touches wrought,
    _From that my time prevented_.

We skip four intermediate stanzas; then comes

  Milton divine and great Shakespeare
    With reverence I mention;
  My name with theirs shall ne'er appear,
    _'Tis far from my intention!_
  If poetry, as one _pretends,
    Be all imagination!_
  Why then, at once, _my bardship ends--
    'Mong prose I take my station._

  _Moxon's Poems, p. 81, Ed. 1826._

But as _"common sense"_ must see, says Mr. Moxon, that _imagination_ can
have nothing to do with _poetry_, he engages to pursue his tuneful
vocation, subject to _one_ condition--

  You'll hear no more from me,
  If _critics prove unkind;_
  My next _in simple prose_ must be,
  _Unless I favour find!_

We regret that some _kind_--or, as Mr. Moxon would have thought it,
_unkind_--critic, did not, on the appearance of this first volume,
confirm his own misgivings that he had been all this time, like the man
in the farce, talking not only _prose_, but _nonsense_ into the bargain:
this disagreeable information the pretension of his recent publication
obliges us to convey to him. The fact is, that the volume at first
struck us with serious alarm. Its typographical splendour led us to fear
that this style of writing was getting into fashion; and the hints about
_"classic Cam"_ seemed to impute the production to one of our
Universities: on turning, with some curiosity, to the title-page, for
the name of the too indulgent bookseller who had bestowed such unmerited
embellishment on a work which we think of so little value--_we found
none_; and on further inquiry learned that _Dover Street, Piccadilly_,
and not the banks of _"classic Cam"_ is the seat of this sonneteering
muse--in short, that Mr. Moxon, the bookseller, is his own poet, and
that Mr. Moxon, the poet, is his own bookseller. This discovery at once
calmed both our anxieties--it relieved the university of Cambridge from
an awful responsibility, which might have called down upon it the
vengeance of Lord Radnor; and it accounted--without any imputation on
the public taste--for the extraordinary care and cost with which the
paternal solicitude of the poet-publisher had adorned his own volume.
Mr. Moxon seems to be--like most sonneteers--a man of amiable
disposition, and to have an ear--as he certainly has a _memory_--for
poetry; and--if he had not been an old hand--we should not have presumed
to say that he is incapable of anything better than this tumid
commonplace. But, however that may be, we do earnestly exhort him to
abandon the self-deluding practice of being his own publisher. Whatever
may have been said in disparagement of the literary taste of the
booksellers, it will at least be admitted that their experience of
public opinion and a due attention to their own pecuniary interest,
enable them to operate as a salutary check upon the blind and
presumptive vanity of small authors. The necessity of obtaining the
_"imprimatur"_ of a publisher is a very wholesome restraint, from which
Mr. Moxon--unluckily for himself and for us--found himself relieved. If
he could have looked at his own work with the impartiality, and perhaps
the good taste, that he would have exercised on that of a stranger, _he_
would have saved himself a good deal of expense and vexation--and _we_
should have been spared the painful necessity of contrasting the
ambitious pretensions of his volume with its very moderate literary
merit.



ON "VANITY FAIR" AND "JANE EYRE"

[From _The Quarterly Review_, December, 1848]

1. _Vanity Fair; a Novel without a Hero._ By WILLIAM MAKEPEACE
THACKERAY. London, 1848.

2. _Jane Eyre; an Autobiography._ Edited by CURRER BELL. In 3 vols.
London. 1847.

A remarkable novel is a great event for English society. It is a kind of
common friend, about whom people can speak the truth without fear of
being compromised, and confess their emotions without being ashamed. We
are a particularly shy and reserved people, and set about nothing so
awkwardly as the simple art of getting really acquainted with each
other. We meet over and over again in what is conventionally called
"easy society," with the tacit understanding to go so far and no
farther; to be as polite as we ought to be, and as intellectual as we
can; but mutually and honourably to forbear lifting those veils which
each spreads over his inner sentiments and sympathies. For this purpose
a host of devices have been contrived by which all the forms of
friendship may be gone through, without committing ourselves to one
spark of the spirit. We fly with eagerness to some common ground in
which each can take the liveliest interest, without taking the slightest
in the world in his companion. Our various fashionable manias, for
charity one season, for science the next, are only so many clever
contrivances for keeping our neighbour at arm's length. We can attend
committees, and canvass for subscribers, and archaeologise, and
geologise, and take ether with our fellow Christians for a twelvemonth,
as we might sit cross-legged and smoke the pipe of fraternity with a
Turk for the same period--and know at the end of the time as little of
the real feelings of the one as we should about the domestic relations
of the other. But there are ways and means for lifting the veil which
equally favour our national idiosyncrasy; and a new and remarkable novel
is one of them--especially the nearer it comes to real life. We invite
our neighbour to a walk with the deliberate and malicious object of
getting thoroughly acquainted with him. We ask no impertinent questions--
we proffer no indiscreet confidences--we do not even sound him, ever so
delicately, as to his opinion of a common friend, for he would be sure
not to say, lest we should go and tell; but we simply discuss Becky
Sharp, or Jane Eyre, and our object is answered at once.

There is something about these two new and noticeable characters which
especially compels everybody to speak out. They are not to be dismissed
with a few commonplace moralities and sentimentalities. They do not fit
any ready-made criticism. They give the most stupid something to think
of, and the most reserved something to say; the most charitable too are
betrayed into home comparisons which they usually condemn, and the most
ingenious stumble into paradoxes which they can hardly defend. Becky and
Jane also stand well side by side both in their analogies and their
contrasts. Both the ladies are governesses, and both make the same move
in society; the one, in Jane Eyre phraseology, marrying her "master,"
and the other her master's son. Neither starts in life with more than a
moderate capital of good looks--Jane Eyre with hardly that--for it is
the fashion now-a-days with novelists to give no encouragement to the
insolence of mere beauty, but rather to prove to all whom it may concern
how little a sensible woman requires to get on with in the world. Both
have also an elfish kind of nature, with which they divine the secrets
of other hearts, and conceal those of their own; and both rejoice in
that peculiarity of feature which Mademoiselle de Luzy has not
contributed to render popular, viz., green eyes. Beyond this, however,
there is no similarity either in the minds, manners, or fortunes of the
two heroines. They think and act upon diametrically opposite principles--
at least so the author of "Jane Eyre" intends us to believe--and each,
were they to meet, which we should of all things enjoy to see them do,
would cordially despise and abominate the other. Which of the two,
however, would most successfully _dupe_ the other is a different
question, and one not so easy to decide; though we have our own ideas
upon the subject.

We must discuss "Vanity Fair" first, which, much as we were entitled to
expect from its author's pen, has fairly taken us by surprise. We were
perfectly aware that Mr. Thackeray had of old assumed the jester's
habit, in order the more unrestrainedly to indulge the privilege of
speaking the truth;--we had traced his clever progress through "Fraser's
Magazine" and the ever-improving pages of "Punch"--which wonder of the
time has been infinitely obliged to him--but still we were little
prepared for the keen observation, the deep wisdom, and the consummate
art which he has interwoven in the slight texture and whimsical pattern
of "Vanity Fair." Everybody, it is to be supposed, has read the volume
by this time; and even for those who have not, it is not necessary to
describe the order of the story. It is not a novel, in the common
acceptation of the word, with a plot purposely contrived to bring about
certain scenes, and develop certain characters, but simply a history of
those average sufferings, pleasures, penalties, and rewards to which
various classes of mankind gravitate as naturally and certainly in this
world as the sparks fly upward. It is only the same game of life which
every player sooner or later makes for himself--were he to have a
hundred chances, and shuffle the cards of circumstance every time. It is
only the same busy, involved drama which may be seen at any time by any
one, who is not engrossed with the magnified minutiae of his own petty
part, but with composed curiosity looks on to the stage where his
fellow-men and women are the actors; and that not even heightened by the
conventional colouring which Madame de Staël philosophically declares
that fiction always wants in order to make up for its not being truth.
Indeed, so far from taking any advantage of this novelist's licence, Mr.
Thackeray has hardly availed himself of the natural average of
remarkable events that really do occur in this life. The battle of
Waterloo, it is true, is introduced; but, as far as regards the story,
it brings about only one death and one bankruptcy, which might either of
them have happened in a hundred other ways. Otherwise the tale runs on,
with little exception, in that humdrum course of daily monotony, out of
which some people coin materials to act, and others excuses to doze,
just as their dispositions may be.

It is this reality which is at once the charm and the misery here. With
all these unpretending materials it is one of the most amusing, but also
one of the most distressing books we have read for many a long year. We
almost long for a little exaggeration and improbability to relieve us of
that sense of dead truthfulness which weighs down our hearts, not for
the Amelias and Georges of the story, but for poor kindred human nature.
In one light this truthfulness is even an objection. With few exceptions
the personages are too like our every-day selves and neighbours to draw
any distinct moral from. We cannot see our way clearly. Palliations of
the bad and disappointments in the good are perpetually obstructing our
judgment, by bringing what should decide it too close to that common
standard of experience in which our only rule of opinion is charity. For
it is only in fictitious characters which are highly coloured for one
definite object, or in notorious personages viewed from a distance, that
the course of the true moral can be seen to run straight--once bring the
individual with his life and circumstances closely before you, and it is
lost to the mental eye in the thousand pleas and witnesses, unseen and
unheard before, which rise up to overshadow it. And what are all these
personages in "Vanity Fair" but feigned names for our own beloved
friends and acquaintances, seen under such a puzzling cross-light of
good in evil, and evil in good, of sins and sinnings against, of little
to be praised virtues, and much to be excused vices, that we cannot
presume to moralise upon them--not even to judge them,--content to
exclaim sorrowfully with the old prophet, "Alas! my brother!" Every
actor on the crowded stage of "Vanity Fair" represents some type of that
perverse mixture of humanity in which there is ever something not wholly
to approve or to condemn. There is the desperate devotion of a fond
heart to a false object, which we cannot respect; there is the vain,
weak man, half good and half bad, who is more despicable in our eyes
than the decided villain. There are the irretrievably wretched
education, and the unquenchably manly instincts, both contending in the
confirmed _roué_, which melt us to the tenderest pity. There is the
selfishness and self-will which the possessor of great wealth and
fawning relations can hardly avoid. There is the vanity and fear of the
world, which assist mysteriously with pious principles in keeping a man
respectable; there are combinations of this kind of every imaginable
human form and colour, redeemed but feebly by the steady excellence of
an awkward man, and the genuine heart of a vulgar woman, till we feel
inclined to tax Mr. Thackeray with an under estimate of our nature,
forgetting that Madame de Staël is right after all, and that without a
little conventional rouge no human conplexion can stand the stage-lights
of fiction.

But if these performers give us pain, we are not ashamed to own, as we
are speaking openly, that the chief actress herself gives us none at
all. For there is of course a principal pilgrim in Vanity Fair, as much
as in its emblematical original, Bunyan's "Progress"; only unfortunately
this one is travelling the wrong way. And we say "unfortunately" merely
by way of courtesy, for in reality we care little about the matter. No,
Becky--our hearts neither bleed for you, nor cry out against you. You
are wonderfully clever, and amusing, and accomplished, and intelligent,
and the Soho _ateliers_ were not the best nurseries for a moral
training; and you were married early in life to a regular blackleg, and
you have had to live upon your wits ever since, which is not an
improving sort of maintenance; and there is much to be said for and
against; but still you are not one of us, and there is an end to our
sympathies and censures. People who allow their feelings to be lacerated
by such a character and career as yours, are doing both you and
themselves great injustice. No author could have openly introduced a
near connexion of Satan's into the best London society, nor would the
moral end intended have been answered by it; but really and honestly,
considering Becky in her human character, we know of none which so
thoroughly satisfies our highest _beau idéal_ of feminine wickedness,
with so slight a shock to our feelings and properties. It is very
dreadful, doubtless, that Becky neither loved the husband who loved her,
nor the child of her own flesh and blood, nor indeed any body but
herself; but, as far as she is concerned, we cannot pretend to be
scandalized--for how could she without a heart? It is very shocking of
course that she committed all sorts of dirty tricks, and jockeyed her
neighbours, and never cared what she trampled under foot if it happened
to obstruct her step; but how could she be expected to do otherwise
without a conscience? The poor little woman was most tryingly placed;
she came into the world without the customary letters of credit upon
those two great bankers of humanity, "Heart and Conscience," and it was
no fault of hers if they dishonoured all her bills. All she could do in
this dilemma was to establish the firmest connexion with the inferior
commercial branches of "Sense and Tact," who secretly do much business
in the name of the head concern, and with whom her "fine frontal
development" gave her unlimited credit. She saw that selfishness was the
metal which the stamp of heart was suborned to pass; that hypocrisy was
the homage that vice rendered to virtue; that honesty was, at all
events, acted, because it was the best policy; and so she practised the
arts of selfishness and hypocrisy like anybody else in Vanity Fair, only
with this difference, that she brought them to their highest possible
pitch of perfection. For why is it that, looking round in this world, we
find plenty of characters to compare with her up to a certain pitch, but
none which reach her actual standard? Why is it that, speaking of this
friend or that, we say in the tender mercies of our hearts, "No, she is
not _quite_ so bad as Becky?" We fear not only because she has more
heart and conscience, but also because she has less cleverness.

No; let us give Becky her due. There is enough in this world of ours, as
we all know, to provoke a saint, far more a poor little devil like her.
She had none of those fellow-feelings which make us wondrous kind. She
saw people around her cowards in vice, and simpletons in virtue, and she
had no patience with either, for she was as little the one as the other
herself. She saw women who loved their husbands and yet teazed them, and
ruining their children although they doated upon them, and she sneered
at their utter inconsistency. Wickedness or goodness, unless coupled
with strength, were alike worthless to her. That weakness which is the
blessed pledge of our humanity, was to her only the despicable badge of
our imperfection. She thought, it might be, of her master's words,
"Fallen Cherub! to be weak is to be miserable!" and wondered how we
could be such fools as first to sin and then to be sorry. Becky's light
was defective, but she acted up to it. Her goodness goes as far as good
temper, and her principles as far as shrewd sense, and we may thank her
consistency for showing us what they are both worth.

It is another thing to pretend to settle whether such a character be
_primâ facie_ impossible, though devotion to the better sex might well
demand the assertion. There are mysteries of iniquity, under the
semblance of man and woman, read of in history, or met with in the
unchronicled sufferings of private life, which would almost make us
believe that the powers of Darkness occasionally made use of this earth
for a Foundling Hospital, and sent their imps to us, already provided
with a return-ticket. We shall not decide on the lawfulness or otherwise
of any attempt to depict such importations; we can only rest perfectly
satisfied that, granting the author's premises, it is impossible to
imagine them carried out with more felicitous skill and more exquisite
consistency than in the heroine of "Vanity Fair." At all events, the
infernal regions have no reason to be ashamed of little Becky, nor the
ladies either: she has, at least, all the cleverness of the sex.

The great charm, therefore, and comfort of Becky is, that we may study
her without any compunctions. The misery of this life is not the evil
that we see, but the good and the evil which are so inextricably twisted
together. It is that perpetual memento ever meeting one--

  How in this vile world below
  Noblest things find vilest using,

that is so very distressing to those who have hearts as well as eyes.
But Becky relieves them of all this pain--at least in her own person.
Pity would be thrown away upon one who has not heart enough for it to
ache even for herself. Becky is perfectly happy, as all must be who
excel in what they love best. Her life is one exertion of successful
power. Shame never visits her, for "'Tis conscience that makes cowards
of us all"--and she has none. She realizes that _ne plus ultra_ of
sublunary comfort which it was reserved for a Frenchman to define--the
blessed combination of _"le bon estomac et le mauvais coeur"_: for Becky
adds to her other good qualities that of an excellent digestion.

Upon the whole, we are not afraid to own that we rather enjoy her _ignis
fatuus_ course, dragging the weak and the vain and the selffish
[Transcriber's note: sic], through mud and mire, after her, and acting
all parts, from the modest rushlight to the gracious star, just as it
suits her. Clever little imp that she is! What exquisite tact she
shows!--what unflagging good humour!--what ready self-possession! Becky
never disappoints us; she never even makes us tremble. We know that her
answer will come exactly suiting her one particular object, and
frequently three or four more in prospect. What respect, too, she has
for those decencies which more virtuous, but more stupid humanity, often
disdains! What detection of all that is false and mean! What instinct
for all that is true and great! She is her master's true pupil in that:
she knows what is really divine as well as he, and bows before it. She
honours Dobbin in spite of his big feet; she respects her husband more
than ever she did before, perhaps for the first time, at the very moment
when he is stripping not only her jewels, but name, honour, and comfort
off her.

We are not so sure either whether we are justified in calling hers _"le
mauvais coeur."_ Becky does not pursue any one vindictively; she never
does gratuitous mischief. The fountain is more dry than poisoned. She is
even generous--when she can afford it. Witness that burst of plain
speaking in Dobbin's favour to the little dolt Amelia, for which we
forgive her many a sin. 'Tis true she wanted to get rid of her; but let
that pass. Becky was a thrifty dame, and liked to despatch two birds
with one stone. And she was honest, too, after a fashion. The part of
wife she acts at first as well, and better than most; but as for that of
mother, there she fails from the beginning. She knew that maternal love
was no business of hers--that a fine frontal development could give her
no help there--and puts so little spirit into her imitation that no one
could be taken in for a moment. She felt that that bill, of all others,
would be sure to be dishonoured, and it went against her conscience--we
mean her sense--to send it in.

In short, the only respect in which Becky's course gives us pain is when
it locks itself into that of another, and more genuine child of this
earth. No one can regret those being entangled in her nets whose vanity
and meanness of spirit alone led them into its meshes--such are rightly
served; but we do grudge her that real sacred thing called _love_, even
of a Rawdon Crawley, who has more of that self-forgetting, all-purifying
feeling for his little evil spirit than many a better man has for a good
woman. We do grudge Becky _a heart_, though it belong only to a
swindler. Poor, sinned against, vile, degraded, but still true-hearted
Rawdon!--you stand next in our affections and sympathies to honest
Dobbin himself. It was the instinct of a good nature which made the
Major feel that the stamp of the Evil One was upon Becky; and it was the
stupidity of a good nature which made the Colonel never suspect it. He
was a cheat, a black-leg, an unprincipled dog; but still "Rawdon _is_ a
man, and be hanged to him," as the Rector says. We follow him through
the illustrations, which are, in many instances, a delightful
enhancement to the text--as he stands there, with his gentle eyelid,
coarse moustache, and foolish chin, bringing up Becky's coffee-cup with
a kind of dumb fidelity; or looking down at little Rawdon with a more
than paternal tenderness. All Amelia's philoprogenitive idolatries do
not touch us like one fond instinct of "stupid Rawdon."

Dobbin sheds a halo over all the long-necked, loose-jointed,
Scotch-looking gentlemen of our acquaintance. Flat feet and flap ears
seem henceforth incompatible with evil. He reminds us of one of the
sweetest creations that have appeared from any modern pen--that plain,
awkward, loveable "Long Walter," in Lady Georgina Fullerton's beautiful
novel of "Grantley Manor." Like him, too, in his proper self-respect; for
Dobbin--lumbering, heavy, shy, and absurdly over modest as the ugly fellow
is--is yet true to himself. At one time he seems to be sinking into the
mere abject dangler after Amelia; but he breaks his chains like a man, and
resumes them again like a man, too, although half disenchanted of his
amiable delusion.

But to return for a moment to Becky. The only criticism we would offer
is one which the author has almost disarmed by making her mother a
Frenchwoman. The construction of this little clever monster is
diabolically French. Such a _lusus naturae_ as a woman without a heart
and conscience would, in England, be a mere brutal savage, and poison
half a village. France is the land for the real Syren, with the woman's
face and the dragon's claws. The genus of Pigeon and Laffarge claims it
for its own--only that our heroine takes a far higher class by not
requiring the vulgar matter of fact of crime to develop her full powers.
It is an affront to Becky's tactics to believe that she could ever be
reduced to so low a resource, or, that if she were, anybody would find
it out. We, therefore, cannot sufficiently applaud the extreme
discretion with which Mr. Thackeray has hinted at the possibly assistant
circumstances of Joseph Sedley's dissolution. A less delicacy of
handling would have marred the harmony of the whole design. Such a
casualty as that suggested to our imagination was not intended for the
light net of Vanity Fair to draw on shore; it would have torn it to
pieces. Besides it is not wanted. Poor little Becky is bad enough to
satisfy the most ardent student of "good books." Wickedness, beyond a
certain pitch, gives no increase of gratification even to the sternest
moralist; and one of Mr. Thackeray's excellences is the sparing quantity
he consumes. The whole _use_, too, of the work--that of generously
measuring one another by this standard--is lost, the moment you convict
Becky of a capital crime. Who can, with any face, liken a dear friend to
a murderess? Whereas now there are no little symptoms of fascinating
ruthlessness, graceful ingratitude, or ladylike selfishness, observable
among our charming acquaintance, that we may not immediately detect to
an inch, and more effectually intimidate by the simple application of
the Becky gauge than by the most vehement use of all ten commandments.
Thanks to Mr. Thackeray, the world is now provided with an _idea_,
which, if we mistake not, will be the skeleton in the corner of every
ball-room and boudoir for a long time to come. Let us leave it intact in
its unique fount and freshness--a Becky, and nothing more. We should,
therefore, advise our readers to cut out that picture of our heroine's
"Second Appearance as Clytemnestra," which casts so uncomfortable a
glare over the latter part of the volume, and, disregarding all hints
and inuendoes, simply to let the changes and chances of this moral life
have due weight in their minds. Jos had been much in India. His was a
bad life; he ate and drank most imprudently, and his digestion was not
to be compared with Becky's. No respectable office would have ensured
"Waterloo Sedley."

"Vanity Fair" is pre-eminently a novel of the day--not in the vulgar
sense, of which there are too many, but as a literal photograph of the
manners and habits of the nineteenth century, thrown on to paper by the
light of a powerful mind; and one also of the most artistic effect. Mr.
Thackeray has a peculiar adroitness in leading on the fancy, or rather
memory of his readers from one set of circumstances to another by the
seeming chances and coincidences of common life, as an artist leads the
spectator's eye through the subject of his picture by a skilful
repetition of colour. This is why it is impossible to quote from his
book with any justice to it. The whole growth of the narrative is so
matted and interwoven together with tendril-like links and bindings,
that there is no detaching a flower with sufficient length of stalk to
exhibit it to advantage. There is that mutual dependence in his
characters which is the first requisite in painting every-day life: no
one is stuck on a separate pedestal--no one is sitting for his portrait.
There may be one exception--we mean Sir Pitt Crawley, senior; it is
possible, nay, we hardly doubt, that this baronet was closer drawn from
individual life than anybody else in the book; but granting that fact,
the animal was so unique an exception, that we wonder so shrewd an
artist could stick him into a gallery so full of our familiars. The
scenes in Germany, we can believe, will seem to many readers of an
English book hardly less extravagantly absurd--grossly and gratuitously
overdrawn; but the initiated will value them as containing some of the
keenest strokes of truth and humour that "Vanity Fair" exhibits, and not
enjoy them the less for being at our neighbour's expense. For the
thorough appreciation of the chief character they are quite
indispensable too. The whole course of the work may be viewed as the
_Wander-Jahre_ of a far cleverer female, _Wilhelm Meister_. We have
watched her in the ups-and-downs of life--among the humble, the
fashionable, the great, and the pious--and found her ever new, yet ever
the same; but still Becky among the students was requisite to complete
the full measure of our admiration.

"Jane Eyre," as a work, and one of equal popularity, is, in almost every
respect, a total contrast to "Vanity Fair." The characters and events,
though some of them masterly in conception, are coined expressly for the
purpose of bringing out great effects. The hero and heroine are beings
both so singularly unattractive that the reader feels they can have no
vocation in the novel but to be brought together; and they do things
which, though not impossible, lie utterly beyond the bounds of
probability. On this account a short sketch of the plan seems requisite;
not but what it is a plan familiar enough to all readers of novels--
especially those of the old school and those of the lowest school of our
own day. For Jane Eyre is merely another Pamela, who, by the force of
her character and the strength of her principles, is carried
victoriously through great trials and temptations from the man she
loves. Nor is she even a Pamela adapted and refined to modern notions;
for though the story is conducted without those derelictions of decorum
which we are to believe had their excuse in the manners of Richardson's
time, yet it stamped with a coarseness of language and laxity of tone
which have certainly no excuse in ours. It is a very remarkable book: we
have no remembrance of another combining such genuine power with such
horrid taste. Both together have equally assisted to gain the great
popularity it has enjoyed; for in these days of extravagant adoration of
all that bears the stamp of novelty and originality, sheer rudeness and
vulgarity have come in for a most mistaken worship.

The story is written in the first person. Jane begins with her earliest
recollections, and at once takes possession of the readers' intensest
interest by the masterly picture of a strange and oppressed child she
raises up in a few strokes before him. She is an orphan, and a dependant
in the house of a selfish, hard-hearted aunt, against whom the
disposition of the little Jane chafes itself in natural antipathy, till
she contrives to make the unequal struggle as intolerable to her
oppressor as it is to herself. She is, therefore, at eight years of age,
got rid of to a sort of Dothegirls Hall, where she continues to enlist
our sympathies for a time with her little pinched fingers, cropped hair,
and empty stomach. But things improve: the abuses of the institution are
looked into. The Puritan patron, who holds that young orphan girls are
only safely brought up upon the rules of La Trappe, is superseded by an
enlightened committee--the school assumes a sound English character--
Jane progresses duly from scholar to teacher, and passes ten profitable
and not unhappy years at Lowood. Then she advertises for a situation as
governess, and obtains one immediately in one of the midland counties.
We see her, therefore, as she leaves Lowood, to enter upon a new life--a
small, plain, odd creature, who has been brought up dry upon school
learning, and somewhat stunted accordingly in mind and body, and who is
now thrown upon the world as ignorant of its ways, and as destitute of
its friendships, as a shipwrecked mariner upon a strange coast.

Thornfield Hall is the property of Mr. Rochester--a bachelor addicted to
travelling. She finds it at first in all the peaceful prestige of an
English gentleman's seat when "nobody is at the hall." The companions
are an old decayed gentlewoman housekeeper--a far away cousin of the
squire's--and a young French child, Jane's pupil, Mr. Rochester's ward
and reputed daughter. There is a pleasing monotony in the summer
solitude of the old country house, with its comfort, respectability, and
dulness, which Jane paints to the life; but there is one circumstance
which varies the sameness and casts a mysterious feeling over the scene.
A strange laugh is heard from time to time in a distant part of the
house--a laugh which grates discordantly upon Jane's ear. She listens,
watches, and inquires, but can discover nothing but a plain matter of
fact woman, who sits sewing somewhere in the attics, and goes up and
down stairs peaceably to and from her dinner with the servants. But a
mystery there is, though nothing betrays it, and it comes in with
marvellous effect from the monotonous reality of all around. After
awhile Mr. Rochester comes to Thornfield, and sends for the child and
her governess occasionally to bear him company. He is a dark,
strange-looking man--strong and large--of the brigand stamp, with fine
eyes and lowering brows--blunt and sarcastic in his manners, with a kind
of misanthropical frankness, which seems based upon utter contempt for
his fellow-creatures and a surly truthfulness which is more rudeness than
honesty. With his arrival disappears all the prestige of country
innocence that had invested Thornfield Hall. He brings the taint of the
world upon him, and none of its illusions. The queer little governess is
something new to him. He talks to her at one time imperiously as to a
servant, and at another recklessly as to a man. He pours into her ears
disgraceful tales of his past life, connected with the birth of little
Adele, which any man with common respect for a woman, and that a mere
girl of eighteen, would have spared her; but which eighteen in this case
listens to as if it were nothing new, and certainly nothing distasteful.
He is captious and Turk-like--she is one day his confidant, and another
his unnoticed dependant. In short, by her account, Mr. Rochester is a
strange brute, somewhat in the Squire Western style of absolute and
capricious eccentricity, though redeemed in him by signs of a cultivated
intellect, and gleams of a certain fierce justice of heart. He has a
_mind_, and when he opens it at all, he opens it freely to her. Jane
becomes attached to her "master," as Pamela-like she calls him, and it
is not difficult to see that solitude and propinquity are taking effect
upon him also. An odd circumstance heightens the dawning romance. Jane
is awoke one night by that strange discordant laugh close to her ear--
then a noise as if hands feeling along the wall. She rises--opens her
door, finds the passage full of smoke, is guided by it to her master's
room, whose bed she discovers enveloped in flames, and by her timely aid
saves his life. After this they meet no more for ten days, when Mr.
Rochester returns from a visit to a neighbouring family, bringing with
him a housefull of distinguished guests; at the head of whom is Miss
Blanche Ingram, a haughty beauty of high birth, and evidently the
especial object of the Squire's attentions--upon which tumultuous
irruption Miss Eyre slips back into her naturally humble position.

Our little governess is now summoned away to attend her aunt's death-bed,
who is visited by some compunctions towards her, and she is absent
a month. When she returns Thornfield Hall is quit of all its guests, and
Mr. Rochester and she resume their former life of captious cordiality on
the one side, and diplomatic humility on the other. At the same time the
bugbear of Miss Ingram and of Mr. Rochester's engagement with her is
kept up, though it is easy to see that this and all concerning that lady
is only a stratagem to try Jane's character and affection upon the most
approved Griselda precedent. Accordingly an opportunity for explanation
ere long offers itself, where Mr. Rochester has only to take it. Miss
Eyre is desired to walk with him in shady alleys, and to sit with him on
the roots of an old chestnut-tree towards the close of evening, and of
course she cannot disobey her "master"--whereupon there ensues a scene
which, as far as we remember, is new equally in art or nature; in which
Miss Eyre confesses her love--whereupon Mr. Rochester drops not only his
cigar (which she seems to be in the habit of lighting for him) but his
mask, and finally offers not only heart, but hand. The wedding day is
soon fixed, but strange misgivings and presentiments haunt the young
lady's mind. The night but one before her bed-room is entered by a
horrid phantom, who tries on the wedding veil, sends Jane into a swoon
of terror, and defeats all the favourite refuge of a bad dream by
leaving the veil in two pieces. But all is ready. The bride has no
friends to assist--the couple walk to church--only the clergyman and the
clerk are there--but Jane's quick eye has seen two figures lingering
among the tombstones, and these two follow them into church. The
ceremony commences, when at the due charge which summons any man to come
forward and show just cause why they should not be joined together, a
voice interposes to forbid the marriage. There is an impediment, and a
serious one. The bridegroom has a wife not only living, but living under
the very roof of Thornfield Hall. Hers was that discordant laugh which
had so often caught Jane's ear; she it was who in her malice had tried
to burn Mr. Rochester in his bed--who had visited Jane by night and torn
her veil, and whose attendant was that same pretended sew-woman who had
so strongly excited Jane's curiosity. For Mr. Rochester's wife is a
creature, half fiend, half maniac, whom he had married in a distant part
of the world, and whom now, in self-constituted code of morality, he had
thought it his right, and even his duty, to supersede by a more
agreeable companion. Now follow scenes of a truly tragic power. This is
the grand crisis in Jane's life. Her whole soul is wrapt up in Mr.
Rochester. He has broken her trust, but not diminished her love. He
entreats her to accept all that he still can give, his heart and his
home; he pleads with the agony not only of a man who has never known
what it was to conquer a passion, but of one who, by that same
self-constituted code, now burns to atone for a disappointed crime. There
is no one to help her against him or against herself. Jane had no friends
to stand by her at the altar, and she has none to support her now she is
plucked away from it. There is no one to be offended or disgraced at her
following him to the sunny land of Italy, as he proposes, till the
maniac should die. There is no duty to any one but to herself, and this
feeble reed quivers and trembles beneath the overwhelming weight of love
and sophistry opposed to it. But Jane triumphs; in the middle of the
night she rises--glides out of her room--takes off her shoes as she
passes Mr. Rochester's chamber;--leaves the house, and casts herself
upon a world more desert than ever to her--

  Without a shilling and without a friend.

Thus the great deed of self-conquest is accomplished; Jane has passed
through the fire of temptation from without and from within; her
character is stamped from that day; we need therefore follow her no
further into wanderings and sufferings which, though not unmixed with
plunder from Minerva-lane, occupy some of, on the whole, the most
striking chapters in the book. Virtue of course finds her reward. The
maniac wife sets fire to Thornfield Hall, and perishes herself in the
flames. Mr. Rochester, in endeavouring to save her, loses the sight of
his eyes. Jane rejoins her blind master; they are married, after which
of course the happy man recovers his sight.

Such is the outline of a tale in which, combined with great materials
for power and feeling, the reader may trace gross inconsistencies and
improbabilities, and chief and foremost that highest moral offence a
novel writer can commit, that of making an unworthy character
interesting in the eyes of the reader. Mr. Rochester is a man who
deliberately and secretly seeks to violate the laws both of God and man,
and yet we will be bound half our lady readers are enchanted with him
for a model of generosity and honour. We would have thought that such a
hero had had no chance, in the purer taste of the present day; but the
popularity of Jane Eyre is a proof how deeply the love for illegitimate
romance is implanted in our nature. Not that the author is strictly
responsible for this. Mr. Rochester's character is tolerably consistent.
He is made as coarse and as brutal as can in all conscience be required
to keep our sympathies at a distance. In point of literary consistency
the hero is at all events impugnable, though we cannot say as much for
the heroine.

As to Jane's character--there is none of that harmonious unity about it
which made little Becky so grateful a subject of analysis--nor are the
discrepancies of that kind which have their excuse and their response in
our nature. The inconsistencies of Jane's character lie mainly not in
her own imperfections, though of course she has her share, but in the
author's. There is that confusion in the relations between cause and
effect, which is not so much untrue to human nature as to human art. The
error in Jane Eyre is, not that her character is this or that, but that
she is made one thing in the eyes of her imaginary companions, and
another in that of the actual reader. There is a perpetual disparity
between the account she herself gives of the effect she produces, and
the means shown us by which she brings that effect about. We hear
nothing but self-eulogiums on the perfect tact and wondrous penetration
with which she is gifted, and yet almost every word she utters offends
us, not only with the absence of these qualities, but with the positive
contrasts of them, in either her pedantry, stupidity, or gross
vulgarity. She is one of those ladies who puts us in the unpleasant
predicament of undervaluing their very virtues for dislike of the person
in whom they are represented. One feels provoked as Jane Eyre stands
before us--for in the wonderful reality of her thoughts and
descriptions, she seems accountable for all done in her name--with
principles you must approve in the main, and yet with language and
manners that offend you in every particular. Even in that _chef-d'oeuvre_
of brilliant retrospective sketching, the description of her
early life, it is the childhood and not the child that interests you.
The little Jane, with her sharp eyes and dogmatic speeches, is a being
you neither could fondle nor love. There is a hardness in her infantine
earnestness, and a spiteful precocity in her reasoning, which repulses
all our sympathy. One sees that she is of a nature to dwell upon and
treasure up every slight and unkindness, real or fancied, and such
natures we know are surer than any others to meet with plenty of this
sort of thing. As the child, so also the woman--an uninteresting,
sententious, pedantic thing; with no experience of the world, and yet
with no simplicity or freshness in its stead. What are her first answers
to Mr. Rochester but such as would have quenched all interest, even for
a prettier woman, in any man of common knowledge of what was nature--and
especially in a _blasé_ monster like him?

       *       *       *       *       *

But the crowning scene is the offer--governesses are said to be sly on
such occasions, but Jane out-governesses them all--little Becky would
have blushed for her. They are sitting together at the foot of the old
chestnut tree, as we have already mentioned, towards the close of
evening, and Mr. Rochester is informing her, with his usual delicacy of
language, that he is engaged to Miss Ingram--"a strapper! Jane, a real
strapper!"--and that as soon as he brings home his bride to Thornfield,
she, the governess, must "trot forthwith"--but that he shall make it his
duty to look out for employment and an asylum for her--indeed, that he
has already heard of a charming situation in the depths of Ireland--all
with a brutal jocoseness which most women of spirit, unless grievously
despairing of any other lover, would have resented, and any woman of
sense would have seen through. But Jane, that profound reader of the
human heart, and especially of Mr. Rochester's, does neither. She meekly
hopes she may be allowed to stay where she is till she has found another
shelter to betake herself to--she does not fancy going to Ireland--Why?

  "It is a long way off, Sir." "No matter--a girl of your sense will not
  object to the voyage or the distance." "Not the voyage, but the
  distance, Sir; and then the sea is a barrier--" "From what, Jane?"
  "From England, and from Thornfield; and--" "Well?" "From _you_, Sir."
 --vol. ii, p. 205.

and then the lady bursts into tears in the most approved fashion.

Although so clever in giving hints, how wonderfully slow she is in
taking them! Even when, tired of his cat's play, Mr. Rochester proceeds
to rather indubitable demonstrations of affection--"enclosing me in his
arms, gathering me to his breast, pressing his lips on my lips"--Jane
has no idea what he can mean. Some ladies would have thought it high
time to leave the Squire alone with his chestnut tree; or, at all
events, unnecessary to keep up that tone of high-souled feminine
obtusity which they are quite justified in adopting if gentlemen will
not speak out--but Jane again does neither. Not that we say she was
wrong, but quite the reverse, considering the circumstances of the case--
Mr. Rochester was her master, and "Duchess or nothing" was her first
duty--only she was not quite so artless as the author would have us
suppose.

But if the manner in which she secures the prize be not inadmissible
according to the rules of the art, that in which she manages it when
caught, is quite without authority or precedent, except perhaps in the
servants' hall. Most lover's play is wearisome and nonsensical to the
lookers on--but the part Jane assumes is one which could only be
efficiently sustained by the substitution of Sam for her master. Coarse
as Mr. Rochester is, one winces for him under the infliction of this
housemaid _beau idéal_ of the arts of coquetry. A little more, and we
should have flung the book aside to lie for ever among the trumpery with
which such scenes ally it; but it were a pity to have halted here, for
wonderful things lie beyond--scenes of suppressed feeling, more fearful
to witness than the most violent tornados of passion--struggles with
such intense sorrow and suffering as it is sufficient misery to know
that any one should have conceived, far less passed through; and yet
with that stamp of truth which takes precedence in the human heart
before actual experience. The flippant, fifth-rate, plebeian actress has
vanished, and only a noble, high-souled woman, bound to us by the
reality of her sorrow, and yet raised above us by the strength of her
will, stands in actual life before us. If this be Jane Eyre, the author
has done her injustice hitherto, not we.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have said that this was the picture of a natural heart. This, to our
view, is the great and crying mischief of the book. Jane Eyre is
throughout the personification of an unregenerate and undisciplined
spirit, and more dangerous to exhibit from that prestige of principle
and self-control which is liable to dazzle the eye too much for it to
observe the inefficient and unsound foundation on which it rests. It is
true Jane does right, and exerts great moral strength, but it is the
strength of a mere heathen mind which is a law unto itself. No Christian
grace is perceptible upon her. She has inherited in fullest measure the
worst sin of our fallen nature--the sin of pride. Jane Eyre is proud,
and therefore she is ungrateful too. It pleased God to make her an
orphan, friendless, and penniless--yet she thanks nobody, and least of
all Him, for the food and raiment, the friends, companions, and
instructors of her helpless youth--for the care and education vouchsafed
to her till she was capable in mind as fitted in years to provide for
herself. On the contrary, she looks upon all that has been done for her
not only as her undoubted right, but as falling far short of it. The
doctrine of humility is not more foreign to her mind than it is
repudiated by her heart. It is by her own talents, virtues, and courage
that she is made to attain the summit of human happiness, and, as far as
Jane Eyre's own statement is concerned, no one would think that she owed
anything either to God above or to man below. She flees from Mr.
Rochester, and has not a being to turn to. Why was this? The excellence
of the present institution at Casterton, which succeeded that of Cowan
Bridge near Kirkby Lonsdale--these being distinctly, as we hear, the
original and the reformed Lowoods of the book--is pretty generally
known. Jane had lived there for eight years with 110 girls and fifteen
teachers. Why had she formed no friendships among them? Other orphans
have left the same and similar institutions, furnished with friends for
life, and puzzled with homes to choose from. How comes it that Jane had
acquired neither? Among that number of associates there were surely some
exceptions to what she so presumptuously stigmatises as "the society of
inferior minds." Of course it suited the author's end to represent the
heroine as utterly destitute of the common means of assistance, in order
to exhibit both her trials and her powers of self-support--the whole
book rests on this assumption--but it is one which, under the
circumstances, is very unnatural and very unjust.

Altogether the auto-biography of Jane Eyre is pre-eminently an
anti-Christian composition. There is throughout it a murmuring against the
comforts of the rich and against the privations of the poor, which, as
far as each individual is concerned, is a murmuring against God's
appointment--there is a proud and perpetual assertion of the rights of
man, for which we find no authority either in God's word or in God's
providence--there is that pervading tone of ungodly discontent which is
at once the most prominent and the most subtle evil which the law and
the pulpit, which all civilized society in fact has at the present day
to contend with. We do not hesitate to say that the tone of mind and
thought which has overthrown authority and violated every code human and
divine abroad, and fostered Chartism and rebellion at home, is the same
which has also written Jane Eyre.

Still we say again this is a very remarkable book. We are painfully
alive to the moral, religious, and literary deficiencies of the picture,
and such passages of beauty and power as we have quoted cannot redeem
it, but it is impossible not to be spell-bound with the freedom of the
touch. It would be mere hackneyed courtesy to call it "fine writing." It
bears no impress of being written at all, but is poured out rather in
the heat and hurry of an instinct, which flows ungovernably on to its
object, indifferent by what means it reaches it, and unconscious too. As
regards the author's chief object, however, it is a failure--that,
namely, of making a plain, odd woman, destitute of all the conventional
features of feminine attraction, interesting in our sight. We deny that
he has succeeded in this. Jane Eyre, in spite of some grand things about
her, is a being totally uncongenial to our feelings from beginning to
end. We acknowledge her firmness--we respect her determination--we feel
for her struggles; but, for all that, and setting aside higher
considerations, the impression she leaves on our mind is that of a
decidedly vulgar-minded woman--one whom we should not care for as an
acquaintance, whom we should not seek as a friend, whom we should not
desire for a relation, and whom we should scrupulously avoid for a
governess.

There seems to have arisen in the novel-reading world some doubts as to
who really wrote this book; and various rumours, more or less romantic,
have been current in Mayfair, the metropolis of gossip, as to the
authorship. For example, Jane Eyre is sentimentally assumed to have
proceeded from the pen of Mr. Thackeray's governess, whom he had himself
chosen as his model of Becky, and who, in mingled love and revenge,
personified him in return as Mr. Rochester. In this case, it is evident
that the author of "Vanity Fair," whose own pencil makes him grey-haired,
has had the best of it, though his children may have had the
worst, having, at all events, succeeded in hitting the vulnerable point
in the Becky bosom, which it is our firm belief no man born of woman,
from her Soho to her Ostend days, had ever so much as grazed. To this
ingenious rumour the coincidence of the second edition of Jane Eyre
being dedicated to Mr. Thackeray has probably given rise. For our parts,
we see no great interest in the question at all. The first edition of
Jane Eyre purports to be edited by Currer Bell, one of a trio of
brothers, or sisters, or cousins, by names Currer, Acton, and Ellis
Bell, already known as the joint-authors of a volume of poems. The
second edition the same--dedicated, however, "by the author," to Mr.
Thackeray; and the dedication (itself an indubitable _chip_ of Jane
Eyre) signed Currer Bell. Author and editor therefore are one, and we
are as much satisfied to accept this double individual under the name of
"Currer Bell," as under any other, more or less euphonious. Whoever it
be, it is a person who, with great mental powers, combines a total
ignorance of the habits of society, a great coarseness of taste, and a
heathenish doctrine of religion. And as these characteristics appear
more or less in the writings of all three, Currer, Acton, and Ellis
alike, for their poems differ less in degree of power than in kind, we
are ready to accept the fact of their identity or of their relationship
with equal satisfaction. At all events there can be no interest attached
to the writer of "Wuthering Heights "--a novel succeeding "Jane Eyre,"
and purporting to be written by Ellis Bell--unless it were for the sake
of more individual reprobation. For though there is a decided family
likeness between the two, yet the aspect of the Jane and Rochester
animals in their native state, as Catherine and Heathfield
[Transcriber's note: sic], is too odiously and abominably pagan to be
palatable even to the most vitiated class of English readers. With all
the unscrupulousness of the French school of novels it combines that
repulsive vulgarity in the choice of its vice which supplies its own
antidote. The question of authorship, therefore, can deserve a moment's
curiosity only as far as "Jane Eyre" is concerned, and though we cannot
pronounce that it appertains to a real Mr. Currer Bell and to no other,
yet that it appertains to a man, and not, as many assert, to a woman, we
are strongly inclined to affirm. Without entering into the question
whether the power of the writing be above her, or the vulgarity below
her, there are, we believe, minutiae of circumstantial evidence which at
once acquit the feminine hand. No woman--a lady friend, whom we are
always happy to consult, assures us--makes mistakes in her own _métier_--
no woman _trusses game_ and garnishes dessert-dishes with the same
hands, or talks of so doing in the same breath. Above all, no woman
attires another in such fancy dresses as Jane's ladies assume--Miss
Ingram coming down, irresistible, "in a _morning_ robe of sky-blue
crape, a gauze azure scarf twisted in her hair!!" No lady, we
understand, when suddenly roused in the night, would think of hurrying
on "_a frock_." They have garments more convenient for such occasions,
and more becoming too. This evidence seems incontrovertible. Even
granting that these incongruities were purposely assumed, for the sake
of disguising the female pen, there is nothing gained; for if we ascribe
the book to a woman at all, we have no alternative but to ascribe it to
one who has, for some sufficient reason, long forfeited the society of
her own sex.



ON GEORGE ELIOT

[From _The Quarterly Review_, October, 1860]

1. _Scenes of Clerical Life_ [containing _The Sad Fortunes of the
Reverend Amos Barton; Mr. Gilfil's Love Story_; and _Janet's
Repentance_]. By GEORGE ELIOT. Second Edition. 2 vols. Edinburgh and
London, 1859.

2. _Adam Bede_. By GEORGE ELIOT. Sixth Edition, 2 vols. 1859.

3. _The Mill on the Floss_. By GEORGE ELIOT. 3 vols. 1860.


We frequently hear the remark, that in the present day everything is
tending to uniformity--that all minds are taught to think alike, that
the days of novelty have departed. To us, however, it appears that the
age abounds in new and abnormal modes of thought--we had almost said,
forms of being. What could be so new and so unlikely as that the young
and irreproachable maiden daughter of a clergyman should have produced
so extraordinary a work as "Jane Eyre,"--a work of which we were
compelled to express the opinion that the unknown and mysterious "Currer
Bell" held "a heathenish doctrine of religion"; that the ignorance which
the book displayed as to the proprieties of female dress was hardly
compatible with the idea of its having been written by a woman; but
that, if a woman at all, the writer must be "one who had, for some
sufficient reason, long forfeited the society of her own sex."

In attempting to guess at the character and circumstances of the writer,
a reviewer could only choose among such types of men and women as he had
known, or heard, or read of. An early European settler in Australia, in
conjecturing whether his garden had been ravaged by a bird or by a
quadruped, would not light readily on the conception of an
ornithorhynchus; and assuredly no one accustomed only to ordinary men
and women could have divined the character, the training, and the
position of Charlotte Brontë, as they have been made known to us by her
biographer's unsparing revelations. It was not to be expected that any
one should have imagined the life of Howorth [Trasncriber's note: sic]
parsonage; the gifted, wayward, and unhappy sisterhood in their
cheerless home; the rudeness of the only society which was within their
reach; while their views of anything beyond their own immediate circle,
and certain unpleasing forms of school-life which they had known, were
drawn from the representations of a brother whose abilities they
regarded with awe, but who in other respects appears to have been an
utterly worthless debauchee; lying and slandering, bragging not only of
the sins which he had committed, but of many which he had not committed;
thoroughly depraved himself, and tainting the thoughts of all within his
sphere. There was, therefore, in "Jane Eyre," as the reviewer supposed,
the influence of a corrupt male mind, although this influence had been
exerted through an unsuspected medium. We now know how it was that a
clergyman's daughter, herself innocent, and honourably devoted to the
discharge of many a painful duty, could have written such a book as
"Jane Eyre" but without such explanations as Mrs. Gaskell has placed
(perhaps somewhat too unreservedly) before the world, the thing would
have been inconceivable. Indeed there is very sufficient evidence that
the Quarterly reviewer was by no means alone in entertaining the
opinions we have referred to: for the book was most vehemently cried up--
the society of the authoress, when she became known, was most eagerly
courted--assiduous attempts were made (greatly to her annoyance) to
enlist her, to exhibit her, to trade on her fame--by the very persons
who would have been most ready to welcome her if she had been such as
the reviewer supposed her to be. And it is clear that the gentleman who
introduced himself to her acquaintance on the ground that each of them
had "written a naughty book" must have drawn pretty much the same
conclusions from the tone of Miss Brontë's first novel as the writer in
this Review.

In like manner a great and remarkable departure from ordinary forms and
conditions has caused extreme uncertainty and many mistaken guesses as
to the new novelist who writes under the name of George Eliot. One
critic of considerable pretensions, for instance, declared his belief
that "George Eliot" was "a gentleman of high-church tendencies"; next
came the strange mystification which ascribed the "Eliot" tales to one
Mr. Joseph Liggins; and finally, the public learnt on authority that the
"gentleman of high church tendencies" was a lady; and that this lady was
the same who had given a remarkable proof of mastery over both the
German language and her own, but had certainly not established a
reputation for orthodoxy, by a translation of Strauss's "Life of Jesus."

It is now too late to claim credit for having discovered the female
authorship before this disclosure of the fact. But it seems to us
impossible, when once the idea has been suggested, to read through these
books without finding confirmation of it in almost every page. There is,
indeed, power such as is rarely given to woman (or to man either); there
are traces of knowledge which is not usual among women (although some of
the classical quotations might at least have been more correctly
printed); there is a good deal of coarseness, which it is unpleasant to
think of as the work of a woman; and, as we shall have occasion to
observe more fully hereafter, the influence which these novels are
likely to exercise over the public taste is not altogether such as a
woman should aim at. But, with all this, the tone and atmosphere of the
books are unquestionably feminine. The men are a woman's men--the women
are a woman's women; the points on which the descriptions dwell in
persons of each sex are those which a woman would choose. In matters of
dress we are assured that "George Eliot" avoids the errors of "Jane
Eyre"; for no doubt she has had better opportunities of study than those
which were afforded by the Sunday finery of Howorth church. The sketches
of nature, of character, of life and manners, show female observation;
penetrating where it alone could penetrate, and usually stopping at the
boundaries beyond which it does not advance....

On looking at these very slight sketches we cannot but be struck by the
uniformly melancholy ending of the tales. The first culminates in the
death of the heroine (a word which in relation to these stories must be
very loosely interpreted), Mrs. Barton; the second, in the death of the
heroine, Mrs. Gilfil; the third, in the death of the hero, Mr. Tryan;
the fourth, in the death of one of the heroines, Hetty Sorrel; the
fifth, in the simultaneous death of the heroine and her brother, who is,
we suppose, to be regarded as the chief hero. Surely this is an
exaggerated representation of the proportion which sorrow bears to
happiness in human life; and the fact that a popular writer has (whether
consciously or not) brought every one of the five stories which she has
published to a tragical end gives a very uncomfortable idea of the tone
of our present literature. And other such symptoms are only too
plentiful--the announcement of a novel with the title of "Why Paul
Freeoll Killed his Wife" being one of the latest. With all respect for
the talents of the lady who offers us the solution of this question, we
must honestly profess that we would rather not know, and that we regret
such an employment of her pen.

And in "George Eliot's" writings there is very much of this kind to
regret. She delights in unpleasant subjects--in the representation of
things which are repulsive, coarse, and degrading. Thus, in "Mr.
Gilfil's Story," Tina is only prevented from committing murder by the
opportune death of her intended victim. In "Janet's Repentance," a
drunken husband beats his beautiful but drunken wife, turns her out of
doors at midnight in her night-dress, and dies of "_delirium tremens_
and _meningitis_." ...

So, in "Adam Bede" we have all the circumstances of Hetty's seduction
and the birth and murder of her illegitimate child; and in the "Mill on
the Floss" there are the almost indecent details of mere animal passion
in the loves of Stephen and Maggie. If these are, as the writer's more
thorough-going admirers would tell us, the depths of human nature, we do
not see what good can be expected from raking them up,--not for the
benefit of those whom the warnings may concern (for these are not likely
to heed any warnings which may be presented in such a form), but for the
amusement of ordinary readers in hours of idleness and relaxation.
Compare "Adam Bede" with that one of Scott's novels which has something
in common with it as to story--the "Heart of Midlothian." In each a
beautiful young woman of the peasant class is tried and condemned for
child-murder; but, although condemned on circumstancial evidence under a
law of peculiar severity, Effie Deans is really innocent, whereas Hetty
Sorrel is guilty. In the novel of the last generation we see little of
Effie, and our attention is chiefly drawn to the simple heroism of her
sister Jeanie. In the novel of the present day, everything about Hetty
is most elaborately described: her thoughts throughout the whole course
of the seduction, her misery on discovering that there is evidence of
her frailty, her sufferings on the journey to Windsor and back (for it
is the Edie and not the Jeanie of this tale that makes a long solitary
journey to the south), her despairing hardness in the prison, her
confession, her behaviour on the way to the gallows. That all this is
represented with extraordinary force we need not say; and doubtless the
partisans of "George Eliot" would tell us that Scott could not have
written the chapters in question. We do not think it necessary to
discuss that point, but we are sure that in any case he _would_ not have
written them, because his healthy judgment would have rejected such
matters as unfit for the novelist's art.

The boldness with which George Eliot chooses her subjects is very
remarkable. It is not that, like other writers, she fails in the attempt
to represent people as agreeable and interesting, but she knowingly
forces _dis_agreeable people on us, and insists that we shall be
interested in their story by the skill with which it is told. Mr. Amos
Barton, for instance, is as uninteresting a person as can well be
imagined: a dull, obtuse curate, whose poverty gives him no fair claim
to pity; for he has entered the ministry of the English Church without
any particular conviction of its superiority to other religious bodies;
without any special fitness for its ministry; without anything of the
ability which might reasonably entitle him to expect to rise; and
without the private means which are necessary for the support of most
married men in a profession which, if it is not (as it is sometimes
called) a lottery, has very great inequalities of income, and to the
vast majority of those who follow it gives very little indeed. Mr.
Barton is not a gentleman--a defect which the farmers and tradespeople
of his parish are not slow to discover, and for which they despise him.
He is without any misgivings as to himself or suspicion of his
deficiencies in any way, and his conduct is correctly described in a
lisping speech of the "secondary squire" of his parish, "What an ath
Barton makth of himthelf!" Yet for this stupid man our sympathy is
bespoken, merely because he has a wife so much too good for him that we
are almost inclined to be angry with her for her devotion to him.

Tina is an undisciplined, abnormal little creature, without good looks
or any attractive quality except a talent for music, and with a temper
capable of the most furious excesses. Although Janet is described as
handsome, amiable, and cultivated, all these good properties are
overwhelmed in our thoughts of her by the degrading vice of which she is
to be cured; while her prophet, Mr. Tryan, although very zealous in his
work, is avowedly a narrow Calvinist, wanting in intellectual culture,
very irritable, not a little bitter and uncharitable, excessively fond
of applause without being very critical as to the quarter from which it
comes, and strongly possessed with the love of domination. Tom Tulliver
is hard, close, unimaginative, self-confident, repelling, with a stern
rectitude of a certain kind, but with no understanding of or toleration
for any character different from his own. Philip Wakem is a personage as
little pleasant as picturesque. Maggie, as a child--although in her
father's opinion "too clever for a gell"--is foolish, vain, self-willed,
and always in some silly scrape or other; and when grown up, her
behaviour is such, even before the climax of the affair with Stephen
Guest, that the dislike of the St. Ogg's ladies for her might have been
very sufficiently accounted for even if they had not had reason to envy
her superior beauty.

But of all the characters for whom our authoress has been pleased to
bespeak our interest, Hetty Sorrel is the most remarkable for unamiable
qualities. She is represented as "distractingly pretty," and we hear a
great deal about her "kitten-like beauty," and her graceful movements,
looks, and attitudes. But this is all that can be said for her. Her mind
has no room for anything but looks and dress; she has no feeling for
anybody but her little self; and is only too truly declared by Mrs.
Poyser to be "no better than a peacock, as 'ud strut about on the wall,
and spread its tail when the sun shone, if all the folks i' the parish
was dying"--"no better nor a cherry, wi' a hard stone inside it."[1]
Over and over this view of Hetty's character is enforced on us, from the
time when, early in the first volume, we are told that hers "was a
springtide beauty; it was the beauty of young frisking things,
round-limbed, gambolling, circumventing you by a false air of
innocence.[2] ..."

[1] "Adam Bede," i. 228; ii. 75.
[2] _ibid_., i. 119.

Her conduct throughout is such as to offend and disgust; and the
authoress does not seem to be sufficiently aware that, while the
descriptions of the little coquette's beauty leave that to be imagined,
her follies and faults and crimes are set before us as matters of hard,
unmistakeable fact, so that the reader is in no danger of being blinded
by the charms which blinded Adam Bede, and Hetty consequently appears as
little else than contemptible when she is not odious. Yet it is on this
silly, heartless, and wicked little thing that the interest of the story
is made to rest. Her agonies, as we have already said, are depicted with
very great power; yet, if they touch our hearts, it is merely because
they _are_ agonies, and our feeling is unmixed with any regard for the
sufferer herself.

This habit of representing her characters without any concealment of
their faults is, no doubt, connected with that faculty which enables the
authoress to give them so remarkable an air of reality. There are,
indeed, exceptions to this, as there are in almost every work of
fiction. Thus, Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel strike us as old
acquaintances whom we have known not in real life, but in books. We are
not altogether sure of stately old Mrs. Irwine, and are sceptical as to
Dinah Morris, notwithstanding the very great pains which the authoress
has evidently bestowed on her--perhaps because she is utterly unlike
such female Methodists as have fallen within our own (happily, small)
experience; and Bob Jakin is a grotesque caricature, which would have
been far better done by Mr. Dickens, who is undeniably great in the
production of grotesques, although we do not remember that throughout
the whole of his voluminous works he has ever succeeded in embodying a
single natural and lifelike character. But, with a very few exceptions,
"George Eliot's" personages have that appearance of reality in which
those of Mr. Dickens are so conspicuously wanting. And while Mr.
Dickens's views of English life and society are about as far from the
truth as those of the French dramatists and romancers, "George Eliot" is
able to represent the social circumstances in which her action is laid
with the strongest appearance of verisimilitude. We may not ourselves
have known Shepperton, or Hayslope, or St. Ogg's; but we feel as much at
home in them as if we had....

Tulliver may be cited as another well-imagined and well-executed
character, with his downright impetuous honesty, his hatred of
"raskills," and his disposition to see rascality everywhere; his
resolution to stand on his rights, his good-natured contempt for his
wife, his very justifiable dislike of her sisters, his love for his
children, and his determination that they shall have a good education,
cost what it may,--the benefits of education having been impressed on
his mind by his own inability to "wrap up things in words as aren't
actionable," and by the consequent perception that "it's an uncommon
fine thing, that is, when we can let a man know what you think of him
without paying for it."[1] His love of litigation is reconciled with his
belief that "the law is meant to take care o' raskills," and that "Old
Harry made the lawyers" by the principle that the cause which has the
"biggest raskill" for attorney has the best chance of success; so that
honesty need not despair if it can only secure the professional
assistance of accomplished roguery. And when, notwithstanding this, the
law and Mr. Wakem have been too much for him, great skill is shown in
the description of poor Tulliver's latter days; his prostration and
partial recovery; the concentration of his feelings on the desire to
wipe out the dishonour of insolvency, and to avenge himself on the
hostile attorney. Indeed, we confess that, notwithstanding his somewhat
unedifying end, Tulliver is the only person in "The Mill on the Floss"
for whom we can bring ourselves to care much.

[1] "The Mill on the Floss," i. 32.

The reality of which we have been speaking is connected with a peculiar
sort of consciousness in the authoress, as if she had actually witnessed
all that she describes, and were resolved to describe it without any
attempt to refine beyond the naked truth. Thus, the most serious
characters make their most solemn and most pathetic speeches in
provincial dialect and ungrammatical constructions, although it must be
allowed that the authoress has not ventured so far in this way as to
play with the use and abuse of the aspirate. And her dialect appears to
be very carefully studied, although we may doubt whether the
Staffordshire provincialisms of "Clerical Life" and "Adam Bede" are
sufficiently varied when the scene is shifted in the latest book to the
Lincolnshire side of the Humber. But where a greater variation than that
between one midland dialect and another is required, "George Eliot's"
conscientiousness is very curiously shown. There is in "Mr. Gilfil's
Story" a gardener of the name of Bates, who is described as a
Yorkshireman, and in "Adam Bede" there is another gardener, Mr. Craig,
whose name would naturally indicate a Scotchman. Each of these
horticulturists is introduced into the dialogue, and of course the
reader would expect the one to talk Yorkshire and the other to talk some
variety of Scotch. But the authoress, apparently, did not feel herself
mistress of either Scotch or Yorkshire to such a degree as would have
warranted her in attempting them, and therefore, before her characters
are allowed to open their mouths, she, in each case, is careful to tell
us that we must moderate our expectations: "Mr. Bates's lips were of a
peculiar cut, and I fancy this had something to do with the peculiarity
of his dialect, which, as we shall see, was individual rather than
provincial."[1]

[1] "Scenes of Clerical Life," i. 191.

"I think it was Mr. Craig's pedigree only that had the advantage of
being Scotch, and not his 'bringing up'; for, except that he had a
stronger burr in his accent, his speech differed little from that of the
Loamshire people around him."[2] In short, except that lucifer matches
are twice introduced as familiar things in days when the tinder-box was
the only resource in general use for obtaining a light,[3] we have not
observed anything in which the authoress could be "caught out."

[2] "Adam Bede," i. 302.
[3] "Adam Bede," i. 219, 362.

But this conscientious fidelity has very serious drawbacks. It seems as
if the authoress felt herself under an obligation to give everything
literally as it took place; to shut out nothing which is superfluous; to
suppress nothing which is unfit for a work of fiction (for not only have
we a report of Dinah Morris's sermons, but the very words of the prayer
which she put up for Hetty in the prison); to abridge nothing which is
tiresome. People and incidents are described at length, although they
have little or nothing to do with the story. We may mention as instances
the detailed history and character which are given of Tom Tulliver's
tutor, the Reverend Walter Stelling, and the account of Mr. Poyser's
harvest-home, which, however good in itself, is utterly out of place
between the crisis and the conclusion of the story. But most especially
we complain of the fondness which the authoress shows for exhibiting
uninteresting and tiresome people in all their interminable tediousness;
and if the morbid tone which we have already mentioned reminds us of a
French school of novelists, her passion for photographing the minutest
details of dullness reminds us painfully of those American ladies who
contribute so largely to the literature of our railway-stalls, by
flooding their boundless prairies of dingy paper with inexhaustible
masses of blotchy type. We quite admit the naturalness of the
tradespeople and other small folks whom this writer has perhaps explored
more deeply than any earlier novelist; but surely we have far too much
of them. It has indeed been said that we are spoiled by the activity of
the present day for enjoying the faithful picture of what life was in
country parishes and in little country towns fifty years ago; but we
really cannot admit the justice of this attempt to throw the blame on
ourselves. Dullness, we may be sure, has not died out within the last
half century, but is yet to be found in plenty; and, if times were dull
fifty or a hundred years ago, the novelists of those days--Scott and
Fielding, and Smollett, and even Goldsmith in his simple tale--did not
make their readers groan under their dullness....

But _are_ we likely to feel more kindly towards such people as those of
whom we are now complaining, because all their triviality, and
smallness, and tediousness are displayed at wearisome length on paper?
If some Dutch painters bestowed their skill on homely old women and
boozy boors, there is no evidence that they were capable of better
things, and their choice of subjects is no justification for one who
certainly can do better. Nor do we complain that we have an old woman or
a coarse merrymaking occasionally, but that such things in their
monotonous meanness fill whole rooms of "George Eliot's" gallery; and,
in truth, the real parallel to her is not to be found in the old
Dutchmen who honestly painted what was before their eyes, but rather in
the perverseness of our modern "pre-Raphaelites." It is of these
gentlemen--who, by the way, in their reactionary affectations are the
most entire opposites of the simple, unaffected, and forward-striving
artists who really lived before Raphael--it is of these gentlemen, with
their choice of disagreeable subjects, uncomely models, and uncouth
attitudes, their bestowal of superfluous labour on trifling details, and
the consequent obtrusiveness of subordinate things so as to mar the
general effect of the work, that "George Eliot" too often reminds us.

How very wearisome is the conversation of the clique of inferior women
who worship Mr. Tryan! how dismally twaddling is that respectable old
congregationalist, Mr. Jerome, with his tidy little garden and his
"littel chacenut hoss"! We feel for Mr. Tryan when in the society of
such people, although to him it was mitigated by the belief that he was
doing good by associating with them, and that by love of incense from
any quarter which is described as part of his character. But why should
it be inflicted in such fearful doses on us, who have done nothing to
deserve it, who have no "mission" to encounter it, and are entirely
without Mr. Tryan's consolations under the endurance of it?

Adam Bede's mother is another sore trial of the reader's patience--with
her endless fretful chatter, and all the details of her urging her sons,
one after the other, to refresh themselves with cold potatoes: nay, we
are not reconciled to these vegetables even by the fact that on one
occasion they are recommended as "taters wi' the gravy in 'em."[1] But
it is in "The Mill on the Floss" that the plague of tedious conversation
reaches its height. Mrs. Tulliver is one of four married sisters, whose
maiden name had been Dodson, and in these sisters there is a studious
combination of family likeness with individual varieties of character.
Mrs. Tulliver herself--whose "blond" complexion is generally associated
by our authoress with imbecility of mind and character--belongs to that
class of minds of which Mrs. Quickly may be considered as the chief
intellectual type. Mrs. Pullet--the wife of a gentleman farmer, whose
great characteristic is a habit of sucking lozenges, and whom Tom
Tulliver most justly sets down as a "nincompoop"--is almost sillier than
Mrs. Tulliver. She has the gift of tears ever ready to flow, and sheds
them profusely on the anticipation of imaginary and ridiculous woes. Her
favourite vanity consists in drawing dismal pictures of the future and
in priding herself on the bodily sufferings of her neighbours; that one
had "been tapped no end o' times, and the water--they say you might ha'
swum in it if you'd liked"; that another's "breath was short to that
degree as you could hear him two rooms off"; and her highest religion--
the loftiest exercise of her faith and self-denial--is the accumulation
of superfluous clothes and linen, in the hope that they may make a
creditable display after her death. Mrs. Deane is "a thin-lipped woman,
who made small well-considered speeches on peculiar occasions, repeating
them afterwards to her husband, and asking him if she had not spoken
very properly"; and of her we see but little. But of the eldest of the
four, Mrs. Glegg, we see so much that we are really made quite
uncomfortable by her; for she is a very formidable person indeed,--
utterly without kindness, bullying everybody within her reach (her
husband included), holding herself up as a model to everybody, and
shaming all other families--especially those into which she and her
sisters had married--by odious comparisons with the Dodsons. All this we
grant is very cleverly done. The grim Mrs. Glegg and the fatuous Mrs.
Tulliver and Mrs. Pullet talk admirably in their respective kinds; and
we can quite believe that there are people who are not unfairly
represented by the Dodsons--with, the narrow limitation of their
thoughts to their own little circle--the extravagantly high opinion of
their own vulgar family, with the corresponding depreciation of all in
and about their own rank who do not belong to it--their perfect
conviction that their own family traditions (such as the copious eating
of salt in their broth) are the standard of all that is good--their
consecration of all their most elevated feelings to the worship of
furniture, and clothes, and table-linen, and silver spoons--their utter
alienation from all that, in the opinion of educated people, can make
life fit to be enjoyed. The humour of Mrs. Glegg's determination that no
ill desert of a relation shall interfere with the disposal of her
property by will on the most rigidly Dodsonian principles of justice,
according to the several degrees of Dodsonship, is excellent; and so is
the change in her behaviour towards Maggie, whom, after having always
bullied her, she takes up for the sake of Dodsondom's credit when
everybody else has turned against her....

[1] "Adam Bede," i. 54.

The writer does not seem to be aware that the fools and bores of a book,
while they bore the other characters, ought not to bore but to amuse the
reader, and that they will become seriously wearisome to him if there be
too much of them. Shakespeare has contented himself with showing us his
Dogberry and Verges, his Shallow and Slender, and Silence, to such a
degree as may sufficiently display their humours; but he has not filled
whole acts with them, and, even if he had, a five-act play is a small
field for the display of prolix foolishness as compared with a
three-volume novel. Lord Macaulay has been supposed to speak sarcastically
in saying that he "would not advise any person who reads for amusement to
venture on a certain _jeu d'esprit_ of Mr. Sadler's as long as he can
procure a volume of the Statutes at Large";[1] but we are afraid that we
should not be believed if we were to mention the books to which _we_
have had recourse by way of occasional relief from the task of perusing
"George Eliot's" tales.

[1] "Miscellaneous Writings," ii. 68.

In the case of "these emmet-like Dodsons and Tullivers," the authoress
again defends her principle. "I share with you," she says, "the sense of
oppressive narrowness; but it is necessary that we should feel it, if we
care to understand how it acted on the lives of Tom and Maggie."[2] We
must confess that we care very little for Tom and Maggie, who, although
the inscription on their tombstone and the motto on the title-page of
the book tell us that "in their death they were not divided," do not
strike us as having been "lovely and pleasant in their lives." We do not
think the development of the brother and the sister a matter of any
great interest; and, if it were, we believe that a sufficient ground
might have been laid for our understanding it without so severely trying
our patience by the details of the "sordid life" amid which their early
years were spent.

[2] "The Mill on the Floss," ii. 150.

Another mistake, as it appears to us, is the too didactic strain into
which the authoress occasionally falls--writing as if for the purpose of
forcing lessons on children or the poor, rather than for grown-up and
educated readers. The story of "Janet's Repentance" might, with the
omission of a few passages such as the satirical flings at Mr. Tryan's
female worshippers, be made into a very edifying little tract for some
"evangelical" society. Mr. Tryan's opponents are all represented as
brutes and monsters, drunkards and unclean, enemies of all goodness;
while, with the usual unscrupulousness of party tract-writers, we are
required to choose between an alliance with such infamous company and
unreserved adhesion to the Calvanistic curate, without being allowed any
possibility of a third course. And, in addition to Mr. Tryan's victory,
there is the conversion of Mrs. Dempster, not only from drunkenness to
teetotalism (which might form the text for a set of illustrations by Mr.
Cruikshank, in the moral style of his later days), but from hatred to
love of the Gospel according to Mr. Tryan. In its place we should not
care to object to such a story, or to a great deal of the needless talk
which it contains both of sinners and of saints; but we _do_ object to
it in a book which is intended for the lighter reading of educated
people, and the more so because we know that it comes from a writer who
can feel nothing of the bitter but conscientious bigotry which the
composition of such a story in good faith implies....

In reading of Maggie's early indiscretions, we--hardened, grey-headed
reviewers as we are--feel something like a renewal of the shame and
mortification with which, long decades of years ago, we read of the
weaknesses of Frank and Rosamond,--as if we ourselves were the little
girl who made the mistake of choosing the big, bright-coloured bottle
from the chemist's window, or the little boy who allowed himself to be
deceived by the flattery of the lady in the draper's shop. In order that
her hair may have no chance of appearing in curls on a great occasion
(according to her mother's wish), Maggie plunges her head into a basin
of water. On getting an old dress and a bonnet from her unloved aunt
Glegg, she bastes the frock along with the roast beef on the following
Sunday, and souses the bonnet under the pump. In consequence of the
continual remarks of her mother and aunts, about the un-Dodsonlike
colour of her hair, she cuts it all off. She makes the most deplorable
exhibition of her literary vanity at every turn. Out of spite she pushes
her cousin Lucy, when arrayed in the prettiest of dresses, into the
"cow-trodden mud," and thereupon she runs off to a gang of gipsies, with
the intention of becoming their queen,--an adventure from which we are
glad that she is allowed to escape with less of suffering than Miss
Edgeworth might perhaps have felt it a matter of duty to inflict on her.
For the Toms and Maggies, the Franks and Rosamonds, of real life, such
monitory anecdotes as these may be very good and useful; but it seems to
us that they are out of place in a book intended for readers who have
got beyond the early domestic schoolroom.

We cannot praise the construction of these tales. The plots are very
slight; the narrative drags painfully in some parts, and in other parts
the authoress has recourse to very violent expedients, as where she
brings in the "startling Adelphi stage-effect" of the flood to drown Tom
and Maggie, in order to escape from the unmanageable complication of her
story. Both in "Adam Bede" and in "The Mill on the Floss" the chief
interest is over long before the tale comes to an end; and in looking at
the whole series together we see something of repetition. Thus, both
Tina and Hetty set their hearts on a young man above their own position,
and turn a deaf ear to a longer-known, more suitable, and worthier
suitor. Each disappears at a critical time, and each, after a
disappointment in the higher quarter, falls back on a marriage with the
humbler admirer; with the difference, however, that, as Hetty had
committed murder, and as Tina had just been saved from doing so, the
marriage in the first case never actually takes place, and in the second
it ends after a few months. And as a smaller instance of repetition, we
may compare the bedroom visit of the seraphic Dinah Morris to the
earthly Hetty with that of the pattern Lucy Deane to the tempestuous
Maggie Tulliver.

There is less of affectation in these books than in most of our recent
novels, yet there is by far too much. Among the portions which are most
infected by this sin we may mention the description of scenery,--thanks,
doubtless, in no small measure, to the influence of that very dangerous
model Mr. Ruskin....

Before concluding our article we must notice the authoress's views on
two important subjects which enter largely into her stories--love and
religion. That ladies, of their own accord and uninvited, fall in love
with gentlemen is a common circumstance in novels written by ladies; and
we are very much obliged to Madame D'Arblay, Miss Austen, and the other
writers of the softer sex, who have let us into the knowledge of the
important fact that such is the way in real life. But the peculiarity of
"George Eliot," among English novelists, is that in her books everybody
falls in love with the wrong person. She seems to be continually on the
point of showing us, with the author of "The Rovers"--

  How two swains one nymph her vows may give,
  And how two damsels with one lover live.

Love is represented as a passion conceived without any ground of
reasonable preference, and as entirely irresistible in its sway. Tina
bestows her affections on Captain Wybrow, while the Captain, without
caring for anybody but himself, is paying his addresses to Miss Assher;
and Mr. Gilfil is pining for Tina, whom, if he had any discernment at
all, he could not but see to be quite unfitted for him. Adam Bede is in
love with the utterly undeserving Hetty, while Dinah Morris and Mary
Burge are both in love with Adam, Hetty with Arthur Donnithorne, and
Seth Bede with Dinah. At last, Hetty is got out of the way, Dinah comes
to a clearer understanding of her feelings towards Adam, and Adam, on
being made aware of this, is set on by his mother to make a successful
proposal; but "quiet Mary Burge" subsides into a bridesmaid, and Seth,
the "poor wool-gatherin' Methodist," is left without any other
consolation than that of worshipping his sister-in-law.

But it is in "The Mill on the Floss" that the unwholesome view which we
have mentioned finds its most startling development. Maggie is in love
with Philip, and Philip with Maggie; Stephen Guest is in love with Lucy
Deane, and Lucy with Stephen, while at the same time she has an
undeclared admirer in Tom Tulliver. But as soon as Maggie and Stephen
become acquainted with each other, they exercise a powerful mutual
attraction, and the mischief of love (as the passion is represented by
our authoress) breaks loose in terrible force. The reproach which Tom
Tulliver had coarsely thrown in Philip's teeth, that he had taken
advantage of Maggie's inexperience to secure her affections before she
had had any opportunity of comparing him with other men, turns out to be
entirely just. Stephen is a mere underbred coxcomb, and is intended to
appear as such (for we do not think that the authoress has failed in any
attempt to make him a gentleman); his only merit, in so far as we can
discover, is a foolish talent for singing, and, except as to person, he
is infinitely inferior to Philip. But for this mere physical superiority
the lofty-souled Maggie prefers him to the lover whom she had before
loved for his deformity; and the passion is represented as one which no
considerations of moral or religious principle, no regard to the claims
of others, no training derived from the hardships of her former life or
from the ascetic system to which she had at one time been devoted, can
withstand. Here is a delicate scene, which is described as having taken
place in a conservatory, to which the pair had withdrawn on the night of
a ball:--

  Maggie bent her arm a little upward towards the large half-opened rose
  that had attracted her. Who has not felt the beauty of a woman's arm?
 --the unspeakable suggestions of tenderness that lie in the dimpled
  elbow, and the varied gently-lessening curves down to the delicate
  wrist, with its tiniest, almost imperceptible nicks in the firm
  softness?

  A mad impulse seized on Stephen; he darted towards the arm and
  showered kisses on it, clasping the wrist.

  But the next moment Maggie snatched it from him, and glanced at him
  like a wounded war-goddess, quivering with rage and humiliation.

  "How dare you?" she spoke in a deeply-shaken, half-smothered voice:
  "what right have I given you to insult me?"

  She darted from him into the adjoining room, and threw herself on the
  sofa panting and trembling.[1]

[1] iii. 156.

We should not have blamed the young lady if, like one of Mr. Trollope's
heroines, she had made her admirer feel not only "the beauty of a
woman's arm," but its weight. But, unwarned by the grossness of his
behaviour on this occasion, she is represented as admitting Stephen to
further intercourse; and, although she rescues herself at last, it is
not until after having occasioned irreparable scandal. A good-natured
ordinary novelist might have found an easy solution for the difficulties
of the case at an earlier stage by marrying Stephen to Maggie, and
handing over Lucy (who is far too amiable to object to such a transfer)
to her admiring cousin Tom; while Philip, left in celibacy, might either
have been invested with a pathetic interest, or represented as justly
punished for the offence of forestalling. But George Eliot has higher
aims than ordinary novelists, and to her the transfer which we have
suggested would appear as a profanation. Her characters, therefore,
plunge into all manner of sacrifices of reputation and happiness; and it
is not until Maggie and Tom have been drowned, and Philip's whole life
embittered, that we catch a final view of Mr. Stephen Guest visiting the
grave of the brother and sister in company with the amiable wife, _née_
Lucy Deane. If we are to accept the natural moral of this story, it
shows how coarse and immoral a very fastidious and ultra-refined
morality may become.

It is with reluctance that we go on to notice the religion of these
books; but since religion appears so largely in them, we must not
decline the task. To us, at least, the theory of the writer's "High-Church
tendencies" could never have appeared plausible; for even in the
"Scenes of Clerical Life" the chief religious personage is the
"evangelical" curate Mr. Tryan, and whatever good there is in his parish
is confined to the circle of his partisans and converts; while in "Adam
Bede" the Methodess preacheress, Dinah Morris, is intended to shine with
spotless and incomparable lustre. Yet, although the highest characters,
in a religious view, are drawn from "evangelicism" and Methodism, we
find that neither of these systems is set forth as enough to secure the
perfection of everybody who may choose to profess it....

Mr. Parry, although agreeing with Mr. Tryan in opinion, is represented
as no less unpopular and inefficient than Mr. Tryan was the reverse; and
the Reverend Amos Barton is a hopeless specimen of that variety of
"evangelical" clergymen to which the late Mr. Conybeare gave the name of
"low and slow,"--a variety which, we believe, flourishes chiefly in the
midland counties. On the other hand, Mr. Gilfil and Mr. Irwine,
clergymen of the "old school," are held up as objects for our respect
and love; and Mr. Irwine is not only vindicated by Adam Bede in his old
age, in comparison with his evangelical successor Mr. Ryde, but the
question between high and low church, as represented by these two, is
triumphantly settled by a quotation which Adam brings from our old
friend Mrs. Poyser:--

  Mrs. Poyser used to say--you know she would have her word about
  everything--she said Mr. Irwine was like a good meal o' victual, you
  were the better for him without thinking on it; and Mr. Ryde was like
  a dose o' physic, he griped and worrited you, and after all he left
  you much the same.[1]

[1] "Adam Bede," i. 269.

In "The Mill on the Floss," too, the "brazen" Mr. Stelling is
represented as "evangelical," in so far as he is anything; while Dr.
Kenn, a very high Anglican, is spoken of with all veneration; although,
perhaps, "George Eliot's" opinion as to the efficiency of the high
Anglican clergy may be gathered from the circumstance that when the
Doctor interferes for the benefit of Maggie Tulliver, he not only fails
to be of any use, but exposes himself to something like the same kind of
gossip which had arisen from Mr. Amos Barton's hospitality to Madame
Czerlaski. As to Methodism, again, the reader need hardly be reminded of
the sayings which we have quoted from Mrs. Poyser. And while the feeble
and "wool-gathering" Seth Bede becomes a convert, the strong-minded Adam
holds out, even although he is so tolerant as to marry a female
Methodist preacher, and to let her enjoy her "liberty of prophesying"
until stopped by a general order of the Wesleyan Conference.

From all these things the natural inference would seem to be that the
authoress is neither High-Church nor Low-Church nor Dissenter, but a
tolerant member of what is styled the Broad-Church party--a party in
which we are obliged to say that breadth and toleration are by no means
universal. It would seem that, instead of being exclusively devoted to
any one of the religious types which she has embodied in the persons of
her tales (for as yet she has not presented us with a clergyman of any
liberal school), she regards each of them as containing an element of
pure Christianity, which, although in any one of them it may be alloyed
by its adjuncts and by the faults of individuals, is in itself of
inestimable value, and may be held alike by persons who differ widely
from each other as to the forms of religious polity and as to details of
Christian doctrine.

But what is to be thought of the fact that the authoress of these tales
is also the translator of Strauss's notorious book? Is the Gospel which
she has represented in so many attractive lights nothing better to her,
after all, than "fabula ista de Christo"? Are the various forms under
which she has exhibited it no more for her than the Mahometan and Hindoo
systems were for the poet of Thalaba and Kehama? Has she been carrying
out in these novels the precepts of that chapter in which Dr. Strauss
teaches his disciples how, while believing the New Testament narrative
to be merely mythical, they may yet discharge the functions of the
Christian preacher without exposing themselves by their language to any
imputation of unsoundness? But, even apart from this distressing
question, there is much to interfere with the hope and the interest with
which we should wish to look forward to the future career of a writer so
powerful and so popular as the authoress of these books--much to awaken
very serious apprehensions as to the probable effect of her influence.
No one who has looked at all into our late fictitious literature can
have failed to be struck with the fondness of many of the writers of the
day for subjects which at an earlier time would not have been thought
of, or would have been carefully avoided. The idea that fiction should
contain something to soothe, to elevate, or to purify seems to be
extinct. In its stead there is a love for exploring what would be better
left in obscurity; for portraying the wildness of passion and the
harrowing miseries of mental conflict; for dark pictures of sin and
remorse and punishment; for the discussion of questions which it is
painful and revolting to think of. By some writers such themes are
treated with a power which fascinates even those who most disapprove the
manner in which it is exercised; by others with a feebleness which shows
that the infection has spread even to the most incapable of the
contributors to our circulating libraries. To us the influence of the
"Jack Shepherd" school of literature is really far less alarming than
that of a class of books which is more likely to find its way into the
circles of cultivated readers, and, most especially, to familiarize the
minds of our young women in the middle and higher ranks with matters on
which their fathers and brothers would never venture to speak in their
presence. It is really frightful to think of the interest which we have
ourselves heard such readers express in criminals like Paul Ferroll, and
in sensual ruffians like Mr. Rochester: and there is much in the
writings of "George Eliot" which, on like grounds, we feel ourselves
bound most earnestly to condemn. Let all honour be paid to those who in
our time have laboured to search out and to make known such evils of our
social condition as Christian sympathy may in some degree relieve or
cure. But we do not believe that any good end is to be effected by
fictions which fill the mind with details of imaginary vice and distress
and crime, or which teach it--instead of endeavouring after the
fulfilment of simple and ordinary duty--to aim at the assurance of
superiority by creating for itself fanciful and incomprehensible
perplexities. Rather we believe that the effect of such fictions must be
to render those who fall under their influence unfit for practical
exertion; while they most assuredly do grievous harm in many cases, by
intruding on minds which ought to be guarded from impurity the
unnecessary knowledge of evil.



BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE

In the early days of the nineteenth century Edinburgh certainly aspired
to prouder eminence as a centre of light and learning than it has
continued to maintain. Tory energy, provoked by the arrogance of
Jeffrey, had found its earliest expression in London, but the northern
capital evidently determined not to be left behind in the game of
unprincipled vituperation. _Blackwood_, unlike its rivals in infancy,
was issued monthly, and its closely printed double columns add something
to the impression of heaviness in its satire.

JOHN WILSON
(1785-1854)

There is admittedly something incongruous in any association between the
genial and laughter-loving Christopher North and the reputation incurred
by the periodical with which he was long so intimately associated. He
had contributed--as few of his confederates would have been permitted--
to the _Edinburgh_; but he was Literary Editor to _Blackwood_ from
October, 1817, to September, 1852. Originally a disciple of the Lake
School, at whom he was frequently girding, he migrated to Edinburgh
(where he became Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1820), and attracted
to himself many brilliant men of letters, including De Quincey.

The "mountain-looking fellow," as Dickens called him, the patron of
"cock-fighting, wrestling, pugilistic contests, boat-racing, and
horse-racing" left his mark on his generation for a unique combination
of
boisterous joviality and hardhitting. Well known in the houses of the
poor; more than one observer has said that he reminded them of the
"first man, Adam." He "swept away all hearts, withersoever he would."
"Thor and Balder in one," "very Goth," "a Norse Demigod," "hair of the
true Sicambrian yellow"; Carlyle describes him as "fond of all
stimulating things; from tragic poetry down to whiskey-punch. He snuffed
and smoked cigars and drank liqueurs, and talked in the most
indescribable style.... He is a broad sincere man of six feet, with long
dishevelled flax-coloured hair, and two blue eyes keen as an eagle's ...
a being all split into precipitous chasms and the wildest volcanic
tumults ... a noble, loyal, and religious nature, not _strong_ enough to
vanquish the perverse element it is born into."

The foundation of Wilson's criticism, unlike most of his contemporaries,
was generous and wide-minded appreciation, yet he "hacked about him,
distributing blows right and left, delivered sometimes for fun, though
sometimes with the most extraordinary impulse of perversity, in the
impetus of his career." With all a boy's love of a good fight, he shared
with youth its thoughtless indifference to the consequences.

His not altogether unfriendly criticisms inspired one of Tennyson's
lightest effusions--

  You did late review my lays,
    Crusty Christopher;
  You did mingle blame and praise
    Rusty Christopher.
  When I learnt from whence it came,
  I forgave you all the blame,
    Musty Christopher;
  I could not forgive the praise
    Fusty Christopher.

The _Noctes Ambrosianae_ is certainly a unique production. Though
ostensibly a dialogue mainly between himself, Tickler (i.e., Lockhart),
and Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd--with other occasional dramatis personae;
the main bulk of them (including everything here quoted) was written by
Wilson himself--in this form, to produce an original effect. The
conversations are, for the most part, thoroughly dramatic, and cover
every conceivable subject from politics and literature to the beauty of
scenery, dress, cookery, and the various sports beloved of Christopher.
There is much boisterous interruption for eating, drinking, and personal
chaff.

Of the longer quotations selected we would particularly draw attention
to the humorous and epigrammatic parody of Wordsworth, on whom Wilson
elsewhere bestows generous enthusiasm; and the broad-minded outlook
which can appreciate the contrasted virility of Byron and Dr. Johnson.
But it would be impossible to give an approximately fair impression of
the _Noctes_, without many examples of those paragraph criticisms
scattered broadcast on every page, which we have presented as "Crumbs"
from the feast. The magnificent recantation to Leigh Hunt--on whom
_Blackwood_ had bestowed even more than its share of abuse--has passed
into a proverb.

ANONYMOUS

As in the case of the _Quarterly_ these untraced effusions may be
assigned, with fair confidence, to the principal originators of the
magazine: Wilson himself, Lockhart, and William Maginn (1793-1842), a
thriftless Irishman who helped to start _Fraser's Magazine_ in 1830, and
stood for Captain Shandon in Pendennis; author of _Bob Burke's Duel with
Ensign Brady_, "perhaps the raciest Irish story ever written."

They almost certainly combined in the heated attack on "The Cockney
School," of which Leigh Hunt's generous, but not always judicious,
advertisement was an obvious temptation to satire, embittered by
political bias. Coleridge, also, provided easy material for scorn from
vigorous manhood; and Shelley, as Wilson remarks elsewhere, was "the
greatest sinner of the oracular school--because the only true poet."



CHRISTOPHER NORTH ON POPE[1]
[1] A Discussion of the Edition by Bowles.

[From _Noctes Ambrosianae_, March, 1825]


_Tickler._ Pope was one of the most amiable men that ever lived. Fine
and delicate as were the temper and temperament of his genius, he had a
heart capable of the warmest human affection. He was indeed a loving
creature.

_North._ Come, come, Timothy, you know you were sorely cut an hour or
two ago--so do not attempt characteristics. But, after all, Bowles does
not say that Pope was unamiable.

_Tickler._ Yes, he does--that is to say, no man can read, even now, all
that he has written about Pope, without thinking on the whole, somewhat
indifferently of the man Pope. It is for this I abuse our friend Bowles.

_Shepherd._ Ay, ay--I recollect now some of the havers o' Boll's about
the Blounts,--Martha and Theresa, I think you call them. Puir wee bit
hunched-backed, windle-strae-legged, gleg-eed, clever, acute, ingenious,
sateerical, weel-informed, warm-hearted, real philosophical, and maist
poetical creature, wi' his sounding translation o' a' Homer's works,
that reads just like an original War-Yepic,--His Yessay on Man that, in
spite o' what a set o' ignoramuses o' theological critics say about
Bolingbroke and Croussass, and heterodoxy and atheism, and like haven,
is just-ane o' the best moral discourses that ever I heard in or out o'
the poupit,--His yepistles about the Passions, and sic like, in the
whilk he goes baith deep and high, far deeper and higher baith than mony
a modern poet, who must needs be either in a diving-bell or a balloon,--
His Rape o' the Lock o' Hair, wi' a' these Sylphs floating about in the
machinery o' the Rosicrucian Philosophism, just perfectly yelegant and
gracefu', and as gude, in their way, as onything o' my ain about
fairies, either in the _Queen's Wake_ or _Queen Hynde_,--His Louisa to
Abelard is, as I said before, coorse in the subject-matter, but, O sirs!
powerfu' and pathetic in execution--and sic a perfect spate o'
versification! His unfortunate lady, who sticked hersel for love wi' a
drawn sword, and was afterwards seen as a ghost, dim-beckoning through
the shade--a verra poetical thocht surely, and full both of terror and
pity....

_North._ Pope's poetry is full of nature, at least of what I have been
in the constant habit of accounting nature for the last threescore and
ten years. But (thank you, James, that snuff is really delicious)
leaving nature and art, and all that sort of thing, I wish to ask a
single question: what poet of this age, with the exception, perhaps, of
Byron, can be justly said, when put in comparison with Pope, to have
written the English language at all....

_Tickler._ What would become of Bowles himself, with all his elegance,
pathos, and true feeling? Oh! dear me, James, what a dull, dozing,
disjointed, dawdling, dowdy of a drawe would be his muse, in her very
best voice and tune, when called upon to get up and sing a solo after
the sweet and strong singer of Twickenham!

_North._ Or Wordsworth--with his eternal--Here we go up, and up, and up,
and here we go down, down, and here we go roundabout, roundabout!--Look
at the nerveless laxity of his _Excursion!_--What interminable prosing!--
The language is out of condition:--fat and fozy, thick-winded, purfled
and plethoric. Can he be compared with Pope?--Fie on't! no, no, no!--
Pugh, pugh!

_Tickler._ Southey--Coleridge--Moore?

_North._ No; not one of them. They are all eloquent, diffusive, rich,
lavish, generous, prodigal of their words. But so are they all deficient
in sense, muscle, sinew, thews, ribs, spine. Pope, as an artist, beats
them hollow. Catch him twaddling.

_Tickler._ It is a bad sign of the intellect of an age to depreciate the
genius of a country's classics. But the attempt covers such critics with
shame, and undying ridicule pursues them and their abettors. The Lake
Poets began this senseless clamour against the genius of Pope.



ON BYRON

[From _Noctes Ambrosianae_, October, 1825]

_North._ People say, James, that Byron's tragedies are failures. Fools!
Is Cain, the dark, dim, disturbed, insane, hell-haunted Cain, a failure?
Is Sardanapalus, the passionate, princely, philosophical, joy-cheated,
throne-wearied voluptuary, a failure? Is Heaven and Earth, that
magnificent confusion of two worlds, in which mortal beings mingle in
love and hate, joy and despair, with immortal--the children of the dust
claiming alliance with the radiant progeny of the skies, till man and
angel seem to partake of one divine being, and to be essences eternal in
bliss or bale--is Heaven and Earth, I ask you, James, a failure? If so,
then Appollo has stopt payment--promising a dividend of one shilling in
the pound--and all concerned in that house are bankrupts.

_Tickler._ You have nobly--gloriously vindicated Byron, North, and in
doing so, have vindicated the moral and intellectual character of our
country. Miserable and pernicious creed, that holds possible the lasting
and intimate union of the first, purest, highest, noblest, and most
celestial powers of soul and spirit, with confirmed appetencies, foul
and degrading lust, cowardice, cruelty, meanness, hypocrisy, avarice,
and impiety! You,--in a strong attempt made to hold up to execration the
nature of Byron as deformed by all these hideous vices,--you, my friend,
reverently unveiled the countenance of the mighty dead, and the
lineaments struck remorse into the heart of every asperser.



ON DR. JOHNSON

[From _Noctes Ambrosianae_, April, 1829]

_North._ I forgot old Sam--a jewel rough set, yet shining like a star,
and though sand-blind by nature, and bigoted by Education, one of the
truly great men of England, and "her men are of men the chief," alike in
the dominions of the understanding, the reason, the passions, and the
imagination. No prig shall ever persuade me that _Rasselas_ is not a
noble performance--in design and execution. Never were the expenses of a
mother's funeral more gloriously defrayed by son, than the funeral of
Samuel Johnson's mother by the price of _Rasselas_, written for the
pious purpose of laying her head decently and honourably in the dust.

_Shepherd._ Ay, that was pittin' literature and genius to a glorious
purpose indeed; and therefore nature and religion smiled on the wark,
and have stamped it with immortality.

_North._ Samuel was seventy years old when he wrote the _Lives of the
Poets_.

_Shepherd._ What a fine old buck! No unlike yoursel'.

_North._ Would it were so! He had his prejudicies, and his partialities,
and his bigotries, and his blindnesses,--but on the same fruit-tree you
see shrivelled pears or apples on the same branch with jargonelles or
golden pippins worthy of paradise. Which would ye show to the
Horticultural Society as a fair specimen of the tree?

_Shepherd._ Good, kit, good--philosophically picturesque. (_Mimicking
the old man's voice and manner._)

_North._ Show me the critique that beats his on Pope, and on Dryden--
nay, even on Milton; and hang me if you may not read his essay on
Shakespeare even after having read Charles Lamb, or heard Coleridge,
with increased admiration of the powers of all three, and of their
insight, through different avenues, and as it might seem almost with
different bodily and mental organs, into Shakespeare's "old exhausted,"
and his "new imagined worlds." He was a critic and a moralist who would
have been wholly wise, had he not been partly--constitutionally insane.
For there is blood in the brain, James--even in the organ--the vital
principle of all our "eagle-winged raptures"; and there was a taint of
the black drop of melancholy in his.

_Shepherd._ Wheesht--wheesht--let us keep aff that subject. All men ever
I knew are mad; and but for that law o' natur, never, never, in this
warld had there been a _Noctes Ambrosianae_.



CRUMBS FROM THE "NOCTES"

MISS MITFORD

_North._ Miss Mitford has not in my opinion either the pathos or humour
of Washington Irving; but she excels him in vigorous conception of
character, and in the truth of her pictures of English life and manners.
Her writings breathe a sound, pure, and healthy morality, and are
pervaded by a genuine rural spirit--the spirit of merry England. Every
line bespeaks the lady.

_Shepherd._ I admire Miss Mitford just excessively. I dinna wunner at
her being able to write sae weel as she does about drawing-rooms wi'
sofas and settees, and about the fine folk in them seeing themsels in
lookin-glasses frae tap to tae; but what puzzles the like o' me, is her
pictures o' poachers, and tinklers, and pottery-trampers, and ither
neerdoweels, and o' huts and hovels without riggin' by the wayside, and
the cottages o' honest puir men, and byres, and barns, and stackyards,
and merry-makins at winter ingles, and courtship aneath trees, and at
the gable-end of farm houses, 'tween lads and lasses as laigh in life as
the servants in her father's ha'. That's the puzzle, and that's the
praise. But ae word explains a'--Genius--Genius, wull a' the
metafhizzians in the warld ever expound that mysterious monosyllable.--
_Nov, 1826._

HAZLITT

_Shepherd._. He had a curious power that Hazlitt, as he was ca'd, o'
simulatin' sowl. You could hae taen your Bible oath sometimes, when you
were readin him, that he had a sowl--a human sowl--a sowl to be saved--
but then, heaven preserve us! in the verra middle aiblins o' a
paragraph, he grew transformed afore your verra face into something
bestial,--you heard a grunt that made ye grue, and there was an ill
smell in the room, as frae a pluff o' sulphur.--_April, 1827._

WORDSWORTH

_Shepherd._ Wordsworth tells the world, in ane of his prefaces, that he
is a water-drinker--and its weel seen on him.--There was a sair want of
speerit through the haill o' yon lang "Excursion." If he had just made
the paragraphs about ae half shorter, and at the end of every ane taen a
caulker, like ony ither man engaged in geyan sair and heavy wark, think
na ye that his "Excursion" would hae been far less fatiguesome?--_April,
1827._

_North._ I confess that the "Excursion" is the worst poem, of any
character, in the English language. It contains about two hundred
sonorous lines, some of which appear to be fine, even in the sense, as
well as sound. The remaining seven thousand three hundred are quite
ineffectual. Then, what labour the builder of that lofty rhyme must have
undergone! It is, in its own way, a small tower of Babel, and all built
by a single man.--_Sept., 1825._

COLERIDGE

_North._ James, you don't know S.T. Coleridge--do you? He writes but
indifferent books, begging his pardon: witness his "Friend," his "Lay
Sermons," and, latterly, his "Aids to Reflection"; but he becomes
inspired by the sound of his own silver voice, and pours out wisdom like
a sea. Had he a domestic Gurney, he might publish a Moral Essay, or a
Theological Discourse, or a Metaphysical Disquisition, or a Political
Harangue, every morning throughout the year during his lifetime.

_Tickler._ Mr. Coleridge does not seem to be aware that he cannot write
a book, but opines that he absolutely has written several, and set many
questions at rest. There's a want of some kind or another in his mind;
but perhaps when he awakes out of his dream, he may get rational and
sober-witted, like other men, who are not always asleep.

_Shepherd._ The author o' "Christabel," and "The Ancient Mariner," had
better just continue to see visions, and dream dreams--for he's no fit
for the wakin' world.--_April, 1827._

FASHIONABLE NOVELS

_North._ James, I wish you would review for Maga all those fashionable
novels--Novels of High Life; such as _Pelham_--the _Disowned_.

_Shepherd._ I've read thae twa, and they're baith gude. But the mair I
think on't, the profounder is my conviction that the strength o' human
nature lies either in the highest or lowest estate of life. Characters
in books should either be kings, and princes, and nobles, and on a level
with them, like heroes; or peasants, shepherds, farmers, and the like,
includin' a' orders amaist o' our ain working population. The
intermediate class--that is, leddies and gentlemen in general--are no
worth the Muse's while; for their life is made up chiefly o' mainners,--
mainners,--mainners;--you canna see the human creters for their claes;
and should ane o' them commit suicide in despair, in lookin' on the dead
body, you are mair taen up wi' its dress than its decease.--_March,
1829._

WILL CARLETON

_Shepherd._ What sort o' vols., sir, are the _Traits and Stories of the
Irish Peasantry_ [W. Carleton], published by Curry in Dublin.

_North._ Admirable. Truly, intensely Irish. The whole book has the
brogue--never were the outrageous whimsicalities of that strange, wild,
imaginative people so characteristically displayed; nor, in the midst of
all the fun, frolic, and folly, is there any dearth of poetry, pathos,
and passion. The author's a jewel, and he will be reviewed next number.
--_May, 1830._

BURNS

_Shepherd._ I shanna say ony o' mine's [songs] are as gude as some sax
or aucht o' Burns's--for about that number o' Robbie's are o' inimitable
perfection. It was heaven's wull that in them he should transcend a' the
minnesingers o' this warld. But they're too perfeckly beautifu' to be
envied by mortal man--therefore let his memory in them be hallowed for
evermair.--_August, 1834._

_Shepherd_. I was wrang in ever hintin ae word in disparagement o'
Burn's _Cottar's Saturday Night_. But the truth is, you see, that the
subjeck's sae heeped up wi' happiness, and sae charged wi' a' sort o'
sanctity--sae national and sae Scottish--that beautifu' as the poem is--
and really, after a', naething can be mair beautifu'--there's nae
satisfying either paesant or shepherd by ony delineation o't, though
drawn in lines o' licht, and shinin' equally w' genius and wi' piety.--
_Nov., 1834._



LEIGH HUNT

_Shepherd_. Leigh Hunt truly loved Shelley.

_North_. And Shelley truly loved Leigh Hunt. Their friendship was
honourable to them both, for it was as disinterested as sincere; and I
hope Gurney will let a certain person in the City understand that I
treat his offer of a reviewal of Mr. Hunt's _London Journal_ with
disdain. If he has anything to say against us or against that gentleman,
either conjunctly or severally, let him out with it in some other
channel, and I promise him a touch and taste of the Crutch. He talks to
me of Maga's desertion of principle; but if he were a Christian--nay, a
man--his heart and head too would tell him that the Animosities are
mortal, but the Humanities live for ever--and that Leigh Hunt has more
talent in his little finger than the puling prig, who has taken upon
himself to lecture Christopher North in a scrawl crawling with forgotten
falsehoods. Mr. Hunt's _London Journal_, may dear James, is not only
beyond all comparison, but out of all sight, the most entertaining and
instructive of all the cheap periodicals; and when laid, as it duly is
once a week, on my breakfast table, it lies there--but is not permitted
to lie long--like a spot of sunshine dazzling the snow.--_Aug_., 1834.



ANONYMOUS ON COLERIDGE

[From _Blackwood's Magazine_, October, 1817]

SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE "BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA" OF S. T. COLERIDGE,
ESQ., 1817

When a man looks back on his past existence, and endeavours to recall
the incidents, events, thoughts, feelings, and passions of which it was
composed, he sees something like a glimmering land of dreams, peopled
with phantasms and realities undistinguishably confused and
intermingled--here illuminated with dazzling splendour, there dim with
melancholy mists,--or it may be shrouded in impenetrable darkness. To
bring, visibly and distinctly before our memory, on the one hand, all
our hours of mirth and joy, and hope and exultation,--and, on the other,
all our perplexities, and fears and sorrows, and despair and agony,--
(and who has been so uniformly wretched as not to have been often
blest?--who so uniformly blest as not to have been often wretched?)--
would be as impossible as to awaken, into separate remembrance, all the
changes and varieties which the seasons brought over the material
world,--every gleam of sunshine that beautified the Spring,--every cloud
and tempest that deformed the Winter. In truth, were this power and
domination over the past given unto us, and were we able to read the
history of our lives all faithfully and perspicuously recorded on the
tablets of the inner spirit,--those beings, whose existence had been
most filled with important events and with energetic passions, would be
the most averse to such overwhelming survey--would recoil from trains of
thought which formerly agitated and disturbed, and led them, as it were,
in triumph beneath the yoke of misery or happiness. The soul may be
repelled from the contemplation of the past as much by the brightness
and magnificence of scenes that shifted across the glorious drama of
youth, as by the storms that scattered the fair array into disfigured
fragments; and the melancholy that breathes from vanished delight is,
perhaps, in its utmost intensity, as unendurable as the wretchedness
left by the visitation of calamity. There are spots of sunshine sleeping
on the fields of past existence too beautiful, as there are caves among
its precipices too darksome to be looked on by the eyes of memory; and
to carry on an image borrowed from the analogy between the moral and
physical world, the soul may turn away in sickness from the untroubled
silence of a resplendent Lake, no less than from the haunted gloom of
the thundering Cataract. It is from such thoughts, and dreams, and
reveries, as these, that all men feel how terrible it would be to live
over again their agonies and their transports; that the happiest would
fear to do so as much as the most miserable; and that to look back to
our cradle seems scarcely less awful than to look forward to the grave.

But if this unwillingness to bring before our souls, in distinct array,
the more solemn and important events of our lives, be a natural and
perhaps a wise feeling, how much more averse must every reflecting man
be to the ransacking of his inmost spirit for all its hidden emotions
and passions, to the tearing away that shroud which oblivion may have
kindly flung over his vices and his follies, or that fine and delicate
veil which Christian humility draws over his virtues and acts of
benevolence. To scrutinize and dissect the character of others is an
idle and unprofitable task; and the most skilful anatomist will often be
forced to withhold his hand when he unexpectedly meets with something he
does not understand--some confirmation of the character of his patient
which is not explicable on his theory of human nature. To become
operators on our own shrinking spirits is something worse; for by
probing the wounds of the soul, what can ensue but callousness or
irritability. And it may be remarked, that those persons who have busied
themselves most with inquiries into the causes, and motives, and
impulses of their actions, have exhibited, in their conduct, the most
lamentable contrast to their theory, and have seemed blinder in their
knowledge than others in their ignorance.

It will not be supposed that any thing we have now said in any way bears
against the most important duty of self-examination. Many causes there
are existing, both in the best and the worst parts of our nature, which
must render nugatory and deceitful any continued diary of what passes
through the human soul; and no such confessions could, we humbly
conceive, be of use either to ourselves or to the world. But there are
hours of solemn inquiry in which the soul reposes on itself; the true
confessional is not the bar of the public, but it is the altar of
religion; there is a Being before whom we may humble ourselves without
being debased; and there are feelings for which human language has no
expression, and which, in the silence of solitude and of nature, are
known only unto the Eternal.

The objections, however, which might thus be urged against the writing
and publishing accounts of all our feelings,--all the changes of our
moral constitution,--do not seem to apply with equal force to the
narration of our mere speculative opinions. Their rise, progress,
changes, and maturity may be pretty accurately ascertained; and as the
advance to truth is generally step by step, there seems to be no great
difficulty in recording the leading causes that have formed the body of
our opinions, and created, modified, and coloured our intellectual
character. Yet this work would be alike useless to ourselves and others,
unless pursued with a true magnanimity. It requires, that we should
stand aloof from ourselves, and look down, as from an eminence, on our
souls toiling up the hill of knowledge;--that we should faithfully
record all the assistance we received from guides or brother pilgrims;--
that we should mask the limit of our utmost ascent, and, without
exaggeration, state the value of our acquisitions. When we consider how
many temptations there are even here to delude ourselves, and by a
seeming air of truth and candour to impose upon others, it will be
allowed, that, instead of composing memoirs of himself, a man of genius
and talent would be far better employed in generalizing the observations
and experiences of his life, and giving them to the world in the form of
philosophic reflections, applicable not to himself alone, but to the
universal mind of Man.

What good to mankind has ever flowed from the confessions of Rousseau,
or the autobiographical sketch of Hume? From the first we rise with a
confused and miserable sense of weakness and of power--of lofty
aspirations and degrading appetencies--of pride swelling into blasphemy,
and humiliation pitiably grovelling in the dust--of purity of spirit
soaring on the wings of imagination, and grossness of instinct brutally
wallowing in "Epicurus' stye,"--of lofty contempt for the opinion of
mankind, yet the most slavish subjection to their most fatal prejudices--
of a sublime piety towards God, and a wild violation of his holiest
laws. From the other we rise with feelings of sincere compassion for the
ignorance of the most enlightened. All the prominent features of Hume's
character were invisible to his own eyes; and in that meagre sketch
which has been so much admired, what is there to instruct, to rouse, or
to elevate--what light thrown over the duties of this life or the hopes
of that to come? We wish to speak with tenderness of a man whose moral
character was respectable, and whose talents were of the first order.
But most deeply injurious to every thing lofty and high-toned in human
Virtue, to every thing cheering, and consoling, and sublime in that
Faith which sheds over this Earth a reflection of the heavens, is that
memoir of a worldly-wise Man; in which he seems to contemplate with
indifference the extinction of his own immortal soul, and jibes and
jokes on the dim and awful verge of Eternity.

We hope that our readers will forgive these very imperfect reflections
on a subject of deep interest, and accompany us now on our examination
of Mr. Coleridge's "Literary Life," the very singular work which caused
our ideas to run in that channel. It does not contain an account of his
opinions and literary exploits alone, but lays open, not unfrequently,
the character of the Man as well as of the Author; and we are compelled
to think, that while it strengthens every argument against the
composition of such Memoirs, it does, without benefiting the cause
either of virtue, knowledge, or religion, exhibit many mournful
sacrifices of personal dignity, after which it seems impossible that Mr.
Coleridge can be greatly respected either by the Public or himself.

Considered merely in a literary point of view, the work is most
execrable. He rambles from one subject to another in the most wayward
and capricious manner; either from indolence, or ignorance, or weakness,
he has never in one single instance finished a discussion; and while he
darkens what was dark before into tenfold obscurity, he so treats the
most ordinary common-places as to give them the air of mysteries, till
we no longer know the faces of our old acquaintances beneath their cowl
and hood, but witness plain flesh and blood matters of fact miraculously
converted into a troop of phantoms. That he is a man of genius is
certain; but he is not a man of a strong intellect nor of powerful
talents. He has a great deal of fancy and imagination, but little or no
real feeling, and certainly no judgment. He cannot form to himself any
harmonious landscape such as it exists in nature, but beautified by the
serene light of the imagination. He cannot conceive simple and majestic
groupes of human figures and characters acting on the theatre of real
existence. But his pictures of nature are fine only as imaging the
dreaminess, and obscurity, and confusion of distempered sleep; while all
his agents pass before our eyes like shadows, and only impress and
affect us with a phantasmagorial splendour.

It is impossible to read many pages of this work without thinking that
Mr. Coleridge conceives himself to be a far greater man than the Public
is likely to admit; and we wish to waken him from what seems to us a
most ludicrous delusion. He seems to believe that every tongue is
wagging in his praise--that every ear is open to imbibe the oracular
breathings of his inspiration. Even when he would fain convince us that
his soul is wholly occupied with some other illustrious character, he
breaks out into laudatory exclamations concerning himself; no sound is
so sweet to him as that of his own voice; the ground is hallowed on
which his footsteps tread; and there seems to him something more than
human in his very shadow. He will read no books that other people read;
his scorn is as misplaced and extravagant as his admiration; opinions
that seem to tally with his own wild ravings are holy and inspired; and
unless agreeable to his creed, the wisdom of ages is folly; and wits,
whom the world worship, dwarfed when they approach his venerable side.
His admiration of nature or of man, we had almost said his religious
feelings towards his God, are all narrowed, weakened, and corrupted, and
poisoned by inveterate and diseased egotism; and instead of his mind
reflecting the beauty and glory of nature, he seems to consider the
mighty universe itself as nothing better than a mirror in which, with a
grinning and idiot self-complacency, he may contemplate the Physiognomy
of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Though he has yet done nothing in any one
department of human knowledge, yet he speaks of his theories, and plans,
and views, and discoveries, as if he had produced some memorable
revolution in Science. He at all times connects his own name in Poetry
with Shakespeare, and Spenser, and Milton; in politics with Burke, and
Fox, and Pitt; in metaphysics with Locke, and Hartley, and Berkely, and
Kant--feeling himself not only to be the worthy compeer of those
illustrious Spirits, but to unite, in his own mighty intellect, all the
glorious powers and faculties by which they were separately
distinguished, as if his soul were endowed with all human power, and was
the depository of the aggregate, or rather the essence of all human
knowledge. So deplorable a delusion as this, has only been equalled by
that of Joanna Southcote, who mistook a complaint in the bowels for the
divine afflatus; and believed herself about to give birth to the
regenerator of the world, when sick unto death of an incurable and
loathsome disease.

The truth is that Mr. Coleridge is but an obscure name in English
literature. In London he is well known in literary society, and justly
admired for his extraordinary loquacity: he has his own little circle of
devoted worshippers, and he mistakes their foolish babbling for the
voice of the world. His name, too, has been often foisted into Reviews,
and accordingly is known to many who never saw any of his works. In
Scotland few know or care any thing about him; and perhaps no man who
has spoken and written so much, and occasionally with so much genius and
ability, ever made so little impression on the public mind. Few people
know how to spell or pronounce his name; and were he to drop from the
clouds among any given number of well informed and intelligent men north
of the Tweed, he would find it impossible to make any intelligible
communication respecting himself; for of him and his writings there
would prevail only a perplexing dream, or the most untroubled ignorance.
We cannot see in what the state of literature would have been different
had he been cut off in childhood, or had he never been born; for except
a few wild and fanciful ballads, he has produced nothing worthy
remembrance. Yet, insignificant as he assuredly is, he cannot put pen to
paper without a feeling that millions of eyes are fixed upon him; and he
scatters his Sibylline Leaves around him, with as majestical an air as
if a crowd of enthusiastic admirers were rushing forward to grasp the
divine promulgations, instead of their being, as in fact they are,
coldly received by the accidental passenger, like a lying lottery puff
or a quack advertisement.

This most miserable arrogance seems, in the present age, confined almost
exclusively to the original members of the Lake School, and is, we
think, worthy of especial notice, as one of the leading features of
their character. It would be difficult to defend it either in Southey or
Wordsworth; but in Coleridge it is altogether ridiculous. Southey has
undoubtedly written four noble Poems--Thalaba, Madoc, Kehama, and
Roderick; and if the Poets of this age are admitted, by the voice of
posterity, to take their places by the side of the Mighty of former
times in the Temple of Immortality, he will be one of that sacred
company. Wordsworth, too, with all his manifold errors and defects, has,
we think, won to himself a great name, and, in point of originality,
will be considered as second to no man of this age. They are entitled to
think highly of themselves, in comparison with their most highly gifted
contemporaries; and therefore, though their arrogance may be offensive,
as it often is, it is seldom or ever utterly ridiculous. But Mr.
Coleridge stands on much lower ground, and will be known to future times
only as a man who overrated and abused his talents--who saw glimpses of
that glory which he could not grasp--who presumptuously came forward to
officiate as High-Priest at mysteries beyond his ken--and who carried
himself as if he had been familiarly admitted into the Penetralia of
Nature, when in truth he kept perpetually stumbling at the very
Threshold.

This absurd self-elevation forms a striking contrast with the dignified
deportment of all the other great living Poets. Throughout all the works
of Scott, the most original-minded man of this generation of Poets,
scarcely a single allusion is made to himself; and then it is with a
truly delightful simplicity, as if he were not aware of his immeasurable
superiority to the ordinary run of mankind. From the rude songs of our
forefathers he has created a kind of Poetry, which at once brought over
the dull scenes of this our unimaginative life all the pomp, and glory,
and magnificence of a chivalrous age. He speaks to us like some ancient
Bard awakened from his tomb, and singing of visions not revealed in
dreams, but contemplated in all the freshness and splendour of reality.
Since he sung his bold, and wild, and romantic lays, a more religious
solemnity breathes from our mouldering Abbeys, and a sterner grandeur
frowns over our time-shattered Castles. He has peopled our hills with
Heroes, even as Ossian peopled them; and, like a presiding spirit, his
Image haunts the magnificent cliffs of our Lakes and Seas. And if he be,
as every heart feels, the author of those noble Prose Works that
continue to flash upon the world, to him exclusively belongs the glory
of wedding Fiction and History in delighted union, and of embodying in
imperishable records the manners, character, soul, and spirit of
Caledonia; so that, if all her annals were lost, her memory would in
those tales be immortal. His truly is a name that comes to the heart of
every Briton with a start of exultation, whether it be heard in the hum
of cities or in the solitude of nature. What has Campbell ever obtruded
on the Public of his private history? Yet his is a name that will be
hallowed for ever in the souls of pure, and aspiring, and devout youth;
and to those lofty contemplations in which Poetry lends its aid to
Religion, his immortal Muse will impart a more enthusiastic glow, while
it blends in one majestic hymn all the noblest feelings which can spring
from earth, with all the most glorious hopes that come from the silence
of eternity. Byron indeed speaks of himself often, but his is like the
voice of an angel heard crying in the storm or the whirlwind; and we
listen with a kind of mysterious dread to the tones of a Being whom we
scarcely believe to be kindred to ourselves, while he sounds the depths
of our nature, and illuminates them with the lightnings of his genius.
And finally, who more gracefully unostentatious than Moore, a Poet who
has shed delight, and joy, and rapture, and exultation, through the
spirit of an enthusiastic People, and whose name is associated in his
native Land with every thing noble and glorious in the cause of
Patriotism and Liberty. We could easily add to the illustrious list; but
suffice it to say, that our Poets do in general bear their faculties
meekly and manfully, trusting to their conscious powers, and the
susceptibility of generous and enlightened natures, not yet extinct in
Britain, whatever Mr. Coleridge may think; for certain it is, that a
host of worshippers will crowd into the Temple, when the Priest is
inspired, and the flame he kindles is from Heaven.

Such has been the character of great Poets in all countries and in all
times. Fame is dear to them as their vital existence--but they love it
not with the perplexity of fear, but the calmness of certain possession.
They know that the debt which nature owes them must be paid, and they
hold in surety thereof the universal passions of mankind. So Milton felt
and spoke of himself, with an air of grandeur, and the voice as of an
Archangel, distinctly hearing in his soul the music of after
generations, and the thunder of his mighty name rolling through the
darkness of futurity. So divine Shakespeare felt and spoke; he cared not
for the mere acclamations of his subjects; in all the gentleness of his
heavenly spirit he felt himself to be their prophet and their king, and
knew,

  When all the breathers of this world are dead,
  That he entombed in men's eyes would lie.

Indeed, who that knows any thing of Poetry could for a moment suppose it
otherwise? Whatever made a great Poet but the inspiration of delight and
love in himself, and an empassioned desire to communicate them to the
wide spirit of kindred existence? Poetry, like Religion, must be free
from all grovelling feelings; and above all, from jealousy, envy, and
uncharitableness. And the true Poet, like the Preacher of the true
religion, will seek to win unto himself and his Faith, a belief whose
foundation is in the depths of love, and whose pillars are the noblest
passions of humanity.

It would seem that in truly great souls all feeling of self-importance,
in its narrower sense, must be incompatible with the consciousness of a
mighty achievement. The idea of the mere faculty or power is absorbed as
it were in the idea of the work performed. That work stands out in its
glory from the mind of its Creator; and in the contemplation of it, he
forgets that he himself was the cause of its existence, or feels only a
dim but sublime association between himself and the object of his
admiration; and when he does think of himself in conjunction with
others, he feels towards the scoffer only a pitying sorrow for his
blindness--being assured, that though at all times there will be
weakness, and ignorance, and worthlessness, which can hold no communion
with him or with his thoughts, so will there be at all times the pure,
the noble, and the pious, whose delight it will be to love, to admire,
and to imitate; and that never, at any point of time, past, present, or
to come, can a true Poet be defrauded of his just fame.

But we need not speak of poets alone (though we have done so at present
to expose the miserable pretensions of Mr. Coleridge), but look through
all the bright ranks of men distinguished by mental power, in whatever
department of human science. It is our faith, that without moral there
can be no intellectual grandeur; and surely the self-conceit and
arrogance which we have been exposing, are altogether incompatible with
lofty feelings and majestic principles. It is the Dwarf alone who
endeavours to strut himself into the height of the surrounding company;
but the man of princely stature seems unconscious of the strength in
which nevertheless he rejoices, and only sees his superiority in the
gaze of admiration which he commands. Look at the most inventive spirits
of this country,--those whose intellects have achieved the most
memorable triumphs. Take, for example, Leslie in physical science, and
what airs of majesty does he ever assume? What is Samuel Coleridge
compared to such a man? What is an ingenious and fanciful versifier to
him who has, like a magician, gained command over the very elements of
nature,--who has realized the fictions of Poetry,--and to whom Frost and
Fire are ministering and obedient spirits? But of this enough.--It is a
position that doubtless might require some modification, but in the
main, it is and must be true, that real Greatness, whether in Intellect,
Genius, or Virtue, is dignified and unostentatious; and that no potent
spirit ever whimpered over the blindness of the age to his merits, and,
like Mr. Coleridge, or a child blubbering for the moon, with clamorous
outcries implored and imprecated reputation.

The very first sentence of this Literary Biography shows how incompetent
Mr. Coleridge is for the task he has undertaken.

  It has been my lot to have had my name introduced both in conversation
  and in print, more frequently than I find it easy to explain; _whether
  I consider the fewness, unimportance, and limited circulation of my
  writings, or the retirement and distance in which I have lived, both
  from the literary and political world_.

Now, it is obvious, that if his writings be few, and unimportant, and
unknown, Mr. Coleridge can have no reason for composing his Literary
Biography. Yet in singular contradiction to himself--

"If," says he, at p. 217, vol. i, "_the compositions which I have made
public_, and that too in a form the most certain of an extensive
circulation, though the least flattering to an author's self-love, had
been published in books, they _would have filled a respectable number of
volumes."_

He then adds,

  Seldom have I written that in a day, the acquisition or investigation
  of which had not cost me _the precious labour of a month!_

He then bursts out into this magnificent exclamation,

  Would that the criterion of a scholar's ability were the number and
  moral value of the truths which he has been the means of throwing
  into general circulation!

And he sums up all by declaring,

  By what I _have_ effected am I to be judged by my fellow men.

The truth is, that Mr. Coleridge has lived, as much as any man of his
time, in literary and political society, and that he has sought every
opportunity of keeping himself in the eye of the public, as restlessly
as any charlatan who ever exhibited on the stage. To use his own words,
"In 1794, when I had barely passed the verge of manhood, I published a
small volume of juvenile poems." These poems, by dint of puffing,
reached a third edition; and though Mr. Coleridge pretends now to think
but little of them, it is amusing to see how vehemently he defends them
against criticism, and how pompously he speaks of such paltry trifles.
"They were marked _by an ease and simplicity_ which I have studied,
_perhaps with inferior success,_ to bestow on my latter compositions."
But he afterwards repents of this sneer at his later compositions, and
tells us, that they have nearly reached his standard of perfection!
Indeed, his vanity extends farther back than his juvenile poems; and he
says, "For a school boy, I was _above par in English versification_, and
had already produced two or three compositions, which I may venture to
say, _without reference to my age, were somewhat above mediocrity_."
Happily he has preserved one of those wonderful productions of his
precocious boyhood, and our readers will judge for themselves what a
clever child it was.

  Underneath a huge oak-tree,
  There was of swine a huge company;
  That grunted as they crunch'd the mast,
  For that was ripe and fell full fast.
  Then they trotted away for the wind grew high,
  One acorn they left and no more might you spy.

It is a common remark, that wonderful children seldom perform the
promises of their youth, and undoubtedly this fine effusion has not been
followed in Mr. Coleridge's riper years by works of proportionate merit.

We see, then, that our author came very early into public notice; and
from that time to this, he has not allowed one year to pass without
endeavouring to extend his notoriety. His poems were soon followed (they
may have been preceded) by a tragedy, entitled, the "Fall of
Robespierre," a meagre performance, but one which, from the nature of
the subject, attracted considerable attention. He also wrote a whole
book, utterly incomprehensible to Mr. Southey, we are sure, on that
Poet's Joan of Arc; and became as celebrated for his metaphysical
absurdities, as his friend had become for the bright promise of genius
exhibited by that unequal, but spirited poem. He next published a Series
of political essays, entitled, the "Watchman," and "Conciones ad
Populum." He next started up, fresh from the schools of Germany, as the
principal writer in the Morning Post, a _strong opposition paper_. He
then published various outrageous political poems, some of them of a
gross personal nature. He afterwards assisted Mr. Wordsworth in planning
his Lyrical Ballads; and contributing several poems to that collection,
he shared in the notoriety of the Lake School. He next published a
mysterious periodical work, "The Friend," in which he declared it was
his intention to settle at once, and for ever, the principles of
morality, religion, taste, manners, and the fine arts, but which died of
a galloping consumption in the twenty-eighth week of its age. He then
published the tragedy of "Remorse," which dragged out a miserable
existence of twenty nights, on the boards of Drury-Lane, and then
expired for ever, like the oil of the orchestral lamps. He then forsook
the stage for the pulpit, and, by particular desire of his congregation,
published two "Lay Sermons." He then walked in broad day-light into the
shop of Mr. Murray, Albemarle Street, London, with two ladies hanging on
each arm, Geraldine and Christabel,--a bold step for a person at all
desirous of a good reputation, and most of the trade have looked shy at
him since that exhibition. Since that time, however, he has contrived
means of giving to the world a collected edition of all his poems, and
advanced to the front of the stage with a thick octavo in each hand, all
about himself and other Incomprehensibilities. We had forgot that he was
likewise a contributor to Mr. Southey's Omniana, where the Editor of the
Edinburgh Review is politely denominated an "ass," and then _became
himself a writer in the said Review_. And to sum up "the strange
eventful history" of this modest, and obscure, and retired person, we
must mention, that in his youth he held forth in a vast number of
Unitarian chapels--preached his way through Bristol, and "Brummagem,"
and Manchester, in a "blue coat and white waistcoat"; and in after
years, when he was not so much afraid of "the scarlet woman," did, in a
full suit of sables, lecture on Poesy, to "crowded, and, need I add,
highly respectable audiences," at the Royal Institution. After this
slight and imperfect outline of his poetical, oratorical, metaphysical,
political, and theological exploits, our readers will judge, when they
hear him talking of "his retirement and distance from the literary and
political world," what are his talents for autobiography, and how far he
has penetrated into the mysterious non-entities of his own character.

Mr. Coleridge has written conspicuously on the Association of Ideas, but
his own do not seem to be connected either by time, place, cause and
effect, resemblance, or contrast, and accordingly it is no easy matter
to follow him through all the vagaries of his Literary Life. We are
told,

  At school _I enjoyed the inestimable advantage_ of a very sensible,
  though at the same time a very severe master.--I learnt from
  him that Poetry, even that of the loftiest and wildest odes, had a
  logic of its own as severe as that of science.--Lute, harp, and lyre;
  muse, muses, and inspirations; Pegasus, Parnassus, and Hippocrene;
  were all an abomination to him. In fancy I can almost hear him now
  exclaiming, _"Harp? Harp? Lyre? Pen and Ink! Boy you mean! Muse! boy!
  Muse! your Nurse's daughter you mean! Pierian Spring! O Aye! the
  cloister Pump!"_--Our classical knowledge was the least of the good
  gifts which we derived from his   zealous and conscientious tutorage.

With the then head-master of the grammar-school, Christ Hospital, we
were not personally acquainted; but we cannot help thinking that he has
been singularly unfortunate in his Eulogist. He seems to have gone out
of his province, and far out of his depth, when he attempted to teach
boys the profoundest principles of Poetry. But we must also add, that we
cannot credit this account of him; for this doctrine of poetry being at
all times logical, is that of which Wordsworth and Coleridge take so
much credit to themselves for the discovery; and verily it is one too
wilfully absurd and extravagant to have entered into the head of an
honest man, whose time must have been wholly occupied with the
instruction of children. Indeed Mr. Coleridge's own poetical practices
render this story incredible; for, during many years of his authorship,
his diction was wholly at variance with such a rule, and the strain of
his poetry as illogical as can be well imagined. When Mr. Bowyer
prohibited his pupils from using, in their themes, the above-mentioned
names, he did, we humbly submit, prohibit them from using the best means
of purifying their taste and exalting their imagination. Nothing could
be so graceful, nothing so natural, as classical allusions, in the
exercises of young minds, when first admitted to the fountains of Greek
and Latin Poetry; and the Teacher who could seek to dissuade their
ingenious souls from such delightful dreams, by coarse, vulgar, and
indecent ribaldry, instead of deserving the name of "sensible," must
have been a low-minded vulgar fellow, fitter for the Porter than the
Master of such an Establishment. But the truth probably is, that all
this is a fiction of Mr. Coleridge, whose wit is at all times most
execrable and disgusting. Whatever the merits of his Master were, Mr.
Coleridge, even from his own account, seems to have derived little
benefit from his instruction, and for the "inestimable advantage," of
which he speaks, we look in vain through this Narrative. In spite of so
excellent a teacher, we find Master Coleridge,

  Even before my fifteenth year, bewildered _in metaphysicks and in
  theological controversy_. Nothing else pleased me. _History and
  particular facts_ lost all interest in my mind. Poetry itself, yea
  novels and romances, became insipid to me. This preposterous pursuit
  was beyond doubt _injurious, both to my natural powers and to the
  progress of my education._

This deplorable condition of mind continued "even unto my seventeenth
year." And now our readers must prepare themselves for a mighty and
wonderful change, wrought, all on a sudden, on the moral and
intellectual character of this metaphysical Greenhorn. _"Mr. Bowles'
Sonnets, twenty in number, and just then published in a quarto volume_
(a most important circumstance!) _were put into my hand!"_ To those
sonnets, next to the School-master's lectures on Poetry, Mr. Coleridge
attributes the strength, vigour, and extension, of his own very original
Genius.

  By those works, year after year, I was enthusiastically delighted and
  inspired. My earliest acquaintances will not have forgotten the
  undisciplined eagerness and impetuous zeal with which I labored to
  make proselytes, not only _of my companions, but of all with whom I
  conversed, of whatever rank, and in whatever place._ As my school
  finances did not permit me to purchase copies, I made, within less
  than a year and a half, _more than forty transcriptions, as the best
  presents I could make to those who had in any way won my regard._ My
  obligations to Mr. Bowles were indeed important, and for radical good!

There must be some grievous natural defect in that mind which, even at
the age of seventeen, could act so insanely; and we cannot but think,
that no real and healthy sensibility could have exaggerated to itself so
grossly the merits of Bowles' Sonnets. They are undoubtedly most
beautiful, and we willingly pay our tribute of admiration to the genius
of the amiable writer; but they neither did nor could produce any such
effects as are here described, except upon a mind singularly weak and
helpless. We must, however, take the fact as we find it; and Mr.
Coleridge's first step, after his worship of Bowles, was to see
distinctly into the defects and deficiencies of Pope (a writer whom
Bowles most especially admires, and has edited), and through all the
false diction and borrowed plumage of Gray! But here Mr. Coleridge drops
the subject of Poetry for the present, and proceeds to other important
matters.

We regret that Mr. Coleridge has passed over without notice all the
years which he spent "in the happy quiet of ever-honoured Jesus College,
Cambridge." That must have been the most important period of his life,
and was surely more worthy of record than the metaphysical dreams or the
poetical extravagancies of his boyhood. He tells us, that he was sent to
the University "an excellent Greek and Latin scholar, and a tolerable
Hebraist"; and there might have been something rousing and elevating to
young minds of genius and power, in his picture of himself, pursuits,
visions, and attainments, during the bright and glorious morning of
life, when he inhabited a dwelling of surpassing magnificence, guarded
and hallowed, and sublimed by the Shadows of the Mighty. We should wish
to know what progress he made there in his own favourite studies; what
place he occupied, or supposed he occupied, among his numerous
contemporaries of talent; how much he was inspired by the genius of the
place; how far he "pierced the caves of old Philosophy," or sounded the
depths of the Physical Sciences. All this unfortunately is omitted, and
he hurries on to details often trifling and uninfluential, sometimes
low, vile, and vulgar, and, what is worse, occasionally inconsistent
with any feeling of personal dignity and self-respect.

After leaving College, instead of betaking himself to some respectable
calling, Mr. Coleridge, with his characteristic modesty, determined to
set on foot a periodical work called "The Watchman," that through it
"_all might know the truth_." The price of this very useful article was
_"four-pence."_ Off he set on a tour to the north to procure
subscribers, "preaching in most of the great towns as a hireless
Volunteer, in a blue coat and white waistcoat, that not a rag of the
Woman of Babylon might be seen on me." In preaching, his object was to
show that our Saviour was the real son of Joseph, and that the
Crucifixion was a matter of small importance. Mr. Coleridge is now a
most zealous member of the Church of England--devoutly believes every
iota in the thirty-nine articles, and that the Christian Religion is
only to be found in its purity in the homilies and liturgy of that
Church. Yet, on looking back to his Unitarian zeal, he exclaims,

  O, never can I remember those days _with either shame or regret!_
  For I was _most sincere, most disinterested! Wealth, rank, life
  itself,_ then seem'd cheap to me, compared with the interests of
  truth, and the will of my Maker. I cannot even accuse myself of having
  been actuated by _vanity!_ for in the expansion of my enthusiasm _I
  did not think of myself at all!_


This is delectable. What does he mean by saying that life seemed cheap?
What danger could there be in the performance of his exploits, except
that of being committed as a Vagrant? What indeed could rank appear to a
person thus voluntarily degraded? Or who would expect vanity to be
conscious of its own loathsomeness? During this tour he seems to have
been constantly exposed to the insults of the vile and the vulgar, and
to have associated with persons whose company must have been most odious
to a Gentleman. Greasy Tallow-chandlers, and pursey Woollen-drapers, and
grim-featured dealers in Hard-ware, were his associates at Manchester,
Derby, Nottingham, and Sheffield; and among them the light of truth was
to be shed from its cloudy tabernacle in Mr. Coleridge's Pericranium. At
the house of a "Brummagem Patriot" he appears to have got dead drunk
with strong ale and tobacco, and in that pitiable condition he was
exposed to his disciples, lying upon a sofa, "with my face like a wall
that is white-washing, _deathly_ pale, and with the cold drops of
perspiration running down it from my forehead." Some one having said,
"Have you seen a paper to-day, Mr. Coleridge?" the wretched man replied,
with all the staring stupidity of his lamentable condition, "Sir! I am
far from convinced that a Christian is permitted to read either
newspapers, or any other works of merely political and temporary
interest." This witticism quite enchanted his enlightened auditors, and
they prolonged their festivities to an "early hour next morning." Having
returned to London with a thousand subscribers on his list, the
"Watchman" appeared in all his glory; but, alas! not on the day fixed
for the first burst of his effulgence; which foolish delay incensed many
of his subscribers. The Watchman, on his second appearance, spoke
blasphemously, and made indecent applications of Scriptural language;
then, instead of abusing Government and Aristocrats, as Mr. Coleridge
had pledged himself to his constituents to do, he attacked his own
Party; so that in seven weeks, before the shoes were old in which he
travelled to Sheffield, the Watchman went the way of all flesh, and his
remains were scattered "through sundry old iron shops," where for one
penny could be purchased each precious relic. To crown all, "his London
Publisher was a ----"; and Mr. Coleridge very narrowly escaped being
thrown into jail for this his heroic attempt to shed over the
manufacturing towns the illumination of knowledge. We refrain from
making any comments on this deplorable story. This Philosopher, and
Theologian, and Patriot, now retired to a village in Somersetshire, and,
after having sought to enlighten the whole world, discovered that he
himself was in utter darkness.

  Doubts rushed in, broke upon me from the fountains of the great
  deep, and fell from the windows of heaven. The fontal truths of
  natural Religion, and the book of Revelation, alike contributed to the
  flood; and it was long ere my Ark touched upon Ararat, and rested.
  My head was with Spinoza, though my heart was with Paul and John....

We have no room here to expose, as it deserves to be exposed, the
multitudinous political inconsistence of Mr. Coleridge, but we beg leave
to state one single fact: He abhorred, hated, and despised Mr. Pitt,--
and he now loves and reveres his memory. By far the most spirited and
powerful of his poetical writings, is the War Eclogue, Slaughter, Fire,
and Famine; and in that composition he loads the Minister with
imprecations and curses, long, loud, and deep. But afterwards, when he
has thought it prudent to change his Principles, he denies that he ever
felt any indignation towards Mr. Pitt; and with the most unblushing
falsehood declares, that at the very moment his muse was consigning him
to infamy, death, and damnation, he would "have interposed his body
between him and danger." We believe that all good men, of all parties,
regard Mr. Coleridge with pity and contempt.

Of the latter days of his literary life, Mr. Coleridge gives us no
satisfactory account. The whole of the second volume is interspersed
with mysterious inuendoes. He complains of the loss of all his friends,
not by death, but estrangement. He tries to account for the enmity of
the world to him, a harmless and humane man, who wishes well to all
created things, and "of his wondering finds no end." He upbraids himself
with indolence, procrastination, neglect of his worldly concerns, and
all other bad habits,--and then, with incredible inconsistency, vaunts
loudly of his successful efforts in the cause of Literature, Philosophy,
Morality, and Religion. Above all, he weeps and wails over the malignity
of Reviewers, who have persecuted him almost from his very cradle, and
seem resolved to bark him into the grave. He is haunted by the Image of
a Reviewer wherever he goes. They "push him from his stool," and by his
bedside they cry, "Sleep no more." They may abuse whomsoever they think
fit, save himself and Mr. Wordsworth. All others are fair game--and he
chuckles to see them brought down. But his sacred person must be
inviolate, and rudely to touch it, is not high treason, it is impiety.
Yet his "ever-honoured friend, the laurel-honouring Laureate," is a
Reviewer--his friend Mr. Thomas Moore is a Reviewer--his friend Dr.
Middleton, Bishop of Calcutta, was the Editor of a Review--almost every
friend he ever had is a Reviewer;--and to crown all, he himself is a
Reviewer. Every person who laughs at his silly Poems--and his
incomprehensible metaphysics, is malignant--in which case, there can be
little benevolence in this world; and while Mr. Francis Jeffrey is alive
and merry, there can be no happiness here below for Mr. Samuel
Coleridge.

And here we come to speak of a matter, which, though somewhat of a
personal and private nature, is well deserving of mention in a Review of
Mr. Coleridge's Literary Life, for sincerity is the first of virtues,
and without it no man can be respectable or useful. He has, in this
Work, accused Mr. Jeffrey of meanness--hypocrisy--falsehood--and breach
of hospitality. That gentleman is able to defend himself--and his
defence is no business of ours. But we now tell Mr. Coleridge, that
instead of humbling his Adversary, he has heaped upon his own head the
ashes of disgrace--and with his own blundering hands, so stained his
character as a man of honour and high principles, that the mark can
never be effaced. All the most offensive attacks on the writings of
Wordsworth and Southey, had been made by Mr. Jeffrey before his visit to
Keswick. Yet, does Coleridge receive him with open arms, according to
his own account--listen, well-pleased, to all his compliments--talk to
him for hours on his Literary Projects--dine with him as his guest at an
Inn--tell him that he knew Mr. Wordsworth would be most happy to see
him--and in all respects behave to him with a politeness bordering on
servility. And after all this, merely because his own vile verses were
crumpled up like so much waste paper, by the grasp of a powerful hand in
the Edinburgh Review, he accuses Mr. Jeffrey of abusing hospitality
which he never received, and forgets, that instead of being the Host, he
himself was the smiling and obsequious Guest of the man he pretends to
have despised. With all this miserable forgetfulness of dignity and
self-respect, he mounts the high horse, from which he instantly is
tumbled into the dirt; and in his angry ravings collects together all
the foul trash of literary gossip to fling at his adversary, but which
is blown stifling back upon himself with odium and infamy. But let him
call to mind his own conduct, and talk not of Mr. Jeffrey. Many
witnesses are yet living of his own egotism and malignity; and often has
he heaped upon his "beloved Friend, the laurel-honouring Laureate,"
epithets of contempt, and pity, and disgust, though now it may suit his
paltry purposes to worship and idolize. Of Mr. Southey we at all times
think, and shall speak, with respect and admiration; but his open
adversaries are, like Mr. Jeffrey, less formidable than his unprincipled
Friends. When Greek and Trojan meet on the plain, there is an interest
in the combat; but it is hateful and painful to think, that a hero
should be wounded behind his back, and by a poisoned stiletto in the
hand of a false Friend.

The concluding chapter of this Biography is perhaps the most pitiful of
the whole, and contains a most surprising mixture of the pathetic and
the ludicrous.

  "Strange," says he, "as the delusion may appear, yet it is most
  true, that three years ago I did not know or believe that I had an
  enemy in the world; and now even my strongest consolations of
  gratitude are mingled with fear, and I reproach myself for being too
  often disposed to ask,--Have I one friend?"

We are thus prepared for the narration of some grievous cruelty, or
ingratitude, or malice--some violation of his peace, or robbery of his
reputation; but our readers will start when they are informed, that this
melancholy lament is occasioned solely by the cruel treatment which his
poem of Christabel received from the Edinburgh Review and other
periodical Journals! It was, he tells us, universally admired in
manuscript--he recited it many hundred times to men, women, and
children, and always with an electrical effect--it was bepraised by most
of the great Poets of the day--and for twenty years he was urged to give
it to the world. But alas! no sooner had the Lady Christabel "come out,"
than all the rules of good-breeding and politeness were broken through,
and the loud laugh of scorn and ridicule from every quarter assailed the
ears of the fantastic Hoyden. But let Mr. Coleridge be consoled. Mr.
Scott and Lord Byron are good-natured enough to admire Christabel, and
the Public have not forgotten that his Lordship handed her Ladyship upon
the stage. It is indeed most strange, that Mr., Coleridge is not
satisfied with the praise of those he admires,--but pines away for the
commendation of those he contemns.

Having brought down his literary life to the great epoch of the
publication of Christabel, he there stops short; and that the world may
compare him as he appears at that aera to his former self, when "he set
sail from Yarmouth on the morning of the 10th September, 1798, in the
Hamburg Packet," he has republished, from his periodical work the
"Friend," seventy pages of Satyrane's Letters. As a specimen of his wit
in 1798, our readers may take the following:--

We were all on the deck, but in a short time I observed marks of
  dismay. The Lady retired to the cabin in some confusion; and many
  of the faces round me assumed a very doleful and frog-coloured
  appearance; and within an hour the number of those on deck was
  lessened by one half. I was giddy, but not sick; and the giddiness
  soon went away, but left a feverishness and want of appetite, which I
  attributed, in great measure, to the "_saeva mephitis_" of the
  bilge-water; and it was certainly not decreased by the _exportations
  from the cabin_. However, I was well enough to join the able-bodied
  passengers, one of whom observed, not inaptly, that Momus might have
  discovered an easier _way to see a man's inside_ than by placing a
  window in his breast. He needed only have taken a salt-water trip in a
  packet boat. I am inclined to believe, that a packet is far superior
  to a stage-coach as a means of making men _open out to each other_!

The importance of his observations during the voyage may be estimated by
this one:--

  At four o'clock I observed a wild duck swimming on the waves,_a single
  solitary wild duck!_ It is not easy to conceive how interesting a
  thing it looked in that round objectless desert of waters!

At the house of Klopstock, brother of the Poet, he saw a portrait of
Lessing, which he thus describes to the Public:--"His eyes were
uncommonly _like mine_! if any thing, rather larger and more prominent!
But the lower part of his face I and his nose--O what an exquisite
expression of elegance and sensibility!" He then gives a long account of
his interview with Klopstock the Poet, in which he makes that great man
talk in a very silly, weak, and ignorant manner. Mr. Coleridge not only
sets him right in all his opinions on English literature, but also is
kind enough to correct, in a very authoritative and dictatorial tone,
his erroneous views of the characteristic merits and defects of the most
celebrated German Writers. He has indeed the ball in his own hands
throughout the whole game; and Klopstock, who, he says, "was
seventy-four years old, with legs enormously swollen," is beaten to a
standstill. We are likewise presented with an account of a conversation
which his friend W. held with the German Poet, in which the author of
the Messiah makes a still more paltry figure. We can conceive nothing
more odious and brutal, than two young ignorant lads from Cambridge
forcing themselves upon the retirement of this illustrious old man, and,
instead of listening with love, admiration and reverence, to his
sentiments and opinions, insolently obtruding upon him their own crude
and mistaken fancies,--contradicting imperiously every thing he
advances,--taking leave of him with a consciousness of their own
superiority,--and, finally, talking of him and his genius in terms of
indifference bordering on contempt. This Mr. W. had the folly and the
insolence to say to Klopstock, who was enthusiastically praising the
Oberon of Wieland, that he never could see the smallest beauty in any
part of that Poem.

We must now conclude our account of this "unaccountable" production. It
has not been in our power to enter into any discussion with Mr.
Coleridge on the various subjects of Poetry and Philosophy, which he
has, we think, vainly endeavoured to elucidate. But we shall, on a
future occasion, meet him on his own favourite ground. No less than 182
pages of the second volume are dedicated to the poetry of Mr.
Wordsworth. He has endeavoured to define poetry--to explain the
philosophy of metre--to settle the boundaries of poetic diction--and to
show, finally, "What it is probable Mr. Wordsworth meant to say in his
dissertation prefixed to his Lyrical Ballads." As Mr. Coleridge has not
only studied the laws of poetical composition, but is a Poet of
considerable powers, there are, in this part of his Book, many acute,
ingenious, and even sensible observations and remarks; but he never
knows when to have done,--explains what requires no explanation,--often
leaves untouched the very difficulty he starts,--and when he has poured
before us a glimpse of light upon the shapeless form of some dark
conception, he seems to take a wilful pleasure in its immediate
extinction, and leads "us floundering on, and quite astray," through the
deepening shadows of interminable night.

One instance there is of magnificent promise, and laughable
non-performance, unequalled in the annals of literary History. Mr.
Coleridge informs us, that he and Mr. Wordsworth (he is not certain which
is entitled to the glory of the first discovery) have found out the
difference between Fancy and Imagination. This discovery, it is
prophesied, will have an incalculable influence on the progress of all
the Fine Arts. He has written a long chapter purposely to prepare our
minds for the great discussion. The audience is assembled--the curtain
is drawn up--and there, in his gown, cap, and wig, is sitting Professor
Coleridge. In comes a servant with a letter; the Professor gets up, and,
with a solemn voice, reads to the audience.--It is from an enlightened
Friend; and its object is to shew, in no very courteous terms either to
the Professor or his Spectators, that he may lecture, but that nobody
will understand him. He accordingly makes his bow, and the curtain
falls; but the worst of the joke is, that the Professor pockets the
admittance-money,--for what reason, his outwitted audience are left, the
best way they can, to "fancy or imagine."

But the greatest piece of Quackery in the Book is his pretended account
of the Metaphysical System of Kant, of which he knows less than nothing.
He wall not allow that there is a single word of truth in any of the
French Expositions of that celebrated System, nor yet in any of our
British Reviews. We do not wish to speak of what we do not understand,
and therefore say nothing of Mr. Coleridge's Metaphysics....

We have done. We have felt it our duty to speak with severity of this
book and its author--and we have given our readers ample opportunities
to judge of the justice of our strictures. We have not been speaking in
the cause of literature only, but, we conceive, in the cause of Morality
and Religion. For it is not fitting that He should be held up as an
example to the rising generation (but, on the contrary, it is most
fitting that he should be exposed as a most dangerous model), who has
alternately embraced, defended, and thrown aside all systems of
Philosophy--and all creeds of Religion,--who seems to have no power of
retaining an opinion,--no trust in the principles which he defends,--but
who fluctuates from theory to theory, according as he is impelled by
vanity, envy, or diseased desire of change,--and who, while he would
subvert and scatter into dust those structures of knowledge, reared by
the wise men of this and other generations, has nothing to erect in
their room but the baseless and air-built fabrics of a dreaming
Imagination.



ON THE COCKNEY SCHOOL OF POETRY

No. I

[From _Blackwood's Magazine_, October, 1817]

  Our talk shall be (a theme we never tire on)
  Of Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron,
  (Our England's Dante)--Wordsworth--HUNT, and KEATS,
  The Muses' son of promise; and of what feats
  He yet may do.

CORNELIUS WEBB.


While the whole critical world is occupied with balancing the merits,
whether in theory or in execution, of what is commonly called THE LAKE
SCHOOL, it is strange that no one seems to think it at all necessary to
say a single word about another new school of poetry which has of late
sprung up among us. This school has not, I believe, as yet received any
name; but if I may be permitted to have the honour of christening it, it
may henceforth be referred to by the designation of THE COCKNEY SCHOOL.
Its chief Doctor and Professor is Mr. Leigh Hunt, a man certainly of
some talents, of extravagant pretensions both in wit, poetry, and
politics, and withal of exquisitely bad taste, and extremely vulgar
modes of thinking and manners in all respects. He is a man of little
education. He knows absolutely nothing of Greek, almost nothing of
Latin, and his knowledge of Italian literature is confined to a few of
the most popular of Petrarch's sonnets, and an imperfect acquaintance
with Ariosto, through the medium of Mr. Hoole. As to the French poets,
he dismisses them in the mass as a set of prim, precise, unnatural
pretenders. The truth is, he is in a state of happy ignorance about them
and all that they have done. He has never read Zaïre nor Phèdre. To
those great German poets who have illuminated the last fifty years with
a splendour to which this country has, for a long time, seen nothing
comparable, Mr. Hunt is an absolute stranger. Of Spanish books he has
read Don Quixote (in the translation of Motteux), and some poems of Lope
de Vega in the imitations of my Lord Holland. Of all the great critical
writers, either of ancient or of modern times, he is utterly ignorant,
excepting only Mr. Jeffrey among ourselves.

With this stock of knowledge, Mr. Hunt presumes to become the founder of
a new school of poetry, and throws away entirely the chance which he
might have had of gaining some true poetical fame, had he been less
lofty in his pretensions. The story of Rimini is not wholly undeserving
of praise. It possesses some tolerable passages, which are all quoted in
the Edinburgh Reviewer's account of the poem, and not one of which is
quoted in the very illiberal attack upon it in the Quarterly. But such
is the wretched taste in which the greater part of the work is executed,
that most certainly no man who reads it once will ever be able to
prevail upon himself to read it again. One feels the same disgust at the
idea of opening Rimini, that impresses itself on the mind of a man of
fashion, when he is invited to enter, for a second time, the gilded
drawing-room of a little mincing boarding school mistress, who would
fain have an _At Home_ in her house. Every thing is pretence,
affectation, finery, and gaudiness. The beaux are attorneys'
apprentices, with chapeau bras and Limerick gloves--fiddlers, harp
teachers, and clerks of genius: the belles are faded fan-twinkling
spinsters, prurient vulgar misses from school, and enormous citizens'
wives. The company are entertained with lukewarm negus, and the sounds
of a paltry piano forte.

All the great poets of our country have been men of some rank in
society, and there is no vulgarity in any of their writings; But Mr.
Hunt cannot utter a dedication, or even a note, without betraying the
_Shibboleth_ of low birth and low habits. He is the ideal of a Cockney
Poet. He raves perpetually about "greenfields," "jaunty streams," and
"o'er-arching leafiness," exactly as a Cheapside shop-keeper does about
the beauties of his box on the Camberwell road. Mr. Hunt is altogether
unacquainted with the face of nature in her magnificent scenes; he has
never seen any mountain higher than Highgate-hill, nor reclined by any
stream more pastoral than the Serpentine River. But he is determined to
be a poet eminently rural, and he rings the changes--till one is sick of
him, on the beauties of the different "high views" which he has taken of
God and nature, in the course of some Sunday dinner parties, at which he
has assisted in the neighbourhood of London. His books are indeed not
known in the country; his fame as a poet (and I might almost say, as a
politician too) is entirely confined to the young attorneys and
embryo-barristers about town. In the opinion of these competent judges,
London is the world--and Hunt is a Homer.

Mr. Hunt is not disqualified by his ignorance and vulgarity alone, for
being the founder of a respectable sect in poetry. He labours under the
burden of a sin more deadly than either of these. The two great elements
of all dignified poetry, religious feeling, and patriotic feeling, have
no place in his mind. His religion is a poor tame dilution of the
blasphemies of the _Encyclopaedie_--his patriotism a crude, vague,
ineffectual, and sour Jacobinism. He is without reverence either for God
or man; neither altar nor throne have any dignity in his eyes. He speaks
well of nobody but two or three great dead poets, and in so speaking of
them he does well; but, alas! Mr. Hunt is no conjurer [Greek: technae ou
lanthanei].  He pretends, indeed, to be an admirer of Spencer and
Chaucer, but what he praises in them is never what is most deserving of
praise--it is only that which he humbly conceives, bears some
resemblance to the more perfect productions of Mr. Leigh Hunt; and we
can always discover, in the midst of his most violent ravings about the
Court of Elizabeth, and the days of Sir Philip Sidney, and the Fairy
Queen--that the real objects of his admiration are the Coterie of
Hampstead and the Editor of the Examiner. When he talks about chivalry
and King Arthur, he is always thinking of himself, and "_a small party
of friends, who meet once a-week at a Round Table, to discuss the merits
of a leg of mutton, and of the subjects upon which we are to write._"--
Mr. Leigh Hunt's ideas concerning the sublime, and concerning his own
powers, bear a considerable resemblance to those of his friend Bottom,
the weaver, on the same subjects; "I will roar, that it shall do any
man's heart good to hear me."--"I will roar you an 'twere any
nightingale."

The poetry of Mr. Hunt is such as might be expected from the personal
character and habits of its author. As a vulgar man is perpetually
labouring to be genteel--in like manner, the poetry of this man is
always on the stretch to be grand. He has been allowed to look for a
moment from the anti-chamber into the saloon, and mistaken the waving of
feathers and the painted floor for the _sine quâ non's_ of elegant
society. He would fain be always tripping and waltzing, and is sorry
that he cannot be allowed to walk about in the morning with yellow
breeches and flesh-coloured silk stockings. He sticks an artificial
rose-bud into his button hole in the midst of winter. He wears no
neckcloth, and cuts his hair in imitation of the Prints of Petrarch. In
his verses also he is always desirous of being airy, graceful, easy,
courtly, and ITALIAN. If he had the smallest acquaintance with the great
demigods of Italian poetry, he could never fancy that the style in which
he writes, bears any, even the most remote resemblance to the severe and
simple manner of Dante--the tender stillness of the lover of Laura--or
the sprightly and good-natured unconscious elegance of the inimitable
Ariosto. He has gone into a strange delusion about himself, and is just
as absurd in supposing that he resembles the Italian Poets as a greater
Quack still (Mr. Coleridge) is, in imagining that he is a Philosopher
after the manner of Kant or Mendelshon--and that "the eye of Lessing
bears a remarkable likeness to MINE," i.e., the eye of Mr. Samuel
Coleridge.[1]

[1] Mr. Wordsworth (meaning, we presume, to pay Mr. Coleridge a
    compliment), makes him look very absurdly,

  "A noticeable man, with _large grey eyes_."


The extreme moral depravity of the Cockney School is another thing which
is for ever thrusting itself upon the public attention, and convincing
every man of sense who looks into their productions, that they who sport
such sentiments can never be great poets. How could any man of high
original genius ever stoop publicly, at the present day, to dip his
fingers in the least of those glittering and rancid obscenities which
float on the surface of Mr. Hunt's Hippocrene? His poetry is that of a
man who has kept company with kept-mistresses. He talks indelicately
like a tea-sipping milliner girl. Some excuse for him there might have
been, had he been hurried away by imagination or passion. But with him
indecency is a disease, and he speaks unclean things from perfect
inanition. The very concubine of so impure a wretch as Leigh Hunt would
be to be pitied, but alas! for the wife of such a husband! For him there
is no charm in simple seduction; and he gloats over it only when
accompanied with adultery and incest.

The unhealthy and jaundiced medium through which the Founder of the
Cockney School views every thing like moral truth, is apparent, not only
from his obscenity, but also from his want of respect for all that
numerous class of plain upright men, and unpretending women, in which
the real worth and excellence of human society consists. Every man is,
according to Mr. Hunt, a dull potato-eating blockhead--of no greater
value to God or man than any ox or dray-horse--who is not an admirer of
Voltaire's _romans_, a worshipper of Lord Holland and Mr. Haydon and a
quoter of John Buncle and Chaucer's Flower and Leaf. Every woman is
useful only as a breeding machine, unless she is fond of reading
Launcelot of the Lake, in an antique summer-house.

How such a profligate creature as Mr. Hunt can pretend to be an admirer
of Mr. Wordsworth, is to us a thing altogether inexplicable. One great
charm of Wordsworth's noble compositions consists in the dignified
purity of thought, and the patriarchal simplicity of feeling, with which
they are throughout penetrated and imbued. We can conceive a vicious man
admiring with distant awe and spectacle of virtue and purity; but if he
does so sincerely, he must also do so with the profoundest feeling of
the error of his own ways, and the resolution to amend them. His
admiration must be humble and silent, not pert and loquacious. Mr. Hunt
praises the purity of Wordsworth as if he himself were pure, his dignity
as if he also were dignified. He is always like the ball of Dung in the
fable, pleasing himself, and amusing by-standers with his "nos poma
natamus." For the person who writes _Rimini_, to admire the Excursion,
is just as impossible as it would be for a Chinese polisher of
cherry-stones, or gilder of tea-cups, to burst into tears at the sight
of the Theseus or the Torso.

The Founder of the Cockney School would fain claim poetical kindred with
Lord Byron and Thomas Moore. Such a connexion would be as unsuitable for
them as for William Wordsworth. The days of Mr. Moore's follies are long
since over; and, as he is a thorough gentleman, he must necessarily
entertain the greatest contempt for such an under-bred person as Leigh
Hunt. But Lord Byron! How must the haughty spirit of Lara and Harold
contemn the subaltern sneaking of our modern tuft-hunter. The insult
which he offered to Lord Byron in the dedication of Rimini,--in which
he, a paltry cockney newspaper scribbler, had the assurance to address
one of the most nobly-born of English Patricians, and one of the first
geniuses whom the world ever produced, as "My dear Byron," although it
may have been forgotten and despised by the illustrious person whom it
most nearly concerned,--excited a feeling of utter loathing and disgust
in the public mind, which will always be remembered whenever the name of
Leigh Hunt is mentioned. We dare say Mr. Hunt has some fine dreams about
the true nobility being the nobility of talent, and flatters himself,
that with those who acknowledge only that sort of rank, he himself
passes for being the _peer_ of Byron. He is sadly mistaken. He is as
completely a Plebeian in his mind as he is in his rank and station in
society. To that highest and unalienated nobility which the great Roman
satirist styles "sola atque unica," we fear his pretensions would be
equally unavailing.

The shallow and impotent pretensions, tenets, and attempts, of this
man,--and the success with which his influence seems to be extending
itself among a pretty numerous, though certainly a very paltry and
pitiful, set of readers,--have for the last two or three years been
considered by us with the most sickening aversion. The very culpable
manner in which his chief poem was reviewed in the Edinburgh Review (we
believe it is no secret, at his own impatient and feverish request, by
his partner in the Round Table), was matter of concern to more readers
than ourselves. The masterly pen which inflicted such signal
chastisement on the early licentiousness of Moore, should not have been
idle on that occasion. Mr. Jeffrey does ill when he delegates his
important functions into such hands as Mr. Hazlitt. It was chiefly in
consequence of that gentleman's allowing Leigh Hunt to pass unpunished
through a scene of slaughter, which his execution might so highly have
graced that we came to the resolution of laying before our readers a
series of essays on _the Cockney School_--of which here terminates the
first. _Z_.



THE COCKNEY SCHOOL OF POETRY

No. III

[From _Blackwood's Magazine_, July, 1818]

Our hatred and contempt of Leigh Hunt as a writer, is not so much owing
to his shameless irreverence to his aged and afflicted king--to his
profligate attacks on the character of the king's sons--to his low-born
insolence to that aristocracy with whom he would in vain claim the
alliance of one illustrious friendship--to his paid panderism to the
vilest passions of that mob of which he is himself a firebrand--to the
leprous crust of self-conceit with which his whole moral being is
indurated--to that loathsome vulgarity which constantly clings round him
like a vermined garment from St. Giles'--to that irritable temper which
keeps the unhappy man, in spite even of his vanity, in a perpetual fret
with himself and all the world beside, and that shews itself equally in
his deadly enmities and capricious friendships,--our hatred and contempt
of Leigh Hunt, we say, is not so much owing to these and other causes,
as to the odious and unnatural harlotry of his polluted muse. We were
the first to brand with a burning iron the false face of this
kept-mistress of a demoralizing incendiary. We tore off her gaudy veil and
transparent drapery, and exhibited the painted cheeks and writhing limbs
of the prostitute. We denounced to the execration of the people of
England, the man who had dared to write in the solitude of a cell, whose
walls ought to have heard only the sighs of contrition and repentance, a
lewd tale of incest, adultery, and murder, in which the violation of
Nature herself was wept over, palliated, justified, and held up to
imitation, and the violators themselves worshipped as holy martyrs. The
story of Rimini had begun to have its admirers; but their deluded minds
were startled at our charges,--and on reflecting upon the character of
the poem, which they had read with a dangerous sympathy, not on account
of its poetical merit, which is small indeed, but on account of those
voluptuous scenes, so dangerous even to a pure imagination, when
insidiously painted with the seeming colours of virtue,--they were
astounded at their own folly and their own danger, and consigned the
wretched volume to that ignominious oblivion, which, in a land of
religion and morality, must soon be the doom of all obscene and
licentious productions.

The story of Rimini is heard of no more. But Leigh Hunt will not be
quiet. His hebdomadal hand [**Pointing hand symbol] is held up, even on
the Sabbath, against every man of virtue and genius in the land; but the
great defamer claims to himself an immunity from that disgrace which he
knows his own wickedness has incurred,--the Cockney calumniator would
fain hold his own disgraced head sacred from the iron fingers of
retribution. But that head shall be brought low--aye--low "as heaped up
justice" ever sunk that of an offending scribbler against the laws of
Nature and of God.

Leigh Hunt dared not, Hazlitt dared not, to defend the character of the
"Story of Rimini." A man may venture to say that in verse which it is
perilous to utter in plain prose. Even they dared not to affirm to the
people of England, that a wife who had committed incest with her
husband's brother, ought on her death to be buried in the same tomb with
her fraticidal [Transcriber's note: sic] paramour, and that tomb to be
annually worshipped by the youths and virgins of their country. And
therefore Leigh Hunt flew into a savage passion against the critic who
had chastised his crime, pretended that he himself was insidiously
charged with the offences which he had applauded and celebrated in
others, and tried to awaken the indignation of the public against his
castigator, as if he had been the secret assassin of private character,
who was but the open foe of public enormity. The attempt was hopeless,--
the public voice has lifted up against Hunt,--and sentence of
excommunication from the poets of England has been pronounced, enrolled,
and ratified.

There can be no radical distinction allowed between the private and
public character of a poet. If a poet sympathizes with and justifies
wickedness in his poetry, he is a wicked man. It matters not that his
private life may be free from wicked actions. Corrupt his moral
principles must be,--and if his conduct has not been flagrantly immoral,
the cause must be looked for in constitution, &c., but not in
conscience. It is therefore of little or no importance, whether Leigh
Hunt be or be not a bad private character. He maintains, that he is a
most excellent private character, and that he would blush to tell the
world how highly he is thought of by an host of respectable friends. Be
it so,--and that his vanity does not delude him. But this is most sure,
that, in such a case, the world will never be brought to believe even
the truth. The world is not fond of ingenious distinctions between the
theory and the practice of morals. The public are justified in refusing
to hear a man plead in favour of his character, when they hold in their
hands a work of his in which all respect to character is forgotten. We
must reap the fruit of what we sow; and if evil and unjust reports have
arisen against Leigh Hunt as a man, and unluckily for him it is so, he
ought not to attribute the rise of such reports to the political
animosities which his virulence has excited, but to the real and obvious
cause--his voluptuous defence of crimes revolting to Nature.

The publication of the voluptuous story of Rimini was followed, it would
appear, by mysterious charges against Leigh Hunt in his domestic
relations. The world could not understand the nature of his poetical
love of incest; and instead of at once forgetting both the poem and the
poet, many people set themselves to speculate, and talk, and ask
questions, and pry into secrets with which they had nothing to do, till
at last there was something like an identification of Leigh Hunt himself
with Paolo, the incestuous hero of Leigh Hunt's chief Cockney poem. This
was wrong, and, we believe, wholly unjust; but it was by no means
unnatural; and precisely what Leigh Hunt is himself in the weekly
practice of doing to other people without the same excuse. Leigh Hunt
has now spoken out so freely to the public on the subject, that there
can be no indelicacy in talking of it, in as far as it respects him, at
least....

There is no need for us to sink down this unhappy man into deeper
humiliation. Never before did the abuse and prostitution of talents
bring with them such prompt and memorable punishment. The pestilential
air which Leigh Hunt breathed forth into the world to poison and
corrupt, has been driven stiflingly back upon himself, and he who strove
to spread the infection of loathsome licentiousness among the tender
moral constitutions of the young, has been at length rewarded, as it was
fitting he should be, by the accusation of being himself guilty of those
crimes which it was the object of "The Story of Rimini" to encourage and
justify in others. The world knew nothing of him but from his works; and
were they blameable (even though they erred) in believing him capable of
any enormities in his own person, whose imagination feasted and gloated
on the disgusting details of adultery and incest? They were repelled and
sickened by such odious and unnatural wickedness--he was attracted and
delighted. What to them was the foulness of pollution, seemed to him the
beauty of innocence. What to them was the blast from hell, to him was
the air from heaven. They read and they condemned. They asked each other
"What manner of man is this?" The charitable were silent. It would
perhaps be hard to call them uncharitable who spoke aloud. Thoughts were
associated with his name which shall be nameless by us; and at last the
wretched scribbler himself has had the gross and unfeeling folly to
punish them all to the world, and that too in a tone of levity that
could have been becoming only on our former comparatively trivial
charges against him of wearing yellow breeches, and dispensing with the
luxury of a neckcloth. He shakes his shoulders, according to his rather
iniquitous custom, at being told that he is suspected of adultery and
incest! A pleasant subject of merriment, no doubt, it is--though
somewhat embittered by the intrusive remembrance of that unsparing
castigator of vice, Mr. Gifford, and clouded over by the melancholy
breathed from the shin-bone of his own poor old deceased grandmother.
What a mixture of the horrible and absurd! And the man who thus writes
is--not a Christian, for that he denies--but, forsooth, a poet! one of
the

  Great spirits who on earth are sojourning!

But Leigh Hunt is not guilty, in the above paragraph, of shocking levity
alone,--he is guilty of falsehood. It is not true, that he learns for
the first time, from that anonymous letter (so vulgar, that we could
almost suspect him of having written it himself) what charges were in
circulation against him. He knew it all before. Has he forgotten to whom
he applied for explanation when Z.'s sharp essay on the Cockney Poetry
cut him to the heart? He knows what he said upon those occasions, and
let him ponder upon it. But what could induce him to suspect the amiable
Bill Hazlitt, "him, the immaculate," of being Z.? It was this,--he
imagined that none but that foundered artist could know the fact of his
feverish importunities to be reviewed by him in the Edinburgh Review.
And therefore, having almost "as fine an intellectual touch" as "Bill
the painter" himself, he thought he saw Z. lurking beneath the elegant
exterior of that highly accomplished man.

  Dear Hazlitt, whose tact intellectual is such,
  That it seems to feel truth as one's fingers do touch.

But, for the present, we have nothing more to add. Leigh Hunt is
delivered into our hands to do with him as we will. Our eyes shall be
upon him, and unless he amend his ways, to wither and to blast him. The
pages of the Edinburgh Review, we are confident, are henceforth shut
against him. One wicked Cockney will not again be permitted to praise
another in that journal, which, up to the moment when incest and
adultery were defended in its pages, had, however openly at war with
religion, kept at least upon decent terms with the cause of morality. It
was indeed a fatal day for Mr. Jeffrey, when he degraded both himself
and his original coadjutors, by taking into pay such an unprincipled
blunderer as Hazlitt. He is not a coadjutor, he is an accomplice. The
day is perhaps not far distant, when the Charlatan shall be stripped to
the naked skin, and made to swallow his own vile prescriptions. He and
Leigh Hunt are

        Arcades ambo
  Et cantare pares--

Shall we add,

  et respondere parati?



Z. ON KEATS

[From _Blackwood's Magazine_, August, 1818]

COCKNEY SCHOOL OF POETRY

No. IV

 ---- OF KEATS,
  THE MUSES' SON OF PROMISE, AND WHAT FEATS
  HE YET MAY DO, &C.

CORNELIUS WEBB.


Of all the manias of this mad age, the most incurable, as well as the
most common, seems to be no other than the _Metromanie_. The just
celebrity of Robert Burns and Miss Baillie has had the melancholy effect
of turning the heads of we know not how many farm-servants and unmarried
ladies; our very footmen compose tragedies, and there is scarcely a
superannuated governess in the island that does not leave a roll of
lyrics behind her in her band-box. To witness the disease of any human
understanding, however feeble, is distressing; but the spectacle of an
able mind reduced to a state of insanity is of course ten times more
afflicting. It is with such sorrow as this that we have contemplated the
case of Mr. John Keats. This young man appears to have received from
nature talents of an excellent, perhaps even of a superior order--
talents which, devoted to the purposes of any useful profession, must
have rendered him a respectable, if not an eminent citizen. His friends,
we understand, destined him to the career of medicine, and he was bound
apprentice some years ago to a worthy apothecary in town. But all has
been undone by a sudden attack of the malady to which we have alluded.
Whether Mr. John had been sent home with a diuretic or composing draught
to some patient far gone in the poetical mania, we have not heard. This
much is certain, that he has caught the infection, and that thoroughly.
For some time we were in hopes, that he might get off with a violent fit
or two; but of late the symptoms are terrible. The phrenzy of the
"Poems" was bad enough in its way; but it did not alarm us half so
seriously as the calm, settled, imperturbable drivelling idiocy of
"Endymion." We hope, however, that in so young a person, and with a
constitution originally so good, even now the disease is not utterly
incurable. Time, firm treatment, and rational restraint, do much for
many apparently hopeless invalids; and if Mr. Keats should happen, at
some interval of reason, to cast his eye upon our pages, he may perhaps
be convinced of the existence of his malady, which, in such cases, is
often all that is necessary to put the patient in a fair way of being
cured.

The readers of the Examiner newspaper were informed, some time ago, by a
solemn paragraph, in Mr. Hunt's best style, of the appearance of two new
stars of glorious magnitude and splendour in the poetical horizon of the
land of Cockaigne. One of these turned out, by and by, to be no other
than Mr. John Keats. This precocious adulation confirmed the wavering
apprentice in his desire to quit the gallipots, and at the same time
excited in his too susceptible mind a fatal admiration for the character
and talents of the most worthless and affected of all the versifiers of
our time. One of his first productions was the following sonnet,
"_written on the day when Mr. Leigh Hunt left prison._" It will be
recollected, that the cause of Hunt's confinement was a series of libels
against his sovereign, and that its fruit was the odious and incestuous
"Story of Rimini."

  What though, for shewing truth to flattered state,
    _Kind Hunt_ was shut in prison, yet has he,
    In his immortal spirit been as free
  As the sky-searching lark, and as elate.
  Minion of grandeur! think you he did wait?
    Think you he nought but prison walls did see,
    Till, so unwilling, thou unturn'dst the key?
  Ah, no! far happier, nobler was his fate!
  _In Spenser's halls_! he strayed, and bowers fair,
    Culling enchanted flowers; and he flew
  _With daring Milton_! through the fields of air;
    To regions of his own his genius true
  Took happy flights. Who shall his fame impair
    When thou art dead, and all thy wretched crew?

The absurdity of the thought in this sonnet is, however, if possible,
surpassed in another, "_addressed to Haydon_" the painter, that clever,
but most affected artist, who as little resembles Raphael in genius as
he does in person, notwithstanding the foppery of having his hair curled
over his shoulders in the old Italian fashion. In this exquisite piece
it will be observed, that Mr. Keats classes together WORDSWORTH, HUNT,
and HAYDON, as the three greatest spirits of the age, and that he
alludes to himself, and some others of the rising brood of Cockneys, as
likely to attain hereafter an equally honourable elevation. Wordsworth
and Hunt! what a juxta-position! The purest, the loftiest, and, we do
not fear to say it, the most classical of living English poets, joined
together in the same compliment with the meanest, the filthiest, and the
most vulgar of Cockney poetasters. No wonder that he who could be guilty
of this should class Haydon with Raphael, and himself with Spenser.

  Great spirits now on earth are sojourning;
    He of the cloud, the cataract, the lake,
    Who on Helvellyn's summit, wide awake,
  Catches his freshness from Archangel's wing:
  _He of the rose, the violet, the spring,
    The social smile, the chain for Freedom's sake_:
    And lo!--whose steadfastness would never take
  A meaner sound than Raphael's whispering.
  And other spirits there are standing apart
    Upon the forehead of the age to come;
  These, these will give the world another heart,
    And other pulses. _Hear ye not the hum
  Of mighty workings_?--
    _Listen awhile ye nations, and be dumb_.

The nations are to listen and be dumb! and why, good Johnny Keats?
because Leigh Hunt is editor of the Examiner, and Haydon has painted the
judgment of Solomon, and you and Cornelius Webb, and a few more city
sparks, are pleased to look upon yourselves as so many future
Shakespeares and Miltons! The world has really some reason to look to
its foundations! Here is a _tempestas in matulâ_ with a vengeance. At
the period when these sonnets were published, Mr. Keats had no
hesitation in saying, that he looked on himself as "_not yet_ a glorious
denizen of the wide heaven of poetry," but he had many fine soothing
visions of coming greatness, and many rare plans of study to prepare him
for it....

Having cooled a little from this "fine passion," our youthful poet
passes very naturally into a long strain of foaming abuse against a
certain class of English Poets, whom, with Pope at their head, it is
much the fashion with the ignorant unsettled pretenders of the present
time to undervalue. Begging these gentlemen's pardon, although Pope was
not a poet of the same high order with some who are now living, yet, to
deny his genius, it is just about as absurd as to dispute that of
Wordsworth, or to believe in that of Hunt. Above all things, it is most
pitiably ridiculous to hear men, of whom their country will always have
reason to be proud, reviled by uneducated and flimsy striplings, who are
not capable of understanding either their merits, or those of any other
_men of power_--fanciful dreaming tea-drinkers, who, without logic
enough to analyse a single idea, or imagination enough to form one
original image, or learning enough to distinguish between the written
language of Englishmen and the spoken jargon of Cockneys, presume to
talk with contempt of some of the most exquisite spirits the world ever
produced, merely because they did not happen to exert their faculties in
laborious affected descriptions of flowers seen in window-pots, or
cascades heard at Vauxhall; in short, because they chose to be wits,
philosophers, patriots, and poets, rather than to found the Cockney
school of versification, morality, and politics, a century before its
time. After blaspheming himself into a fury against Boileau, &c., Mr.
Keats comforts himself and his readers with a view of the present more
promising aspect of affairs; above all, with the ripened glories of the
poet of Rimini. Addressing the names of the departed chiefs of English
poetry, he informs them, in the following clear and touching manner, of
the existence of "him of the Rose," &c.

            From a thick brake,
  Nested and quiet in a valley mild,
  Bubbles a pipe; fine sounds are floating wild
  About the earth. Happy are ye and glad....

From some verses addressed to various individuals of the other sex, it
appears, notwithstanding all this gossamer-work, that Johnny's
affectations are not entirely confined to objects purely etherial. Take,
by way of specimen, the following prurient and vulgar lines, evidently
meant for some young lady east of Temple-bar.

              Add too, the sweetness
  Of thy honied voice; the neatness
  Of thine ankle lightly turn'd:
  With those beauties, scarce discerned,
  Kept with such sweet privacy,
  That they seldom meet the eye
  Of the little loves that fly
  Round about with eager pry.
  Saving when, with freshening lave,
  Thou dipp'st them in the taintless wave;
  Like twin water lilies, born
  In the coolness of the morn.
  O, if thou hadst breathed then,
  Now the Muses had been ten.
  Couldst thou wish for lineage _higher_
  Than twin sister of _Thalia_?
  At last for ever, evermore,
  Will I call the Graces four.

Who will dispute that our poet, to use his own phrase (and rhyme),

  Can mingle music fit for the soft _ear_
  Of Lady _Cytherea_.

So much for the opening bud; now for the expanded flower. It is time to
pass from the juvenile "Poems," to the mature and elaborate "Endymion, a
Poetic Romance." The old story of the moon falling in love with a
shepherd, so prettily told by a Roman Classic, and so exquisitely
enlarged and adorned by one of the most elegant of German poets, has
been seized upon by Mr. John Keats, to be done with as might seem good
unto the sickly fancy of one who never read a single line either of Ovid
or of Wieland. If the quantity, not the quality, of the verses dedicated
to the story is to be taken into account, there can be no doubt that Mr.
Keats may now claim Endymion entirely to himself. To say the truth, we
do not suppose either the Latin or the German poet would be very anxious
to dispute about the property of the hero of the "Poetic Romance." Mr.
Keats has thoroughly appropriated the character, if not the name. His
Endymion is not a Greek shepherd, love of a Grecian goddess; he is
merely a young Cockney rhymster, dreaming a phantastic dream at the full
of the moon. Costume, were it worth while to notice such a trifle, is
violated in every page of this goodly octavo. From his prototype Hunt,
John Keats has acquired a sort of vague idea, that the Greeks were a
most tasteful people, and that no mythology can be so finely adapted for
the purposes of poetry as theirs. It is amusing to see what a hand the
two Cockneys make of this mythology; the one confesses that he never
read the Greek Tragedians, and the other knows Homer only from Chapman,
and both of them write about Apollo, Pan, Nymphs, Muses, and Mysteries,
as might be expected from persons of their education. We shall not,
however, enlarge at present upon this subject, as we mean to dedicate an
entire paper to the classical attainments and attempts of the Cockney
poets. As for Mr. Keats's "Endymion," it has just as much to do with
Greece as it has with "old Tartary the fierce"; no man, whose mind has
ever been imbued with the smallest knowledge or feeling of classical
poetry or classical history, could have stooped to profane and vulgarise
every association in the manner which has been adopted by this "son of
promise." Before giving any extracts, we must inform our readers, that
this romance is meant to be written in English heroic rhyme. To those
who have read any of Hunt's poems, this hint might indeed be needless.
Mr. Keats has adopted the loose, nerveless versification, and Cockney
rhymes of the poet of Rimini; but in fairness to that gentleman, we must
add, that the defects of the system are tenfold more conspicuous in his
disciples' work than in his own. Mr. Hunt is a small poet, but he is a
clever man. Mr. Keats is a still smaller poet, and he is only a boy of
pretty abilities, which he has done every thing in his power to
spoil....

After all this, however, the "modesty," as Mr. Keats expresses it, of
the Lady Diana prevented her from owning in Olympus her passion for
Endymion. Venus, as the most knowing in such matters, is the first to
discover the change that has taken place in the temperament of the
goddess. "An idle tale," says the laughter-loving dame,

  A humid eye, and steps luxurious,
  When these are new and strange, are ominous.

The inamorata, to vary the intrigue, carries on a romantic intercourse
with Endymion, under the disguise of an Indian damsel. At last, however,
her scruples, for some reason or other, are all overcome, and the Queen
of Heaven owns her attachment.

  She gave her fair hands to him, and behold,
  Before three swiftest kisses he had told,
  They vanish far away!--Peona went
  Home through the gloomy wood in wonderment.

And so, like many other romances, terminates the "Poetic Romance" of
Johnny Keats, in a patched-up wedding.

We had almost forgotten to mention, that Keats belongs to the Cockney
School of Politics, as well as the Cockney School of Poetry.

It is fit that he who holds Rimini to be the first poem, should believe
the Examiner to be the first politician of the day. We admire
consistency, even in folly. Hear how their bantling has already learned
to lisp sedition.

  There are who lord it o'er their fellow-men
  With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen
  Their baaing vanities, to browse away
  The comfortable green and juicy hay
  From human pastures; or, O torturing fact!
  Who, through an idiot blink, will see unpack'd
  Fire-branded foxes to sear up and singe
  Our gold and ripe-ear'd hopes. With not one tinge
  Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight
  Able to face an owl's, they still are dight
  By the blue-eyed nations in empurpled vests,
  And crowns, and turbans. With unladen breasts,
  Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount
  To their spirit's perch, their being's high account,
  Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones--
  Amid the fierce intoxicating tones.
  Of trumpets, shoutings, and belaboured drums,
  And sudden cannon. Ah! how all this hums,
  In wakeful ears, like uproar past and gone--
  Like thunder clouds that spake to Babylon,
  And set those old Chaldeans to their tasks.--
  Are then regalities all gilded masks?

And now, good-morrow to "the Muses' son of Promise"; as for "the feats
he yet may do," as we do not pretend to say, like himself, "Muse of my
native land am I inspired," we shall adhere to the safe old rule of
_pauca verba_. We venture to make one small prophecy, that his
bookseller will not a second time venture £50 upon any thing he can
write. It is a better and a wiser thing to be a starving apothecary than
a starved poet; so back to the shop Mr. John, back to plasters, pills,
and ointment boxes, &c. But, for Heaven's sake, young Sangrado, be a
little more sparing of extenuatives and soporifics in your practice than
you have been in your poetry.

Z.



ON SHELLEY

[From _Blackwood's Magazine_, September, 1820]

"PROMETHEUS UNBOUND"


Whatever may be the difference of men's opinions concerning the measure
of Mr. Shelley's poetical power, there is one point in regard to which
all must be agreed, and that is his Audacity. In the old days of the
exulting genius of Greece, Aeschylus dared two things which astonished
all men, and which still astonish them--to exalt contemporary men into
the personages of majestic tragedies--and to call down and embody into
tragedy, without degradation, the elemental spirits of nature and the
deeper essences of Divinity. We scarcely know whether to consider the
_Persians_ or the _Prometheus Bound_ as the most extraordinary display
of what has always been esteemed the most audacious spirit that ever
expressed its workings in poetry. But what shall we say of the young
English poet who has now attempted, not only a flight as high as the
highest of Aeschylus, but the very flight of that father of tragedy--who
has dared once more to dramatise Prometheus--and, most wonderful of all,
to dramatise the _deliverance_ of Prometheus--which is known to have
formed the subject of a lost tragedy of Aeschylus no ways inferior in
mystic elevation to that of the [Greek: Desmotaes].

Although a fragment of that perished master-piece be still extant in the
Latin version of Attius--it is quite impossible to conjecture what were
the personages introduced in the tragedy of Aeschylus, or by what train
of passions and events he was able to sustain himself on the height of
that awful scene with which his surviving _Prometheus_ terminates. It is
impossible, however, after reading what is left of that famous
trilogy,[1] to suspect that the Greek poet symbolized any thing whatever
by the person of Prometheus, except the native strength of human
intellect itself--its strength of endurance above all others--its
sublime power of patience. STRENGTH and FORCE are the two agents who
appear on this darkened theatre to bind the too benevolent Titan--_Wit_
and _Treachery_, under the forms of Mercury and Oceanus, endeavour to
prevail upon him to make himself free by giving up his dreadful secret;--
but _Strength_ and _Force_, and _Wit_ and _Treason_, are all alike
powerless to overcome the resolution of that suffering divinity, or to
win from him any acknowledgment of the new tyrant of the skies. Such was
this simple and sublime allegory in the hands of Aeschylus. As to what
had been the original purpose of the framers of the allegory, that is a
very different question, and would carry us back into the most hidden
places of the history of mythology. No one, however, who compares the
mythological systems of different races and countries, can fail to
observe the frequent occurrence of certain great leading Ideas and
leading Symbolisations of ideas too--which Christians are taught to
contemplate with a knowledge that is the knowledge of reverence. Such,
among others, are unquestionably the ideas of an Incarnate Divinity
suffering on account of mankind--conferring benefits on mankind at the
expense of his own suffering;--the general idea of vicarious atonement
itself--and the idea of the dignity of suffering as an exertion of
intellectual might--all of which may be found, more or less obscurely
shadowed forth, in the original [Greek: Mythos] of Prometheus the Titan,
the enemy of the successful rebel and usurper Jove. We might have also
mentioned the idea of a _deliverer_, waited for patiently through ages
of darkness, and at least arriving in the person of the child of Io--
but, in truth, there is no pleasure, and would be little propriety, in
seeking to explain all this at greater length, considering, what we
cannot consider without deepest pain, the very different views which
have been taken of the original allegory by Mr. Percy Bysshe Shelley.

[1] There was another and an earlier play of Aeschylus, Prometheus the
    Fire-Stealer, which is commonly supposed to have made part of the
    series; but the best critics, we think, are of opinion, that that
    was entirely a satirical piece.

It would be highly absurd to deny, that this gentleman has manifested
very extraordinary powers of language and imagination in his treatment
of the allegory, however grossly and miserably he may have tried to
pervert its purpose and meaning. But of this more anon. In the meantime,
what can be more deserving of reprobation than the course which he is
allowing his intellect to take, and that too at the very time when he
ought to be laying the foundations of a lasting and honourable name.
There is no occasion for going round about the bush to hint what the
poet himself has so unblushingly and sinfully blazoned forth in every
part of his production. With him, it is quite evident that the Jupiter
whose downfall has been predicted by Prometheus, means nothing more than
Religion in general, that is, every human system of religious belief;
and that, with the fall of this, he considers it perfectly necessary (as
indeed we also believe, though with far different feelings) that every
system of human government also should give way and perish. The patience
of the contemplative spirit in Prometheus is to be followed by the
daring of the active demagorgon, at whose touch all "old thrones" are at
once and for ever to be cast down into the dust. It appears too plainly,
from the luscious pictures with which his play terminates, that Mr.
Shelley looks forward to an unusual relaxation of all moral _rules_--or
rather, indeed, to the extinction of all moral feelings, except that of
a certain mysterious indefinable _kindliness_, as the natural and
necessary result of the overthrow of all civil government and religious
belief. It appears, still more wonderfully, that he contemplates this
state of things as the ideal SUMMUM BONUM. In short, it is quite
impossible that there should exist a more pestiferous mixture of
blasphemy, sedition, and sensuality, than is visible in the whole
structure and strain of this poem--which, nevertheless, and
notwithstanding all the detestation its principles excite, must and will
be considered by all that read it attentively, as abounding in poetical
beauties of the highest order--as presenting many specimens not easily
to be surpassed, of the moral sublime of eloquence--as overflowing with
pathos, and most magnificent in description. Where can be found a
spectacle more worthy of sorrow than such a man performing and glorying
in the performance of such things? His evil ambition,--from all he has
yet written, but most of all, from what he has last and best written,
his _Prometheus_,--appears to be no other, than that of attaining the
highest place among those poets,--enemies, not friends, of their
species, who, as a great and virtuous poet has well said (putting evil
consequence close after evil cause).

  Profane the God-given strength, and _mar the lofty line._

We should hold ourselves very ill employed, however, were we to enter at
any length into the reprehensible parts of this remarkable production.
It is sufficient to shew, that we have not been misrepresenting the
purpose of the poet's mind, when we mention, that the whole tragedy ends
with a mysterious sort of dance, and chorus of elemental spirits, and
other indefinable beings, and that the SPIRIT OF THE HOUR, one of the
most singular of these choral personages, tells us:

                  I wandering went
  Among the haunts and dwellings of mankind,
  And first was disappointed not to see
  Such mighty change as I had felt within
  Expressed in other things; but soon I looked,
  And behold! THRONES WERE KINGLESS, and men walked
  One with the other, even as spirits do, etc.

       *       *       *       *       *

We cannot conclude without saying a word or two in regard to an
accusation which we have lately seen brought against ourselves in some
one of the London Magazines; we forget which at this moment. We are
pretty sure we know who the author of that most false accusation is--of
which more hereafter. He has the audacious insolence to say, that we
praise Mr. Shelley, although we dislike his principles, just because we
know that he is not in a situation of life to be in any danger of
suffering pecuniary inconvenience from being run down by critics, and,
_vice versâ_, abuse Hunt, Keats, and Hazlitt, and so forth, because we
know that they are poor men; a fouler imputation could not be thrown on
any writer than this creature has dared to throw on us; nor a more
utterly false one; we repeat the word again--than this is when thrown
upon us.

We have no personal acquaintance with any of these men, and no personal
feelings in regard to any one of them, good or bad. We never even saw
any one of their faces. As for Mr. Keats, we are informed that he is in
a very bad state of health, and that his friends attribute a great deal
of it to the pain he has suffered from the critical castigation his
Endymion drew down on him in this magazine. If it be so, we are most
heartily sorry for it, and have no hesitation in saying, that had we
suspected that young author, of being so delicately nerved, we should
have administered our reproof in a much more lenient shape and style.
The truth is, we from the beginning saw marks of feeling and power in
Mr. Keats's verses, which made us think it very likely, he might become
a real poet of England, provided he could be persuaded to give up all
the tricks of Cockneyism, and forswear for ever the thin potations of
Mr. Leigh Hunt. We, therefore, rated him as roundly as we decently could
do, for the flagrant affectations of those early productions of his. In
the last volume he has published, we find more beauties than in the
former, both of language and of thought, but we are sorry to say, we
find abundance of the same absurd affectations also, and superficial
conceits, which first displeased us in his writings;--and which we are
again very sorry to say, must in our opinion, if persisted in, utterly
and entirely prevent Mr. Keats from ever taking his place among the pure
and classical poets of his mother tongue. It is quite ridiculous to see
how the vanity of these Cockneys makes them overrate their own
importance, even in the eyes of us, that have always expressed such
plain unvarnished contempt for them, and who do feel for them all, a
contempt too calm and profound, to admit of any admixture of any thing
like anger or personal spleen. We should just as soon think of being
wroth with vermin, independently of their coming into our apartment, as
we should of having any feelings at all about any of these people, other
than what are excited by seeing them in the shape of authors. Many of
them, considered in any other character than that of authors are, we
have no doubt, entitled to be considered as very worthy people in their
own way. Mr. Hunt is said to be a very amiable man in his own sphere,
and we believe him to be so willingly. Mr. Keats we have often heard
spoken of in terms of great kindness, and we have no doubt his manners
and feelings are calculated to make his friends love him. But what has
all this to do with our opinion of their poetry? What, in the name of
wonder, does it concern us, whether these men sit among themselves, with
mild or with sulky faces, eating their mutton steaks, and drinking their
porter at Highgate, Hampstead, or Lisson Green? What is there that
should prevent us, or any other person, that happens not to have been
educated in the University of Little Britain, from expressing a simple,
undisguised, and impartial opinion, concerning the merits or demerits of
men that we never saw, nor thought of for one moment, otherwise than as
in their capacity of authors? What should hinder us from saying, since
we think so, that Mr. Leigh Hunt is a clever wrong-headed man, whose
vanities have got inwoven so deeply into him, that he has no chance of
ever writing one line of classical English, or thinking one genuine
English thought, either about poetry or politics? What is the spell that
must seal our lips, from uttering an opinion equally plain and
perspicuous concerning Mr. John Keats, viz., that nature possibly meant
him to be a much better poet than Mr. Leigh Hunt ever could have been,
but that, if he persists in imitating the faults of that writer, he must
be contented to share his fate, and be like him forgotten? Last of all,
what should forbid us to announce our opinion, that Mr. Shelley, as a
man of genius, is not merely superior, either to Mr. Hunt, or to Mr.
Keats, but altogether out of their sphere, and totally incapable of ever
being brought into the most distant comparison with either of them. It
is very possible, that Mr. Shelley himself might not be inclined to
place himself so high above these men as we do, but that is his affair,
not ours. We are afraid that he shares, (at least with one of them) in
an abominable system of belief, concerning Man and the World, the
sympathy arising out of which common belief, may probably sway more than
it ought to do on both sides. But the truth of the matter is this, and
it is impossible to conceal it were we willing to do so, that Mr.
Shelley is destined to leave a great name behind him, and that we, as
lovers of true genius, are most anxious that this name should ultimately
be pure as well as great.

As for the principles and purposes of Mr. Shelley's poetry, since we
must again recur to that dark part of the subject; we think they are on
the whole, more undisguisedly pernicious in this volume, than even in
his Revolt of Islam. There is an Ode to Liberty at the end of the
volume, which contains passages of the most splendid beauty, but which,
in point of meaning, is just as wicked as any thing that ever reached
the world under the name of Mr. Hunt himself. It is not difficult to
fill up the blank which has been left by the prudent bookseller, in one
of the stanzas beginning:

  O that the free would stamp the impious name,
  Of ----- into the dust! Or write it there
  So that this blot upon